President Donald Trump's obsession with building walls has apparently gone global. 
 
Trump recently suggested to the Spanish government it should build a wall in the Sahara desert to address the migration crisis, according to Spain's foreign minister Josep Borrell. 
 
Spain has experienced a surge in migration, particularly over the past year as thousands of people attempt to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe. 
 
The European country has seen over 30,000 migrants and refugees arrive by sea so far in 2018, making Spain the top destination for migrants arriving via the Mediterranean. Moroccans represent the largest single nationality arriving in Spain, but people are coming from other countries in Africa as well.
 
Nearly 2,000 people have died attempting to make the journey across the sea to Europe in 2018 so far. 
 
Trump famously called for a wall to be built along the US-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration to the US during his 2016 presidential campaign, and now apparently feels it can help Europe as well. 
 
When Spanish diplomats told Trump building a wall across the Sahara desert would be no easy feat the president said, "The Sahara border can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico," according to Borrell. 
 
The Sahara desert is roughly 5,000km long. Comparatively, the US-Mexico border spans roughly 3,200km. 
 
Beyond the sheer size of the Sahara, the other challenge to building such a wall is the fact Spain would need permission to do so from the African countries the massive desert stretches across. 
 
Borrell spoke of Trump's Sahara wall suggestion at a lunch in Madrid this week, but did not clarify when the president made these remarks. But The Guardian reports it could've been when the Spanish foreign minister accompanied King Felipe and Queen Letizia to the White House in June.
 
When asked for more details on Borrell's comments, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry told The Guardian, "We can confirm that’s what the minister said, but we won’t be making any further comment on the minister’s remarks."
 
It seems Trump struggles to avoid discussing his desired border wall in almost any context, and on Tuesday said a recent visit to a 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania gave him more inspiration for his vision. 
 
"They built this gorgeous wall where the plane went down in Pennsylvania. Shanksville. And I was there. I made the speech. And it’s sort of beautiful, what they did is incredible," Trump told Hill.TV in an interview on Tuesday. "They have a series of walls, I’m saying, 'It’s like perfect.' So, so, we are pushing very hard."
 
Trump's plan for a border wall along the US-Mexico border has encountered many obstacles in US Congress. The president has repeatedly claimed that construction on the wall is underway, but this is inaccurate. 
 
 
Tribune...
UN says Africa is the worst hit region with climate change resulting to the biggest impact on acute food insecurity and women are more vulnerable.
 
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) made this known in the 2018 global report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition released on Tuesday in Rome and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
 
The report was jointly signed by five head of UN agencies.
 
They are José da Silva, Director-General, FAO, Gilbert Houngbo, President International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO), Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF and David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP).
 
The report said that climate change had affected 59 million people in 24 countries and requiring urgent humanitarian action.
 
It identified the effects of climate variability on rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, as the key drivers of the rise in hunger, conflict and economic slowdowns.
 
The UN agencies noted that changes in climate were already undermining production of major crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions.
 
It said that without building climate resilience, the situation was expected to worsen as temperatures increased and became more extreme.
 
The report showed that the prevalence and number of undernourished people tended to be higher in countries highly exposed to climate extremes.
 
It said that undernourishment was higher again when exposure to climate extremes was compounded by a high proportion of the population depending on agricultural systems that were highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability.
 
It said that the rising of temperatures, the late or early start of rainy seasons and the unequal distribution of rainfall within a season were affecting food production.
 
“Other effects include food price hikes and losses in poor farmers’ incomes.
 
“Temperature anomalies over agricultural cropping areas continued to be higher than the long-term mean throughout 2011 to 2016, leading to more frequent spells of extreme heat in the last five years.
 
“The nature of rainfall seasons is also changing, such as the late or early start of rainy seasons and the unequal distribution of rainfall within a season,’’ it said.
 
It indicated that harm to agricultural production contributed to shortfalls in food availability, with knock-on effects causing food price hikes and income losses that reduce people’s access to food.
 
The UN report noted that women worldwide were especially vulnerable to the impact of climate extremes, particularly in countries where even a semblance of gender parity remained a distance dream.
 
The report said that the adverse effect of climate change was being felt in many areas that included agriculture, food security, biodiversity and ecosystems, water resources and human health amongst others.
 
It noted that in many of these contexts, women were more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men, primarily as they constituted the majority of the world’s poor and were more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources threatened by climate change.
 
“Women faced social, economic and political barriers that limited their coping capacity.
 
“Women and men in rural areas in developing countries are especially vulnerable when they are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood,’’ it said.
 
The UN report stressed that to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it was imperative to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes.
 
Source: Business Insider
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has proven to be productive and effective in boosting China-Africa cooperation, a Chinese special envoy said.
 
Zhou Yuxiao, China’s ambassador for FOCAC affairs, said this in an interview with Xinhua prior to the FOCAC Beijing Summit in September, expressing his confidence in the event’s success.
 
Zhou said FOCAC has grown into a dynamic mechanism with rich content and tangible results, following the principles of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith and the values of friendship, justice, and shared interests.
 
“China neither imposes its own will on others nor seeks its sphere of influence,” said Zhou.
 
“The concept of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits’ is upheld when China cooperates with African countries.”
 
FOCAC was founded in 2000 and its membership had grown to have China, 53 African countries having diplomatic relations with China, and the African Union Commission as of June 2018, according to the FOCAC website.
 
Under the FOCAC framework, there are regular consultations at ministerial and senior-official levels, and between the Chinese Follow-up Committee and the African Diplomatic Corps in China.
 
Sub-forums on business, youth, health and poverty reduction, and many others, have also been set up.
 
FOCAC has held two summits gathering leaders of China and African countries, one in Beijing in 2006 and another in Johannesburg in 2015.
 
“FOCAC is not for idle words, but a platform to unleash real actions,” said Zhou.
 
The veteran diplomat, who spent years in Africa and served as the Chinese ambassadors to Liberia and Zambia, said he had witnessed the development of FOCAC over the years.
 
It began with small steps, with a focus on aid, trade, debt relief, personnel training but gradually grew to a comprehensive platform that covers industrialization, agricultural modernization, financing, green development, people-to-people exchanges, and security.
 
Zhou said FOCAC has won wide support from African countries for its efficient enforcement means, clear time-bound action plans, and an effective evaluation system.
 
He also attributed the mechanism’s effectiveness to the adequate funding.
 
For example, Zhou said, China pledged financing support amounting to 60 billion U.S. dollars to implement the ten cooperation plans announced at the 2015 FOCAC summit in Johannesburg.
 
Projects can also be funded by the Silk Road Fund or the BRICS New Development Bank.
 
Meanwhile, the Chinese government encourages trustworthy and competent Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa.
 
Both China’s ability to “walk the walk” and African countries’ active collaboration are key to the success of FOCAC, Zhou said.
 
“That is why FOCAC has earned wide recognition from African countries as well as the international community, and expectations are high for the upcoming summit,” said Zhou.
 
The summit is scheduled for Sept. 3 to Sept. 4 in Beijing. Priorities and key directions for China-Africa cooperation in the next three years will be announced.
 
A key aspect to watch, Zhou said, will be how China and Africa link the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and African countries’ development plans.
 
With the “twin engines” of the BRI and FOCAC, China-Africa cooperation is poised to move forward more steadily, faster and further.
 
“I’m confident that the summit will be a complete success,” said Zhou.
 
 
Vanguard..

In 138 BC China took its first step towards global connectivity with the establishment of the historical Silk Road. Zhang Qian was sent by Emperor Wudi to Central Asia to establish trade relationships. His historic missions enabled China to make contact with the outposts of Hellenic civilisation established by Alexander the Great.

These efforts enabled Emperor’s Han dynasty to develop political and trade relationships with Central Asian countries. New ideas came to China, along with new plants like grapes and alfalfa and superior breeds of horses.

Centuries later, China is building a very different, very modern version of that route. The Belt and Road Initiative consists of two complementary, concurrent plans. One is an overland route connecting Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia to China. The second is the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which aims to connect China, South East and South Asia with Africa.

The Belt and Road Initiative will connect at least 65 countries, most of them developing economies. The routes will cover 63% of the world’s population and 29% of global GDP.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his commitment to the project during the 10th BRICS Summit held in South Africa in late July 2018. He said it would “create new opportunities of social and economic development for participating countries.”

On the face of it, the Belt and Road Initiative looks set to change a number of economic, social and strategic landscapes. But it’s essential that whatever the project produces is perceived as benefiting everyone involved – China as well as the country’s affected.

Some projects which are already underway, particularly in Africa, offer insights into how the initiative might unfold and what its benefits and pitfalls could be. These projects also suggest that China has learned from previous infrastructure investments on the continent some decades ago.

Already connecting Africa

The African leg of the Belt and Road Initiative is work in progress. China says it will hold ongoing discussions with various countries and make decisions based on consensus as well as the economic, social and political feasibility of individual projects. Some of the countries poised to benefit most include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Egypt.

This will cement China’s role as Africa’s main trading partner, a space it’s occupied since overtaking the US in 2009. Between 2010 and 2015, China’s foreign direct investment on the continent grew by 21.7% – and it’s still rising.

It’s important to point out that the Belt and Road Initiative will not be starting entirely from scratch. China has already provided significant help in improving connectivity and developing infrastructure in countries set to benefit from the initiative.

For example, China supported the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway. It’s the first transboundary and longest electrified railway line in Africa. The Export-Import Bank of China provided commercial loans that funded 85% of Ethiopia’s and 70% of Djibouti’s contributions. And the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation also owns 10% of Djibouti’s portion.

The 759 kilometre long railway, which connects landlocked Ethiopia to the maritime trade routes of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, started carrying passengers in late 2016.

China is also responsible for constructing the Madaraka Express which connects the Kenyan port of Mombasa to the capital city Nairobi, a distance of 489 km. This railway is being extended to Naivasha in Kenya’s northwest. There are plans to extend it even further so that it eventually interconnects Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and, much later, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The new railway has already reduced transportation time between Kenya’s two most important cities and, crucially for trade, reduced the cost of transporting a container between the two cities by half.

Next steps for the initiative

The success and effectiveness of the Belt and Road Initiative will depend on many factors. These include national and regional geopolitics and the long-term economic benefits of various projects in beneficiary countries.

It will also be important that non-Chinese companies, both public and private, are able to compete successfully for a significant portion of the construction pie. And China’s economic rivals should not be excluded from bidding for and winning work.

But tension is inevitable, as has already been seen in South Asia.

China is working to complete a 6 kilometre bridge over the river Padma in Bangladesh for which it is providing over USD$3 billion loan. China is investing some USD$31 billion in other projects in Bangladesh. It also plans to spend some USD$60 billion on construction of ports, railways, roads and power plants in Pakistan.

These activities and similar infrastructure developments in other countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have unsettled India, which is questioning China’s real intentions in the region.

The Conversation

The world will be watching as the Belt and Road Initiative unfolds – and all the players will hope the benefits outweigh the costs and are sustainable in the long term.

Asit K. Biswas, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and Cecilia Tortajada, Senior Research Fellow, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Some DStv subscribers’ on Wednesday, advocated a pay-per-view method of subscription following the recent hike in the cable television bouquet rates.
 
DStv is a Sub-Saharan African direct broadcast satellite service owned by MultiChoice. The service launched in 1995 and provides multiple channels and services to its more than 11.9 million subscribers.
 
DStv has been facing backlashes from the public since rates for its programme bouquets were increased in July.
 
According to the subscribers, they do not watch all the channels allotted in the different bouquets and would prefer to pay only for the channels they watch.
 
“This move will be a shift from the present subscription pattern where several channels are lumped into bouquets arranged to suit various audience plans.
 
“However, a pay-per-view plan will enable subscribers pay only for specific channels that they watch within a specific time frame, instead of a full bouquet,’’ they said on Twitter.
 
Below are some of the tweets: @Wilson tweeted, “Okay, @DStv #DStv what do you have to say about this? Why not introduce a pay per view option where I can simply choose the channels I need.’’
 
@IDman_nt said: “Can we have a discussion centered on global application?
 
“I have noticed in your expressions concerning this #DStv issue, which is fraudulent. You have been avoiding discussing #PayPerView application. Why? Are we not ripe for it? It’s done in South Africa.’’
 
@Funmi_o wrote: “My family and I only watch four channels. I don’t see the reason why I should pay for a bouquet I don’t use. Please let’s pay as we use.’’
 
@Omoaegbetuyi said: “If its not Premium Bouquet, its not complete entertainment #DStv, we need pay-as-U-view. How much to watch #SuperSport n #MNet channels only.’’
 
In 2017, there were speculations that DStv would be introducing the Pay-Per-View payment plan, although the cable TV denied the claims.
 
Subscribers complaints increased when the cable network could not broadcast the Community Shield game between Manchester United and Chelsea on Sunday.
 
According to the subscribers, especially the football fans who expected to watch the match, say they pay so much money to subscribe to DStv and wondered why it didn’t air.
 
Despite apologies from DStv after announcing that it would not air the community shield and FA games this year, aggrieved fans also took to twitter to express their displeasure with threats to boycott the service.
 
 
Source: NAN

Total deal volumes and values of Merger & Acquisition (M&A) transactions in Africa fell sharply in the first half of 2018, declining 44% in deal volume and 57% in aggregate value, compared to the first half of 2017.

This is according to analysis by Baker McKenzie of Thomson Reuters M&A data for Africa. The report notes that there were 485 deals valued at USD 19, 420 million in the first half of 2017, this dropped to 270 deals valued at USD 8,318 million in H1 2018. On a positive note, intraregional cross-border deals rose twofold in terms of aggregate value from USD 418 million in the first half of 2017 to USD 1,292 million in H1 2018.

Morne van der Merwe, Managing Partner and Head of the Corporate/M&A Practice at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg explains, “Africa is a continent with 54 different countries, all with different economies and so it is difficult to pin down specifically what has caused the downturn in M&A activity in the first half of the year. Generally, inbound investment in Africa has been affected by political uncertainty and unpredictability - business does not mind challenge but has no affinity for uncertainty. Corruption and bad governance, as well as the strict anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws in some investor countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, has made investors more cautious.”

Intraregional trade
“Despite the downturn in M&A transactions, it appears that regional economies are developing and intraregional trade is doing well. East Africa is developing a strong regional focus and had almost left the Southern African region behind, although this region has come back onto the radar of late,” van der Merwe notes.

Van der Merwe explains further that certain economies such as Ethiopia are becoming more of a discussion point as popular investor destinations in Africa because of interesting development initiatives taking place in this country.

The majority of the intraregional deals in Africa were in the High Technology Sector (cutting edge or advanced technology) which accounted for 21% of all deals. Interregional dealmaking value was highest in the Financial sector which made up 82% of the total value. There were four High Technology intraregional deals in Africa in the first half of 2018. Intraregional deals in the financial sector in H1 2018 were worth USD 1,056 million.

Van der Merwe says that the financial services sector, especially banks and insurance companies have been deploying various models for their expansion into Africa, including regionally focused strategies.

“Lessons I have picked up from these markets include that having the right local partner remains key to being successful in Africa and that it is important it to think twice before you impose your brand on a market where you have recently made an acquisition. This is because you may change the recently acquired company from what had made it successful in the first place. Keeping the local brand and management in place has worked very well for some in the financial services sector who have expanded into Africa,” he notes.

Van der Merwe explains that events such as Barclays withdrawing from Africa had left many wondering how a financial giant like Absa would rethink its strategy and possible expansion into Africa, and it will be interesting to follow the unfolding of their strategy to position themselves as an African Bank.

“I think that expanding into the continent and having a regional approach as part of that expansion is something they are most likely thinking about very carefully,” he says

He notes that the growth in investment in both the financial services sector and the technology sector in Africa are interlinked. Financial services organisations are becoming more dependent on investment in technology and innovation as they look to upgrade their IT systems and find news way to grow their customer bases.

Inbound
In terms of inbound cross-border transactions with other regions, Industrials was the most popular by deal volume (16% share of the total) with 16 deals completed in the first half of the year. Energy & Power attracted the highest share of aggregate deal value (35% of the total value), with deals valued at USD 1,493 million.

“The industrials sector is a focus area for many developing economies across the continent and the sector is well established, leading to many more opportunities than one would find in less well established sectors,” he says.

Van der Merwe explains that the extent of the power deficit in Africa is well known and increasing electricity generation, whether on-grid or off-grid, across the continent is the focus of a number of initiatives, all of which are driving investment.
In terms of foreign investors, the United States (US) was the most acquisitive in Africa, representing 18% of deal volume and 39% of deal value. The US completed 18 deals in Africa in H1 2018, worth USD 1,694 million.

“The US has been a significant investor in the African continent for some time. Trump’s policies have played out well for certain countries in Africa and the relationship between the US and Africa is very much focused on strategic bilateral relationships influencing the direction of investment flow,” he notes.

Outbound
In terms of outbound deals, High Technology had the highest volume of outbound interregional cross-border deals (13% of total deals). There were eight outbound deals in the High Technology sector in the first half of the year. Real Estate accounted for the highest share in aggregate value at 27% of total value of outbound deals. This sector completed USD 430 million worth of deals in H1 2018.

“The high number of outbound technology deals from Africa is because African tech companies are targeting offshore investments in companies that will deepen their access to new technologies, markets and talent,” he says.

The real estate sector attains prominence because of relative value of real estate as an asset class.

“As economies develop, so does real the estate sector. For example, the expanding middle class and consumerism in Africa has led to a growth in the consumer goods sector and real estate development is part of that as new shopping centres are developed. Also, African infrastructure development is high on the agenda across the continent and there is a big real estate element associated with that as well,” he explains.

The UK had the highest number of investors from Africa during the period H1 2018 (20% share), with 12 deals being completed in the first half of the year. India was the most attractive market in terms of value (46% of total value). African dealmakers completed transactions worth USD 735 million in India in H1 2018.

“The ease of doing business with the UK brought about by various factors, including, time zones, easy access, language, historical ties and familiarity has meant that investment between the UK and numerous African countries has always been good. Brexit has impacted positively on investment in that it has caused UK trade outreach initiatives to various historic trade partners,” van der Merwe explains.
.
“With regards to India being a popular investment destination for African businesses to invest, this is because like Africa, India is a developing economy. African investors are astute in seeking out opportunities in these economies because the environment and challenges are often similar, or at least comparable. This makes it easier to build a relationship with local partners, which is so necessary for successful investment. India is also a very large economy and so huge opportunities can be accessed for investors who know where to look. In addition, historical ties between India and many countries in Africa adds to the familiarity and relative ease of doing business,” he adds.

In 2017 56 UN peacekeepers were killed in malicious acts such as when they were deliberately attacked, the most fatalities of that kind since 1994. All but one of the fatalities resulted from operations that included “stabilization” in its name.

Four blue-helmeted UN peace operations have had “stabilization” included in their title. These include operations in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the CongoMaliand the Central African Republic.

The UN has not defined stabilization in official documentation. As a result, the practice of stabilization by UN forces has developed organically in recent years. The Security Council has given increased attention to the concept with recent research showing the term is used more and more during open meetings. In 2001 stabilization was mentioned in 16% and by 2014 the use of the term had spiked to 44%.

Nevertheless, when mandating peace operations the Security Council has not given a consistent indication of what activities fall under stabilization. Likewise, UN personnel have differing understandings of what the term means.

The mandates of stabilization missions have one major similarity – they are routinely instructed to support efforts that extend state authority.

In the stabilization mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, this is achieved through the use of a Force Intervention Brigade. The brigade operates in cooperation with Congolese forces and is mandated “to prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralise these groups, and to disarm them”. The brigade has used offensive rather than defensive force, which is not the norm in UN peace operations.

In the Central African Republic, the UN has taken a “proactive and robust posture” to help create conditions that will reduce the presence and threat of armed groups. For that purpose, the UN has operated alongside Central African forces on a number of occasions.

These two examples illustrate that stabilization missions are increasingly acting in concert with government forces, posing a potential problem on two fronts. First the UN risks alienating communities it is mandated to protect and, second, the increased intensity of violence against UN forces puts those troops at greater risk.

What does stabilization mean?

The UN appears to have adopted a combination of US and UK understandings in its approach to stabilization. The US sees stabilization as militarily defeating an insurgency to give the “legitimate authority” the monopoly on the use of force while supporting a locally owned transition.

The UK, however, sees stabilization as civilian led action undertaken with military support aimed at long-term recovery from conflict.

Both the UK and US are heavily involved with the mandating and planning of operations as part of the Security Council’s P3 (US, UK and France). The three are the so-called “penholders” on most resolutions relating to UN peace operations.

As a result, UN stabilization missions typically do two things. First, they displace and deter armed groups and, second, undertake peace building activities to entrench state authority and create state legitimacy in the power vacuum left behind. Depending on the situation, the displacement and deterrence of armed groups has been sought by using offensive force or by taking a robust defensive posture.

This approach can be seen in the UN stabilization mission in the Central African Republic. When the mission was deployed in 2014, the state had little authority beyond Bangui, the capital. From the outset UN forces understood robust force would be needed to support the state’s authority outside Bangui and to prevent armed groups from entering the capital.

Three examples bear this out. In February 2017, UN troops opened fire on 40 members of an armed group approaching the city of Bambari. An airstrike was used to show that the armed group had crossed a “red line” around the city that had been imposed to protect civilians. The UN mission also announced that a joint deployment was underway with Central African forces to establish state authority in Bambari.

In January 2018, the UN launched a joint military operation with government forces to deter armed groups from entering the town of Paoua. The most recent example was in April 2018 when UN forces undertook a “joint disarmament and arrest operation” alongside government forces. The targets were criminal groups that threatened civilians and obstructed state authority. The operation led to exchanges of fire and the death of a peacekeeper.

The Congolese, Malian and Central African missions have all operated during ongoing conflicts in contrast with traditional operations where there is peace to keep. These missions are also mandated to use varying degrees of proactive, robust force to prevent attacks on themselves and people they’re trying to protect. This invariably means extending a state’s authority.

Consequently, the lines are increasingly becoming blurred between using robust force for protective purposes and the use of offensive force to fight an enemy alongside the host state government.

A new precedent for UN peace operations?

It may be the case that the UN has now set a precedent of entering conflict zones ready to stand its ground and fend off armed groups rather than wait for peace to keep. But there are risks.

One is increased peacekeeper deaths where troops are increasingly targets of attack. The other is that support from UN member states may wane in the long term as the dangers associated with contributing troops multiply.

What is undoubtedly true is that stabilization efforts will have an effect on the civilian populations the UN is there to protect. The robust use of force by well equipped peacekeepers who can access the latest intelligence and logistical equipmentfrom Western contributing states could lead to the effective deterrence of armed groups and a better chance at a normal life for civilians.

But the importance of who the UN chooses to work with cannot be underestimated. Where the UN seeks stabilization in cooperation with the government it risks marginalising communities disillusioned with the current regime. The UN promotes local ownership in peace building, yet this may be prove more difficult to achieve where UN personnel are seen to be synonymous with state authorities that aren’t trusted by sections of the population.

 

Credit: The Conversation

Africa has long been considered a continent with growth potential. Although this is the case, the question remains, is the continent developing at a sustainable rate?

According to World Bank statistics, intra-African trade was at just 11% of the continent’s total trade between 2007 and 2011. In 2015, intra-African trade was worth just $170 million, when the potential stands at trillions of dollars .

While intra-African investment is critical to Africa’s future economic growth, it still remains significantly low despite the positive results it can yield. Intra-African trade fails because of volatile political climates and governance challenges in some countries. Potential trading partners cannot collaborate because of jurisdiction red tape.

Intra-African trade is essential so that African countries can do business with each other frequently in order to grow the economies of the continent and raise Africa’s global competitiveness. Recently, I attended the Africa CEO Forum, an event which seeks to find future solutions for the benefit of the continent’s development by bringing together governments and industry captains to engage on what is possible and intra-Africa trade was a topic in which many were interested and dominated the conversations in some of the sessions and hallways.

While Africa is often an overlooked investment target for many global multinationals as a result of infrastructure and policy challenges, it is upon businesses that are Africa born to reinvest in the continent. I have always believed in the opportunity that exists in Africa and that is the reason why we, at Tsebo Solutions Group have implemented a robust plan that has seen us build the business relationships we have on the continent. Although we believe that African economies will continue to grow despite the various market challenges, governments can catalyse easier trading practices to alleviate the burden of governance issues and border control challenges that many countries on the continent still face.

The World Bank forecasts growth of 3.2% for the year, up from 2.4% in 2017. It also predicted slightly higher growth for 2019 of 3.5% . This provides a window of opportunity for businesses to strengthen trade 

relationships with counterparts on the continent to build sustainable trade. As an African business, we saw the need to focus on harnessing the power of doing business on the continent, not only to cement our footprint as a facilities management provider that understands Africans, but to support and strengthen the growth of the continent.

Intra-African investments are critical to Africa’s future economic growth as it creates greater opportunities to uplift the people of Africa as it has more of a direct impact on poverty by creating more job opportunities for the poor. Tsebo Solutions Group employs over 39 000 staff and more than 50% of the business’ turnover is fed back to our staff in wages. This has created a unique opportunity to not only grow our service delivery capabilities in Africa, but to uplift people across the continent.

However, it is important to note that expanding into Africa requires a deep understanding of the countries and their unique characteristics.

As a business, we believe that we can only reach our full growth potential by continuing with our Africa journey. With a customer base of nearly 1 billion people in Africa, the continent is set to grow only if African business continue to trade with each other and governments realise the importance of the private sector in opening growth opportunities.

 

Clive Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Tsebo Solutions Group

Google has announced that it will open an artificial intelligence (AI) research center in Africa, its first on the continent.
 
The Silicon Valley giant said that the new research hub will open in Accra, Ghana, later this year, announcing the move in a blog post published on Wednesday. “We’re committed to collaborating with local universities and research centers, as well as working with policy makers on the potential uses of AI in Africa,” Google’s blog post said.
 
Accra, located in the west of Africa, joins cities including Paris, New York and Tokyo, as well as Google’s Mountain View headquarters, in hosting an AI research center.
 
While the decision is the first of its kind for Google in Africa, the company has had offices on the continent for the past decade. It already operates a digital skills training program that it believes can ultimately benefit 10 million Africans. In addition, Google runs a separate initiative called Launchpad Accelerator Africa that it says supports 100,000 developers and over 60 technology startups in Africa.
 
But, Accra isn’t the only city in Africa positing itself as a tech hub. Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and Rwandan capital Kigali are both known for their credentials in tech development, for example. Meanwhile, Kenya has been singled out by Microsoft founder Bill Gates for its “pioneering” innovation of digital payments platform M-Pesa.
 
Ghana likely appealed to Google because of the quality of its education system and other feeder institutions, Lucy James, associate consultant with Control Risks’ Africa team, told CNBC via telephone on Thursday. The search company is focussed on “drawing in local talent and there’s no shortage of that in Ghana,” she said. Ghana also enjoys relative political stability, James explained. Meanwhile, it’s neighbor Nigeria — the continent’s largest economy which also promotes business center Lagos as a burgeoning tech hub – is more prone to civil unrest.
 
Nonetheless, the choice may seem unusual given that Ghana ranks 12th for Sub-Saharan Africa in the World Bank’s latest Ease of Doing Business index. Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa – another of the continent’s big economies – all come in the top five by comparison.
 
But, Ghana’s pro-business government and entrepreneurial society may have contributed to its selection. People in Ghana share the “sense that you can disrupt something and make a difference,” James said.
 
 
Source: CNBC

Africa has made great progress in the fight against malnutrition. Between 2000 and 2016 Senegal, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Togo, Cameroon and Angola reduced undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality by up to 56%.

As a result of these countries’ efforts, the proportion of hungry people on the continent dropped from 27% to 20% between 1990 and 2015.

The benefits of improved nutrition are widely known and appreciated. Improved nutrition increases the incomes of households. This in turn raises the demand for food, enriches livelihoods and leads to more employment opportunities.

Many past initiatives to produce more food in Africa and combat malnutrition have focused on increasing the availability of staple foods like maize, rice, wheat or cassava.

But too little attention has been paid to diversifying diets and on how policymakers can ensure that low-income households can access the variety of foods they need to be healthy.

Staple food prices

It’s clear from food policy research that the continent needs to learn from past mistakes across the world. There have been a variety of approaches to tackle malnutrition.

In the 1960s and 1970s, it was widely claimed that lowering the price of food staples, the most inexpensive source of energy in the diet, would alleviate malnutrition. Globally, the price of food reduced significantly after the 70s. But it turned out this was not a silver bullet.

In the 1980’s vitamin A, iron and iodine deficiencies were added to the list of scourges frequently associated with low protein diets. A lack of nutrients was behind the severe impact on child development and pushed up stunting and wasting levels. But it was clear that simply producing more low-cost, energy dense foods that were widely consumed could not solve the malnutrition problem. Greater emphasis needed to be placed on foods with high per unit protein and micronutrient content such as animal-sourced foods, fish, fruit and vegetables.

In the last decade more, attention has been paid to how to promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture. This puts nutritionally rich foods and dietary diversity at the heart of fighting malnutrition. But there is a lack of agreement about the best way to do this at scale and in ways that drive widespread economic development.

Governments and policymakers face two problems. Firstly, they are trapped in a short-term mode of planning. This neglects long-term development objectives that ensure sustainable growth in household incomes and a steady improvement in the overall availability of food.

Getting out of this will require a food security policy with a clear vision and defined timelines to achieve long-term development targets. In addition government also needs to forge alliances with private sector actors to lead to changes in food systems. This will generate livelihood opportunities and a year-round supply of affordable and diverse food for all people.

Secondly, most policy actions for nutrition happen at the national level. They have significant potential for widespread behavioural change that can benefit nutrition. Restricting the advertising of unhealthy foods or incentives for healthy foods is a good example.

Yet, national policies have the potential to bring about large-scale positive change needed for nutrition sensitive-development programmes. National policies can also undermine such change by influencing what is grown, processed and marketed. But national development policies often prioritise other sectors: agriculture, poverty alleviation, economic growth at the expense of nutrition.

The challenge is that nutrition programmes are hard to design.

Sensible interventions

Some nutrition-specific interventions have worked in reducing malnutrition. Examples are supplementation, complementary feeding for children and food parcels. Complimentary baby foods have provided essential nourishment for children between the ages of six months and two years old and has been shown to save lives and reduce stunting.

But to make even more progress in fighting malnutrition, policymakers need to be smarter and sharper with nutrition-sensitive planning. For example, by anticipating that the demand for nutritious foods will increase if incomes increase, should help with the plans to meet this demand through programme development and intelligent investment.

Asia in the 1970s and 1980s is an example of how things can go badly wrong if not planned well. During the Green Revolution the price of staple foods reduced quicker than prices of vegetables and pulses. This meant that vegetables and pulses became less affordable for low income households. In some cases, these foods became entirely unaffordable.

If African food policy only focuses on supplying cheap starches then the demand for nutritious foods will exceed the supply. The prices of these nutritious foods could be pushed beyond the reach of those the policy was designed to help.

One solution is to invest in value chains that meet multiple development objectives: ones that increase employment, improves incomes and makes more nutritious food available. The aquaculture industry is a good example as is diary, fruit and vegetables.

 

Sheryl L Hendriks, Professor in Food Security; Director, Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being, University of Pretoria

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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