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FEATURE: Tailoring a Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) programme for the African continent

Gracia Munganga, MAPS Africa Programme Manager at the Energy Research Centre (University of Cape Town), looks at energy policy and institutional frameworks in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia, and highlights the potential for a ‘MAPS approach’ to development and mitigation planning on the African continent given recent research from the MAPS Africa programme.

The Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) programme is currently running in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru to produce assessments for long-term, low-carbon development pathways and climate-resilient futures; and is supported by the Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town and SouthSouthNorth, which led the technical work on South Africa’s Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS). The LTMS was a process led by the then South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, from 2005-2008. The project’s aim was to establish the evidence base for a national low carbon development path, and its key feature was its unique blend of rigorous research and facilitated stakeholder engagement.

CDKN funded a one year (March 2013-March 2014) feasibility study to assess the potential of developing a MAPS programme tailored for Africa. The key research questions revolved around determining (i) whether MAPS would be valuable in Africa; and, if so, (ii) what would be the required framework and structure for such a programme to be legitimate and relevant. Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zambia were prioritised from a list that also included Botswana and Kenya.

MAPS processes aim to facilitate change and complex processes in a regulated and structured manner. As such, government leadership and stakeholder interaction are key elements of the MAPS approach, together with robust in-country research.

The research conducted was a combination of country visits, desktop research and consultations with country experts. Moreover, the MAPS Africa team also drew on the experience gained at the ERC through MAPS Latin America to structure the feasibility study. Results show that implementing MAPS processes for Africa would be timely, as Africa is fast becoming the new growth frontier. Such a programme would focus on developing the evidence for long-term, climate-compatible development planning – that is, pathways that provide sustainable livelihoods, energy access and sustainable agriculture, while reducing poverty and avoiding emissions.

The detailed feasibility assessment revealed that, although the specific needs of the study countries may differ, some common key elements have emerged as important pillars for the MAPS Africa programme:

  • Building and strengthening capacity

Feedback received from the MAPS Africa participants shows that capacity building must be a key component of a MAPS Africa programme, to enhance human and institutional capacity as an important benefit as well as to address the research gaps identified. The main gaps identified include the availability of reliable data, early warning and disaster preparedness systems; and modelling skills for climate change projections and scenarios, econometrics and technology-rich/least-cost models. Lab participants indicated the importance of transferring knowledge to local researchers and building modelling capacity locally.

Strengthening capacity and knowledge transfer could be achieved through providing a platform and formal structure such as MAPS Africa for (i) South-South collaboration between the Latin American countries and their African counterparts; (ii) intra-regional collaboration, where other countries could benefit from expertise and skills from Ghana for example; and (iii) direct interventions such as sponsoring postgraduate scholarships. MAPS is currently considering an Academy concept that may help to achieve the above outcome.

  • Focus on low carbon development

Africa’s rapid economic growth since the turn of the century is largely attributable to the exploitation of its vast natural resources, exported as primary or semi-processed products to industrialised or rapidly industrialising countries. New fossil fuel discoveries put a new spin on emissions futures and developmental aspirations. This is particularly the case for Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya. On the other hand, mitigation as a stand-alone cannot be the focus of a MAPS Africa programme largely due to the fact the current GHG emissions from the continent are negligible compared to the global average, and also because African countries have different priorities, linked to direct needs such as poverty alleviation.

The need for development planning should therefore be framed around alternative development paths, maximising welfare returns from those resources, while considering the effects of climate change.

  • Adaptation and resilience

Although MAPS processes in Latin America have not focused on adaptation thus far, it became evident, based on the feedback received from the MAPS Africa research and facilitation labs , that MAPS Africa processes would need to consider adaptation as a key development issue for the continent both in the medium and long term. Although there are existing programmes in all of the four countries studied, the local stakeholders consulted highlighted the need for understanding the economics of adaptation and effective policy drivers, for example, in the context of low-carbon development. Determining the framework and extent to which adaptation could be integrated into MAPS research-design processes would require further investigation. The two main approaches proposed thus far point to (i) integrating adaptation either as a principle in the development planning activities or (ii) to be more explicitly considered in the research process and tools designed to generate relevant evidence in support of long-term, climate-compatible development paths.

  • Focus on agriculture

Agriculture remains key to rural livelihoods and economic development in many developing countries in Africa. The agriculture sector is expected to play a predominant role in the scenarios for the short and medium resilience.

MAPS Africa would therefore need to assist in developing and integrating modelling tools terms across countries, both by leveraging transformative development and increasing focused on the sector (e.g. land management, water, crop productivity, etc), and/or provide a platform to leverage these skills.

  • Scenario framework

Scenario frameworks for MAPS International have revolved around GHG baseline previously, mitigation and low-carbon normative scenarios. These will probably not apply in the African context where mitigation will not be the core focus, but rather ‘avoided emissions’ from the projected exploitation of large fossil fuel resources and economic growth.

  • Implementation of existing development plans

All studied countries exhibited a demand for an assessment process that could enable a structured and effective implementation of current visions and strategies for Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda and Mozambique. MAPS researchers also agree that looking ahead at implementation can help identify future challenges and opportunities, which could inform the design of MAPS modelling processes at the start, to avoid erroneous assumptions and negative unintended consequences of these development goals. One such area beyond governance, capacity building and economics; is infrastructure-planning which could form part of the MAPS assessments.

Closing note

The research conducted makes it clear that MAPS processes in Africa come at the right time and would definitely add value. However, tailoring a programme for Africa will require an innovative approach to not only overcome some of the challenges that many African countries face – such as lack of data and limited research capacity – but also create a structure that integrates modelling tools (that were not necessarily used previously in Latin America, e.g. adaptation and agriculture) into a coherent, credible and legitimate framework.


Formore information visit the CDKN MAPS Africa project page.

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