Scaling-up efforts towards Paris alignment and supporting the SDGs in the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership

On 30 June, Global, EU and African policy makers and experts discussed the drivers of change towards a green and just transition, to help ‘build back better’ with the insights and perspectives of both the global south and global north, at a joint ACCA, Green Finance Platform and PAFA event


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis show just how interdependent and interconnected Europe and Africa are, and why it is so important that both continents act together to seize shared opportunities and tackle common challenges. There is an urgent need for green and just transition mechanisms to be designed and implemented with the insights and perspectives of both the global south and global north in mind. As parties prepare for COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, a more targeted EU-Africa green finance partnership is needed, alongside a strategic long-term plan that aligns with an actionable climate strategy.

One day after EU Climate Pact Day of Action, and just a few months ahead of UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, this was the main focus of a joint ACCA, Green Finance Platform and PAFA (the Pan-African Federation of Accountants) global event that discussed Scaling-up efforts towards Paris alignment and supporting the SDGs in the EU-Africa Strategic Partnership. We had over 430 participants, including many ACCA members and students, global/EU/national policy and decision makers, finance professionals, business, academics, and NGOs from across the globe, covering 63 countries. The discussions enabled a real constructive dialogue between experts from both continents, who acquired new food for thought for the next steps. It also raised awareness on what the European Commission is already doing and could do in the future regarding the external dimension of the EU Green Deal in the EU cooperation with Africa.

After a welcome speech by Helen Brand OBE, Chief Executive, ACCA and a keynote speech by Prof. Mervyn E. King, Senior Counsel and former Judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa; the panel moderated by Nicole Martens, Director: Martens Impact Advisory and Acting Head of Africa & Middle East, UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) welcomed Domenico Rosa, head of Unit, Strategic Partnerships with Africa and with the ACP, European Commission; Mofifoluwa Ayokunnumi Olawumi, Sustainability Partnerships, Access Bank, Nigeria; Dr. Musonda Mumba, Director for the Rome Centre for Sustainable Development, UNDP and Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien, Co-Chair, Private Sector Advisory Group on SDGs/ Chair, Circular Economy Innovation Partnership Africa. Concluding remarks were delivered by Alta Prinsloo, CEO of PAFA.

Helen Brand, OBE, chief executive of ACCA opened the discussion: ‘Africa and Europe do have a mutual interest in accelerating the progress of the global agenda for sustainable development, fuelled by the need to rethink a common future. Climate change, and the interconnected environmental, technological, economic and social challenges, are an intrinsic part of the development agenda for both continents, alongside the rest of the world. At ACCA, we’re convinced that finance professionals and accountants have a key role to play in achieving this sustainable and inclusive recovery, focused on public value and faster transitions. There is much work to do here, but it is heartening to see partnerships forming to co-create policy action'.

Nicole Martens, Director at Martens Impact Advisory and Acting Head of Africa & Middle East at UNPRI, the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, who moderated the panel discussion said: ‘The challenges presented by the climate emergency are global in nature. There is no single region or country that is immune from the effects of the world-wide transition currently underway. The nature of the problem necessitates a collaborative approach to its solution. Simply put: No one can do this alone. We have to work together. The Africa-EU partnership is a great example of how resources and expertise can be pooled across borders to ensure sustainable, inclusive growth and development that incorporates material impacts of the shifting global context. The potential that this kind of arrangement presents is significant, and if managed correctly, the opportunities that it unlocks for further, broader and even more impactful collaboration is substantial'.

The discussions highlighted the importance of the Africa-EU partnership and strategy - reaffirming that climate is not a European issue only-, the need for it to focus on policies and actions, and that we have to be hyperconnected in our policy making and implementation. Speakers also highlighted the need for a targeted approach to create value through collaboration, the importance of adding risks and opportunities of climate change to the agenda boards -the “conscience” of companies- and that there should be a golden thread throughout all considerations in decision-making.

Discussions also revolved around “leapfrogging”, ie Africa's ability to catch up faster in sustainability and digital transition by skipping some stages that other regions had to take in their journey. It was stressed that time is of the essence: it is very important for the financial sector to have SDG's and sustainable finance as the purpose of their business and included in their short, medium and long term goals. The pandemic has shown our fractured relationship with nature. But financial systems cannot exist without putting nature at the center.

Prof. Mervyn King SC said: ‘Africa is a continent of developing countries while Europe is a developed continent. A finance partnership between the two is important for the future of planet Earth. To be effective that partnership should target implementation of value creation and not just thinking and talking about it. Whilst the endgame might be to have a globally accepted comprehensive corporate reporting system we might have to be satisfied, at least in the medium term, through the international sustainability standards board to be established in November under the auspices of the IFRS to develop in discussions with IOSCO, the EC and the SEC about global baselines of sustainability related disclosures standards to meet investors' needs, and used for sustainability issues by different jurisdictions and particular to that jurisdiction. The true changemaker of looking at value creation from inputs to outcomes is the accountant with his or her public interest training and therefore should rather be called a value officer than a financial officer. The accountant also through his or her training as the steward of business information can more easily grasp the principles of integrated thinking and do an integrated report containing the significant material financial and sustainability issues pertinent to the business of the company’.

It was also referred the seven pillars to achieving sustainable development, and more specifically the cultural pillar and the importance of changing mindsets, with emphasis on the gap between sustainability thinking and doing, and the question as to how do we marry public policies, corporate sustainability and performance with reward. On projects and aid funding, could these projects include creating awareness and building the capacity necessary to enable the accountancy profession to prioritize a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development?

Alta Prinsloo, CEO of PAFA concluded: ‘We know that the consequences of climate change are concentrated in regions with relatively hot climates where disproportionately large number of low income countries are located. I believe the accountancy profession in Africa has a public interest responsibility to contribute to efforts to mitigate climate change. We have to make a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development a priority, as is the case for Agenda 2063. PAFA stands ready to collaborate on developing a roadmap for mobilizing the more than 150,000 champions of change in Africa’.