African businesses should demonstrate collective determination to fulfil climate commitments, says Airtel Africa CEO

Segun Ogunsanya, Group Chief Executive, Airtel Africa

As Government and business leaders from across the world are meeting in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, between 30 November and 12 December, for the latest Conference of the Parties (COP), Airtel Africa Group Chief Executive Segun Ogunsanya has called on the businesses, including Airtel Africa, to step up and demonstrate collective determination to fulfil their climate commitments of African businesses.

Ogunsanya, who will be speaking at the COP28, is part of the African Business Leaders Coalition (ABLC) – a partnership of CEOs dedicated to advancing sustainable growth, prosperity and development across the African continent.

The coalition’s commitment goes beyond corporate pledges; it represents a collective determination to fulfil the climate commitments of African businesses. At COP28, the business leaders will stress the importance of an enabling policy environment for sustainable development and climate action in partnership with Africa’s private sector.

In an Op-ed, Ogunsanya said he strongly believes that progress on the African continent towards the Paris Agreement goals can be achieved only through a solid public-private partnership, undertaken in an environment of settled rules and incentives.

“We are long past the days when it was assumed desirable outcomes could be achieved with the stroke of a minister’s pen, just as we abandoned the idea that businesses alone can magically conjure into existence the public goods and services that we all seek.

“As a representative of the ABLC, I urge African businesses and governments to come together to collaborate and to focus on the future. The progress, prosperity and sustainability of our beloved continent depends upon it,” Ogunsanya wrote.

The Airtel Africa CEO added that the company, which is serving fourteen markets across sub-Saharan Africa, is acutely aware of the challenges faced by communities across the region – including the severe impact of climate change. In the absence of meaningful and rapid action, said Ogunsanya, customers, employees and communities will suffer some of the most serious consequences.

According to Ogusanya, Airtel Africa is working relentlessly to reduce the carbon emissions from its business – throughout the company’s operations and across its supply chain. He said the company has committed to reducing its Scope 1 emissions (those generated by its own processes) and Scope 2 emissions (generated by bought-in energy) by 62% from the 2022 baseline by 2032, with net zero absolute emissions by 2050. This is to be achieved by improved energy efficiency, the deployment of renewable energy, and sustainable, efficient growth.

In addition, Airtel engaged in programs that foster environmental stewardship. ‘Project Green,’ introduced in 2022, is a cornerstone of Airtel’s environmental impact reduction strategy. This initiative emphasizes circular economy practices, especially in the responsible replacement of end-of-life equipment to minimize potential adverse environmental impacts.

In March 2023, Airtel joined the multi-stakeholder partnership to eliminate open waste burning from Africa. This collaborative effort with local authorities, private companies, community groups, civil society and development partners targets a 60% reduction by 2030 and complete elimination of open waste burning by 2040. This requires a fundamental shift in public behaviour, effective policy frameworks and the rollout of sustainable infrastructure for waste management.

At COP28, the ABLC will impress three major strategic imperatives on those present. The first is for governments to create the regulatory environment that will drive collaborative climate action. The second is for all people to accept the challenge of establishing decarbonisation targets and projects in areas where Africa can really benefit, such as green minerals and climate adaptation programmes. Finally, it will call for an increase in, and access to, climate financing.

Ogunsanya said governments, regulatory bodies and development partners must play a pivotal role in creating an enabling environment that facilitates increased access to climate finance and clean technology.

“Airtel Africa’s corporate purpose, our driving force, is to ‘transform lives’ – and I would urge others to join us on this journey. Public-private co-operation is more critical than ever in turbo-charging climate action on the continent – in catalysing innovative solutions, channeling resources, and leveraging expertise for a more sustainable world,” Ogunsanya wrote.