African Governments and Activists have never been serious on Climate Action!

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Don’t be fooled by what’s going to happen in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, during this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, or COP27. Only two themes are going to come out strongly – green-washing and climate finance – and African governments and activists will be at the center of these themes!

On green-washing, in a clear case of corporate capture, the organizers of COP27, announced several weeks ago that Coca-Cola, the worlds worst plastic polluter will be a sponsor of the summit. There were widespread condemnation from across the world including from Greenpeace, Clean Up Kenya and hundreds of civil societies from across the world who have endorsed for a call to Kick Big Polluters out of COP27. There has also been a public petition to keep Coca-Cola out of COP27. These developments have widely been covered in international media, but Egypt has not revoked this sponsorship. The fact that no African government has come out to weigh in on the matter should tell you something. That, African governments have never been interested in Climate Action, only Climate Finance and international green-washing.

Incredibly also, there has been noticeable silence from leading African Activists on this matter. Many of these activists will be in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Africa traditionally sends high numbers of delegates to these summits. Given this is happening on the African continent and there will be fewer restrictions on Visas, the African delegations are expected to double. There are some estimates that close to 30,000 delegates will travel for this summit, with half of these being from Africa. Many will have no active role but to sit in some common areas to observe proceedings on a TV screen. In fact it has become a ‘sexy thing’ for young African activists to attend these summits. Some even engaging in active fundraisers to raise money for the next summit as soon as the last one is finished, hoping they will network themselves into a career in green-washing. Some of the activists have, however and sadly, become ‘attack dogs’ for African governments in the lobbying for ‘Loss and Damage’ reparations and are being bankrolled by their governments to attend these summits.

This question of unnecessary travel to these summits is coming at a time when the role of African governments on Climate Action is being questioned. In many African countries, government policies have also contributed to climate change, which i will explain shortly with an example of Kenya. But, there is a clear and deliberate strategy by Africa to show that the continent is a victim of the actions of the developed world, which is true, having contributed the least to global warming and having the least emissions, but that is not the complete story. For example, Africa Development Bank says, ‘Africa faces exponential damage, posing systemic risks to its economies, infrastructure, investments, water and food systems, public health, agriculture, and livelihoods, threatening to undo its modest development gains and slip into higher levels of extreme poverty.’ The continent is then projected as the most vulnerable. This is backed of course by science with research by UN Environment stating that Africa needs 3 Trillion USD to implement its National Determined Contributions. There is, however, the question of whether African governments are doing enough using own resources to build resilient communities and whether the national budgets are properly calibrated for Climate Action.

Kenyan leading activists have become an appendage of the government

In Kenya, successive governments have allowed communities to invade forests and water towers on the basis of politics or government officials have been complicit in the destruction of forests by accepting bribes from illegal loggers, or funds meant for key projects have been misappropriated. In some communities in Eastern parts of Kenya, trees have been cut to burn charcoal with little government interventions. This has contributed to erratic weather patterns, droughts, floods and water scarcity. This hurts Kenya a lot since the country is dependent on many climate-sensitive sectors such as tourism and agriculture. Just this week, the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Peninah Malonza, announced that 512 wilder-beasts, 381 common Zebras, 205 elephants, 49 zebras, 51 buffaloes and 12 giraffes had been lost as a result of the drought. This is not to mention that over 4 million Kenyans are suffering extreme hunger as a result of the drought.

Despite these problems, Kenyan leading activists have become an appendage of the Government. Attending climate summits abroad, where they take government positions on issues, some being deployed as ‘shuttle diplomats’ to sell the African position to media and development partners while failing to question problems at home such as inadequate local public finance investments in Climate Action and corporate capture of processes meant to solve similar problems.

African governments including Kenya has made little investments on Climate Actions including waste management. © Clean Up Kenya

In 2020, Kenya submitted a revised National Determined Contribution document estimating it would cost the country 7 Trillion Kenya Shillings to meet adaptation and mitigation actions for the years 2020 to 2030. The country however contributes very little from own budget to these actions. A report tracking Climate Finance in Kenya released by the government in 2021 shows that in 2018 only about 40 percent of Climate Finance for Kenya came from local sources, with 28% or 34 billion Kenyan Shillings coming from public money which was less than 2% of the GDP. The report shows 79% percent of international public climate finance was delivered to Kenya through debt and was mostly channeled towards mitigation activities (55%). This report concludes that Kenya will continue to be debt constrained if it were to meet its National Determined Contributions actions, unless the private sector plays a much larger role.

Parting Shot

In the coming days in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, you will see African delegations fighting hard for the developed countries to compensate Africa for ‘Loss and Damage’ with the African activists playing their attack dogs role in interviews with international media, in side events and even in speeches on the plenary. And the West will probably make more commitments on Climate Finance so that the summit can end peacefully, knowing ‘they’ have no intentions of fulfilling those promises, just like they have not done in the past. Already Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of United Kingdom is attending this summit as an afterthought, having first said he would not attend. His government is unlikely going to make new commitments to Climate Action, having previously missed on the promises and given the United Kingdom is under a political and economic crisis which has seen foreign development aid reduced from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of the gross national income.

If you ask me, for us to move forward, all countries needs to contribute to Climate Finance proportionate to their GDP through an improved framework, regardless of what voluntary commitments may have been made in the past or will be made in the future. First, Climate Action has to be properly budgeted for, to determine how much is needed to move to 1.5 degrees Celsius, then each country must contribute their fair share legally. This will ensure African Governments do not abdicate their responsibility to their people and turn this COP into another circus.

PS: There will be peace at COP27 since Greta Thunberg wont be there and African activists have become an appendage of government.


Betterman Simidi Musasia

Founder & Patron, Former CEO, Clean Up Kenya

Betterman is a sustainable public sanitation advocate and a pollution control evangelist. In 2015, after becoming extremely tired of seeing all the trash in Kenyan neighborhoods and hearing the authorities fake promises to clear the mess, he sold his trucking business to establish Clean Up Kenya. Today, the organization is a leading national sustainable public sanitation advocacy brand. In September 2020, he stepped down as Clean Up Kenya Chief Executive Officer and currently serves as Founder and Patron.


Clean Up Kenya was established in 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in Kenya. Since then we have become the de-facto national public sanitation advocacy brand. We are also experts in community mobilizing for cleanups. We have done numerous cleanups over the years, some of which have been attended by over 1000 volunteers on singular sites. These cleanups are meant to increase visibility on the problem of waste and it is therefore common to see our volunteers in bibs with one message, ‘Clean Up Kenya’. At the core of our work is honest and actual engagement in communities – not PR events. We also run advocacy campaigns holding duty bodies, consumer brands, green-washing NGOs, and other stakeholders to account for unsustainable public sanitation in Kenya and the global South. We receive no funding for our work but collaborate with others on projects.