Royal Air Maroc, British Airways Announce Codeshare Agreement
Finance Minister Says Namibia, Ethiopia Need to Exploit ‘Tourism Potential
France reiterates support for Libya's NOC
Egypt's FM Shoukry heads to Germany to participate in Munich Security Conference
Angolan President visits works of technology museum
Italy: Angola elected to IFAD Emoluments Council
Ethiopia to hold parliamentary elections on Aug. 29
The Reporter – Ethiopia
By: Samuel Norgah
In November 2019, Plan International and the African Child Policy forum launched a report titled, ‘Getting Girls Equal: the African Report on Girls and the Law’. The report brought to the fore, seeming challenges faced by girls in the face of laws and legislations in Africa. This year marks 30 years since the African Union adopted the African Children’s Charter and I must admit that there have been significant improvements in the conditions of children.
As I read through the chapters of the report recently, one issue caught my attention – Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting and then it occurred to me that, another February is here with us. The world marks 6th of February as the ‘International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation’ with the aim to amplify and direct the efforts on the elimination of this practice.
Twenty-two of the 28 African countries in which Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practiced have adopted legislations prohibiting it. The practice is criminalised in at least 28 African countries, six of which have separate statutes or policies prohibiting FGM and other harmful practices. Sanctions for FGM range from fines to imprisonment, and where FGM results in the death of the victim, life imprisonment is imposed (Uganda) or the death penalty (Kenya). Other countries, like Chad, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan – where the practice is endemic – have not criminalized it. In Benin, Djibouti and Eritrea, failure to report FGM is considered a criminal offence.
Even where laws are enacted, however, they are mostly inadequate and seldom enforced. Despite the large number of laws that ban FGM, prosecutions are rare, and there is limited information available on prosecutions or the outcomes of any prosecutions made in recent years.
A recent report released by Plan International African Union Liaison Office and the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) in November 2019, shows that some countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Central African Republic and Uganda, have enacted laws prohibiting the practice to varying degrees. Unfortunately, the enforcement of these laws varies, and in some cases has resulted in the practice being pushed underground and across borders to avoid prosecution. For instance, strong legislation in Uganda is undermined by women crossing, or being taken across, the border into Kenya in order to undergo FGM.
In 2016, countries in the East African Community (EAC), including Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, enacted the East African Community Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act in order to harmonise laws, policies and strategies to end FGM across the region. The issue is, however, not solely about the victims; it is also necessary to address those who perform the procedure, for whom FGM is a source of their livelihood (not discounting the sociocultural beliefs that underpin the practice. Ethiopia for example has launched a $100m initiative last year to curb the practice.
Progress has been made in recent years in the fight against FGM. The practice is declining fast among girls aged 15 to 19 in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Liberia and Togo. Despite this progress, however, the medicalization of FGM – a change that sees the practice performed by medical professionals – is increasing, most worrisomely in Egypt, where rates have more than doubled and the country is home to 1.5 million girls and women cut by healthcare providers. 1.2 million of those cuts were performed by doctors. Other countries where medicalized FGM is practiced include Kenya, Nigeria, Djibouti, Guinea, and Sudan. FGM can never be safe, even if performed in a sterile environment, and there is no medical justification for it. The recent case of the 12-year Egyptian girl who died (unfortunately) from FGM, through a medical procedure, is a case in point.
The harmful effects of FGM on girls and women have been recognised by the African Union Heads of State and Government, and through a Decision in February 2019, endorsed the Saleema Initiative, as a continental campaign to end FGM.
In a world where at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM, it is imperative that these barriers be addressed if we are to win the war against FGM. The fight against FGM is one that can be won in one generation if we all recognise the practice as a violation of human rights and support the implementation of policies and legislations that ban the practice.
This piece is dedicated to survivors of FGM, as the world celebrates the ‘International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation’ on the 6th of February. Let’s join hands to eliminate FGM in a generation – I’m ready to do my part, however, we can go farther by working together.
The Reporter – Ethiopia
By: Carlos Lopes
African heads of state and government convened at the annual African Union (AU) summit, and issues related to the continent’s economic growth and development were front and center. But leaders also must ensure that their growth agenda is linked to the global challenge of urgent action on climate change. This is particularly critical for Africa, which is disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of global warming: more frequent and severe tropical storms, droughts, and floods, all of which have devastated African communities and economies in recent years.
Given the climate risks Africa faces, it is perhaps not surprising to see the continent take the lead in shaping a sustainable future. Of the 108 countries that have thus far indicated that they will step up their climate commitments in 2020, as required by the Paris agreement, 47 are in Africa. They recognize the opportunities to leapfrog to a new, cleaner, more efficient growth model – and the risks of not doing so.
Moreover, in November 2019, the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced that it will not finance new coal plants in the future. This shift reflects renewable technologies’ increased competitiveness and the emergence of new business models. Combined with investments in energy-efficient appliances, equipment, housing, and commercial buildings, these developments can eliminate the need for new coal-generated power in Africa.
The AfDB is adding to the growing momentum across the development-finance community to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, and to move away from coal. More than 100 global financial institutions, increasingly concerned about climate-related risks, have now divested from thermal coal, including 16 of the top 40 international banks, and even more are restricting their investments in new coal.
Shifting away from coal is good not only for the climate, but also for Africa’s economy and people. In many regions, renewable energy is now cheaper than coal, even without subsidies. The economics are even more favorable when we consider the hidden costs of coal-related health problems, the risk of stranded assets, and the high upfront investment needed for so-called clean coal. It simply makes no economic sense to invest in new coal.
Indeed, 42 percent of coal-fired power plants worldwide are losing money, and Africa is not immune to this trend. Primary energy costs for South Africa’s public electricity utility Eskom have soared 300 percent in real terms over the last 20 years, leading to dire financial problems and higher rates for consumers. An analysis of the draft 2016 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for South Africa’s power system found that the least-cost option was not coal, but rather a mix of solar photovoltaic, wind, and flexible power generators like hydropower, biogas, or gas. In response, the 2018 IRP confirmed a move away from coal to renewable energy. Other African countries trying to follow South Africa’s path would likely find themselves in a similar situation.
Furthermore, shifting to renewables can improve energy access quickly and affordably while avoiding air pollution. Between 1990 and 2013, annual deaths from outdoor air pollution in Africa increased by 36 percent, to about 250,000. Decentralized or off-grid renewable energy can reduce harmful emissions, and help rural African communities to meet basic household and public power needs. Broader access to electricity can also boost gender equality by bolstering women-led entrepreneurial activity, implying up to an elevenfold increase in women’s incomes.
The benefits of a transition away from coal are clear. But as Africa embarks on a low-carbon path, it also must invest more in energy efficiency and avoid becoming over-dependent on natural gas, oil, or even larger-scale hydropower, all of which are highly exposed to climate-related financial risks. Mixed policy signals could result in trillions of dollars of stranded fossil-fuel assets by 2035, or a loss of up to 15 percent of GDP if valued in today’s terms. And climate change is already putting some large-scale African hydropower facilities at risk, calling into question their longer-term reliability and financial viability.
But, despite the economic and social case for renewables, new coal-fired plants are still being planned across Africa. With projects expected to come online in Zimbabwe, Senegal, Nigeria, and Mozambique, the continent’s coal-fired power capacity could increase from three gigawatts today to as much as 17 GW by 2040.
African countries are now at a turning point in terms of how they choose to develop. Governments should strengthen strategies and policies aimed at encouraging the transition to a new climate economy and increasing investment in clean energy.
Making this shift to a resilient, low-carbon economy is critical to achieving the AU’s ambitious Agenda 2063 for inclusive and sustainable development. And by phasing out fossil fuels, Africa can lead by example in the global effort to combat climate change.
The Reporter – Ethiopia
By: Brahma Chellaney
From the Tigris to the Indus and the Yangtze to the Nile, rivers were essential to the emergence of human civilization. Millennia later, hundreds of millions of people still depend on rivers to quench their thirst, grow food, and make a living. And yet we are rapidly destroying the planet’s river systems, with serious implications for our economies, societies, and even our survival.
China is a case in point. Its dam-building frenzy and over-exploitation of rivers is wreaking environmental havoc on Asia, destroying forests, depleting biodiversity, and straining water resources. China’s first water census, released in 2013, showed that the number of rivers – not including small streams – had plummeted by more than half over the previous six decades, with over 27,000 rivers lost.
The situation has only deteriorated since then. The Mekong River is running at a historically low level, owing largely to a series of Chinese-built mega-dams near the border of the Tibetan Plateau, just before the river crosses into Southeast Asia. In fact, the Tibetan Plateau is the starting point of most of Asia’s major rivers, and China has taken advantage of that, not least to gain leverage over downstream countries.
China may be the world’s largest dam builder, but it is not alone; other countries, from Asia to Latin America, have also been tapping long rivers for electricity generation. The diversion of water for irrigation is also a major source of strain on rivers. In fact, crop and livestock production absorbs almost three-quarters of the world’s freshwater resources, while creating runoff that, together with industrial waste and sewage discharge, pollutes those very resources.
In total, almost two-thirds of the world’s long rivers have been modified, and some of the world’s longest – including the Nile and the Rio Grande – now qualify as endangered. Of the 21 rivers longer than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) that still flow freely from their mountain sources to the sea, most are in remote regions of the Arctic and in the Amazon and Congo basins, where hydropower development is not yet economically viable.
These trends strain water resources, destroy ecosystems, and threaten human health. For example, heavy upstream diversions have turned the deltas of the Colorado River and the Indus River into saline marshes. Moreover, lower river-water levels impede the annual flooding cycle, which in tropical regions helps to re-fertilize farmland naturally with nutrient-rich sediment. In periods of below-average rainfall, a number of rivers increasingly run dry before reaching the ocean, and even when they do make it, they are depositing less of the nutrients and minerals that are vital to marine life.
Globally, aquatic ecosystems have lost half of their biodiversity since the mid-1970s, and about half of all wetlands have been destroyed over the last century. A recent United Nations study warned that up to a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, many within decades.
Humans are hardly exempt from the health consequences of river destruction. In Central Asia, the Aral Sea has all but dried up in less than 40 years, owing to the Soviet Union’s introduction of cotton cultivation, for which water was siphoned from the sea’s principal sources, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Today, particles blown from its exposed seabed – thick with salts and agricultural chemical residue – not only kill crops; they are sickening local people with everything from kidney disease to cancer.
Free-flowing rivers play a critical role in moderating the effects of climate change, by transporting decaying organic material and eroded rock to the ocean. This process draws about 200 million tons of carbon out of the air each year.
In short, the case for protecting our rivers could not be stronger. Yet, while world leaders are often willing to pay lip service to the imperative of strengthening river protections, their rhetoric is rarely translated into action. On the contrary, in some countries, regulations are being rolled back.
In the United States, almost half of rivers and streams are considered to be in poor biological condition. Yet last October, President Donald Trump’s administration repealed “Waters of the US,” which had been introduced by his predecessor, Barack Obama, in order to limit pollution of streams, wetlands, and other bodies of water. Last month, the Trump administration replaced the rule with a far weaker version, called the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule.”
Likewise, in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has relaxed environmental rules in the name of economic growth. Among the casualties is the Amazon River, the world’s largest river in terms of discharge, which carries more water than the next ten largest rivers combined. Already, the Amazon basin in Brazil has lost forest cover over an area larger than the entire Democratic Republic of Congo – the world’s 11th-largest country.
The absence of water-sharing or cooperative-management arrangements in the vast majority of transnational river basins facilitates such destruction. Many countries pursue projects without regard for their cross-border or environmental effects.
One way to protect relatively undamaged river systems – such as the Amur, the Congo, and the Salween – would be to broaden implementation of the 1972 World Heritage Convention, and add these rivers to the World Heritage List, alongside UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This would be in line with recent efforts in some countries – Australia, Bangladesh, Colombia, India, and New Zealand – to grant legal rights to rivers and watersheds. For such initiatives to work, however, effective enforcement is essential.
As for the rivers that are already damaged, action must be taken to restore them. This includes artificially recharging rivers and aquifers with reclaimed wastewater; cleaning up pollution; reconnecting rivers with their floodplains; removing excessive or unproductive dams; and implementing protections for freshwater-ecosystem species.
The world’s rivers are under unprecedented pressure from contamination, damming, and diversion. International cooperation can save them, but first we must recognize the consequences of doing nothing.