“Strengthening Africa’s Capacities in Combating Climate Change: African-German Cooperation in Education and Research”

Welcoming Speech by Georg Schütte State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research at the WASCAL-Graduate-School „Climate Change Economics“ Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (UCAD) in Dakar, Senegal

Dr. Georg Schütte, Staatssekretär im Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Georg Schütte, Staatssekretär im Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF). © Bundesregierung / Steffen Kugler

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Honourable authorities of the Cheihk Anta Diop University, Host to our WASCAL Graduate School,
Dear Prof. Thioub,
Dear Dr. Sedogo and Prof. Adelegan,
Dear Prof. Mbaye,
Dear Lecturers, Scientists, Students and Staff members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to address some words to you on behalf of the German Federal Government, and especially on behalf of the German Ministry of Education and Research, the donor of WASCAL and of your Graduate School here at the Cheihk Anta Diop University

I am very delighted to join you today and use this opportunity for interaction with you.

The central role of science and innovation in combating Climate Change has often been underlined in recent months: most recently during the historic Conference of the Parties of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. At the negotiations there was a consistent call for international research cooperation to support African countries in adapting to climate change.

Also at the last G7 summit in Elmau, the Heads of State and Government called in their Leaders’ Declaration for joint action, especially with Africa, to tackle climate change. Effective protection against climate-related risks needs to be developed as quickly as possible particularly for rural areas in your region.

This call for action has been raised for quite some time now and it was the motivation of my Ministry when we decided in 2010 to develop together with our partner countries from Africa the two Regional Science Service Centres: WASCAL in West Africa and SASSCAL in Southern Africa.  

After five years, our institutions have grown in size and importance. WASCAL is gradually establishing itself as a regionally and internationally recognized Centre for Research and Capacity Building in the West African Region.

I am very glad about the progress done so far and what I have seen just now during my visit in your building. And I am very happy to meet you, the students of this Graduate School. It is important to me that the initiatives of our Ministry do not stay abstract and remote. You are here as living examples that WASCAL can make a difference and that it has grown into a living cooperation between Germany and the ten West African partners.

You are the generation that shapes the future of Africa and I am looking very much forward to learn more about your work as PhD-students, and your ideas and expertise to contribute to strengthening the research capacities in the West African region.

In Paris the world leaders talked a lot about the need for capacity development and knowledge transfer in order to strengthen the resilience of people in those regions which might suffer the most from climate change impacts.

You show every day how partnership between African countries and Germany can enable this kind of knowledge transfer. And this is a transfer in both directions, because in interacting with you our researchers learn a lot about the needs, potentials and possible solutions for a sustainable future in the West African region.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank again the hosts of this Graduate School, Prof. Thioub and Prof. Mbaye of the Cheihk Anta Diop University and also our colleagues from the WASCAL Head Office in Accra, Dr. Sedogo and Prof. Adelegan, and all the other contributors for their enthusiasm and tireless support of this programme.

Your graduate school is addressing the interdisciplinary topic “economy of climate change”. The UN-report 2015 on Climate Change has given scientific evidence that the impacts of climate change on economic development of Africa has doubled since 2007. The central message that emerges is that the impacts of climate change are set to be “severe, pervasive and irreversible,” for the coming years.

In fact, economic research on climate impacts in Africa has been revealing for a long time that a large fraction of the market economy is indeed very vulnerable to climate change. Agriculture, coastal resources and fishery, energy, forestry, tourism, and water resources are sectors at particular risk and account for about 40% percent of the economy.

Let us take, for instance, the example of the West African savannahs – the breadbaskets of the region. In the past, the soil and the climate in these areas have been so good that crops such as millet and maize have usually flourished very well. However, climate forecasts for these areas predict great fluctuations in rainfall. This will severely jeopardize the provision of food staples as well as endangering people’s livelihoods.

And we know that in fact most other sectors of the African economy are climate sensitive, too. Consequently, if climate change turns out to be large, there is a risk for increasing damage to the economy of both states and individuals.

Also ecosystems will change with detrimental consequences for agriculture, livestock farming and wildlife conservation. Endangered species and biodiversity may be lost, diseases may extend and cause very high health intervention costs, and extreme whether events may even take a live toll. Such possible impacts of climate change which will effect economic development and reduce the quality of life considerably.

You, the young Scientists at WASCAL, should therefore work with the business, the farmers and the local authorities in the region to spread your knowledge. WASCAL offers the chance to combine local surveys and mappings with modern remote sensing and climate modelling to get a real-time picture of the impacts of climate change and to enhance the capacity to respond. You are also best positioned to tap into and make use of traditional knowledge in order to find promising adaptation solutions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear students,

Climate policy is a central reference point of my Ministry’s, that is to say, German research policy, because climate change is affecting directly our life and the human wellbeing.

I am therefore very proud as main funder of this institution that we could create through WASCAL a research platform to help our partners facing those challenges. Through this Graduate School in particular, we hope to be able to help educating the experts needed to advise stakeholders and policymakers on the economics of climate change.

One cannot emphasize enough in this respect the importance of a close partnership between stakeholders, policy-makers and science in the countries of the sub-region and Germany. This is the only way how sustainable, long-term structures can be established. It is the only way how the people of the region can take development into their own hands.

For this, we consider one thing to be of the utmost importance – namely, the excellent training of young researchers in the regions and for the regions. This is a decisive factor for the sustainable impact of the initiative.

Over the coming months, WASCAL will focus on drafting a new research programme for the next development phase. This programme will be based on current research work and be designed to match the needs of the region and the actors as closely as possible.

Just recently, my ministry offered to provide new funding for research until 2020 and continue support for a third batch of Graduate students so that hopefully very soon 20 new PhD-Students will join you here on the campus.

In return, we are expecting our African partner to make efforts to develop further and sustain WASCAL through financing, ideas and engagement and to give WASCAL a long-term perspective as African centre of excellence.

After all, WASCAL is about research with and not just in Africa. We have established WASCAL with this aim in mind and have established mutual trust. And I can assure you that, in this spirit, we will continue to be a reliable partner for Africa.

I hope that this afternoon will offer an interesting discussion with full of fruitful ideas and that you will gain exciting insights into the fruits of German-African research cooperation.

Thank you!