nafotraore3_NICOLAS REMENEAFP via Getty Images_mali climate change covid NICOLAS REMENE/AFP via Getty Images

How Africa’s Local Knowledge Can Address Global Crises

The world’s two-year struggle against COVID-19 has shown how critical the knowledge and participation of local communities can be in addressing global threats. In Africa and elsewhere, we need to capitalize on this resource if we are to have a fighting chance of mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

BAMAKO, MALI – When I returned home to Mali in 2019 after two decades working across Africa and the rest of the world, I found it difficult to recognize the place. The optimism spurred by the country’s development in the 1990s had given way to despondency – and insecurity and climate change were largely to blame.

In Mali, climate change is not only a future threat; it affects Malians’ lives and livelihoods today. It has reversed social progress that was achieved with much effort and limited means. And it has fractured the rural economy, triggering a chain of calamitous developments, including civil strife, food insecurity, and an improvised exodus. If left unaddressed, conditions are unlikely to improve soon.

Africa has certainly had its share of overwhelming crises, from economic downturns and political upheavals to natural disasters and epidemics. The continent’s response to these crises holds important lessons for meeting the major challenges that lie ahead. Above all, it is vital for policymakers to listen to the perspectives and understand the interests and goals of local communities.

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