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August 10, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the Sixth 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 and we look forward to your feedback.

Happy reading!

1. Mauritius Declares Environmental Emergency as over 1000 tonnes of oil leaks into the pristine lagoons-. All eyes were on Mauritius this past weekend where the MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier carrying 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil ran aground on the reef in the town of Pointe d'Esny, in the South-East. Anxious residents of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius have stuffed fabric sacks with sugar cane leaves to create makeshift oil spill barriers as tonnes of fuel leaking from a grounded ship put endangered wildlife in further peril. The government on Saturday declared an environmental emergency as satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near wetlands that the government called "very sensitive". Wildlife workers and volunteers ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the spill, Ile aux Aigrettes, to the mainland as fears grew that worsening weather on Sunday could tear the Japanese-owned ship apart along its cracked hull. The Government has appealed to France for help, saying the spill “represents a danger” for the country of some 1.3 million people that relies heavily on tourism and has been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.(CNN). The unfortunate news coincides with the release of a new Global Standard to improve the safety of waste storage in the Mining Industry just this past week. The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management is a first-of-its-kind industry initiative to establish a benchmark for the safe disposal of mine waste, called tailings. The new standard “strives to achieve; zero harm to people and the environment with zero tolerance for human fatality. (UN Environment).

 2. Central African States Seek to Make Forests Work for People and Planets. Countries home to the Congo Basin rainforest are working on ways to harness their majestic trees to benefit their people while maintaining climate protection and other natural services the forests provide. Forests cover 88% of Gabon's territory and 65% of Congo's, while the annual deforestation rate in both countries is below 0.1%.(All Africa). This past week, the Republic of Congo officially published a new law to ensure more sustainable management of the country's vast forests. Gabon, meanwhile, hopes to have a new forest law in place by next summer, marrying efforts to safeguard the climate and biodiversity with creating jobs in forestry. Gabon's goal is to reach 300,000 forest-related jobs in the next decade, up from about 27,000 now. This is even more urgent now as new data from Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) — a worldwide warning system for the depletion of tree cover - compiled by WWF Germany shows global deforestation has accelerated during the pandemic: Forests loss alerts have increased by 77 percent compared to the average from 2017-2019. (Financial Times). Deforestation has taken on a new urgency as a growing body of scientific evidence has linked deforestation and land-use change to outbreaks of infectious disease.  The latest research published in Nature this past week analyzed 6,801 ecological assemblages and 376 host species worldwide. The study shows that land use has global and systematic effects on local zoonotic host communities. The populations of species known to host diseases transmissible to humans increased as the landscape changed from natural to urban, and as biodiversity generally decreased. ‬

3. Coalition calls for Transparency in Fisheries Joint Ventures in the framework of the  Future EU-Africa PartnershipThe Coalition for Fair Fisheries and Arrangements has called for a set of principles to be defined to ensure that fisheries joint ventures, in the framework of the future European Union–Africa partnership, operate in a transparent manner, do not compete with local artisanal fisheries, and are in line with the objectives of sustainable fisheries development in the third country concerned.  Fisheries is one of the focus areas in the EU communique Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa that will be discussed further at the next EU–AU Summit in October 2020. The communique notes that the EU is prepared to “scale up the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”, and “to encourage better ocean governance, incluthree boat on body of water during sunriseding the development of sustainable fisheries and blue economy.” This is also in line with the Africa Blue Economy Strategy published by the African Union in 2019. For more than 60 years, African countries have been encouraging the creation of joint ventures with foreign industrial fishing companies in order to develop their industrial fishing capacity. The formation of these joint ventures in African fisheries, often based on very limited knowledge of the state of fisheries resources or of the dynamics of the local fisheries sector has often led to investments that are damaging to the conservation of fisheries resources and harmful to the future of the coastal communities that depend on them. There are countless cases where overfishing, due to the arrival of foreign vessels, including through joint ventures, has led to a decline in fishery resources, with negative impacts on local coastal fisheries with which these companies were competing for access to resources. To ensure a food secure future for all, sustainable fishing practices will be critical. There is growing evidence that when fisheries are properly managed, stocks are consistently above target levels or rebuilding. An excellent example is the Community-led fishing approaches supported by WWF Tanzania where periodic closures and reopening of fishing grounds have shown a massive increase in the size of catches and tonnage (over 35,000 tons of Octopus in the last reef reopening) for the local in the Songi Songi Island in Tanzania. In other news, the Althelia Sustainable Ocean Fund has successfully raised US $132 million which will be dedicated to making pioneering impact investments into marine and coastal projects and enterprises that can deliver sustainable economic returns in fisheries, aquaculture, the circular economy, and marine conservation. Some of the fund investments will be in Africa.

4. Nature Positive Infrastructure in 21st Century Africa:  Nearly 300 million African people live more than 50 kilometers away from a fiber or cable broadband. The cost of closing the digital divide in Africa is estimated at approximately USD 100 billion or USD 9 billion a year, which would include laying out at least 250 000 kilometers of fibre across the region. Closing this infrastructure gap matters greatly for the continent’s economic development, for the quality of life of its people, and for the growth of its business sector. The AU Agenda 2063 and the African Continental Free Trade Area have a joint vision to transform Africa’s economic geography and human development through integrated regional economic corridors, by leveraging new technology, and by turning the additional one billion people expected by 2050 into a demographic bonus. New infrastructure business models are needed that propel human development, reduce poverty, and provide an exit road for fragile States. A new report by the OECD and Africa Center for Economic Transformation provides overarching and actionable recommendations for new models.  It should be noted, however, that Africa’s Ecological Infrastructure – terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems and biodiversity – is as essential to inclusive human development and improved quality of life as are industrial and social infrastructures such as roads, schools, hospitals, and energy provision. A new generation of infrastructure projects that harness the power of nature can help achieve development goals, including water security and climate resilience. As part of ongoing work looking at Africa’s Ecological Futures, WWF, AfDB and other partners are examining how Africa can reduce its infrastructure gap while also protecting its ecological futures. This briefing paper by WWF provides an overview of infrastructure responses to urbanization in Africa. It describes some of the benefits of green infrastructure for cities and assesses the state of urban green infrastructure. Barriers to investment as well as recommendations are included.

5. Africa Boasts over 600 Technology Hubs - The spread of digital technology has been one of the most striking African success stories over the past 15 years. Last month, more than half a billion Africans accessed the internet. A new report by the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Program and Britter Bridges lists 618 Tech hubs in Africa (a 20 percent increase from 2019), and notes the broader social role they play in the tech community, as safe spaces for the youth and catalysts of digital professionals The hubs have been mainly boosted by a torrent of venture funds, development finance, corporate involvement, as well as ever-growing, innovative communities. The good news is such investments are increasing with Facebook recently committing to Infrastructure Investments that will add $57 Billion to Africa’s Economy by 2024 including partnerships to address the barriers to connectivity, such as the lack of availability, affordability, relevance, and readiness to get online (read more here). Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health has launched a $58 million initiative to advance data science, catalyze innovation, and spur health discoveries across Africa. The new five-year program, Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa will leverage existing data and technologies to develop solutions for the continent’s most pressing clinical and public health problems.(read more here). A recent and exciting tech innovation in Africa is ChimpFace, a software that aims to reduce wildlife trafficking. Much of the illegal trade in wildlife now takes place online. A trafficker or great ape distributor will post an image of a baby chimpanzee for sale. Often, the same chimpanzee will later appear on someone’s social media account. ChimpFace uses an algorithm to determine if chimpanzee faces in images posted by traffickers match up with images later posted to social media accounts. If the software finds a match, it serves as evidence that can help corroborate who sold a chimpanzee and where it ended up. Its creators hope the matches the program turns up will aid Interpol or local law enforcement in tracking and prosecuting people illegally buying and selling wildlife. The developer hopes that  ChimpFace can be scaled up to add additional target species such as tigers, lions, gibbons, or any species that is in danger of being illegally trafficked online.

6. Africa Launches 1st Country Financing Roadmap: The goal of the financing roadmap is to foster job creation and economic growth, by supporting countries to create the conditions to increase and accelerate capital flows to deliver national development strategies. The roadmap is part of the Sustainable Development Investment Partnership, a joint initiative of the World Economic Forum and the OECD aimed at scaling finance for the SDGs and supporting countries to overcome the barriers that are hindering private investments in emerging and developing countries. Ghana is the first African country to launch the map that will support the government to shift from a project-by-project approach towards a more holistic strategy for SDG financing and create the enabling environment to catalyze private capital in SDGs at scale while improving the long-term competitiveness of the country. (read more here). An excellent example of catalyzing private capital that might be relevant for future country finance roadmaps is WWF’s new Bankable Nature Solutions (BNS) initiative that aims to mobilize private sector investment into projects that not only build more sustainable, climate-resilient ecosystems for people, nature and economies but are also financially viable enough to be scaled up and replicated, increasing both environmental and financial gains. In the Kafue Flats, WWF Zambia is working with multiple stakeholders to explore bankable projects such as building water-treatment systems to reduce pollution, an improved irrigation system, better grazing management, and restoring national parks.

7. Reimagining Africa’s Tourism Economy: The bad news continues for Africa’s tourism sector. Recent estimates from the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) show a $53 billion hit to GDP across the continent in a best-case scenario; and a $120 billion loss in GDP contribution in a worst-case scenario. Last month, Safaribookings.com surveyed 306 safari operators and found that over 90% had seen a 75% or more decrease in both booking requests and actual bookings due to the coronavirus outbreak. International tourism just resumed in July, but with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa increasing, 14-day quarantine-on-return requirements from major source markets such as the UK could be problematic. Making guests feel safe, with robust health protocols, will be a major part of the tourism recovery phase  (read more here). A new paper by the global research firm @McKinsey & Company proposes four key steps for  “reimagining the $9 trillion tourism economy” that could be informative for Africa including enabling a digital and analytics transformation and experimenting with new financing mechanisms. Zimbabwe was the first country in Africa to develop an effective alternative approach to the management of natural resources outside protected areas through the Community Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE). The model was based on Rural District Councils (RDCs) working jointly with community trusts to lease out nature-based business opportunities in wildlife areas to private partners and collectively share the benefits from generated revenues. Due to the political turmoil in Zimbabwe, the program has all but collapsed. However, WWF Zimbabwe is now working with the Government and partners to reconfigure and implement an agile and robust CAMPFIRE model anchored on diverse revenue streams that include among other things viable smallholder agriculture and non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Similar CBNRM models have been successfully implemented in other African countries including Namibia, Uganda, and Kenya.
 
8. More Than 500 Dams Are Planned inside Protected Areas: According to a global analysis co-authored by WWF published in the journal Conservation Letters, 509 dams, or 14% of the total currently under construction or planned for the next two decades, are set to be built in protected areas. The study is the first of its kind to quantify the global extent of dams constructed in protected areas, w
More than 500 dams planned inside protected areas: Studyhich can include indigenous areas, nature reserves, and national parks. In Africa, most of these large dams are concentrated in southern Africa and they are primarily used for hydroelectricity, irrigation, water supply, and flood control. The report argues that the post-COVID recovery represents a real opportunity to make a clean break from the past and calls on Governments to use economic recovery plans to support conservation, protect land, and invest in cheaper alternatives. (read more).

9. How Carbon-smart farming can feed the world and fight climate change at the same time: Soil is one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. The carbon sink capacity of the world's agricultural and degraded soils is estimated to hold 42 to 78 gigatonnes more carbonrecent study found that Africa shows a large potential for soil carbon storage, ranging from 0.15 to 0.31 Pg C/yr.  Values range from very low or negligible levels in the deserts of the Sahara, the Kalahari, and the Horn of Africa to very high in the wetlands of Sudan (Sudd), Democratic Republic of Congo (Ngiri–Tumba–Maingombe), Congo (Sangha–Nouabale-Ndoki), Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Barotse Floodplain in Zambia. 
The amount of carbon sequestered in Africa’s soils can be increased by adopting the right management practices such as reducing tillage, planting cover crops, and using organic matter amendments such as compost. These practices are already widespread in many parts of Africa. Switching to carbon-smart farming will help us meet food demands and combat climate change.  Soil carbon sequestration and the conservation of existing soil carbon stocks, especially in Africa’s peatlands and grasslands, could also be an important mitigation pathway to achieving the NDC targets and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

10. Celebrating International Day of Indigenous Peoples.
 Saving life on Earth means formally recognizing the rights and roles of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. See our photo essay. Rethinking conservation for people and nature is critical now more than ever. (WWF)  

GRAPHIC OF THE WEEK.

Collabovid.Org: Since January 2020, 30,202 articles concerning the coronavirus have been published. Of these publications, 203 appeared in a single day on August 8th and 1431 have been released in the past week.  However, this tide of new evidence is daunting in scale and variety, challenging even the researchers who work full time on COVID, let alone decision-makers and their technical advisors, who work under substantial time constraints. Collabovid.org, a comprehensive repository of COVID-19 research indexing papers from the main print and pre-print servers (medRxiv, bioRxiv, arXiv, Elsevier, and PubMed) is helping us make sense of it all. A pre-trained Natural Language Processing model from spaCy is used to identify potential locations in article titles, which are mapped to real-world location data using the GeoNames database. Research is mapped to a specific location including cities, regions, and countries and the papers related to them.  The latest research on Africa looks at how certain species of lemurs in Madagascar are susceptible to contracting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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