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AU Member-States Commit to Implementation of Africa’s Asset Recovery Agenda

An extended Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR) Working Group with more African Union (AU) member-states including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Nigeria, and Senegal have joined pan-African institutions mandated by the AU Assembly to actively further the implementation of the CAPAR.

The commitment of AU member-states to the implementation of Africa’s Asset Recovery Agenda, the CAPAR, is one of the major outcomes of the high-level technical meeting on the frameworks for its implementation held on the 3rd and 4th November, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

At the meeting which had top government officials and heads of anti-corruption and asset recovery agencies, the aforementioned countries agreed through their respective missions and representatives to propagate the CAPAR, unify its messaging, and deliver necessary political support to its implementation frameworks, as well as its proposed protocol and model agreements.

The high-level meeting, which was jointly organized by the African Union and the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), reviewed strategy documents that focused on the legal framework for the recovery of African assets and the proposal for the setting up of an escrow account for African assets.

Discussions focused on experience sharing while ensuring that the frameworks for asset recovery by African States maintained a comprehensive approach in a holistic and economically beneficial way. The meeting also made valid proposals to address key legal issues that African States face in recovering illicit financial outflows and stolen assets.

Participants at the meeting agreed that its outcomes should feed into the updates of the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, the AU Champion on Anti-Corruption, and report of the AU Commissioner of the Political Affairs, Peace and Security to the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government at its next summit to be held in February, 2023 in view of the nexus between corruption and peace and security.  This is towards greater galvanization of CAPAR’s implementation by all AU member-states and the need to strengthen implementation of the CAPAR at national, sub-regional, and regional levels.

On the escrow account, the African Union committed to facilitating necessary consultations with relevant regional banks to establish escrow accounts to mitigate the losses being experienced by African countries as negotiations drag on too long for the recovery and return of sovereign assets illicitly removed from AU Member-States. It was further agreed that the extended CAPAR Working Group would reconvene in future meetings with the view of engaging additional AU Member-States and advancing the processes to implement the frameworks.

The Secretariat of the AU High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa – Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) constituted the CAPAR Working Group that guides the necessary actions for the successful popularization and implementation of the CAPAR. In addition to the AU and CoDA, the group is composed of AU Member-States – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Nigeria, and Senegal, as well as relevant African institutions including the African Development Bank (AfDB), African Export-Import  Bank (AFREXIMBANK), ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), and the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF).

CAPAR seeks to assist African Union Member States to identify, repatriate and effectively manage these assets in a manner that respects their sovereignty. It outlines Africa’s priorities for asset recovery in four pillars: detection and identification of illicitly removed assets; recovery and return of illicitly removed assets; management of recovered assets; and cooperation and partnerships to harmonize the process of identification and recovery.

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AfDB secures $31 billion at investment forum

The African Development Bank raised $31 billion in investment commitments for projects during the Africa Investment Forum, said the bank’s president Akinwumi Adesina at the end of the three-day meeting on Friday.

It brings the total investment for the year to about $64 billion, said Adesina. The bank secured $32.8 billion at another meeting with investors in March.

Adesina gave few details about the projects but said one focus would be agricultural processing zones.

Projects announced earlier in the year were from sectors including agriculture and agro-processing, education, energy and climate, healthcare, minerals and mining, and information and communications technology

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“We are open for business, we need investors” says Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa

“Private sector opportunities in Zimbabwe are limitless” – Zimbabwe President Dr. Emerson Mnangagwa; Agriculture will power our way to achieving vision 2030” – Anxious Masuka.

Zimbabwean President Dr. Emerson Mnangagwa has called on investors to realize the massive investment opportunities in Zimbabwe and shun negative perceptions of risk.

Zimbabwe, self-sufficient in food production and a major exporter of wheat, tobacco, and corn to the 14-member Southern African Development Community, to other African countries, and the wider world before 2000, saw its exports plummet. Before 2000, farming accounted for 40% of all Zimbabwe’s exports. In 2010 though, it dropped to 2%.

President Mnangagwa spoke on Thursday at a special event on the margins of the Africa Investment Forum Market Days 2022 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The event dwelt on the broad range of investment opportunities in Zimbabwe. Several cabinet ministers accompanied the president, namely Foreign Affairs Minister Frederick Shava, Finance, and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Mcube, Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka, and Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza.

“The focus is to persuade global capital assembled in this city to realize that there are opportunities for investment in Zimbabwe,” President Mnangagwa said.

The African Development Bank and its seven partners set up the Africa Investment Forum—Africa’s premier investment platform—to attract investment and capital to Africa. The forum’s Market Days 2022 which runs from the 2nd to 4th of November, feature boardroom sessions that promote flagship sectors where Africa has a comparative advantage. Examples are women-led businesses, music, film, fashion, textiles, and sports.

President Mnangagwa said African Development Bank President Dr. Adesina invited him to the forum when Adesina visited Zimbabwe earlier this year.  Adesina agreed to champion Zimbabwe’s debt clearance strategy. Zimbabwe has been hurt by sanctions imposed by the European Union and other Western countries.

“Our mission here is to explain ourselves, assure investors that Zimbabwe is a safe investment destination,” President Mnangagwa said.

Adesina said Zimbabwe could count on the African Development Bank’s strong support. He confirmed the bank’s approval of a $4 million grant to support the development of a secretariat to move the country’s debt arrears clearance issue forward.

“I know the story of Zimbabwe, the opportunities and potential of Zimbabwe,” Adesina said. “I think Zimbabwe is not as risky as you think…Private sector opportunities are limitless.”

Adesina outlined the country’s many potential areas for investment, including steel, agriculture and information technology. He said the bank was lending support in these and other sectors.

Our mission here is to explain ourselves, assure investors that Zimbabwe is a safe investment destination

The African Development Bank also made a grant to Zimbabwe during the Covid-19 pandemic, stepping in where other institutions had not.

“Zimbabwe is strongly committed… Zimbabwe will again be the breadbasket of Africa. I will swim right beside you,” he said.

President Mnangagwa’s ministers also spoke bullishly about Zimbabwe’s investment prospects.

Ncube said the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) was the country’s one-stop shop for potential investors. “With ZIDA, your investment is safe…we have the capacity…we are waiting for you,” the finance minister said.

Nzenza said the country was focusing especially on mining, agriculture, tourism and manufacturing, such as producing cotton, locally and lithium batteries.

“There’s no doubt that sanctions hurt, but Zimbabwe is open for business. The key words are value addition…we have been exporting raw materials we must manufacture,” Nzenza said.

Masuka said in his opinion, the biggest opportunity was the land reform program that Zimbabwe had embarked on. The government has put agriculture at the top of its agenda. “We want to develop agriculture…there are massive opportunities. Agriculture will power our way to achieving vision 2030,” Masuka said.

Private sector panelists at Thursday’s event were invited to offer advice to potential investors in Zimbabwe. They included Marjorie Mayida, managing director of Zimbabwe’s leading insurance company, Old Mutual; George Manyere, managing director of Brainworks a Zimbabwean company listed on the Johannesburg and London stock exchanges; Kalpesh Patel, managing director of SteelMakers Group of companies; and Peggy Mapondera, an investment principal at Masawara PLC, a pan-African diversified investment holding group.

George Manyere of Brainworks Ltd said Zimbabwe’s economic performance against neighboring countries like Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique—which do not have sanctions and enjoy support from the international lending community—was proof of the nation’s capacity to perform despite perceptions of risk, and the country’s biggest selling point.

Tshepidi Moremong, Chief Operating Officer of Africa50 noted the progress and opportunities in transport, logistics, and infrastructure.  She said that following a mission to Harare last month, Africa50 would be signing a memorandum of understanding, specifically on asset recycling.

Kapesh Pattel of SteelMakers Group advised that getting out in front of investors would help to demystify negative and misleading perceptions of Zimbabwe.

For the first time since the Africa Investment Forum began in 2018, three promising business transactions from Zimbabwe made it through to boardroom discussions during the Africa Investment Forum Market Days.

African Development Bank senior officials at the special side event included Director General for the Southern Africa region Leila Mokaddem, Zimbabwe Country Manager Moono Mupotola; and Kevin Urama, Vice President and Acting Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management.

The Africa Investment Forum platform is an initiative of the African Development Bank and seven other development institutions: Africa 50; the Africa Finance Corporation; the African Export-Import Bank; the Development Bank of Southern Africa; the Trade and Development Bank; the European Investment Bank; and the Islamic Development Bank

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Africa-EU Campaign in Lagos: ‘We see Africa from the Lens of Nigeria’ says Amb Isopi

Ambassador Samuela Isopi, had recently flagged off the Africa-EU Campaign in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub and biggest city. Representatives of EU Member States, European businesses (EuroCham Nigeria), Nigeria’s business community, youths, the civil society and other friends of Europe witnessed the lunch. Ms Isopi described the campaign as ambitious, the biggest of its kind undertaken by the EU outside its borders. It aims at celebrating the positive impact of the unique partnership between Africa and the European Union.

The campaign in Nigeria follows the inspiring stories of Ogola Lois Kange and Frederick Dike, who, leveraging the support provided by the EU, have unleased their transformational entrepreneurial skills to become multipliers and impact their communities.

Federick, 32, is a shoe designer and manufacturer based in Aba, Abia State, South-East of Nigeria. For the past 20 years, he and his team have been manually producing about 250 shoes a week. The EU saw what Federick was doing, and provided him with further knowledge and experience in manufacturing shoes, marketing and branding, as well as book-keeping. Together, the EU and Federick are supporting schools and the surrounding community with much needed shoes.  Frederick is already eyeing the larger West African market.

Ogola Lois Kange, better known as Madam Smiley, is a full time entrepreneur focused on processing healthy food by reducing post-harvest losses of tomatoes. She is the founder of Smiley Kitchen, a cottage tomato processing enterprise based in the North-West state of Kaduna. Ogola is actively supporting and empowering female farmers that provide her with the tomato inputs in an inclusive business approach.

Together with the EU, the potential of what her business could do for farmers and for food security was realised. She received a grant to develop food processing in a way that reduces post-harvest losses for tomatoes. Further funding for equipment, office space and rental for a factory was also given to aid in the success of the business. In light of the remarkable growth, continued support in the form of training, trade fairs and other support initiatives has been implemented.

Ogola has additionally trained over 200 women on entrepreneurship, and she has mentored them to go into cottage industry for agricultural products. Fifty of these women are now successfully starting their own businesses and have become independent.

The journeys of these two heroes underscore how the EU-Nigerian partnership is supporting the emergence of multipliers, who are impacting their communities

The journeys of these two heroes underscore how the EU-Nigerian partnership is supporting the emergence of multipliers, who are impacting their communities, inspiring hopes, and shaping the future.

“The partnership is allowing us to see life through a truly African lens. An Africa that is full of ideas. An Africa that is bursting with ambition, and an Africa that is changing the world by impacting creativity, education, tech, agriculture, healthcare, and entrepreneurship and doing it all sustainably. Through the lenses of Nigeria, we see Africa,” Ambassador Isopi said.

Influential music maestro and entrepreneur, Teniola Akpata (aka Teni), and youthful social media brand influencer, Enioluwa Adeoluwa, were unveiled at the event as the faces of the campaign in Nigeria. They will use their massive followership popularity among Nigeria’s vibrant teeming young population to drive the campaign partnership between the EU and the youths.

Whether it is pushing ahead the digital transformation, making farming more efficient and sustainable, building new infrastructure to reinforce connections between people or shaping the collective security of the continent, what is clear, as Ambassador Isopi observed, is that the EU-Africa partnership is expanding opportunities and reinforcing resilience and forging inclusiveness.

“The vibrancy, dynamism, motivation and resilience of Nigeria’s mainly young population reflect the uniqueness of a continent fired up by imaginative ideas and relentless optimism. From the prism of Nigeria, the EU sees Africa. Our long history of interaction and geographical proximity have over the years, inspired us to be creative and ambitious in the way we confront our common problems; preserve our shared values, and work towards our common interest and goals,” Ambassador Isopi said.

The Africa–EU campaign reflects on some of the initiatives that position the two continents as model, reliable, ambitious and dynamic partners. It also highlights the strength of the partnership, which has brought together peoples and institutions of both continents in pursuit of common goals for a better world.

“We will work with national influencers to express our shared values and aspirations; showcase local success stories generated by our partnership; and connect with a new audience of young Africans, leveraging the pop culture,” the Ambassador said of the initiative.

Africa shares a rich history with the EU, its closest neighbour. Collaborating with Africa to find solution to common challenges is, more than ever before, a key priority for the EU. By strengthening their multi-dimensional cooperation and promoting sustainable development, both continents can co-exist in peace, security, democracy, prosperity, solidarity and human dignity. In the face of big challenges such as pandemics, security, finding green and digital solutions, climate change and migration, Africa and the EU have already proven to be more effective working together.

“Our long history of interaction and geographical proximity have over the years, inspired us to be creative and ambitious in the way we confront our common problems; preserve our shared values, and work towards our common interest and goals,” Ambassador Isopi said.

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Reimagine governance of the commons: Women & communities as restoration leaders

Africa is one of the world’s last frontiers of biodiversity – housing roughly one-fifth of the planet’s known species of mammals, birds, and plants. An abundance of life flourishes in diverse ecosystems across the continent. The Congo Basin – the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest and the lungs of Africa – is found in Central Africa. It covers roughly 300 million hectares of land across six countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the DRC, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

Tropical forests are vital carbon sinks – storing more carbon than they release. Not only are they a natural solution to the climate crisis, forests are also home to biodiversity and provide a range of livelihood benefits (e.g. food, fuel, shelter, etc.). And yet, many of our forests are in danger with human activities (e.g. agriculture, logging, oil exploration, etc.) driving deforestation and degradation.

At COP26 in November 2021, world leaders from 141 countries committed to stopping and reversing deforestation and land degradation by 2030. This was done by signing the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. The declaration is testimony to growing international recognition that forests are key to meeting global climate goals and must be at the heart of a just, green recovery from COVID-19.

However, as the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration and recent reports acknowledge, communities’ rights and livelihoods are key to preserving forests and their biodiversity. Among Cameroonian climate activists, there is a growing desire for the rights and voices of women, youth, and communities to be included in the decisions that affect their forests and their future.

Cameroon’s disappearing forests

Cameroon is one of the 32 African countries that signed the declaration at COP26. The dense, majestic forests that stretch across the country are the third-largest in the Congo Basin, following those in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.

Land that used to be forests outside Limbe, Cameroon   © Image taken by ReWild Africa

However, in recent decades, Cameroon has witnessed a devastating surge in forest loss and degradation. Monitoring and data from the Global Forest Watch reveals that the country lost 97% of its humid primary rainforest between 2001 and 2019. Key drivers placing Cameroon’s forest under pressure include climate change, land degradation, migration patterns, commercial land use, and ineffective land and natural resource governance that undermines communities’ power and rights over their land.

Who owns the land?

Land issues in Cameroon remain complex, contested, and rooted in its colonial history. With its legal system based on French civil law, English common law, and customary law, the country is a powerful example of the damaging interplay between the legacies of colonialism, land tenure, and contested land issues. Poor land rights, often referred to as land tenure insecurity, for women and communities is a major challenge across rural Cameroon. Where women do not have full rights to property, Indigenous and rural communities have rights to use forest resources but lack ownership over the land, leaving them at risk of losing their land and livelihoods.

Ewi Stephanie Lamma is photographed outside Limbe, Cameroon on degraded land due to deforestation and conversion of land to palm oil plantations. © Image taken by ReWild Africa
Ewi Stephanie Lamma is photographed outside Limbe, Cameroon on degraded land due to deforestation and conversion of land to palm oil plantations. © Image taken by ReWild Africa

“The lands are bare where there used to be forests. In Cameroon, the government owns all land. Over the years, the land has been taken and given to companies that have big plantations and big ambitions for money. ” -Ewi Stephanie Lamma

As Climate Reality Leader, Ewi Lamma points out in her statement, a major concern is the inconsistencies between Cameroon’s commitments at the international level and what occurs at the local level. Despite being a signatory of  the forest declaration at COP26, Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Wildlife announced a call for tenders in March 2022 – the prize: 5 logging concessions in the Eastern and Central regions of Cameroon, amounting to roughly 400,000 hectares.  On top of violating international commitments, these concessions once again place the profits of big business over protecting biodiverse forests and the local communities who depend on them.

African Voices for Africa’s Forests: Women, communities, and Indigenous knowledge  key to forest restoration

Set in Limbe, Cameroon, African Climate Reality Project’s film African Voices for Africa’s Forests tells the story of Ewi Stephanie Lamma. The 29 year old works with Forests, Resources, and People to encourage local communities, women, and youth to use their voices and participate in decision-making processes to protect and restore their local forests. Through her work, Ewi is reframing how we think about governance of the commons (e.g land, water, soil, etc.) and addressing issues of rights, ownership, and gender norms. Her message is simple – local people must be consulted through free, prior, and informed consent processes before development projects take place.

From left to right: Ewi Stephanie Lamma captured at the front door of her home, women from Livandacongo community, and one of the women from the Bimbia community outside Limbe.  © Images taken by ReWild Africa

“The rural people should be the people we should stand for, should be the people we make policies for. When policies are brought from a bottom-top approach it means we have understood, we know where they’re coming from, and we’re wearing their shoes.” -Ewi Stephanie Lamma

Growing research shows that roughly 80% of the world’s remaining forest biodiversity is found in land managed by Indigenous peoples, demonstrating their importance as custodians of land. Ewi works with the Bimbia community outside Limbe, who have learned to take from nature only what is needed for their livelihoods, allowing for its regeneration and the continued support of life.

Image of Bimbia women harvesting food from within the forest where a small portion has been cleared using agroforestry techniques.  © Image taken by ReWild Africa
Image of Bimbia women harvesting food from within the forest where a small portion has been cleared using agroforestry techniques.  © Image taken by ReWild Africa

“The forest means a lot to [communities]. The forest is a source of income, it’s a source of food. It’s a source of water, the best water. It’s a source of construction materials. When facing land degradation issues, communities play a major role in solving it. Community-based solutions where Africans are solving African problems.” -Ewi Stephanie Lamma

Climate Reality Leader, Sunday Geofrey, also works with women and rural communities to play an active role in the protection of Cameroon’s forests. He is the Central Africa Regional Coordinator for the African Climate Reality Project and founder of Support Humanity Cameroon (SUHUCAM).

Photo taken of Climate Leader, Sunday Geofrey, outside offices of Forest, Resources, and People in Limbe, Cameroon.  © Image taken by ReWild Africa
Photo was taken of Climate Leader, Sunday Geofrey, outside office of Forest, Resources, and People in Limbe, Cameroon.  © Image taken by ReWild Africa

“The role of a climate leader is to inspire local action. Change is on the ground.” -Sunday Geofrey

Over the course of four years, Sunday has activated over 300 volunteers to plant over 10,000 trees in the Bamunkumbit Integrated Community Forest and restored 151 hectares of land in Bamunkumbit community, North West Cameroon. He leads a livelihood project with 30+ Indigenous Mbororo women, restoring degraded ecosystems, farm and pastoral lands,, and establishing food gardens using agroecology principles to enhance food security and alleviate extreme poverty.

Climate leader Sunday Geofrey working with Indigenous Mbororo women to establish food gardens using agroecology principles., producing carrots, cabbage, onions, and more © Image supplied by Sunday Geofrey

“Projects of this nature are welcome because they help to revalorize the women in the Indigenous community, as they will be able to grow food organically and improve the nutrition and income of the family…it has brought these women together to reflect on the common problems they face in the community”.

  • Ardo Aliyou, Head of the Indigenous Mbororo community in Bamumkumbit

 The Way Forward: COP 27 and Beyond

 With less than a month until COP27, political will, adequate financing, and meaningful community involvement remain stumbling blocks to driving the Glasgow declaration forward.

Countries, like Cameroon, that have signed the declaration need to turn their pledges into concrete, transparent, and inclusive action with benefits for people and forests. Together with Climate Leaders Ewi and Sunday, African Climate Reality Project is calling for governments, corporations, and public finance institutions to deliver on the following:

Embed inclusivity into forest governance and decision-making platforms by meaningfully involving and ensuring participation from rural women, youth, traditional leaders, and Indigenous peoples.

Adopt or strengthen land and forest tenure rights for women, communities, and Indigenous peoples. With clear rights and security of tenure, people are more likely to invest in long-term sustainable practices, such as reforestation, agroforestry, or agroecology.

Boost climate finance for forest protection in Africa: The Congo Basin only received 11% of international funding for sustainable forest management between 2008 and 2017. Further financing is needed but must be transparent, directed to community-centered initiatives/institutions, prioritize monitoring and evaluation, and enforce zero-deforestation supply chains (including new logging concessions).

Climate education

Creating spaces for climate education in schools and communities to create awareness about how everyday actions impact forests and how to take action to protect forests and people.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to reframe the concept of development and reimagine how we govern the commons (e.g. forests, land, water, etc.), and more importantly, who is best suited to protect and use these resources sustainably to meet current and future generations needs.

 

Packaged by: Ewi Stephanie Lamma, Amy Giliam Thorp, and Sunday Geoffrey

 

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Agricultural Automation Can Boost Global Food Production- UN Report

A new U.N. report finds agricultural automation can boost global food production and be a boon for small-scale farmers in developing countries.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, has just released The State of Food and Agriculture 2022 report. The report’s authors said automation is rapidly changing the face of agriculture. New technologies, they say, are quickly leaving behind some of the old larger-type tractors and large machinery in ways that could benefit small holders in developing countries.

Parallels can be drawn with the introduction of cell phones. The World Bank, among other observers, notes that African and other developing countries can harness digital technologies to boost their economies by advancing from landlines to smartphones.

FAO said automation can play an important role in making food production more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Chief FAO economist Maximo Torero said many emerging technologies would have been unimaginable years ago. He cited as examples fruit-picking robots that use artificial intelligence and sensors that monitor plants and animals.

“Automation allows agriculture to be more productive, efficient, resilient, and sustainable and can improve working conditions,” Torero said. “However, as with any technological change, automation also implies disruption to the agricultural systems. The risk is that the automation could exacerbate inequalities if we are not careful on how it is being done and developed and deployed.”

FILE - A weeding robot is pictured during a demonstration of new technologies at the Arvalis farm, an applied agricultural research organization, on June 15, 2016, in Saint-Hilaire-en-Woevre, eastern France.
FILE – A weeding robot is pictured during a demonstration of new technologies at the Arvalis farm, an applied agricultural research organization, on June 15, 2016, in Saint-Hilaire-en-Woevre, eastern France.
The report looks at 27 case studies from all over the world. They represent technologies at different stages of readiness suitable for large or small agricultural producers of varying levels of income.

Torero said the report investigates the drivers of these technologies and identifies barriers preventing their adoption, particularly by small-scale producers. The report, he said, also looks at one of the most common concerns about automation — that it creates unemployment.

“While it concludes that such fears are overblown, it acknowledges that agricultural automation can lead to unemployment in places where rural labor is abundant, and wages are low,” he said. “It is important to understand that in a continent like sub-Saharan Africa, where there is an enormous amount of youth population, we can build the skill sets of these people to be able to have access to these technologies.”

In areas where cheap labor is abundant, the FAO urges policymakers to avoid subsidizing automation while creating an enabling environment for its adoption. At the same time, the report said governments should provide social protection to the least skilled workers who are likely to lose their jobs during the transition.

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Algeria hosts first Arab summit since Israel normalization deals

Leaders from the Arab world will meet for the first time since a string of normalization deals with Israel left the already divided region even more fractured.

Since the last Arab League summit in 2019, several members of the 22-member bloc – for decades a forum for strident declarations of support for the Palestinian cause – have normalized ties with the Jewish state.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) went first in a historic U.S.-mediated deal that made the country the third Arab state, after Egypt and Jordan, to establish full ties with Israel.

The UAE’s move sparked similar accords with Bahrain and Morocco – and a provisional agreement with Sudan – deepening Morocco’s decades-old rivalry with its neighbor Algeria.

The host of the summit on Tuesday and Wednesday remains a steadfast supporter of the Palestinians, even mediating a reconciliation deal in October between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

While few believe that deal will last, it was seen as a public relations coup for Algeria, which has been seeking more regional clout on the back of its growing status as a gas exporter.

This week’s summit will be another opportunity for President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to do just that.

He has rolled out the red carpet for his guests, whom he will host for a sumptuous opening dinner on Tuesday at 6:00 pm (5 p.m. GMT).

Charm offensive

The main roads of Algiers have been decked out with Arab flags and huge billboards welcoming “brother Arabs”.

“Algerian foreign policy has gone on the offensive on the regional, African and Arab levels,” said Geneva-based expert Hasni Abidi.

But Algeria has also been unnerved by Morocco’s security and defense cooperation with Israel, adding to decades of mistrust fuelled by a dispute over Western Sahara.

The status of Western Sahara – a former Spanish colony considered a “non-self-governing territory” by the United Nations – has pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front since the 1970s.

In August 2021, Algiers cut diplomatic ties with Rabat alleging “hostile acts”.

Participants in the summit face the challenge of formulating a final resolution, which has to be passed unanimously.

With conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen also on the agenda, sources say foreign ministers are trying to reach a consensus on the wording around Turkish and Iranian “interference” in the region — and whether to mention Ankara and Tehran by name or not.

“The paradox of this summit is that it’s being billed as a unifying event, whereas each Arab state actually has its own agenda and goals fitting its interests,” Abidi said.

“So ultimately the Arab League is the perfect mirror of Arab foreign policy.”

That point is underlined by the absence of several key figures, notably Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, reported to have an ear infection, and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.

The leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will also stay away, according to Arab media.

“The Arab states which have normalized with Israel are not enthusiastic about the idea of a coming together to condemn their position,” said Abidi.

“Tebboune’s move to put the Palestinian issue front and center hasn’t reassured them”, he said.

Syria’s membership

Another source of controversy has been Algeria’s efforts to bring Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime back into the Arab League, a decade after its membership was suspended amid a brutal crackdown on 2011 Arab Spring-inspired protests.

Abidi said inviting Syria to the summit would have been “highly risky”.

“Algeria realized the consequences of such a presence on the summit. Together with Damascus, it has given up on its initiative,” he said.

Pierre Boussel of France’s Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) said Syria’s return to the League is backed by Russia, an ally of both Algiers and Damascus.

But, he said, “Russia has decided not to try to force this through in a way that would have affected its relations with Arab countries already badly scalded by the economic impact of the Ukrainian conflict”.

Commodity importers, notably Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan, have been hit especially hard by soaring prices, even as energy-producing Arab states have seen their coffers swell.

Boussel said the “shockwave” of the Ukraine war, which has disrupted key grain imports for the region from the Black Sea, was being felt in Algiers.

“Given the scarcity of cereals, soaring inflation and concerns about new energy routes, the Arab League needs to show it is capable of cohesion and inter-state solidarity, which it has lacked since the beginning of the crisis,” he said.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit called Friday for an “integrated Arab vision” to tackle the pressing food security challenges.

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Global events may affect Egypt’s wheat supply temporarily- Minister

Global events may temporarily affect Egypt’s wheat supply but the country can adjust to them, Egypt’s supply minister Ali Moselhy told Reuters on Tuesday when asked whether Russia’s decision to freeze its participation in a U.N.-brokered grain export deal would affect its supply.

The global supply of wheat available is sufficient to meet the world’s needs, Moselhy added.

Egypt, one of the world’s largest wheat importers, has not issued international purchasing tenders since mid-July, opting to buy directly from trading houses instead. Wheat prices have skyrocketed amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, two countries from which Egypt used to buy the majority of its wheat.

Moscow said on Saturday it was suspending its participation in a U.N.-brokered grain export deal after an attack on its Black Sea fleet. Ukraine has neither confirmed nor denied whether it was behind that attack.

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Survey: China seen as the last hope and positive force for Africans

A new global public opinion survey of people in 25 countries has revealed steep declines in support for China, although Beijing still is seen favorably by many in Africa, where it is vying for influence with Washington.

The survey by the Britain-based YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project was carried out between August and September this year, polling about 1,000 people in each country, including in three large African states: Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. The survey asked people about their opinions on China, the United States, and Taiwan.

The data showed that in the West, support for China has dropped considerably in the past four years. One reason for that could be the pandemic. When respondents were asked about where it originated, most people placed the blame for the outbreak of COVID-19 squarely on China.

More people in Africa believe China is a positive influence on the world compared with many Western countries, according to a survey by the Britain-based YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project.
More people in Africa believe China is a positive influence on the world compared with many Western countries, according to a survey by the Britain-based YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project.

Asked if China had a “generally positive or negative effect on world affairs” only 17% of respondents in France said it was positive, down from 36% in the first survey in 2019. In Germany, that figure was even lower, at 13%, down from 30% four years ago.

Many other Western countries mirrored this trend, but the story is slightly different in Africa, where China is the continent’s largest trading partner. Although its ranking also dropped slightly over the four-year period in Nigeria and South Africa, across the continent, China was still widely seen as a force for good.

In South Africa 61% of respondents saw China’s influence in the world as positive, in Kenya the support for China was higher at 82% and, in Nigeria, it was highest out of the three, standing at 83%.

Still, despite Beijing’s no-strings loans and large infrastructure projects as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, African support for the U.S. remained slightly higher.

In South Africa, 69% of people interviewed saw the U.S. as a generally positive force, and in both Kenya and Nigeria that number was at 88%.

Preferred superpower

On a separate question about which country, China or the U.S., respondents would prefer to have as the global superpower, 20 of the 25 countries polled chose the U.S., including all four African nations by a huge margin.

Seventy-seven percent of Nigerians chose the U.S. as the preferred superpower, as did 80% of Kenyans, and to a lesser extent 59% of South Africans.

“Results from the African countries in this study stand out for how they reflect such positive views toward both America and China as actors on the world stage,” Joel Rogers de Waal, academic director at YouGov, told VOA.

“At the same time, however, they show an obvious preference for having America, rather than China, as the reigning superpower, which perhaps raises some interesting questions about the progress of Chinese soft power in these parts of Africa.”

On other, more specific questions, the U.S. fared less favorably. For example, asked which country had engaged in “bullying” behavior globally, Washington trumped Beijing in all three African nations.

Likewise on the question of which country has “given military support to one side or another in a foreign civil war, in ways that do more harm than good to the people of that country.” Africans blamed the U.S. for this more than China. And in terms of being suspected of interference in other countries’ national elections, the U.S. again fared worse than China.

And although Washington increasingly warns Africa and the world of the threat of Chinese spying and surveillance, respondents in both South Africa and Nigeria placed more blame for international cyberattacks on the U.S.

Question of Taiwan

While China was more popular among African and many other global South countries surveyed than it was in the West, that support was not unconditional.

The survey was conducted around the time Taiwan was in the news amid the controversial visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the contested island. Since then, Washington has warned that China could move to annex Taiwan sooner than expected.

In Beijing, at the Chinese Communist Party’s congress, President Xi Jinping said he reserved the option of taking “all measures necessary” on the issue of Taiwan.

While the vast majority of African governments do not have diplomatic relations with Taipei and back Beijing—which regards the self-governing island as part of greater China—the survey indicates ordinary Africans differ with their political leaders on the issue.

“If China used force against Taiwan … do you think other countries should provide help?” the poll asked. Some 60% of Nigerians thought help should be provided to Taiwan, while 63% of Kenyans agreed, as did 47% of South Africans.

Those numbers were higher even than in some Western countries, with only 38% of French people surveyed saying help should be provided to Taiwan, and just 52% of respondents in the U.S. agreeing.

The data indicates that global politics are not as binary as some believe, with ordinary people in Africa able to see China as a generally positive force in the world, while also expressing concerns about some of its policies. as well as support for the defense of Taiwan.

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Malawians Protest Over High Cost of Living, Alleged Corruption

In Malawi, protesters and opposition supporters chanted and marched Thursday in the commercial capital, Blantyre, to protest the high cost of living and alleged corruption.

The demonstrators presented a petition to the office of President Lazarus Chakwera.

Joshua Chisa Mbele, leader of Action Against Impunity, a network of civil rights organizations behind the protest, accused the government of mishandling money Malawi received to fight COVID-19, among other alleged transgressions.

Social media influencer Joshua Chisa Mbele leads the protests in Blantyre, Malawi. (Lameck Masina/VOA)
Social media influencer Joshua Chisa Mbele leads the protests in Blantyre, Malawi. (Lameck Masina/VOA)
“We are tired of a government that is stealing day and night,” he said. “We have lost so many resources for the past two years. We lost the COVID money and we cannot take it anymore. We are saying that they should leave the office and go home.”

Mbele also said Chakwera has failed to fulfill promises he made during his campaign two years ago, when he vowed to ensure food security to all Malawians and create one million jobs in the country once he was in power.

There was no immediate comment from the government on the concerns raised by the protesters.

Earlier this week, Chakwera fired Minister of Agriculture Robin Lowe and his deputy Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima over what the president called “incompetence and gross negligence.”

The president blamed the two for facilitating a fertilizer procurement deal that saw Malawi’s government lose about $725,000 to a British company that failed to supply the commodity.

The issue was among those listed as grounds for Thursday’s demonstration. Malawi’s opposition parties supported the protest, saying it was justified.

Protester Rebecca Mwale said the situation in the country was growing worse, with food prices unreasonably high and medicines in short supply.

Mbele said he hopes Chakwera responds to the concerns once he sees the protesters’ petition, which was presented to his office.

“In the petition, we are saying that we want to see action. We have heard enough, we have spoken enough, and we want to see action. We want Chakwera to show leadership. We want him to take action so that we preserve what is remaining as people’s assets,” Mbele said.

Similar protests are expected Friday in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, where protesters plan to march to the state house to present a petition directly to Chakwera.

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