A New Africa is Possible!
African Climate Justice Groups’ Statement on COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the biggest global event in recent decades. The crisis is
highlighting and exacerbating existing inequalities in the globalized neo-liberal and patriarchal
socio-economic system. 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.
Where the climate crisis meets the Covid-19 crisis – Africa and the world must
forge a new trajectory
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 lockdown 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
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.
No business as usual: What kind of Africa and world should emerge from this
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.
CALL FOR ACTION: Our demands for co-creating a new hope and just recovery
for Africa and the world
Support essential services, food, water and healthcare system:
Provide protective equipment for all health workers and essential workers on the
frontline, including waste pickers and garbage collectors, food workers, small-scale and
subsistence food producers, etc.
Health systems across Africa need to be fully reviewed and overhauled, with free and
accessible health services provided for all Africans as a human right. Africa must build
up our own capacity to develop our own cures, produce medicines and equipment in our
continent for our people, under public ownership, not private greed, with the principle of
peoples sovereignty, so that we don’t need to import everything from outside.
Any vaccine that is being developed to combat COVID-19 must be free from patents and
freely available to all people worldwide. Africans should not be used as guinea pigs to
test any new proposed vaccines and tests should be transparently endorsed and
All African states should recognize peasant, small-scale and subsistence food producers
as an essential sector in this crisis. All emergency measures implemented must be
guided by the United Nations Declaration on Peasant Rights (UNDROP).
African states should commit to prioritising the needs of water-stressed communities,
including rolling out water tankers, as access to water is essential to combat this virus.
Impose a moratorium on all evictions and on withholding of public services for th
duration of the pandemic with priority given to the poor and most vulnerable families.
Low-carbon public transport must be developed locally and regionally across Africa, so
that we are not reliant on expensive and polluting flights and private transport as we are
Reorganise the economy, support and redistribute care work:
Recognise the injustice of the sexual division of labour and push for a redistribution and
valuing of care work in sustaining life, which is currently largely done by women, in the
home and also as the majority of healthcare workers.
Support local economies, especially local food systems for local food consumption.
Institute a universal and/or basic income grant to support livelihoods and families.
Stop all fossil fuel and extractive projects and preserve human rights:
All fossil fuel, extractive and industrial agriculture projects (especially genetic
modification technologies) should be stopped during the Covid crisis and beyond, across
all African countries no matter where the corporations are headquartered. Also public
subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and the military-industrial complex should be
Democratically-led processes should review and provide resources to people and
communities affected by such extractive projects, including workers in these sectors and
companies should be made to rehabilitate damaged and polluted ecosystems.
Communities’ consent rights and their right to say no to harmful projects should be
respected and given a democratic hearing. Governments should not flout laws and
environmental regulations that ensure public participation, and other human rights.
Most importantly, African states must hold accountable those in power, especially the
police and the military, and the rising cases of abuse and unjustifiable violence must stop
immediately during this pandemic and afterwards. Independent bodies of inquiry and
ombudspersons must be put in place to allow citizens to speak up freely and safely
without human rights abuses. The violence must stop.
Stop austerity, Stop the debt crisis, Accept Funding Support as grants NOT loans,
Recognition of climate debt
Funding to support the Covid response and recovery in African countries should be
accepted as grants only, NOT loans, and should not have any structural adjustment type
of conditionalities attached which would undoubtedly further weaken social services.
Austerity and structural adjustment measures should be halted and reversed, and there
should be support for human rights, health, education and livelihoods for all Africans and
All historical debt imposed by International Financial Institutions should be cancelled
with immediate effect. These debts will only further cripple governments in responding
to the Covid crisis.
Recognizing climate and ecological debt, owed by the Global North to Africa and the rest
of the Global South. Funding support to Africa should not worsen the debt crisis.
African states must take strong measures to remove corrupt officials and corruption
networks that are politicizing support to vulnerable families during this pandemic,
hindering responses and immorally using this crisis for increasing personal benefits.
Support a Just Recovery
Recovery packages must support the poorest and most vulnerable people first with
absolutely no bailouts for large corporations. Bailouts should only go to workers affected
Significant limits must be imposed on unchecked corporate power and accountability
measures on them must be increased.
A holistic and just transition must be the recovery we should build. This includes analysis
on the joint root causes of, and action on, the Covid-19 and climate crises, and how we
respond to build resilience in society. Climate must be at the core of any rebuilding
We need political will to come out of this pandemic with an economy and society that
supports people and the planet, we need a just transition and a just recovery.