Dec 04, 2020

Namibia is putting 170 live elephants up for sale to curb rising tusker populations under pressure from drought and territorial conflict with humans.

An advertisement for the sale of 170 "high value" elephants was carried Wednesday by a state-owned daily newspaper, New Era.

The ministry says the elephants are being sold "due to drought and increase in elephant numbers coupled with human-elephant conflict incidences".

The sparsely-populated semi-arid southern African country is home to some 28,000 elephants, according to official estimates.

Environment Minister Pohamba Shifeta told AFP that the government backed the policy of selling live animals after being criticised for shooting elephants to control overpopulation.

"We decided - after research - to sell them instead," he said.

The elephant population had dwindled to about 5,000 animals at independence in 1990, but increased phenomenally thanks to a globally-lauded conservation programme.

The advertisement said pachyderms on sale would comprise entire herds in order to preserve the important social structure in elephant communities - infants or juveniles will not be left behind.

Shifeta warned that Namibia would not recklessly sell the elephants to buyers, saying "we have to make sure that the country is conducive".

For export purposes, the buyers must ensure that CITES requirements are met by both exporting and importing states for the trade to be authorised, according to the notice.

In October, 100 wild buffalo went up for sale in Namibia.

Last year the government offered for sale around 1,000 animals including 600 buffalo, 150 springboks, 60 giraffes and 28 elephants.

 

AFP

 

Dec 04, 2020

Ghanaians go to the polls Monday with incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo and former president John Mahama as front-runners.

Akufo-Addo’s party has campaigned mainly on his education initiatives, while Mahama’s has focused on job creation and attacking his opponent's record on corruption. But the familiar faces have also made voter apathy an issue.

Ghana's government this week announced Monday, Dec 7, would be a public holiday - to help get voters to the polls to choose the next president.  

Despite more than 17 million registered voters and 12 presidential candidates, authorities are battling voter apathy with familiar front-runners from the last two elections.   

Incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is facing off against his predecessor, John Mahama of the opposition National Democratic Congress’ (NDC).

Mahama won in the 2012 election and then lost to Akufo-Addo in the 2016 election.   

Journalist Al-Smith says, despite his efforts to raise awareness of COVID-19's effects, it has been a struggle to get Ghanaians to take the virus seriously, especially as the election has taken center stage 
Off

Kojo Asante, with the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, says there is fatigue, mainly among the middle classes.

"The first few hours is always a good indicator of whether people will eventually go out," said Asante. "If they see the crowds are behaving and then they get feedback that it is very easy to go and vote and so, then they might eventually still go out, even if they had decided not to."

Despite the challenge, Asante says their pre-election survey shows Ghanaians are concerned about issues such as improving infrastructure and employment.

The survey pointed to positive responses on the ruling NPP’s handling of COVID-19, power supplies, and education. 

But the public was less impressed with Akufo-Addo’s record on inflation, inequality, and corruption. Attacking Akufo-Addo on corruption was a focus of Mahama’s campaign, along with job creation. But risk consulting group Songhai Advisory’s Kobi Annan says both men have underperformed in office. 
 
"It's a difficult choice for a lot of people. Neither of them have performed fantastically during their terms of office, and I think it will come down to primarily sentiments around things like education, corruption, job creation. I think job creation and education in particular - those affect more people day-to-day than corruption does," said Annan.

Under Mahama’s presidency, there was an energy crisis, corruption scandals and a currency devaluation.  

In 2016, the NPP won by about one million votes and with high expectations for Akufo-Addo to stamp out corruption.

But in the weeks leading up to this year’s election, the opposition NDC made corruption allegations against Akufo-Addo.  Ghana’s anti-corruption special prosecutor resigned just three weeks before the election, alleging political interference.   

While Akufo-Addo denies any corruption in his administration, analysts say it’s hard to know if the claims will impact the vote.   

Regardless of the result, or voter turnout, analysts are expecting Ghana’s election to be fair and peaceful – as with the last two elections.  

Maame Gyekye-Jandoh is head of the University of Ghana’s Political Science Department.

"Emotions may run high, but based on these past precedents, these past good precedents, I believe that the election will be peaceful, and the results will be considered credible and legitimate," said Gyekye-Jandoh.
 
The University of Ghana published a voter survey that gave the NPP an estimated 11% lead over the NDC with five percent of voters undecided.

 

Culled from VOA

Dec 03, 2020

China has overtaken the U.S. to become the EU's biggest trade partner while the rest of the world slides into the red due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country pushed past the United States in the third quarter to become the European Union's top trade partner, as the pandemic disrupted the US while Chinese activity rebounded.

Over the first nine months of 2020, trade between the EU and China totalled 425.5 billion euros ($514 billion), while trade between the EU and the United States came in at 412.5 billion euros, according to Eurostat data.

GDP Growth by Country

These figures show the year-on-year change in GDP for some of the world's richest countries, with China's economy larger than it was a year ago while others have seen massive decline 

For the same period in 2019, the EU's trade with China came in at 413.4 billion euros and 461 billion euros with the US.

Eurostat said the result was due to a 4.5 percent increase in imports from China while exports remained unchanged.

'At the same time trade with the United States recorded a significant drop in both imports (-11.4 percent) and exports (-10.0 percent),' Eurostat said.

The EU has been China's top trade partner since 2004 when it overtook Japan, but this is the first time the inverse has been true, France's Insee statistics agency said Wednesday.

After a Covid-19-related shock in the first quarter the Chinese economy has rebounded, with the economy growing year-on-year in the third quarter.

Insee said Chinese imports from Europe picked up in the third quarter, while purchases of personal protective equipment had boosted Chinese exports.

China Wind Turbine Production Getty

Workers are seen during the production process of wind turbines during a government organised tour at Goldwind Technology in Yancheng, in Jiangsu province on October 14

China's economy has grown 4.9 per cent in the third quarter from last year proving the country is back to its pre-pandemic trajectory with consumer spending and industrial production going back to normal levels.

The figures are far more favourable than the dire economic data coming out of most Western countries, showing how China has bounced back quickly despite being the first country to suffer the coronavirus outbreak.

As the virus spread across the globe, China started to bring the outbreak under control and began to reopen its economy, growing 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of this year, and 3.2 per cent in the April-June quarter.

China has been widely condemned for its handling of coronavirus.

After initially covering up the outbreak, Beijing obscured an investigation into how it started and published infection rates which have been widely questioned and partly blamed for the West's slow response to prepare for the pandemic.

Since China fought off the outbreak, Chinese firms have taken advantage of their good fortune while their global rivals grapple with reduced manufacturing capacity.

Chinese firms have benefited from strong global demand for masks and medical supplies, with exports rising 9.9 per cent in September from a year earlier while factory activity also picked up.

The country's technology sector has also taken advantage of the work-from-home phenomenon with apps including DingTalk and WeChat bringing in huge revenues.

Now the International Monetary Fund is projecting China's economy to expand by 1.9 percent in 2020 which means it'll be the only major world economy to grow this year.

It comes as a new study that found traces of coronavirus in US blood samples from December last year is adding to the growing evidence that the virus was circulating for months before China announced its existence, casting more shadows over the truth about the pandemic and fuelling suspicions of a cover-up by Beijing.

Claims the global outbreak began in a livestock market in Wuhan last winter have crumbled in the face of scientific evidence proving the virus was all over the Western world weeks and even months before China declared the first cases to the World Health Organization on December 31.

Research published on Monday revealed that 39 blood samples taken between December 13 and 16 last year in California, Oregon and Washington state had tested positive for Covid antibodies, meaning the people who gave them had been infected weeks earlier.

The evidence is the earliest trace so far of the virus on US soil, and a further 67 samples from between December 30 and January 17 tested positive in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

It adds to a growing body of proof that the virus had spread thousands of miles outside of China long before its existence was acknowledged. Scientists in Italy say they now have proof the virus was there in September 2019, traces of it were found in Brazil in November, a French hospital patient had it in his lungs in December, and the virus was present in sewage in Spain in January.

 

Source: AFP

Dec 02, 2020

Over the years, the vacation rental industry became a huge business, with millions of tourists choosing fully furnished homes or apartments instead of a traditional hotel or motel experience.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak caused an enormous financial hit to the entire market, cutting down revenues of both the big players like Airbnb or Booking.com and smaller vacation rental owners and property managers.

According to data presented by Stock Apps, the revenue of the global vacation rental industry is expected to plunge by $35bn in 2020, a 42% drop year-over-year.

Airbnb, Booking.com, and Expedia Witnessed a 90% Plunge in Reservations

The vacation rental segment includes private holiday homes and houses and short-term rental of private rooms or flats through online marketplaces like Airbnb and Booking.com or in travel agencies.

In 2017, the entire industry generated $78.7bn in revenue, revealed the Statista data. In the next two years, this figure rose by 7% to almost $84bn.

However, vacation rental companies had a rough start to 2020. After a promising first few weeks of 2020, the initial wave of the COVID-19 caused massive cancellations of stays, with even the market’s biggest players witnessing colossal reservation drops.

In week 14 of 2020, short-term rental bookings on the Expedia platform saw a 94% drop year-over-year. Two other travel industry giants, Airbnb and Booking.com, followed with a 93% and 91% plunge, respectively. The strong negative trend continued between June and September after the coronavirus pandemic ruined what is typically a peak summer travel period.

As of week 35, there was a 62% YoY drop in short-term rental bookings on the Airbnb platform. However, Booking.com and Expedia witnessed even more significant losses, with their reservations plunging by 66% and 86% in this period.

Tourism revenue1

Tourism revenue2

Tourism revenue3

Statista data show the global vacation rental industry is expected to witness a recovery in 2021, with revenues growing by 36.7% to $66.9bn, still $17bn under 2019 levels. In the next three years, this figure is forecast to rise to $88.4bn.

The average revenue per user in the vacation rental segment is forecast to amount to $111.1 in 2020, a slight increase in a year. By 2025, this figure is expected to rise to $117.

The Number of Users to Plunge by 42% to 445 Million

Although the initial wave of the COVID-19 caused massive reservations drops in the first months of 2020, statistics show the number of users is expected to stay deep below the last year’s levels.

In 2017, almost 750 million people chose vacation rentals instead of hotels and motels. Over the next two years, this figure rose to 777 million.

However, Statista estimates the number of users in the vacation rental segment to plunge by 42% YoY to 445 million in 2020 and remain under 2019 levels in the next three years.

In global comparison, the United States represents the world’s largest vacation rental market, expected to generate $9.5bn in revenue in 2020, a 45% plunge in a year.

To fight the spread of COVID-19, some US states placed restrictions on short-term rentals, which caused massive complaints from the companies operating in the market. In Florida, property owners and a vacation rental management company even filed a federal lawsuit against the governor, accusing him of violating their constitutional rights.

The Chinese market, the second-largest globally, is forecast to witness a 43.5% drop YoY, with revenues falling to under $5.3bn. Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany follow, with $3.2bn, $2.6bn, and $2.5bn in revenue in 2020, respectively.

South Africa faces a quadruple burden of disease: HIV, tuberculosis (TB), noncommunicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and injuries. South Africa has more people living with HIV than anywhere else in the world. Around 13.5% of the country’s total population has HIV.

Many of these patients are co-infected with TB and are also at risk of developing noncommunicable diseases. This can be attributed to a massive rise in noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes.

Research shows that in South Africa, a growing number of people with HIV are developing noncommunicable diseases – especially among poor populations in low urban socio-economic settings and rural areas.

The increase in number of people with multiple chronic diseases demands better, integrated and patient-centred care. But the country’s public health system – which caters for most of the population – is overstretched and uncoordinated. Patients accessing care from public hospitals experience longer waiting times, fewer screenings and drug stock-outs.

To get a better understanding of how patients are impacted by the lack of integration in the public health system, I recently conducted an ethnographic study among people living with HIV and diabetes in Johannesburg, South Africa. I wanted to document their experiences of accessing care for multiple chronic diseases. I observed patients as they visited different clinics and went to their homes to observe how they managed their diseases there.

My findings confirm previous research showing that care for patients with more than one disease is fragmented. The patients I followed often had to make multiple visits to health facilities for each illness they had. This was challenging given that these patients needed routine medical care and treatment for each disease. It cost them time, effort and lost wages.

The situation was exacerbated by socio-economic factors such as poverty, unemployment and food insecurity. These factors made it difficult for patients to manage their illnesses at home.

Chronic care and self-management

My research looked at patients at a public tertiary hospital in Soweto, South Africa. The hospital houses a number of speciality clinics. Patients reported many challenges accessing health services for their multiple illnesses.

The first challenge related to fragmented care at the tertiary hospital. This was partly due to the structure of the tertiary hospital which offers specialised care. Although diabetes and hypertension were managed together in one clinic, patients had to visit other clinics for any other illness that they had:

I attend different clinics … HIV clinic, diabetes clinic and podiatry clinic.

Service providers at the specific clinics rarely collaborated in managing patients. This was attributed to poor communication between the clinics and the lack of a centralised patient information system. As a result, some patients reported receiving conflicting information from different clinics:

The problem is that one doctor will tell you to do this and another asks you to do a different thing.

Some primary health care clinics in Soweto provided comprehensive HIV services. But comprehensive diabetes care was only provided at the tertiary hospital. This was due to drug stock outs and nurses lacking skills in managing diabetes at primary clinics. As a result, many patients with diabetes were referred to the tertiary hospital, though they could easily be managed at primary clinics.

The distance to the tertiary hospital and transport costs were other challenges hindering patients’ access to care. Many patients missed their clinic appointments.

Conducting observations in patients’ homes provided more insights on the difficulty of accessing care and self-management at home.

Poverty, unemployment and food insecurity emerged as key problems. For example, many patients couldn’t afford the recommended diet. Others couldn’t afford a simple meal as described below:

Nobody is guaranteed of eating in our house. We depend on a feeding programme in a nearby public primary school. Sometimes, we miss the food. This is why I have to skip taking my insulin because if I take it [without eating], my body gets weak, I shake and feel like going mad.

In many households, there were at least two people with chronic conditions. At the same time, more than half of the participants were unemployed, while some relied on social welfare grants provided to the elderly by the South African government. The grant was said to be insufficient given that many households were not only poorer but also larger in size. As a result, managing chronic conditions was difficult because of limited shared resources.

Some participants were the main breadwinners or caregivers in their households. They prioritised taking care of other household members, while neglecting their own health.

These findings highlight how social, economic, and medical complexities come together to shape health and illness in Soweto. In other words, chronic diseases such as HIV and diabetes interact with one another in a context of poverty, inequality and inequitable access to healthcare or what has been called “syndemics”. Medical anthropologists have clearly demonstrated that chronic conditions are rarely an isolated problem, but part of a complex mix of biological, social and economic factors.

Adding the COVID-19 pandemic into this mix has made the whole situation even more complex. Unemployment has risen and the Hospital Association of South Africa has warned that many people have been arriving late with very serious health conditions due to concerns around COVID-19 infection during clinic visits.

Strengthening primary healthcare

Stronger chronic care is needed at primary healthcare clinics in South Africa. This can be done by ensuring consistent and adequate drug supplies, sufficient equipment and trained staff. This will ensure that patients get care closer to their homes. In addition, patients need to be educated about self-management at home.

Specialists at tertiary hospitals must engage and communicate among themselves when managing patients with multiple chronic diseases, and engage with providers at primary care clinics. This is important given that some patients may still need to visit both primary clinics and tertiary hospitals for specialised care.

Strengthening communication within the health system broadly, and clinics specifically, is paramount. This is important to ensure that clinicians know when patients visit other clinics and what medicines they are taking. This will minimise conflicting recommendations provided to the patients.

Clinicians could use phone calls or social media platforms to communicate with patients at home. This might reduce unnecessary physical contact during COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare providers must understand patients in their socio-economic and cultural contexts. This calls for training clinicians on structural competence and cultural humility.

Lastly, policy makers must address unemployment and food insecurity in South Africa. Moreover, people working on health promotion and disease prevention can collaborate with community networks which have been developed during the COVID-19 pandemic for screening and contact tracing. These networks can help connect individuals facing tough economic situations to existing support groups; or linking the sick to hospitals.The Conversation

 

Dr. Edna N Bosire, Researcher, Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU) & DSI NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development., University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

World AIDS Day this year finds us still deep amid another pandemic – COVID-19.

The highly infectious novel coronavirus has swept across the world, devastating health systems and laying waste to economies as governments introduced drastic measures to contain the spread. Not since the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1990s have countries faced such a common health threat.

This explains why UNAIDS has selected the theme “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility” for this year’s World AIDS Day.

Infectious diseases such as these remain a major threat to human health and prosperity. Around 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses in the last 40 years. At the time of writing, 1.4 million people had already died from COVID-19 in just one year.

These diseases take incredible expertise, collaboration and dedication from all levels of society to track, understand, treat and prevent.

The HIV/AIDS response played out over a much longer trajectory than COVID-19. But it is, in some respects, a shining example of what can be achieved when countries and people work together. The work of organisations such as the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS and the International AIDS Society help to coordinate rapid sharing of information and resources between healthcare providers and communities.

The Global Fund and PEPFAR have mobilised resources that have helped to reduce morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income regions. AIDS-related deaths have declined worldwide by 39% since 2010.

These and other groups have also fought against high drug prices that would render medication inaccessible to many in the developing world. In South Africa, the epicentre of the HIV epidemic, a day’s supply of the simplest antiretrovirals cost about R250 in 2002. Today easier, more palatable treatment taken once per day costs a few rands.

Collaboration and co-ordination has also meant that medications have been developed and tested in populations across the world. And once available, global guidelines and training opportunities ensure that healthcare provision and quality is standardised.

Many of these achievements did not come without a fight. Dedicated and sustained activism, at a political and community level were required to drive down drug pricing for the global South and is constantly required to ensure inclusive distribution of resources.

The corollary is also true – areas where the world continues to struggle arise predominantly where there’s a lack of solidarity and agreement. These include a lack of political support to implement evidence-based protection mechanisms for vulnerable or stigmatised populations. For example the legalisation of homosexuality. This results in continued but avoidable HIV infection and related mortality.

These lessons need to be taken on board as the world prepares for the next phase of managing COVID-19. All the interventions that helped contain and manage HIV and AIDS are critical in ensuring that no country, regardless of developmental status, and no population, especially those that face stigma and battle to access healthcare services, are left behind.

Building on existing systems

The lessons learnt from HIV and AIDS can be used to inform the COVID-19 response as the challenges are similar.

Many of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trials are taking place in multiple countries, including South Africa. The capacity to conduct these studies, including the clinical staff and trial sites, are well established as a result of decades of HIV/AIDS research. There are fears that developing nations might be excluded from accessing an effective COVID-19 vaccine. But global mechanisms are now in place to avoid this and to, instead, encourage and enable global solidarity, some of which were championed by the HIV/AIDS response.

The Access to COVID-9 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator, established by the World Health Organisation in April 2020 in collaboration with many other global organisations, governments, civil society and industry, have committed through the pillar known as Covax, to equitable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as diagnostic tests and treatments. These global institutions and mechanisms require continued support.

With the deployment of an effective vaccine, an end to COVID-19 might soon be in sight. For HIV, vaccine development has been more complex and disappointing. The global community needs to remain committed to promoting access and support for the many incredible prevention and treatment options that are available. The unprecedented effort on the part of private industry in the COVID-19 vaccine response shines a light on what can be achieved when all interested parties engage. The HIV and TB vaccine endeavours need a similar effort.

These are not the only pandemics the world will face. In fact, there are strong predictions that the emergence of new pandemics will increase in the future. This is due to the effects of globalisation, climate change and proximity to wildlife.

The best hope for humanity is to not lose sight of what these pandemics cost us in terms of loved ones, in terms of freedom and economically. We must prepare now collectively across countries and across all levels of society. These preparations need to be grounded in the lessons learnt from HIV/AIDS and re-learnt from COVID-19.

Social solidarity

The success of the global response to current and emerging pandemics will rely on the ability of the less vulnerable to acknowledge their shared responsibility and respond to those calls.

An important truth of the HIV epidemic is that it doesn’t discriminate. No infectious disease acknowledges political borders and everybody is at risk of being infected or affected. If nothing else, because of this we need to continue to work together on a global scale knowing that “no one is safe, until everyone is safe”.

 

Carey Pike, Executive Research Assistant at the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation contributed to this article.The Conversation

Linda-Gail Bekker, Professor of medicine and deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nov 28, 2020

Botswana, home to nearly half of Africa’s wild elephants, is preparing to repatriate thousands of the giant mammals to neighboring Angola to reduce overpopulation and conflict with farmers.

The country is home to more than 130,000 elephants, the world’s largest population in the wild.

But tens of thousands are refugees from Angola’s decades-long civil war, which ended in 2002.

             Vegetation is destroyed by elephants along the Botswana-Namibia border. (Mqondisi Dube/VOA)

Conservationists like Elephants Without Borders’ Mike Chase, said Botswana’s elephant population has grown too big, leading to conflicts with farmers and shortages of food and water.

"So, a way to release this bottleneck, this compression, is creating safe corridors for elephants to move through, to repopulate and recolonize southeast Angola, where there are not so many elephants," Chase said.

To enable that, Angola has agreed to remove left over landmines from the war and, along with Botswana, fences that are blocking elephant migration.

            A sign shows a kilometer wide elephant corridor leading into Namibia and subsequently, Angola. (Mqondisi Dube/VOA)

Wildlife management expert Erik Verreynne said the movement of the animals is still low.

"We still get reports of poaching incidents in Angola, we know the landmines are still an issue although they are working to try and get them out," Verreyne said. "I don’t know, what I do know is that it is important that we open up these corridors."

Botswana is part of the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA), a five-country partnership to conserve shared natural resources.

The group’s executive director, Nyambe Nyambe, said the partnership’s goal is the free movement of wildlife within the region.

"The long-term survival of elephants hinges on ensuring that we secure and reconnect wildlife corridors on a trans-boundary scale," Nyambe said. "When it comes to what the partner states are doing in terms of supporting particularly Angola, the wildlife dispersal areas are all contributing towards that process."

Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has said his government is more than willing to work with neighbors to open the borders for elephant migration and better manage their numbers.

           Elephant dung covers the flood plains of the Chobe river which separates Botswana and Namibia. (Mqondisi Dube/VOA)
VOA

The global economy faces profound uncertainties, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, faith in the efficacy of international bodies such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been weakened by a power struggle between China and the US.

As the process for appointing a new head of the organisation moves into its final phase, it’s worth considering what front runner Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala could bring to the complex role of managing an international organisation, including designing and implementing reforms.

The WTO describes itself as a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. A key objective of the WTO is the liberalisation of trade for the mutual benefit of its members. This concept has become a divisive issue as a result of the perceived imbalances in the rights and obligations of members and the perceived uneven distribution of the gains from trade.

Okonjo-Iweala would be in a position to use her multifaceted experiences to energise the WTO’s 164 members to work harder to achieve the value of the multilateral trade systems. Given her experience in being able to diplomatically manage people and institutions resistant to change, she could also provide the impetus for member countries to overcome the challenges that have paralysed the trade organisation for years.

Okonjo-Iweala has gained acute negotiation skills from her experiences in negotiating with institutions and countries, as she did when she negotiated for Nigeria’s debts relief.

In addition, Okonjo-Iweala has held top positions in several international bodies, including corporates as well as not for profit organisations. Her ability to serve in senior positions in these disparate cultural settings means that she will be able to navigate the complex terrain of an organisation that has a mandate to serve the interests of 164 member states.

Her international exposure also means that she has developed an extensive network across the globe which she is bound to call on in the WTO job.

In addition, Okonjo-Iweala has a proven track record in carrying out successful reforms both at the World Bank and as the finance minister in Nigeria. Carrying out these reforms would have required negotiating with various constituencies.

The early days

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was born to a royal family of Chukwuka and Kamene Okonjo on 13 June 1954, in Delta State, Nigeria. Her parents were both professors at the University of Ibadan. She completed secondary school at the International School Ibadan and St. Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan. The young Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala proceeded to Harvard University. She graduated in 1977 with honours in economics. She went on to complete a PhD in regional economics and development at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Okonjo-Iweala’s professional life points to decades in the thick of economic policy – global as well as local.

She worked for many years at the World Bank where she started as an intern. After gaining her PhD she returned to the bank to work as a development economist. She was to spend 25 years at the institution, rising to the position of vice president.

Okonjo-Iweala spearheaded several World Bank initiatives to assist low income countries during the 2008-2009 food and financial crises. For example, as managing director of the World Bank from 2007 to 2011, she had oversight responsibility for the World Bank’s $81 billion operational portfolio in Africa, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia.

In 2010, she was chair of the World Bank’s successful drive to raise $49.3 billion in grants and low interest credit for the poorest countries in the world.

In 2012 she became the first female and black candidate to contest for the presidency of World Bank Group. She lost to Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College.

Having worked for about 25 years in the World Bank, negotiating and pushing for progressive agreement and development, Okonjo-Iweala has developed keenly honed negotiation skills.

In addition, she is an outsider to the WTO who offers the comprehensive skills and experience needed to shake up the organisation and bring progress to world trade. Her African origin places her on political neutral ground, enabling her, among other things, to objectively mediate issues between China and US.

These skills and traits also mean that she’s in a strong position to build a trade institution where there is greater trust among its members.

Her service to Nigeria

In 2003, she was appointed Nigeria’s minister of finance by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. She became the first female finance minister and had several reforms to her credit.

As minister of finance in Nigeria, she spearheaded negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors that led to the wiping out of $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt, including the outright cancellation of $18 billion.

She had several battles with powerful political interests in Nigeria. She slashed the number of agencies in the country. She drastically cut fuel subsidies in a subsidy scheme that was enmeshed in a difficult web of corruption that made the country lose $6.8bn over a three-year period.

Okonjo-Iweala introduced practical economic reforms which changed the worldview of Nigeria as seemingly hopeless and comatose. She turned around the largest economy in Africa.

Nigeria, for the first time in history, had electronic financial management reforms. She also introduced macroeconomic reforms and many policy strategies like a medium term expenditure framework and medium term budgeting.

For a brief period in 2006, Okonjo-Iweala served as Nigeria’s first female minister of foreign affairs. After resigning from government she set up a research organisation, NOI Polls.

In 2011 she was reappointed as minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy by the then President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan. She served in the position until 2015. In that time, Nigeria’s economic growth rate remained at an average of 6% per annum.

Under her leadership, Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics rebased the gross domestic productfor the time first in 24 years. This saw Nigeria emerge as the largest economy in Africa. She took a lot of heat for the government’s decision to remove the fuel subsidy. Protests ensued and the policy was reversed.

I have no doubt in my mind that Okonjo-Iweala would be an exemplary leader of the global trade organisation because she would balance policies between the advanced economies and developing ones to achieve sustainable global economic growth and development.The Conversation

 

Ezebuilo Ukwueze, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics, Nsukka, University of Nigeria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the major source of some of the minerals used to manufacture components in household appliances, mobile phones, electric vehicles and jewellery.

The mineral extraction industry is the backbone of the Congolese economy. Copper and cobalt, which is a by-product of copper, accounts for 85% of the country’s exports. Because of the huge mineral deposits available in the country, it is often the only sourcing option for companies.

Cobalt is an essential mineral for the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, laptops and smart phones. It offers the highest energy density and is key for boosting battery life.

The Katanga region in the south of the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to more than half of the world’s cobalt resources, and over 70% of the current cobalt production worldwide takes place in the country. Demand for cobalt is projected to surge fourfold by 2030 in pace with the electric vehicle boom.

However, mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo is risky because of the prevalence of artisanal small-scale mining. Artisanal mining is often carried out by hand, using basic equipment. It’s a largely informal and labour-intensive activity on which more than two million Congolese miners depend for income.

And this mining method comes with major human rights risks such as child labour and dangerous working conditions. Fatal accidents in unsafe tunnels occur frequently. And there are detailed reports such as the one by Amnesty International on the prevalence of child labour in these operations.

Because artisanal miners frequently extract cobalt illegally on industrial mining sites, human rights issues cannot be excluded from industrial production. Artisanally mined cobalt also often gets mixed with the industrial production when it is sold to intermediaries in the open market. Typically, it is then shipped to refineries in China for further processing and then sold to battery manufacturers around the world. In this complex supply chain, separating, tracking and tracing artisanally mined cobalt is almost impossible.

International human rights organisations have flagged human rights abuses, putting pressure on multinational corporations that buy Congolese cobalt. In response to these pressures, some automotive and electronics companies are currently not sourcing cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo because they want to avoid tainting their brand image.

But that strategy won’t work for long, as no other country will be able to satisfy the rising demand for cobalt. The production of other cobalt-exporting countries such as Russia, Canada, Australia and the Philippines accounts for less than 5% of the global production.

How companies in the cobalt supply chain can source responsible cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid these human rights risks is a question worth exploring. We address this question in a recent study, in which we suggest companies should acknowledge the need for common standards for responsibly mined cobalt.

Common standards

Currently, there is no common understanding of what “responsible” artisanal cobalt should entail. The quest for responsible mineral sourcing is not a cobalt-specific challenge. The Congolese mining code establishes certain basic standards such as the prohibition of miners under the age of 18. There are also requirements to register as an artisanal miner and become a member of a mining cooperative.

One approach towards common standards is to mount “artisanal and small-scale mining formalisation projects”. The few existing projects establish rules for the mining site that are defined and enforced by the project partners. These usually consist of cooperatives, mine operators and buyers.

One of us visited two active formalisation projects in Kolwezi in Katanga province. Based on the observations during the September 2019 visit, we believe that formalisation is a viable path to making artisanal mining safe and fair.

Formalisation works because operational measures are put in place to mitigate safety risks. For example, the extraction is supervised by mining engineers. Also, the project site is fenced off and has exit and entry controls. This ensures that no underage, pregnant or drunk miners can work on site.

But for formalisation projects to yield “responsible” artisanal cobalt, common standards and consistent enforcement are necessary. Currently, formalisation means different things in different sites.

National standards for mine safety exist, but they need to be enforced uniformly. Where current standards fall short of reassuring buyers, further measures need to be developed by a consortium of the key players. This should involve mining cooperatives, concession holders, the government, civil society organisations, and other companies along the battery supply chain.

The 2018 amendments to the mining code introduced a legal basis for the subcontracting of artisanal miners by industrial mining companies. In January 2020, the Congolese government created an entity that will oversee artisanal and small-scale mining activities. These are positive steps.

The development of artisanal mining standards through a process involving key players needs to build on and strengthen these existing national laws and strategies. Furthermore, private actors should support government efforts by identifying parameters and means of evaluation to ensure the consistent enforcement of these standards. A discussion about responsible sourcing strategies and practices is indispensable for all brands that care about the human rights implications of their operations.

The way forward

To illustrate how a multi-stakeholder discussion over responsible sourcing standards translates into practice, we can examine tunnel construction to extract the ores underground at artisanal and small-scale mining sites.

The first issue is whether tunnels should be allowed at all or whether responsible artisanal cobalt should take place exclusively from open pits. Open pits are considered significantly safer. If only open pits are considered responsible, who will pay for the earth-moving machines needed to create open pits?

If tunnels are allowed, how deep can they be? While relevant mining regulations limit tunnel depth to 30 metres and tunnel inclination to 15%, international buyers of cobalt do not consider this safe.

Given that horizontal tunnel construction is particularly dangerous, should horizontal tunnels be banned entirely from sites? If tunnels are permitted, should miners receive training on construction safety, and if so, who will pay for these programmes?

These processes and regulations must be standardised and widely adopted. Only when this happens will automotive and electronics companies be reassured that they are not contributing to human rights violations. And only then will they feel confident buying Congolese cobalt.The Conversation

 

Dorothee Baumann-Pauly, Adjunct Professor and Director of the Geneva Center for Business and Human Rights, Université de Genève and Serra Cremer Iyi, Researcher, Université de Genève

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nov 26, 2020

Universal Music UK has announced the launch of 0207 Def Jam, a new frontline label and the UK home of the iconic Def Jam Recordings label, with a stellar cast of execs including the appointment of highly respected industry executives and Ghanaian London-born twin brothers, Alec and Alex Boateng as co-Presidents.

0207 Def Jam, which takes the first part of its name and inspiration from a telephone code in London as a nod to the music, culture and art the UK is famed for, is partnering with the legendary Def Jam label which has shaped and propelled cutting-edge hip hop culture around the world for over 35 years.

Alongside his brother, Alex takes the helm after 10 years at Universal Music UK, most recently as president of Island Records’ first Urban Division which has played an instrumental role in shaping the current and sustained trajectory of UK Black music.

After taking the role in 2018 he oversaw UK campaigns for Drake, Tiwa Savage, Buju Banton, Nav, Giggs, Unknown T, Ray BLK, M Huncho, Tekno and Miraa May whilst also spearheading the campaigns for George The Poet’s debut book release, British film, The Intent 2 and UK based clothing brand/label Lizzy. 

Alex is a member of Universal Music’s Task Force for Meaningful Change, which was created as a driving force for inclusion and social justice. He joined Universal Music in 2010 in a digital role at Island Records before going on to hold positions in marketing and A&R, a period which included campaign launches for Tinchy Stryder, Drake, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj as well as A&R for artists including JP Cooper, Sean Paul, Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal, Donae'o and Big Shaq. He started his music career balancing a marketing degree with DJing, multiple shifts at radio and running his own marketing and promotions company with his then BBC 1Xtra colleague G Money, moving on to consulting roles with Atlantic Records, Polydor and AATW. 

Alec joins 0207 Def Jam after seven years at Warner Music, most recently as co-head of A&R at Atlantic, where he collected a clutch of industry awards and played a pivotal role in the commercial and cultural success of acts who have defined their era, including the emergence through to her chart-topping dominance of Jess Glynne, the revolutionary rise of Stormzy, Burna Boy’s rapid ascent to global superstar as well as the likes of WSTRN, Rita Ora, Kojo Funds, Stalk Ashley, Preditah and many more. A seasoned broadcaster, he also spent over a decade at BBC 1Xtra where he hosted the breakfast show for several years and a series of other specialist shows with a focus on breaking new British music. Alec remembers a passionate deep-rooted love of music as a child, evolving into DJing and leading the award-winning UK mixtape team Split Mics before halting university after he was headhunted to cut his teeth in A&R. First, he worked with Ministry of Sound and then began operating his own co-owned music company alongside the late industry lawyer Richard Antwi. Together, they oversaw a plethora of success with Wretch 32 and worked with artists such as Popcaan and Gyptian amongst many others.

Alex’s former Island colleague Amy Tettey will be joining the team as managing director after 11 years, the past four as finance director, at the Universal Music label where she worked across the entire roster of Island artists including everyone from Amy Winehouse to Drake and Dizzee Rascal to Giggs. Alongside Amy, Jacqueline Eyewe and Char Grant join as marketing director and A&R director respectively. Jacqueline - previously senior marketing manager at Atlantic where she spearheaded the marketing of Black music - has been deeply rooted in contemporary Black music and culture for the last decade. She joined Atlantic in 2015 where she has worked with artists including Stormzy, Burna Boy, Lizzo, WSTRN, Kehlani and Cardi B. Char, whose 10-year career has been immersed in artist development and management as well as songwriting, joins from BMG Music Publishing where she has published the likes of Giggs, Ghetts and producers P2J, TSB and AOD.

Alec and Alex report to Universal Music UK Chairman & CEO David Joseph. He says, “Bringing the Boateng brothers together at 0207 Def Jam is an important moment in British culture. Alec and Alex have always done things their own way with success always quick to follow. They have already assembled an exceptionally talented top team with a clear vision for this exciting new chapter in the history of one of the world’s most famous labels”.

Jeff Harleston, interim Chairman & CEO, Def Jam Recordings said, “It is a perfect fit having Alex and Alec at the helm of 0207 Def Jam. Their creativity, artist relationships, and connection with culture are all key elements that have made Def Jam such an important label for over 35 years. I have no doubt that Alex, Alec and their team will only make the label and the brand even stronger.”

Alec Boateng, co-President of 0207 Def Jam says, “Music, art and artists really, really matter. I’m super excited to play a leadership role in this brilliant new space we’re creating for amazing music and talent to live and evolve. A space which will support both our teams and our artists to be the best version of themselves.”

Alex Boateng, co-President of 0207 Def Jam says, “Especially in these times, this is a real privilege. I'm proud our collective journey now includes partnering a legendary label with a style that only London and the UK can provide. Looking forward to watching and guiding where the music and art takes the journey next.”

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