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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Africa Must Think – changing from chicken to eagle mindset

When asked what it will take to change the face of Africa, Dr. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim’s answer is “Africa Must Think”.

The US-based Ghanaian author, inspirational speaker and leadership trainer believes “if we don’t think, someone will be doing the thinking for us”.

He therefore expects Africans to move from the chicken mindset to an eagle mindset; from mediocrity to excellence.

According to him, the solution to Africa’s problems is not for the politician, religious leader or traditional ruler but with the individual self.

“We can change the face of Africa by being changed,” he says.

Dr. Koranteng-Pipim’s Empowerment and Advisory Group for Leadership, Excellence and Service (EAGLES) is breeding “a grassroots movement of dedicated Africans who have made a commitment to being changed so that they can be agents of transformative change”.

The goal is to empower Africans to make commitment to excellence in their fields of endeavor.

“Our problem is not the African mind but the African mindset; it is not a lack of resources but a deficit of resourcefulness; the heart of the African problem is the African heart which must be changed,” he noted.

In his “Africa Must Think” book, Dr. Koranteng-Pipim, has observed that “instead of raining millionaires and billionaires, we’ve succeeded in producing nillionaires (people with a lot of nothing or people with next to nil). The richest continent in the world is inhabited by the poorest people on the globe. Mediocrity is the new standard of excellence. PHD means ‘Pull Him Down’ or ‘Pull Her Down’. We excel at hammering those who stand out. And we clip the wings of our souring eagles so they can become chickens like us. This is Africa. It is not the Africa that ought to be”.

The Africa Must Think Lecture Series has been instituted to inspire and empower a new crop of Ghanaians and Africans to be instruments of positive change in society – in thought and action.

The leadership development and empowerment program has the ultimate goal of improving the quality of solutions offered to solve socio-economic problems facing the African continent.

Dr. Koranteng-Pipim has noted that a time is coming unless Africans take time to plan intentionally, the problems would be compounded.

“Africa cannot continue outsourcing its thinking process to others, while it remains content to daydream about the past, complain about its present, and worry about its future,” he stated.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Friday, July 11, 2014

From gold to ghost towns – salvaging resource rich communities in Ghana

Some extractive industry watchers are skeptical about AngloGold Ashanti’s return to mine in Obuasi after its announced two year break to restructure operations.

The mine has been put under “care and maintenance” following operational losses recorded in recent times, a situation that has resulted in the retrenchment of over 5,000 employees.

“Basically we have some challenges with the production levels and the cost of production is also high, the gold price has gone down so there is the need to re-strategize and see how the mine can become profitable in the future,” said Aboagye Ohene Adu, Senior Manager in charge of Sustainability at the AGA Obuasi Mine.

But Dr. Steve Manteaw of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) is cynical about the company’s come back.

“In my view you could still re-strategize without closing shop; scale down your operations and then you do your re-strategizing before scaling up your operations,” he observed. “I guess it would have been more difficult for government to accept and allow them to go if they said they were closing shops for good and I think the easier way would be to say ‘we are putting the whole mine under care and maintenance’ such that, in terms of the negotiations around that it would be much easier for them to exit.”
 
The inherent danger, according to Dr. Manteaw, is that the mining concession could be opened up to illegal mining or ‘galamsey’ invasions which could affect future prospective investor’ attraction.

However, based on the existing 6.5 million ounces of ore deposits currently available at Obuasi, Mr. Ohene Adu is positive gold prospecting in Obuasi could thrive for at least 17 years if AngloGold’s redevelopment is properly undertaken.

“We are trying to put in certain initiatives in partnership with the government to ensure that the communities here also become sustainable as we move along,” he said.

The AngloGold Ashanti mine is the backbone of the economy of the Obuasi municipality and four other adjourning districts as well as a key foreign exchange earner for Ghana.

Apart from the impact of the latest development on direct employment, peripheral services that feed off and depend on the mine would be hardest hit. The company would also withdraw funding of existing social services in the areas of health, education and sports.

Woes of local mining communities

Sanso is a predominant mining community in Obuasi. Local assembly representative, Benjamin Annan, says livelihoods are negatively impacted because there are no alternatives to mining for local communities.

“When the mining was underground, we were not having problems because we are farmers, but now surface mining has affected our farms. Now Sanso is ghost town; we can’t farm, we can’t have access to the mine because we’re not skilled labour and our source of livelihood – artisanal mining – is also closed,” he complained.

AngloGold has been engaging interest groups to offer alternative livelihoods that would protect local communities from turning into ghost towns, says Mr. Ohene Adu.

“The company alone cannot take the burden,” he noted, stating that some local economic initiatives are being thought through to create employment opportunities.

Richard Ellimah, a community rights activist and Executive Director of NGO, Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), says the company’s two year break is an opportunity to begin the process of designing an alternative industrialization programme for Obuasi.

“It was a long term decision we should have made. Everybody should have understood that there will come a time when the mining company will fold up; either they will find mining no longer profitable and they’ll leave or the ore will get depleted,” he observed.

According to Mr. Ellimah, Obuasi can sail through the current crisis if sustainable small scale mining is promoted alongside agriculture.

He therefore wants the Minerals Commission and AngloGold Ashanti to consider ceding off part of the mining concession for small scale miners to begin operations.

“If we have people in town who have the requisite capital and want to do mining, there should be available land for them to do their mining because for small scale miners, their operations don’t generate so much cost and they are indigenous companies who would not just fold up because gold price has fallen and the money will stay in the town,” stated Mr. Ellimah.

The Obuasi Municipal Assembly is already looking forward to improved working relations with AngloGold Ashanti when the mine is reopened for business.

Isaac Appiah Nsiah, Municipal Budget Officer, expects that “there should be more transparency with regard to how we generate revenue and how the communities are going to benefit from that. The Assembly itself is going to open up to the communities so that they would also know what they are getting from AGA and what we are utilizing the money for.”

Integrating mining into national economy

Nana Owusu Akyew Brempong of the Adansi Traditional Council is seeking divine intervention for AngloGold Ashanti to resume operations after the downscaling exercise “because we have suffered a lot and the Lord will change things for us”.

Ghana has failed to integrate its gold resource into the national economy after over 100 years of commercial mining.

Dr. Steve Manteaw says the Obuasi experience is a bitter lesson for Ghana to ensure that the extractives sector serves as conduit for sustainable development.

“When you as a policy want to integrate the resource into the rest of the economy, then you want to make a departure from collecting your royalties in cash to collecting them in kind as raw material gold so that you supply that raw material gold to the domestic jewelry making industry; when you do that you’ll be creating jobs, you’ll also be creating tax opportunities for financing local and national development”, said the ISODEC Coordinator.

In adding value to Ghana’s gold exports, Dr. Manteaw added that there is a multiplying benefit of integrating gold into the local economy, including tourism, as people troop to Ghana to experience the reflections of the “Gold Coast”.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ghana EITI to explore impact of mining on local economy – Obuasi under spotlight

The bumpy deplorable road leading to the gold city of Obuasi in the Ashanti region depicts a worrying state of an area that has played a significant role in Ghana’s economic development.

For over 100 years, mining at Obuasi has been a major contributor to the country’s foreign exchange earnings – mining has contributed an average $2billion to government’s revenue in the past five years.

Mining communities however complain the industry has failed to deliver tangible benefits for local people.

“They should hear the communities cry,” wailed Madam Gifty Owusu Afriyie, who represents Tutuka Central electoral area in the Obuasi Municipal Assembly. “Children are suffering and women too are suffering because they have to travel a long way before they can fetch some water.”

Concerns are rife that the government has used up revenue from mining without recourse to addressing the development challenges of local mining communities.

The quality of spending minerals revenue by local assembly authorities has been questioned. For instance, the Obuasi Municipal Assembly in 2007 constructed the Obuasi Entrance Arch at a cost of Gh₵89,000 whilst local people yearn for good road network, potable water, quality healthcare and education.

The next Ghana Report on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) would be keen on how the mining sector has negatively or positively impacted on the economy.

“If there is any community in Ghana that we all need to be concerned about the lessons, experiences and impact of mining, its Obuasi, especially in this moment that the company [AngloGold Ashanti] is in its critical state,” noted Emmanuel Kuyole, Africa Regional Coordinator, Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).

AngloGold has put the Obuasi mine under what is termed as “care and maintenance”, following operational losses recorded in recent times.

The redevelopment of the concession has left over 5,000 workers losing their jobs – only 500 to 600 of the workforce are being maintained.

The two-year break is expected to cripple the ability of the Obuasi Municipal Assembly to generate enough revenue to finance local development projects – as much as 70 percent of the Assembly’s total property rate mobilization is from AngloGold Ashanti.

“We’re looking forward into how we can take advantage of the number of years that is left for mining to take place in Obuasi to actually develop a local economy that will be independent of the mine so that we can find jobs and grow other sectors and make sure that once mining comes to an end, the economy of this great place will also not come to an end,” stated Mr. Kuyole.

Obuasi and adjourning districts mined by AngloGold Ashanti are under the spotlight of a research by the Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), through the civil society oversight activity of the NRGI.

Under the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI), interest groups have been analyzing the EITI reporting on sub-national revenue management and other benefits received at the local level.

The validation dialogue process involves industry players, local authorities, regulatory bodies, civil society and the media.

Major issues emanating from the discussion is the proper use and formula for sharing of mining royalties.

The consensus is that deprivation of local people of benefits from mineral resources could be disastrous as they sacrifice farms and livelihood sources for mining to thrive.

“Government must begin the process of addressing community challenges within the framework of its own development planning processes,” observed Richard Ellimah, Lead Researcher of CeSIS Study.

The EITI seeks to create the missing transparency and accountability in revenue flows from the extractive industry.

The 2012-2013 EITI Ghana Report will show the contribution of the extractives sector to the local economy, exploring how much revenue has been generated and its application.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Aligning CSRs of mining firms with medium term plans of assemblies

Mining firms support community development through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, whilst expecting the government, through the local assembly, to deliver on socio-economic goods with the collected royalties.

But mining firms often bear the brunt of community agitations of deprivation – communities affected by mining would direct their concerns to miners than to the government.

Companies in the extractives industry should therefore be proactive in having inputs into the medium-term plans of local assemblies within their operational catchment, says Dr. Steve Manteaw of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC).

According to him, aligning CSR programmes with the assemblies’ development agenda will provide the impetus for coordinated project impact on communities.

“A lot of time you see abandoned projects in the name of corporate social responsibility just because the project was not thought through and not aligned with the development priorities of the districts,” he observed. “I see companies as essentially citizens and that is why they pay taxes and [individual] citizens also pay taxes; the distinction is companies are corporate citizens who also benefit from the expenditures of the assemblies; so in my view the companies ought to be part of the processes of determining the medium term priorities of the areas where they operate.”
 
Some Community social investments

Newmont Ghana Gold Limited (NGGL) between 2008 and 2012 contributed almost Gh₵30million to the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation (NADeF) as commitment to supporting sustainable community development among the host communities.

Newmont contributes $1.00 per ounce of gold produced and one per cent of its annual net profit to the Foundation, which targets ten communities in the Asutifi North and Tano North Districts.

The NADeF has six main thematic areas of development, including Human Resources Development, Economic Empowerment, Infrastructural Development and Social Amenities. Others are Cultural Heritage and Sports, and Protection of Natural Resources.

The Foundation has completed and handed over about 60 infrastructural and social amenities including community libraries, teachers’ and nurses’ quarters, ICT centres and schools. 

A component Fund is invested as an endowment to help continue development projects after life of the mine. So far, an amount of GHC6.7million has been invested as Endowment Fund to sustain the Foundation’s activities beyond the life of the Ahafo mine.

Perseus Mining Ghana Limited in January 2012 started commercial production on its lead project, the Edikan Gold Mine (EGM) in Ghana.

The company has since established a Gh¢1.5million Edikan Fund to aid development projects in its catchment communities in the Western and Central regions.

AngloGold Ashanti also has a trust fund where the company invests 1% of its profit to drive development projects in local communities.

Aboagye Ohene Adu, Sustainability Manager at AngloGold Ashanti Obuasi Mine, says the company has already started engaging the local assembly on a regular basis to prevent duplication of projects “because it is a wasted effort if we are doing boreholes and they are also doing boreholes in the same community whilst we can channel the resources on other things”.

The CSR Guideline

The Minerals Commission has devised a Guideline to serve as a uniformed benchmark for development and assessment of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes of miners.

But Dr. Manteaw says aligning the CSRs with the local assemblies’ medium term plans reduce social conflicts in mining communities.
 
“It could be in monetary terms or it could be part of taking up the responsibility of executing or providing some of the infrastructural needs of the society so that at least the society benefits from some of the corporate social responsibility expenditure of the companies,” he noted.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ghana among African countries to access new Climate Investment Funds

Ghana is among nine African nations chosen to receive new funding and operational support from the Climate Investment Funds, under the CIF’s Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries Program (SREP).

The other countries are: Benin, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia – increasing the number of African countries piloting CIF climate-smart investment plans to 25, nearly half of all 55 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This was announced at the semi-annual Climate Investment Funds (CIF) governing body meetings held in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), one of the CIF’s five implementing agencies, worked with the countries to garner the support and will serve as implementing agency for the countries as they develop their new CIF investment plans.

“This move sends an impressive signal for change,” stated SREP co-chair Erastus Wahome, representative for Kenya, the first country to operationalize a CIF transformational geothermal program in Africa. “The additional donor support for energy transformation is a clear sign of confidence in the success we’ve already seen taking place in low-income countries in Africa and other regions, and a sign of developing countries’ continuing enthusiasm to commit to CIF-style transformation. I am proud that Kenya has helped lead the way for this transformation.”

An independent Expert Group selected the countries from a group of 40 countries expressing interest in joining the SREP. Some of the criteria used to select the countries included low energy access rates, existence of an enabling policy and regulatory environment, renewable-friendly energy development strategies, strong governance capacity, and capacity for implementation.

In their final decision, the SREP Sub-Committee agreed that it would provide up to $300,000 for each country to undertake development of an SREP investment plan.

At the meetings, the governing bodies also welcomed the appointment of Mafalda Duarte, the AfDB CIF coordinator, as the new global Programme Manager of the CIF effective August 4. 

Duarte also weighed in on the significance of the SREP decision, stating, “We are delighted at this vote of confidence and opportunity for starting a process leading up to new transformational investments in low-income countries’ in renewable energy. It is now incumbent on all of us to ensure that the new pilot countries can produce investment plans which are solidly linked to their own development goals and meet CIF criteria. As the new CIF Programme Manager, I am fully ready to ensure effective support to these countries at a level which meets their enthusiasm and commitment.”



First ever international conference on the Green Economy in the Global South

An international conference on Green Economy in the South is holding this week to critically examine different tools and approaches that inform Africa’s green economy strategies.

The conference is taking place at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, hosted by the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies.

The momentum gathering behind the idea and practice of the Green Economy is coinciding with financial instability and continued economic woe in the North, but generally happier economic circumstances in the South.

Africa’s economies are growing and ‘green economic initiatives’ are part of these changes.

The three-day international conference will bring together researchers and activists mainly from the South to debate and learn different phenomena of green economic initiatives. These include carbon payments, ecotourism, community-based wildlife management, Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and offsets by mining companies exploiting new resources which are all a part of a landscape offering new commodities, opportunities for commercialisation and integration into wealth-generating markets.

One of the aims of the event is to bring together field-based research with theoretical ideas about framing and context of Green Economy issues.

“We are convening it in Tanzania because we want the focus of this conference to be about the growth of Africa’s green economy initiatives. Africa’s expanding economy calls for initiatives that pave way for a better, more sustainable development,” says Thabit Jacob of University of Dodoma. 


This conference builds on a series of sister conferences held in Europe and North America. It is sponsored by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UK Department for International Development (UKAID) and co-hosted by the Institute for Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), University of the Western Cape; the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM), University of Manchester; the Institute for Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University; the Sustainability Platform, Copenhagen Business School (CBS); and the Future Agricultures Consortium.

Monday, June 30, 2014

GSMA announces mHealth partnership across sub-Saharan Africa

The GSMA has launched its Mobile for Development mHealth programme, an inter-industry partnership to connect mobile and health industries to reach the millions of pregnant women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

The new cross-ecosystem partnership is designed to provide a range of mHealth services to women and children, with a particular focus on nutrition.

Initial launch partners for the initiative include Gemalto, Hello Doctor, Lifesaver, Mobenzi, Mobilium, MTN, Omega Diagnostics and Samsung.

This programme could have far-reaching impact. According to GSMA Intelligence, there is a total annual, addressable market of 15.5 million pregnant women and mothers with children under five years of age.

“This new mobile ecosystem partnership, developed by the GSMA, is committed to connecting the mobile and health industries to develop commercially sustainable mHealth services that meet public health needs,” said Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA.  “The companies in this partnership are working to deliver the objectives of the United Nations Every Women Every Child Global Strategy, as well as the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, in the areas of nutrition and maternal and child health. We call on mobile ecosystem players, health providers, governments, NGOs, civil society and others to work with us to launch life-saving mobile health services.”
 
The partners will jointly launch services in seven countries - Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia - from September 2014.

Phase two, which commences in 2015, will incorporate additional partners and services and will address four more countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Collectively, the partnership will reduce barriers to handset ownership and connectivity for consumers and health workers by committing to offer discounted Samsung handsets and tablets to consumers and health workers across Africa; Provide access to the Samsung ecosystem (e.g. music, video and other value-added services) to be used as an incentive to drive health usage; Pre-embed a Smart Health application that provides a range of professional applications, information and services on 80 million Samsung handsets; and leverage existing and new MTN SIMs to allow free access to health content, health registration and data collection via the Smart Health application.
 
It will also provide simplified access to MTN mobile money, advertising and billing capabilities; and make innovative diagnostics like the Omega Diagnostics Visitect HIV CD4 point of care solution more affordable and accessible via mobile integration.

Through these commitments, the partners aim to simplify the relationships between mobile and health stakeholders, while maximising the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology and its capabilities for health providers and, ultimately, for patients. Health content, patient registration, data collection and critical diagnostics will increase the access to health care for vulnerable women and children across Africa, while providing the delivery mechanism for mHealth services that are commercially sustainable and scalable.

“This partnership heralds a new era in the delivery of health care in Sub-Saharan Africa, where currently access to even the most basic of health services remains the worst in the world. MTN is therefore proud to be part of this collaborative effort, which will deliver solutions that harnesses the expertise of some of the leading companies in the world, to improve access to health care for many of our customers across the seven launch countries,” said MTN Group Chief Commercial Officer, Pieter Verkade.
 
“Current lab based static diagnostics tools are unable to meet growing patients’ needs as countries step up their HIV treatment programs in conjunction with the decentralisation of CD4 testing.  Multi-layer partnerships for mHealth smartphone applications are poised to become an essential foundation in the bridge to augment the continuum of care to the neediest patients, whilst also providing management information and real time surveillance data,” said Andrew Shepherd, Founder and Managing Director, Omega Diagnostics Ltd.

“Healthcare in Africa has benefited greatly from advancements in mobile technology. Simultaneously, the healthcare industry is moving towards a delivery model that is more patient-centered, value-based and accessible in even remote environments. In this regard, Samsung is perfectly positioned to add value to this digital evolution in healthcare, as our devices are both at the cutting edge of innovation and available widely across the continent. These capabilities provide the much needed healthcare support in Africa, ensuring that we are aligned with the Millennium Development Goals as set by the United Nations,” said Thabiet Allie, Head of Content and Services at Samsung Electronics Africa.

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. 


PACJA to sponsor three African journalists to UN Climate Change Summit

Three overall winners of the 2014 African Climate Change and Environmental Reporting (ACCER) Awards will enjoy an all-expense paid trip to cover the 20th Session of the UN Summit on Climate Change in Lima, Peru later this year.

The cost will be covered by organizers of the Awards, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) and partners.

The winners include Patrick Mayoyo from Kenya, Arison Tamfu from Cameroon and Kofi Adu Domfeh from Ghana.

These are among five African journalists declared winners of the 2nd ACCER Awards held in Nairobi, Kenya on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA).

Diane Nininahazwe of Burundi Radio Ijwi ry'amahoro was the overall winner in the radio category in French while Kofi Adu Domfeh of Luv Fm in Ghana won in the radio category in English. Arison Tamfu from Cameroon was the overall winner in the print category while Patrick Mayoyo won in the online category and in the television category Zeynab Wandati emerged the overall winner.

The runners-up in the print category were Greg Odogwu from Nigeria and Bob Koigi from Kenya while in the Radio category the runners up were Wambi Michael from Uganda and Jacob Safari from Kenya. In the online category, the runners up were Violet Nakamba from Zambia and Busani Bafana from Zimbabwe.

Other runners up were Rose Wangui from Kenya and Noela Luka from Kenya in TV category while Didier Hubert Madafime from Benin and Gabriel Adonou from Togo emerged runners up in the radio category in French.

All winners, out of the 309 entries, received cash prizes, trophies and certificates.

The entries were audited and judged by a panel of seven judges headed by Dr. Barrack Muluka, who at the Gala Night appealed to PACJA to partner with Media organizations, learning institutions and experts to improve the level of writing and communication skills amongst African journalists on climate change and environment.

PACJA secretary general Mithika Mwenda said the Alliance will continue to play a major role in nurturing innovative ideas necessary to effectively confront the main challenges of 21st century.

“These complex challenges such as climate change will require collaboration from various stakeholders to defeat and that is the spirit the ACCER Awards exemplifies,” he said.

Mithika said the ACCER Awards partnership strengthens the trust between the civil society and the governments in Africa.

“Indeed, this resonates with the UN call for collaboration to defeat the challenges of climate change,” he added.

African countries remain the greenest on earth yet vulnerable to climate change caused by emissions of developed countries.

Whilst countries in Africa look at the challenges posed by climate change of socio-economic development, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) says it would also be necessary for the continent to explore opportunities therein.

UNEP’s Director of the Africa Regional Office, Mounkaila Goumandakoye, is emphatic on renewable energy as an area to explore.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

African governments urged to boost agriculture as AU leaders meet

As the African Union summit takes place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the Africa Progress Panel urges African leaders to invest at least 10 percent of their national budgets in agriculture, fulfilling a pledge first made in Maputo in 2003. So far few countries have achieved the 10 percent target.

With about two thirds of all Africans depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, boosting agriculture is an essential strategy to reduce poverty and inequality, allowing more people to benefit from Africa’s impressive economic growth.

“If we want to extend the recent economic successes of the continent to the vast majority of Africa’s inhabitants, then we must end the neglect of our farming and fishing communities,” said Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel.

This year’s Africa Progress Report Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s green and blue revolutions finds that agriculture will allow Africa to capture the commercial and economic opportunity of the world’s rapidly growing demand for food, which is expected to double by 2050.

“The world’s burgeoning population needs to be fed and Africa, our continent, is well positioned to do so. We have enough resources to feed not just ourselves but other regions too. We must seize this opportunity now,” Mr Annan said, adding that “Africa’s productivity levels, already beginning to increase, could easily double within five years”.
 
This year’s Africa Progress Report shows that transforming the continent’s agriculture requires that smallholder farmers have better access to both financial services, including loans and insurance, and infrastructure.

Mr Annan indicated that “unleashing Africa’s green revolution may seem like an uphill battle, but several countries have begun the journey”. Innovative technology developed by young Africans provides another opportunity to improve smallholder agriculture. Mr Annan said “impressive innovation and smart government policies are changing age-old farming ways.”

In countries, such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, government efforts to boost their agricultural sectors are already bearing fruit, with rapid agricultural growth driving their national economies.

“We have to significantly boost our agriculture and fisheries, which together provide livelihoods for roughly two-thirds of all Africans,” Mr Annan said.

“As the Africa Progress Report 2014 lays out in telling detail, agriculture can be the engine that drives the kind of growth that Africa needs; growth that benefit everyone including the rural poor... Africa will come into its own as a global food powerhouse”, said Linah Mohohlo, governor of the Central Bank of Botswana and member of the Africa Progress Panel.
 
Chaired by Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, the ten-member Africa Progress Panel advocates at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. The Panel releases its flagship publication, the Africa Progress Report, every year in May.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ghanaians get mathematical as the Black Stars take on Portugal

After staging an impressive 2:2 drawn game with Germany in the Group G encounter on Saturday, the Black Stars of Ghana have succeeded in reigniting national interest in the Brazil 2014 football tournament.

The team’s chances of progressing to the next stage of the competition is dicey but the enthusiasm of soccer fans in Ghana and indeed most parts of Africa is high.

Ghanaians had backed their hopes on Portugal to beat the USA to increase the Black Stars’ qualification opportunity. But this did could not materialize, as the Portuguese struggled for a last minute equalizer in yet another 2:2 score line with the US.

“It was an amazing game; Portugal Vs USA. No team is safe now. The draw gives Ghana a chance, but they have to beat Portugal by 3 goals. Yes They Can,” Kenyan journalist, Geoffery Onditi stated on his facebook wall.

Like Geoffery, most Ghanaians have put on their mathematical lenses to calculate the possibility of the Black Stars coming up ahead of the USA and Portugal in the group.

According to the soccer mathematicians, a Ghanaian win over Portugal and a possible German win over the USA will push the Black Stars to the next stage of the competition. But a drawn game between German and the USA will see both teams qualifying.

The cautious optimism expressed by fans in Ghana ahead of the Ghana-Germany game has now given way to a hopeful enthusiasm as the Stars go into the next game on Thursday.

“Brazil is getting quite exciting and this is one of the best tournaments by goals and quality of play,” stated fanatic Kojo Amoh at one of the public viewing points mounted in Kumasi, Ghana’s second capital city. “I just want the Black Stars to stay on longer in Brazil so that the fun of the tournament will be complete.”

There is high expectation for the Black Stars to repeat their last performance when they take on Portugal and most importantly the fans want the goals to flood in.

Coach Kwasi Appiah would be at the centre of affairs to ensure the whipped up enthusiasm is sustained.

He is already in history as the first Ghanaian coach to take the Black Stars to the World Cup and would want to prove a worthy point in the last Group G match.

One Ghanaian player who knows a lot about the Portuguese pattern of play is winger, Christian Atsu, who played for two clubs in Portugal for three years.

According to the Chelsea player, the game is would be challenging but he is confident of a Black Stars victory.

This level of the team’s confidence is also upheld by skipper Asamoah Gyan who says his team mates are psychologically poised to beat Portugal to make progress.

Unfortunately, the team’s training session has been hindered by the players’ uneasiness on the non-payment of allowances and appearance fees. They need to the appeased with their financial arrangements if they are to go all out against Portugal.

The players were promised an appearance fee of $75,000 each for qualifying for the tournament in Brazil but according to Spokesperson for the Ghana Football Association, Sannie Daara, the players are yet to receive any money two weeks into the tournament.
 
President John Mahama has intervened to ensure the players are paid.

These challenges notwithstanding, the Black Stars would have Ghana and Africa engrossed in a game of determination and prowess ingrained in mathematical analysis.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Originally commissioned by Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil's largest newspaper.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

African Agribusiness Forum at AU Summit sets agricultural transformation agenda

The African Agribusiness Forum, held ahead of the 23rdOrdinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government has set the agenda to enhance private sector engagement and inclusive agribusiness transformation in Africa.

The Summit is being held under the theme: “Transforming Africa’s agriculture for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods; harnessing opportunities for inclusive growth and sustainable development”.  

It is also being held in the 2014 AU Year of Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Security and the commemoration of the 10 year anniversary since the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) was adopted.

AU Commissioner at the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, says the last decade of CAADP implementation, has redefined and reshaped the critical path to the attainment of Africa`s agricultural transformation objectives.

She informed the Forum that the recent AU Joint Conference of Ministers of Agriculture, Rural Development, Fisheries and Aquaculture, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia adopted a Resolution endorsing seven Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation Goals (3AGTGs) for 2025 for consideration by the AU Heads of State and Government, at their Malabo Summit.

The joint conference recommended among other things the need to enhance Public-Private Partnerships and Investment Financing for African Agriculture and called on stakeholders to establish and/or strengthen inclusive public-private partnerships for at least five priority agricultural commodity value chains with a strong linkage to smallholder agriculture and to strengthen the capacities of domestic apex private sector intermediary institutions for inclusive facilitation and coordination to ensure engagement of the private sector in CAADP implementation.

“This forum will, therefore, provide an opportunity for men, women and youth stakeholders in the agribusiness sector to discuss and develop concrete strategies for the realization of these recommendations,” she said. 
 
In a key note address, the new AUC Head of Division of Agriculture and Food Security Mr. Boaz Keizire, highlighted the key opportunities and challenges for enhancing Africa’s agribusiness value chains and the outcomes of the AU Joint Conference of Ministers of Agriculture, Rural Development and Aquaculture.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Articulating financing for a greener economy in the face of climate change

Leaders from the world of business, finance and industry are participating in a symposium convened by the United Nations Environment Programme on mobilizing capital to facilitate the transition to greener economies.

This forms part of the First UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA) underway in Nairobi, Kenya to mark a historic milestone in UNEP’s 43-year history.

UNEA is the newly constituted UN high-level platform for decision making on environment that is tasked to chart a new course in the way the international community addresses environmental sustainability challenges.

"The convening of the first UNEA session in Nairobi - home of UNEP and the often referred to environment capital of the world - represents a coming-of-age for the global environment community,” said Mr. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
 
The symposium offers a space for African civil society to articulate climate-friendly resolutions that protect the livelihood of vulnerable communities.

Secretary-General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, Mithika Mwenda, has noted that the changing climate is the root cause of poverty.

“We depend on rain-fed agriculture and that woman in the village plants her crop, they geminate, but because of the erratic nature of rainfall as a result of climate change, that maize will not mature and those are the challenges that our people have been going through,” he observed.
 
He is worried the effects of climate change will affect the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The challenge, according to Mithika, is to cap global emissions; enable people in developing countries have a future; get equitable, all inclusive and universally accepted Climate Change agreement in 2015.

“We cannot ask poor people and developing countries to bear the burden of the challenge,” he stated.
 
A green economy is an economy that promotes sustainable human wellbeing and social equity, whilst significantly reducing environmental risks.

The industrialized countries must therefore make financing available for poor countries to mitigate the effects of climate change, said he PACJA Secretary-General.

“There is no doubt that in order for poor countries and those in Africa particularly to address climate change adequately and sufficiently, they need to be facilitated with adequate finance from industrialized countries,” said Mithika.

The Green Climate Fund was set up by the UN as a mechanism to transfer money from the developed world to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

As much as $15 billion is expected to be raised by the end of 2014 to start financing projects and developing nations want industrialized countries to show how they intend to reach the $100 billion a year they pledged to deliver by 2020.

“The UN process must work for Africa and climate change should become an urgent political issue in which governments, international agencies must be challenged,” Mithika enjoined.

The first session of the UNEA under the theme: “A Life of Dignity for All” will define the UNEP’s ability to address the greatest environmental challenges facing the world today and in the future and provide inputs to the definition of the post-2015 development agenda – ensuring that environmental concerns are reflected and integrated into post-2015/Sustainable Development Goals framework.

The UN Under-Secretary-General says that despite some setbacks, notably in the climate change negotiations, there is broad consensus today that environmental protection requires addressing the relationship between humanity and nature.

"Now more than ever, it has become increasingly clear that the dichotomy between environmental sustainability and economic and social development should be overcome through the careful management of natural resources as the keystone of a prosperous and stable society,” said Mr. Steiner. “In this new forum, UNEP and its partners will be able to provide governments and other policymakers with the science, policy options and platform, for international cooperation to more effectively address the environmental dimension of sustainable development."

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ in Nairobi, Kenya

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