Inter Press Service » Africa News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 Nov 2015 16:25:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 From Darkness to Light: Dramatic Rescue of Tanzanian Miners Trapped 41 Days in Rubble Wed, 25 Nov 2015 08:06:54 +0000 Kizito Makoye 0 Hunger Heralds Climate Change’s Arrival in Botswana Tue, 24 Nov 2015 15:38:23 +0000 Baboki Kayawe Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

Cattle among drought victims. Credit: Kagiso Onkatswitse

By Baboki Kayawe

A perfect storm of lower rainfall and a growing population beckons for Botswana. But others find climate change is already in the fields and paddocks. “As climate change ushers in more stress on the water sector, it is increasingly a concern that losses in rangeland productivity will result in food insecurity, especially in rural areas,” a country analysis report unveiled recently on Botswana states.

Far from the airy conference rooms where such reports are typically shared, are thousands of subsistence farmers – growing crops mainly to feed their families – for whom these words come to life in the fields and the paddocks of Botswana every harvest season.

For these farmers, the national ideals of poverty eradication and sustainable development are slipping ever further out of reach. Bathalefhi Seoroka, 65, is a subsistence farmer in Boteti, one of Botswana’s drier areas located in the central region. She mostly grows maize, sorghum, beans and melons on her six-hectare field.

Seoroka has noticed her crops have been failing because of declining rainfall since 2010. “Weather patterns have drastically changed,” she says. “I don’t know how we will be able to survive under such dry conditions.”

Another farmer, Kgasane Tsele accuses the government of responding too slowly to the 2014-2015 drought, which was declared early in June. “This is really scary for us as farmers and we eagerly wait to see how government will respond,” he says. “By now government should have announced how it is going to help farmers in alleviating the impact of this drought. The response team must always be on alert and respond early.”

The Department of Meteorological Services predicts the southeastern part of Botswana – which is already suffering from drought and water shortages – is poised to experience its driest season in 34 years.

To cope with food shortage risks, the Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board (BAMB) ordered 1,000 tons of yellow maize from South Africa, and an additional 10,000 tons of white maize is due to arrive soon.

BAMB spokesperson, Kushata Modiakgotla says strategic grain reserves currently stand at 30,000 tons of sorghum and 3,000 tons of cowpeas left, but there is no maize. “BAMB has started the process of buying 5,000 tons of white maize from Zambia and it is exploring other avenues to import an additional 5,000 tons if necessary,” she states.

Imports from both nations would help meet supply as local reserves are under threat, while yellow maize is used to produce animal feed. The government insists consumers are not in any danger of going hungry as more than 90 percent of the maize consumed in Botswana is sourced by local millers from South Africa. But despite the supply contracts, consumers will have to pay more for maize meal the longer drought persists.

Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) chief executive Akolang Tombale says climate risks also present challenges to beef production and exports. “We are just emerging from a very dry season and if another drought is forecast it is a problematic state as production will be reduced,” he explains. Grasslands and pasture are an important resource for Batswana who derive most of their livelihood from livestock.

The majority of the BMC’s throughput starts at natural pastures, before being prepared with feedstock. Tombale is holding out hope for showers to replenish pastures around the country, but he acknowledges this may not be a long-term solution.

BMC has been receiving higher rates of deliveries than usual this year, since the Ministry of Agriculture advised farmers to destock as means of cutting their losses. However, this is a short-lived gain because if the situation persists in the next raining cycle, beef revenues would be badly affected. The BMC is now urging farmers to change their approach from quantity to quality-based cattle production.

President Ian Khama recently urged farmers to adopt more innovative approaches to their work in order to cope with the impacts of climate change. Speaking at the 2015 National Agricultural Show ‘Practicing Smart Agriculture to Combat the Effect of Climate Change’, he pointed to Israel, where farmers have harnessed new technologies in order to maintain production in highly water stressed environments.

“This ravaging drought we are currently experiencing is an opportunity to be innovative and resort to new methods and technologies to produce under such conditions. It is for this reason that farming methods such as conservation agriculture are promoted,” he said.

Recommendations include using improved crop varieties that are drought tolerant and high yielding, investing in breeds that can withstand the current climate, as well as adoption of proper crop husbandry practices though agricultural infrastructure. Lare Sisay, United Nations Development Programme’s deputy resident representative, predicts water shortages will lead to an increase in undesirable types of grass species.

“This has a far-reaching impact on social and economic sectors, and this has not yet been quantified and factored into the country’s economic projections,” he says. He predicts this could derail Botswana’s efforts to break through its middle-income country status.

Parliamentarians – many of whose constituents are rural and peri-urban populations involved in communal farming – are expected to tackle the climate change policy, once it appears in the National Assembly. The policy is due in the November sitting and already momentum is gathering from activists to ensure robust debate and urgent approval.

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Jessica Shankleman from @BusinessGreen.

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Gay Rights Activists Hope for The Pope’s Blessings in Uganda Tue, 24 Nov 2015 14:19:21 +0000 Amy Fallon 0 Searching for Nutrition in South Africa’s Food Maze Tue, 24 Nov 2015 09:24:16 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni 0 Analysis: Are Young People the Answer to Africa’s Food Security? Tue, 24 Nov 2015 07:41:28 +0000 Busani Bafana 0 OPINION: Keep Family Farms in Business with Youth Agripreneurs Mon, 23 Nov 2015 19:48:06 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

By Nteranya Sanginga
IBADAN, Nigeria, Nov 23 2015 (IPS)

Finding a way to allow youth to contribute their natural and ample energies to productive causes is increasingly the touchstone issue that will determine future prosperity.

It is a tragic irony that today’s youth, despite being the most educated generation ever, struggle to be included.

That’s true in advanced countries. But it is even more true in Africa, where almost two-thirds of the jobless are young adults, whose ranks swell by 10 to 12 million new members each year. The challenge is staggering in scale: Today there are 365 million Africans aged 15 to 35, and over the next 20 years that figure will double.

There is no magic wand. It is youth themselves who must find a solution.

Everyone else – governments, international organizations, the private sector, social groups and parents – has a huge stake in their success and so must not stand in the way. Normally one hears about the need to help cast in elaborate theories based on the need for redistribution. But the truth is, we need a step change.

That’s the spirit the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is adopting with our “agripreneur” coaching programmes. These aim to use self-help groups so that people can indeed help themselves. As I bluntly told a group of youth in Uganda, we will provide support in the form of technology, knowledge and advocacy, but the real activity has to be done by themselves. Another message was: “be aggressive.”

It is well known that Africa is a vast land of family farmers, many living in rural areas and regularly struggling with poverty and hunger. Figures can also be easily made to show how most family farms are exercises in subsistence, and don’t always succeed without external help.

Family farming is a way of life, to be sure. But that does not mean, when you really think about it, that it cannot be done as a business. Doing so would represent a change, but the time has come. Making agriculture a commercial trade offers a set of new tools to entice talented youth to a sector we all know they tend to run away from.

As Akinwumi Adesina, formerly Nigeria’s agriculture minister and now the president of the African Development Bank, likes to say, “Africa’s future millionaires and billionaires will make their money from agriculture.”

And it is quite likely that youth, being in a proverbial rush, will accelerate the transformations that will lead to better lives than a mad rush to cities where employment prospects aren’t keeping pace with urban population. Moreover, agriculture has been the weak link in terms of productivity growth across the continent – that means there is an enormous upside to doing it better.

Knowledge needs pollinators. While extension services are excellent and should be upgraded, young people are natural communicators when they think something is cool and useful. That’s what agriculture has to be.

IITA’s agripreneur campaign hinges on our version of a Silicon Valley hackathon. Incubators are created to allow youth to learn and exchange ideas of a practical nature – about how to keep accounts, new crops and farming techniques, the myriad possibilities of agricultural value chains that include roles for seed traders, food processors, weather forecasters, insurance salespeople, marketing specialists.

One of our agripreneur “interns” told me that what he took away was that success is not in fact all down to money. An enterprise really needs ideas, of course, and the ability to plan.

To be clear, his enthusiasm – as so many of our alumni say – was about the possibility of enterprise. Call it agribusiness. Agricultural commodity value chains provide just that, a series of transactional opportunities that work to improve efficiency for all and reward the talented. This is a major catalyst for youth. After all, it opens the door for the professionalization of agriculture.

To be sure, the agribusiness model crucially requires inclusive efforts to make sure credit is available to youth, to assure that gender equity becomes an operational assumption rather than just a goal, and a host of public goods including scientific research. Yet it begins with a changed mind set.

People must learn how to apply for a loan. Bankers always say they wish to fund on the basis of a business plan rather than collateral. It is time to put that to the test. IITA’s focus on agripreneurs is a well-placed bet on the idea that nobody learns faster than youth.


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Aflatoxins: Poisoning Health and Trade in Sub-Saharan Africa Fri, 20 Nov 2015 15:32:03 +0000 Busani Bafana 0 Where Technology and Medicine Meet in Rural Zambia Fri, 20 Nov 2015 06:29:22 +0000 James Jeffrey 0 Solar Power Keeps the Midnight Oil Burning at the University of Dodoma Thu, 19 Nov 2015 13:14:34 +0000 Kizito Makoye 0 When the Rains Came in Dokolo and Karamoja Tue, 17 Nov 2015 23:41:13 +0000 Christina Okello By Christina Okello
DOKOLO, UGANDA, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

Households in Northern Uganda are recovering from a prolonged dry spell which has devastated harvests and led to food shortages. Long-awaited rains are expected to replenish pastures, and communities are being encouraged to plant short-term crops. But those that can, fear losing their produce again, when the rains stop.

When the rains came, residents in Dokolo, northern Uganda were milling about in the city’s bustling centre. Drenched sellers were scrambling to pack their goods, whilst mothers strapped children to their backs and scurried to get them to shelter.

Charles Ochero was held up in rush hour traffic. The farmer’s wheels kept sinking into potholes on the red sandy road, the colour of flower pots. Sheets of rain pounded his car bonnet like a freight train. The intensity, was unexpected.

“The rains weren’t meant to come now,” the farmer gestured to the above downpour. “This is meant to be the dry season.”

Unpredictable rainfall in northern Uganda has unhinged agricultural calendars. “The whole harvest cycle has been turned upside down,” he continued in his calm baritone.

A few weeks ago, severe drought caused Charles’s premature maize crops to shrivel up. Now his beans are flooding. “There is a type of bean which is planted only when it’s dry. Now there’s too much rain, so even those beans have gone to waste. It’s a big problem,” he says.

Further east, in Karamoja, the moist air tumbles down in globules of quicksilver. Withered trees and shrubs from the prolonged dry spell lap up the long-awaited rains and swallow hard.

“The harvests have failed, but the rains have come…” rejoices Sean Granville Ross, country director of the NGO Mercy Corps. “There were concerns about the condition of livestock and the conditions of the grange lands, but now it’s raining, so all the livestock will be fine.” Ross eyes new opportunities in the greening countryside: “Now it’s a case of understanding how you enable those whose harvests have failed to get through the lean season.”

dokolo1The food crisis in Karamoja had left 640,000 thousand people in desperate need of food aid in 31 out of 52 sub-counties. “People cultivated their lands but when it was time for harvesting, their crops never came,” reveals Israel Lawam, a community development officer for Moroto district, one of the worst affected areas. “The sun scorched them beyond redemption.”

At least seventeen people starved to death in September, according to official statistics. The government has since been channelling portions of cornflour and beans to stricken areas. “Too little too late,” according to Joseph Kinei, sub-county chief of Napak district. One of his family members died of hunger. “People have been pouring out in numbers to receive handouts, but many have gone back empty-handed.”

Meanwhile the rain continues to fall in this semi-arid region. The drops run down rows of maize on steep hills before draining into a nearby stream or river. With it goes the topsoil and vital nutrients contributing to silt. The farming technique of the Karamojong people, which consists in leaving fields bare, is increasingly under scrutiny.

“You’ll find communities trying to plant rice in wetlands,” decries Musa Francis Ecweru, Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness. “They clear away natural vegetation to plough farmland, which is destroying the environment.”

Compounded by cattle grazing, the main livelihood of the Karamojong, “they’re putting a strain on land resources,” he argues. A police officer was reported to have been swept away by floods in Moroto, after its river banks burst, likely because of silt.

“Communities need to change their agricultural practices,” insists Peter Odama, CEO of Uganda’s World Action Fund in Kampala. He says he often sees women and girls from Karamoja begging in the Capital because of food insecurity.

The government is encouraging households to take advantage of the enhanced rain fall to plant quick-maturing crops like vegetables. The World Food Programme points out most people have eaten those seeds due to the prolonged food shortage.

Karamoja’s food insecurity has led to other ironically self-defeating practices, like cutting down trees to sell as charcoal. Israel Lawam points out that many Karamojong people are cutting wood for commercial purposes, to be able to afford something as little as a cup of rice.

“This needs to be stopped and reversed,” argues Minister Ecweru, a vocal advocate of tree replanting. “Deserts are returning to Uganda”, he warns, and tarnishing what many describe as the Pearl of Africa. His critics however accuse the government of posturing in the run-up to next year’s presidential elections.

Figure 3: Traders sell charcoal in Kasubi market, in Kampala Capital. /Christina Okello

Figure 3: Traders sell charcoal in Kasubi market, in Kampala Capital. /Christina Okello

Back in Mercy Corps’ compound in Moroto, humanitarian coordinators welcome locals for training on resilience to climate change. One way is by limiting soil erosion.

Anna sprinkles water onto her small plot of greens. Her kitchen garden uses inputs such as straw to boost soil fertility and trap moisture. “Locals become less dependent on climatic shocks”, country director Sean Granville Ross explains. “Mulching [covering with straw] is something new to my life,” Anna says. “From the teachings I got, I was able to put up my own kitchen garden of vegetables and I intend to plant different varieties like okra and onions.”

Enhancing the Karamojong’s agricultural techniques, but also connecting farmers to markets, is the aim of Mercy Corps. That way, “they can trade livestock directly when there’s a new shock,” Ross adds.

Charles in Dokolo, yearns for such access to markets. Back in his farmhouse, he tends to a flock of chickens that he’s bought to supplement his crop farming. But food prices have gone up so much, he can’t afford chicken feed. “There are too many middlemen who bump up maize food prices,” he complains.

“I’d invested about 5 million shillings in the crops – that failed – I invested 15 million in the chickens – right now I have over 2,000, but feeding them is expensive.” The same concerns about livestock as the Karamojong.

Outside, the pitter patter of rain dances back and forth on his tin roof like a yoyo. The weather itself yoyos from sweltering heat and drought to incessant rains, in an anxious waltz. Uganda’s meteorological department predicts that the intense rains — linked to El Niño storms from the Pacific Ocean– could last up until February.

“The government wants us to plant now,” Charles says anxiously, “but what if the rains stop midway and the crops haven’t matured in time? We’ll be in a big mess,” confides the 71-year- old former prison guard, accustomed to strict timetables.

“If these rains continue up until February, then the planting season will also be disturbed because February is normally when the first season starts in this area,” he states.

If his crops fail, it will mean taking out a new loan from the bank “who want nothing more to hear about agriculture.” Charles shrugs and sighs heavily. “The weather changes are destroying everything. We’re just left at the mercy of God.”

This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to Jonathan Groubert, @RNW

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Africa Clinches Mega Development Prospects Tue, 17 Nov 2015 16:59:31 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo 0 Zimbabweans Align with Climate-Smart Agriculture Amid Food Deficits Tue, 17 Nov 2015 09:03:35 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo 0 African Experts Say the Continent Must Address Livestock Methane Emissions Sat, 14 Nov 2015 07:58:19 +0000 Miriam Gathigah 0 Africa Gears for Infrastructural Boom Fri, 13 Nov 2015 14:09:51 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo Credit: Construction Review Online

Credit: Construction Review Online

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Zimbabwe, Nov 13 2015 (IPS)

The upcoming week for the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), which runs from November 13-17 in Abidjan, the capital city of Ivory Coast, is set to throw this continent into the full gear of infrastructural boom, development experts here say.

“If PIDA and what it all entails may be strictly followed by Africa and its leaders, yes, truly the underdeveloped continent may see itself emerging from the era of infrastructural underdevelopment and help the continent attract much needed foreign investors,” Zimbabwean independent economist, Kingston Nyakurukwa, told IPS.

For African nations, from the outset PIDA was meant to promote socio-economic development and poverty reduction through improved access to integrated regional and continental infrastructure networks and services.

Owing to the infrastructure deficit facing Africa, in July 2010, African leaders launched PIDA under the leadership of the African Union, New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

At its launch, PIDA’s presidency was initially assumed by South African President Jacob Zuma, thanks to his country’s successful organization of the World Cup in 2010, which inspired the entire continent.

Then Zuma said: “Africa’s time has come and without infrastructure, our dreams will never be realized. We cannot trade on the continent because of the lack of communication. The infrastructure that we want to create will provide new opportunities for our continent.”

With the African Development Bank Group being the executing agency, PIDA was designed as successor to the NEPAD Medium to Long Term Strategic Framework (MLTSF), which was meant to develop a vision and strategic framework for the development of regional and continental infrastructure.

For many development experts here, like Henry Kakonye, Africa has however lacked development in infrastructure over the years, impacting negatively on the continent’s economic growth.

“Lack of infrastructure development in Africa over the years has gradually affected productivity and resulted in rising production and transaction costs, subsequently derailing growth through slowing competitiveness of businesses and the ability of governments to chase economic and social development policies,” Kakonye told IPS.

According to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), PIDA will also help the objectives for Sustainable Energy in Africa in line with the UN’s sustainable development goal to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

But in developing Africa’s infrastructure, NEPAD has also been on record saying the private sector cannot be left out.

“With support from the private sector, PIDA is expected to play a critical role in addressing the continent’s infrastructure problems,” said Adama Deen, head of Infrastructure Programmes and Projects at the NEAPAD Agency while speaking at a recent NEPAD forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Infrastructure is essential for integrating regions, realising socio-economic potential and fast-tracking development in Africa,” Deen had added.

And based on NEPAD Division at the African Development Bank, the continent would require investment of about 360 billion dollars in infrastructure in order to be well connected to the rest of the world by 2040.

To this, PIDA, a joint initiative by the African Union, NEPAD and the AfDB, aims to develop a web of 37,200 km of highways, 30,200 km of railways and 16,500 km of interconnected power lines by 2040 while at the same time it plans to add 54,150 megawatts of hydroelectric power generation capacity and an extra 1.3-billion tons capacity at Africa’s ports, according to AfDB’s Ralph Olaye.

The South African Energy Ministry has also been on record saying no infrastructure programme could be successful if it is not linked to continental development objectives.

As such, according to the SA government, PIDA remains key to the Southern African region and the entire Africa to promote socio-economic development.

Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Agency, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, during this year’s commemorations of the Africa Day agreed with the SA government.

“Bridging the gap in infrastructure is thus vital for economic advancement and sustainable development. However, this can only be achieved through regional and continental cooperation and solution finding,” Mayaki said then.

“In fact, now more than ever is the time for us all to live up to the courage of our convictions for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens – as is espoused by NEPAD. Leadership is no longer a top down issue,” Mayaki had added.


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Improved Post-Harvest Fish Handling Brings Hope to Western Zambia Thu, 12 Nov 2015 11:45:48 +0000 Friday Phiri 0 Opinion: From Despair to Hope – Fulfilling a Promise to Mothers and Children in Mandera County Mon, 09 Nov 2015 23:04:48 +0000 Ruth2 Ruth Kagia is a Senior Adviser in the Office of the President of Kenya. Follow her on twitter:@ruthkagia. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1]]> The First Lady of Kenya, Governor Ali Roba and the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr Osotimehin, in Mandera County.  Credit: UNDP Kenya

The First Lady of Kenya, Governor Ali Roba and the Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr Osotimehin, in Mandera County. Credit: UNDP Kenya

By Ruth Kagia and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 9 2015 (IPS)

Mandera in northeastern Kenya, has often been described as “the worst place on earth to give birth.” Mandera’s maternal mortality ratio stands at 3,795 deaths per 100,000 live births, almost double that of wartime Sierra Leone at 2,000 deaths per 100,000 live births.

But Mandera also demonstrates what can be achieved with strong political leadership and strategic partnerships. Just under a year ago, on December 2, 2014, we were part of a team from the United Nations, World Bank, charities and the Office of the President of Kenya that undertook the two-hour flight to Mandera to determine what could be done to address this critical development bottleneck.

Minutes before take-off, news came through that 36 Kenyans had been brutally murdered in Mandera by the Somali militant group al Shabaab.

No official briefing could have better highlighted the challenges of the task ahead. Rather than acting as a deterrent, it strengthened our resolve and we continued with our journey.

Marginalization combined with internecine conflicts, pockets of extremism, poor human development and cross border terrorism have trapped so many of Mandera’s people in poverty and misery. In addition, women and girls are subjected to cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, which contribute to high school dropouts and complicate delivery.

The government has been focused in its resolve to change the narrative in Mandera and in other historically disadvantaged parts of Kenya. The introduction of free maternity services, for example, has increased the number of Kenyan women giving birth under skilled care from about 40 to 60 per cent since 2013.

Together with the government, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Kenya mobilised private sector partners to develop innovative strategies to improve maternal and child health, especially in the six counties with the highest maternal and child health burden: Lamu, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit and Migori.

On October 13, we launched a Community Life Centre in Mandera with the technology company Philips. The centre, equipped with solar lighting, fridges, lab and diagnostic equipment, will provide better healthcare services for about 25,000 people.

UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin has given a very clear message that UNFPA must help the hard to reach and the most vulnerable. With this resolve, UNFPA, together with the World Bank, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, supported by the Ministry of Health, mobilized 15 million dollars to improve maternal, child and adolescent health services in the six counties in March 2015.

These efforts were given a major boost on November 6, 2015, when Kenya’s First Lady H.E. Margaret Kenyatta handed over a fully-kitted mobile clinic to Mandera. The First Lady launched the Beyond Zero campaign in 2014 to reduce maternal and child mortality in Kenya.

Dr. Osotimehin flew in from New York for the event, and was joined by the ambassadors of the European Union, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The First Lady said: “For too long, the prospect of childbirth in Kenya, to thousands of women, has been tantamount to a death sentence. No one should die giving life.”

Dr Osotimehin said: ‘‘When we invest in strengthening the health system from the community to the facility, when we invest in strong referral systems and complementary basic services, we save women’s lives but we also underwrite our future as humanity.”

Maternal health is a perfect illustration of the fact that the process of development is multi-dimensional. Poor maternal health affects women, their children and their communities. It affects nutrition, human development, population dynamics and it undermines the quality of the labour force.

When you improve maternal health, you create healthy families, strong communities and strong economies.

Like the tentative steps of an infant beginning to walk, these may seem modest achievements in the face of the significant challenges in these remote counties. The counties require structural changes which can lead women out of poverty, eliminate gender inequalities and build stronger health systems.

The partners’ grit and the commitment demonstrated by the government together with leaders like the First Lady and Mandera County Governor Ali Roba give reason for optimism that these challenges can be overcome.

Improving maternal health is not only achievable, it is a goal worth reaching.


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Analysis: Press Freedom Shaken in Zimbabwe Sun, 08 Nov 2015 07:33:10 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo 0 Kenya’s Market-Based Youth Project Changing Lives Fri, 06 Nov 2015 14:43:30 +0000 Miriam Gathigah 0 UN Targets “Hidden Source” for Development Funding Thu, 05 Nov 2015 22:50:19 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The United Nations has estimated a hefty funding requirement of over 3.5 trillion to 5.0 trillion dollars per year for the implementation of its ambitious post-2015 development agenda, including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved by world leaders in September.

But at least one key question remains unanswered: how will the UN convince rich nations and the world’s multinational corporations to help raise the necessary trillions to reach those global goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2030?

According to the UN, there is at least one “hidden source” for development funding, primarily for the world’s most impoverished continent: capturing the illicit financial outflows from Africa, estimated at over 50 billion dollars annually.

James Zhan, Director of Investment and Enterprise at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), told delegates that tackling illicit financial flows was essential for Africa to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The estimated resources leaving Africa in the form of illicit financial transfers, he pointed out, was nearly 530 billion dollars between 2002 and 2012.

“That was a huge cost for the continent’s development as those resources could have been invested into Africa’s economic development and structural transformation.”

He said illicit financial flows undermined institutions, drained the state of much needed economic resources, reduced the development resource base and led to higher domestic tax burdens to fill the resource gap.

The 17 SDGs also include quality education, improved health care, gender equality, sustainable energy, protection of the environment and global partnership for sustainable development.

Bhumika Muchhala, Senior Policy Researcher, Finance and Development Programme, at the Third World Network (TWN), told IPS the three key causes of illicit financial outflows are widely held to be commercial tax evasion, criminal activity and government corruption.

She said tax evasion and avoidance, as well as transfer mispricing (trade mis-invoicing) practices of multinational corporations (particularly in the extractives sector), constitute the leading problem, along with money laundering practices and criminal activity such as trafficking in drugs and labour.

As many social movements, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics and policymakers point out, this does not happen by accident, she said.

Many countries and their institutions actively facilitate, and reap enormous profits from, the theft of massive amounts of money from developing countries.

“This undoes decades of economic development and sabotages the chances of future generations to grow beyond the need for economic aid,” she added.

Following an investigation last year, a High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa had concluded that combating such flows was no longer a choice; it had become an imperative.

The Panel, established by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), called upon the African Union (AU) to engage with its partner institutions to elaborate on a global governance framework to determine the “conditions under which assets are frozen, managed and repatriated.”

Ambassador Oh Joon of South Korea, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), told delegates at a UN panel discussion last month that Africa, like other regions, would have to mobilize resources from within the continent.

And the illicit outflows of finance represented an important loss of foreign exchange reserves, an erosion of legal tax base and bygone investment opportunities from natural resource rents, he added.

With an estimated 50 billion dollars per year in illicit financial flows, the effectiveness of domestic resource mobilization would be significantly curtailed if such illicit flows continued, he argued.

Addressing the high level segment of the General Assembly in September, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, said illicit financial flows from Africa virtually exceeded official development assistance (ODA) to the continent (which amounts about 50 to 55 billion dollars annually).

“If 17 per cent of those assets were recovered, African countries could pay off their entire debts and finance their own development.”

UNCTAD’s Zhan said Africa was the only region where illicit financial flows reached about 5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

He urged transparency and accountability through the strengthening of civil society and called for the promotion of institutional reforms and the creation of anti-corruption commissions.

He said African governments had a big responsibility to tackle the problem but so did the international community.

But African countries could not do it alone. Multinational companies and foreign direct investment (FDI) were also an important part of the solution. United Nations agencies such as UNCTAD could offer advice to African governments to design investment policies and handle tax avoidance and illicit practices by multinationals, Zhan said.

Muchhala told IPS while many organisations highlight the urgent need for reforms in information-sharing and transparency policies in the European Union and the United States, the Tax Justice Network, a key social movement comprised of various NGOs, has been stressing the need to counter tax evasion and tax avoidance.

To this extent, an advocacy campaign to establish a UN global tax body, with the universal membership of the UN, was carried out during the 2014-2015 negotiations for the third Financing for Development (FfD) conference.

The conference, held in Addis Ababa in July 2015, failed to garner consensus for a global tax body due to the resistance of developed countries.

While this is a major disappointment, she said, the push for a global tax body by both developing countries and global social movements, will persist both inside and outside the UN.

This article is part of IPS North America’s media project jointly with Global Cooperation Council and Devnet Tokyo.

The writer can be contacted at

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Zimbabwe’s Mega Dam Project Could Flounder in the Face of Climate Change Tue, 03 Nov 2015 11:00:16 +0000 Ignatius Banda By Ignatius Banda

Zimbabwe’s planned Batoka Gorge power project on the Zambezi River is expected to generate 2,400 megawatts (MW) of electricity, upward from an initial 1,600 MW, but the worsening power cuts that are being blamed on low water levels have renewed concerns about the effects of climate change on mega dams.

Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Power plant. Credit: Construction Review Online

Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Power plant. Credit: Construction Review Online

In the past two months, the country’s energy utility has increased power rationing, with rolling power blackouts being experienced for up to 20 hours across the country per day.

Zimbabwe has for years relied on hydroelectricity, and is one of a number of African countries that are banking on hydropower to spur economic growth, with multibillion dollar dams expected to generate thousands of megawatts.

While there is no timetable of when construction of the 3 billion dollar Batoka Gorge Dam will commence and whose eventual economic dividend will only be realised after a decade of construction, it will add much needed energy in Zimbabwe where power generation stands at around 1,600 MW against a national demand of 2,200 MW.

Officials say on completion of the Batoka hydropower plant, the country will be a power exporter.

However, the long running power crisis has stalled economic expansion and has in fact forced the closure of major companies, the latest being Sable Chemicals, which was this month switched off the national grid in what energy minister Samuel Udenge said was part of short-term strategy to avail energy to other sectors.

But the switch-off forced the country’s sole fertiliser plant to shut down operation and left more than 500 employees jobless, company officials say.

The company owes the power utility 150 million dollars.

According to Minister Undenge, 80 per cent of Zimbabwe does not have access to electricity, and the Batoka Gorge hydropower plant, a joint project with Zambia that will draw water from the Zambezi, a transboundary water body shared by eight countries, is expected to boost power production and bring electricity to remote rural areas.

Early this month, Minister Undenge told parliament that the Zambezi River catchment area was affected by rainfall the patterns of other countries.

“Water is still flowing into the Zambezi River from the north, but we are drawing more water than what is flowing in, hence the continued decline in the water level,” Undende said, explaining the reduced power production.

It is these concerns about low water levels that have experts worried, with questions being raised about whether mega dams are viable investments in the long term, citing climate uncertainty and concerns about reduced run-off that would affect dam water levels and ultimately reduce power generation.

In fact, the worsening power crisis in both Zimbabwe and Zambia is being blamed on low water levels at the Zambezi river.

Researchers at International Rivers, an organisation that looks at the state of the world’s rivers and how local communities can benefit from them, warn that the big dam projects could be rendered useless in the long term because of climate change and reduced run-off.

They favour smaller dams for localised power generation, but smaller dams also cost money which Zimbabwe does not have.

Last year, the climate ministry announced that the country will be constructing more dams to cushion the county against climate uncertainty, at the same time advising heavy industrial electricity consumers to construct their own power generating plants.

In the absence of these private power generators, the Batoka Gorge Dam is being touted as the ultimate solution to the longstanding energy deficit despite warnings that the project could present its own problems as it does not address climate-related future realities.

Peter Bosshard, Interim Executive Director of International Rivers, says the Zambezi river basin, the location of the Batoka Gorge Dam, has one of the most variable climates in the world which will increase the dam’s hydrological risks.

“The (UN’s) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that the river (Zambezi) may suffer the worst potential climate impact among eleven major African river basins,” Bosshard told IPS.

“Multiple studies have estimated that streamflow in the Zambezi will decrease by 26 to 40 per cent by 2050,” he said, adding that “in spite of these serious predictions, the proposed Batoka Gorge Dam has not been evaluated for the risks of climate change.”

But Hodson Makurira, a senior hydrologist at the University of Zimbabwe does not agree.

“That would be an oversimplification of a complicated and highly uncertain projection of future events,” he told IPS.

“The same climate change predictions are forecasting an increase in extreme events, droughts and floods. You would (then) want to capture as much flood water as possible through increased storage. That would cushion you against periods of low flows,” Makurira said.

“Nobody knows the exact magnitude of reduction in flows due to climate change so it may still make economic sense to build dams,” he told IPS.

Bosshard said the dam project’s feasibility study dates from 1993, “and climate change considerations have not been integrated.”

“The project is based on historical streamflow data, which do reflect future realities. Investors, financiers and tax payers should be aware that the studies for this multi-billion dollar project seriously over-estimate its economic viability,” Bosshard said.

But for Minister Undenge, who is increasingly under pressure to solve Zimbabwe’s energy crisis, neither financing nor climate change will stop this ambitious mega dam.


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