September 28, 2020 

Dear Colleagues, 

Welcome to the Thirteenth Edition of our Africa Weekly Digest - a round-up of the news and stories that captivated our hearts and minds this past week. This newsletter is “made in Africa and globally curious”.   

Happy reading and we look forward to your feedback. 


1. African Heads-of-State Join 64 World Leaders to Endorse the Leaders Pledge for Nature. The Leaders Pledge for Nature that was unveiled today and signed by over 64 Heads of State, is a commitment by world leaders to undertake urgent actions over the next ten years as part of the UN Decade of Action to achieve Sustainable Development and put nature and biodiversity on a path to recovery.  It is the first time so many countries at the level of Heads of State and Government are making an ambitious collective pledge to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 recognizing this is essential to reduce the risk of future pandemics and address the current planetary emergency. In a recent blog, Bending the Curve on Biodiversity Loss in Africa – The Living Planet Index 2020,  WWF offers recommendations on what should be done to reverse Africa's nature loss.


2. What is Required to meet the Goal of Preserving 30% of Nature by 2030?.
There are many figures and studies looking at this. The latest one from McKinsey and company released last week analyses the full spectrum of co-benefits from nature conservation and the financing required and potential solutions to preserve 30% of the world’s land and marine resources for nature by 2030. The study modeled 6 scenarios for the conservation of natural capital and finds that increasing conserved areas by 2-3x could result in a reduction in atmospheric CO2 by 0.9 gigatons to 2.6 gigatons annually through avoided deforestation and natural forest regrowth. This range is equal to 4 to 12 percent of the annual CO2 emissions reductions needed by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The report also finds that Doubling the amount of conserved land and national waters could require an additional operating expenditure of $20 billion to $45 billion a year, depending on the conservation scenario. (McKinsey). The good news is that New satellite images to allow anyone, anywhere, to monitor tropical deforestation are now available free of charge!   A new partnership between Norway's Ministry of Climate and Environment, Airbus and Planet will provide universal access to high-resolution satellite monitoring of the tropics in order to support efforts to stop the destruction of the world’s rainforests. Anyone around the world can detect deforestation occurring in very small areas, whether it be authorities, companies buying raw materials associated with deforestation, investors, journalists, scientists, indigenous organizations or NGOs. Small communities can now be seen and heard in their struggle with companies that steal their rightful territories and the world’s supermarkets can monitor claims made by their suppliers regarding the sustainable production of soy, palm oil and other raw materials..(NICFI  )


Global map showing the extent of monthly Planet basemaps to be provided through the partnership for tropical forest monitoring. Image courtesy of Planet Labs Inc.

2. A Big Win for Nature as Uganda Government Rejects Plan for Murchison Falls Hydropower Dam. Ugandan Lawmakers unanimously adopted a report by the 28-member parliamentary committee on environment on Thursday last week, rejecting the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development proposal to build a 360MW at Uhuru Falls on Murchison Falls national park. WWF Uganda in partnership with many local organizations had been lobbying the Government to abandon the investment. The park, Uganda’s largest and most visited, is home to two famous waterfalls – Murchison Falls, one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, and Uhuru Falls, whose name means freedom in Swahili and which was created by floods in 1962, the year of Uganda’s independence from British colonial rule. The area is on Unesco’s list of wetlands of international importance.. Tourism was Uganda’s highest foreign earner worth more than $1bn (£785m) sector in the latest fiscal year report. The Guardian   

3. Climate Change blamed for Bacteria that Caused Mysterious Deaths of over 300 Elephants in Botswana. Government officials from Botswana announced last week that Neurotoxins produced by cyanobacteria, a type of microscopic algae, caused the elephants to die after they drank from large puddles that formed after rains. While some conservationists accepted the explanation, others did not consider the mystery solved and feared that the elephants could again face renewed danger. And Veterinary scientists have further confirmed that cyanobacteria is a bacterial toxin which thrives more because of warming temperatures in water bodies as a result of climate change.  Botswana is home to 130,000 African elephants - more than any other country on the continent. New York Times

4. Gorilla Friendly Pledge Launched on World Gorilla Day: The Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge is an online awareness-raising campaign aimed at encouraging all those planning to visit the mountain gorillas - and even those who are not! - to pledge to observe gorilla tourism rules during treks and to share feedback on their trekking experience after the visit through the Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge website (International Gorilla Conservation Programme).  On the same day, the Government of Rwanda named 24 Gorilla Infants born in the Volcanoes National park between September 2019 and 2020. The 16th annual Kwita Izina '' (gorilla naming ceremony) was conducted virtually for the first time due to the COVID - 19 precautions. More than 300 mountain gorillas have been named for the past 15 years in Rwanda as a strategy to preserve the natural heritage and to expand the role of ecotourism.  (National Geographic). 

6. Zambia Launches HydroAltlas on  World River Day. The Government of Zambia in partnership with WWF launched HydroAtlas Zambia to provide a set of geospatial data for all catchments and rivers in the country. Furthermore, WWF- Kenya, WWF-Tanzania, and WWF Africa have launched a campaign to conserve the Mara ecosystem which is a source of livelihood for over 1,000,000 people in Kenya and Tanzania. The campaign kicked-off on Mara Day which was on 15th September 2020.  You can follow the #ImaraCampaign here to learn more. In celebrating this year’s World Tourism Day, WWF has put together a virtual-journey highlighting some of the world’s most stunning and biodiverse landscapes.

7. Africa Landmine Detection Rat Awarded a Gold Medal for Having Cleared more than 141,000 Square Meters of Land. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat, has discovered 39 landmines and 28 items of unexploded ordnance in Cambodia He is the charity’s most successful Hero Rat, having cleared more than 141,000 square metres of land – the equivalent of 20 football pitches. Cambodia estimates that between 4 million and 6 million landmines were laid in the country between 1975 and 1998, which have sadly caused over 64,000 casualties. (The Guardian). 


8. Namibia Celebrates World Rhino Day with Good News. Just 22 rhinos have been poached in Namibia so far this year, down from 46 in 2019, 78 in 2018, 55 in 2017 and 61 in 2016. The steady decline has been due to proactive intelligence work by the government who have helped nab hunters before they shoot in known hotspots. Namibia currently hosts the largest population of Diceros bicornis bicornis, a subspecies of black rhino, in the world, with 93% of the total population being located in the southwest African country. A third of all remaining black rhinos on the planet are found in Namibia, which also boasts the second-largest white rhino population in the world, behind neighbouring South Africa. World Rhino day which is celebrated annually on 22 September aims to raise awareness about the threats facing all five rhino species. Reuters 

9. Elusive Pygmy Hippotatamus and other Rare Wildlife caught on Camera in a Remote Liberian Rainforest.  A camera trap survey has captured 23 different species of wildlife walking through a remote rainforest in eastern Liberia. The traps were part of a biodiversity study being carried out by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) in Grebo-Krahn National Park, a newly designated protected area along Liberia’s border with neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. Nearly half of the remaining Upper Guinea rainforest lies in Liberia, which has promised to turn at least 30% of its forests into protected areas. Cameras were placed in 500 locations and operated for eight months between December 2019 and August 2020 throughout the 96,150-hectare (237-592-acre) park, according to Hillers. Watch the seven-and-a-half minute video to see a rare glimpse into life in the dense, remote forests of Liberia along with some of the unique creatures that inhabit them. (Mongabay; Wild Chimpanzee Foundation).

10. Benchmarking Africa’s Mini-Grids: Since 2012 sub-Saharan Africa’s mini-grid sector has received up to $1.6 billion in funding. According to a new study by the  Africa Minigrid Developers Association (AMDA)  whose 30 company members represent around 35% of the operational, non-utility-owned renewable energy mini-grids in 12 countries,  Africa now has 41,000 connections reaching more than 250,000 people and businesses. Kenya and Tanzania account for 70% of all new connections. The rapid growth has coincided with a reduction in costs—the average price per connection has dropped to $733 in 2019 from $1,555 earlier in the decade. The average installed costs are also said to have decreased by 65% to $6,200/kW in 2018 from $14,000/kW in 2015. However, the World Bank estimates the continent still needs as many as 140,000 mini-grids. Furthermore, of the 600 million Africans living without electricity across the continent, it is estimated about 150 million of them live within range of their local public grids but are still not connected due to the uneven regulatory environment that hampers the successful roll-out of mini-grids across the continent. If Africa is to meet the imperative of SDG 7, Governments need to step up efforts to resolve the regulatory hurdles. (Quartz Africa; Africa MiniGrids Association).

Mao of the Week

International Day of Peace  - Global Peace Index: September 21st.-For the first time this year, the Global Peace Index included an ecological threats register. The ETR includes population growth, water stress, food insecurity, droughts, floods, cyclones and rising temperature and sea levels. In addition,  the report uses IEP's Positive Peace framework to identify areas where resilience is unlikely to be strong enough to adapt or cope with these future shocksThe ETR identifies three clusters of ecological hotspots, which are particularly susceptible to collapse: The Sahel-Horn belt of Africa, from Mauritania to Somalia;The Southern African belt, from Angola to Madagascar; & The Middle East and Central Asian belt, from Syria to Pakistan.



1. 'Preferences and Pathways: Strengthening Futures Capacity in Africa" by  WWF Africa and the Luc Hoffmann Institute launching tomorrow Tuesday 29 September and available at' 
2.  ''Africa In the Context of COVID-19; Economic Measures for a Green and Just Recovery for Government and Pan African Organizations.'' A policy brief by WWF in Africa presenting the case for a Green and Just recovery to address key challenges surfaced by the pandemic and ensure sustainable growth going forward.


 ©2020 Africa Weekly Digest

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