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5 things to watch at the World Economic Forum on Africa

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Photo by: Manuel Lopez / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

DURBAN, South Africa — South Africa was once seen as a beacon of African growth and an example for the rest of the continent to follow. But while the country is still the only African member of the G-20, it faces a series of recent challenges — from a downgrading of its credit rating to junk status to allegations of corruption at the highest level — as it is set to host the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa.

About 1,000 business, civil society and government leaders from more than 100 countries have now descended upon the port city of Durban on the country’s Indian Ocean coast for the three-day summit. The group includes 10 heads of state, including South Africa’s own embattled President Jacob Zuma.

The theme for this year’s gathering is “achieving inclusive growth,” a challenge for a continent with both a growing middle class and consumer culture and some of the poorest populations on the planet.

Here are some of the issues Devex will be watching this week:

What’s next in the fight against famine?

Should Africa ‘hurry up and wait’ amid development crisis?

The future of Africa is an urgent global concern in every dimension — moral and humanitarian, as well as economic and geopolitical. But amid all the discussions of policy and politics, the real question is: What are we doing about it? Devex President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar weighs in from the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban.

Business and government leaders gather for the forum at a time when millions of Africans are facing starvation — specifically in South Sudan, Somalia and Northern Nigeria. While drought has brought Somalia once again to the brink of famine, conflict has fueled the dire situations in Northern Nigeria and in South Sudan, where a famine has already been declared.

While there will be some discussion about the famine, little of the formal program focuses on the issue. One session, however, will be looking at solutions for how farmers can accelerate food production to meet growing demand both locally and abroad. Devex will also be asking some of these questions, including in conversations with the Rockefeller Foundation and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the technical body of the African Union.

While agricultural resilience is important, the root cause of much of the suffering related to hunger is conflict. In South Sudan warring factions have often targeted aid workers, prevented access to people in need, and stolen goods intended for the hungry. In Northern Nigeria Boko Haram has displaced many of the farmers who used to feed others but now find themselves in need of support. So Devex will also be looking at issues of governance and fragility.

Governance and conflict

While the continent has incredible potential for growth, much of that growth will be limited if there is a lack of good governance. Countries with weak institutions that are entangled in conflicts or teetering on the brink must be shored up in order to create the type of inclusive growth that is the central focus of the forum.

Devex will be looking to explore the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative and how business, government and society together can try to drive responsible leadership and thereby attract more business to the continent. Part of the conversation at the summit will look at how digitization can be used as a tool for civic participation to help enhance government accountability.

Devex will also be at a conversation about efforts underway to address conflict and fragility with Donald Kaberuka — the former president of the African Development Bank and a special envoy at the African Union Peace Fund — Forest Whitaker, a UNESCO special envoy for peace and the founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, and others. Devex will also be speaking with Vasu Gounden, the founder and executive director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes to get his insights.

Good governance is set to be a pervasive issue, particularly as the host nation’s president potentially faces 783 charges of corruption, fraud and racketeering. What progress might be made on these issues remains to be seen.

Employment, skills-building and future of work

Providing formal jobs for roughly 1.2 billion people who live on the continent lies at the core of Africa’s future development. While studies show the percentage of unemployed youth has slowly decreased in sub-Saharan Africa since 2012, more than one-quarter of north African youth, those between the ages of 15 and 29, were without work in 2016, according to research by the International Labour Organization.

The unemployment outlook remains largely mixed across countries. In South Africa, for example, half of youth are unemployed, the highest on the continent. Not only does unemployment remain problematic, but the poor quality of employment leaves too many living in “working poverty.” Roughly 65 million of Africa’s youth live in moderate to extreme poverty and earn less than $5 per day.

Low enrollment rates in secondary and tertiary education translates to a large number of unskilled workers who often resort to informal employment opportunities or low-skilled jobs. With a rising youth population, experts including the AfDB vice president of agriculture, human and social development will attempt to answer the question: How can government and business leaders introduce new technologies to expand access to education, counter this working poverty trend, enact policy change and foster skills for future jobs?

An increased push for regional integration, industrialization and trade

Trade and investment in Africa remain potential drivers for development and growth on the continent. Industrialization has become a buzzword in Africa, as countries scramble to find solutions that incorporate current technologies to meet the needs of its people. Although technology has the potential to generate breakthroughs in agriculture and health care by improving efficiency and expanding the reach of businesses and organizations, it often accentuates constraints mostly due to limitations around capacity and connectivity.

A country’s ability to industrialize also relies on its means to convert natural resources into finished goods, a weakness for Africa where an estimated $35 billion is spent on food imports, according to AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina. Following the 2016 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting — with the theme was “mastering the fourth industrial revolution” — this year’s Africa meeting seeks to refocus attention on the urgency of economic diversification, revitalization of manufacturing and harnessing human innovation to achieve sustainable growth. A session titled “Green, Growth or Both” will take a look at the possibility of large-scale infrastructure projects to accelerate industrial development while adhering to international environmental regulations.

Health systems and pandemic preparedness

Ebola, malaria, cholera, meningitis, and HIV/AIDS are among a list of epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases that threaten African public health security. Africa’s health care challenges are unique to the region, with a need for continent-specific medical solutions. Though recent advancements in the creation of a malaria and Ebola vaccination have been made, African health care systems still lack local capacity for expansive health research, products and services. Africa remains the poorest continent with the highest disease burden. To help build the capacity of health systems, this regional conference has prioritized topics ranging from improved access to health care, to redesigning health policies, to new strategies to combat disease in the wake of rapid urbanization.

Alongside these discussions, Devex will also be talking with the director of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention — a public health institute created by the African Union Commission and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — to learn more about the organization’s five year strategic plan to improve surveillance, emergency response and prevention of infectious diseases.

For everything you need to know about the World Economic Forum on Africa, follow our coverage this week and join the conversation on Africa’s future. Follow @devex and tag #WEFAfrica2017.

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Statement- Uganda: Seven Environmental activists brutally arrested, charged and released on police bail for protesting against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project

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On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala, Uganda and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. This was reported by the Stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (StopEACOP) campaign on 29 May 2024.

The seven human rights defenders were peacefully protesting against the intended financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) by the Chinese government. According to the environmental human rights defenders, EACOP has caused severe human rights violations, poses significant environmental risks, and will contribute to the climate crisis. The EACOP is a project led by Total, spanning 1,443km from Kabaale, Hoima district in Uganda to the Chongoleani Peninsula near Tanga Port in Tanzania. It aims to transport oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to global markets via the port of Tanga.

On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. The seven environmental activists were sitting outside the Chinese Embassy in Kampala in an attempt to present a letter of protest to the Chinese Ambassador expressing their complaints and demanding that his government refrain from funding an unfavourable project for them. Due to their arrest occuring before they had any chance of interacting with embassy representatives, their letter was not delivered. The peaceful protesters were violently rounded up by the police, who subsequently packed them in a vehicle and brought them to the Jinja Road police. The seven activists were released on police bail and were due to report back to the Jinja Road police station. On 18 May 2024, following several banks and insurance companies’ withdrawal from EACOP, Civil Society Organizations supporting energy just transition, climate and environmental conservatism, and land justice addressed the media and urged the Chinese President to rescind his interest in funding the project.

Local organizations have been denouncing that, in order to stifle complaints, silence protesters, and maintain pressure on those who defend climate, environment, and land rights, Ugandan authorities have turned to attacking and criminalising environmentalists, climate activists, and defenders of land rights. Uganda has recorded the most number of cases of violations against these human rights defenders, with 18 incidents documented in Africa, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s 2023 in their report titled People power under pressure: Human rights defenders & business in 2023. The majority of these attacks seem to center around the EACOP and the environmental human rights defenders campaigning against the project, which the State regards as a significant infrastructure initiative.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern for the safety and security of the seven environmental human rights defenders and strongly condemns the recent instances of intimidation, criminalization and police harassment they have been subjected to, as it believes are an act of reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of environmental and land rights in Uganda.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security and protection of environmental human rights defenders during peaceful protests. The organisation also demands that the brutal arrest of these seven human rights defenders be condemned. Front Line Defenders calls Ugandan authorities to guarantee that all environmental and land human rights defenders, including human rights organisations working on environmental rights, are able to carry out their legitimate activities and operate freely without fear of police harassment.

Source: Frontline Defenders

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TotalEnergies African legacy: 100 years of environmental destruction.

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TotalEnergies, the French petro giant company with a legacy of destruction on the continent, this year celebrates 100 years. To be clear, that is 100 years of profit, environmental destruction and damage to people’s lives.

The company’s damage is widespread, extensive and well-documented.

In 1956, TotalEnergies entered Africa, exploiting natural resources as it went along. In chasing down oil and gas, it has wreaked havoc on communities, land, and the environment.

A 2022 study by the Climate Accountability Institute found the total emissions attributed to the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline totals 379 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, making TotalEnergies a key contributor to Africa’s carbon footprint.

As Charity Migwi, a senior campaigner at Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organisation, notes, the company has its hands on various projects on the continent.

The project noted above will have about 460km of pipeline in the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region. On top of this, there are plans to extract oil from the fields in Uganda as well as the company’s prominent role in the Mozambique LNG Project, which is a major cause of carbon emissions

Closer to home, TotalEnergies has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil and gas off the south-west coast of South Africa, which sparked protests. As the company held its annual general meeting in Paris, France, protests by affected communities, civil society and activists in both countries took place.

Environmental justice group The Green Connection’s community mobilisation officer, Warren Blouw, said in a press release: “TotalEnergies and other oil and gas companies must consider the livelihoods of small-scale fishers, whose economic wellbeing is jeopardised by offshore oil and gas exploration. We must unite to protect Africa and its resources from those who only seek profit, at the cost of regular South Africans.”

Zinhle Mthiyane, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said: “We are protesting to protect the environment and prevent ocean pollution. Drilling for oil and gas in South African waters could degrade the environment, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices.”

One of those affected by TotalEnergies and its hunt for fossil fuels is Sifiso Ntsunguzi, a small-scale fisher from Port St Johns, on the Eastern Cape coast. Ntsunguzi made the trip to France to protest.

“We are in Paris to support the court case against TotalEnergies’ oil and gas projects. As a small-scale fisher and member of a coastal community, I do not support the exploration of oil and gas in the ocean. We use the ocean for cultural practices and as a means to sustain our livelihood. We are against exploration of gas and oil, as it may risk degradation of the environment and marine ecosystems, our livelihood and our health. I come from a fishing community and have become a fisher myself,” he said.

In another press release, environmental justice group Bloom wrote that TotalEnergies has been well aware of its climate harms as far back as the 1970s, yet the company still goes ahead with its oil and gas initiatives.

Initially, its strategy was to deny climate change, wrote Bloom. Now that it can no longer do so, it has changed tact and resorts to greenwashing, described by the United Nations as follows: “By misleading the public to believe that a company or other entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, greenwashing promotes false solutions to the climate crisis that distract from and delay concrete and credible action.”

Total Energies portrays itself as a serious player in the renewable energy space and constantly punts its renewable efforts while going full steam ahead with its fossil fuel projects.

For example, it said of its project in the Northern Cape: “TotalEnergies and its partners are launching construction of a major hybrid renewables project in South Africa, comprising a 216 megawatt solar plant and a 500 MWh battery storage system to manage the intermittency of solar production.”

Bloom explained that chasing renewables is profitable but nowhere near as profitable as oil and gas, and it in no way negates the harmful search for and use of fossil fuels. For this reason Bloom and two other climate justice groups took TotalEnergies to court.

This case also hopes to halt the expansion of fossil fuel extraction. As The Guardian reports: “A criminal case has been filed against the CEO and directors of the French oil company TotalEnergies, alleging its fossil fuel exploitation has contributed to the deaths of victims of climate-fuelled extreme weather disasters. The case was filed in Paris by eight people harmed by extreme weather, and three NGOs.”

Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist at the University Of Cape Town, said: “The fossil fuel industry will continue to undermine science, they will continue to expand their businesses,

they will continue to cause suffering to the people as long as they know that the law can’t hold them accountable.”

Whether the case will yield anything remains to be seen, but the important thing is people are standing up and fighting the harmful practices of these fossil fuel companies. International bodies like the UN climate change conferences yield very little results. It is up to us, the people on the ground, to unite for the good of our planet.

Source: mg.co.za

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Incredible WIN! European Union withdraws from Energy Charter Treaty

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The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is an international agreement originally created with a focus on growing fossil fuel energy cooperation after the Cold War. Today, the Treaty is a major obstacle to effective climate action because it protects fossil fuel investments. By including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the Energy Charter Treaty allows fossil fuel corporations to sue States that act to protect our climate when that action could impact a company’s profits.

Today, we celebrate because the European Council overwhelmingly adopted the EU’s proposal to exit the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), an outdated international investment agreement that protects and promotes fossil fuel investments.

CIEL and other organizations across Europe have worked tirelessly to educate European decision-makers about the dangers of the Energy Charter Treaty. Together, we proved how the treaty prevents effective climate action and is fundamentally incompatible with EU law.

This pivotal vote follows up an EU Commission’s proposal for the EU and European Atomic Energy Community to exit the Energy Charter Treaty.

The Commission found the ECT incompatible with the EU’s laws, investment policy and law, and energy and climate goals. Its proposal broke months of deadlock by offering EU countries the option to remain in the treaty while allowing other countries to exit. The European Parliament also adopted a resolution in April 2024 calling on the EU to withdraw from the ECT.

Today’s vote proves that people power can win critical victories!

Join us in celebrating this victory for the people, the environment, and the climate!

Demonstrators wear masks with the EU leaders under a sword that reads Energy Charter Treaty.

Why does this matter?

Fossil fuel investors have used the Energy Charter Treaty to sue States when they take climate action, claiming a right to compensation for alleged loss of investments. If they are serious about climate action, States must disentangle themselves from investor protections that allow fossil fuel companies to sue them in private courts when States act in the public interest to phase out fossil fuels. States could be squeezed from both sides: sued by communities for their climate inaction with ever greater frequency, and sued by investors when they do act to phase out the fossil fuel drivers of the climate crisis and accelerate the energy transition.

CIEL has worked for a long time to dismantle ISDS and ensure that the perspectives of communities inform ongoing arbitration.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'Exit the Energy Charter Treaty'

Policymakers in Europe, and beyond, now have a duty to end their dependency on fossil fuels, exit the ISDS system that allows industry to sue States for enacting public interest policies, and accelerate the clean energy transition.

This win in Europe is a milestone in the fight against investor state dispute settlements. Now, we are leveraging this momentum for other States and clearing the way for effective climate action around the world.

Today we celebrate this victory with you. Tomorrow we will continue working to uproot the fossil economy driving the climate crisis, and the trade and investment deals that stand in the way of a renewable energy future.

Source: ciel.org

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