What the preservation of our heritage tells us about our future

Recently, in certain countries of Sahelian Africa such as Burkina Faso and Mali, there has been a renewed interest in the so-called “Nubian vault” architectural technique. Houses built according to this ancestral model, probably coming from the ancient Egyptians, are less costly, because they use the local earth for the bricks, more perennial (about fifty years), better insulated than the iron sheets covered houses, and ecological since they do not use wood. These fresh houses with small and chiselled openings that retain heat on the outside, allow the easy addition of a roof terrace. NGOs have made it the basis for some development projects in response to the lack of decent housing, lack of employment and the challenge of ecological preservation.

This example illustrates a legitimate questioning of some of our States about the accumulation of capital. Should we accumulate physical capital or knowledge? At first sight we naturally answer both. But in this case, what should be prioritized between knowledge that is difficult to measure, which is a bet on the future, and the accumulation of infrastructures and financial capital, more easily quantifiable? I believe that we can lead the two accumulations head on, one helping the other, supporting the other, nourishing it, making it even wealthier.

The example of the Nubian vault shows that it is important to preserve the techniques specific to Africa, to know how to adapt them, but also to defend them as our genuine heritage. The effort must be global: finding funding and partnerships for the development of our continent, but also maintaining control over what we want to do, according to our needs and cultures. The days when we were forced to make laterite tracks rather than paved highways are gone. That is why we must also give ourselves the means to choose and build. And this requires a renewed effort to educate, preserve and transmit the intellectual capital that we have, sometimes without even noticing.

Likewise, without knowledge, how can we maintain the physical capital that we have received as an inheritance, too often fallen into decay? Africa, today more than ever, needs hydraulic engineers, renewable energy specialists, mining engineers and geologists to exploit its immense natural resources. We also need to better protect our inventions. The world observes us – to say that it spies on us would be too strong – and tries in good industrial logic to take over what belongs to us, sometimes legally, sometimes illegally. I think of Ethiopia’s long battle against the American giant Starbucks to recover the appellations of origin of its finest varieties of coffee: Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Harrar. In this case, David defeated Goliath, and these three names which evoke voluptuous perfumes are now registered Ethiopian trademarks. As a result of this initiative, some 15 million people living in the coffee sector in Ethiopia have seen their incomes increase, while the state has exported more. Ethiopia is today one of the leaders of the continent in the protection of intellectual property.

Like the Nubian vault, coffee is a heritage, both genetic, agricultural and cultural, which we must preserve and develop. We must continue to invest in the production of knowledge. The State, with its public sector, the private sector and citizens, each at their level, must participate in this effort. Let us not doubt that the profits, which seem sometimes impalpable, will eventually bring about a sound and stumbling effect, as shown by these two examples.

AFR100.org: Celebrating commitments to restore more than 75 million hectares of land across Africa

Johannesburg, May 18 – The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) launched a new web platform today – AFR100.org – to celebrate and advance the efforts of 22 African countries that have committed to restore more than 75 million hectares of degraded and deforested land.

The new site, available in English and French, gives visitors unprecedented access to knowledge and information about restoration efforts in the sub-Saharan countries. Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent in the world – more than 700 million hectares of degraded land, or an area the size of Australia. This degraded land can be restored to forests or mosaic landscapes that are a mix of trees and agriculture, providing many benefits.

AFR100 is a country-led partnership to restore degraded and deforested land in Africa. AFR100 and its web platform AFR100.org respond to the African Union mandate to bring 100 million hectares into restoration by 2030. The initiative was launched in 2015 by the NEPAD Secretariat, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via GIZWRI, and the World Bank. AFR100 is supported by funds from BMZ and the World Bank and was established as part of the African Resilient Landscapes Initiative, and contributing to the global commitments of the Bonn Challenge and New York Declaration on Forests.

Mamadou Diakhite, AFR100 Secretariat Manager at NEPAD Agency announced the launch of AFR100.org: “This website will provide our partners and online visitors with a vast amount of immediate, easy-to-navigate content detailing the exciting restoration work taking place across the continent.

“This includes beautiful photographs and in-depth information prepared by the AFR100 member countries who take pride in their restoration efforts.”

Through AFR100, national governments, public and private sector partners, international development programs and local communities will restore productivity to deforested and degraded landscapes to improve livelihoods.

Wanjira Mathai, co-chair of the Global Restoration Council and chairperson of the Green Belt Movement, said: “The importance of AFR100 to the daily lives of communities across Africa cannot be overestimated.

“I am moved by the countries that have already committed to transforming their landscapes and securing the future for generations to come.”

Sean DeWitt, Director of the Global Restoration Initiative at World Resources Institute (WRI) added: “The site reflects the high level of commitment from member countries of the AFR100 partnership, and will enable partners to share experiences and good practices, as well highlighting the work of restoration champions from across the continent.”

The new site complements related tools and resources found at InfoFLR.org, as well as the websites of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, and the World Bank among others.

NOTES TO EDITORS 

Information on AFR100:

AFR100 (the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) is a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of deforested and degraded landscapes across Africa into restoration by 2030. The initiative connects political partners—participating African nations—with technical and financial support to scale up restoration on the ground and capture associated benefits for food security, climate change resilience, and poverty alleviation. The initiative was launched in 2015 during the margins of COP 21 in Paris. AFR100 contributes to the Bonn Challenge, the New York Declaration on Forests and Sustainable Development Goal 15.

Media contacts:

Teko Nhlapo, Communication & Advocacy, Sustainable Land Management at NEPAD Agency, tekoh@nepad.org and +2783 596 8752

Natasha Ferarri, Communications Officer, Global Restoration Initiative at WRI, Natasha.Ferrari@wri.org and +447788594911

 

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Twitter:@AFR100_Official.

Manifesto for 2016

As the Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD, I would like to wish you a very happy new year. Across the African continent, my prayers and my thoughts are with you. This year presents many challenges to Africa, and promises to be quite busy with numerous presidential elections. In Burkina Faso and Nigeria, people are now experimenting political change through the ballot. The presidential and legislative elections in these countries have caused tremendous enthusiasm. They represent hope for the African people who are conscious of their rights, but also a serious warning for those who would think of violating them.

However, this must not make us forget the situation in other countries, such as in Burundi, which is facing a serious crisis that will not be without consequences on a number of levels. To all those who are suffering, I extend my heartfelt wishes for peace. I hope that year 2016 will see the end of the crisis in Bujumbura and the advent of a new era. In other countries, the future relies on the many presidential elections that the continent will host this year: in Benin, Niger, Ghana, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Gabon, Zambia, Uganda, Djibouti and the Comoros. Many elections and various issues, however that should not hide a very important pan African reality: the challenges in Africa are extremely various and highly complicated (human, social, economic challenges, etc …) and the African miracle will not happen by itself. Economic growth is bound to slow and there are numerous turbulences ahead. Here are a few:

– China, which accounts for 30% of global growth, is in the process of rebalancing its economy. This is not without consequences for the continent: the country is a major consumer of raw materials from vulnerable African countries (Sierra Leone, Zambia …). It is also feared that Chinese financial flows to Africa might decrease. How Africa will manage this downturn is now one of the main questions our continent is facing.

– The end of the commodity super cycle is also likely to weigh on growth. The drop in oil prices and other raw materials dries up a major source of revenue and puts a strain on the budgets of many states.

– The sustainability of African debt is also in question: in 10 years time, the continent has raised $ 36 billion. But according to Standard and Poor’s, debt repayment services (which already constitute a major component of the budgets of African states) could increase significantly, mainly because of monetary tightening initiated by the FED and because of the low price of commodities. This will lead states to make tough choices, from the amputation of certain infrastructure investments to the postponement of social services. I make the wish that the necessary budgetary rigor will not impact expenses which are vital for the future of African countries: for example, infrastructure investments are profitable and help diversify the economy. Also, the education sector should not suffer from this: African younger generations need to be trained to ensure the continent’s future. I invite current and future leaders to manage their budgets responsibly.

African governments will therefore have to steel themselves to diversify their financial resources and to reclaim industrial development policies. I will address this subject here in another article this month. Also, throughout the month of January, I will discuss other issues related to the challenges that will face the continent such as the agricultural challenge, the fight against terrorism or the importance of debt sustainability.

For now, I would like to address future leaders: the future of our continent and its people is in your hands. Beyond your accession to power, despite the challenges and temptations, my wish for 2016 and for the years to come is that you always keep in mind that not only your people but Africa and the wider world are counting on you.