Inter Press ServiceAfrica – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 20 Jul 2018 13:58:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Blue Economy Movement Gains Traction in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:42:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156707 An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger. Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need […]

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A coastal city, Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, is an area where people have relied on the ocean for food and employment for as long as they have lived there. An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger.

Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need to diversify their economies.

“The African Union has also adopted the blue economy, which is about exploiting resources such as oceans, lakes and rivers, into its 2063 development agenda for socio-economic transformation,” Danson Mwangangi, an independent economic researcher and analyst, tells IPS.

He says that for agrarian economies like Kenya, “agriculture alone will not be sufficient to drive the economy since the sector is facing many challenges, including shrinking farmlands, pest infestations and unpredictable weather changes.”The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it. -- Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya

In Kenya, for instance, World Bank statistics show that in 2017 alone maize production dropped 20 to 30 percent due to insufficient rains and army worm infestation. The country has an annual maize shortfall of eight million bags per year.
Against this backdrop, experts are urging African countries to diversify and look beyond land-based resources by exploring the blue economy as it presents immense untapped potential.

The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their 2018 policy brief make a strong case in favour of the blue economy.
Mwangangi says that it can significantly enable Africa to improve its volumes of global trade, achieve food security and meet its energy demands.

Ocean renewable energy has the potential to meet up to 400 percent of the current global energy demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Seventy percent of African countries are either coastal or islands, we need to harness such valuable coastlines,” says Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.
He tells IPS that the blue world can significantly transform the lives of communities that live closest to those bodies of water since they lead very precarious lives.

According to John Omingo, head of commercial shipping at the Kenya Maritime Authority, very little has been done in the way of harnessing these vast water-based resources for economic gain.
“Africa’s coastline is about 31,000 kilometres long and yet trade among African countries accounts for 11 percent of the total trade volume, which is the lowest compared to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Europe and America,” he expounds.

Bita tells IPS that while Africa is the largest island on earth as it has the Atlantic Ocean on the west; the Indian Ocean on the east; the Antarctic ocean on the south, and the Mediterranean and Red Sea on the north, “there is very little shipping that is going on in Africa. African-owned ships account for less than 1.2 percent of the world’s shipping.”

Ahead of the upcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, that will be co-host by Kenya and Canada this November, in Nairobi, economic experts are optimistic that the blue economy movement is gaining traction.
The high-level conference is expected to advance a global agenda on sustainable exploitation of oceans, seas, rivers and lakes.

One of Freetown’s larger fishing harbours is Goderich Beach, less than 30 minute’s drive from the city’s downtown core. There, a single motorised boat can bring in as much as 300 dollars worth of fish in a single day. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

“Holding the conference in Africa with Canada as a co-host is also very strategic and shows that the continent is coming into this agenda as an important partner. Some of the most important gateways for international trade are actually in Africa,” says Bita.
Mwangangi says that African countries will need to assess their own individual capacities and interpret the blue economy in the manner that makes most economic sense to them.

“The concept is not a one-size-fits-all. Each country will need to evaluate what water-based natural resources are at their disposal,” he says. “On the Indian Ocean side of the continent where we have South Africa and Mauritius, countries tend to embrace an industrial approach,” he adds.

Research shows that South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, a national development plan, also places a focus on the blue economy as it is expected to create one million new jobs by 2030 and add approximately USD13 billion into the country’s economy.

Experts also point to Mauritius which is among the smallest countries in the world but has territorial waters the size of South Africa, making the small nation one the strongest blue economies in Africa. It ranked as Africa’s wealthiest nation based on its per capita income in 2015. Bita adds that Mozambique, which lies alongside the Indian Ocean, is characterised by the highest species of diverse and abundant natural resources.

Kenya is among African countries that are developing strategies to mainstream the blue economy within its national economic blueprint. Bita says that this East African nation’s blue economy includes maritime transport and logistics services, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism as well as the extractive industries such as the offshore mining of gas and oil, titanium and niobium.

Nonetheless, environment experts, including Bita, have expressed concerns that ongoing talks on the blue economy have largely revolved around full exploitation, in order for countries to develop rapidly in the next 10 years, and little on sustainability.

“This is a problem since there is evidence to show that oceans resources are limited. For instance, explorers have presented evidence to show that at least 90 percent of the largest predatory fishes have disappeared from the world’s oceans,” he cautions.

The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it, he adds.

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Age Appropriate Sexuality Education for Youth Key to National Progresshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/age-appropriate-sexuality-education-youth-key-national-progress/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 05:52:36 +0000 Josephine Kibaru and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156636 Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right. It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its […]

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A community health volunteer informs community members about various methods of family planning. Photo Credit: UNFPA Kenya

By Dr. Josephine Kibaru-Mbae and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

Fifty years ago at the International Conference on Human Rights, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. It is therefore apt that the theme for this year’s World Population Day is a loud reminder of this fundamental right.

It is a right that communities especially in Africa have for long held from its youth, with parents shying off from the subject and policymakers largely equivocal. The result is that the continent has the highest numbers of teenagers joining the ranks of parenthood through unintended pregnancies.

The statistics are disquieting: as per the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS 2014), one in every five adolescent girls has either had a live birth, or is pregnant with her first child. Among the 19-year olds, this doubles to two out of ten. In a recent study, six out of ten girls surveyed in two Nairobi slums reported having had an unintended pregnancy.

Among sexually active unmarried adolescents, only about half use any form of contraceptives, yet only one in three women and one in four men, per the same study, knew the correct timing regarding when a woman is likely to get pregnant.

The World Population Day should awaken us all to the critical role of those in authority in ensuring children grow up not only in an atmosphere of love and understanding, but also that they live to their full potential.

Young mothers are four times more likely than those over 20, to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the World Health Organization. If they live, they are more likely to drop out of school and to be poor than if they didn’t get pregnant. And their children are more prone to have behavioral problems as adolescents, which means they are also more likely to stay poor. This cycle of poverty has to be stopped.

Unfortunately, ideological and cultural fault lines appear every time discussions about teaching the youth about taking responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.

As debates continue, the toll is unrelenting, with complications in pregnancy and childbirth being the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. The rate of new HIV infections among adolescents is rising, from 29% in 2013 to 51% in 2015.

The traditional role of families and communities as primary sources of reproductive health information and support has dissipated, replaced by peers and social media. Though the National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy of 2015 aims to address young people’s health and well-being, help realise gender equality and reduce inequalities, much remains to be done to implement the good intentions of the policy.

Yet evidence from many countries has shown that structured, age appropriate sexuality education provides a platform for providing information about sexuality and relationships, based on evidence and facts, in a manner that is positive, that builds their skills.

Scientific evidence shows that when young people are empowered with correct information they are less likely to engage in early or in unprotected sex. This is attributable to the fact that they can undertake risk analysis and make informed decisions.

The ultimate goal for Kenya’s population programmes should be anchored on the demographic dividend paradigm. In short, in which areas should we invest our resources so that we can achieve the rapid fertility decline that can change the age structure to one dominated by working-age adults?

Countries such as the Asian Tigers, that have achieved rapid economic growth have strong family planning programmes that help women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and have the smaller families. Family planning is a key tool for reducing poverty since it frees up women to work and leads to smaller families, allowing parents to devote more resources to each child’s health and education.

First, we must make the obvious investments in reproductive health information and services for all who need them. The other key enablers for the demographic dividend window of opportunity include quality education to match economic opportunities, investing in the creation of new jobs in growing economic sectors and good governance

Second, education, especially for girls, increases the average age at marriage and lowers family size preferences. However, it must also be education that aims to promote the supply of a large and highly educated labour force, which can be easily integrated into economic sectors.

Third, Kenya must therefore identify the skills that are specific to the country’s strongest growing economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Finally, combining sound health and education policies with an economic and governance environment that favours capital accumulation and investment will move Kenya closer towards experiencing the economic spur of the demographic dividend.

As the country takes strides towards the achievement of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals targets, all stakeholders including the United Nations, the government of Kenya, faith based communities, parents and others should all work together to empower adolescents and young people for positive health outcomes.

Young people are the backbone of this country and we owe them the best investment for the future through a multi-sectoral approach. Failure to do that means any national transformative agenda, including the SDGs and the Big Four, will be difficult to achieve.

Josephine Kibaru-Mbae
(@NCPDKenya) is the Director-General, National Council for Population and Development, Govt of Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya.

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Keep Water Out of the Reach of Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/keep-water-reach-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=keep-water-reach-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/keep-water-reach-children/#respond Tue, 10 Jul 2018 11:47:49 +0000 Behailu Shiferaw http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156632 Behailu Shiferaw is communications specialist for WaterAid in the East Africa region.

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Mukakibibi, 50, is a two-term village chief in a village in Rweru, Bugesera, Rwanda. Credit: WaterAid/ Behailu Shiferaw

By Behailu Shiferaw
KIGALI, Rwanda, Jul 10 2018 (IPS)

To many of us, ‘keep out of the reach of children’ is a phrase we see printed on labels for medicines and chemicals. To mothers in Rweru Sector, Rwanda, it’s a daily principle to live by.

“Once we collected the water, we wouldn’t just leave it anywhere until it is boiled and safe to drink. We always put it at a height the younger ones couldn’t reach. We feared they might accidentally drink it,” 50-year-old Mukakibibi Priscile told me.

In the village, mothers like Mukakibibi could not afford to be complacent. A slip-up could have serious consequences. Only a few years ago, Mukakibibi’s neighbour and close friend, Zebuliya, lost her three-year-old child to diarrhoea, high fever and vomiting, all of which, the doctor told her, are directly linked to drinking unclean water.

Three years later, the village is transformed now that its 6,000 people have access to clean water close to their homes. WaterAid Rwanda’s collaboration with DfID made it possible to dig two new boreholes in an area with proven underground water potential. Those two boreholes give a combined yield of 3.4 litres per second, which is enough for such a small village.

A solar-powered pump that needs little maintenance and has zero running cost for the communities pumps the water into two 40,000 litre tanks, which is then used to supply the village, the school and the health centre with water. Rural households access the water through five water kiosks, one of which happened to fall right in front of Mukakibibi’s house.

Mukakibibi could not be happier; instead of walking for an hour-and-a-half to get dirty water from the lake, she now needs only a few minutes to fetch clean water to cook, drink, or wash with. No longer does she need to hide the water from her grandson.

The Nzangwa Health Centre in the village has also undergone a transformation; the head of the centre, Ndamyuwera Edison, told me he had not heard of any child who died of waterborne diseases over two years, since the villagers have access to clean water.

In addition to a constant clean water supply, the health centre has also got a new waste burner, a placenta pit and a medical waste disposal chamber. The clinic also has a fully revamped and functioning block of showers and toilets.

Ndamyuwera explained that before the health centre had a clean water supply, the janitors were so busy fetching water that none of the delivery rooms were cleaned in between births, at great risk of mothers and their babies.

When I met one of the janitors, Eric, in 2016, he was barely around to do any cleaning work. Instead, he was constantly transporting water in jerry cans on his run-down bike. I once followed him on one of his water runs; when we got down to the lake – after a good 30 or 35-minute biking up and down a zig-zagging dirt road – he got off the bike, unstrapped the jerry cans, took off his sleepers, folded up the legs of his trousers and walked straight in. No dipping his toes first.

When I saw him again now, after WaterAid had brought water into the health centre, I found Eric in blue overalls, rubber boots and safety gloves. He is a full-time janitor now.

On one side of his bedroom in his house hangs one of his old jerry cans – covered and embellished in a fertiliser sack. In the middle is a hole out of which shows a speaker connected to his radio set. Eric crawled over his bed to connect two thin wires, and music filled the room. Now that is transformation – I thought.

Across the world 844 million people still do not have access to clean water, and 1 in 3 people still live without adequate sanitation facilities. In Rwanda alone 43% of people live without basic access to water, while 38% of people do not have a decent toilet. Each year, over 900 children under 5 die from diarrhoea.

World leaders have come together at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), 9 July-18 July, to review the progress that has been made on Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) – to provide clean water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere.

On current progress, Rwanda is on course to have universal access to clean water by 2082 and to give everyone access to a decent toilet by 2047.

To achieve the transformation that Mukakibibi’s village has gone through all around Rwanda, efforts on health and nutrition need to be integrated with action on water and sanitation. Global goal 6 on water, sanitation and hygiene for all underpins progress towards the global goal on ending malnutrition and providing health for all.

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Excerpt:

Behailu Shiferaw is communications specialist for WaterAid in the East Africa region.

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Experts Decry Exclusion of Africa’s Local Farmers in Food Security Effortshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/experts-decry-exclusion-africas-local-farmers-food-security-efforts/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 10:36:49 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156574 Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare. Kiragu, […]

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Ibrahim Ndegwa at his farm in Ngangarithi, Wetlands in Nyeri County, Central Kenya. Experts are are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

Joshua Kiragu reminisces of years gone by when just one of his two hectares of land produced at least 40 bags of maize. But that was 10 years ago. Today, Kiragu can barely scrape up 20 bags from the little piece of land that he has left – it measures just under a hectare.

Kiragu, who is from Kenya’s Rift Valley region, tells IPS that years of extreme and drastic weather patterns continue to take their toll on his once-thriving maize business. His business, he says, has all but collapsed.

But Kiragu’s situation is not unique. Effects of land degradation and desertification are some of the major challenges facing smallholder farmers today.

“Population pressures have led to extreme subdivision of land, farms are shrinking and this affects proper land management – smaller pieces of land mean that farmers are overusing their farms by planting every year,” says Allan Moshi, a land policy expert on sub-Saharan Africa.

Statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) show that a majority of Africa’s farmers now farm on less than one hectare of land. “This is the case for Zambia where nearly half of the farms comprise less than one hectare of land, with at least 75 percent of smallholder farmers farming on less than two hectares,” Moshi tells IPS.

Although smallholder farmers contribute to land degradation through poor land management, experts like Moshi are concerned that local farmers remain at the periphery of efforts to address the impact of desertification.

“Their exclusion will continue to limit how much success we can achieve with ongoing interventions,” he adds.

Moshi says that the situation is dire as small-scale farmers across Africa account for at least 75 percent of agricultural outputs, according to FAO. In Zambia, for instance, over 600,000 farms with an average land size of less than a hectare produce about 300,000 metric tonnes of maize. While this production meets the food needs of the country’s 17 million people, they lack modernised irrigation systems, making their crops vulnerable to drastic weather changes when they occur.

He adds that in order to address the challenges of declining soil fertility and to heal the land, farmers have to “adopt a more resilient seed system, better farming practices and technologies.”

Reckson Matengarufu, an agro-forestry and food security expert in Zimbabwe, says that in the last decade Zambia has joined a growing list of countries characterised by a rainfall deficit, a shortage of water, unusually high temperatures and shrinking farmlands.

Other countries include Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Zimbabwe

“These are also countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that aims to fight desertification and address the effects of drought and particularly threats to food security from unusually high temperatures,” Moshi explains.

But Matengarufu emphasises the need for countries to build the capacity and understanding of small-scale farmers about transformative efforts.

“There is a need to introduce agro-forestry, whereby farmers integrate trees, crops and livestock on the same plot of land, into discussions on food and nutrition security,” he says.

According to a UNCCD report ‘Investing in Land Degradation Neutrality: Making the Case’, in Zimbabwe alone more than half of all agricultural land is affected by soil degradation. And in Burkina Faso, approximately 470,000 of a total 12 million hectares of agricultural land are under the looming cloud of severe land degradation.

Experts like Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a professor of horticulture at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya, are raising the alarm that desertification is rapidly reducing the amount of land available for agriculture.

Agro-forestry experts are increasingly encouraging farmers to incorporate integration efforts “so that they can benefit from the harvest of many crops and not just from planting maize on the same plot each year,” says Matengarufu.

Abukutsa-Onyango adds that the poor seed system in Africa has made it difficult for farmers to cushion their land from further degradation.

Research shows that for sub-Saharan Africa to improve production there is a need to overhaul the seed system and for the average age of commonly-grown seeds to drop from the current 15 to 20 years to below 10 years.

“Farms are rapidly losing their capacity to produce because they save seeds from previous harvests, borrow from their neighbours or buy uncertified seeds from their local markets. These seeds cannot withstand the serious challenges facing the agricultural sector,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

In countries like Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe farmers receive at least 90 percent of their seeds from the informal sector. Research from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) shows that on average only 20 percent of farmers in Africa use improved variety seeds.

“For African countries to achieve food and nutrition security, farmers must have access to high-yielding varieties that are designed to adapt and flourish despite the high temperatures and erratic weather we are experiencing,” Abukutsa-Onyango says.

Within this context, AGRA decries the fact that there are still very few local private seed-producing companies across Africa.

AGRA continues to push for more of these companies. The alliance has contributed to the rise in local seed companies across sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, from a paltry 10 in 2007 to at least 10 times that by 2018.

Experts emphasise that on average the use of improved seeds and proper farming practices will enable farmers to produce more than double what they are currently producing.

Moshi nonetheless says that the battle to combat the effects of drought and desertification is far from won.

He decries the exclusion of local communities and the general lack of awareness, particularly among farmers, on the connection between poor land management and land degradation.

“We also have divided opinions among stakeholders and experts on effective strategies to combat desertification, financial constraints and in many countries, a lack of political goodwill,” he concludes.

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War, High Tariffs and Nationalisation – their Cost to Africa’s Climatehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/war-high-tariffs-nationalisation-cost-africas-climate/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2018 15:04:15 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156557 Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent.  “A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession […]

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In this dated picture, a child collects bullets from the ground in Rounyn, a village in North Darfur, Sudan. Armed conflict on the African continent poses huge risk on any potential investments to address climate change. Credit: Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Jul 5 2018 (IPS)

Africa’s political instability, its armed conflicts and regulatory issues are placing at risk investment needed to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the continent. 

“A renewable energy developer or investor faces increased risk that their returns and earnings could decline as a result of political change, such as terrorism, expropriation (dispossession of property for public use), and sovereign breach of contract,” Dereje Senshaw, the principal specialist at Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), told IPS. He added that credit, market and technological risks were also obstacles towards reducing GHG emissions.

According to International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development papers, green investment refers to the investment necessary to reduce GHG and air pollutant emissions without significantly reducing the production and consumption of non-energy goods. It covers both public and private investment.

Senshaw’s explanations come against the backdrop of several armed conflicts that are tearing the resource-rich continent apart. Millions of people have been uprooted from their homes and the instability has dealt a blow to development projects and poverty-eradication programmes.

This month, the Norwegian Refugee Council listed the world’s 10-most neglected crises. Six were from Africa. In the Central African Republic, conflict began in 2013 after a coup. The country held elections three years later but peace has been elusive. The Democratic Republic of Congo is listed as having the world’s second-most neglected crisis as the central African nation has experienced almost two decades of conflict. Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are also on the list.

Tariffs too high

Apart from political risks, green investments could also be compromised by regulatory issues or tariffs, Senshaw said.

“Some African countries set tariffs at very high rates, making it very unattractive to investors as they may not have the chance to recover their incurred costs in the future,” he explained.

Another major risk is the delay of utility contracts. Circumstances could change during the lifetime of a project in many sub-Saharan Africa countries and even essential services, like the provision of electricity, may stop. In addition, risk arises when regulatory agencies start to interfere with the operations of private companies.

“Similarly, there is the risk of the nationalisation of utilities and policy changes. In addition there are various regulatory risks related to biddings, procurements and hiring, and contracts,” Senshaw said, explaining that bids are frequently cancelled, postponed or disputed. “This discourages interested private actors from spending time and money on these bids. Also, some African countries put in place bureaucratic procurements and hiring procedures that hamper operations of private energy companies,” he said.

He added that corruption was another risk.

“However, I think corruption has not been overlooked by investors, rather it is still considered as one of the potential investment risks,” he said.

Senshaw said African governments needed to establish an enabling environment for private investors in renewable projects, which he described as the main driver for accelerating the deployment of renewable energy in Africa.

USD225 billion by 2030

The search for money to fund these green projects continues unabated.

Toshiaki Nagata, an expert from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), said recently that Africa would need USD225 billion by 2030 to implement energy targets set out in national determined contributions (NDCs), of which 44 percent are for unconditional targets. In the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change, countries declared their NDCs, which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to below 2°C.

Unconditional targets, Nagata explained, are the targets that countries are committed to meet without international support, while conditional targets are the ones that countries would only be able to meet with international support in areas of finance and technology, among others.

Nagata, who made the announcement in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, at a GGGI capacity building summit, told IPS that the amount applied to African countries that have quantified renewable energy targets.

Virtually all African countries mention renewables in their NDCs and 85 percent of them include quantified renewable energy targets, Nagata said. He said 23 countries in Africa have renewable energy action under adaptation, while 15 have targets with off-grid renewables.

USD470 billion to fund NDCs

Currently, USD470 billion is available to fund the implementation of NDCs globally, according to IRENA. However, the agency warned that barriers to investment could come in the form of insufficient or contradictory incentives, limited experience and institutional capacity and immature financial systems.

NDCs, Nagata pointed out, provided an opportunity to capture the benefits renewables offer for climate resilient infrastructure. 

“Some renewables, especially solar, can bring electricity in a cost-effective manner to those areas where electricity cannot be brought otherwise. This will enhance their resilience. In many cases, remote areas use diesel for power,” he said, adding that it was costly and therefore not environmentally sustainable.

While the commitment of African governments plays a role in countries reaching their NDCs, the major investment driver for establishing renewable energy projects remains the attractiveness of financial returns, says Senshaw.

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Church and Conflict in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/church-conflict-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=church-conflict-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/church-conflict-south-sudan/#respond Tue, 03 Jul 2018 08:53:06 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156517 Throughout fifty years of struggles, South Sudan’s different churches have remained one of the country’s few stable institutions, and in their workings toward peace, have displayed a level of inter-religious cooperation rarely seen in the world.  Priests and pastors from numerous denominations brought humanitarian relief to civilians during South Sudan’s long wars for independence — […]

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South Sudanese Christians celebrate Christmas mass at El Fasher church in North Darfur. South Sudan's different churches have remained one of the country's few stable institutions. Credit: UN Photo/Olivier Chassot

By James Jeffrey
JUBA, Jul 3 2018 (IPS)

Throughout fifty years of struggles, South Sudan’s different churches have remained one of the country’s few stable institutions, and in their workings toward peace, have displayed a level of inter-religious cooperation rarely seen in the world. 

Priests and pastors from numerous denominations brought humanitarian relief to civilians during South Sudan’s long wars for independence — often considered a fight for religious freedom for the mostly Christian south — from the hard-line Islamist government to the north in Khartoum, Sudan.

Amid destruction and failed politics, church leaders emerged as the only players left standing with any credibility and national recognition, enabling them to effectively lobby the international community to support the southern cause while also brokering peace between communities torn apart by war and ethnic strife.

However, they have been less able to influence politicians and generals in South Sudan’s latest civil war raging since 2013, which began just two years after gaining independence from Sudan. Last week, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebels, led by his former vice president Riek Machar, signed a peace agreement to bring about a ceasefire. But Reuters reported that fighting broke out again on Sunday, killing 18 civilians. “The blood of the tribe has become thicker than the blood of the Christ," Episcopal Bishop Enock Tombe.

“The new outbreak of war caught the Church unprepared,” says John Ashworth, referring to the five-year civil war. Ashworth has worked in South Sudan, including advising its churches, for more than 30 years. “While the Church played a major role in protecting people and mobilising humanitarian support, and in mediating local peace and reconciliation processes, it took quite a while to rebuild the capacity to implement national level initiatives.”

Although Islam has dominated the region for centuries, Christian roots in Sudan and South Sudan go back to the 5th century. Missionaries were active in the 1800s, mainly from the Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic and Coptic churches.

Though there are conflicting reports about South Sudan’s exact religious composition, Christianity is the dominant religion, with a 2012 Pew Research Centre report estimating that around 60 percent are Christian, 33 percent followers of African traditional religions, six percent Muslim and the rest unaffiliated.

In the face of shared adversity, South Sudan’s Christian churches embraced an ecumenical approach to establish the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), which spearheaded the churches’ joint efforts that proved heavily influential in the 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.

The SSCC continued its involvement in the process that led to the January 2011 referendum on independence, in which an overwhelming majority of South Sudanese voted to secede and become Africa’s first new country since Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993. South Sudan formally gained independence from Sudan on Jul. 9, 2011.

But all those achievements began to unravel in 2013 when government troops began massacring ethnic Nuer in the capital, Juba. Afterwards, the national army, called the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), split along ethnic lines during a violent uprising, pitting ethnic Dinka loyal to Kiir against Nuer led by Macher.

Both sides committed atrocities, while the narrative of fighting for religious freedom was manipulated for political advantage. The SPLA has painted themselves as Christian liberators — atrocities notwithstanding — their propaganda referring to the churchgoing Kiir as the “Joshua” who took South Sudan to the promised land of independence.

“The blood of the tribe has become thicker than the blood of the Christ,” Episcopal Bishop Enock Tombe remarked in 2014.

But the church has been caught up in the divisive fallout too. 

“The current war has divided people along ethnic lines — the church is not immune to these divisions,” says Carol Berger, an anthropologist who specialises in South Sudan.

In a speech in April, South Sudan’s vice president James Wani Igga accused priests of promoting violence.

“While individual clergy may have their own political sympathies, and while pastors on the ground continue to empathise with their local flock, the churches as bodies have remained united in calling and for an end to the killing, a peaceful resolution through dialogue, peace and reconciliation — in some cases at great personal risk,” Ashworth says.

Some have accused the church of inaction during the latest civil war. Ashworth suggests that after the 2005 peace agreement the SSCC “took a breather to rebuild and repair,” with the 2013 outbreak of war catching them unprepared and less capable. Subsequently it has taken church leaders longer than expected to rebuild capacity, but now the SSCC is taking action to make up for lost ground.

It has begun by choosing a new Secretary General, says Philip Winter, a South Sudan specialist who has long been engaged in its peace processes. He notes how the SSCC was called upon by the warring parties negotiating in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to help them get over their differences — something the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) failed to do as a mediator.

Following the talks in Ethiopia in June, both warring sides signed a peace agreement in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, a week later.

“The SSCC recognised that is was perhaps not as effective as the most recent conflict required,” Winter says. “So they are once more playing an important, if discreet, role.” 

The SSCC’s renewed impetus includes implementing a national Action Plan for Peace (APP), which recognises the need for a long-term peace process to resolve not only the current conflict but also the unresolved effects of previous conflicts which are contributing causes of the current conflict. The SSCC says the APP may continue for 10 or 20 years.

At this stage of the plan, the SSCC hopes to see a visit to the country by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church. Earlier this year a delegation of Christian leaders from South Sudan met the Pope and urged him to visit.

“We gave the situation of the Church in South Sudan, that the people are hungry for peace, and they expect the Pope to visit them,” the Bishop Emeritus of Tori, Paride Taban, a member of the delegation, told media after meeting the Pope. “He [the Pope] encourages us not to fear. We are not alone, he is with us, and he will surely come.”

The bishop spoke at the Rome headquarters of Sant’Egidio, a peace and humanitarian group that is trying to help peace efforts in South Sudan. The group played a crucial role in the 2015 papal visit to another war-torn country, the Central African Republic, and was instrumental in the signing of the Mozambique peace accords in 1992. 

The Pope previously postponed a planned 2017 South Sudan trip with Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican Church. Most media assumed that decision was based on the country being too dangerous to visit. But Welby told media the visit was postponed to ensure it would have the maximum impact in helping to establish peace. However, with the current, tentative ceasefire, the pope may visit to consolidate peace.

“You’re playing a heavyweight card and you have to get the timing right,” he said. “You don’t waste a card like that on anything that is not going to work.”

Others, however, remain deeply sceptical of how the Pope could visit.

“I see no way that the Pope could visit South Sudan,” says Berger. “The capital of Juba is a sad and troubled place these days. People have left for their villages, or neighbouring countries. Shops and hotels have closed. The town is heavily militarised and there is hunger everywhere.”

Whether the Pope would have a lasting impact, if he comes, remains to be seen. But current events indicate why the SSCC think it worth his trying, as the world’s youngest state remains afflicted by war and famine, and mired in an almost constant state of humanitarian crisis.     

“More exhortations to the antagonists to stop fighting are largely a waste of breath,” Winter says.

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West Africa Moves Ahead with Renewable Energy Despite Unpredictable Challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/west-africa-moves-ahead-renewable-energy-despite-unpredictable-challenges/#respond Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:22:03 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156416 The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle. Mamadou Bangoura, head of […]

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Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Credit: CC by 3.0

Forested hills in Guinea’s Kintampo area. Barely a quarter of the population has access to electricity. Credit: CC by 3.0

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 26 2018 (IPS)

The West African nation of Guinea may be a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a global undertaking by countries around the world to reduce climate change, but as it tries to provide electricity to some three quarters of its 12 million people who are without, the commitment is proving a struggle.

Mamadou Bangoura, head of planning and energy management at Guinea’s Ministry of Energy, told IPS that his country faced a major challenge implementing its programme for the development and provision of energy resources to all citizens at a lower cost. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, only 26 percent of the population has access to electricity. “Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity." --Mamadou Bangoura of Guinea’s Ministry of Energy

“Our main concern is to find a balance between the implementation of this programme and the protection of biodiversity. This is further compounded by a requirement to take into rigorous account the environmental and social aspects in the framework of the realisation of any infrastructure project,” Bangoura explained.

According to conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International, Guinea’s wildlife is already under threat. “Conservation solutions need to be found that enable people to make a living while protecting their natural assets into the future,” the organisation reports.

Unlike other African nations that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, only 43 percent of Guinea’s electricity is generated from this as more than half (55 percent) is produced by hydropower.

The country’s potential for hydropower is significant. Guinea is regarded as West Africa’s water tower because 22 of the region’s rivers originate there, including Africa’s third-longest river, the Niger.

Bangoura added that despite the challenges, his country was making progress and several hydropower projects were being constructed. The Kaléta project, which will produce 204MW, is already completed. However, the Souapiti (459MW) and Amaria (300MW) hydropower plants “are still work in progress.”

He said negotiations were also underway for the construction of a 40MW solar power and a 40MW power plant. “Concession and power purchase agreements are being finalised,” he added.

In the Gambia, challenges in implementing renewable energy exist also. The small West African nation of only 1.8 million people is considered to be rare in its ambitious commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — it pledged a 44 percent reduction below its business-as-usual emission level. It’s a big task as currently around 96 percent of all electricity produced in the country comes from fossil fuels.  

Sidat Yaffa, an agronomist with expertise in climate change at the University of The Gambia, told IPS there were barriers to renewable energy programmes because the sector was still new to the Gambia.

“Therefore, a better understanding of the technology is still a challenge, securing adequate funding for implementation is a gap, and availability of trained human resources using the technology is also a gap,” Yaffa said.

He added that the Gambia’s renewable energy programmes included a wind energy pilot project at Nema Kunku village in West Coast Region.

“The agriculture sector’s GHG could be drastically reduced in the next five years in the Gambia if adequate solar panel water irrigation technologies are implemented,” Yaffa added.

Cote d’Ivoire also has strong ambitions for the development of reliable and profitable renewable energies, a cabinet minister said last year, adding that the country is committed to produce 42 percent of its energy through renewable energy.

This week representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou to discuss both the challenges and successes they have had in reaching their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are blueprints or outlines by countries on how they plan to cut GHG emissions.

The regional workshop, the first of its kind, is hosted by the Global Green Growth Institute in association with the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Green Climate Fund.

It aims to enhance capacity for NDC implementation, share experiences and best practices, and discuss renewable energy opportunities and associated challenges in the region.

Rural electrification headache

This regional cooperation is a significant step forward as 60 percent of the West African population living in the rural areas continue to depend on firewood as their primary source of energy.

In the Gambia and Senegal a quarter of the rural population has access to electricity, while the number is slightly higher in Cote d’Ivoire with about 29 percent having access.

But in Guinea and Burkina Faso only three and one percent of the respective rural populations have electricity.

Last year, Smart Villages Initiatives (SVI) conducted energy workshops in West Africa and it attributes poor electricity access in the region to insufficient generation, high prices of petroleum, lack of financing and transmission and distribution losses.

The World Bank’s 2017 State of Electricity Access Report makes the link that energy is inextricably linked to every other critical sustainable development challenge, including health, education, food security, gender equality, poverty reduction, employment and climate change, among others.

The Agence Française de Développement acknowledged the benefits of rural electrification programmes, stating, “(they) have the opportunity to reach more poor households and have larger impacts in the lives of the rural poor by providing new opportunities and enhancing the synergies between the agricultural and non-agricultural sector,”

Bangoura has acknowledged his country’s challenge to electrify rural areas. He said his government has just created the Guinean Rural Electrification Agency and launched a couple of projects, including a collaboration with the Electricity of Guinea, that will pave the way for the electrification of rural areas.

However, SVI said while most governments had set up rural electrification agencies or funds, the impact of such organisations may be hampered by a lack of financial and technical expertise. Hence the need to turn to international institutions and experts for capacity building and green energy finance.

Bangoura agreed that one of the problems his country is struggling with is implementation. “The problems at this level lies in the adaptation of the texts of the country to those governing the Paris Agreement…Hence the importance of this workshop that is focusing on capacity building.”

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Building West Africa’s Capacity to Access Climate Fundinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/building-west-africas-capacity-access-climate-funding/#respond Mon, 25 Jun 2018 17:06:46 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156390 When Senegalese president Macky Sall opened the 30MW Santhiou Mékhé solar plant last June, the country gained the title of having West Africa’s largest such plant. But the distinction was short lived. Less than six months later, that November, the mantle was passed over to Burkina Faso as a 33MW solar power plant on the […]

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Solar panels in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Fratelli dell'Uomo Onlus/cc by 3.0

Solar panels in Dakar, Senegal. Credit: Fratelli dell'Uomo Onlus/cc by 3.0

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Jun 25 2018 (IPS)

When Senegalese president Macky Sall opened the 30MW Santhiou Mékhé solar plant last June, the country gained the title of having West Africa’s largest such plant. But the distinction was short lived.

Less than six months later, that November, the mantle was passed over to Burkina Faso as a 33MW solar power plant on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, went online. But as in the case of Senegal, it is a title that Burkina Faso won’t hold for long as another West African nation, Mali, plans to open a 50MW solar plant by the end of this year.What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement.

“It’s like a healthy competition…In Senegal in 2017 there have a been a number of solar plants that have quite a sizeable volume of production feeding into the electricity network. And this is turning out to be a common trend I think. Because it is one of the ways to actually fill the gap in terms of electricity, affordability and access,” says Mahamadou Tounkara, the country representative for the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Senegal and Burkina Faso. The institute has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies and works with both the public and private sector.

What may seem like increasing rising investment in renewables in West Africa is a combination of public-private partnerships and strong political will by countries to keep the commitments made in the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to tackle climate change. In the agreement countries declared their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which are outlines of the actions they propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2°C. According to an 2017 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, 45 African countries have quantifiable renewable energy targets in their NDCs.

However, many African countries still rely heavily on fossil fuels as a main energy source.

And while the countries are showing good progress with the implementation of renewables, Dereje Senshaw, the principal energy specialist at GGGI, tells IPS that it is still not enough. He acknowledges though that the limitation for many countries “is the difficulty in how to attract international climate finance.”

In a 2017 interview with IPS, IRENA Policy and Finance expert, Henning Wuester, said that there was less than USD10 billion investment in renewables in Africa and that it needed to triple to fully exploit the continent’s potential.

Representatives from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea and Senegal will meet in Ouagadougou from Jun. 26 to 28 at a first ever regional capacity development workshop on financing NDC implementation in the energy sector. One of the expected outcomes of the workshop, organised by GGGI, IRENA and the Green Climate Fund, is that these countries will increase their renewable energy target pledges and develop concrete action plans for prioritising their energy sectors in order to access climate funding.

Senshaw points out that these West African countries, and even those in sub-Saharan Africa where most of the energy source comes from hydropower and biomass, “can easily achieve 100% renewable energy.”

“Increasing their energy target means they are opening for climate finance. International climate finance is really willing to [provide] support when you have more ambitious targets,” he says.

IRENA estimates that Africa’s potential for renewables on the continent is around 310 GW by 2030, however, only 70 GW will be reached based on current NDCs.

While the opportunities for investment in renewables “is quite substantial,” African countries have lacked the capacity to access this, according to Tounkara.

“One reason is the quality of their portfolio of programs and projects. It is very difficult to attract investment if the bankability of the programmes and projects are not demonstrated,” Tounkara says.

Christophe Assicot, green investment specialist at GGGI, points out that existing barriers to investment in renewables in Africa include political, regulatory, technology, credit and capital market risks. “Other critical factors are insufficient or contradictory enabling policies, limited institutional capacity and experience, as well as immature financial systems.”

“Governments need to create an enabling environment for investments, which means abiding by strategies and objectives defined in NDCs, designing policy incentives, strengthening the country’s capacity and knowledge about clean technologies, engaging stakeholders, mobilizing the private sector, and facilitating access to international finance,” Assicot says.

Senshaw adds that private sector involvement will provide sustainability for the implementation of NDCs. “Private sector involvement is engineered to reach the forgotten grassroots people. Mostly access to energy is in the urban areas. Whereas in the rural areas  people are far away from the grid system. So how you reach this grid system is through collaborative works with the private sector.”

Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso have built their solar plants with public-private sector funding, with agreements in place that the energy created will be sent back to their country’s power grid. But, despite having the largest solar plant in West Africa, only about 20 percent of Burkina Faso’s 17 million people have access to electricity.

Toshiaki Nagata, senior programme officer for NDC implementation at IRENA, adds that public finance needs to be utilised in a way that leverages private finance.

“To this end, public finance would need to be used beyond direct financing, i.e., grants and loans, to focus on risk mitigation instruments and structured finance mechanisms, which can help address some of the risks and barriers faced by private investors.”

Mitigation instruments are staring to be used in Africa, with GGGI recently designing instruments for Rwanda and Ethiopia. In addition, Senegal’s Ministry of Finance requested GGGI and the African Development Bank design a financing mechanism for the country. It is called the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (REEF).

“The REEF is a derisking mechanism that [Senegal] had to have in place so that the local banks are interested in financing renewable energy projects and energy-efficiency projects,” says Tounkara.

Senegal’s REEF will become operational in October, starting with 50 million dollars and reaching its optimum size of 200 million dollars in 24 months. Senegal will become the first country in the region to have an innovative financing mechanism.

“That is the kind of mechanism that we think is going to be needed in countries to make sure that we accelerate the access to climate finance,” Tounkara says, adding that GGGI will provide the technical assistance for capacity building needs of the banks as well as the projects developers and project promoters.

Senshaw adds that GGGI has also been supporting countries with financial modelling and  leveraging and submitting proposals for funding. “So we support in terms of business model analysis, in terms of supporting them in business model development, in terms of how they can leverage finance. If you see the experience of GGGI, last year we leveraged for member countries USD0.5 billion.”

Capacity building has been considered vital for African countries attempting to access investment for renewables, as a major area of concern for financing has been the quality of the projects and the capacity of banks to assess the quality of those projects.

“By filling that gap we actually increase the interest of the investors, particularly of the local banks and the local financing institutions, to get on board and then invest in renewable energy as well as supporting the private sector to have the necessary capacity,” Tounkara says.

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Closing Africa’s Wealth Gaphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/closing-africas-wealth-gap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=closing-africas-wealth-gap http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/closing-africas-wealth-gap/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 15:15:32 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156288 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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South African youths protest outside the Cape Town Convention Centre against inequalities. Credit: AMO/ Esa Alexander

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

From “Africa Reeling” to “Africa Rising,” there’s a new narrative for the African continent, now showing promising signs of sustainable growth under more stable governments.

McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, predicts that Africa’s combined GDP will be $2.6 trillion by 2020 and that “Africa’s consumer spending by 128 million households with discretionary income is expected to be around $1.4 trillion.”

Among the countries attracting investors are Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal and Togo.

But a new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) finds that Africa’s new wealth is increasingly concentrated in a few hands. Disappointingly, 10 of the world’s 19 most unequal countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Economic inequality, sometimes referred to as income inequality, is the unequal distribution of a country’s wealth. In highly unequal societies, such as South Africa, most people live in poverty while a minority amasses enormous wealth.

South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, is also the world’s most unequal. Botswana, Namibia and Zambia are also among the top 19.

While Ethiopia’s economy is growing at 8%, it is impossible to miss its impoverished citizens in the streets of its capital, pulling on donkeys to transport goods while the rich and famous drive around in luxury cars.

Inequality drivers

In Nigeria “the scale of inequality has reached extreme levels,” reports Oxfam, a UK-based charity, in a study published in May 2017. Five of Nigeria’s wealthiest people, including Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, have a combined wealth of $29.9 billion—more than the country’s entire 2017 budget. About 60% of Nigerians live on less than $1.25 a day, the threshold for absolute poverty.

“Everything [in South Africa is] was skewed racially—education, access to finance, and access to land,” maintains Haroon Bhorat, an economics professor at the University of Cape Town.

Several factors drive inequality in Africa, according to the group of economists who authored the UNDP report “Income Inequality Trends in Sub-Saharan Africa: Divergence, Determinants and Consequences”.

First, under Africa’s two-track economic structure, growth often occurs in sectors characterized by low absorption of unskilled labour, high earnings inequality and high capital share in total income.

The authors note that growth in those sectors may spur GDP headline growth but will also exacerbate inequality. It’s a rising tide that doesn’t lift all boats.

Second, infrastructure, human labour and land are highly concentrated in Eastern and Southern Africa. Third, authors of the report make reference to the “natural resource curse, an urban bias of public policy and ethnic and gender inequalities.” It appears, they note, that countries with abundant natural resources, such as Botswana and Zambia, are also some of the most unequal.

Inequality also results from regressive taxes [tax rate decreases when taxable income increases], unresponsive wage structures and inadequate investments in education, health and social protection for vulnerable and marginalized groups.

In the 1980s and 1990s, many African countries buckled under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Western nations to implement structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), which led to cuts in subsidies for health, education, transportation and other sectors that help poor citizens.

Some historians and economists now say those cuts fostered inequality. “Under the influence of Western donors, austerity became African leaders’ default coping mechanism for periods of economic stress,” writes Nicholas William Stephenson Smith, a freelance researcher and historian.

Social unrest

For many countries SAPs widened the wealth gap rather than providing macroeconomic stability, argues Said Adejumobi, director of Southern Africa’s subregional office for the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Adejumobi adds that structural adjustment stalled mobility, frayed communities and sharpened divisions along socioeconomic lines. Currently “a tiny group of 4% captures a large chunk of the income and wealth in Africa’s changing tide of capitalist progress,” he says.

Inequality now threatens social cohesion on the continent. In recent months thousands of Ethiopians have been on the streets protesting harsh economic conditions, forcing factories, hospitals and public transportation to shut down operations.

Economic inequality is fueling conflicts in the Central African Republic, Libya, Nigeria and South Sudan, says Adejumobi. “The warped motive of Boko Haram insurgency may not relate to inequality but…ignorance and deprivation are two factors that may have made it possible for the terrorist group to recruit young people to kill and maim their fellow citizens.”

Expect deprived people to push back against inequality at some point, says renowned French economist Thomas Piketty, because the rich will always try to protect the status quo and resist efforts to achieve an egalitarian society.

Piketty’s book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” makes a moral argument against excessive wealth accumulation, describing it as unfair and unjust and something to be resisted.

Countries adopted the Millennium Development Goals (2000–2015) to, among other targets, halve the number of people living in absolute poverty. Globally, after 15 years, some 50% of participating countries had met that target, 30% had made progress and 20%, mostly developing countries, had not made significant progress.

The Gambia and Ghana met the target, but Ethiopia was among the countries that did not.

The authors of Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa argued that poverty reduction efforts do not necessarily bridge the inequality gap, which was a conceptual underpinning of the MDGs.

To achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an offshoot of the MDGs, experts hope countries will embrace a range of policies that tackle various forms of inequalities, not just poverty.

“Policies that help reduce poverty are not necessarily the same as those that help reduce income inequality,” writes Abdoulaye Dieye, director of UNDP’s regional bureau for Africa, in the preface to the report.

Closing the gap

Quality education may dent poverty but will not close the inequality gap unless accompanied by “progressive taxation [tax rate increases with increases in taxable amount] and well-targeted social protection,” Dieye further explains.

Also, countries need to focus on growth pattern rather than growth rate, because inequality falls when growth is in labour-intensive sectors, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and construction, and it rises when growth is in sectors high in capital and the use of skilled labour, such as mining, finance, insurance and real estate, according to the UNDP economists.

Currently most African countries allocate a significant share of their national budgets to recurrent overheads and/or debts, leaving little or nothing for other projects.

Corruption, mismanagement and illicit financial flows (IFFs) also deplete state coffers.

According to a 2015 report by a high-level African Union panel on IFFs headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, Africa loses up to $50 billion annually to illicit financial flows. Mr. Mbeki urges countries to punish multinational companies that are over-invoicing, underpricing or funneling money to tax havens.

“Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa “on average $US95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014—or six percent of the region’s GDP—jeopardizing the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth,” according to the UNDP publication Africa Human Development Report 2016: Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa.

The authors of the UNDP report highlight that in sub-Saharan Africa, household income disproportionately favours adult males and “gender discrimination is acute and endemic.”

The UNDP correlates gender equality with human development. Mauritius and Tunisia Mauritius have low levels of gender equality and high levels of human development. Conversely, Chad, Mali and Niger have high levels of gender inequality but low levels of human development.

Former vice president of the World Bank’s Africa division Obiageli Ezekwesili said last November that men are mostly to blame for Africa’s economic problems. “When many more women are at the decision-making level, there is less corruption. Nobody does any favour to women by involving them in governance.”

Ayodele Odusola, the lead author of the UNDP report, maintains that no single solution can address inequalities on the continent. “You have to take countries’ context into consideration,” he says, advising countries to adopt progressive taxation, invest in education and agriculture, increase direct taxation and institute efficient tax administration.

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information.

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Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Ethiopia to Return Land in Bid for Peace with Eritreahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ethiopia-return-land-bid-peace-eritrea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethiopia-return-land-bid-peace-eritrea http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ethiopia-return-land-bid-peace-eritrea/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 00:01:37 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156260 The utterly inconsequential-looking Ethiopian border town of Badme is where war broke out in 1998 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, lasting two years and devastating both countries.  Ever since the the town has remained, in spite of its ramshackle, unassuming appearance, an iconic symbol for both countries, primarily because despite the internationally brokered Algiers Peace Accord […]

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A group of Eritrean men, women and children who have just been dropped off dusty and tired at the entry point in the small town of Adinbried, about 50km southeast of Badme, having crossed the border during the preceding night. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A group of Eritrean men, women and children who have just been dropped off dusty and tired at the entry point in the small town of Adinbried, about 50km southeast of Badme, having crossed the border during the preceding night. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
BADME, Ethiopia, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

The utterly inconsequential-looking Ethiopian border town of Badme is where war broke out in 1998 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, lasting two years and devastating both countries. 

Ever since the the town has remained, in spite of its ramshackle, unassuming appearance, an iconic symbol for both countries, primarily because despite the internationally brokered Algiers Peace Accord that followed the 2000 ceasefire, and led to a ruling that Badme return to Eritrea, Ethiopia defiantly stayed put in the town.“The country [Ethiopia] is undergoing a seismic change—the likes of which it has never seen in such a short time span." --Yves Marie Stranger

Hence Badme festered as a source of rancour during years that turned into decades, with the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments coming to loathe each other, while all along the border the countries remained at loggerheads, each military eyeing the other warily.

But all of a sudden at the start of June, Ethiopia announced its readiness to fully comply and implement the Algiers Peace Accord, one of a number of unprecedented reformist actions this year, and which show no sign of slowing down since the April election of a new prime minister who has pledged to take Ethiopia in a new and more democratic and hopeful direction.

The Ethiopian government also announced it would accept the outcome of a 2002 border commission ruling, which awarded disputed territories collectively known as the Yirga Triangle, at the tip of which sits Badme, to Eritrea.

“Ethiopia’s change of heart towards Eritrea is genuine, and is directly tied to the momentous changes taking place domestically,” Awol Allo, a lecturer in law at Keele University in law and frequent commentator on Ethiopia, wrote in an opinion piece for Al Jazeera. “Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has reconfigured the Ethiopian political landscape and its strategic direction, moving with incredible speed to drive changes aimed at widening the political space and narrowing the social divisions and antagonisms within the country.”

This has included the prime minister linking the political, social and economic transformation in Ethiopia to regional dynamics, especially Eritrea, with which Ethiopia once had particular close economic, cultural and social ties—Eritrea was part of Ethiopia until gaining independence in 1991.

“Every Ethiopian should realise that it is expected of us to be a responsible government that ensures stability in our region, one that takes the initiative to connect the brotherly peoples of both countries and expands trains, buses, and economic ties between Asmara [the Eritrean capital] and Addis Ababa,” Abiy announced.

The rift between Eritrea and Ethiopia has had significant regional fallout. Both countries have engaged in hostile activities against each other, including proxy wars in the likes of neighbouring Somalia, thereby destabilising an already volatile region.

The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Meanwhile, Eritrea continued to come off worse against Ethiopia’s stronger regional sway and diplomatic clout, becoming increasingly isolated, and subjected to international sanctions.

As a result, life became increasingly miserable for Eritreans—hence the unending exodus of Eritrean refugees into Ethiopia—as their government used the border war with Ethiopia and the subsequent perceived existential threats and belligerencies against Eritrea as an excuse for the state becoming increasingly repressive and militarised, with its leader Isaias Afewerki tightening his ironclad rule.

But the Eritrean government’s narrative has had the rug pulled out from under it.

“The Eritrean regime seems confused, unprepared and clueless about how it should respond to Ethiopia’s peace offer,” Abraham Zere, executive director of PEN Eritrea, part of a global network of writers in over 100 countries across the globe who campaign to promote literature and defend freedom of expression, wrote in another Al Jazeera opinion piece. “Ethiopia’s call for normalization and peace puts President Afewerki in a very difficult position, as it undermines his current strategy of blaming Ethiopia for his repressive rule.”

So far the response from the Eritrean government has been conspicuous by its absence. Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel when pressed to comment on the issue on Twitter replied elliptically: “Our position is crystal clear and has been so for 16 years.”

Previously, the Eritrean government has consistently demanded full compliance by Ethiopia with the EEBC’s decision and unilateral withdrawal of all troops from the disputed territories before any chance of normalizing relations—a demand that fails to take account of the EEBC’s terms and the  complex situation on the ground.

“The insistence on unilateral withdrawal as a condition for normalising relations is not tenable, not least because Badme was under Ethiopia rule before the EEBC’s ruling and continues to be under the effective control of the Ethiopian government,” Awol says. “The two countries must come together in good faith to hammer out a number of details including the fate of the population there.”

It’s unlikely to be easy. Already in Badme and in other of the disputed territories, both Eritreans and Ethiopians are protesting Abiy’s decision to implement the commission’s arbitrarily drawn border that would divide communities between the two countries.

“We have no issues over reconciling with our Eritrean brothers. But we will not leave Badme,” Teklit Girmay, a local government official, told Reuters. “We do not want peace by giving away this land after all the sacrifice.”

“It took us four days traveling from Asmara,” a 31-year-man said of the trek from the Eritrean capital, about 80km north of the border, holding all the money he has left: 13 Eritrean nakfa (80 cents). “We travelled for 10 hours each night, sleeping in the desert during the day.” Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“It took us four days traveling from Asmara,” a 31-year-man said of the trek from the Eritrean capital, about 80km north of the border, holding all the money he has left: 13 Eritrean nakfa (80 cents). “We travelled for 10 hours each night, sleeping in the desert during the day.” Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Furthermore, across Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region that straddles the border, there are reports of increasing anger and protests about the announcement, while the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front regional party that has dominated Ethiopian politics since its founders spearheaded the 1991 revolution that brought the current government to power has issued a veiled warning to Abiy.

“The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front will not take part in any process that harms the interests of the people of Tigray,” it said in a statement, demanding that any withdrawal be linked to additional concessions from Eritrea.

Tigray’s proximity to Eritrea and the previous war means its people are acutely sensitive to the potential ramifications, which is further complicated by how people on both sides of the border share the same language – Tigrinya – as well as Orthodox religion and cultural traditions: a closeness that can also heighten resentment.

In 1998 Eritrea invaded Badme before pushing south to occupy the rest of Ethiopia’s Yirga Triangle, claiming it was historically Eritrean land. Ethiopia eventually regained the land but the fighting cost both countries thousands of lives and billions of dollars desperately needed elsewhere in such poor and financially strapped countries.

At the time of the EEBC’s ruling on Badme, the Ethiopian government felt the Ethiopian public wouldn’t tolerate the concession of a now iconic town responsible for so many lost Ethiopian lives—hence it and the rest of the Yirga Triangle remained jutting defiantly into Eritrea, both figuratively and literally.

“Although Badme was a mere pretext to start a conflict fuelled by much deeper political problems, it has since been etched into the imagination of many Ethiopians and Eritreans and has taken on a deeper meaning,” Awol says. “The name Badme condenses within itself a series of fundamental political and economic anxieties and hegemonic aspirations, acting as a byword for brutality, anguish, guilt, shame, fear and pride.”

In addition to potential internal resistance from the Ethiopian government’s TPLF old guard, coupled with potential intransigence from the Asmara regime, the reaction of the international community could also play a significant role.

“The international community, particularly the West, has ignored the dispute for too long,” Awol says. “Now that there is a newfound optimism for peace, the international community must seize the opportunity and act proactively and pre-emptively before local and regional dynamics change.”

Ethiopia is at a potentially exciting crossroads—though nothing is assured, and may well hang in the balance, one that the international community can influence due to Ethiopia’s increasing integration in the global system.

“The country is undergoing a seismic change—the likes of which it has never seen in such a short time span,” says Yves Marie Stranger, editor of “Ethiopia: Through Writers’ Eyes,” and a long-time Ethiophile. “Ethiopia, a land of barter and subsistence farming, a land where very little money changed hands until recently,  now depends on world oil prices,  wheat imports and  the dollar rate—just as much as on the next rainy season. In other words, Ethiopia’s unorthodox economics must now worship in the global church.”

Depending on what happens next, the repercussions for Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the wider Horn of Africa region, could be enormous.

“If Ethiopia does follow through with its stated intention, it’s doubtful that Eritreans would accept any further fear mongering from the Aferwerki administration regarding Addis Ababa’s actions and intentions,” Abraham says. “If Aferwerki attempts to dismiss or undermine this long-awaited gesture from its neighbour, the population may openly turn against the regime.”

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Now is Not the Time to Give up on the People of DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-not-time-give-people-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/now-not-time-give-people-drc/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 14:33:56 +0000 Jean-Philippe Marcoux http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156251 Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

Displaced women at the Simba Mosala Site in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Badylon Kawanda Bakiman/IPS

By Jean-Philippe Marcoux
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

After more than 20 years of brutal conflict, few might believe that things could get worse in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And yet they most dishearteningly are.

In the last year, we have witnessed a continuous escalation of violence that has spread to half of the country, endangering millions. Some 2 million children suffer from acute hunger, and the DRC is home to the largest number of displaced people in Africa.

Political instability has sparked a flare-up of militia violence that has pockmarked eastern and central Congo, forcing tens of thousands to flee in recent months and stirring fears the African nation could plunge back into civil war. Now is the time for the international community to recognize the threat and to finally address the root causes of DRC’s seemingly endless cycle of conflict.

Yet many donors are forced to pick and choose which disasters to respond to in a world grappling with an unprecedented number of humanitarian crises. Budget constraints make it is easy to justify diverting funds to meet emergency needs.

However, the value of long-term development projects, which too often get short-shrift in the face of ongoing crisis, cannot be underestimated.

We know that humanitarian responses mostly serve to alleviate the symptoms of larger issues and are not solutions themselves. So, my organisation, Mercy Corps, and other agencies are working to address what drives conflict in the DRC: the grievances stemming from the lack of access to services and economic opportunities in a country where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.

As insecurity and violence in DRC has forced people out of the traditional rural and farming areas and into towns and cities where they feel safer, urban services are struggling to keep up with the new demand.

Currently, three-quarters of the population lack access to safe drinking water. Without access to clean water, people are more susceptible to disease, and women and girls are disproportionately impacted as they often have to take responsibility for the collection of water. As Justine, one of the women we work with says: “Water is life. So there is nothing we can do without water.”

This is why Mercy Corps is undertaking one of our largest-ever infrastructure programmes to provide safe drinking water to approximately 1 million people in the cities of Goma and Bukavu.

The IMAGINE programme, delivered with support from the U.K. government, involves nine local organisations, six health zones, five districts, two cities, two provincial water ministries and the public water utility.

All of these different parts form an integrated water governance initiative working in partnership to ensure that neighbourhoods have access to safe, clean water, as well as the means to provide feedback to improve water-delivery service. IMAGINE is proof that development gains can be made, even while chaos reigns in other parts of the country.

To be sure, Mercy Corps and other aid groups must and do respond to the most pressing needs that arise from violence in the DRC. Since the beginning of 2018, we have doubled our humanitarian response and set up the Kivu Crisis Response for newly displaced Congolese.

This programme allows us to coordinate with other organisations to respond in a smarter more rapid way to the most urgent needs of displaced people, providing lifesaving assistance in a way that maintains their dignity.

Ultimately, the Congolese people hold the power to decide their own futures. This includes choosing their own leaders through elections that are scheduled for this year. Development programmes like IMAGINE are tools that the Congolese people can use to build safer and healthier futures for themselves and future generations. Maintaining, and where possible, increasing development programming is central to this effort.

Home of to some of Africa’s most majestic national parks, this is a nation whose almost boundless natural beauty and potential eludes most newspaper headlines. Despair often eclipses the energy and determination of its inhabitants after so many years of war. But there are seedlings of hope. Now is not the time to give up on the people of DRC.

The post Now is Not the Time to Give up on the People of DRC appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jean-Philippe Marcoux is Mercy Corps Country Director, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Sahel in the Throes of a Major Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/sahel-throes-major-humanitarian-crisis/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:04:32 +0000 Mark Lowcock http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156214 Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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A mother caresses the head of her sleeping malnourished baby, at the mother and child centre in the town of Diffa, Niger. Credit: UNICEF/Tremeau

By Mark Lowcock
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

I am increasingly concerned by the situation in the Sahel. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, nearly 6 million people are struggling to meet their daily food needs. Severe malnutrition threatens the lives of 1.6 million children. These are levels unseen since the crisis of 2012, and the most critical months are still ahead.

Governments in the region were successful in beating back the crisis six years ago. I am encouraged by the efforts of regional partners to scale up their operations following early warning signs. But the rapid deterioration over recent months reveals an urgent need for more donor support.

The crisis was triggered by scarce and erratic rainfall in 2017, resulting in water, crop and pasture shortages and livestock losses. Pastoralists had to undertake the earliest seasonal movement of livestock in 30 years – four months earlier and much further than usual. This has also increased the likelihood of conflict with farmer communities over scarce resources, water and land.

Food security across the region has deteriorated. Food stocks have already run out for millions of people. Families are cutting down on meals, withdrawing children from school and going without essential health treatment to save money for food.

Severe acute malnutrition rates in the six countries have increased by 50 per cent since last year. One child in six under the age of five now needs urgent life-saving treatment to survive.

In a severe lean season, anticipated to last until September, the number of people who need food and livelihood support may increase to 6.5 million.

I am most concerned about Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania. In Burkina Faso, for example, the number of people facing food insecurity has already jumped nearly threefold since last year. In Mali, the number of people in ‘emergency’ conditions have increased by 120 per cent. In Mauritania, severe acute malnutrition rates are at their highest since 2008.

With support from the United Nations and partners, national authorities have developed prioritized response plans that focus on pastoral and food security needs. A scale-up in operations to reach 3.6 million people with food security interventions is already underway.

Critical nutrition interventions are being scaled up in areas where emergency thresholds have been surpassed. Ongoing technical support to governments and regional organisations is helping mitigate conflict between farmers and herders.

While increased insecurity has complicated aid delivery in parts of the region, the humanitarian presence in the Sahel and capacity to deliver services are stronger than ever before. Regional, national and local organisations stand ready to step up assistance and help meet exceptional needs.

But UN response plans across the six affected countries are only 26 per cent funded. Last week, I released US$30 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to help scale up relief efforts in the region. I call on donors urgently to provide further funding. We can still avert the worst.

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Excerpt:

Mark Lowcock is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Stop Neglecting African Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-neglecting-african-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:27:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156207 Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group. Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises. “It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent […]

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A group of displaced men, women, and children find refuge at a church on the outskirts of Nyunzu village in eastern Congo. Pastor Mbuyu (pictured) looks after them. Credit: NRC/Christian Jepsen

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises.

“It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

This year’s results found that six of the worlds 10 most neglected conflicts are found in Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – where years of civil war have displaced more than 5 million people – topped the list.

South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Ethiopia rounded out the top five.

But why are such conflicts so neglected?

Lack of political and diplomatic will is among the NRC’s major concerns.

“We – the West – are good at turning a blind eye when there is little geopolitical interest for us,” NRC’s spokesperson Tiril Skarstein told IPS.

“The countries on the list are often considered less strategically important, and that’s why there’s no international interest in finding a solution,” she added.

Skarstein explained that in some countries, the opposite is the case, where there are many actors with conflicting political interests taking part in the conflict. Such are the cases of Yemen and Palestine, where political gains are put before the lives of civilians.

The lack of political will to work towards a solution is one of three criteria on which a crisis is measured in order to be included on the list.

Media Turns A Blind Eye

According to the NRC, the plight of African refugees is also consistently too far removed from the ‘consciousness of the west’ as their stories fail to be told in Western news and media.

If they are, they certainly are not being covered as as much as other humanitarian conflicts in the world.

Expanding on this point, Skarstein drew comparison between Syria and the DRC where the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in both conflicts is approximately 13 million.

“Many people wouldn’t know that. Why? Because the two have had vastly different levels of international exposure,” she told IPS.

Since many of the refugees from the Syria have fled the Assad regime via Europe, many in the West have been forced to “confront and come to terms with their plight.”

“We are literally seeing these people arrive on our doorsteps. In the media, their story in chronicled, tv, online, on social media. And when people get to see others and know their situation people have a tendency to care and act,” Skarstein noted.

Meanwhile, conflicts in the DRC and other African nations often see displaced people flee to neighboring countries.

“They are not arriving on tourist beaches. Crossing one African border to another doesn’t generate the same level of exposure,” Skarstein said.

Less Money, More Problems

Because of the lack of political will and media attention, many of African crises also end up struggling to access humanitarian funds.

“Crises that are given little international attention and are seldom mentioned in the media, are also often declined the financial support needed to meet severe humanitarian needs,” Skarstein told IPS.

DRC is currently the second lowest funded of the world’s largest crises with less than half of the US$812 million aid appeal met.

A further problem is ‘donor fatigue’, a phenomenon whereby the longer a conflict goes on, the harder it is to attract the necessary funding from donors.

“You have conflicts raging for years, sometimes even decades – you get people thinking it’s a hopeless case, it’s all over. We need to fight that,” she said.

So what can get these African conflicts off the most neglected list?

The NRC says the most important thing is for donor states to provide assistance on a needs basis rather than a political one.

The human rights group also highlighted the role of media in bringing attention to overlooked humanitarian disasters.

“Exposure is so critical, that people be heard and listened too is key. The more we speak up about these crises and the more we see of them, the more that can be done,” Skarstein said.

And this list should serve as a reminder to all.

“Just because we do not see these people suffer, it does not make their suffering any less real…importantly, it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act,” Skarstein concluded.

Violence escalated in several parts of the DRC in 2015, forcing almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017 alone.

Among the other countries to make this year’s “World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises” list is the Palestinians territories, Myanmar, Yemen, Venezuela and Nigeria.

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

The post Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labour appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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World Wakes up to Climate Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/world-wakes-climate-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-wakes-climate-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/world-wakes-climate-migration/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 10:08:28 +0000 Harjeet Singh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156141 Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi*

 

Millions of people worldwide are being displaced by natural disasters triggered partially by climate change, and the international community is finally taking steps to mitigate the suffering

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Climate migration: Natural disasters forced over 18 million people out of their homes in 135 countries just last year

Sahara Begum of Nadagari village in Jamalpur district lost her home and all her assets to the 2017 floods in Bangladesh. Thousands like her now eke out a living in Dhaka and other cities. Credit: Md Sariful Islam / ActionAid

By Harjeet Singh
NEW DELHI, Jun 11 2018 (IPS)

This year is set to be an important milestone in the arduous journey of climate migrants. The global community is now beginning to fathom the challenges of people displaced by events such as floods, storms and sea level rise that are partly fuelled by climate change.

Natural disasters forced over 18 million people out of their homes in 135 countries just last year, according to a new global report released by Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). It highlights that weather-related hazards triggered the vast majority of the displacement, with floods and storms accounting for more than 80% of the incidents. China, the Philippines, Cuba and the US were the worst affected.

“Climate change is becoming a critical driver of displacement risk across the world, in combination with rapid and badly managed urbanisation, and increasing levels of inequality and persistent poverty,” Bina Desai, Head of Policy and Research at IDMC told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

The study further cites that hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria broke several records in the Atlantic and Caribbean, and a series of storms in South and East Asia and Pacific displaced large numbers of people throughout the year.

Highest disaster displacement risk

In South Asia alone, heavy monsoon floods and tropical cyclones have displaced 2.8 million, and in relation to its population size, the region has the highest disaster displacement risk globally. Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are among the 10 countries in the world with highest levels of displacement risk related to sudden-onset events.

In addition, displacement linked to slow-onset events such as sea level rise, desertification and salinisation are displacing millions more, particularly in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Pacific regions.

“No country is immune to climate change impacts anymore,” Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA), told indiaclimatedialogue.net. “South Asia has 22% of the world’s population but it houses 60% of the poor with the least capacity to confront increasing climate impacts.”

Millions of people in the Sundarbans — a unique mangrove ecosystem shared by Bangladesh and India — are already facing the brunt of rising sea and high intensity storms more frequently. These low-lying islands away from the global attention has already seen thousands being displaced, many of them permanently to inland cities, to eke out a living. See: Sinking Sundarbans islands underline climate crisis

Migration gets centre stage

It was the UN climate change summit in the Mexican city of Cancún in 2010 that for the first time recognised the relationship between climate change and different forms of forced human mobility.

It called on governments to “commit to measures to enhance understanding, coordination and cooperation with regard to climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.” Decisions at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summits advanced the agenda in subsequent years. A high-level political boost came at the Paris summit in 2015.

The Paris Agreement not only acknowledged the rights of migrants but also gave a mandate to establish a Task Force on Displacement to provide recommendations to the Conference of Parties (COP), the apex body of the UNFCCC.

A year later, 193 nations at the UN General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, recognising the need for a comprehensive approach to issues related to migration and refugees and enhanced global cooperation.

It decided to start the process in April 2017 to develop a “Global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.” Since then, several consultations have been organised to gather inputs from various regions and stakeholders.

The on-going negotiations will be concluded this July and the General Assembly will then hold an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 in Morocco to adopt the global compact.

Along the same lines, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) jointly hosted a stakeholder meeting in May on behalf of the UNFCCC Task Force on Displacement.

More than 60 experts from governments, regional organisations, civil society and international organisations contributed in drafting recommendations to avert, minimise and address displacement in the context of climate change.

After the discussion in its forthcoming September meeting, the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage will present the recommendations for adoption at the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in December 2018.

“As climate change is already contributing to forced migration and displacement now and will continue to do so in the future, the recommendations of the Task Force can help develop a more prospective approach to managing displacement risk, including more equitable financing and risk reduction,” Desai told indiaclimatedialogue.net.

Migration as adaptation

There is an on-going discussion to consider migration as an adaptation strategy and not just a desperate measure taken by people badly hit by climate impacts. The answer lies in analysing whether the recourse taken by climate victims offers them better quality of life or an unsafe situation devoid of identity and inadequate access to basic services like healthcare, shelter, sanitation and security.

“If we invest in climate action today, we reduce the risks of displacement due to climate change for future generations,” said Dina Ionesco, IOM Head of Migration, Environment and Climate Change division. “It will mean reducing losses and damages that occur when migration is a tragedy and a last resort.”

But, Ionesco added, “We also have to think migration policy and practice with innovative eyes, so as to see how safe and orderly migration can provide solutions and opportunities for people who are affected by climate change to move in a dignified manner.”

All eyes are now on the December climate summit in Poland, with a few rounds of talks in between, when both the UN processes involving almost 200 countries conclude, collectively aiming to protect the safety, dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants.

“Migration remains the only option left for people who permanently lose home and income to climate change impacts,” said Vashist. “The issue requires serious attention from our governments and the global community alike.”

*The views expressed by the author are personal.

The post World Wakes up to Climate Migration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Harjeet Singh is Global Lead on Climate Change at ActionAid International and is based in New Delhi*

 

Millions of people worldwide are being displaced by natural disasters triggered partially by climate change, and the international community is finally taking steps to mitigate the suffering

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Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/great-green-wall-brings-hope-greener-pastures-africas-sahel/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 00:01:15 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156134 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

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Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel - By 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

By 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
DAKAR, Senegal, Jun 11 2018 (IPS)

Hope, smiles and new vitality seem to be returning slowly but surely in various parts of the Sahel region, where the mighty Sahara Desert has all but ‘eaten’ and degraded huge parts of landscapes, destroying livelihoods and subjecting many communities to extreme poverty.

The unexpected relief has come from the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI), an eight-billion-dollar project launched by the African Union (AU) with the blessing of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the backing of organizations such as the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Sahara, an area of 3.5 million square miles, is the largest ‘hot’ desert in the world and home to some 70 species of mammals, 90 species of resident birds and 100 species of reptiles, according to DesertUSA.

 

Restoring landscapes

The GGW aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions. This will be done by, among others, planting a wall of trees in more than 20 countries – westward from Gambia to eastward in Djibouti – over 7,600 km long and 15 km wide across the continent.

The countries include Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Senegal. There is also Algeria, Egypt, Gambia, Eritrea, Somalia, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

 

A girl learns about the project through a virtual reality headset. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

A girl learns about the project through a virtual reality headset. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

 

Popularity

Elvis Paul Nfor Tangem, AU’s GGWSSI coordinator, told IPS that the project was doing well, gaining popularity and generating many other ideas as the implementation gains momentum.

Tangem also said that the AU had begun working with the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Namibian government for the extension of the GGWSSI concept to the dry lands of the Southern Africa region.

Namibia, which borders South Africa, is located between the Namib and Kalahari deserts. Namib, from which the country draws its name, is believed to be the world’s oldest desert.

 

Largest project ever

If the GGW is indeed extended to Southern Africa, it will take the number of countries drawn to the project to over 20, making it one of the world’s largest projects ever.

Fundraising for beneficiaries countries is being done through bilateral negotiations, as well as through national investments, the AU said.

International partners including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Sahara and Sahel Observatory (SSO), among others, are also playing a critical role to ensure that the project is being successfully implemented, and upon its completion by 2030 will become the world’s largest living structure and a new Wonder of the World.

 

The icon of GGW shows the path of the Great Green Wall. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

The icon of GGW shows the path of the Great Green Wall. Credit: Greatgreenwall.org

 

Food security

The GGW is set to create thousands of jobs for those who live along its path and boost food security and resilience to climate change in the Sahel, one of the driest parts of the world, where the FAO said an estimated 29.2 million people are food insecure.

The project founders said that by 2030 the ambition is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and sequester 250 million tons of carbon.

Asked if the project is being implementing one country after the other, Elvis replied: “The implementation of the initiative is first and famous country-based, meaning all the countries are undertaking implementation at their levels.

“However, the common factor among all the countries is the fact that their activities are based on the Harmonized Regional Strategy and their National Action Plans (NAP). We are supporting the production of the NAP in Cameroon and Ghana and also working on the SADC region.”

 

Returning home?

In Senegal, a total of 75 direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs, including in the nurseries sector and multipurpose gardens, have already been created through the GGW in the last six years, according to official statistics.

Also in Senegal, where desertification has slashed 34% of its area, the GGW has since ‘recovered’ just over 40,000 hectares out of the 817,500 hectares planned for the project. This is good news for people like Ibrahima Ba and his family who left their homeland to move to Dakar in the quest of greener pastures.

Now, he is contemplating a return home. “I’m planning to go back towards the end of the year to rebuild my shattered life. The Sahara hasn’t done anybody any favor by taking away our livelihood,” Ba, a livestock farmer Peul from northern Senegal, told IPS.

An estimated 300,000 people live in the three provinces crossed by the GGW in Senegal.

 

Participatory approach

However, Marine Gauthier, an environmental expert for the Rights and Resources’ Initiative, (RRI) said a participatory approach was needed if the project was to be implemented successfully.

“In a conflictual region, where people depend on the land for their survival and where there are numerous transhumance activities from herders peoples (Peuls) potentially impacted by the project, a careful participatory approach is needed,” Gauthier said.

“Conflicts have already arisen a couple of years ago with Peuls (herders practicing transhumance, whose travels were to be restrained by the project). Just like any other environmental protection project, its capacity to engage with local communities, to make them first beneficiaries of the project, is the key to its success on the long term.

“Participatory mapping is a very successful tool that has been used within other projects and that could be of great help in defining and establishing the Great Green Wall,” Gauthier said.

Furthermore, Gauthier said empowering communities would be very interesting at the scale of the Great Green Wall. “It would take a lot of efforts, consultations, financial and human resources. It is however the only way to ensure that this project, which people are talking about for more than 10 years now, reaches its goal.

“Because when the communities are empowered and when their rights on the land are secured, it benefits directly to the environment and to preserving this land from more damage.”

The post Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.

The post Great Green Wall Brings Hope, Greener Pastures to Africa’s Sahel appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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“A Map and Plan”: When Greener Pastures End in a Blazing Deserthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/map-plan-greener-pastures-end-blazing-desert/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 00:22:12 +0000 Mbom Sixtus http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156070 “Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara […]

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The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonians who had attempted to relocate in Europe to reintegrate back into Cameroon - Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Returned migrants have something to eat and fill out papers for IOM at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

By Mbom Sixtus
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

“Sometimes when I’m alone, I still get flashes of the grisly images I saw in the desert. I feared I was going to die out there. The people transporting us were ready to get rid of any of us where necessary,” Njoya Danialo recalled as he narrated the ordeal he endured traveling through the Sahara in search of greener pastures.

He told IPS that when the desert winds get too wild, the smugglers take refuge inside and under their vehicles, while passengers perched on luggage in overloaded pickup trucks are left at the mercy of the deadly, dust-filled wind.

Njoya is one of over 1,300 returnees that IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has repatriated to Cameroon since it started its operation in sub-Saharan Africa in June 2017. Boubacar Seybou, IOM Chief of Mission in Cameroon, told IPS the European Union has set aside 3 million Euros for its migrant reintegration operation in this country.

The operation is carried out in collaboration with officials of the EU Delegation in Cameroon, Cameroon’s ministry of external relations, the ministry of public health, ministry of social affairs and ministry of youth and civic education.

The program was planned to run for three years, facilitating the socioeconomic reintegration of 850 returnees at a cost of 3 million euros. Now Seybou said the program needs to be reviewed as more than 1,000 returnees were registered barely six months after the operation began.

The drama of irregular migration: the IOM is helping Cameroonian returnees to reintegrate safely back into Cameroon - Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Workers with IOM register returned migrants at Yaounde Nsimalen Airport in Cameroon. Credit: Mbom Sixtus/IPS

Njoya graduated from the Francoise Xavier Vogt football school in Yaounde but never played in a professional club. He claims one is obliged to know someone or pay a bribe to be recruited into a good football club. “That is why I decided to try my luck abroad, especially as a strange illness had attacked my father, causing our family business to crumble. I had to make it on my own,” he said.

Like many of the one million sub-Saharan Africans who have migrated to Europe since 2010, he had a map and a plan. He had high hopes as he navigated his way from Cameroon through Chad, Niger and Benin, until the night he curled up on a street corner in Algeria to sleep. Only then did he realise illegal migrants were not welcome. Like many others, he was forced to leave the country.

“The police arrested many of us and dropped us off at the border in the desert. Many people who walked with us died as I walked on.”

Dubious agents

“Along the trajectory from Niger to Morocco are agents called ‘passeurs’. They offer three possibilities. They can help you get to the Mediterranean where you cross into Spain. They can take you to a detention facility and call your parents for ransom. Or [they will] rob you and abandon you in the forest,” Njoya told IPS.

He was fortunate to get passeurs who helped him travel. He met another migrant from Burkina Faso whowas Spain-bound before being forced to make a U-turn in Algeria. They both struggled to make it to Niamey where the IOM help them return to their various home countries.

But Ramanou Abdou, who was also heading to Spain from Cameroon, told IPS he was not as lucky. The agents, always heavily armed and noted for raping women, drove them into a Savanah forest, robbed them and zoomed off. They all had to struggle to find their way to Niamey where they could get help from IOM, he said.

Like Njoya and others who returned to Cameroon with the help of IOM, Ramanou was offered a package that would facilitate his reintegration. He chose to return to school. He currently studies geography in the University of Dschang.

“I am grateful for the help they offered. I wish they could continue until I obtain my bachelors degree. I also wish they could help me get medical care for the protracted skin disease and stomach problems I returned with. I am still suffering,” he said.

Besides illnesses, Ramanou says many people have a negative impression of those who return from abroad. “Most of my classmates think I am thief. Some think that all returnees are hoodlums or something. Few of them treat me well.”

Like Ramanou, Njoya equally thinks the assistance provided returnees should be stepped up. He was given about 800 euros to start a business which crumbled within a couple of months. He now loads vehicles at a motor park for a living.

“I am saving money to travel abroad through the right track. My dream is still alive and I will make it the right way. I pity those who have left again to follow the same road to perdition in the name of traveling to Europe by land,” he said.

Besides Njoya and Ramanou, another returnee used his seed capital from IOM to start a small business is Ekani Awono. He opened up a coffee shop, but now tells IPS the money was too little to keep his business alive.

The beneficiaries who spoke to IPS say their peers who left the IOM office in Niamey and returned to the Ivory Coast claim to have been given as much as 3,000 euros to start sustainable businesses.

“But in Cameroon, we are constrained to submit business plans for funding limited to FCFA 500,000,” said one of them who preferred not to be named.

But Boubacar Seybou of OIM says the business plans are approved by a steering committee consisting of the funder and government ministries. He told IPS that IOM makes sure reintegration packages are sustainable. He also pointed out that there are many returnees whose businesses are doing well.

Apart from financial aid, IOM and the government provide medical check-ups and psychosocial assistance to returnees when they arrive home, according to Edimo Mbappe of the ministry of social affairs.

“Some women who were raped in the forest, deserts and camps and get here pregnant. Alongside traumatised boys and girls, they are given psychosocial support before we let them move into the community,” she told IPS.

IOM and the government has organised a series of activities, including radio and TV shows, photo exhibitions and musical concerts to dissuade would-be migrants from attempting to travel abroad illegally. They are equally trying to educate the public to absorb returnees and reject the stereotypes that make them feel uncomfortable.

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South African Lawsuit Could Bring Sweeping Changes to Land and Mining Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/south-african-lawsuit-bring-sweeping-changes-land-mining-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-african-lawsuit-bring-sweeping-changes-land-mining-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/south-african-lawsuit-bring-sweeping-changes-land-mining-rights/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2018 11:41:53 +0000 Mark Olalde http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156057 South Africans await judgement to be handed down in a court case that could set a sweeping precedent by empowering communities on communal land with the right to reject new mining projects. Calling the case a referendum on “the right to say no,” residents of several rural villages along the country’s eastern coast are asking […]

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Amadiba residents gather to oppose a mine that has the support of a local chief and that has gained approval from the minerals department. Photo courtesy of Nonhle Mbuthuma

Residents of the Eastern Cape's Amadiba coastal area gather in September 2015. Many fear mining would threaten their way of life by destroying grazing land and creating rifts in the community. Courtesy: Nonhle Mbuthuma

By Mark Olalde
PRETORIA, Jun 5 2018 (IPS)

South Africans await judgement to be handed down in a court case that could set a sweeping precedent by empowering communities on communal land with the right to reject new mining projects.

Calling the case a referendum on “the right to say no,” residents of several rural villages along the country’s eastern coast are asking the court to reinterpret current minerals extraction legislation to compel mining companies to gain explicit community consent prior to breaking ground on new operations.

The court case, for which arguments were heard in late April in Pretoria, stems from a dispute over a proposed titanium mine that has raged for more than a decade in the country’s rural Eastern Cape province in an area known as the “Wild Coast.” The project has pitted Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Ltd against a group of five local villages, collectively known as Amadiba. Locals consistently turned back the company’s attempts to mine, but bouts of violence have left several people dead.

“Their way of life is intrinsically linked to the land. Customary communities tend to suffer disproportionately from the impacts of mining,” the plaintiffs argued in their submission to the court, noting environmental degradation, displacement and loss of agricultural land. “Without free, prior and informed consent, they are at real risk of losing not only rights in their land, but their very way of being.”

Nonhle Mbuthuma is the secretary and acting leader of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which represents many residents of the villages. She took over the group’s mantle of leadership when the committee’s chairperson, Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Radebe, was gunned down in front of his home in March 2016. Radebe was widely thought to have been murdered for his activism against the mine, and Mbuthuma’s name is believed to be written on a hit list alongside his.

“The land is our identity. When we lose that land, we lose who we are. And when you lose who you are, that’s no different than just someone killing you,” Mbuthuma said.

Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee is believed to be on a hit list due to her opposition to a proposed titanium mining project on South Africa’s east coast. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee is believed to be on a hit list due to her opposition to a proposed titanium mining project on South Africa’s east coast. Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS

The communities and civil society organizations that have joined the plaintiffs asked that if the court does not side with their argument for consent, that it at least grants them the ability to negotiate terms such as royalties prior to mining. If the court declines that too, then the plaintiffs asked that the current legislation be found unconstitutional.

In the court filings, a subsidiary of Mineral Commodities argued that the plaintiffs misinterpreted the law well beyond its intended purpose in an effort to halt the mine, which already earned permits. The company noted that “if granted, [the plaintiffs’ application] will affect land and mining rights all over the country.”

“We hope that if the judge rules in favor of us, it will help all African communities, not only Xolobeni, because the problem of mining pushing people off their land is all over Africa,” Mbuthuma said, referencing one of the five villages in Amadiba that has become synonymous with the conflict.

Formerly under the control of the oppressive apartheid system, South Africa democratically elected a new government in 1994, which worked to return the country’s mineral wealth to its citizens while also fitting into international, capitalist markets. Under current legislation, mineral rights were claimed for the state in an attempt to foster economic development.

However, as the government handed out mining licenses, conflicts arose between mining companies and rural communities living on communal land. About 13 percent of the country’s land area remains held communally in the vestiges of apartheid-era “homelands” that were created as sham independent states to remove black South Africans from urban areas. An estimated 18 million South Africans live on these lands.

Traditional leaders such as chiefs, kings and queens and councils preside over communal land, but their mandate comes from the people, according to customary law. In this set of laws, these leaders cannot make decisions for their communities without the consent of the people.

In many cases, though, traditional leaders strike deals with mining companies that open up communal land to mining, often without community-level consent. This happened in Amadiba, where one chief supported the proposed mine and was made a director of a company linked to the project. In return, the chief said in a signed statement provided to the South African Police Service, he was promised that challenges to his chieftaincy would disappear and that he would earn profits from the mine.

Through a company spokesperson, Mineral Commodities CEO Mark Caruso declined to comment for this story.

Johan Lorenzen is an associate at Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys, which is part of the community’s legal team. He said that such conflicts are common in rural areas that are struggling to realize the full benefits of a democratic South Africa.

“The majority of rural South Africans live on communal land such as the Amadiba community. Particularly as the world’s largest platinum producer, South Africa has seen a wave of mining right applications over customary land, and, without clarity over this question of whether there’s the right to say no, it has had sweeping effects on tens-of-thousands of people in rural South Africa,” Lorenzen said. He estimates a judgement will be delivered in several months.

The minister of the Department of Mineral Resources announced an 18-month moratorium that temporarily halted both the project as well as any new permit applications for the area. That is set to expire later this year, and it remains unclear what will happen when it does.

As part of the moratorium, the department committed to commission “independent social specialist/s to…investigate the deeply rooted cause of the problems and document the causes and possible solutions” of conflict surrounding the mine.

In a statement to IPS, the department admitted to eschewing that obligation. “There was no independent investigation conducted, due to the well-publicised challenges between the parties in the area,” the statement said, also noting that the department was yet to decide whether to renew the moratorium.

As an alternative way of elevating these residents’ voices, British photographer Thom Pierce recently shot a series of portraits of Xolobeni residents and made the frames into postcards that he plans to mail to the minister of the Department of Mineral Resources. On the postcards, community members described the importance of holding the final say over their own land.

Themba Yalo invoked the memory of the Pondoland Revolt, a 1960s uprising where residents of Amadiba and surrounding communities took up arms against the apartheid government and its supporters. “My grandparents fought for this land, for me to live freely. I will never agree to a mine coming here and destroying the land and the graves of my family,” he wrote.

Others, including Mamthithala Yalo, argued for agriculture instead of mining: “I have pigs, cows and goats that I farm on this land. I also grow all of the food that I need. I will never allow the mining to come and change the way I live. This land is not for sale.”

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Harnessing the Blue Economy Must Consider Social Inclusion and Responsible Stewardshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/harnessing-blue-economy-must-consider-social-inclusion-responsible-stewardship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=harnessing-blue-economy-must-consider-social-inclusion-responsible-stewardship http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/harnessing-blue-economy-must-consider-social-inclusion-responsible-stewardship/#respond Tue, 29 May 2018 15:47:21 +0000 Ambassador Macharia Kamau and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155970 Amb. Macharia Kamau is the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya.
Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.

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Harnessing the Blue Economy Must Consider Social Inclusion and Responsible Stewardship

Cranes used to offload containers from cargo ships at the Port of Mombasa. Kenya signed anagreement with the Government of Japan for the construction of extra berths at the port. Credit: KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Ambassador Macharia Kamau and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 29 2018 (IPS)

In April 2018, Commonwealth leaders met in a retreat at a royal residence in the English county of Berkshire and agreed on strategies to deepen trade in their 53-member organisation, improve security, tackle climate change, and work together for the betterment of the lives of the people of the Commonwealth.

During the Commonwealth Summit, Kenya received support for its plan to host a High Level Sustainable Blue Economy Conference scheduled to take place from 26-28th November 2018 in Nairobi. Under the theme Blue Economy and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the conference presents an opportune moment for advancing global conversation on both the productive and sustainable side of the blue economy.The conference will lay the case for a sustainable exploitation of the oceans, seas, rivers and lakes for the economic empowerment of all communities.

Canada stepped forward as a co-host during bilateral talks between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Lancaster House, London, on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting. “Our meeting gives us an opportunity to speak about the great relationship between Kenya and Canada. Canada is pleased with the excellent conference on the blue economy you are hosting and is ready to partner with you,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Kenya welcomes other countries to join this important initiative as co-hosts. Kenya also welcomes partnerships from governments, academia, private sector, international organizations, political and thought leaders from around the world to share ideas, experience and knowledge on how countries can implement Blue Economy action plans in their countries.

Africa’s economies have continued to post remarkable growth rates, largely driven by the richness of its land-based natural resources. Yet even though 38 of the continent’s 54 states are coastal and 90% of its trade is sea-borne, Africa’s blue potential remains largely untapped. The African Great Lakes constitute the largest proportion of surface freshwater in the world and it is easy to see why the African Union refers to the Blue Economy as the “New Frontier of African Renaissance”.

Ambassador Macharia Kamau

The potential of the blue economy in Africa is largely unexploited due to uneven focus on land as the most important factor of production. While Africa is endowed with large water bodies, the communities living in close proximity to such lakes, seas and oceans in the continent are among the poorest in the region. The realization of the limitations presented by land as a factor of production in the continent, especially in view of climate change, has necessitated governments and other stakeholders to focus on the immense potential for growth presented by the water resources.

A good illustration of Africa’s maritime resources potential is the island nation of Mauritius, one of the smallest countries in the world, which has territorial waters the size of South Africa but has one of the strongest blue economies in Africa, ranking 3rd in per capita income in 2015.

Ironically, the narrative on the continent’s maritime space has for long veered towards the bad news on illegal harvesting, degradation, depletion and maritime insecurity. This narrative is changing gradually, with recent initiatives indicating that countries are looking at full exploitation and management of Africa’s Blue Economy as a potential source of wealth for the continent’s growing population. With forecasts placing the value of maritime-related activities at 2.5 trillion euros per year by 2020, the continent’s hidden treasure could catapult its fortunes.

Kenya is one of several African countries that are formulating strategies to mainstream the Blue Economy in national development plans. Broadly the sub-sectors of the blue economy in Kenya include fisheries & aquaculture, maritime transport & logistics services, extractive industries which include offshore mining of gas & oil, titanium, rare earth (niobium), and culture, tourism and leisure & lifestyle. In the past the country has largely focused on fisheries both for domestic and export markets – a sector that accounts for only about 0.5 per cent of GDP – yet Kenya has a maritime territory of 230,000 square kilometres and 200 nautical miles offshore.

Siddharth Chatterjee

The groundwork for regulatory and policy changes has started, with the Fisheries Management and Development Act 2016 and establishment of the Blue Economy Implementation Committee indicating the government’s intention to utilize its marine resources for economic growth while conserving the same for future generations. The government ban on single use plastic bags is another demonstration of commitment to ensuring plastic waste does not continue to threaten the environment, including marine life. There has also been a move to protect the coral reef, home to one of the world’s most diverse marine eco-systems.

As Africa enjoins itself to the a paradigm shift to the blue economy, and looks for pathways towards being at the centre of global trade based on the Blue Economy, rather than just the supplier of unprocessed raw materials, among the greatest hurdles will be responsible management, so that the wealth generation is inclusive and ecologically sound.

To achieve this, countries must importantly work on current conflicts that are driven by lack of demarcation of maritime and aquatic boundaries.This has been a constant source of tensions between neighbouring countries, not only threating any long-term investment considerations, but also leading to irresponsible use of resources.

With the potential gains from the Blue Economy, states have no option but to fast-track resolution of disputes and strengthen their maritime and riparian cooperation mechanisms. This will provide grounds for working on interstate economies of scale and develop strategies for bridging technical and infrastructure gaps among States.

In line with SDG 14, development of this sector must also promote social inclusion while ensuring environmental sustainability. In this respect, the continent owes special consideration to people living along the shores of oceans, lakes and rivers, essentially youth and women. The question of how this“new frontier” can address poverty reduction and hunger when leaving no one behind must be a central consideration.

Sadly,Global citizens have already demonstrated considerable recklessness in managing land-based resources. The relatively untouched frontier of Blue Economy must be handled with the highest environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Kenya and Canada are committed to this and the United Nations family is fully in support of this important initiative which could leapfrog Kenya’s and indeed the world’s economic growth.

We therefore invite the world to Nairobi on 26th to 28th November 2018, to participate in a global conversation and showcase technology and innovation on the most appropriate strategies for productive, sustainable and inclusive use ofthe numerous resources in the seas, oceans, rivers and lakes.

The post Harnessing the Blue Economy Must Consider Social Inclusion and Responsible Stewardship appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Amb. Macharia Kamau is the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya.
Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.

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Zimbabwe’s Long Road to Gender Parityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/zimbabwes-long-road-gender-parity/#respond Tue, 29 May 2018 12:12:18 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155965 Zimbabwe goes to the polls in July for the first general election since the departure of Robert Mugabe, and the jockeying over who will represent the country’s major political parties is in full throttle. Primary elections are internal processes by political parties to allow aspiring candidates to contest among themselves with the eventual winner being […]

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Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, May 29 2018 (IPS)

Zimbabwe goes to the polls in July for the first general election since the departure of Robert Mugabe, and the jockeying over who will represent the country’s major political parties is in full throttle.

Primary elections are internal processes by political parties to allow aspiring candidates to contest among themselves with the eventual winner being the one who will represent the party at national elections.“It’s evident that the political space, despite constitutional provisions, is overall not conducive for women and intra-party violence against women is very high." --Glanis Changarirere

As soon as the political parties announced the primaries in April this year, thousands of candidates submitted their names, with sitting parliamentarians also having to contest in what the ruling party Zanu PF said was a sign of democracy.

However, from the lists that were released by Zanu PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, the roster was dominated by men, with women largely staying away.

This at a time when there is a huge global drive towards realising the United Nations-driven Planet 50-50 by 2030 gender equality campaign in public office positions by year 2020.

One female Zanu PF legislator, hoping to retain her parliamentary seat, complained last month that she was being intimidated by aspiring male candidates, reporting that the men were going around telling prospective voters not to vote for a woman.

She eventually lost the election to a male candidate.

It was one of many troubling reports concerning women aspiring for public office, with political parties accused of failing to address these concerns.

Glanis Changachirere, Team Leader at the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD), which lobbies for women’s participation in political processes, says women seeking public office are still marginalised by political parties and discouraged from participating because of widespread political violence.

“It is worrisome that as we enter the second term of the Constitutional provision for gender parity, women’s political representation is under threat,” Changachire told IPS.

“Leads from Zanu PF primary elections are indicating a regression in women’s representation. Women only constitute 8 percent of that party’s parliamentary and senatorial candidates. There are examples in some provinces where there was not a single woman elected in the primaries,” she said.

The ruling Zanu PF announced the final list of parliamentary candidates on May 3, revealing that the preliminary results where dominated by men with women who were seeking re-election failing to make the cut.

Some of the losers, who again were dominated by men, contested the results in 10 constituencies, citing among other things political violence against their supporters, forcing the party to call for a re-run.

“It’s evident that the political space, despite constitutional provisions, is overall not conducive for women and intra-party violence against women is very high,” Changarirere said.

Perhaps highlighting the extent of the odds stacked against women, Oppah Muchinguri, Zanu PF’s first ever female national chairperson, who was elevated to the post last year and sought to retain her parliamentary seat, was one of the heavy casualties in the primary elections.

Under the Zimbabwe constitution adopted in 2013, 60 uncontested seats are reserved for women in the legislature in what is termed proportional representation where political parties nominate female candidates based on the number of seats the party won in the general elections.

In the 2008 elections, only 34 women made it to the 210-member parliament, and a decade later political parties are still struggling to make up the numbers that meet their commitment to global standards.

In 2013, the number grew to 86 elected female legislators, an increase of 39 percent, according to UN Women statistics.

According to Morgan Komichi, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) national chairperson, the party has set aside 50 percent of parliamentary seats for women, but from the number of women who have expressed interest in actually contesting the primaries, Zimbabwe’s main opposition could well be lagging behind in realising its own gender balance benchmarks.

“The patriarchal and primitive thinking of women playing second fiddle roles — for example, women are expected to sing and ululate and provide care work roles in political parties — are still entrenched. No deliberate mechanisms [exist] to ensure proportional presentation of women in key leadership positions and government line-up,” Changachirere said.

However, the political opposition MDC national spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo told IPS that the MDC had ratified the Women’s Charter as set out by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development targeting 50 percent women’s representation in decision making and already has provisions to allocate gender in the party, but it was up to the women to take up the mantel.

“There is a belief that women should be handed political office. They should go out there and work for it. There are constitutional provisions to meet these standards, my question is who lobbies who to get those numbers,” Khumalo told IPS.

One-time deputy prime minister and former MDC vice president Thokozani Khuphe, who was expelled from the party in March, has since formed her own splinter political party, accusing rivals of denying her the constitutional right to lead the country’s largest  opposition political party.

Khuphe accused her rivals of sexism, saying it was clear they did not want a women to lead, vowing that a woman is also constitutionally empowered to lead Zimbabwe.

Former Deputy President Joice Mujuru, also expelled from Zanu PF, and once considered by some as former President Robert Mugabe’s successor, now leads the National People’s Party (NPP), with smaller parties led by women such as Lucia Matibenga’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and rallying behind Mujuru as the sole female presidential candidate for the July national elections.

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