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5 things to watch at the World Economic Forum on Africa



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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Call to Sever Ties with Tanzanian Government Over Latest Human Rights Abuses Against the Maasai



Armed police forces arrive to begin demarcation process in Loliondo.

Open Letter from the Oakland Institute and Survival International to UNESCO WHC & IUCN

To: Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director UNESCO World Heritage

CC: Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General

Tim Badman, Director, IUCN World Heritage Program
Muhammad Juma, Chief of Africa Unit, UNESCO World Heritage
ICOMOS Secretariat

Subject: Call to Sever Ties with Tanzanian Government Over Latest Human Rights Abuses Against the Maasai

Dear Director Lazare Eloundou Assomo,

We are writing in light of the latest violence unleashed on the Maasai communities living in the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district by the Tanzanian security forces. On June 8, 2022, the Tanzanian government initiated the demarcation of 1,500 km2 of land that it intends to turn into a game reserve, which would trigger mass evictions of Maasai living in legally registered villages within Loliondo. This action has led to widespread violence against the Maasai by security forces, which has left at least 31 people wounded by live ammunition and other injuries while one police officer was allegedly killed by an arrow. A total of twenty-three citizens (including 9 ward councilors) have been arraigned before the Resident Magistrate’s Court of Arusha and charged with the murder of the policeman.

Injured Maasai, including high numbers of women and children, have fled to Kenya to seek medical treatment and the government continues to crack down on those who are attempting to share information regarding the violence. Despite this resistance from local communities living on this land, Prime Minister Majaliwa announced the demarcation exercise had been completed.

This latest travesty is a continuation of past efforts to evict Maasai from their ancestral lands in Loliondo for safari tourism and trophy hunting. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Otterlo Business Company (OBC) — which runs hunting excursions for the country’s royal family and their guests — will reportedly control commercial hunting in the area despite the company’s past involvement in several violent evictions of the Maasai, including in 2017, burning of homes, and the killing of thousands of rare animals in the area.

There has been extensive condemnation of this violence and forced evictions of the Maasai by numerous organizations and coalitions. On June 13, 2022, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights strongly condemned(link is external) the violence and urged the government to halt the eviction and open an independent investigation. On June 14, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expressed(link is external) “its profound concern” over the ongoing evictions” and called “on the government of Tanzania to comply with the provisions recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other relevant international human rights instruments, and ensure the right of the Maasai to participate in decision-making, considering that their land in Loliondo for safari tourism, trophy hunting and “conservation” will affect their lives and territory.”

On June 15, nine United Nations Special Rapporteurs called(link is external) on the Tanzanian government to “immediately halt plans for relocation of the people living in Loliondo and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and begin consultations with the Maasai Indigenous Peoples, including direct contact with the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council, to jointly define current challenges to environmental conservation and best avenues to resolve them, while maintaining a human rights-based approach to conservation.” Finally, on June 19, IUCN issued a statement(link is external) on the human rights violations in Loliondo, sharing that it was “deeply concerned.”

Given these developments are occurring alongside the threat of eviction faced by tens of thousands of Indigenous residents of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the government’s shocking display of violence against its own citizens and patently false denial of responsibility cannot be ignored. We have previously written to your office warning of plans to evict Maasai from the NCA and the inadequacy of relocation sites. These latest rights violations in Loliondo demonstrate that the government does not hesitate to resort to violence, in violation of its national and international obligations, towards the realization of its plans.

The government’s blatant disregard for Indigenous lives and international human rights law calls for immediate and decisive action from the UNESCO WHC and IUCN. Continued inaction on your part makes you complicit. The UNESCO WHC has failed to ensure respect for the rights of Indigenous residents. Therefore, Ngorongoro should be delisted as a World Heritage Site and all ties between the UNESCO WHC and IUCN with the government should be immediately severed.


Anuradha Mittal
Executive Director
The Oakland Institute

Fiore Longo
Director, France & Spain
Survival International

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Unrecognised wealth of customary land.



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Papua New Guinea’s Constitution is unique as it gives the people rights to be custodians over their land, 95% of which is still under customary control.  For thousands of years, over 800 cultures have allowed our land to sustain every generation till the idea of registering customary land was introduced from outside our shores and clouded the real value and importance of that land.

Foreign investors and donor governments have influenced government and policy think tanks to orchestrate the mainstream mindset of most Papua New Guineans to falsely believe that registering land will relieve poverty and unlock development constraints.

This mindset has crucified customary land by opening a door to different land-grabbing schemes that poorly benefit our society.

From Special Agriculture Business Leases to Incorporated Land Groups created to facilitate logging and mineral extraction and now special economic zones, all these schemes critically ignore the real values of customary land.

The SABL scheme disposed community rights to 5 million hectares of customary land.  Of the 15 million hectares of customary land designated for agricultural purposes, 8 million have been taken by logging. Now, huge land portions are being designated for SEZ schemes.

The government keeps on coming up with policies and new ideas aimed at ‘unlocking’ customary land under the pretense they will improve the economy but have any of these schemes benefited the custodians of land?

Widespread human rights abuses have been reported by both international and national human rights observers on land and forest across PNG, but little is done because these land grab schemes are legally endorsed.

When will be the time when policies and ideas are centered on helping the population in rural areas to utilize their land for themselves and not hand it over to foreigners to exploit for their own profit?

Why should the people register land in return for false promises of money and improved infrastructure when they can be upskilled to utilize their land to increase their incomes in a sustainable and long-lasting manner? Why can’t the government and policymakers create policies that utilize the rural population to untap the huge potential of their land?

The way forward to improve the lives of people in PNG is NOT to alienate their rights to land and destroy the way of life that is attached to this relationship. At the heart of development and economic policy must be the needs and self-determination of local people. Any development policies that see dispossession of land as a necessary and unavoidable process are fundamentally opposed to the rights of the people and the preservation of our unique culture.

Studies into rural livelihoods over the past decade show that customary land is highly productive, but its output and impact is neither measured properly nor publicly recognized.

Papua New Guinea’s real mainstream economy is small-scale farming as  ACTNOW documented in 2017:

“If a rural family had to buy at regional markets what comes from their gardens, they would have to spend up to 20,000 Kina per year. That gives us an idea of the real value of subsistence output (what we produce to feed ourselves). The value of domestic informal or market trading, including garden produce, is almost the same again, another K20,000 a year.

One million rural families could therefore be producing K40 billion in real value per year. That dwarves the annual combined output of gold (1.7bn), gas (1.69bn), petroleum (1.63bn), copper (0.75bn), logging (0.8bn), and palm oil (0.47bn) which totals just K7 billion.”

Another example of this untapped value can be seen in the recent comments by the Fresh Produce Development Agency on the value of the horticulture sector. It is already a K3 billion a year industry but is trapped by a lack of skills, training, government support, and clear guidelines to untap this green mine.

Customary land is the most valuable asset available to most Papua New Guineans but its role and importance is often misunderstood or misrepresented, particularly by outsiders.

All of the government’s so-called ‘land reforms’ and development policies will continue to amount to nothing while they fail to recognize and support the potential of the custodians of the land to protect it and use it for maximum gain.

Having a government that fails to recognize this is a failure to the people.

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La Via Campesina calls on States to exit the WTO and to create a new framework based on food sovereignty



La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement representing the voices of more than 200 million small-scale peasants from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, has been mobilizing all week against the WTO. The food crisis that is currently hitting the world is further proof that free trade – far from bringing about food security – is making people starve.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has once again failed to offer a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes. For more than eight years, rich countries have been blocking concrete proposals from African and Asian members of the G33 in this regard.

Jeongyeol Kim, from the Korean Women Peasant’s Association and an International Coordination Committee (ICC) member of La Via Campesina, points out that:

“Free Trade Fuels Hunger. After 27 years under the rule of the WTO, this conclusion is clear. It is time to keep agriculture out of all Free Trade Agreements. The pandemic, and the shock and disruptions induced by war have made it clear that we need a local and national food governance system based on people, not agribusinesses. A system that is built on principles of solidarity and cooperation rather than competition, coercion, and geopolitical agendas.”

Burry Tunkara, from the Gambian Organization of Small-scale Farmers, Fishermen and Foresters and one of the main youth leaders of La Via Campesina, echoes the same sentiment in this testimony:

“The WTO only defends the rich and their commercial interests. It is a tool of neo-colonialism. It only serves the interests of multinationals to find new markets and cheaper labour. It’s time to stop that!”

The socio-economic agenda of the poorest and low-income countries is not a priority for the WTO. The proof: its inability to provide a safeguard mechanism against the “dumping” of rich countries and its approach to fisheries subsidies to the detriment of small-scale fisherfolk. There is no point in trying to reform an institution built to favour the business interests of a handful of multinational corporations.

Perla Álvarez from Paraguay, and member of the Latin American Coordination of La Via Campesina (CLOC) stated that a systemic change is urgent and necessary:

“The global food crisis is our moment of reckoning. There is no place for a ‘business as usual’ approach here. We are presenting short-term and long-term proposals that can radically shift the way in which trade affects farming communities around the world.”

Today, June 15, from Geneva, while the WTO Ministerial Conference has once again betrayed the expectations of the populations that have been most affected by the food crisis, we, La Via Campesina, share our proposals;

La Via Campesina calls on all national governments to rebuild public stocks and to support the creation of food reserves at the community level with local products from agroecological practices. LVC also called on all governments to put in place the anti-dumping legislation necessary to prevent exporters from destroying local markets.

Yudhvir Singh of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, one of the unions that spearheaded the historic mobilization of Indian peasants in 2021, shared his country’s experience with public food stocks:

“Peasants need strong public policies, such as minimum prices and public stock, to continue to make a decent living by producing food. The WTO’s attacks against our model of market regulation are extremely dangerous. The G33 must continue to resist and build based on the aspirations and hopes of small-scale producers.”

La Via Campesina has called for an immediate suspension of all existing WTO rules that prevent countries from developing public food stocks and regulating market and prices. Governments should have the right to use self-selected internal criteria to protect and promote their food sovereignty. Each country should be able to develop its own agricultural and food policy and protect the interests of its peasants, without harming other countries. The use of agricultural products for agro-fuels should be prohibited. La Via Campesina has also called for a halt in speculation.

“Agrarian Reform is necessary to build food sovereignty,” added Zainal Arifin Fuat of Serikat Petani Indonesia and member of LVC’s International Coordination Committee. “Governments must put an end to grabbing water, seeds and land by transnational corporations and ensure small-scale producers fair rights over common resources.”

We, La Via Campesina, insist that within the framework of the pandemic and the global supply crisis, governments should prioritize local markets.

Morgan Ody, peasant in Brittany, France, and general coordinator of La Via Campesina, stated on behalf of the global peasant movement:

“The World Trade Organization is a failed project. Our global peasant movement calls on all States, especially those in the South, to leave the WTO immediately. We must create a new international framework for agriculture and trade based on food sovereignty. Only then can we defend the interests of small-scale food producers.”


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