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Executive Summary

For decades, activists, organizers, and scientists across the Global South have warned about the pronounced impacts of the climate crisis on their countries, communities, and ecosystems, and have done so while working tirelessly to develop resilience against such impacts. This is especially true for the African continent, which has contributed the least to the climate crisis, is among the most impacted by the climate crisis, and has given rise to demonstrably robust and far-reaching strategies for climate resilience.

In our research for this paper, we focus on how African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations are combating the drivers of the climate crisis, managing the impacts of the climate crisis, and forging strategies to build climate resilience. We do so to help ensure that efforts to support climate justice in Africa are accountable to the objectives, strategies, and activities of African organizations and African peoples themselves, and to build robust and impactful relationships with African organizations. Toward these ends, we carried out two complementary methods of data collection: 

  1.  online content analysis of materials by African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations;
  2.  comprehensive survey of African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations that was informed by initial findings from the online content analysis.

In our online content analysis, we focused on whether African organizations explicitly use the Just Transition (JT) framework—an umbrella framework that encompasses multiple principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from extractive economies to regenerative ones. Through our online content analysis, we found that most African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations do not explicitly use the JT framework but employ other frameworks and principles that foster just transitions. We found that those which do explicitly use the JT framework are based in industrialized countries (e.g., South Africa) and in countries with large fossil fuel industries (e.g., Nigeria), and that organizations from other African countries foster just transitions through the frameworks and principles of sustainable development and food sovereignty.

In our comprehensive survey, we sought greater clarity regarding the frameworks and principles used by African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations, and deepened our inquiry to include the specific objectives, strategies, and activities of such organizations, as well as their views on the objectives, strategies, and activities of Global North organizations and institutions. Through our survey, we found that food sovereignty is the dominant framework and principle used by African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations. We also found that, collectively, African organizations foster just transitions by creating local and regional economies and development trajectories, and demand that Global North organizations foster just transitions by shifting policies and practices within their home countries away from the exploitation of African land, resources, and labor.

This paper highlights the need for climate justice partnerships that foster just transitions regardless of the framework used, and that retain the transformative power of the Just Transition framework when used. It also emphasizes the need to support the objectives, strategies, and activities of African organizations, and to take seriously the social, political, and economic needs of the communities in which they work. Doing so is key to bridging climate justice movements globally in ways that simultaneously challenge international institutions and global processes of unsustainable and extractive development, and advance local and regional alternatives in Africa and elsewhere.

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Acknowledgments: We thank Nnimmo Bassey of Nigeria’s Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Hamza Hamouchene of the Transnational Institute, and our colleagues at the Othering & Belonging Institute, including Marc Abizeid, Emnet Almedom, Joshua Clark, Samir Gambhir, Miriam Juan-Torres Gonzalez, Robin Pearce, and EJ Toppin, for their support reviewing the survey questions. We would also like to thank Stephen Menendian at the Othering & Belonging Institute for his support in reviewing the white paper.

Banner artwork: Sadhna Prasad created the illustration for ArtistsForClimate.org. This illustration was adapted and re-distributed for this publication using a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

Citation: Hossein Ayazi, Dimitri Diagne, Elsadig Elsheikh, and Basima Sisemore, “African Just Transitions: Assessing the Activities, Strategies, and Needs of African Climate, Agri-food, and Environmental Organizations” (Berkeley, CA: Othering & Belonging Institute, April 2023), belonging.berkeley.edu/african-just-transitions.