GEF7: Why Regional Collaboration is Key to Financial Access

As Africa grapples with diverse environmental challenges, regional meetings such as the recently concluded Africa Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) are poised to be watershed moments in uniting the continent's efforts in shaping environmental policies. Such meetings present an excellent opportunity for critical discussions, and one crucial agenda item that African member states have been following closely since the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is the rollout of finances that will be instrumental in achieving the GBF targets by 2030. Accessibility of the finances from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is in question, and as policymakers gather this week in Vancouver, Canada, for the seventh assembly, African stakeholders are more deliberate than ever to strengthen their unified approach in emphasizing the prospective value of Africa’s success to the world. 

Strengthening engagement with the GEF

Undoubtedly, a multi-faceted approach is required to enhance African countries' engagement with the GEF and increase their chances of accessing funding for environmental projects, and experts have been adamant that reforms are required from both ends. 

One of the challenges facing African countries is GEF's stringent project proposal requirements and complex appraisal procedures that often surpass the technical and financial capabilities of many African institutions. Therefore, there is an adamant call to simplify the procedures, provide more guidance during the project development stage, and facilitate access to technical assistance resources to ensure that the finances get to the ground where they are most needed. 

Equally, African governments must invest in enhancing their institutional capacity to meet the stringent requirements set by the GEF for project proposals. This implies bolstering technical know-how, financial management skills, and project management capabilities. Therefore, investing in capacity-building programs, training workshops, and knowledge-sharing initiatives would enable African countries to navigate the complex GEF procedures effectively.

It is true to say that aligning environmental priorities and jointly developing regional projects can benefit African countries in accessing GEF funding. By pooling resources and expertise, countries can present a unified front and increase their chances of receiving funding. The African Civil Society Biodiversity Alliance (ACBA) is an exceptional example of regional collaboration in accessing GEF funding. With the Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network (KYBN) as the lead applicant, ACBA is one of the winners of the Inclusive GEF Assembly Challenge Program announced in Vancouver, Canada, this week.  

This is a true testament that regional collaboration enhances integration, fostering cross-border cooperation and shared efforts for environmental conservation.

Fostering partnerships for effective GEF funding 

Regional and sub-regional forums such as the recently concluded 19th AMCEN are crucial in fostering partnerships between African governments, civil society, and private sector stakeholders to leverage GEF funding effectively. This inclusive approach is one that would ensure transparency, accountability, and local ownership with grassroots connections and civil society organizations that can play a pivotal role in effectively utilizing GEF resources. 

Showcasing success stories and project outcomes

To effectively showcase success stories and project outcomes to the international community through the GEF platform, experts reiterate the need for African countries to establish robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks to assess the impact of GEF-funded projects. Countries can attract international attention and demonstrate their commitment to environmental conservation by continuously tracking project outcomes and showcasing tangible results.          

In a nutshell, African nations need to leverage regional conventions and meetings that offer both state and non-state actors a pivotal chance to collectively shape their environmental policies. Through strategic collaboration with the GEF, nations will be drawing closer to the goals within Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, hence securing a sustainable future for us all.