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Courageous climate action could advance Africa’s economic growth by 2030

Foresight Africa 2020 report says Africa is playing a leading role in the fight against climate change, something that can provide opportunities for Africa to overcome its obstacles and spur inclusive growth.

At the end of this year, world leaders are expected to come forward with updated, more ambitious national climate plans under the Paris Agreement. Though buried deep within the legalese of the Paris Agreement, this point of process is both a critical test and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Research from the New Climate Economy shows that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in global economic benefits between now and 2030.

It could also generate over 65 million new low-carbon jobs by 2030, a number equivalent to the combined workforces of the United Kingdom and Egypt today: avoid over 700 000 premature deaths from air pollution compared with business-as-usual; and generate an estimated $2.8 trillion in government revenues in 2030 through subsidy reform and carbon pricing alone.

The report underlined that delivering the benefits of a new climate economy requires ambitious action across key economic systems, creating the conditions for the phase-out of coal and rapid scale-up  of renewables in the energy sector; investing in shared, electric, and low-carbon transport in cities; scaling up sustainable food and land use systems; including forest landscape restoration; targeting investment to resilient water infrastructure; and reducing emissions from key industrial value chains, such as plastic.

However, if the world fails to step up climate action, continuing on current climate trajectory could force 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. Africa, according to the report, is the most-exposed region to the adverse effects of climate change despite contributing the least to global warming. The region is already disproportionately feeling the impacts related to a changing climate.

Devastating cyclones affected 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in the spring 2018. Gross Domestic Product GDP exposure in African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns is projected to grow from $895 billion in 2018 to about $1.4 trillion in 2023-nealry half of the continent’s GDP.

If fairness was the only goal, the report said, the impetus to act would lie solely with developed economies. Make no mistake; the big emitters absolutely must step up their domestic climate action, and quickly. But building the new climate economy is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that every African nation should prioritize and claim a stake in.

This opportunity is why, despite historically negligible carbon emissions, despite only accounting for 2 percent of world coal demand, and despite the lack of leadership from some developed countries, many African countries are now making serious efforts to transition towards low-carbon technologies, low-carbon and resilient infrastructure, and low-carbon tax systems.

In this report, Morocco is said to have built the world’s largest concentrated solar facility to help achieve the country’s goal of 52 percent renewable energy mix by 2030. The advanced 6,000-acre solar complex, Noor, serves as a clean energy source for around 2 million Moroccans, and provides pivotal job opportunities as the country transitions away from the fossil fuel industry. The solar complex is also offering training programs for women for entrepreneurial and agricultural activities and is recruiting women in decision-making roles to guide project activities.

Furthermore, the report noted that South Africa’s Carbon Act, which places specific levies on greenhouse gases from fuel combustion and industrial processes and emissions, came into effect in June 2019. By 2035, the carbon tax could reduce the country’s emissions by 33 percent relative to the baseline. Furthermore, South Africa’s recent renewable energy auctions have led to solar and wind prices lower than those of the national utility or from new coal plants. Often regarded as the continent’s clean energy trailblazer, much of what has been learned through South Africa’s renewable energy procurement process can influence similar developments across Africa.

Nigeria on the other hand, which struggles with electricity access for majority of its population, has set a renewable energy target of 30 percent by 2030. This goal underscores the potential for both grid-based and decentralized renewable energy investments to deliver energy access and climate change benefits simultaneously.

Notably, off-grid solutions that deliver electricity to thousands of households on the continent- and mini-grids are important options in both unserved rural areas and underserved urban areas. Natural resource-rich African countries, like Nigeria, should see renewables as a central part of achieving universal energy access while setting themselves on a pathway for low-carbon and resilient development, the report says.

While the private sector is driving the shift into renewables, state-owned enterprises SOE in the energy sector-in Africa and globally- are lagging behind. African governments, the report highlighted, need to support reform in the SOE sector by, for example, introducing competitive procurement for electricity supply. This strategy could open African institutions and markets to emerging opportunities in the renewable sector, and even drive down the prices of renewables.

With an abundance of solar, wind and geothermal resources, African countries already have a comparative advantage in renewables. The falling costs of green technologies provide a propitious moment to be on the delivery end of the new energy revolution. And while it may seem counterintuitive, Africa’s most oil- and gas-rich countries should be leading the energy revolution, the report said.

Beyond the energy sector, food and land use systems- including the agriculture and forestry sectors- are integral to sub-Saharan Africa’s economy, accounting for 70 percent of livelihoods and almost one-quarter of regional GDP. In fact, new business opportunities in sustainable food and land use systems could deliver $320 billion each year by 2030 across sub-Saharan Africa.

These opportunities, as indicated in the report, include $120 billion in forest ecosystem services and restoration of degraded land, $100 billion increased agricultural yields and $100 billion in supply chain efficiency improvements and enhanced value-adding capacity. Concerted landscape restoration efforts in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, for example, are enhancing farmers’ resilience, water availability, and livelihoods. Such sustainable food and land use approaches are said to deliver multiple co-benefits, from reducing rural poverty, to boosting food security and improving population health, to protecting and regenerating natural capital.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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