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‘African cities are not economically efficient’

World Bank’s Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World report says typical African cities share three features that constrain urban development and create daily challenges for residents:

Crowded, not economically dense- investments in infrastructure, industrial and commercial structures have not kept pace with the concentration of people, nor have investments in affordable formal housing; congestion and its costs overwhelm the benefits of urban concentration.
Disconnected- cities have developed as collections of small and fragmented neighbourhoods, lacking reliable transportation and limiting worker’s job opportunities while preventing firms from reaping scale and agglomeration benefits.

Costly for households and for firms- high nominal wages and transaction costs deter investors and trading partners, especially in regionally and internationally tradable sectors; workers’ high food, housing and transport costs increase labor costs to firms and thus reduce expected returns on investment. The report underlined that 55% of African households face higher costs relative to their per capita GDP than do households in other regions- much of it accounted for by housing, which costs them a full 55 per cent more in this comparison.

In eight representative African cities, the report cited that roads occupy far lower shares of urban land than in other cities around the world.it said 20% of African cities are more fragmented than are Asian and Latin American ones. In Harare, Zimbabwe, and Maputo, Mozambique, more than 30 per cent of land within 5 kilometres of the central business district remains unbuilt.

According to the World Bank report, 472 Million people live in urban areas. That number will double over the next 25 years as more migrants are pushed to cities from the countryside. The largest cities grow as fast as 4 per cent annually. Urbanisation benefits people and businesses by increasing economic density. A worker in an economically dense area can commute more easily and consume a broader range of products. Firms clustered in cities can access a wider market of inputs and buyers. Scale economies reduce firms’ production costs- in turn benefiting consumers.

Population density is indeed strongly correlated with indicators of liveability- in sub-Saharan Africa as elsewhere. Yet Africa’s cities are not economically dense or efficient. They are crowded and unliveable. The report indicated that most urban residents are packed into low-rise, informal settlements without adequate infrastructure or access to basic services. Two of every three people in Lagos, Nigeria dwell in slums. Thus, even though households in densely populated areas of Africa are better supplied with services than rural households, the mere fact of higher population density does not imply a liveable environment.

Why do a majority of people in Africa’s cities live in slums? The immediate explanation is that the urbanization of people has not accompanied by the urbanization of capital. Housing, infrastructure, and other capital investments are lacking, especially outside the city center. Urban building stocks have low replacement values. Across Africa, housing investment lags urbanization by nine years.

It was shared that the population density of African cities is similar to that of many cities elsewhere. What is holding these cities back is their low economic density- the lack of thriving urban markets that depend on adequate infrastructure and conveniently connected clusters of residential and commercial structures. A dearth of capital and capital investment keeps Africa’s cities inefficient and less productive than they should be, limiting firms and workers to the production of goods and services for small and local hinterland markets locking them out of much more lucrative regional and international markets.

Many of Africa’s urban workers live in crowded quarters near the city center. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 28% of residents are living at least three to a room; in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, the figure is 50%. According to the report, the reason for this crowding is that most people must live near the downtown district or industrial zones if they hope to work. They cannot conveniently commute from outlying areas, because little or no affordable transportation is available. Africa’s cities also suffer from a lack of adequate formal housing around the urban core.

Consequently, people settle in relatively central informal settlements that are densely populated, ill served by urban infrastructure, and, by many measures, unliveable. Paradoxically, Africa’s cities are sparsely built and laid out but feel crowded. The report highlighted that the crowdedness of African cities is most apparent in their slums. On average, 60% of Africa’s urban population is packed into slums- a far larger share than the average 34% seen in other developing countries.

It shared that high rates of slum living within urban areas are characteristic of most African countries. Only two countries, Zimbabwe and South Africa, fall below the non-African average. The proportion of Africans living in slums is not high because Africa has higher urban population densities than other countries. The average population density of African cities tracks the global average; it ranks third among seven global regions.

Further, it was underlined in that report that people are clustering downtown locations not because of the amenities or decent jobs they can access in central locations. These patterns reflect broader dysfunctional ties in land markets as well as limited investments in transport infrastructure, limiting the choices that people can make on where to live and how to access jobs.

Capital investment in Africa over the past 40 years has averaged about 20% of GDP. In contrast, urbanizing countries in East Asia- China, Japan, and Korea-stepped up capital investment during their periods of rapid urbanization. The report said between 1980 and 2011, China’s capital investment rose from 35% of GDP to 48%; during roughly the same period, the urban share of its population rose from 18% to 52%. In East Asia as a whole, the report noted, capital investment remained above 40% per cent of GDP at the end of this period, helping the region become very dense economically.

The report said these contrast underline that Africa is urbanizing when poor- indeed, strikingly poorer than other developing regions with similar urbanization levels. It said supporting rising population densities in African cities will require investments in buildings, and complementary physical infrastructure: roads, drainage, street lighting, electricity, water, and sewerage, together with policing, waste and health care. In the absence of higher levels of capital investment at around Asian levels, the potential benefits of Africa’s cities are being overwhelmed by crime, disease, and squalor.

Furthermore, overcrowding increases exposure to communicable diseases. Inadequate drainage increases the risk of malaria, and lack of sanitation raises the risk of dengue. Lack of access to clean water is a leading cause of diarrhoea, which is responsible for an estimated 21% of deaths among children under five in developing countries- 2.5 million deaths a year, the report said.

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Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020
SEFALANA MD: CHANDRA CHAUHAN

Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.

WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.

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The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

30th November 2020
uncertainty of getting the next meal

Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time.
The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.

“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.

According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.

The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.

Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.

According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.

According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.

Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.

Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

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Solid demand for diamonds towards the ‘gift’ season

30th November 2020
Diamonds

Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.

The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.

According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.

“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.

According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.

“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.

According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.

Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.

High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.

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