After three years of closed borders under its strict “zero-COVID” policy, China reopened its doors to allow international travelers in — and Chinese with cabin fever out — a move with economic implications around the world, including in Africa.
On the continent, which counts China as its largest trade partner, African importers who sell cheap Chinese-made goods said they were itching to return to China to stock up while many African countries are also hoping to attract Chinese tourists.
While fears about the spread of COVID-19 caused some countries in Asia, Europe and North America to implement negative testing requirements for Chinese travelers, drawing the ire of Beijing, countries like Kenya and South Africa said they would not be implementing any travel restrictions for travelers from China.
African businesses eye China’s reopening
Markets and stocks around the world shot up with China’s reopening, and African businesses are also hoping to cash in on the world’s second-largest economy.
“We are open to going there now and we are looking forward to do that to make sure that we get our businesses back on track,” Samuel Karanja, the CEO of the Importers and Small Traders Association of Kenya, told VOA, adding that the pandemic years have been a “roller coaster” for traders.
“For the past three years, it has been a very difficult moment for those traders because they lost touch with their suppliers. Ideally, the traders could go to China, meet their suppliers or manufacturers, go with samples of the goods that they need to be produced for them, some of them could wait for even weeks to be able to see that the production is completed, and the goods are loaded in containers and they’re coming back to Kenya,” he said.
Karanja said that was how business was done before the pandemic where Kenyan small and medium enterprise owners would travel to Chinese cities including Guangzhou, where they bulk purchased everything from electronics and motorbike spare parts to kitchenware and school stationery. After China implemented its zero-COVID policy, however, the Kenyan businesses had to make purchases remotely, often with the help of unscrupulous middlemen who ripped them off.
Denis Juru, president of the International Cross-Border Traders Association in South Africa, echoed this, telling VOA that China’s reopening has lots of advantages for his organization’s members.
“The opening of Chinese borders will boost the African economy as Chinese products are cheap. African traders new to the business will be able to go and make their choices physically. New companies in China will take this opportunity to convince traders from Africa by reducing prices,” he said.
He noted that traveling to China is expensive but said while staying in-country and shopping online is easier and more economical “some companies in China sell the wrong products online. Therefore, the process of exchange inconveniences African businesses.”
Optimism with caution
As for large corporations that do business with China, Christo van der Rheede, CEO of Agri SA, South Africa’s biggest agricultural organization, was more circumspect about the pros and cons of China’s reopening.
“It remains to be seen how this is going to impact on South Africa. Remember, South Africa’s a big exporter of particular commodities, for example, coal, iron ore, as well as other agricultural commodities to China. Hopefully, this will increase the demand for South African commodities,” he said.
He also noted South Africa needs to weigh the economic benefits with caution around the spread of COVID-19.
“I think economically wise, we’ve seen how the clampdown, the zero(-COVID) policy, has impacted on the logistics, especially import and export logistics, and how that has driven up the cost of shipping throughout the world,” he said. “So hopefully we’ll be able to manage it in a way that will boost our economy and our exports to China, but at the same time we need to manage any outbreak in South Africa very carefully.”
Attracting Chinese visitors
So, what about travel from the other direction: Chinese coming to the continent either for business, to work on Belt and Road infrastructure projects or for tourism?
As soon as the country opened, Beijing was quick to send new Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on his first official visit to the continent on a five-country tour.
In a speech on his first stop in Ethiopia, Qin reassured Africa that China plans to strengthen trade ties and accelerate in-person exchanges.
“First, let us intensify our in-person interactions and connectivity of ideas. The pandemic will be over, and we can see [the] light of hope ahead. … We will expand exchange and cooperation with Africa in various fields and at all levels, including between the governments, legislatures, political parties, militaries and localities,” Qin said. “African political leaders, AU Commission officials at various levels and Africans in the political, business and academic circles are most welcome to visit in due course.”
“We will encourage Chinese companies and people to come to Africa for investment and tourism. We will provide more facilitation to restore two-way personnel exchanges at a faster pace,” he added.
In terms of Chinese visitors to South Africa, however, Rosemary Anderson, national chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa, told VOA the current system leaves much to be desired.
“The Chinese traveler to South Africa has to present themselves in person at an embassy or visa office in China and wait up to months for a visa to be supplied,” she said, noting South Africa only attracted about 93,000 visitors before the pandemic in 2019, out of some 155 million Chinese who traveled abroad.
However, she noted that it was encouraging that Air China has recently started a direct flight between Beijing and Johannesburg.
Anderson said South Africa should do more to attract Chinese travelers, including public and private sector marketing initiatives aimed specifically at the Chinese market, ensuring destination and product information is available on Chinese search engines, and marketing on Chinese social media channels like Weibo and WeChat.
As China reopens to the world, “showing that you are Chinese friendly by, for example, offering payment platforms like WeChat Pay and Alipay, keeping in mind Chinese holiday dates, learning a few key phrases in Mandarin and training tourist guides to speak Mandarin,” would all be useful, she said.
Armed with a flask of coffee, some boiled eggs, and a towel to shield his bare legs from the scorching sun, 90-year-old Frans Hugo sets off every Thursday to deliver newspapers in the South African desert.
Week in, week out, the elderly editor has made the 1,200-kilometer round trip across the semi-arid Karoo region in the country’s south.
He has been doing it for some four decades.
Born Charl Francois Hugo in Cape Town in 1932 — but known to everyone simply as Frans — he is arguably the last bastion of a dying business.
The energetic nonagenarian edits and hand-delivers three local papers — The Messenger, Die Noordwester and Die Oewernuus.
Driving an orange Fiat Multipla stacked with copies of the eight-page weeklies and with an old portable radio to keep him company, Hugo brings news to the towns and villages dotting this vast, parched back country.
1,200 km every week
Hugo leaves at 1:30 a.m. from Calvinia, a small town of fewer than 3,000 souls about 500 kilometers north of Africa’s southernmost tip, and he comes back in the early evening.
“I am like a pompdonkie,” he told AFP on a recent tour, using the local moniker for the nodding donkey pumps used to extract groundwater from boreholes.
“I keep doing this every Thursday without fail. I will probably stop when I am physically not capable of doing it anymore.”
Hugo worked as a journalist in Cape Town and then in Namibia for almost 30 years before retiring to this remote region.
“I couldn’t handle the pressure anymore, so I moved to the Karoo,” he said.
“Just as I was able to take a breath and relax, the man who owned the printers and the newspaper here in Calvinia came to ask me if I was interested in the business.”
His daughter and her husband got involved but tired and quit after a few months. “I’ve been sitting with this thing ever since,” he quipped.
Cellphones and printers
Helped by his wife and three assistants, Hugo has kept alive some historic small-town titles at a time where many printed newspapers around the world are struggling to survive the digital age.
The Messenger, previously known as the Victoria West Messenger, was founded in 1875, while Die Noordwester and Die Oewernuus started printing in the 1900s.
All three are written in Afrikaans, a language descended from Dutch settlers and one of South Africa’s 11 official tongues, but they sometimes carry stories in English.
Hugo scoffs at people wanting “to read the news on their cellphones.”
The office is adorned by an old Heidelberg printing press and paper cutting machines. Staff use computers and software from the early 1990s.
Still, Hugo’s team prints about 1,300 copies a week, something he says shows an undying appetite for community news.
The papers sell for eight rand (about 50 U.S. cents) and are dropped off at shops, convenience stores and the correspondents’ homes.
The readers are mainly farmers, living in a remote, semi-arid landscape.
Writing in Afrikaans, which actor Charlize Theron recently controversially said was still spoken only by “about 44 people,” keeps the language alive and ties together small communities separated by hundreds of kilometers of desert, according to Hugo.
As long as he’s around and has the required strength, they will receive their paper every Thursday.
What will happen later does not concern him, he said.
“I don’t have a clue what will happen … in five years or 10 years,” he said. “I am not worried.”
Pele, who is the only player in history to win three World Cups, passed away at the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo following a battle with cancer; he became an icon of the game after winning the World Cup in 1958 as a 17-year-old, netting twice in the final to defeat hosts Sweden
Brazil football legend Pele, one of the greatest players of all time, has died at the age of 82.
The former striker, who is the only player in history to win three World Cups, passed away at the Albert Einstein hospital in Sao Paulo following a battle with cancer.
Pele, who is Brazil’s joint all-time top scorer with 77 goals in 92 matches, became an icon of the game after winning the World Cup in 1958 as a 17-year-old, netting twice in the final to defeat hosts Sweden.
A message from Pele’s official Twitter account on Thursday read: “Inspiration and love marked the journey of King Pelé, who peacefully passed away today. Love, love and love, forever.”
Pele’s daughter, Kely Nascimento, who has provided updates on her father’s health from hospital, wrote on Instagram: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”
Pele, born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, to a poor family in Sao Paulo, won the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups with Brazil.
Injury restricted his contribution to Brazil’s triumph in 1962 in Chile but he was player of the tournament eight years later, as Brazil assembled one of the greatest sides of all time and lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in Mexico thanks to a 4-1 win over Italy in which Pele scored the opening goal.
That goal makes him one of only five players to have scored in two World Cup finals and, thanks to his exploits in 1958, he remains the youngest player to have netted a goal at the tournament.
In total, Pele scored 12 goals in 14 World Cup appearances and also provided 10 assists – the most by any player in the history of the competition, and a reminder that he was much more than a goalscorer.`
It was his spectacular scoring feats, though, that made him a Santos legend at club level.
Pele holds his hometown side’s all-time goal record and helped them to two Copa Libertadores titles and six Brazilian league crowns during a glittering 18-year spell with the club.
Pele, who scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games for club and country during his career, ended his playing days at New York Cosmos and retired from football in 1977.
After retiring, Pele acted as an ambassador for football. In 2013, he was awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur in recognition of his career and achievements. In 2020, he was named in the Ballon d’Or Dream Team, a greatest of all-time XI.
Three days of mourning for Pele have been declared by the Brazilian government.
Neymar, Brazil’s joint-highest scorer in men’s international football alongside Pele, shared an emotional tribute to his idol following his passing.
“‘Before Pelé, 10, was just a number’,” Neymar, who wears the No 10 for Brazil and also started his career with Santos, wrote in a post on Instagram.
“I’ve read this phrase somewhere, at some point in my life. But this sentence, beautiful, is incomplete.
“I would say before Pelé football was just a sport. Pelé has changed it all. He turned football into art, into entertainment.
“He gave voice to the poor, to black people and especially: he gave visibility to Brazil. Soccer and Brazil have raised their status thanks to the King! He’s gone but his magic remains. Pelé is forever.”
Sky Sports football commentator Martin Tyler says Pele deserves to be remembered as the best player to have played the game.
He said: “For me he is the greatest player of all time. One of my early jobs outside of television was to put the English voice on a VHS, as it was in those days, of his Brazil career and his 1,000 goals.
“If I had any doubts about how good he was, that video proved it. It was a privilege to do that and pay tribute to a man who could do so much more than score goals.
“He will always be remembered for the ability to score amazing goals in terrible conditions on bumpy pitches, when players had more license to use all means to stop him. He was irresistible.
“Undoubtedly for me, he will always be the greatest and in the football world he is immortal.”
From Austria to Vietnam, 32 destinations from all around the world have been named as ‘Best Tourism Villages 2022’ by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The accolade recognizes rural destinations that are embracing tourism as a driver of development and new opportunities for jobs and income while preserving and promoting community-based values and products. The initiative also recognizes villages for their commitment to innovation and sustainability in all its aspects – economic, social, and environmental – and a focus on developing tourism in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In 2022, a total of 32 villages from 18 countries across the five world regions were awarded the recognition. The villages were evaluated by an independent Advisory Board based on a set of criteria covering nine areas:
Welcoming the news, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “For rural communities everywhere, tourism can be a true game-changer in providing jobs, supporting local businesses, and keeping traditions alive. The Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO showcase the power of the sector to drive economic diversification and create opportunities for all outside of big cities.”
A total of 136 villages were put forward for consideration by 57 UNWTO Member States (each Member State could nominate a maximum of three villages) for the 2022 edition. From these, 32 were recognized as Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO.
A further 20 villages will enter the Upgrade Programme. All 52 villages will also become part of the UNWTO Best Tourism Villages Global Network created in 2021 which from this date gathers 115 villages from the five continents. The Network provides a number of benefits including onsite and online training, sharing of good practices, and international brand recognition and awareness.
The Programme promotes multi-level governance and partnerships and the active involvement and empowerment of communities
Tourism as a driver of rural development and inclusion
The Best Tourism Villages initiative is the flagship project of the UNWTO Tourism for Rural Development Programme. The Programme aims to ensure tourism contributes to reducing regional inequalities in income and development, fighting depopulation, progressing gender equality and women’s and youth empowerment, advancing innovation and digitalization, improving connectivity, infrastructure, access to finance and investment, innovating in product development and value chain integration, promoting sustainable practices for more efficient use of resources and a reduction of emissions and waste and enhancing education and skills. The Programme promotes multi-level governance and partnerships and the active involvement and empowerment of communities.
Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO
The Best Tourism Villages initiative includes three pillars:
The Award Ceremony will take place in AlUla, Saudi Arabia on 27-28 February 2023 back-to-back with the first presential meeting of the UNWTO Network of Best Tourism Villages.
The next edition of the Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO will open in February 2023.
List of Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO 2022:
Additionally, UNWTO will work with the following villages participating in the Upgrade Programme:
Applications in 2021 and 2022 were evaluated by an independent Advisory Board. The composition of this multidisciplinary board for 2021-2022 is as follows:
During the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, USAID Administrator Samantha Power and other senior Agency representatives reinforced the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to revitalizing global partnerships and alliances across the African continent. Through a number of new initiatives, events, and bilateral meetings, Administrator Power showcased how the United States is collaborating with Africa on the most pressing global challenges and opportunities, including catalyzing private sector partnerships, improving food security, supporting emerging democracies, and responding to the climate crisis.
Promoting an inclusive partnership between civil society and governments
On December 13, Administrator Power hosted the opening session, “Inclusive Partnerships to Advance Agenda 2063,” of the Civil Society Forum at the United States Institute for Peace. She opened the forum with remarks that emphasized the importance of partnerships between civil society and government, urging the audience to embrace ideas from all corners and be open to the views of those outside government. The forum brought together civil society representatives, African heads of delegation and other government officials, and senior U.S. government officials for an exchange of ideas on promoting anti-corruption reforms, protecting workers’ rights, and ensuring that marginalized voices are represented in public life.
Investing in Africa’s health workforce and building more resilient health systems
This week, USAID announced several new partnerships and initiatives to continue to build more resilient health systems across Africa. USAID outlined the Biden-Harris Administration’s plans to reduce inequities in access to health services through strategic and coordinated investments in the health workforce, especially to close the workforce gap in Africa. Recognizing that primary healthcare-oriented health systems, anchored by a strengthened primary health workforce deliver markedly better results, from lower mortality to improved equity, and increased cost efficiency, USAID announced the initial five partner countries – Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria – for its new Accelerating Primary Health Care Collaborative. The Collaborative will harness the USAID and PMI health footprints in these five countries to reclaim lost ground on global health and foster resilience and preparedness against future threats.
During the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, USAID and the Development Finance Corporation jointly announced the new Transform Health Fund, for which USAID will provide $1 million in catalytic grant funding. The Fund supports locally-led supply chain transformation, innovative care delivery, and digital solutions to secure Africa’s healthcare future, and has now reached total approved commitments of $50 million. These are just a few of the ways USAID will deliver with impact on the continent, along with our additional investments for COVID-19 relief, global health security, and health facility electrification.
Improving lives and promoting peace through democratic reforms and the rule of law
On December 13, Administrator Power attended the Peace, Security, and Governance Forum to discuss the importance of the rule of law, democratic reforms, and the corrosive impacts of unrestrained use of force. She urged attention to supporting issues such as improving livelihoods and economic opportunities, climate-resilient agriculture, and the provision of basic services as integral parts of stabilization.
President Biden announced plans to provide $2 billion in life-saving assistance, through USAID, to support crisis-affected people in Africa
Supporting Africa’s young leaders
On December 13, Vice President Harris announced plans to work with Congress to fund a U.S. government investment of more than $100 million in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). As part of this expansion and in collaboration with partners, USAID will create the Young African Leaders Exchange, the first pan-African virtual platform that will enable the Diaspora and other key stakeholders to connect directly with nearly 28,000 YALI alumni from 49 sub-Saharan countries. The Exchange will promote networking, strengthen the role of mentors and coaches, showcase initiatives, enhance women and marginalized youth’s leadership, and support young African leaders to access grant or internship opportunities.
Tackling the climate crisis and harnessing the opportunity to generate jobs, grow clean energy economies, and build resilient communities
On December 13, Administrator Power spoke at the Supporting Conservation, Climate Adaptation, and a Just Energy Transition Session, where she highlighted U.S. and African partnerships addressing conservation and highlighted the need for African countries to both benefit from, and preserve, natural resources. She lifted up USAID’s work with partners throughout Africa to protect the continent’s forests from illegal logging, and other bad practices such as unplanned agricultural expansion, so communities can sustainably use their forests for their livelihoods for generations to come.
On December 14, USAID announced a Global Development Alliance – one of the largest in USAID history. The Health Electrification and Telecommunication Alliance is a five-year cooperative agreement that will invest USAID resources to leverage more than $150 million of additional private sector resources to install reliable, renewable power and provide mobile network and Internet access for at least 10,000 health facilities across sub-Saharan Africa. The announcement follows USAID Power Africa’s call for new business approaches based on the latest clean energy technology.
USAID also announced a new Prosper Africa partnership with ThirdWay Partners and The Nature Conservancy to protect African landscapes and bolster the tourism sector. With $2.5 million in catalytic funding from USAID, ThirdWay, and the Nature Conservancy will unlock a $75 million Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund to assist safari tour operators across Africa. This will benefit 44,000 community members and generate $40 million in annual revenue for conservation landscape owners, managers, and communities. With a protected area larger than the U.S. state of California, the fund will cover parts of Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to communities in need
President Biden announced plans to provide $2 billion in life-saving assistance, through USAID, to support crisis-affected people in Africa. Humanitarian crises, from catastrophic drought to torrential flooding, continue to affect countries across the continent. This urgently needed humanitarian assistance includes emergency food, shelter, critical healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene support, gender-based violence survivor services and other protection support, and critical nutrition services. It will help the people of African nations hardest hit by disasters recover and withstand future crises, as well as mitigate the impacts of the historic levels of growing food insecurity and malnutrition.
The United States, through USAID, also provided an additional $2.5 million in humanitarian assistance in response to persistent needs following unprecedented flooding in Chad. This life-saving relief is critical as some communities remain without access to food assistance, health care, shelter, and safe water sources.
Addressing the global food security crisis
On December 14, USAID announced through the Prosper Africa Initiative a new partnership to increase the supply and quality of maize on the African continent, initially in Zambia. The partnership is possible thanks to support from agribusiness and energy firm AfricaGlobal Schaffer, infrastructure firm Bechtel’s social impact company bechtel .or, and South Africa-based firm Export Trading Group and its social impact arm, Empowering Farmers Foundation. In response to the global food security crisis, USAID is leveraging U.S. taxpayer funds by collaborating with businesses motivated to improve market systems. USAID’s investment through the TradeBoost program is also making this new partnership possible. USAID’s funds will be matched 1:1 by the private sector partners to magnify their potential to improve food security and increase shared prosperity.
The Africa Climate Change Fund (ACCF) Secretariat has launched a scheme to support mechanisms for climate adaptation finance for women entrepreneurs and youth.
The scheme, “YouthADAPT: Empowering Women and Youth for Entrepreneurship and Job Creation in Climate Adaptation and Resilience,” will develop innovative, transformative climate-resilient bankable projects aligned with African countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions.
YouthADAPT is a flagship program under the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP), which is unlocking the untapped potential of youth in Africa to drive resilience and green enterprise.
The virtual launch followed the approval of a $1 million grant funding by the ACCF’s development partners for the project. The event rallied together stakeholders, including the project team, quality control, adaptation, gender, and communication experts, and climate change and green growth experts to share experiences.
African youth are leading the way, not in talk, but in concrete climate action; as agents of change, innovators, and entrepreneurs
ACCF Coordinator Rita Effah, and the Portfolio Officer, Lucy Debrion, explained the Fund’s operational guidelines on Bank-implemented projects.
AAAP Coordinator and Principal Climate Change Officer Edith Ofwona Adera said, “African youth are leading the way, not in talk, but in concrete climate action; as agents of change, innovators, and entrepreneurs.”
She said the scheme would support women-led local enterprises promoting adaptation solutions to create additional jobs.
Adera thanked the ACCF for collaborating on the projects. Adera also commended the Fund for its role in facilitating the production of proposals. “That makes our work easier,” she added.
Following the launch, the AAAP secretariat will regularly engage with the ACCF Secretariat on significant project milestones to ensure that the objective is fully accomplished.
Since 2017, the ACCF Governing Committees have approved 26 projects estimated at $15.87 million.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I come from a large family and we’re quite close. My inspiration is my mother—she was the best administrator that I know to date. She passed away some 8 years ago but till now, she guides everything I do in my life through the values and principles she passed down to us. I owe her everything.
Could you explain what your job is and what is the impact you have on the ground?
As an Administrative Officer for the UNMISS Field Office in Western Bahr El Ghazal, I get to work a lot on the logistics and operational side of ensuring that our peacekeepers are fully on track to help build community confidence. I build relationships with a lot of in-mission interlocuters and I also help ensure staff welfare. It’s very interesting because I get to understand the nuts and bolts of what the world’s largest UN Peacekeeping mission does. The core of my job is people management and I think that’s where my biggest impact has been.
What do you like most about being a UN Volunteer?
The spirit of volunteerism is genuinely something I empathise with. There is no greater entry point into the United Nations system than a UN Volunteer – it enables you to contribute to a cause larger than yourself. It’s very gratifying and rewarding.
What one thing you have learnt since starting your mission?
I think the biggest lesson for me has been working and being productive in a multicultural environment. You will never find a place like the United Nations because the name reflects its character. This is a place that unites people to serve for peace and human rights. You get to meet different people every day. I have learnt a lot from colleagues across the world and made lifelong friends.
Do you have a message to other people who want to follow your career path?
Do it. Take the plunge. Pack your bag and accept the challenge. My family members were worried that I was heading to a duty station that is totally unfamiliar to me, but this was an opportunity to meet new people. It is a beautiful experience and exposes you to many possibilities where you can do anything, be anything.
Any message for the people of South Sudan?
To the people of South Sudan—I have come to learn about the history and the culture of this young nation. Building peace is hard, but things will get better and South Sudan will prosper; keep believing and you will get there. South Sudan is each one of you and you have a common responsibility to build durable peace for your children. Struggles are always part of the road to success and South Sudan shall prevail.
It’s eye-opening to consider that more than half (http://bit.ly/3tJNDfO) of the world’s best solar resources are in the Middle East and Africa (MEA). When you combine this vast untapped potential with a rapidly evolving renewable energy landscape, formidable people power from a growing youth population, and a thriving entrepreneurial scene, it’s clear that MEA has an increasingly important role to play in innovating towards a way out of the climate crisis.
There is a rousing incentive to act with urgency. Though MEA may have the lowest contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in the world, it’s the most vulnerable region to the effects of climate change, especially Africa. Home to many of the planet’s key suppliers of fossil fuels, the region is also pivotal in enabling the shift toward new sources of energy. Already, there is a huge focus from governments to invest in sustainability, and investment in clean energy from the UAE alone totals $40 billion (http://bit.ly/3Fgb7Q4).
But much work is still be done at a far greater scale and that work is dependent on three things: people, money and digital technology, and data.
It’s the cost-efficient and highly scalable nature of the cloud, for example, that enables energy startup, M-KOPA Solar, to manage the energy systems of half a million homes in East Africa, bringing affordable clean energy to around 2 million people.
Technology is paramount, not only to the shift towards renewable energy but to all aspects of climate adaptation. ”The climate crisis is taking a significant toll on the Middle East and Africa. But we live in a new technological era with the potential to power dramatic transformation across every sector of society. Digital solutions offer a way to progress towards a greener and ultimately more prosperous future. Together, we find ourselves at a historic intersection of tremendous opportunity,” says Sherif Tawfik, Chief Sustainability Officer, Microsoft Middle East, and Africa.
The exponential rate of technology adoption in the region will help drive this opportunity. Almost half of the business leaders say more than 50 percent of their assets are in the cloud, meaning powerful foundations are already in place to create solutions to MEA’s greatest climate change challenges.
The agriculture industry, for example, sustains 70 percent (http://bit.ly/3AWiolE) of livelihood in Africa but also accounts for almost 90 percent (http://bit.ly/3EPkhls) of all freshwater withdrawals. To conserve water while still preserving crop yields, farmers need to know exactly where and when to water fields and how much water they should use. Innovative tech solutions are needed to provide smallholder farms – particularly those in rural areas – with accurate data.
With Egypt as host of this year’s conference, the Egyptian government has been given a unique platform to voice the climate adaptation needs of countries in Africa and the broader
The Kenyan National Agriculture Platform is working with Microsoft to drive the digitalization of agriculture through an app called AgBot (http://bit.ly/3GWXDdk). The AgBot is a one-stop shop for half a million farmers where they can access services and information to increase their productivity. Further work is now being done on the app to incorporate data analysis for more informed decision-making.
Further north in the UAE, multinational corporations like Etihad Airways (http://bit.ly/3ONn2Ii) are using advanced analytics and AI to measure and benchmark their environmental footprints. The ability of businesses to measure their carbon emissions is essential to carbon reduction, but accuracy is extremely challenging because of large volumes of data that typically sits in silos. But the cloud helps by digitalizing processes to break down data silos and centralize data for better reporting, ultimately enabling companies like Etihad to implement carbon efficiency savings across their operations. The use of technology to help businesses report, record and reduce their environmental impact is essential as it’s big business that will ultimately tip the scales towards a net-zero future.
Implementing innovation at a greater scale
It’s clear enterprising organizations in MEA are already using technology for climate adaptation in exciting and impactful ways. But greater collaboration is needed to replicate these kinds of successes at scale. COP27 provides an opportunity for world leaders to come together and make it happen.
“With Egypt as host of this year’s conference, the Egyptian government has been given a unique platform to voice the climate adaptation needs of countries in Africa and the broader region,” comments Mirna Arif, Microsoft Egypt General Manager. “As a country and as a continent, it’s time be ambitious in our vision, not only of how we want to progress on our own sustainability journey, but also how we will contribute to the global fight against climate change.”
During the summit, we can expect to see bold initiatives and announcements from both the public and private sector as we strive to move beyond pledges to progress. For our own part, Microsoft will focus on both the technology and skills needed to drive broad-scale impact. This includes general access to quality local data, strategic collaborations with the public sector around the deployment of key sustainability solutions, and the development of critical skillsets needed to promote a green economy. At the beginning of November, we published our Sustainability Skills Gap report (http://bit.ly/3XIKTgv) highlighting the necessary skills needed to move beyond pledges to progress. It is now more important than ever that sustainability is considered at every level of our society and economy, and in order to do this, we will need the workforce to have the right skills.
These efforts will build on the work Microsoft has been doing for more than 30 years, empowering customers, partners, and governments across MEA to build digital capabilities. Tools and innovations like our data centers are empowering people and transforming the way organizations and industries operate. Now, we’re doubling down on our commitment to provide the technology needed for a more sustainable future.
“Given our role as an enabler of a diverse range of digital solutions, Microsoft has a unique responsibility to help governments and organizations to achieve their climate goals through the power of technology. We are committed to accelerating digital transformation in Africa, with a view to helping the continent realize its growing innovation potential in the climate technology space and beyond,” says Wael Elkabbany, General Manager, Microsoft Africa Regional Cluster.
As it stands, the Middle East and Africa can be likened to a sleeping giants with powerful potential to lead the world’s energy transition and build a greener future. Beyond the clear opportunity in renewable energy, there is much to be gained from the region’s track record of the invention. From water scarcity to food insecurity and lack of access to electricity, MEA’s problem-solving capabilities have long been put to the test. COP27 is an opportunity to share learnings with the rest of the world. The challenge ahead is daunting but, together, we can move faster.
The United Nations says the world’s population is projected to reach the eight billion mark on Tuesday.
The projection came in a UN report released in July, which said much of the growth expected between now and 2050 is coming from just eight countries.
Half of those are in sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. The UN said populations in that region are growing at 2.5 percent, more than three times the global average.
Still, experts said the bigger threat to the environment is consumption, which is highest in developed countries not undergoing big population increases. The report also said that India is expected to overtake China next year as the world’s most populous country.
The upward trend threatens to leave even more people in developing countries further behind, as governments struggle to provide enough classrooms and jobs for a rapidly growing number of youths, and food insecurity becomes an even more urgent problem.
It is projected that the world’s population will reach approximately 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.4 billion in 2100. Other countries rounding out the list with the fastest-growing populations are Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines, and India.
Rapid population growth also means more people vying for scarce water resources, and it leaves more families facing hunger as climate change increasingly affects crop production in many parts of the world.
The population growth in sub-Saharan Africa can be attributed to people living longer, but family size remains the driving factor. Women in sub-Saharan Africa on average have 4.6 births, twice the current global average of 2.3.
At the same time, a small portion of the world’s population uses most of the resources and produces most of the greenhouse-gas emissions, said Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India.
“Over the past 25 years, the richest 10 percent of the global population has been responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions,” Muttreja said.
Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, said environmental concerns surrounding the eight billion mark should focus on consumption, particularly in developed countries.
“Population is not the problem, the way we consume is the problem – let’s change our consumption patterns,” he said.