In addition to the human toll due to last month's Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, the world's largest companies are reminded that they need to do what they can to accelerate climate action efforts worldwide.
News from southeastern Africa does not often arrive to this part of the world, so in case you’ve missed it, Cyclone Idai has wreaked tragedy across Malawi, Zimbabwe and especially Mozambique since the storm hit the region in mid-March. Hundreds have died due to rapid flooding while tens of thousands have been displaced in the aftermath of a storm surge that rose as high as 13 feet (4 meters). As noted in Grist last week, the flooding in Mozambique has covered a land mass greater than the total area of Boston, Chicago, New York City and Washington, D.C. combined.
The human toll is terrible, especially as reports of cholera outbreaks are ongoing while many citizens in remote rural areas find themselves stranded without access to crucial emergency services.
But the harrowing personal accounts and pictures need to push individuals, and companies, to do more than express concern or write checks—the climate crisis in Mozambique should also serve as yet another reminder to scale up climate action.
The work that has been done on climate action and ensuring a more sustainable global supply chain matters now more than ever before for several reasons. First, depending on the source consulted, the continent of Africa is home to six or seven of the world’s fastest growing economies. Hence the world’s largest multinationals have long looked to sub-Saharan Africa as the next frontier, especially as opportunities in the rest of the world have largely flatlined. The continent’s rising middle class offers new markets for goods and services, as well as another source for many companies’ supply chains. But all and any attempts to boost sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa will make little difference if climate volatility continues to take its toll.
Mozambique represents a microcosm of the various exports sub-Saharan Africa offers to companies and countries alike. The country's leading exports include aluminum, energy, sugar and prawns. And as far as markets go, Mozambique’s top trading partners include India, China, South Africa, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. Considering the region’s growth trajectory, that list is likely to grow.
For now, as the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or, in English, Doctors Without Borders) said last week, Mozambique’s entire supply chain is “broken.” True, companies can now do the obvious, such as supporting immediate efforts to ensure clean water and provide communities with the food and medicine they need.
But in the long term, the global business community will have to do more on the ground not just in Mozambique, but anywhere their supply chains have a footprint. Such projects can include programs to boost sustainable farming or invest in skills development initiatives. But with the world’s largest companies emitting the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions (and water, too, if you consider agriculture’s water footprint), there is plenty of macro-level work that businesses can take on as well.
After all, climate change’s most drastic impacts won’t fall on multinationals and the countries home to their headquarters—they will hit developing countries the hardest, as we have witnessed in Mozambique the past few weeks.
Image credit: Columbus Mavhunga of Voice of America/Wiki Commons
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.