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Rwanda:– AKADEMIYA2063 Officially Launched
September 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

KIGALI, 25 September 2020 – AKADEMIYA2063 has officially been launched by Hon. Geraldine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture of The Republic of Rwanda, on behalf of The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente.

The launch was conducted during a virtual seminar on « Policies for Rapidly Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems » with additional participation from Ambassador Josefa Sacko, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Mr. Jim Barnhart, Assistant to the Administrator of USAID, and Dr. Jo Swinnen, Director-General at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

As an international non-profit organization, AKADEMIYA2063 seeks to build a bridge between the science community and peer organizations around the world to harness the best available knowledge and evidence to advance the African agenda.

With a rich experience of long-standing support to the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), AKADEMIYA2063 positions itself as a major science contributor to the Agenda 2063, through research implementation, capacity building, and outreach programs to successfully drive Data Analysis and Knowledge Platform, Expertise for Advanced Economic Modeling, as well as Evidence and Dialogue for Policy Innovation.

Many of the AKADEMIYA2063’s core programs have been on the ground over the last 10 to 15 years, but only now have they been brought together into a single African entity. These programs are the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS), the African Growth and Development Policy (AGRODEP) Modeling Consortium, and the Malabo Montpellier (MaMo) Panel  and Forum.

AKADEMIYA2063’s interest in supporting policies was highlighted by its Executive Chairperson, Dr. Ousmane Badiane, who insisted that: « if the trajectory toward better policies is not sustained, the African continent may experience a return to the era of economic stagnation. Better data and analytics to support evidence based planning and implementation will help raise policy effectiveness for improved development outcomes.»

As soon as it launched its operations, the organization moved to respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, through a multi-workstream agenda  on the impacts of and responses to the pandemic among African countries.

This includes research work around:

– Vulnerability Hot Spots

– Staple Food Price Tracking

– Production Systems Disruption

– Macro Effects of Trade Disruption

During the  launch seminar, AKADEMIYA2063 and its partners examined various themes including the opportunities of the UN Food Systems Summit from Africa’s perspective, the needs for infrastructure and services for fast transforming food systems and policies to sustain and deepen the current recovery process.

AKADEMIYA2063 is headquartered in Kigali, Rwanda with a regional office in Dakar, Senegal.

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Thousands across Africa take to the streets calling for urgent solutions to the multiple crises of climate change and COVID-19
September 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

Africa-wide — Thousands took part in multiple actions across the continent calling on its leaders to urgently address the multiple crises of climate change, COVID-19, recession, unemployment, inequality and poverty plaguing the continent.

This was in response to the call from youth climate strikers for a Global Day of Climate Action on September 25th. Extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts driven by the climate crises are still common across the continent and the strikes are a reminder to those in power that the climate crisis has not gone away even as we fight COVID-19.

Last year, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to demand climate action. Politicians and the media congratulated the youth and portrayed them as beacons of hope. However, with those same leaders’ inaction, there has been little to celebrate. 

Climate science is clear that we are on the brink of climate breakdown, and urgent action is required such as turning away from polluting and harmful fossil fuels. Unfortunately, it is not a reality that is being taken seriously by African leaders who continue pushing for large investments in oil, coal and gas; putting profit for the few over the well-being of the many as they have many times before.

Quotes from key spokespeople

“Just this year, millions of people across the continent have had to abandon their homes due to floods and it is also anticipated that 2020 will be one of the hottest years on record. COVID-19 is still here with us but so is the climate crisis, leaders across Africa need to take this opportunity to build back better. Today, Africa’s youths are once again calling for climate justice consisting of transitioning away from fossil fuels and building climate resilient economies powered by renewables before it’s too late.They are demanding a new normal that puts the wellbeing of people and climate action first, building a socially and environmentally just, zero carbon future.” – Landry Ninteretse, Africa Team Leader, 350.org

“Young people and school children around the world have been striking from school demanding climate justice. Demanding that their future not be condemned to the ravages of climate chaos. We shall not relent, we call on our African leaders to accelerate plans for making Africa free of oil coal and gas. Taking advantage of technological advancements that now make wind and solar far cheaper alternatives with the ability to create even more jobs for the youth.” – Andre Moliro, Climate Justice Activist from Kinshasa, DRC

“COVID-19 is linked to the ecological crisis, as ecological degradation and climate change make pandemics more likely. It is therefore vital for decision-makers across the continent to ensure that the response to the pandemic also addresses the climate crisis and the existing inequalities that many Africans face especially women in rural areas. It is imperative that we leverage this moment to ensure a just recovery that builds resilience to crises and equality across the continent.” – Irene Asuwa, Woman Climate Champion with deCOALonize campaign in Lamu, Kenya

The climate youth movement was sparked by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s solo protest in August 2018. Now is a year on from the biggest climate mobilisation ever last September. The 25th will be the movement’s first major street protest of 2020 in many countries, and Fridays For Future have announced protests in over 3000 locations around the world.

*350Africa.org

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Egypt joins global climate strikes with calls for Environmental Education to fight climate change
September 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Asmaa Hanafi

Back At the beginning of 2020 just before Covid-19 the world went highly polluted after stormy weather and heavy rain in Alexandria, Egypt. The bad weather has caused flooding in a number of streets in the Mediterranean city, especially in eastern districts. Alexandria governorate issued warnings to residents,
including asking people to avoid leaving their homes except in case of emergency, and to avoid standing under balconies or beside lampposts. I feel like it’s time to speak out climate Justices, climate change is a real and so close to everyone.

Thunderstorms packing heavy rains and lightning caused widespread flooding across Egypt at March 2020, killing at least fifteen people. Authorities shut down Luxor International Airport, a key hub for tourists, and three seaports — the Mediterranean port of Alexandria and the Red Sea ports of Sharm el-Sheikh and
Hurghada. Nile River cruises between the southern cities of Luxor and Aswan, which harbor most of ancient Egypt’s monuments, were suspended and several key highways were closed.

In Egypt, schools, nurseries and other recreational venues are closed since the middle of March 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic. Children are often kept away from friends and loved ones. Families faced unprecedented economic, social and
psychological challenges. To address this anxiety, the stress and the boredom, Green society team shared dozens of advice, tips and resources for parents and children to be able to face these difficult times.

Through campaigns on social media and videos on YouTube celebrating Earth day 2020, the 50th anniversary, Africa day, World Environmental day and finally global climate strikes day.

When the lockdown started, we aimed at keeping all engaged in climate change crisis, feel the difference between polluted Air, hunting animals, cutting trees, movements of cars, burning fossil fuels and improves air quality and encourages wild animals to come out and explore the cities.

It’s time for igniting climate literacy and inspire all our family members to be involved in climate change movements that’s make us create such amazing stop motion video art taking a story line and illustrate impacts of climate change the problem of fossil fuels from industrial revolution era ending by the solution of plant trees, recycling, upcycling and move to renewable energy. It was a challengeable time to demonstrate every single second of doing this project

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Actions across Africa calling for urgent solutions to the dual crises of climate change and COVID-19
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Africa-wide — Youth climate strikers under the banner of Fridays for Future have called for a Global Day of Climate Action on September 25th.

In response to this call youth leaders, civil society groups and grassroots movements are organizing actions across the continent to send a powerful message to the leaders that there is need for a just recovery

Key Activities by Country:

KENYA

  • On September 25th and 26th, there will be graffiti installation in Mathare, Nairobi, followed by a community dialogue on climate impacts and its mitigation. Press contact: Ndereva Mutua Mwendenderevamutua884@gmail.com, +254 790 657087
  • On September 25th, there will be a live virtual concert to launch the Afrika Vuka song by local artists aimed at mobilizing young climate activists to join the climate movement. Press contact: Steeve Kezamutima kezamutimas@gmail.com  +254 700 576154
  • On September 25th, there will be a march and virtual strike targeted towards the Ministry of Trade and US Embassy in light of the recent US – Kenya trade deals posing to rekindle the once banned plastic use in Kenya to ensure that the plastic ban stays in place. Press contact: Eric Damien ericdnjuguna@gmail.com +254 719 555133

UGANDA

  • On September 25th, there will be a film screening in Kasese highlighting oil exploration and its impacts. Press contact: Edwin Mumbere  edwinfantam@gmail.com  +256 773 558257
  • On September 27th, the Uganda Little Hands Go Green will be hosting a virtual Green Kids Festival to bring together all the young green ambassadors to speak about the conservation of Bugoma forest and the environment as a whole. Press contact: Joseph Masembe masembe@littlegreenhands.org +256 756 249000

BURUNDI

  • On September 25th, a march followed by a music concert will take place in Gitega by Espoir Scout Burundi. Press contact: Jean Claude scoutespoirmagarama@gmail.com +257 79 91 47 19
  • On September 25th, over 900 students will come together in Kinindo, Bujumbura to raise awareness on climate change impacts and renewable energy. Press contact: Audrey Habonimana audrey.habonimana@rutareinitiative.org +257 69 86 88 00 

EGYPT

  • On September 25th, the Green Society Alexandria will unveil an animated video to create awareness of the climate crisis in Egypt as well as push the message for a need to build back better after the crisis. Press contact: Asmaa Hanafi asmaahanafi22@gmail.com +20 102 230 1723

DRC

  • On September 25th, in Kinshasa, painters will join youth activists to draw and design posters with Just Recovery messages while calling for a stop to oil exploration in Virunga. The artwork will then be shared on social media during a twitter storm and delivered to the President of the Republic and Minister of Energy. Press contact: Andre Moliro andremoliro2@gmail.com, +243 811 607 726
  • On September 26th, an open day for climate action will take place in Goma, bringing together youth, civil society will be held to call for a stop to oil exploration in Virunga. Press contact: Ephrem Bwishe ephrb@yahoo.fr, +250 786 772 165

CAMEROON

  • On September 25th, a film screening will take place at the University of Yaounde to raise awareness on climate change impacts focusing on the  vulnerability of women and renewable energy as an alternative. Press contact: Félicité Djoukouofelicite.djoukouo@gmail.com +237 75787046

GHANA

  • On September 25th, the group 350 GROC will be organizing a virtual debate on renewable energy in Ghana and a just recovery post COVID. Press contact: Portia Adu Mensah 350groc@gmail.com +233 26 268 5618

TOGO

  • On September 25th, there will be a movie screening in Lome to showcase the effects of coal and renewable energy opportunities in Togo. Press contact: Esso Pedessi essoklnam@gmail.com  +228 90 96 32 91

BENIN

  • On September 25th, a Women’s March for Climate will take place in Lalo to raise awareness on climate justice and the potential of renewable energy. Press contact: Maimouna Adamouongjupd@gmail.com +229 99992562

The climate youth movement was sparked by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s solo protest in August 2018. Now is a year on from the biggest climate mobilisation ever last September. The 25th will be the movement’s first major street protest of 2020 in many countries, and Fridays For Future have announced protests in over 3000 locations around the world.

*Source 350.Org

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Gambia:Banjul Mayoress Shortlisted to Contest for Presidency of Mayors of Africa Capital Cities
September 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Banjuk Mayor Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan
Banjul Mayor Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan

The Mayor of Banjul, Rohey Lowe-Saidykhan has been shortlisted to contest the presidency of mayors of 54 Africa capital cities. 

She will contest the prestigious position against three others, Muhamed Sidiq of Rabat Morocco, Madam El Wardani of Dakar, Senegal and Juliana Kaduya of Lilongwe, Malawi. The election will be held in three week’s time.

A preamble announcing the nominations said the nomination of the Banjul mayor by ULCD to contest the presidency is based on the trend of development that has been delivered to the citizens of Banjul barely two years after her election as the first female mayor in Gambia’s history.

The person elected to the presidency of the African Capital Cities Sustainability Forum (ACCSF) will, apart from being the main promoter of the ACCSF to institutions such as AU and during summit or conference if elected, will be in charge of the strategic direction and development.

He/she will also represent entire 54 African capital cities mayors and governors of ACCSF.

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Environmental Management Agency most open institution in Zimbabwe,survey reveals
September 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

A recent survey has revealed that the Environmental Management Agency (EMA)   is the most open institution in Zimbabwe according to MISA Zimbabwe’s 2020 Transparency Assessment findings while Chitungwiza Municipality is the most secretive.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Regional), has been conducting research and studies since 2009 to establish the difficulty with which citizens in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) can access public information.

The study is also part of commemorations for the International Day for Universal Access to Information which is marked every year on 28 September. It also based on the findings of assessments on whether public institutions proactively make relevant information available online in the form of websites or social media accounts.

It further evaluates to what degree information is made available to citizens upon request.

EMA was assessed as the most open institution after being assessed as being active on social media and maintaining a “partially” up to date website. Although the institution was unable to provide information that had been requested, they explained their reasons.

Chitungwiza Municipality did not respond to the requests for information. A senior official stated that they did not receive the request and recommended that the requests be resubmitted through email.

Other organisations that were surveyed are; Chipinge Rural District Council, Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Mutare City Council and Zimbabwe School Examinations Council.

Regionally, similar studies were conducted in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia.

Given the limited timeframe for the survey and the COVID-19 restrictions, it was not feasible to effectively test the new Freedom of Information Act and survey all organisations as originally planned.

However, it is trite to note that the culture and practice of acknowledging receipt of information requests, as opposed to providing the information sought, is still a challenge in some organisations. Targeted institutions do not always notify the requester when they receive the information request letter, but only acknowledge receipt upon physical follow-up visits to their offices.

Meanwhile, of the 10 organisations surveyed, the following had no functional websites (at the time the study was conducted), Chipinge Rural District Council, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises and Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.

Although six organisations acknowledged receipt of the information requests, only two responded well to the requests.

MISA Zimbabwe encourages organisations to effectively use online platforms to disseminate information to the public while the new law on access to information, the Freedom of Information Act, should be continuously evaluated to ensure it gives effect to Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution that provide for freedom of expression, media freedom and citizens’ right to access to information.

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Zimbabwe:Finalists for the 2020 ZICTA ICT innovation programme announced
September 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

Stanbic calls for improved collaboration between ICT players to support local ICT innovators and turn Zambia into regional tech hub.


LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) in collaboration with Stanbic Bank Zambia and Airtel Networks Zambia have launched the 2020 cohort of the ICT Innovation Programme.

The initiative was started in 2016 by ZICTA as a way of equipping local tech innovators and start-ups with tools to bring their ideas to life and contribute to the country’s digital agenda.
This year’s event attracted about 242 applications from which 60 were selected by an independent panel of experts to progress to the next round. Entries were assessed based on their business potential, technical feasibility, and scalability of the idea.

The programme is open to Zambian ICT innovators and/or entrepreneurs aged between 18–35 years old with inventive, viable and scalable business ideas that attempt to solve current challenges relating to various sectors of the economy including finance, education, agriculture, energy, climate, and health among others.

So far, four cohorts have been initiated with more than 100 emerging innovators benefiting.
Speaking during the virtual launch which attracted over 200 attendees recently, Stanbic Bank Zambia Head Public Relations and Communications Chanda Chime-Katongo said that a flourishing digital industry would bring Zambia a step closer to achieving its economic diversification dream through the creation of export worthy ICT products and services thereby accelerating GDP growth.

She said: “Zambia has considerable potential of becoming one of the region’s main players in technology development. Digital platforms are increasingly becoming more accessible to more people each day thus creating a ready market for cutting edge innovations.

“To top it off, we have the advantage of political stability and innumerable talented youths that are eager to get a slice of the proverbial economic pie.
“All that is remaining is a deliberate support system from stakeholders that could serve as a launch pad for homegrown tech entrepreneurs.”

Mrs Katongo noted that for the local ICT sector to truly take off and reach its full potential, key industry players had to create strategic partnerships that supported innovation.
“There is need for increased collaboration between stakeholders to unlock Zambia’s potential and turn the country into a regional tech hub.”

“At Stanbic, we are convinced that nurturing strategic partnerships between corporate entities, Government agencies and other sector players including tech start-ups can hasten Zambia’s journey towards a digital economy.
Our sponsorship of this initiative is a clear demonstration of our intention to not only provide practical support to local entrepreneurs but also grow the tech industry.”

The 60 innovators will receive access to potential business linkages for their ideas as well as technical and business development support from sector experts over the next six months – after which the best three will receive financial support of up to ZMW50,000 towards the implementation of their innovation.

And speaking during the same launch, ZICTA Director General, Engineer Patrick Mutimushi said the innovation programme was in line with the authority’s mandate as prescribed under Section 6 of the ICT Act of 2009 – to promote research, development and the use of new and appropriate technologies in the sector.
He noted that the initiative was a clear illustration of how ZICTA was actualising Government through the Ministry of Transport and Communication’s efforts to create an enabling environment for transitioning ideas into viable business ventures. 

“As the world continues to make strides aimed at addressing a serious global pandemic (COVID 19) that has led to extensive disruptions in our societies, I am delighted that we are able to continue identifying promising innovations that can be nurtured into commercially viable solutions and respond to some of our socio- economic needs as a country,” Eng Mutimushi said.

He added that: “The focus areas for this year’s programme were identified through our engagements with various stakeholders on the areas that required ICT related innovations. We are hopeful that this approach will enhance the prospects for potential off-takers and financing as well as provide responsive innovations to the needs of our country.”
Eng Mutimushi urged the final 60 innovators to make the most of the opportunity and perfect their ideas and innovations to make a difference in the country.

“I encourage you all to take advantage of this opportunity and perfect your ideas and innovations so that they make a difference in our country. You are called to use your intellect, creativity, passion, and determination to drive this country forward.”
The 2020 Innovation Programme shall run for a maximum duration of six months from August 2020 to February 2021.

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DFC and Akola Support Ugandan Women Through COVID-19 Pandemic
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments
DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler

$5 million DFC loan will help Akola continue empowering low-income women, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

WASHINGTON – U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Akola PBC today announced that DFC has provided a $5 million loan to Dallas, Texas-based Akola. DFC’s financing will help the impact-driven jewelry brand and manufacturing business—particularly the women that it employs in rural Uganda—weather the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“Women reinvest most of their earnings in their families and communities and are a powerful driver of prosperity and stability in Uganda and beyond. With just a little bit of support, they can deliver outsized impact in their communities,” said DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler. “DFC’s financing will help Akola continue its work to provide economic opportunities and uplift Ugandan women. Our collaboration comes at a critical time as COVID-19 continues to leave underserved individuals—disproportionately women—even more vulnerable around the world.”

“Akola was founded on the belief that job creation is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty,” explains Akola’s CEO, Sheeba Philip. “This is why it was crucial that we did everything possible to ensure the women we employ as part of our operations in Uganda kept their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. We quickly shifted our focus to product experiences that meet consumer needs and reflect the changing retail environment, such as our DIY Bracelet Kits. We are grateful for the partnership with DFC, which helps ensure we can continue to offer Akola women living wage employment so they can provide for their families.”

As a result of COVID-19, many major retailers have backed out of orders and brands have trimmed production, putting global artisans and factory workers already living in extreme poverty out of work. Yet in the wake of the pandemic, Akola has continued its mission and commitment to the women it serves, working creatively to ensure that the hundreds of Ugandan women who work for the company have all remained employed.

DFC’s financing is structured to support these efforts, funding critical working capital needs that help Akola continue to provide stable wages and benefits through the pandemic to its all-female Ugandan workforce. Eventually, the loan will also support a new production facility and additional employees, enabling Akola to continue focusing on growing demand through its e-commerce platform, which in turn will help the company become more resilient to future market shocks.

Akola, which means “she works” in the local dialect, was founded by Brittany Underwood after spending a summer teaching English in Jinja, Uganda during college. Once a small operation of 15 women making jewelry under a tree in 2007, Akola today employs nearly 200 women in rural Uganda. All Akola jewelry is handcrafted in Uganda using locally-sourced, sustainable materials and is sold worldwide.

The women employed by Akola in Uganda usually serve as the primary providers for their families, and the vast majority lived in extreme poverty before working for the company. In addition to a stable income, Akola also provides ongoing training and mentorship to its Ugandan employees through nonprofit partner Akola Academy. Akola Academy provides leadership and financial literacy training to foster long-term economic independence. Sixty-six percent of Akola women in Uganda own a home and 79 percent of Akola children are enrolled in school.

DFC’s investment advances its 2X Women’s Initiative, which has catalyzed more than $3 billion of private sector investment in projects that empower women in developing countries. Through 2X, DFC plays a key role in the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), which marks the first whole-of-U.S. Government approach to empowering women globally and is spearheaded by Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump. DFC’s investment also advances the Administration’s Prosper Africa initiative, which aims to channel the tools and resources of the U.S. Government to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the United States and Africa.

*DFC

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Covid-19 “an opportunity” say African Educators in Major New Survey
September 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Wallace Mawire

Fifty per cent of surveyed African teachers, trainers and education technology specialists think the Covid-19 pandemic will turn out to be a “significant” or “very significant” opportunity for African education.

The results of a survey, released today by eLearning Africa and EdTech Hub, show that many African educators are opportunistic about the future. They believe that Covid-19 has served as a “wake-up call,” which will encourage greater use of blended learning and new forms of technology assisted education and training in the continent’s schools, colleges and universities.

The survey, ‘The Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic on African Education’ is based on interviews with more than 1600 education and technology professionals across Africa, who were asked about their experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications. 85 per cent of respondents thought that the use of technology would be more widespread as a result of the crisis. As the African Union, among others, considers that technology is the key to the rapid expansion of education and thus to future economic growth, this is clearly good news.

One respondent, Joice, who has worked in technology and education for over 20 years and believes in the “fundamental role in society” of educational technologies said: “We have the opportunity in the face of the pandemic to improve the uses and access to technologies aimed at learning, at a time when students and teachers can become protagonists of a new model of education.”

Isso of Burkina Faso, a teacher, believes it is precisely the difficulty of the current crisis that will ultimately create real, long term benefits: “As the Covid-19 becomes a worldwide problem with no good solution, everybody in the world becomes involved in seeking solutions for their own survival that will lead to creativity, new ideas and new opportunities and part of evolution.”

And, from industry, corporate planner Sisu of Zimbabwe said: “This is the opportunity for a long-term evolution of the education system.”

The survey also pointed, however, to considerable nervousness about the development of a digital divide and a rise in inequalities among learners because of uneven access to technology. Respondents felt that learners in rural communities were most likely to be disadvantaged as a result of a lack of access to technology. They also felt that connectivity was the biggest obstacle preventing the development of more technology assisted learning – specifically, a lack of available and affordable connectivity.

Overall, respondents reported that school closures had been widespread across Africa (95 per cent said that all schools in their countries had been forced to close) and, whilst this had had many negative consequences, 92 per cent said they thought the closures were essential. However, the survey showed that most educators received no financial support for tools to help them continue teaching in the crisis, and felt that they had insufficient preparation to adapt to the demands of distance learning.

The survey also pointed to the effectiveness of different technologies at different levels, with television and radio seen as working well at the primary level and online learning at the secondary.

eLearning Africa Director Rebecca Stromeyer said that the survey showed that there was “plenty of evidence of ingenuity and innovation at all levels in many countries” in responding to the crisis.

“The crisis has been a real challenge for Africa but it has not, by and large, been the catastrophe that was predicted. Africans have used the technologies available to them to carry on teaching and learning. People have learnt from this crisis and they know how important technology now is to education.”

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New maize variety set to uplift farmers’ fortunes in Africa
September 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Christine Ochogo*

Partners working in a maize project called TELA are captured in a farm under research recently (Photo: African Agricultural Technology Foundation).
Partners working in a maize project called TELA are captured in a farm under research recently (Photo: African Agricultural Technology Foundation).

For the second day in a row, Jerry Oyoo, a western Kenyan farmer from Nyagowa Village, Karachuonyo Constituency has just returned home with a sack of maize from his Kimira wetland farm.

“This is a huge waste of time, energy and money,” Mr Oyoo tells me sounding as if he needs some psycho-social support.

“I spent Ksh 5000 (USD50) to pay for the tractor man to till my land. I spent a further Ksh 3000 (USD30) to pay farm labourers for the first weeding plus a further Ksh 2500 (USD25) for the second weeding, and today I have just paid Ksh 1000 (USD10) to helpers to harvest the produce,” he says looking forlorn and dejected.

In all his calculations he spent Ksh 11,500 (USD115) only to return home with three sacks of maize all valued at Ksh 9,000 (USD90). As he brought home his last sack of maize harvest, Oyoo had just incurred a loss of Ksh 2500 (USD 25) without taking other inputs and time spent on the farm.

While addressing journalists allied to the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) in a virtual conference, Dr Sylvester Oikeh, a maize scientist, says farmers like Oyoo need not give up on farming asserting that biotechnology is the way to go in addressing the challenges brought along by effects of climate change, ever growing population leading to shrinking land for cultivation and biological challenges like pests and diseases. He added that biotechnology remains a strong investment for farmers like Oyoo.

The conference brought together 100 journalists from 30 African countries.

“Globally, for each dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, farmers gained an average $3.49. In 2016, farmers in developing countries received $5.06 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds, whereas farmers in developed countries received $2.70 for each extra dollar invested in biotech crop seeds,” Dr Oikeh said.

To show that scientists are not sleeping on the job, the maize guru said that his organisation, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation with other partners such as the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation  (KALRO) have been working towards getting transgenic drought-tolerant and insect-protected maize varieties to farmers to enhance food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We work on a project called TELA maize which seeks to ensure farmers who access the variety will be able to mitigate effects of climate change especially moderate drought and losses to insects such as stem borers and fall armyworm,” said Dr. Oikeh who is the Project Manager at AATF.

Dr. Oikeh spoke on the Status on development and commercialization of transgenic TELA maize for African farmersin a virtual conference that brought together nearly 200 science journalists from 30 African countries and beyond to discuss conservation, climate change, agriculture, and health to bolster factual reporting on science.

“When farmers have access to the TELA maize varieties they will be able to mitigate effects of climate change especially moderate drought and losses to insects such as stem borers and fall armyworm,” said the expert who boasts of over 30 years research trail on maize in the continent.

TELA Bt maize hybrid varieties were released to smallholder farmers in South Africa in 2016 and has been granted environmental release to proceed to national performance trials in Kenya.

“National performance trials (NPTs) are carried out in Kenya by the Kenya Plant Health and Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to determine the agronomic potential and adaptability of new varieties relative to those currently in the market,” said Dr Mwimali Murenga from KALRO. He added that they have already planted in Alupe, Kakamega and Kibos. Other sites Embu, Mwea and thika will be planted from mid oct 2020 during the short rains season.

The NPTs are carried out to evaluate maize hybrids that have potential for commercialization. Experimental material under test are usually compared to those in the market. Several sites from a minimum of 6 sites to a maximum 10 sites are usually planted depending on the growing zones, added Dr Murenga.

Bt maize gave positive and significant effect on yield across varieties and trials with 52 per cent yield advantage over non-Bt maize in Kenya and Uganda,” said Dr. Oikeh, noting that full adoption of Bt maize in Kenya could save the country a whopping 400,000 tonnes equivalent to US 90 million that is lost to stemborer damage annually.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a microbe naturally found in soil and that has been used as a biological pesticide for several decades to control insect damage mostly in the horticulture industry. Usually used as a spray, scientists found a way to incorporate Bt proteins (genes) into the plant to give the plant protection against certain insect pests such as stem borer and fall armyworm without spraying the plant.

While responding to a question on safety concerns on the technology, Dr. Oikeh re-affirmed the safety of biotech products, noting that farmers from other regions across the world are enjoying the benefits of the technology.

“Several global authorities including World Health Organization (WHO); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and many Academies of Sciences have all indicated the GM food that have been evaluated and passed through regulatory scrutiny and approved are safe to eat,” he emphasized.

In Africa, nine countries including Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria and Sudan have approved and released transgenic cotton, cowpea, maize and soybean. Globally, 67 countries are either growing or trading with biotech crops.

The TELA Maize Project works with governments in seven African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda – to deliver the new TELA maize varieties to farmers. All TELA maize varieties will be made available to smallholder farmers through local seed companies after assessment by national authorities according to the country’s regulatory requirements.

*christawine@gmail.com

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Supporting Public Private Partnerships in Africa: African Development Bank ready to scale up
September 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

Representatives of the African Development Bank, governments, Development Finance Institutions, the private sector and  professional associations joined a September 8 workshop to discuss how the Bank can strengthen support for Public Private Partnerships and channel greater investment toward economic and social infrastructure. The event, titled Designing the African Development Bank’s PPP Framework, was hosted virtually by the Bank. 

The workshop took place against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic slowdown, which has sharpened an already urgent need for investment.  Five African countries accounted for more than 50% of all successful PPP activity from 2008 to 2018: South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana. Several other countries have multiple PPPs in the pipeline– Burkina Faso has 20, and Botswana, 8.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, African infrastructure was already struggling to structure projects tailored for the private sector and at the same time achieving value for money for the public sector including affordability for users. It is therefore imperative that hybrid solutions such as PPPs must be seen and promoted as a way of building back better, stronger, greener, by clawing back private capital to infrastructure while creating much needed fiscal room for governments to address multiple other demands including building health systems’ resiliency.” Bank Vice President Solomon Quaynor said in his opening remarks.

The African Development Bank estimates Africa’s infrastructure financing needs at up to $170 billion a year by 2025, with an estimated financing gap of up to of $68 to $108 billion a year. PPPs are seen as a key element in narrowing this gap by crowding in private sector investment in infrastructure and African Development Bank is playing a critical role in scaling up that effort.

Amadou Oumarou, Director for the Bank’s Infrastructure and Urban Development department presented several rationales for the Bank’s effort to develop a PPP framework, including its Ten-Year Strategy (2013-2022) and a recommendation from the Bank’s Independent (IDEV) evaluation unit to scale up PPP interventions.

Webinar participants expressed a desire for the Bank to play an expanded role in supporting PPP development in Africa by strengthening policy and regulatory frameworks, building government capacity; project structuring and advisory services; and the provision of financing instruments such de-risking, guarantees, credit enhancements and local currency financing. 

 “Countries need to learn from each other’s achievements and mistakes, they need to have standard documents and checklists that will guide institutions in these countries through the PPP lifecycle,” said Shoubhik Ganguly of Rebel Group International, which is partnering with the Bank to develop the framework.  

Mike Salawou, Division Manager; Infrastructure Partnerships, said “Policy dialogue is something the Bank places a lot of premium on, and that has proven to be very efficient in informing decision making.” 

 “One of the challenges RMCs are faced with is selecting the right project for implementation, therefore support should start from there, then going through to actual project preparation makes it a lot easier,” said Michael Opagi, Division Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa, IFC.

Private sector representatives praised DFIs as indispensable in securing financing for PPP projects in Africa.  One example of a successful PPP project cited during the workshop is the Kigali Bulk Water project, which received significant backing from the African Development Bank, the World Bank, as well as private sector players.

 According to Phillipe Valahu, CEO, PIDG the Kigali Water project is a perfect example of having an integrated support to a PPP project by using the three pillars proposed in the Bank’s PPP Framework. The project benefited from debt funding from PIDG alongside the African Development Bank which each provided $19 million of senior debt on commercial terms.   

 “The African Development Bank has unparalleled trust relationships with African governments, and we need to take advantage of that to speed up implementation of PPPS,” Quaynor said in closing.

*AFDB

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African Development Bank approves $27.33 million to ramp up the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Initiative
September 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank’s Board of Directors on Wednesday approved $27.33 million in grants to boost the African Union’s (AU) efforts to mobilize a continental response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

The approval follows a meeting of the extended Bureau of the Conference of Heads of State and Government with Africa’s private sector on 22 April 2020, chaired by H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and chairperson of the AU, at which the Bank’s President, Akinwumi Adesina, pledged strong support for the AU’s COVID-19 initiative.

The AU Bureau meeting called for contributions to the African Union’s COVID-19 Response Fund established by the AU Commission chairperson, Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, in March 2020.

Speaking after the Board approval of this operation, President Adesina said: “The African Development Bank will strongly support Africa to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and build back, strongly and smartly. The Bank’s financial support to the Africa Centers for Disease Control, reaffirms our strong commitment to regional efforts to tackle the pandemic being coordinated by the African Union. Africa needs a well-financed Africa Centers for Disease Control, today and for the future.”

The Bank’s grant financing will support the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in providing technical assistance and building capacity for 37 African Development Fund (ADF) eligible countries, particularly the Transition States, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impact. The ADF is the Bank’s concessional window.

Sourced from the ADF’s Regional Operations/Regional Public Goods envelope and the Transition Support Facility, these two grants will support the implementation of Africa CDC’s COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan through strengthening surveillance at various points of entry (air, sea, and land) in African countries; building sub-regional and national capacity for epidemiological surveillance; and ensuring the availability of testing materials and personal protective equipment for frontline workers deployed in hotspots. The operation will also facilitate collection of gender-disaggregated data and adequate staffing for Africa CDC’s emergency operations center.

At the beginning of February 2020, only two reference laboratories—in Senegal and in South Africa—could run tests for COVID-19 on the continent. The Africa CDC, working with governments, the World Health Organization, and several development partners and public health institutes, have increased this capacity to 44 countries currently. Despite this progress, Africa’s testing capacity remains low, with the 37 ADF-eligible countries accounting for only 40% of completed COVID-19 tests to date.

“Our response today and support to the African Union is timely and will play a crucial role in helping Africa look inward for solutions to build resilience to this pandemic and future outbreaks,” said Ms. Wambui Gichuri, Ag. Vice President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

This support will complement various national and sub-regional operations financed by the African Development Bank under its COVID-19 Response Facility to support African countries to contain and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.

*AFDB

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