FEATURE: In conversation… with Stefan Raubenheimer, CDKN Africa Director
Simon Maxwell: Stef, you’re the Africa Regional Director of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. And I know that you have some experience of working in the processes of medium term planning and strategising in Africa. Tell me a bit about that.
Stefan Raubenheimer: I think the climate space in Africa is being dominated at the moment by this idea that medium or long term planning is the next issue on the agenda. These are planning processes that are in essence necessary as well to unlock the opportunities of climate finance for the continent. And this is of course the major problem in the continent is that carbon and, low carbon and climate resilient planning is expensive. We’re looking at countries like Ghana, Zambia, Mozambique and others who are in the business of making these planning processes a reality. What we’re proposing through the Network is to assist country governments in these processes in whichever ways they feel the Network can make contributions and can add value.
Simon: You know, what we see in a lot of countries is that the decisions you have to take in this exercise are highly contested. Do we build a dam here or don’t we build a dam? Do we build this power station or that power station? How do you manage to bring the different parties and interests towards some kind of consensus?
Stef: This is the really interesting part and I think this is where climate change starts becoming real. It becomes an issue of budget and of planning and decision, of infrastructure, of expenditure. And most prominently an issue of stakeholder interest. And the idea is of course that if the stakeholders aren’t in the room working with government in a kind of public private partnership in this planning process, it won’t be a robust plan, because it will leave them behind and leave their interests behind. Sometimes their interests have to change quite radically in line with what they learn about the climate realities. Sometimes they learn about opportunities that they didn’t realise were there at all. And sometimes they also learn through the science that development tracks that they are planning to implement are hopelessly inadequate or impractical.
Simon: It sounds as though this is a very data intensive, complicated, quantitative exercise. Does it have to be that complicated or are there intermediate paths that countries can begin with?
Stef: I think there are intermediate paths. But there are also segments of the process that can be done in high priority areas such as the problem of de-forestation in Zambia might be a high priority area that one can do in a segmented way, and pare down the data to relatively simple first passes so that it’s not too over complicated. Of course you can take the modelling and data development of these processes to very sophisticated levels. But remember that they’re still based on assumptions into the future and in many ways those assumptions could be trumped by reality. So we have to plan the processes and design them around the capacity and ability of country stakeholders to participate in them.
Simon: So how are you going to fine tune your approach in different countries in Africa?
Stef: It’s a big mistake to see Africa as one place. And there are countries with tremendously sophisticated planning processes, high degrees of capacity and these are the countries that we hear are growing very rapidly, and they are presenting this new face of Africa. And with that comes a more developed infrastructure, a more developed ability to respond to research needs. And then you have on the other side of the spectrum the really poor and struggling countries where there’s very little capacity both at institutional level and in fact in terms of content. I think where we can, using indigenous knowledge and ability and building that capacity is going to be key. So of course what we would do is we will really try and combine local and offshore skills.
Simon: Of course in the Climate Change Development Network we have a number of different instruments. We have some research money, we have some advisory money, we have knowledge management and partnership money. How do we combine those effectively without creating silos.
Stef: Well I think that the way we’re beginning to think, in the Network is very much project in country focused and under a regional focus. And this is a way of pooling these funds and applying them in a bespoke way in each country, so that they’re tailor made for an effective delivery.
Simon: Let’s look ahead five years and when we get there look back at what we might have achieved with this project.
Stef: What would please me immensely is if a number of countries, say ten countries, or even more, have integrated into their development planning robust good climate knowledge that they believe in and that the world believes in. That they’ve been able to use these plans to make their case to the international community for climate finance, and improve their economies and develop in a way that is climate compatible.
Simon: Stef Raubenheimer, thank you very much.
Stef: Thank you