Africa must change poverty narrative, Kenya President, Ruto

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The President of the Republic of Kenya, William Ruto, has stated that Africa must change the narrative of being portrayed as a poor and disease-infested continent.

Ruto made this known on Sunday at the African Youth Climate Assembly 2023, which was held from September 1-3 at The Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

The African Youth Climate is the official youth engagement of the Africa Climate Summit to unite and amplify the voices of the youth and children on climate change.

Ruto said, “Africa is not a poor, desperate continent. It is not a continent of disease and poverty. We are a wealthy continent and we need to value our assets properly. One-third of the world’s sequestration of carbon is in this continent and we are getting nothing and no value for it. It is not in our books and registers. We have 60 per cent of the world’s renewable assets and that is why we are classified as being this rich when we are that rich.

“We must drive a new narrative for the African continent, it is our responsibility to do it. Some people may not be happy about it, that is their problem but it is our place to profile our asset positively.”

Carbon sequestration involves removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by planting trees that can absorb carbon in their leaves and prevent it from reverting to the atmosphere.

The Kenyan president, alongside the president of the African Development Bank, ‘Femi Adeshina, fielded climate change-related questions from youths and children across African countries.

Adeshina decried the lack of value being placed on numerous sources of wealth creation in Africa, calling for the need to reform the continent’s financial architecture.

He added that African youths were the best asset the continent had.

Adeshina called for measures to ensure that the continent’s GDP was re-estimated based on the value of the natural capital.

The AfDB president said, “We want the wealth of Africa to be recalibrated based on what we have. If you take the carbon that we are sequestrating, then the GDP that we are using as a measure of wealth include our renewable asset.

“We must have a local carbon market ourselves, an African carbon market, that price our carbon market properly and make sure that our GDP takes into consideration and adjusted based on the positive externality that we have, then the value of our GDP, if it takes into consideration the value of our forest, the carbon stock and so on, will be high. Our debt to GDP ratio will go down then we can borrow more money to do the financing that we are saying here today. Let’s value our natural capital properly.”

The Kenyan president further stated that the debt burden on the continent threatened its future and development.

Ruto added that new financing instruments should be designed to combat the debt crisis.

“Today, our debt as a continent is in the region of $700bn and every year, we pay about $70bn in terms of servicing interests and debts. Many countries are going down the route of debt distress, Already, nine countries in Africa are down the cliff, 13 are classified as high risk, and another 17 are classified as moderate risk. Debt distress is a big juggernaut threatening the future of our continent and developmental security,” he said.

He stated that agriculture and food production provided Africa with the competitive advantage to create jobs enterprise and wealth.

The Kenyan president further noted that Africa’s large arable land created opportunities for food security, value addition and processing.

“The young people being the stakeholders of that bright future, you are rightly in place to make suggestions to the existential threats that not only affect our present time but also our future,” he said.

Ruto added that leaders should be held accountable for their commitments and respect people’s voices.

A copy of the declaration deliberated during the summit was presented to President Ruto by one of the youth leaders.