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Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the third edition of our Africa Weekly Digest - A round-up of the news and stories from across the continent that captivated our hearts and minds this past week.

We hope you enjoy these stories. We look forward to your feedback.

Happy reading!

1. Africa’s population will triple by the end of the century even as other continents will see a decline.  A new study published by the Lancet revealed that Sub-Saharan Africa which accounted for just 13% of the global population in 2017, is forecasted to account for 35% of the global population by 2100! The populations of Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and South Sudan are forecasted to continue to grow even up to and after 2100. With other continents seeing a decline, Sub Saharan Africa with its large demographic dividend could become an important player on the geopolitical stage, however, this will require a tripling of all existing resources and infrastructure (health, education, housing, energy, and so on) over that period just to maintain existing inadequate levels of basic services and amenities. Combined with an annual shortfall of 52–64% in financing for infrastructure needs in Africa (estimated at US$130 billion to 170 billion), the challenge of this most optimistic demographic trajectory for sub-Saharan Africa is daunting. (The Lancet).
2. Despite the daunting results from the population growth study, more international funds are flowing to Africa as the continent seeks to recover from COVID-19. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a member of the World Bank Group has issued a guarantee of EUR 359 million for 22 African countries from the wider COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area to facilitate critical imports of food,  fuel and COVID-19 equipment and construction materials for healthcare facilities; while the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) has adopted a €110 million (US$120 million) assistance package for protecting migrants, stabilizing local communities, strengthening immediate response capacity and health systems and mitigating the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 in North Africa. Furthermore, the new US Development Finance Institution (DFI) that brings together the capabilities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic) and US Agency for International Development's Development Credit Authority recently approved several investments in Africa through its Rapid Response Liquidity which is slated to provide up to $4-billion in additional financing for existing projects that have been particularly impacted by the challenges brought about as a result of the pandemic. (Engineering News). 

3. A new report from the New Nature Economy project published by the World Economic Forum outlines how a Nature-led Coronavirus Recovery could create $10tn a year. The report names 15 industry transitions across sectors such as food, land, and ocean use; infrastructure and the built environment; and energy and extractives that could generate over $10 trillion in business opportunity and create 395 million new jobs by 2030. There is evidence that the African continent can provide long term stability and growth for millions of people by harnessing its “invisible infrastructure”.  This story from Ecobank highlights how investing in Infrastructure is so much more than bricks and mortar and shows the hidden strength behind physical health centers, roads, and community hubs. (Ecobank Foundation, Alliance Magazine). 

4. Speaking of the nature-led recovery, a new report from WWF and IIED puts Africa’s Unseen Foresters in the Limelight. Conservative estimates of the gross annual value of smallholder crop, fuelwood and charcoal, timber and non-timber forest products lie between US$869 billion and US$1.29 trillion!. The report highlights 13 approaches by indigenous people and local communities aimed at promoting sustainable forest management including a Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled mapping to secure community forest rights in the Congo Basin ( WWF).  A similar example of smallholder led forestry is Komaza, an Africa focussed “micro-forestry” startup that has raised $28 million to plant a billion trees.  Komaza’s “microforestry” model, which has been tested in Kenya with 25,000 smallholder farmers, represents a paradigm shift from large, costly plantations to distributed partnerships with local farmers to capture Africa’s $30B wood deficit while restoring degraded lands. This shift is said to yield an 80% cost disruption versus traditional plantations for every acre planted while unlocking dramatically more land for forestry activities. (Komaza). Last but not least, TerraMatch, an online platform and mobile app by the World Resources Institute is connecting tree planters with funders interested in investing in restoration projects. In Rwanda, a network of women-led cooperatives ARCOS received funding to grow more than 40,000 trees to boost farmers' crop yields and build food security.



5. The Case for Re-imagining Africa’s Food Systems post-COVID 19:  The 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released this past Monday revealed that hunger is growing fastest across Africa, where prevalence is almost the twice global average. Based on current trends, the continent is unlikely to achieve ZeroHunger by 2030. The rebuilding of Africa’s economies after the COVID-19 crisis offers a unique opportunity to transform Africa’s food system and make it resilient to future shocks. This will require, among other things,  a shift toward sustainable and regenerative land and ocean farming connected to strong local and regional food systems and measures to regulate the trade of wild animals in order to lower the risk of future pandemics. A new report by The Malabo Montpellier Panel launched this week already offers promising examples of how institutional and policy innovations in four African countries—Ethiopia, Mali, South Africa, and Uganda are sustainably promoting growth in the livestock sector ( Malabo Montpellier Report ). 



6. The Tussle over Africa’s Longest River is a Test for African Unity:  The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam estimated to cost US$4.5 billion and considered Ethiopia's “certificate out of poverty” has strained relations with Egypt and Sudan. The dam is being constructed across the Blue Nile tributary which originates in the Ethiopian highlands, flows north through the country, and then through Sudan before eventually crossing into Egypt and joining the Nile on the way to the Mediterranean. The Nile has been the lifeline of Egypt's civilizations since ancient times. As the Greek historian Herodotus wrote some 2,500 years ago “Egypt is the Nile, and the Nile is Egypt.” The country's 102 million inhabitants still rely almost entirely on the river to sustain life across the arid landscape. But one story that seems to be lost in the whole discussion is that 11  African countries rely on the Nile as their source of freshwater. The conflict highlights the need to put the dam in the context of the wider regional development plan for the River Nile. This could help defuse tensions over the dam and future projects. Examples such as the Senegal River Treaty show that finding a way to equitably and reasonably share international waters has been the key to success.


7. The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Toll on Women: Every day brings new examples of the ways in which women are being left behind by the world’s response to the pandemic. There are women in labor being turned away from overburdened hospitals; domestic workers whose lost income won’t be replaced by stimulus funding; adolescent girls who cannot continue their education (Foreign Affairs ). In Africa, a survey conducted by  ImpactHER with over 1,300 women SME  owners across  30 African countries revealed that most women-led   SMEs are at risk of permanent business shutdown as a result of the pandemic.  Without the deliberate implementation of gender-lens policies and solutions,   the finance gender gap, previously estimated to be at about $42 billion, would widen. This policy brief by the AfDB proposes useful measures.



8. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women notwithstanding, we found these must-read stories celebrating the vital role women play in conserving Africa’s Natural resource including Gorongosa National Park’s 600-female anti-poaching unit that has been instrumental in the Park’s recovery from a war-torn past with 100,000 large herbivores counted during the 2018 aerial survey; ( Click to Watch CNN Video); Zimbabwe’s lower Zambezi Valley’s world's first all-female, the vegan anti-poaching unit which sources its food from the Akashinga Back to Black Roots Vegan Kitchen and Garden; And Kenya’s Team Lioness: the women rangers risking their lives for wildlife.

9. The 2020 East Africa Regional Outlook calls for East Africa’s “Workforce for the Future”.  The call is in line with the message of World Youth Skills Day which was celebrated this past week and where UNESCO launched a Global Skills Academy that aims to equip 1 million youth with employability & resilience skills. With Africa's youth population expected to reach 830 million by 2050, this coincides with exciting developments to grow Africa’s digital capacity. For example, Wildbook, an open-source software that blends artificial intelligence, citizen science, with structured wildlife research is supporting Kenya to save 95 percent of the world’s endangered Grevy’s zebra whose global population has reduced to only 3,000. (Standard Media ). The message is also in line with the newly launched African Union Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa which aims to create an integrated and inclusive digital society and economy in Africa. 


10. Graphic of the week!   The 2020 SDG report released during the HPLF this past week shows that Africa has made progress in its efforts to meet the SDGs, especially reducing inequalities, but progress is insufficient to meet the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda with data gaps continuing to affect the ability to measure progress. COVID19 has added new challenges & complexities. 



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