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Opinions of Saturday, 25 September 2010

Columnist: Asamoah, Joe

Grappling With CDM in Africa: A Question of Capacity

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), has been around for at least ten years. To put things in context, it is part of the three flexible market mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. The CDM was established to assist Annex I country parties to attain their quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments and also to assist developing countries to attain sustainable development while assisting to contribute to the cardinal aim of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In Africa, it is not very popular and does not ring a bell when mentioned in various fora. Why is this so? The problem is dearth of capacity.
In the days of the Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ), it came to light that Africa had the minimum percentage share of all AIJ projects. However, this did not create too many gaps as the AIJ was relatively ephemeral. The underlying problem then was dearth of capacity to implement AIJ projects. But what is causing a virtual capacity vacuum on the virgin continent? The fundamental reason is that Africa is saddled with pressing bread and butter issues; which cannot be wished away. It is a contradiction in terms that a continent with so much natural and human resources is unable to operationalise them to its advantage. So is this problem endemic? I do not think so. Looking at the CDM critically, it is supposed to bring some investment opportunities to developing countries through offset projects. Has that been achieved? The answer is mixed. However the groundswell of evidence reveal that it takes a long time to establish a CDM project, not to mention the technicalities involved in writing PINs, PDDs, transaction costs and the setting up of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. What needs to be done to forestall these barriers? For the CDM to gain currency on the continent, it is pertinent to build capacity on how to identify CDM projects and write Project Idea Notes, Project Design Documents, etc., using a certain linguistic style. Additionally, it is becoming more and more technical and in some cases very mathematical. In certain instances, some mathematical modelling is required. Unfortunately these issues need marked expertise and a measure of intellectual “acumen.” Further, African countries need to be empowered adequately to be able to gain benefits from multilateral conventions and protocols, which are inextricably linked to the climate change convention and by extension to the CDM. It is in this area that UN Specialised Agencies like the UNDP, UNEP and UNOPs are enjoined to do more to assist capacity building. This can be done through various media – workshops, conferences, online facilities, books and training courses.
Additionally, donor agencies like Usaid, Norad, CIDA, SIDA and DGIS can also assist to build capacity. The practice of engaging consultants from donor countries to spend few days inspecting specific projects on the continent has not helped much in terms of building capacity. Can I dare argue whether some of these aid programmes are designed to perpetually maintain the under capacity syndrome so as to go on indefinitely? I think that if Africa is assisted to build appropriate capacity, donor fatigue and probably burnout may be reduced to the barest minimum. One problem that Africa faces is the dearth of proper needs analysis before projects are conceptualised, planned, designed and implemented. To optimise returns from projects, it is proposed that they should be preceded by painstaking needs analysis jointly by the donor and the beneficiaries. The Chinese proverb – When you give someone a piece of fish, you feed him or her for a day, but when you teach him how to fish you feed him or her forever – should always be uppermost in the minds of donors.

Joe Asamoah, Ph.D
Consultant in Oil and Gas, CDM and the Environment can be reached at