September 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the Eleventh Edition of our Africa Weekly Digest - A round-up of the news and stories about “Africa with a Global Twist” that captivated our hearts and minds this past week. 

Happy reading and we look forward to your feedback.

1. Bending the Curve on Biodiversity Loss: WWF’s flagship Living Planet Report 2020  released this past week shows population sizes of different vertebrate species - mammals, fish, birds and amphibians - have declined by an average of 68 percent globally and 65 percent in Africa from 1970 to 2016. For Africa, the declines are largely driven by increasing demand on natural resources to feed a growing population that have resulted in widespread habitat loss, overexploitation of species, and disease.  Here is a compilation of specific findings on Africa in this Africa Living Planet Index photo essay. Pioneering new modelling, used for the first time in the report. outlines steps that the global community could take to "bend the curve" on biodiversity loss including conservation, restoration, and more sustainable consumption.

2. What will Africa’s Food future look like at the Intersection of Agriculture and Conservation? The Living Planet Report reveals that food continues to be a major driver for environmental change in Africa . Forest clearing for agricultural space is the predominant cause of the decline, noting that one-third of the planet's land is currently being used for food production.  This new publication  by WWF explores  How we can  balance food security, biodiversity loss and alternative livelihoods in Africa’s largest conservation areas and proposes measures for reducing human-wildlife conflict and biodiversity loss while enabling sustainable agricultural intensification, alongside alternative livelihoods like sustainable tourism, to deliver benefits to both people and nature. Another report published by IUCN this past week argues that an annual increase of just 0.4% in the carbon content of agricultural soils, which is a key indicator of soil biodiversity, over the next 30 years could potentially boost global production of three major crops – maize, wheat and rice – by up to 23.4%, 22.9% and 41.9% per year respectively

3. Water Theft Drinks Up as Much as Half The World’s Water Supply. A new report by a team of international researchers draws attention to a largely unnoticed, serious problem: “Water Theft”  The report refers to “Thieves”, such as intensive agriculture, steal between 30% and 50% of the planet’s water supply every year. Overhauling legal and political frameworks could protect precious water supplies, they say.(World Economic Forum). This news is echoed by the Living Planet Report which shows an 84% collapse in freshwater species populations since 1970. The crisis is especially dire in sub-Saharan African countries such as Liberia, Ghana, Somalia, Nigeria, and Sudan where women and young girls often have to travel long distances (about 3.5 miles daily on average) to collect large amounts of water (up to 40 pounds) and carry them back to their homes.(The last mile). The report calls on the world to implement Emergency Recovery Plan for freshwater biodiversity.  

 4. African Ministers Call for More investments in Great Green Wall to Aid Covid-19 Recovery: The Great Green Wall is a tremendous opportunity to achieve the goals set by the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and it could also provide the solution for countries to properly respond and recover from the economic fallout of Covid-19  by turning this time of crisis into a time of large-scale investments. However, progress on the 8,000km green belt across the Sahel region has been slow and fresh funds are needed to halt desertification and create sustainable livelihoods. Estimates show that in order to achieve the Great Green Wall’s 2030 goals,  8.2 million hectares needed to be restored every year at a cost of up to $4.3 billion annually.  African ministers, meeting this past week, called on the private sector to “significantly contribute” to implementing the initiative and for the support of international organizations such as the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and the African Development Bank Group. This coincides with a new report by the Paulson Institute and others which calls for innovative financial mechanisms that transform the goods and services provided by nature into asset classes in order to address the current biodiversity financing gap which is estimated to be over $700bn a year for the next decade. (Financial Times) Another pioneering new report by EcoAgriculture Partners co-authored by WWF’s Landscape Finance Lab and others identifies a wide range of innovative landscape financing models (see figure on the left) but argues that more is needed to understand how they work.
(EcoAgriculture Partners).

5. Has the World Met the Global Biodiversity Targets? The UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO-5), which will be released tomorrow Tuesday 15 September 2020 will take stock of achievements and shortfalls of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2010-2020). The report comes as governments are preparing to adopt a new set of biodiversity targets beyond 2020 in Kunming, China. Despite 2020, the ‘Super Year for Nature’, being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it still provides a unique opportunity for Africa to embrace a new ‘post-2020’ vision whose priorities include: Full-cost accounting of natural capital and ecological infrastructures; Investments in NbS (nature-based solutions); Significant investments in the means and capacity for measuring policy effectiveness; Optimising the unique opportunity provided by the economic stimulus packages required during and after the COVID-19 pandemic for an innovative ‘green stimulus’ approach. The upcoming  UN General Assembly Biodiversity Summit is a unique opportunity for all African governments to come together and endorse the Leaders Pledge for Nature to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. The Leaders Pledge for Nature is a Head of State-level initiative to bring collective ambition to the upcoming UN Summit on Biodiversity. More than 30 countries have so far expressed their support for this and we encourage African leaders to do the same.  Other pledges include the Business for Nature Call to Action; The Development & Humanitarian Civil Society Call to Action; The 2020 Faith Call to Action for UN Biodiversity Summit; the Youth Manifesto and the Cities Edinburgh Declaration.

6. The Center of Gravity in Africa’s Agriculture is Shifting to Urban Areas: The “Africa Agriculture Status Report 2020,” launched during the African Green Revolution Forum virtual summit that took place this past week, shows that a cohort of new, non-traditional actors – including city planners, mayors, district councils, trader organizations and public health professionals – are becoming key players in the implementation of agricultural policy.(Devex). The report also highlights the opportunities in Africa’s growing urban food markets while recognizing that the effective governance of urban food systems requires inclusive models that coordinate and harmonize the actions of the many diverse players now shaping African agri-food systems. However, Cities need to also accelerate climate action as they are responsible for roughly 70% of carbon emissions with almost 90% of urban residents exposed to air pollution.  A new blog by WWF Cities Initiative calls for Cities to be the Ground Zero for Clean Air as we emerge from the COVID 19 pandemic. The blog calls for, among other things; greener cities powered on local renewable energy – cleaner for our planet and our lungs; integrated cities connected to local landscapes, using nature-based solutions to filter our air and shade our streets; Accessible 15-minute cities with most needed essentials in walking or biking distance. The good news is cities like MIlan, Colombia and Kampala in Uganda have already rolled out extensive cycling infrastructure to alleviate crowded public transport systems  as well as to tackle local air pollution and break away from fossil fuel dependency (WWF) and with the help of the World Bank, Tanzania has launched an ambitious project to restore urban green spaces
7. Global Innovation Index Names 8 African Countries as Top Performers - A collaboration between INSEAD, Cornell University, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Global Innovation Index  (GII) measures a country’s innovation performance based on its innovation inputs (such as national R&D spending, higher education, the regulatory environment and infrastructure) and innovation outputs (like intellectual property or other knowledge creation). This 13th edition of the index ranks 131 countries and out of the 25 economies identified as outperformers – more innovative than their economies belie –eight are from Sub-Saharan Africa Botswana (89) and Tunisia (65) have higher expenditures in education, while South Africa (60), Kenya (86) and Egypt (96) invest in R&D. This shows Innovation is more pervasive in Africa than what existing data suggests

8. Stricter Air Conditioning Efficiency Standards in Africa could reduce GHG Emissions by 40 million tons!  The Energy Technology Perspectives 2020 report released by the International Energy Agency this past Thursday explores the technology needs and opportunities for reaching international climate and sustainable energy goals based on an analysis of over 800 different technology options. This comes amidst reports that a flood of Polluting Air Conditioners are hampering Africa’s Climate Efforts. Many of the units being imported by African countries are old and inefficient, straining already overburdened electricity grids, saddling consumers with high energy bills, and driving up greenhouse gas emissions. Now, some countries are taking action, banning the import of used air conditioners and adopting tough energy standards. If African countries adopt stricter air conditioning efficiency standards, energy demand could be cut in half, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 million tons by 2040, according to the United Nations. (Yale E360).

9. Zimbabwe Has Banned Mining In All Its National Parks reversing a decision to let Chinese firms explore coal at its famous Hwange game park, Zimbabwe's biggest national park which is home to more than 40,000 elephants and numerous other species, including the endangered black rhino. Two Chinese firms had planned to mine in the park in a joint venture with the state-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation. The decision to give exploration rights in the country's biggest park led to a public outcry, with the hashtag #SaveHwangenationalpark trending on Twitter in Zimbabwe. WWF Zimbabwe joined other civil society organisations and campaigners to raise concerns that coal mining in the park would devastate wildlife, and negatively affect tourism - a major source of income for Zimbabwe. The organisations are also advocating for the new position policy to be passed into law. (BCC). In other news Mitsui OSK will Spend $9.4m on Mauritius Clean-Up After Oil Spill. Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd said on Friday it would spend about 1 billion yen ($9.42 million) on measures to help Mauritius, including the clean-up of the island’s mangrove forests and contribution to an environmental recovery fund. However, Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding but that the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades. Reuters 

10.  Graphic Of The Week. The second report on ‘UNITED IN SCIENCE’ was released this past week. The report features the latest critical data and scientific findings on the climate crisis. Key messages are: (i) Emissions are heading in the direction of pre-pandemic levels following a temporary decline caused by the lockdown and economic slowdown. (ii) The world is set to see its warmest five years on record – in a trend which is likely to continue - and is not on track to meet agreed targets to keep global temperature increase well below 2°C or at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. (iii) Never before has it been so clear that we need long-term, inclusive, clean transitions to tackle the climate crisis and achieve sustainable development. We must turn the recovery from the pandemic into a real opportunity to build a better future (Quote from UN SG Antonio Guterres). This recovery process also includes empowering the next generation of young leaders. Find out more about the Africa Top 100 Young Conservation Leaders and please share this opportunity with young conservation leaders across your network. 

14/09/2020: WWF Africa Weekly Digest 

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