By Murimi Gitari, February 6, 2023, An Economic Update report from the World Bank shows that protecting the Congo people and the country’s agriculture sector from the impacts of climate change can help the country build a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economy for the years to come.
The report, titled Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Opportunities, notes that Congo is already experiencing the consequences of the climate crisis: Average temperatures have increased, rainfall has become more erratic, floods are becoming more frequent and heat-related and infectious diseases are on the rise. This drives up healthcare costs, lowers labor productivity and damages arable land.
Congo’s economy returned to growth in 2022, following a multi-year economic contraction. However, achieving long-term growth requires adjusting to the realities of climate change and adopting key adaptation actions with a focus on reducing impacts on agriculture, a key source of income for the poor and women, as well as labor.
“It is crucial for Congo to integrate effective climate actions in the country’s development path. A focus on agriculture is critical to ensure the country’s food security and economic diversification,” said Korotoumou Ouattara, World Bank Resident Representative for the Republic of Congo. “The World Bank is committed to support the Government in protecting the Congolese people and economy from climate and other external shocks.”
The report notes that Congo is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change and recommends actions in the following four priority areas:
Agriculture: A key driver of adaptation in agriculture should be to strengthen food security. Farmers, especially smaller and more vulnerable ones, will need information about the impact on crop yields of changing patterns of temperature and precipitation as well as access to more resilient seed varieties. The promotion of climate smart agriculture can increase productivity, enhance resilience, reduce emissions, and raise rural incomes, while reducing deforestation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and preserving biodiversity.
Labor productivity: A third of Congo’s workforce is employed in the agriculture sector. With climate change projected to cause substantial loss in agricultural output, this would result in a decline in rural incomes and increase in poverty. Actions to address the problem include changes in working hours, longer breaks, and use of heat protective equipment.
Health: Congo is vulnerable to diseases that are influenced by climatic factors. Most notably, malaria is a big concern for the country as it is the leading cause of child and adolescent mortality. Early warning system and investments in clean water and to control mosquitoes (e.g., bed nets, residual spraying, prompt treatment of diagnosed patients, and mosquito repellent sprays and coils) are needed.
Coastal areas: The country’s coastal areas are already at risk from rising sea levels and storm surges. Nature-based solutions, when well-designed and implemented, can generate large economic returns. Such solutions should be seen as part of structural transformation of the coastal zones in response to sea level rise.
The report proposes urgent actions to address in the short term. Exiting debt distress and maintaining long-term debt sustainability will require the government to continue enhancing domestic revenue mobilization, as well as debt management and transparency. The government also needs to protect the most vulnerable from the surge in food prices, triggered by disruptions in global supply chains and exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, while putting in place measures to gradually reduce the country’s dependence on food imports. An intensification of the war in Ukraine and related spillovers as well as unsteady oil production represent significant risks for Congo’s economic recovery and reforms to diversify the economy remain critical.
“Congo’s economy is yet to recover from the impacts of a series of multiple shocks that started in 2014. Urgent policy actions to stabilize the economy in the short term, combined with long-term investments in climate can help minimize economic disruptions from shocks,” said Vincent Belinga, lead author of the report.