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September 21, 2020 

Dear Colleagues, 

Welcome to the Twelfth 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. Africa Joins The Rest of The World to Pledge for Nature at UNGA 75: Heads of State and Governments attending the UN General Assembly meetings this week will adopt a 75th Anniversary Declaration vowing to build a post-pandemic world that is more equal, works together, and protects the planet. Governments are also expected to announce ambitious actions and decisions at the UN Heads of State Summit on Biodiversity on 30 September. Prior to the summit, WWF will convene a Leaders for Nature Event on 28 September in partnership with UNEP and UNDP where they will launch the Leaders Pledge for Nature: United to Reverse Biodiversity Loss by 2030 for Sustainable Development. WWF together with 16 environmental, development, and business organisations have established A Global Goal for Nature to create a shared understanding of the level of action needed from governments, business, and wider society to stop the decline of natural habitats and the loss of species. The event will be co-hosted by AOSIS, and the Governments of Belize, Bhutan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Finland, Kenya, Seychelles, UK & the EU. Watch Livestream on: Learning for nature.
2. First-ever Study of the Freshwater Biodiversity of Mara River Basin in Kenya & Tanzania. Besides being the home of the world's great wildebeest migration, the Mara is also home to 473 freshwater species. However,  ten of the freshwater species in the Mara river basin are threatened with extinction due to a combination of threats including habitat loss, water pollution, over-abstraction and drought, the presence of invasive non-native species, and over-exploitation. This WWF report recommends: increased monitoring of freshwater biodiversity to better understand its diversity, status, and trends over time; improved communications about freshwater biodiversity to promote wider awareness about its importance to the Mara river basin; elevated and coordinated efforts to create a resilient and healthy Mara river basin by addressing existing threats and those predicted for the future. (WWF).

3. Global Center for Adaptation Africa Launch: ‘Let’s save the planet’s second ecological lung’: Africa’s Climate Change Fight received a boost on September 16, 2020, as the Global Center for Adaptation launched an Africa Office. GCA Africa, which will be hosted at the African Development Bank in Abidjan, will work with partners across the continent to accelerate adaptation action that protects African communities from climate change. Africa’s fight against climate change currently requires between $7 billion and $15 billion a year. if current conditions persist, funding needs may rise to $35 billion by 2050 and $200 billion in half a century. (GCA)  The good news is that the African Development Bank Group is on Track To Mobilize $25 Billion Between 2020 and 2025 to Support Investments In Climate Change. Eight years ago the Bank’s adaptation finance stood at $500 million and rose to $2 billion in 2019, cumulatively representing $18.6 billion over this period. (AfDB).

4. Tipping the Scales: Exposing the Growing Trade of African Pangolins into China’s Traditional Medicine Industry: A new report finds the trafficking of pangolins and their scales drives corruption, undermines the rule of law, creates public health risks, and even threatens local and regional security. Critically, the trade—and all of its related challenges—appears to be growing: between 2015 and 2019, 253 tonnes of pangolin scales were confiscated, and the annual quantity of pangolin scales seized increased by nearly 400%. To expose the logistics of how these scales are trafficked internationally, Tipping the Scales uses publicly available seizure data and investigative case studies. C4ADS). Pangolins are suspected to be the cause of the recent pandemic. The  IUCN has called for the designation of a Global Wildlife Health Authority to Prevent Zoonoses and foster development of countries’ capacities to manage disease threats to and from wild animals. This is particularly critical as it comes at a time when six major outbreaks of highly fatal zoonoses between 1997 and 2009 cost the global economy at least USD$80 billion, half of which is attributed to SARS and the resulting lost economic activity in 2004. For example, the West African Ebola outbreak resulted in a loss of 12% combined GDP growth and US$ 53 billion in economic and social costs in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It is critical that every African country has the capacity to conduct sentinel surveillance in wild animals, investigate unusual mortality events, and implement risk reduction measures where high-risk species, practices or conditions are present. (IUCN).   

5. Oil Drillers threaten Okavango Ecosystem: - A Canadian company Recon Africa is planning to drill oil and gas wells into an environmentally sensitive, protected area in Africa that supplies the Okavango Delta with water. The drilling area stretching 35 000 square kilometers includes the last refuge of the San with a future drill site near the World Heritage Site of Tsodilo Hills in Botswana and also cover 11 separate community nature concession areas, one World Heritage site, and part of the five-country KAZA Park – the largest protected area in southern Africa. ( This happens at a time when there has been increased push calling on governments across Africa to facilitate private investment and innovation while discouraging the use of fossil fuels through different strategies such as carbon pricing mechanisms and nature-based solutions. A report released last week reveals that Achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is possible but will cost $1 trillion to $2 trillion a year. (Energy Transitions Commission, International Energy Agency).

6. Africa gets only 6% of the Global Biodiversity Spend—How Can We Close the Financing Gap?  A new report by the Nature Conservancy, the Paulson Institute, and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability estimates that to reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030, we need to be spending US$722-967 billion per year. Africa only gets 6% of the global biodiversity spend and available funding for protected and conserved area management satisfies only 10 to 20% of management needs.  In order to close this bulging funding gap, a new IUCN study authored by Conservation Capital calls for developing diversified and sustainable revenue streams will be critical for the long-term maintenance of the protected area estate in Africa and for the protection of essential ecosystem services. IUCN. There is some good news on the horizon with a new, first of its kind  $500 million multi-partner trust fund to protect coral reefs launched last week to promote a ‘protect- -transform-recover’ approach in priority locations to save and protect coral reefs in the face of serious decline and extinction. Although coral reefs only occupy less than ¼ of 1% of the earth’s marine environment, these thriving underwater ecosystems are home to 25% of the entire planet’s marine life. Sadly, it is estimated that 58% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened, with recent reports showing widespread coral bleaching in the first quarter of 2020 occurring in East Africa. (UN Environment).

7. COVID-19 Has Set Africa and the Rest of the World Aback 25 Years In 25 Weeks. This is the finding of the 2020 Goal Keepers Report, the Gates Foundation annual report card on the world's progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For Africa, the earnings of informal workers declined more than 80 percent in the first month of the pandemic with women and children being affected the most. The report argues for a collaborative response calling on all countries to work together to end the pandemic and begin rebuilding economies. Africa is already showing the way with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Export-Import Bank, and dozens of other partners collaborating to launch the African Medical Supplies Platform. to ensure that countries on the continent have access to affordable, high-quality, lifesaving equipment and supplies, many of which are manufactured in Africa. (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).

8. A Green and Just Recovery for Africa: Over USD 18 trillion has been deployed worldwide in economic stimulus packages to support countries to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. The IMF projects that the global economy will lose US$12 trillion, or more, by the end of 2021. These recovery packages provide both an unprecedented opportunity and threat, being five times bigger than climate funding on an annual basis, and three times bigger than the average global financial crisis stimulus. Governments across Africa face a choice of whether to pursue a recovery programme built around business-as-usual, or whether to embrace a recovery that has a more ambitious vision for Africa’s future. The IMF Regional Economic Outlook for Sub Saharan Africa published earlier this year highlights the lasting damage in the region from climate events. Over the medium term, annual per capita economic growth can decline an additional 1 percentage point with each drought. That impact is eight times worse than for an emerging market or developing economy in other parts of the world. In its most recent blog released last week, the IMF calls for strengthening coping mechanisms with investments in digital technology, education, health, finance, and others.


An upcoming WWF Policy Brief further argues that a Green and Just recovery is the only truly resilient option for Africa that directly addresses the key challenges surfaced by the pandemic and offers an opportunity for sustainable growth. (WWF).

9. Tracing the Path of Charcoal from Africa to Europe: A new 3D-reflected-light microscopy technique developed by researchers at Haag’s digitally reconstructs sections of charcoal from irregular lumps to create images from which the parent wood can be identified. The researchers have so far analyzed 4,500 samples from 150 charcoal bags bought in 11 countries in 2019 and 2020. Some of this comes from countries that have the including highest deforestation rates in the world including Nigeria. And of these only one-quarter of the bags bore the logos of sustainable-certification organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) (Nature). This coincides with even more bad news that time is running out to save the last of the world’s rainforests.  According to the Rainforest Action Network, a San Francisco-based environmental pressure group, forests have been vanishing at a rate of about 1 acre every two seconds. Using satellite images, land-use maps, and government data going back almost a century, Bloomberg tracked how and where rainforests were destroyed and examined the geographical, human, and economic forces behind the destruction. The findings concluded that if the remaining equatorial forests of South America, Africa, and Asia follow the same path as peninsular Malaysia, it would lead to the removal of more than 60% of the remaining primary rainforest in the world—an area about the size of Australia. GIF below shows tree loss in the equatorial forest from 2000 to 2016. (Bloomberg). 

10. Graphic Of The Week:
As we progress through the Global Goals Week, the graphic below showcases the relative importance and interdependency of each SDG to the Drawdown “system of solutions”. “Drawdown solutions” are any technology or practice that directly affects the concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere by reducing, lowering demand, and sequestering atmospheric carbon. (Springer).  

Africa Youth Edition of The Living Planet Report to Launch on 28th September 2020 at 11.30am EAT. Please click the link below to join the webinar:Zoom link. Passcode: 812745         

2020 Africa Weekly Digest

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