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Infrastructure worth over a billion dollars lost to Cyclone Idai, says ECA Chief

United Nations Undersecretary General and Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa

Marrakesh, Morocco, MON, MARCH 25 2019-theG&BJournal-Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said Sunday Africa could have lost infrastructure worth more than a billion dollars following Cyclone Idai, the storm that battered Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe last week

Speaking during a high-level policy dialogue on capitalizing on the nexus between climate change and public budget for resilient economies in Africa, Ms. Songwe said the trail of destruction left by Cyclone Idai was devastating. She called on the continent to seriously start prioritising emergency preparedness and disaster planning.

“When we talk about the new climate economy it is almost impossible not to think about what is happening on our continent right now. We probably have lost about a billion dollars in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Malawi in terms of resources, in particular the Beira port, the signature port of Mozambique, is essentially today almost a thing of the past because of cyclone Idai,” said Ms. Songwe.

At least 2,000 people are estimated to have disappeared across the four countries during the storm.

“So this conversation we are having here today in the context of the immediate clear impacts of climate change on our continent is important because not only is climate resilience important for planning for disasters but it is also important because we now know we will have more of these extreme climate events. The question is how can we begin to plan to ensure that we know that risk management or risk mitigation is a lot better than disaster recovery,” the ECA Chief added.

Ms. Songwe, who on Wednesday led United Nations staff and African experts meeting in Marrakesh in observing a minute of silence for those who lost their lives in the cyclone, said for a variety of reasons, including financial constraints, many countries on the continent were not prepared to respond to such unexpected disaster events.

This unpreparedness has been an issue across the continent where disaster management systems have either been non-existent or inadequate.

Ms. Songwe said the theme of this year’s Conference of Ministers of “fiscal policy, trade and the private sector in the digital era: a strategy for Africa” was in sync with the discussion on the need for Africa to capitalize on the nexus between climate change and public budget for resilient economies on the continent.

She said there was need for the continent to also have Chief Planning Officers in case of such tragic disasters.

The meeting, which was organized by the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) and New Climate Economy, brought high-level participants together to discuss effective ways African countries can use budgetary and planning functions to leverage limited public resources to mobilize private and external funds for investments towards making their economies sustainable and climate resilient.

One area that was explored during the meeting was how countries are using cross-sectoral approaches to assist in integrated planning and implementation of climate actions in the context of development priorities across the agriculture, land use and water sectors.

Ms. Olga Algayerova, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) shared with participants work that the ECE is doing in Europe in particular the water-food-energy-ecosystem nexus.

“Increased vulnerability due to climate change, a growing world population and growing needs for investments, innovation and human capacity, all continue to exacerbate demands on water, energy and food resources and related ecosystem services,” she said.

Ms. Algayerova said water, energy and food are inextricably linked and to achieve security in all three sectors, while also protecting vital ecosystems, integrated solutions were necessary.

The water-energy-food-ecosystems nexus is an approach that offers such integrated solutions.

Linus Mofor of the ECA’s African Climate Policy Centre, Fadel Ndiame, Vice President for Policy and State Capability Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget, Comesa Assistant General, and Jan Corfee-Morlot, Senior Advisor, New Climate Economy, all spoke in support of capitalizing on the nexus between climate change and public budget for resilient economies in Africa.

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