October 26, 2020     

Dear Colleagues,  

Welcome to the Seventeenth Edition of our Africa Weekly Digest - A round-up of the news, publications, and stories that captured our hearts and minds this past week. This digest is “made in Africa and globally curious”.    

Happy reading and we look forward to your feedback. 


1. The Silent Predator in Our Oceans- Ghost Gear. There is a silent predator in our oceans: abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, known as ghost gear. This type of waste can scour the ocean bottom, trap and drown marine wildlife and endanger navigation and fisher economies. According to a study released this past week by WWF, globally, 66% of marine mammals, 50 % of seabirds and all sea turtles species have been impacted by marine debris, including ghost gear (WWF).  WWF has launched a campaign calling on governments, fishing gear manufacturers and distributors, fishers, and all active citizens to tackle the problem of ghost gear. The African Marine Waste Network   is working with various stakeholders within the fishing industry to develop a method to quantify the amount of fishing gear lost (or discarded)  in the oceans surrounding southern and East Africa. The fisheries in Africa range from poor artisanal fishermen, whose nets are precious to them and are constantly repaired and rarely discarded, to large commercial trawler-based fisheries which can afford to discard old nets and replace them with new nets . The full spectrum needs to be considered in developing a true picture. (African Marine Waste Network ). 


2.  Should African Governments Outsource their Protected Areas?:- According to the World Database on Protected Areas, Africa has 8,468 protected areas with some 14% of the continent’s land categorised as protected (see map below). Most of these areas are managed by wildlife authorities with very limited budgets struggling to fund day to day operations and deal with illegal poaching and challenges such as climate change. Tourism income,  which in many countries covers a major portion of the budgets of wildlife agencies, has all but collapsed due to COVID 19, with estimates showing the continent could lose up to $120 billion and millions of jobs!! Even before COVID 19, Africa faced a huge protected Area financing gap estimated at $1.7 billion annually with current funding only meeting 10-12 percent of protected area needs. One possible solution could be for Governments to enter into public-private partnerships to protect these important ecosystems and help protected areas raise revenue of their own, through tourism and other ventures. (The African Parks model is an example of this). But would this work everywhere?  And will all Governments be willing to relinquish control of their natural assets? Follow this interesting discussion here ...( The Economist ). 

3. Innovative Financing for Conservation: Buy a Gold Bar – Help Save a Rhino: Speaking of solutions - B2Gold, a Canadian gold-mining company, recently announced that it was donating 1,000 ounces of gold to help save the black rhinoceros in Namibia. The gold bars in varying sizes, each embossed with a black rhino mother and calf, came from the B2B Namibia Mine. The idea was to sell each bar for the prevailing market price, plus a 15 percent “conservation premium”. Proceeds would be reinvested in long-term, sustainable conservation funding, as well as community-backed efforts to protect the black rhino from the relentless threat of poachers.  The campaign has been very successful. 600 bars have so far been sold. Within four months of the launch, more than US$200,000, had been disbursed. Namibia holds almost a third of Africa’s rhino population. Namibia’s Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) programme has been growing for over 30 years, with high economic reliance on tourism and conservation hunting. With funds from tourism no longer forthcoming due to COVID 19, the funds from the gold bars have been instrumental in paying Ranger salaries and keeping them in the field. Furthermore, a vehicle was purchased to help track poachers. For the remaining 400 bars, B2Gold has extended its campaign to North America (Financial Times). More innovative solutions like this are needed to diversify funding sources for conservation!

4. Madagascar Designates Twenty First Ramsar Site:  The new Ramsar site - Mangroves de la Baie d’Ambaro, which covers over 54,000 hectares on the north-west coast, is characterized by extensive mangrove stands where the forests meet the shoreline. The Bay is an important biodiversity area that provides habitat and feeding and reproduction sites to threatened and endemic plants and animals. Of its 99 bird species, 44 are specific to wetlands.  This is the 21st site designated as a Wetland of International Importance in Madagascar. (Ramsar). 

5. A Radio Program is Helping Save Critically Endangered Gorillas in Nigeria: The Cross River gorilla is a subspecies of the critically endangered Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) found only in the remote highland forests of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. It’s believed that there are just around 300 individual Cross River gorillas remaining in the wild — which is why it’s known as one of the world’s rarest great ape subspecies. Efforts to protect the Cross River gorilla, one of the world’s rarest great ape subspecies, include a radio program broadcast to nearly 4 million Nigerians that is helping to address the attitudes and knowledge gaps that lead to the human behaviors threatening the gorillas’ survival .( Mongabay Podcast ). 

6. Edible Insects Lead The Shift to Sustainable Protein. Flies are believed to hold the secret to how to produce less waste and more protein. Flies convert organic waste into fast-growing, protein-rich larvae, which are used as feed by chickens, fish, and pigs. The shift towards more sustainable sources of protein and growing investment in plant-based meats, robotics, and nanotechnology, has been hailed as the second agricultural revolution. At least 2 billion people in Asia and Africa already consume insects in their diet.  Last week, Ynsect, the French bug company, raised $372m to scale up its production of beetle mealworm in vertical farms for use in the pet food and fertiliser industries. Several hundreds of millions of dollars have also been invested in other insect technology companies, including Enterra in Canada, and AgriProtein in South Africa, which breed black soldier flies on a mass scale to produce protein powder and oil. ( Financial Times) 

7. Thousands of Seals found dead in Namibia. In very disturbing news,  more than 7,000 seals are estimated to have died on a stretch of Namibian beach in Pelican Point. The cause of the mass die-off is unknown but scientists suspect pollutants, bacterial infection, or malnutrition. Pelican Point usually provides a home to up to 50,000 Cape Fur seals, and every year in November and December females give birth to thousands of pups. ( Business Insider South Africa). 

8. Kenya Named Among Top 5 Start-up Hubs to Watch Beyond Silicon Valley: Total investment in start-ups in Africa passed the $2 billion mark in 2019. A growing population coupled with increasing adoption of mobile devices has enabled numerous digital start-ups to thrive – and Kenya lies at the heart of Africa's start-up success story. According to a 2019 report by Partech on Africa's tech start-up sector, Kenya is ranked second in Africa both in the total amount of funding received by start-ups as well as the number of deal with a total of $564 million in funding – a rise of 62% on the previous year. Industries such as fintech, off-grid technologies, and enterprise are the top sectors with commerce, healthcare, and the connectivity sector following close behind. ( World Economic Forum ).


Kenya has become one of Africa's biggest and most attractive start-up hubs - Image: Partech 2019 Africa Tech VC Report.

9. New “Hotspots Explorer” Makes Climate Risk Research Accessible - A new interactive website, the  Hotspots Explorer brings to light the intersections of climate impacts across the water, energy, and land, sectors that in large part had previously been addressed in a siloed manner. The website pinpoints locations facing multiple climate change impacts and locations where people are extremely vulnerable and will enable countries and development partners to effectively target resources and interventions. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.


10. How Africa Fought the Pandemic: From early interventions by the Africa Centre for Disease Control to early lockdowns and meticulous contact tracing, the author highlights key lessons the world can glean from how Africa has proactively dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic while being confronted with ballooning resource restraints in both human capital and essential medical supplies. Here is the Financial Times feature about how Africa fought the Coronavirus and what that has taught the world.  (Financial Times).  


Below are the Publications and Blogs that Captured our Attention this Past Week

  • How Small-Scale Loggers Can Help Save Africa’s Forests. Small-time loggers providing timber to local villages have long been seen as a threat to African forests. But that view is changing according to the latest report by Yale e360. The report argues that small-scale logger communities can be better forest protectors than the governments that are sanctioning major commercial operations.  “They drag no heavy equipment into the forest, require no roads to access the trees, and select single trees”, according to Marieke Wit, an adviser to the UK government on forest governance, who did a wide-ranging review of research into artisanal logging in Africa and elsewhere. These small-scale loggers’ low overheads mean they cut fewer trees to make a living. And any waste wood is left in the forest, where it can nurture the ecosystem, rather than on the floor of a sawmill. (Yale e360). 
  • The IMF Regional Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa’. The IMF projects a -3 percent growth in sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP in 2020, representing the worst outcome on record for the region.  (International Monetary Fund).  

  • Ocean Finance: Financing the Transition to a Sustainable Ocean Economy. This paper demonstrates the role insurance can play in accelerating the transition to a sustainable ocean economy; and how ocean-related subsidies contribute to or detract from the economy, recommending approaches to be phased out and new solutions that incentivize sustainable management. (Ocean Panel).

  • Thousands of Reptile Species threatened by under-regulated Global Trade. A new study found that only 9% of traded reptile species have some level of protection under CITES 90% of traded reptile species had at least some individuals originating from the wild rather than captivity, and that newly described species often appeared in the trade within a year of studies identifying these species were published.  The findings show that the majority of traded reptile species are not covered by international protection measures. (  

  • Global emissions fell 8.8% in the first half of 2020. Research published in the journal Nature Communications shows global emissions fell by 1,551 million tonnes or 8.8% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year. The 8.8% reduction represents the largest ever fall in emissions over the first half-year, larger than for any economic downturn. ( Nature Communications

  • The State of Global Air Report: Air pollution,  caused the premature death of nearly half a million babies last year. Nearly 236,000 deaths of infants documented were associated with indoor air pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly arising from solid fuels such as charcoal, wood, and animal dung for cooking. (The Guardian). Fortunately, some solutions have been devised. As part of its Lighting a Billion Lights campaign, the Energy and Resources Institute has reached over 5.6 million people in villages in India and parts of Africa, introducing the decentralized use of photovoltaic panels for daily cooking and heating needs. 

  • Can Innovations in Urban Agriculture Strengthen Africa’s Food Systems and Deliver Benefits for nature and the environment? According to a recent report by McKinsey, Sub-Saharan Africa will need eight times more fertilizer, six times more hybrid seeds, at least $8 billion of investment in basic storage (not including cold-chain investments for horticulture or animal products), and as much as $65 billion in irrigation to fulfill its agricultural potential of producing 2 to 3 times more cereals and grains to feed urban markets.  Achieving this level of potential without damaging the environment and while supporting social equity will require implementing innovations in technology, institutions, and policies. This blog looks at how current innovations in Africa can benefit people and nature. (CGIAR).


Mapped: The Top Female Founders in Africa

The infographic below from CrunchBase explores the landscape of female-led startups in Africa. It shows the top female founders according to the highest amount of capital raised, in each country profiled. The curve for female founders in Africa is on the rise. For example, in Uganda, Taxi Divas, a Taxi Service, dreamed up by a local woman who lost her logistics job at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, was launched in June and has recruited over 70 drivers. (AP News). And in Zimbabwe, Aretha Gonyora- a female founder has raised the most funding in Africa: $13m. Her Zimbabwean company, Payitup, is a fintech company that processes consumer payments, mostly for media and communications services. We expect to witness an expansion in this space as we make progress toward agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development Goals.


WWF Africa Weekly Digest I Seventeenth Edition

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