Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa, Photo by Louis Smit on Unsplash

Multi-dimensional poverty and inequality continue to persist in Africa’s societies. The majority of African livelihoods rely on income from agricultural activities, which makes them vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, the population on the continent is fast growing, which translates into rapid expansion of urban areas and associated infrastructural needs. The UN demographic projections forecast that by 2050 2 billion people will call Africa their home.

These dynamics will increase the demand for investments into energy, transport, waste management, water supply and sanitation infrastructure. These services are climate critical as they are either vulnerable to  climate impacts an/ or can significantly add to the world’s emissions burden. Energy access is still very limited. Electricity supply only reaches half of the population on the continent. As a result, 21 new coal fired power plants are currently in the planning process in 17 African countries, which will significantly change the emissions if the plants will be built.

The growing demand for climate resilient, low emissions infrastructure in African societies raises many questions, as inequality is a political choice. How can African societies design and implement climate action to improve sustainable livelihoods, reduce both poverty and inequality without locking their capital into emissions intensive pathways?

A unique interdisciplinary team of climate change researchers and inequality and poverty specialists based at two Centres of Excellence of the African Research University Alliance (ARUA) address this important nexus between climate action-poverty-inequality.

A novel project, named Transforming Social Inequalities Through Inclusive Climate Action (TSITICA) funded by the UK’s Global Challenge Research Fund investigates the bidirectional relationships between climate action and inequality comparatively across three countries: Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. The project creates a new network of researchers, generating a better understanding of the opportunities and risks that different policies offer for building sustainable livelihoods, building prosperity and reducing inequality.

The project partners include researchers from two ARUA centres of excellence (COEs), both hosted by the University of Cape Town (UCT) with co-located regional nodes at the Universities of Ghana (UG) and Nairobi (UN), and collaborators from four UK universities. ARUA-CD is the ARUA CoE on Climate and Development and ACEIR is the African Centre of Excellence on Inequalities Research; both these CoEs bring together unique critical mass in their respective fields in Africa. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia (UEA) and Manchester University (MU) bring extensive experience on sustainable development, livelihoods, disaster risk, forced migration, climate adaptation and environmental justice. The International Inequalities Institute at London School of Economics (LSE) is one of the world’s leading interdisciplinary centres exploring the challenge of inequalities, who have major global expertise on income and wealth inequalities. Grantham Research Institute on the Environment and Climate Change at LSE, brings leading expertise in climate governance and policy analysis. The Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, University of Bristol (UB), is a leading international centre working in several African contexts on the measurement of multidimensional poverty and inequality across space and time, and the use of this evidence for policy formulation and assessment.

Ultimately, TSITICA’s aim is to create a better understanding on how improved livelihoods and equitable benefits from climate interventions for the most vulnerable and poor, contributing to the UN’s climate goals of the Paris Agreement and the ambition of the Agenda 2030 of leaving no one behind. For more information on the TSITICA project please contact

This article was originally published on the International Universities Climate Alliance Knowledge Hub.