Africa races to develop cooling infrastructure amid heatwaves
Severe heatwaves highlight the need for improved access to sustainable cooling and cold-chain services across Africa, African Business said in an analysis.
Africa has plenty of experience in dealing with heat. But, as climate change worsens, extreme temperatures are posing increasingly severe threats to human health and food security across the continent.
Average global temperatures in July were the highest ever recorded. North Africa is one of many parts of the Northern Hemisphere to endure ferocious heat this summer – a new national record of 50.4 degrees Celsius was reported in Agadir, Morocco on 11 August.
Sweltering conditions will almost certainly become more common in the coming decades. A study published by University of Oxford academics in Nature last month warned that the 10 countries set to see the highest absolute rise in cooling requirements are all in Africa (based on the modelled increase in “cooling degree days”, a measure commonly used to quantify cooling demand).
Elizabeth Wangeci Chege, energy efficiency and cooling specialist at Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), a non-profit group with links to the UN, says that cooling has historically been a “blindspot” for policymakers in Africa.
However, there are signs of change. Recent heatwaves have made the need for cooling impossible to ignore, while the struggle to distribute Covid-19 vaccines in Africa drew attention to the lack of cold chain infrastructure.
This is also a major problem for the agricultural sector – around half of food produced in Africa goes to waste because of a lack of cold storage facilities and other supply chain inefficiencies.
Cooling is set to be a major agenda item when world leaders gather for the COP28 climate summit in Dubai later this year. The “Cool Coalition” led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is pushing for a series of actions to promote sustainable cooling solutions.