RNA Interference GMOs to enter South Africa and Nigeria

Africa should be carefull in adopting GMOs that they do not have their full knowledge.

AGRA Watch

The African Center for Biodiversity(ACB) warns in an alert published August 10th, that the South African government recently received an application for the import, feed and processing of a new variety of GM Maize, MON87411. This GM Maize is a “multi-stacked variety” meaning it is created through conventional breeding of four distinct genetically modified varieties of maize. Unlike standard first-generation GMOs, this variety uses something called the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway, which means that double-stranded RNAs are introduced into the gene which work to silence certain genes. The new gene editing technique has not been properly assessed for risk before applying to go to the market, according to the ACB’s knowledge of Monsanto’s risk assessment procedure, and ACB lists the potential risks to include possible exposure following consumption, or the potential for off-target regulation of unintended genetic pathways. Such GMOs are the latest in the GM push on the…

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Confronting the Urban Housing Gap

By Robin King

More than 1.2 billion city dwellers―one of every three people living in urban areas―lack access to affordable and secure housing. This housing gap is a major drag on the economy and the environment. The impact is severe in Asia and Africa, where 2.25 billion people are expected to be added to urban populations between now and 2050. If business continues as usual, slums will grow across the developing world, exacerbating inequality and threatening cities’ traditional role as drivers of economic growth.

The latest working paper of WRI’s flagship World Resources Report (WRR), “Towards a More Equal City,” draws on the knowledge of dozens of urban experts to examine whether meeting the needs of the urban underserved can improve the economy and environment.

Sheela Patel on “Confronting the Urban Housing Crisis in the Global South: Adequate, Secure and Affordable Housing.”

Housing is often seen as falling into discrete categories such as public or private, formal or informal, individual or collective. Instead, we view housing options on a spectrum that combines different elements of ownership, space, services and finance. In some cases, land may be public while the dwellings on it are private. This spectrum allows a more nuanced analysis of the reality of housing markets in the global south and consideration of a wider range of possibilities.

While many challenges emerged, we focused on three that city officials can act upon and scale up.

Issue 1: The Growth of Informal or Substandard Settlements

As demand for housing has outstripped supply, informal and substandard settlements have proliferated. Since 1990, even as the proportion of global urban populations living in slums has declined, there has been an increase in the absolute number of people living in these areas.

Solution: Find ways to accommodate people where they are

While some call for “slum-free” cities, this is often code for displacement of people to the edge of town, which disrupts labor markets, social networks and lives and harms the city at large. Instead we suggest finding ways to upgrade existing slum areas, tapping into community knowledge and energy while retaining links to social and livelihood networks. This option is best for cities with large slum populations, except in locations with environmental or geographic risks.

An example is Thailand’s Baan Mankong program, which directs government infrastructure subsidies, soft housing and land loans to poor communities who then negotiate with land owners for formal tenure and use the funds to upgrade their housing. By 2016, 101,224 poor families in 345 cities had been fully upgraded under the program with secure land, decent houses and healthy living environments.

Issue 2: Overemphasis on Ownership

Home ownership is over-emphasized in urban development, which hurts those who lack the resources to buy a home or who need flexibility. People who work in the informal economy are particularly affected. Subsidies meant to encourage home ownership are geared to those with regular, documented incomes, not those who work in activities like recycling, domestic help and construction that do not produce a paper trail in many parts of the world. Moreover, rentals are often not available to the urban poor, or are subject to great uncertainty about rights and responsibilities for both landlords and renters, with unclear processes for dispute resolution.

Solution: Expand rental markets for people of all income levels

Establishing legal protection for landlords and renters, while acknowledging informal sector activity, can help meet the housing needs of the urban poor while maintaining flexibility and encouraging market-driven development. This includes non-standard payment patterns and cooperative housing where tenants collectively purchase land and rent small plots within it. Vibrant rental markets foster a fluid labor market, a necessary prerequisite for economic prosperity in any city.

For example, authorities in Gauteng Province, South Africa, which includes Johannesburg, tackled a housing shortage of 687,000 units by making it legal to rent out formerly illegal informal backyard apartments. This made it easier for low-income people to find places to live and encouraged development of services without government subsidies.

Issue 3: Policies That Drive the Poor to the Periphery

In many cities, land is often tangled up in legal disputes, leaving it under-utilized or unused, even as new residents seek housing in the city. Building and land use regulations often impose costs and limit creative use of incremental improvements and innovative land management tools.

Solution: Convert under-utilized land, especially publicly held land, into affordable housing

Political will to address housing needs is critical. Rather than encouraging sprawl, existing urban land should be used for housing. City officials and real estate developers should revise rules and building standards to expand the availability of housing on under-used land.

For instance, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, 420 families live in the María Auxiliadora community land trust on land purchased and held in trust as community-owned property. The community’s unique governance structure rotates leadership among women in two-year terms, rejects men who engage in domestic violence and provides support to families. The land cannot be sold for profit, which keeps the housing affordable.

These solutions will help urban policymakers in fast-growing cities meet the demand for housing while encouraging economic development and cleaner, safer environments. Closing the housing gap by providing access to affordable, adequate and secure housing will benefit everyone, not just the poor and underserved, as cities become more productive, environmentally sustainable and truly places for all.

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Electricity for all in Africa: Possible?

Source: Electricity for all in Africa: Possible?


For decades, access to electricity has been a serious challenge in Africa. It still is. 600 million Africans are not connected to an electrical network. African businesses cite electricity amongst the two most severe constraints on their operations (Enterprise Surveys, 2016). Twenty-five of the 54 countries in Africa, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Senegal, deal with frequent power crises characterised by outages, irregular supply and surging electricity costs. These are symptoms of insufficient generation capacity and a lack of infrastructure.

Despite these sobering facts, a number of recent initiatives signal that major improvements may be underway. The impetus to act is driven by the benefits Africa can reap by investing in electrification. Such benefits go far beyond direct job creation in energy infrastructure, as important as that is. Several pieces of evidence (Jimenez [2017], Torero [2014], van de Walle et al. [2013]) suggest that household electrification also increases job opportunities by carving out more time for work and enabling rural micro-entrepreneurship. We see three reasons for hope that Africa is on the path to greater electrification – provided certain conditions are met.

First, solid investment fundamentals are encouraging the building of new electrical production capacity.

Growing demand for electricity across Africa, along with a more conducive environment for public-private partnerships (PPPs), are raising developers’ interest. Electricity demand is currently growing at 6% per year, and will likely exceed GDP growth until 2040. This has spurred private investment, leading to project financing that is increasingly diversified (Crishna Morgado and Lasfargues, 2017). Power generation in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by 21% to reach 115 GW between 2010 and 2015. Chinese contractors accounted for 30% of this growth (IEA, 2016).

Since 2011, more and more projects in the alternative/renewable energy sector are being developed in Africa (Figure 1). Out of 38 sectors reported in the fDi markets database, it was the third most attractive for companies that invested in Africa in 2015-16, with USD 21 billion in new projects announced. Morocco is at the forefront of recent developments: in February 2016, it launched the world’s biggest solar power station in Ouarzazate. This PPP model between MASEN (Morocco’s agency for solar energy) and a consortium of private and international organisations may be a promising way to engage key players and can serve as an example for future projects in other countries. Tools such as the OECD Policy Guidance for Investment in Clean Energy Infrastructure can also help governments address barriers to private investment in renewable energy generation.

Figure1: The alternative/renewable energy sector in Africa is attracting investment

Electricity-in-Africa.PNGSource: Adapted from fDi Markets database, Financial Times Ltd. www.fdimarkets.com(accessed in June 2017)

Second, several African countries are laying out big investment plans in power generation, with a special focus on rural electrification.

Connectivity for rural areas is gaining momentum in national policies, with Morocco and South Africa leading the way. The Moroccan rural electrification programme (Programme d’électrification rurale global or PERG) was launched in 1996, and succeeded in increasing the rural transmission coverage from 18% in 1995 to 80% in 2005 and 99% by mid-2015. PERG significantly improved the quality of life in rural areas (AFD, 2012). It also slowed down emigration by 5% and increased the rate of returning emigrants by 1.5%.

Similarly, the share of South Africa’s households connected to electricity increased from 34% in 1994 to 90% in 2016. The integrated national electrification programme launched in 2000 in South Africa has been instrumental for this positive achievement, considering both urban and rural needs. South Africa set up clear policy directives for electricity access through an energy white paper adopted in 1998 and a National Energy Act in 2008. Electrification in rural KwaZulu-Natal raised female employment by 9.5% within 5 years (Dinkelman, 2011). And to further expand the connectivity in rural areas, South Africa’s government is now investing in alternative technologies – hybrid and off-grid solutions (Azimoh, et al., 2016).

Several other African countries are laying out national strategies to expand power generation capacities. Côte d’Ivoire, for example, plans to double power generation, and a dedicated rural electrification plan (PRONER adopted in July 2013) aims to connect all villages to the network by 2020. In Tanzania, the government’s power system master plan intends to increase the installed capacity from 1.6 GW in 2014 to 10 GW by 2025 and expand access for the rural population.

Third, in addition to national plans, international initiatives are funding new projects to foster access to electricity in Africa by 2025 .

Nine such initiatives are ongoing, with the majority of them focusing partly or mainly on renewable energy and solar power (see the African Economic Outlook 2017, pages 144-145, for more details). For example, Light up and Power Africa, one of the “High 5” priorities of the African Development Bank (AfDB), aims for universal access to electricity by 2025 in Africa, with much of the electricity coming from clean and renewable energies. The AfDB is planning to invest USD 12 billion over the next five years for that priority.

Ultimately, if all three of these areas are to make a sustainable difference in meeting Africa’s electricity demands, policy makers must pay particular attention to two factors: grid maintenance and pricing policies.

Better access to reliable electricity can have long-lasting impacts on economies and on peoples’ lives, but only if existing infrastructure is effectively maintained. Due to degraded infrastructure, major hydro-electric projects face losses on their lines of up to 50% (Patat, 2015).  Clearly, existing infrastructure in Africa needs effective maintenance. Kenya, for instance, is using digital technologies and satellite imaging systems to help improve its energy network maintenance. KPLC, the national network company, digitised geographic information about power lines, sub-stations, transformers and meters in 2015. This is to improve monitoring and resolve technical problems more quickly, reducing administrative burdens.

And policy makers also need better pricing policies to get it right. The value of a highly performing electrical grid would be lost if its intended clients do not purchase the electricity it produces. In many developing countries, segments of the population are unable to connect to the grid at the market price for economic reasons. This is clearly an issue for policy intervention, but not for implementing general subsidies on consumption prices, which are neither socially fair nor economically efficient. The benefits of oil subsidies, for instance, tend to be captured by high-income households (Clements, et al, 2013). Instead, policy makers in many African countries may have to set-up carefully designed social pricing mechanisms to reach an optimal level of electricity usage.

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Electricity for all in Africa: Possible?

Source: Electricity for all in Africa: Possible?

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Implementing industrialisation strategies in Africa

Development Matters

By Dirk Willem te Velde, Director of Supporting Economic Transformation Programme and Head of International Economic Development Group, ODI

Explore this topic further with the upcoming launch of the
2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa.
Stay tuned for details


A cursory look at national and pan-Africa policy statements suggests that many African countries have a strong desire to industrialise. They have a point: manufacturing creates jobs, diffuses technology and makes the economy more resilient. Unfortunately, much analysis points to a reduction recently in the share of manufacturing as a percent of GDP on the continent, although significant progress is being made in selected countries. Real manufacturing value added has grown around 7% annually or more over 2005-2015 in Tanzania, Rwanda or Ethiopia. And few realise that real manufacturing production and exports of manufacturing doubled in sub-Saharan Africa in the decade to 2015.1

However, despite…

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53 Nigerian men charged for celebrating ‘Gay Wedding’

A group of 53 people have been charged in Nigeria after they were arrested last week from what police say was a party celebrating an unofficial gay wedding. The group pleaded not guilty to charges relating to conspiracy, unlawfully assembly and membership in an unlawful society, the BBC reports. Homosexuality has been illegal in Nigeria…

via Police in Nigeria Have Charged 53 Men for Celebrating a ‘Gay Wedding’ — TIME

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