CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS AFRICA TO ITS MOST ANCIENT SYMBOLS

In June, the study of a team of researchers published in the journal Nature Plants alerted about the gradual disappearance for a decade of the vast majority of the oldest baobabs in Africa *. Eight of the thirteen older of them are partially or died totally in the past 12 years. A spectacular and very disturbing phenomenon when we know that baobabs are trees that can live for thousands of years.

Africa is the continent with the most baobabs in the world, with a particular concentration in Madagascar. Only on the “red island”, no less than six species of baobabs on the existing nine are identified. The best known is the Adansonia digitata, or African baobab, found in many countries of the continent.

If the gradual disappearance of baobabs does not leave me indifferent, it is because they occupy a special place in African societies. “The tree of life” is sacred to many of our cultures. In West Africa, the baobab is often called the “palaver tree” because of its social function. In many African villages, being under the baobab means gathering and exchanging to solve a problem the community is facing.

Beyond this social function, the baobab also has a central place in the African flora. From a scientific point of view, it is a tree with many virtues and uses: it feeds, offers products of construction, heals … The baobab even serves as a water tank in some cases. In the arid regions of Madagascar where the Mahafaly people live, the inhabitants dig the trunks of the baobabs into rainwater reservoirs. Thanks to this know-how which is transmitted from generation to generation, a baobab-tank can hold up to 9,000 liters of water, enough to cover the water needs of a family for four to five months.

And yet, baobabs are disappearing in Africa, largely because of climate change, according to the researchers. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that it is in southern Africa, a region particularly affected by climate change, that these disappearances of savanna giants have been most often noted.

The death of baobabs speaks volumes about the more global challenges facing Africa. While Africa is the continent that produces the least greenhouse gases, it is also the continent that is the most victim of climate change. In a context where multilateralism is being undermined by national selfishness, African states must succeed in mobilizing the other countries of the world for better global governance in favor of the preservation of the environment and better management of global public goods.

Some African legends say that God gave this strange form to the baobab in order to connect the sky to the earth, thus becoming “the roots of heaven”. But above all, the roots of the baobab are buried in the land of an Africa in full transformation. It is up to us to make sure that despite these great political, economic, cultural and environmental developments, our baobabs remain firmly rooted in African soil, as are our traditions and our culture.

* Nature Plant, “The demise of the largest and oldest African baobabs”, VOL 4, July 2018

Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s centenary and his legacy

As this year marks the centenary of Nelson Mandela, I wish to share with you the ways in which his legacy has influenced our team at NEPAD and the projects that we are conducting.

Nelson Mandela is remembered as an advocate for peace, equality, and freedom. As an individual, he never failed to prove his selflessness and as a leader, he demonstrated his determination to bring change. Very few people have had as much of an impact on history as he did. Most importantly, he has inspired many leaders and institutions. NEPAD is no exception.

The NEPAD Agency was established in 2010, as the technical body of the African Union.  We focus on the strategic development and implementation of the continent’s priority programmes and projects in areas such as education, health, development, and inclusiveness in order to reach Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As Nelson Mandela once said Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. At NEPAD, we firmly believe in this affirmation. Encouraging education is a way of providing the African youth with opportunities to live a healthy life but also to participate in the achievement of a prosperous continent.

In this regard, we have launched a number of initiatives aiming to have an impact your training. Through our Skills Initiative for Africa program, for instance, we are working towards the improvement of education quality, close cooperation with the private sector and the use of innovation six African countries.

With such initiatives, we hope to be getting closer to Mandela’s dream of “a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”.

The legacy of Mandela is also characterized by a strong will to constitute a better and stronger Africa. It was undoubtedly passed down to NEPAD and manifests into our dedication to making breakthroughs in the frontier of development.

Against the backdrop of a changing world and globalization, we have set up programmes that aim at fostering better living conditions – through education or employability – but also free trade, freedom of movement, and infrastructure building. The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is a clear example of our will to promote regional economic integration and tackle low levels of intra-regional economic exchange and participation in the global trade.

I am convinced that through our work we are working together towards the transformation of Africa. We will realize our dream of an African continent whose countries are open both to each other and to the world.

NEPAD to become the African Union Development Agency

At the recent 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, Mauritania, African Heads of State and Government received several reports, including the status of the implementation of the AU Institutional Reforms presented by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. President Kagame is the current chair of the African Union and the champion for the AU Institutional Reforms process.

During the Summit in Nouakchott, a decision was officially taken on the transformation of the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency into the African Union Development Agency.

The Assembly approved the establishment of African Union Development Agency as the technical body of the African Union with its own legal identity, defined by its own statute.  The statute will be developed and presented for adoption at the next AU Summit in January 2019.

The Assembly commended the leadership of Senegalese President, H.E Macky Sall, current Chairperson of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee, for reinforcing the credibility of NEPAD that has been acknowledged in the international community, including the G20 and the G7.

The current reforms at the AU are an affirmation by member states of their commitment to the NEPAD Agency as the Union’s own instrument established to champion catalytic support to countries and regional bodies in advancing the implementation of the continent’s development vision – as articulated in the seven aspirations and 20 goals of Agenda 2063.

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency, stated that, “A core aspect of the current reforms is to streamline and improve effectiveness and efficiency in delivery in the implementation of AU decisions, policies and programmes across all AU organs and institutions. In this sense, as the NEPAD Agency is the technical implementation agency of the AU, one specific recommendation in the Kagame report is to transform it into the AU Development Agency. We are enthusiastic about this transformation, which will make it possible to deploy our programmes even more effectively in the service of our continent’s development.”

South Africa’s Youth Day

It is now 42-years since the memorable day of the Soweto Uprising. Fast forward to 2018, June 16 is annually commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa to recognise the courageous action of these youths, and also remember the souls of those who died in the uprising and the families who carry the direct impact of their loss. What was a day of sorrow, shame and dehumanisation for the nation of South Africa has now been transformed into a celebration of the triumphant and brave South African youth who put their lives on the line to seek justice and register victory that has changed the nation forever.

NEPAD Agency joins South Africa in commemorating Youth Day and embraces the influence inherent in African youth as conduits of democratic, social and economic change. The African Union and its leadership recognise the important role performed by youth in our society that in 2017 the theme for the year focussed on youth – Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth.

Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it continues to grow with estimates indicating that by 2055 the youth population (age 15–24) will double on the continent. We take this opportunity on the occasion of Youth Day in South Africa to emphasise the message of youth inclusion by urging countries across Africa to invest in young men and women and safeguard their human rights, peace and well-being as they are the future leaders of our continent.

It is time to purposefully develop and implement policies that inculcate inclusionist ideas favouring African youth in all spheres of the continent’s development agenda. Success in eliminating diseases that disproportionately affect the continent, ending poverty and achieving zero hunger, as well as repositioning Africa as a frontrunner in the potential of the 4th industrial revolution and emerging technologies relies heavily on how African youth policies are implemented and prioritised.

African youth of today must be given the platforms and opportunities to participate in the development agenda of the continent and shape The Africa We Want. Youth are the real drivers of Agenda 2063 who will live to witness its fruition. The AU recognises youth as key agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development in all areas of African Society. The courageous South African youth of 1976 altered the course of history for their nation, and many others do the same in their locales across Africa today, albeit in different ways, the core of these efforts is to establish a better future for the continent.

To all the African youths today, we encourage you to get involved and bring your contribution to shape our continent together. As Nelson Mandela said, “To the youth of today, I also have a wish to make: be the scriptwriters of your destiny and feature yourselves as stars that showed the way towards a brighter future.”

Africa Day

“Let us all unite and celebrate together

The victories won for our liberation

Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together

To defend our liberty and unity…”

That is how the African Union anthem starts.

Today, the 25th of May, all of us Africans on the continent and in the diaspora join together to celebrate Africa Day. We therefore take this opportunity to convey the best wishes from the NEPAD Agency to all Africans across all corners of the world.

Wherever we may be, we should be proud of our identity as Africans, treasure our traits and traditions and exhibit the spirit of Ubuntu, with what Hausas call Mutunci.

On this day, let us pause to embrace our economic opportunities and to reflect on what it means to achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want! Thus we shall be able to answer the question as to whether we are on the right path towards the dawn of a new day for Africa and her people.

May we continue to wisely learn from lessons of the past, build on current progress and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available, and facilitate free movement of Africans on their Continent.

I wish everyone a happy and peaceful Africa Day.

Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018 – Roundtable on Public Services in Africa

I was delighted to participate to the Mo Ibrahim Forum 2018’s roundtable on Public Services in Africa. Here is the link.

The 2018 Ibrahim Forum focused this year on public services in 21st century Africa: their key relation to good governance and effective leadership, new challenges and current shortcomings, the ways and means to strengthen them and make them appealing to the next generation.

 

The African Continental Free Trade Area – Another Significant Milestone Towards Africa’s Integration

As a relatively young Minister in the mid-nineteen nineties sitting within my Organisation of African Union (OAU) peers, I pondered deeply if Africa will pull itself together and forge ahead.

At that time, Rwanda was coming out of its genocide and most of West Africa was still experiencing military coups. Central Africa was somewhat calm but some countries there had subtle political tensions, with what is termed the “first Congo war” taking place in the former Zaire now Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Whilst Somali’s civil war intensified, Ethiopia in Eastern Africa commenced the developmental-state experiment under Prime-Minister Meles Zanawi and Eritrea gained independence.

Norther Africa, pretty much intact with “strong” leaders steering the affairs of state and some of whom played a prominent role in the Israel-Palestinian peace process which resulted into the creation of the Palestinian National Authority. The end of apartheid and the ushering in of a democratic South Africa was the most positive highlight during this period for the OAU as it demonstrated that the OAU; as a Continental liberation movement, had achieved its ultimate goal of politically liberating Africa.

Full article

Africa needs ‘integrated approach’ to economies

Trade is essential for Africa’s development and liberalising it is key. But is a Free Trade Area the answer? Sceptics say it’s an addition to the African Union’s flagship Agenda 2063 and that Africa has too many programmes and protocols.

The BBC’s Lerato Mbele met with Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), to find out if all of these programmes will add value for businesses and bring prosperity to ordinary people.  Full video here

World TB Day

It is unjust and unacceptable for 1.7 million people to die of Tuberculosis each year worldwide – a disease that is not only preventable, but can be treated and defeated. As we commemorate World TB Day on 24 March, we must reflect and begin to ask ourselves pertinent questions on how we fight TB in Africa.

Are we really winning the fight against TB? What are the lessons learnt and best practices and how can these be positively applied to energise current efforts to end TB in the world, and in Africa particularly? The answers to these symmetrical questions demand political and social commitment, both pre-requisites without which the fight to end TB will be lost. There is an urgent need to mobilise our political leaders to speak with one voice and to advocate for improved financial and human resources towards this cause, as well as hasten research and innovation to encourage scientists to find new regimens to treat TB – regimens that are cheaper, accessible and easier to use with shorter treatment timelines.

The NEPAD Agency is working towards this end by involving Parliamentarians to mobilise political support in Africa. Many African leaders have already made commitments to ending TB through the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030. Our objective is to implement and reinforce this commitment with strategic partners.

This is a fight that requires working in unison for a common agenda. Hence, we have embraced multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches to combat the scourge of TB from all possible vantage points. A healthy Africa translates into a productive workforce, eventually advancing our agenda of socio-economic development.

In addition to political commitment, we have reached a stage where the civil society has to be actively involved in efforts to fight TB given the dynamics of our social structures. African social structures generally provide support to TB patients, support to affected families in times of difficulty and spread the messages of prevention, which is fundamentally as important to ending TB as is treatment.  It is time we begin to break myths and tell the unique stories of those who have defeated TB, the TB survivors. These powerful voices can no longer be underrated in behavioural change approaches, which is required to successfully address the challenges of TB mis-information in our communities.

No one should have to die from TB or lose their source of income or job because of TB. This is an injustice that we must endeavour to correct without fail. No one should be left behind in this fight against TB. NEPAD Agency is committed to the theme of this year’s World TB Day of Wanted: Leaders for a TB-Free World. You can make history. End TB.

We need to find the leaders who will make history by delivering a TB-free world. These leaders exist and are ready to be engaged. Many times we tend to look beyond ourselves, but YOU and I are these leaders, we can champion the cause to end TB and bring our contribution to eliminate this scourge for good in Africa, and the world by 2030. Stand up today and be counted among the leaders, you are wanted.

March 21 – Human Rights Day in South Africa

The commemoration of Human Rights Day in South Africa is a reminder to all of us on the African continent to ensure that no one gets left behind.

As we continue to make strides towards attaining the aspirations enshrined in Agenda 2063, our continent’s vision for ‘The Africa We Want,’ we first and foremost recognise the fact that all human beings are equal. This is echoed in South Africa’s Bill of Rights that protects everyone’s right to life, equality and human dignity.

On this day, South Africans are called upon to reflect on their rights and to protect their rights. South Africans are also asked to reflect on the rights of all people in their country from violation, irrespective of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whether they are foreign nationals or not, as human rights apply to everyone, and this application should be without prejudice or discrimination.

Africa’s Agenda 2063 defines the vision for a continent, whose development is people-driven, especially relying on the potential offered by its youth and women. It goes without saying then, that even as the African Union calls on everybody to commit to achieving the elimination of harmful cultural and traditional practices, and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, recognising the role played especially by women and youth, and upholding their rights is key to transforming our continent.

South Africa’s history – and  in particular the happenings of 1960 in Sharpeville when a group of 10 000 people peacefully marched and protested against the pass system – reminds us that human rights at times come at a high cost.  Peace and freedom should now be enjoyed by all in the country as well as in the rest of the continent, and not taken for granted.

Let us then continue to work together in building ‘The Africa We Want’ by first protecting and cherishing the human rights of each and every African citizen!