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Dear Colleagues,  

Welcome to the End of Year Africa Weekly Digest. We have a Double-Issue covering a round-up of the news, stories, and publications that captured our hearts and minds from the past two weeks. 

We thank you for being a loyal reader and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  

Our next digest will be out on 11th January 2021.

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Winners Of The Inaugural Beyond Tourism In Africa Challenge Announced. 

The Luc Hoffmann Institute, the African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation, and WWF Regional Office for Africa announced the winners of the Beyond Tourism in Africa innovation challenge. The challenge sought solutions that would allow for the protection of nature while also providing sustainable livelihoods and economic resilience to the communities who manage land or live in close proximity to wildlife. More than 300 applications were submitted to the challenge by individuals and teams from across the continent of Africa and around the world. Innovations like this are critical now more than ever when the effects of Covid on conservation tourism in Africa have been seismic. In 2019 tourism contributed 14.7 percent of Namibia’s GDP, 10.7 percent to Tanzania’s, and 8.2 percent to Kenya’s. According to 2019 figures published by the World Travel and Tourism Council, wildlife-based tourism specifically generated more than US$29bn annually for Africa and employed 3.6m people.  Check out the winners of the Beyond Tourism in Africa Innovation Challenge: Luc Hoffmann Institute.

African Environment Ministers Commit To Support A Green COVID-19 Recovery Plan 

African Ministers of the Environment have committed to support a green COVID-19 recovery plan. Representatives of the 54 African governments at the 8th special session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). The ministerial conference issued a ministerial statement reaffirming their commitment to enhance environmental resilience as well as to protect and sustainably use natural resources for the region’s development. The African Major Groups and Stakeholders Declaration to AMCEN called for reinforcement of African Countries’ commitment to work towards a new global response on plastic pollution – Read the statement here.  In related news, leading global fund managers have committed to reducing carbon emissions associated with their loans and investments by at least 49% in the next decade. Bloomberg

Central Africa Villages Join Experiment To Save Rainforest - Los Angeles Times

Deforestation rates have accelerated over the last decade, raising fears that the Congo Basin could one day suffer the fate of the Amazon rainforest, which has been devastated by logging and slash-and-burn agriculture. In early 2016, the government of DRC passed a law setting aside an estimated 185 million acres of forest — it did not specify how much is primary forest — to distribute to individual villages, with the expectation that local ownership leads to sustainable management. Read more about how communities are working to save the rainforest. (LA Times). 

IUCN Red List Update highlights threats to South Africa’s Protea

The most recent update of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List has found that 45% of the striking protea family that includes the national flower of South Africa, the King Protea, are under threat of extinction. 637 of 1,464 species assessed were found to be Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered with a further 9 now believed to be extinct. The protea family grows all over the Southern Hemisphere reaching only as far north as the Caribbean, Japa, and Southern China. Many Proteaceae species have highly restricted ranges, making them more vulnerable to the spread of invasive alien species, disease, changes to natural fire cycles linked to climate change, and loss of habitat to agriculture. They are an ancient family of flowering plants known from fossils from a time before the extinction of the dinosaurs and form the backbone of the conservation we undertake at FossilPlants. The family contains iconic plants often seen as cut flowers such as the national flower of South Africa, the King protea (Protea cynaroides).The family also includes a range of plants important to people for their wood, seeds, or their nectar. Source: Fossilplants.co.uk.

WWF Joins New COP26 Finance Coalition Coordination Mechanism Focused On Mobilizing Public And Private Financial Institutions For Climate Action.

The coalition has agreed to coordinate and to align their efforts with the COP26 Presidency and the Race to Zero to secure high ambition commitments from across the global financial sector. The FCCM ensures that finance coalitions and NGOs are aligning with COP26 objectives ensure the entire global community engaged in mobilizing financial institutions for climate action is better coordinated and all “rowing in the same direction” for COP26. The FCCM comprises cross-organizational teams focused on specific jurisdictions. Country teams include a range of national organizations working with financial institutions on climate change. Each FCCM country team has developed and is iterating a strategy for finance sector mobilization in their jurisdiction. Press release here: WWF                     


The Fifth Anniversary of the Paris Agreement - and the Next Chapter for We Are Still In

This Saturday, December 12th, marked the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement. In June 2017, WWF, together with dozens of partner organizations launched We Are Still In, a commitment from states, cities, tribal nations, business, faith, healthcare, cultural institutions, higher education, and artists to uphold the U.S. commitment under Paris. Today, there are nearly 4,000 institutions in every state who have joined that declaration. Similar coalitions came together in other countries, under the Alliances for Climate Action also created by WWF and now an official WWF Network Initiative.  source: WWF.

World Soil Day- What We Can Learn from Burkina Faso and Kenya. 

On 5th December the world commemorated World Soil Day (#WorldSoilDay) and its campaign "Keep soil alive, Protect soil biodiversity" aimed to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil biodiversity loss, and increasing soil awareness. Much knowledge about the technical aspects of sustainable land management exists, such as the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT). What is needed for the most part is tapping this knowledge and creating the enabling conditions for farmers to be able to apply this knowledge. Here some of the social innovations for healthy soils and human well-being being implemented in Kenya and Burkina Faso. (Medium.com). In some African countries, young farmers are struggling to cope with the warming world. Despite such challenges, there is a lot of hope for many African farmers, for example, the Soil Doctors are championing farmer training in communities of Africa to ensure that best sustainable farming practices are adopted.  

The 2020 Africa Visa Openness Index Finds 54 Percent Of The Continent Accessible For African Visitors:

The 2020 Index shows that a record 54% of the continent is accessible for African visitors, who no longer need visas to travel or can get one on arrival, up by 9% since 2016. In 2020, The Gambia joins Seychelles and Benin in allowing visa-free access for all African travelers. In addition, 20 countries moved upwards in rank on the Index, while 50 countries improved or maintained their scores. The report shows a significant rise in e-Visas, offered by 24 countries in Africa. Notwithstanding the gains made, findings show that African citizens still need visas to travel to 46% of African countries. Countries in East and West Africa rank highest among the top performers, worthy of emulation by countries in the other regions. The Index’s findings reinforce the benefits of prioritizing visa openness solutions in large and small economies, with the biggest gains accruing to business, investment, innovation, and tourism. Further facilitating the free movement of people, goods and services, becomes even more important with the start of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 1 January 2021 (African Union - source: African Union


Disney Is Partnering With A Nigerian-Ugandan Animation Studio For An African Sci-Fi Series

Disney, the world’s biggest entertainment company, announced it had inked a deal for an original animated series called Iwájú, with a small pan-African animation company called Kugali Media. The Nigerian-Ugandan founders started out with a comic book before creating Iwájú, which comes out in 2022 and will be part of Disney’s global creative expansion as it doubles down on its Disney+ streaming strategy. (Quarz Africa).

Big Bet On Data.

The US International Development Finance Corporation has invested $300 million in the expansion of Africa Data Centers, the data storage arm of Johannesburg-based Liquid Telecom. It’s a bet on a rapidly growing sector as Africa’s data center market, which currently accounts for just 1% of global available capacity, is expected to grow to $3 billion by 2025. (Bloomberg.com). 

How The World Is Coming Together To Save Coral Reefs

An international initiative involving 44 countries — custodians of 75% of the world’s coral reefs — is underway. Coral reefs are at high risk of extinction due to climate change and other human pressures. Almost 2 million individual observations of the condition of corals reefs worldwide have been analyzed to gauge the situation. (World Economic Forum). Coral reefs are widespread along the east African coast and Seychelle islands. Their roles in island-building and coastal protection are often underestimated, they are also important fishery habitats and major tourist attractions. The east African marine fishery production, estimated at 1.4-4.9 tonnes per km super(2), is principally a result of artisanal fishing. (Worldfishcenter.org).  

Only 40% of World’s Forests Have High Ecological Integrity, A New Index Reveals.

Of the world’s remaining forests, only 40% are intact, with high ecological integrity, according to data from a newly developed index that’s the first of its kind to measure forest conditions on a global scale. The Forest Landscape Integrity Index, an open-source tool created by 47 global conservation and forests experts, is a measure of human impact on forests. High-integrity forests are found mostly in Canada, Russia, the Amazon, Central Africa, and New Guinea; of the remaining high-integrity forests, only 27% are currently in nationally designated protected areas. Mongabay 

 WWF Zimbabwe Awarded for Environmental Stewardship

WWF Zimbabwe received an environmental stewardship award last week in recognition of our contribution to conservation in the country.  The award was presented by the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Hon. Mangaliso Ndhlovu at an event organized by Corporate Social Responsibility Network of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe’s Environmental Management Agency (EMA). 


Artificial Intelligence Tool Developed To Help Identify Illegal Wood at The Factory Gate. 

A new Wood AI App that will be launched in 2021, will support efforts to reduce illegal logging and by that support biodiversity. This AI-enabled technology project is a joint project by H&M Group and WWF in Cambodia. The app will help identify wood species, and therefore better control and monitor the sustainability of wood supply chains. This is especially important for Africa, which is the second most rapidly deforesting part of the world, after South-East Asia, where forests cover 47.8% of the land area. .(WWF). Meanwhile,  Madagascar’s council of ministers issued a decision to reopen the domestic market for so-called ordinary wood — non-precious timber logged from natural forests. This market had been closed for nearly two years, leaving loggers with deteriorating stockpiles of wood they were unable to sell. The logging, transport, and export of unprocessed, raw precious timber remain totally prohibited, as they have been for years under national laws as well as CITES, the international trade convention. (Mongabay). 

Ag Innovation: Forecasting Maize Yields in Tanzania Based on Climatic Conditions.

Scientists have developed a crop yield model that could forecast maize yields six weeks before the harvest to enable farmers to accurately predict maize yields and plan their planting seasons. To support food security planning in face of unfavourable weather conditions, accurate yield forecasts at sub-seasonal to seasonal timescales, i.e. from weeks to months ahead, are important. Such yield forecasts can be used for early warning so that actions can be taken before the disaster occurred. (nature communication). Find out more about how a  Rwandese entrepreneur is using Aeroponics to grow potatoes in the air

13.7 Million To Address Challenges of COVID 19, Conflict and Climate Change In The Sahel: 

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is joining with the other Rome-based UN agencies (RBAs) - the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) - as well as the G5 Sahel and the Green Climate Fund to revitalize economic activities and food systems in the Group of Five Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) and in the Republic of Senegal. These efforts will strengthen the resilience of rural communities impacted by conflict, climate change and the current Covid-19 pandemic. The grant will benefit 123,000 rural households in cross-border areas of the six countries, reaching almost 1 million individuals. Women, who typically have limited access to land and finance, will make up 50 per cent of the project’s participants. About 40 per cent will be young people, who face high rates of unemployment. Landless people and transhumant pastoralists also stand to gain from the project’s activities. Source: IFAD


                                   Graphic of The Week


International Cheetah Day- Africa’s Most Endangered Big Cats. 
 
There are approximately 7,100 cheetahs remaining worldwide, making the cheetah Africa’s most endangered big cat. In the last 100 years, the world has lost 90% of the wild cheetah population. Today, one-third of wild cheetahs live in southern Africa. The cheetah is known for being incredibly fast, but here are some initiatives in Africa helping to slow down its extinction. Check out this lab in a remote Namibian which is is saving the cheetah from extinction.  
     

                                         What We Are Watching



Kakuma Refugee Camp: Creatively Changing The Narrative;

A shelter for roughly 200,000 refugees, Kenya's Kakuma camp is home to young creatives who are taking ownership of their own stories through film, music, and writing. Watch the video here: CNN 


Nature’s ticking time bomb? Why These Ecosystems Could Be Make or Break In Our Fight Against The Climate Crisis.

Mangroves are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the tropical region. Once the trees are destroyed, the carbon stored in the soil is released into the atmosphere as CO2, further adding to climate change. Explore this groundbreaking virtual tour to learn more about the current state of global mangroves and what we can do about it: CNN  


                                        What We Are Reading 


A GDP for Biodiversity: A New Index For Biodiversity Health.

This report led by the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) in partnership with the Luc Hoffmann Institute, a team of scientists, policy-makers and stakeholders sets out the case and framework for a new index for the state of biodiversity and its contributions to people: the Multidimensional Biodiversity Index (MBI). UNEP

The 2020 NDC Update Report 

The report discusses countries’ preparedness to ratchet up ambition in the first NDC update cycle amidst a global health crisis. Based on our survey of 98 policymakers and experts involved in NDC planning and implementation from 83 countries, we discuss the progress of NDC implementation since 2015, expectations for the NDC update cycle, and progress on the development of Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategies (LTSs). Read more here: New Climate

South Africa’s First Land and Terrestrial Ecosystem Accounts Released. 

Statistics South Africa has released the Land and Terrestrial Ecosystem Accounts, 1990 to 2014, the first publication in its new Natural Capital series. These accounts are a first of their kind for South Africa and have been produced as part of the Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (NCAVES) project, which was launched in 2017 by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) with funding from the European Union (EU). South Africa is one of five countries (along with Brazil, China, India, and Mexico) participating in this international project, which aims to advance the global knowledge agenda and initiate testing of SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting. Read more here: Sanbi.org   

Embedding Human Rights In Conservation 

Last year, WWF commissioned an independent panel of experts to review how we were responding to reports of human rights issues by some government rangers in complex and remote landscapes in Central Africa, India, and Nepal. ‘Embedding Human Rights in Nature Conservation - from Intent to Action’ is the resulting report. Find out more on how WWF embeds human rights in conservation in this Independent Review.

Export Under Invoicing In Africa Concentrated In High-value, Low-weight Commodities, Study Shows. 

The report finds that the $40 billion worth of under invoiced extractive commodity exports from Africa are concentrated in extra continental, rather than intra-African, trade. Gold exports from Africa represented 77% of the total, followed by diamonds (12%) and platinum (6%). This underlines the concentration of export under invoicing on exports of high-value, low-weight commodities. unctad.org 

2020 Africa Gender Index 

The African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and UN Women unveiled details of its Africa Gender Index report during a virtual global dissemination event on Tuesday, 1 December 2020. The Africa Gender Index is the most comprehensive measure of the state of gender equality across 51 of 54 African countries. Devdiscourse.com 

The Production Gap, 2020

A special issue of the Production Gap Report – from leading research organizations and the UN – finds that the COVID-19 recovery marks a potential turning point, where countries must change course to avoid locking in levels of coal, oil, and gas production far higher than consistent with a 1.5°C limit. The report highlights the discrepancy between countries’ planned fossil fuel production levels and the global levels necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. This gap is large, with countries aiming to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. UN Environment.

State Of The Planet by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres 

This year will be one of the three hottest on record for the globe, as marine heatwaves swelled over 80 percent of the world’s oceans, and triple-digit heat invaded Siberia, one of the planet’s coldest places. These troubling indicators of global warming are laid out in a U.N. State of the Climate report published Wednesday. BBC World Service  

Landmark Study Generates Genomic Atlas for Global Wheat Improvement » CGIAR Research Program on WHEAT. 

In a landmark discovery for global wheat production, an international team led by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and including scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has sequenced the genomes for 15 wheat varieties representing breeding programs around the world, enabling scientists and breeders to much more quickly identify influential genes for improved yield, pest resistance and other important crop traits. (Wheat.org).  This is particularly important for Africa which has witnessed rapid demand growth for Wheat

Inside the Illegal Trade in West Africa's Cultural Heritage

Archaeologists and provenance researchers argue that looted artifacts continue to circulate on antiquities markets with impunity. In their view, collectors and dealers are not doing enough due diligence on the objects they sell. The counter-argument by western-based professional associations of art dealers, is that ever-increasing regulations throttle their business. Meanwhile, the informal online trade in antiquities continues, with much of it reportedly, either looted or fake. The illegal trade in African cultural heritage continues to cause untold damage to archaeological sites and monuments. Mali is a standout case study of how this illicit business is draining the continent of its collective history. Regional middlemen for antiquities dealers run and finance large. Read more here: Allafrica.com

The State of Food and Agriculture 2020

The full State of Food and Agriculture 2020 offers appropriate options for addressing water-related challenges in order to improve food security and nutrition and ensure environmental sustainability, in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda. The report reveals that North Africa and Western Asia per capita freshwater has declined by more than 30 percent.  Fao.org

The Promise Of ‘Bird-friendly’ Cities: Q&A with author Timothy Beatley

University of Virginia professor Timothy Beatley lays out a case for building cities that are better hosts to birds and the broader natural world in The Bird Friendly City: Creating Safe Urban Habitats. His case rests on the benefits that birds provide, and he discusses the need for equal access to nature for all city-dwelling communities. From small home improvements to skyscrapers covered in greenery, Beatley covers the adaptations necessary for more “natureful” cities around the world. Mongabay. You can also check out a selection of bird photos taken in Africa

 2020 Report - Lancet Countdown

Aligning the global recovery from COVID-19 with our response to climate change offers a triple win: improve public health, create a sustainable economy, and protect the environment. But time is short. Failure to tackle these converging crises in tandem would move the world’s 1.5C target out of reach, damaging the health of the world’s 7.8 billion citizens in the short and long-term. Lancetcountdown.org.
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