Already in many of our African countries the cascading impacts of isolation policies are developing into deep social and economic crises where the most vulnerable are and will again suffer the most. Our people are struggling with limited access to healthcare, loss of jobs and incomes, facing electricity and water cut-offs, difficulties in paying bills and even risk of eviction where rent can no longer be paid. Across Africa, a major food crisis may be looming as informal markets are shut down and livelihoods are being impacted.
In this moment of crisis, we, the undersigned African social movements, civil society organisations and allies, salute the workers of the world, nurses, doctors, and other health workers, in the markets and supermarkets, street cleaners, waste pickers and garbage collectors, domestic workers and care-takers, transporters, truck-drivers, food sector workers, peasants, food producers, those providing us energy and all those who have to work daily to feed their families, for the courageous work and the sacrifices they are making, to maintain all our lives as many of us remain at home, also doing our part to contain the virus.
Unfortunately the climate crisis will not stop whilst the world focuses on dealing with the Covid-19 health crisis. Both are human-made crises rooted in the way our political and economic systems treat the Earth and her people, driven by the lust for profit. The climate crisis was already ravaging our continent and so many other parts of the world when the globe was plunged into the Covid-19 health pandemic. Southern Africa is still reeling from devastating cyclones Idai and Kenneth of last year, facing debilitating climate impacts including droughts, floods, sea level rise, etc. The predicted rise in global temperatures for Africa is a foretelling of human, societal and ecological collapse.
Transnational corporations (TNCs) in collusion with African governments and other elites, operating with impunity and with disregard for people and planet, are among the main culprits in the current energy, climate, food, biodiversity and ecological crises. Their activities have impacted livelihoods of local communities by grabbing lands and capturing natural resources, including through carbon markets and other harmful false solutions, and have polluted our air, water, lands, bodies and communities. Most of the profits they generate is often illicitly transferred out of the region and makes it way into many tax havens around the world. However, as the price of crude oil dips below zero for the first time in history, we assert that the end of the age of extractivism, which harms people and the planet, is in sight. It is time to say goodbye to the dirty fossil fuel development and harmful industrial agriculture.
The current crisis has caused a temporary dip in carbon emissions and pollution due to stoppages or slow downs of some industries, but these are coming at the cost of jobs and livelihood strategies of Africans and others who have little or no safety nets. This is not a ‘just transition’ which we have been calling for, along with our friends in the trade union movement. We also see many governments removing or relaxing environmental regulations and procedures in order to desperately boost short-term investment, which will undoubtedly result in further environment degradation, and biodiversity collapse and deepening the cycle of crisis. However, the way that the air has cleaned up in some places in lock-down is a remarkable testament to just how unsustainable the 'normal' economy - and 'normal' development - is. The planet will thrive if we choose a different development pathway, young people will see a clear blue sky for the first time, millions of people with asthma will breathe easier as we are seeing now.
Structural adjustments, austerity measures, dismantling of the state and of public services, cuts to social services, privatization of essential services and indebtedness, have ensured that African states have the least amount of readiness to respond to such crises. This is rooted in the African colonial and post-colonial history and our relationship with neoliberal finance institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that have pushed large loans with high interest rates on the back of structural adjustment conditionalities. We must not allow these same practices to be our relationship with the New Development Bank or any institutions of the kind. All conditionalities on solidarity support and/or loans must be public as part of a new and open democracy.
The swift response of governments and other actors to the COVID-19 pandemic also lays bare the veritable global inaction in seriously addressing the climate crisis and other crises. The analysis is clear - dealing with the crisis is fundamentally about political will to unleash vast sums of resources and change to policies to address the crisis and to redirect all efforts to its containment and resolution.
We cannot go back to business as usual. We need to envision a different world, a different Africa, so that this moment can mark a turning point for our region and the world. The COVID 19 pandemic is showing that we need the solutions that we, as groups advancing climate justice across Africa, have urgently been pointing to. This is our hope. Going back to the current system of functioning cannot be an option. We need responses built on new forms of regionalism and solidarity for recovery and transition, and that are just and fair to all, especially the poor and most vulnerable. We commit ourselves and call on movements and civil society organisations across Africa and across the world to join us in the fight for a new world.
Find the full list of signatories and their full statement here.