Going with the Wind: Transition to Clean Energy in Latin America & the Caribbean

The Providencia Solar company inaugurated in 2017 is the first photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador, in the central department of La Paz. With 320,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest solar installations in Central America, whose countries are making efforts to transition their energy mixes to renewable sources. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Luis Felipe López-Calva
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 31 2019 – The UN Climate Action Summit 2019, which took place in the days leading up to the 74th UN General Assembly, delivered new pathways and practical actions for governments and private sector to intensify climate action.

Among these, it recognized that the path towards protecting our planet requires a fundamental change in terms of how households, and the society as a whole, produce and consume electricity.

Despite important efforts, we are still not moving slowly in terms of investments in clean energy. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2018 alone global energy-related CO2 emissions rose 1.7 percent to a historic high, driven by higher energy demand.

This #GraphForThought looks at how Latin America and the Caribbean generates and consumes energy, and outlines some elements of the way forward for LAC energy markets.

It highlights that while LAC is a region whose contribution to global carbon emission from energy generation has been relatively low (contributing to less than 8% of total emissions worldwide), it has contributed significantly to the solution by moving firmly into more renewable sources of energy.

Luis Felipe López-Calva

Energy needs to be transformed in order to be useful. Primary sources of energy – those found in nature such as coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear fuels, the sun, wind or rivers – need to be transformed into electricity (a so-called secondary source) to be used by industry, households, services and transportation, among other things.

Additionally, electricity cannot yet be stored at a large scale: it is either used or lost. The process of electricity generation produces a series of effects that inevitably have an impact on people and the environment, albeit some more than others.

That is, social and environmental impacts differ if electricity is generated by burning coal, inundating a valley, or building a wind farm, with effects varying from greenhouse gas emissions, displacement of local populations, and disturbances to local ecosystems (i.e. wind farms threaten flying wildlife).

The goal in energy planning is to balance benefits and costs, aiming ideally to find mechanism that internalize the environmental impact (either through markets or through regulation, both of which require effective governance: clear, stable and credibly enforced rules).

So, how does LAC fare in terms of its energy use? According to a widely used index, the “energy intensity indicator”, LAC is the most efficient region in the world when it comes to energy use.

This index captures the amount of energy needed to generate one dollar of product or service. LAC is also becoming more efficient over time, with the index falling in past years, suggesting that the region is doing relatively more with less energy.

To a large extent due to the presence of large hydroelectric power generators, 52% of LAC’s energy came from renewable sources (by 2013). This is almost three times higher than the global average of 22% and has been increasing steadily over the past two decades

This involves clearly many challenges ahead. Among the most pressing is related precisely to the impact of climate change on renewable energy generation: hydropower may be a highly efficient renewable energy system, but it is becoming less reliable due to changing weather patterns.

This has been exacerbated by the effect of the El Niño and La Niña phenomena, which strongly influence rain levels in the region. In parts of South America, these lead to reduced rains and to droughts that hinder the capacity to generate electricity from hydro sources, resulting in a need to increase the generation of electricity based on fossil fuels to be able to meet growing demands.

In other parts of the region, namely the deepest southern end of the continent, these phenomena produce extreme increases in rain, resulting in an unprecedented increase of water levels that affect families and lead to high vulnerability for the populations.

It is also crucial to understand the distributional impacts of continuing the transition towards renewable sources of energy in LAC. Energy transitions will have unequal distribution of their costs and benefits, particularly for communities that depend on traditional energy infrastructure for their livelihoods.

Rising fuel prices can also trigger protests, as we have seen in various countries in the region including Brazil, Mexico, and most recently Ecuador (although, in this case, the rise in price was not explicitly due to a transition to renewable sources but its was clearly related to “pricing the carbon right”, by the phasing out of fuel subsidies).

Inclusiveness and affordability, as well as a comprehensive understanding of winners, losers, and potential instruments for compensation and mitigation, will be critical components for a sustainable transition.

So, what is the future of energy in LAC? While hydropower will continue to be the largest energy source in the region for a while, exploiting its complementarities with other renewable energy sources will be key to ensure sustainability.

This change is facilitated by the fact that technological advances have allowed for a reduction in cost and improvement in efficiency of using these renewable sources (solar and wind, for example). Countries addressing diversification efforts are working to create the enabling policy and regulatory environments for other renewable sources –such as wind and solar– to flourish.

For example, recent auctions in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Peru have helped to accelerate the deployment of thousands of megawatts of wind and solar energy in the region. Opportunities for investments are vast.

Promoting the use of clean energy in efficient ways is a critical objective in our fight against climate change. LAC has been at the forefront in the use of renewable sources, being a relatively low carbon emitter.

However, there are challenges ahead, with the regional demand for energy expected to keep growing as countries develop and poverty levels fall. Investments and changes in the policy environment will be needed to continue to transition towards sustainable renewable sources of energy.

As Nick Stern has stated recently: if we get it right, clean energy –and climate action in general– is the inclusive growth story of the twenty first century.

Red Alert for Blue Planet and Small Island States

The Pacific island is one of the countries worst affected by sea-level rise. Credit: UNICEF

By Farhana Haque Rahman
ROME, Oct 31 2019 – Barely a week passes without alarming news of the most recent scientific research into the global climate crisis compounding a growing sense of urgency, particularly the impact on small island states from rising sea levels and extreme weather.

Latest findings suggest that several hundred million more people than previously thought are at risk of coastal flooding due to climate change. Climate Central, a non-profit research and news organisation, found data used in past calculations overstated the elevation of many low-lying coastal communities.

And for the people of the Bahamas who had just endured Hurricane Dorian, the most intense tropical cyclone on record to hit their islands, it came as little surprise when the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) soon after released its landmark special report on the planet’s oceans and frozen regions, warning of “multiple climate-related hazards” for coastal regions.

“The ocean is warmer, more acidic and less productive,” the IPCC report stated.

The “Blue Pacific” concept sees the island states establishing themselves as “large ocean states” and guardians of the region rather than “small island states”

Oceans are absorbing heat twice as fast as just two decades ago, with hundreds of billions of tonnes of melting ice raising sea levels at an average rate of 3.6 millimetres a year, more than twice as fast as during the last century.

If greenhouse gas emissions “continue to increase strongly”, the IPCC report said, then levels could rise more than a metre by 2100.

Some island states in the Pacific face becoming uninhabitable. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted while visiting Tuvalu, the sea level rise in some Pacific countries is four times greater than the world average, posing “an existential threat” to several island states.

Against this background the UN COP25 climate change summit scheduled to be held in Santiago in December had been dubbed the Blue COP, with expectations of a focus on the oceans and commitments of aid to poorer nations most at risk. So it comes as a serious blow that President Sebastian Pinera has just announced that Chile is calling off its hosting of COP25 because of mass anti-government protests rocking the country.

While the UN anxiously looks for an alternative venue (and Santiago had been the second choice after Brazil’s newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro, pulled out of hosting it), the small island states of the Pacific will be making their voices heard as they seek to confirm themselves in the role of custodians of the world’s largest region.

It is an existential struggle but it is not a blame game however.

Farhana Haque Rahman

As Micronesia’s President David Panuelo declared last week in The Diplomat: “Rather than point fingers, we must all point the way toward solutions.”

“No single country created this problem, and certainly a small country like ours is bearing far greater responsibility for the solution than we ever contributed to the crisis in the first place. But we sit shoulder to shoulder in a coalition which has set a goal of growing economies while achieving 30 percent marine protection globally,” he wrote in a plea for action to save the oceans.

“Everyone must do more when garbage patches larger than entire countries float in the Pacific, and rising carbon dioxide levels increase ocean acidity and devastate coral reefs and marine life.”

The Pacific Community, the principal scientific and technical organisation in the region and founded as the SPC in 1947, counts 22 Pacific island countries and territories among its members who see themselves as the “tip of the spear” in terms of the impacts of climate change and their efforts to adapt.

SPC has recently established the Pacific Community Centre for Ocean Science (PCCOS) to provide the framework to “focus its scientific and technical assistance on providing solutions that will build, sustain, and drive blue economies in Pacific Island countries and territories” and support SDG 14 of conserving and sustainably using oceans and marine resources.

The SPC’s new and growing Pacific Data Hub is a public resource of data and publications on the Pacific across key sectors, from education and human rights to oceans and geoscience.

Such initiatives reflect how Pacific Island states have grown more assertive in their diplomacy, becoming more active in global multilateral forums and using their voices and votes for increased leverage rather than the old reliance on support from Australia and New Zealand.

The “Blue Pacific” concept sees the island states establishing themselves as “large ocean states” and guardians of the region rather than “small island states”. As stewards of the Pacific with their cultural identity shaped by the ocean, the Blue Pacific framework seeks to establish leadership on issues, with smart policies backed by scientific expertise and data.

As Micronesia’s president has reminded us, the climate crisis is neither abstract nor “tomorrow’s faraway challenge”. It is happening now and as the IPCC’s special report on the oceans and cryosphere warned in September the crisis is gathering speed, as seen in the recent acceleration of sea level rise.

In Antarctica the rate of ice loss tripled in the decade 2007-2016. May and August in 2019 were the warmest on record for the Arctic while this year saw the summer minimum extent of sea ice reaching a joint-second lowest in 40 years of satellite records.

As summarised by Carbon Brief, the IPCC warns that this accelerating ice loss, and the more rapid sea level rises it causes, will continue to gather pace over this century regardless of whether greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. The “likely” maximum rise of 1.1 metres by 2100 is some 10cm above the top-end estimate from its previous estimate, while a rise of 2 metres cannot be ruled out.

Such warnings were intended to provide input at COP25 for world leaders who face mounting calls to adopt more ambitious goals for carbon emission cuts. Those negotiations will not be happening in December in Santiago after all. An alternative must be found urgently.

As Urbanisation Grows, Cities Unveil Sustainable Development Solutions

The UN-proclaimed World Day serves as a call for States, municipalities and city dwellers to work together for transformative change and sustainable strategies for cities, as urbanisation continues to swell.

Old taxi Park in Uganda’s Capital Kampala. Credit Wambi Michael/IPS

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 31 2019 – Over half of the world’s population now live in cities, with numbers expected to double by 2050, but while urbanization poses serious challenges, cities can also be powerhouses for sustainable development; something the UN is spotlighting on World Cities Day, marked 31 October. 

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) will host a celebration at its Paris Headquarters on Thursday, convening representatives from all corners of the world for discussions on how cities can combat the climate crisis, create more inclusive urban spaces, and contribute to technical innovation.

Cities provide a wealth of opportunities, jobs included, and generate over 80 per cent of gross national product across the globe, according to UN estimates. Urban areas also account for between 60 and 80 per cent of all energy consumption, despite only occupying three per cent of the planet’s surface and are responsible for three quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions

 Cities provide a wealth of opportunities, jobs included, and generate over 80 per cent of gross national product across the globe, according to UN estimates. Urban areas also account for between 60 and 80 per cent of all energy consumption, despite only occupying three per cent of the planet’s surface and are responsible for three quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In addressing these pros and cons, the Organisation has advocated for a “people-centred” development model, and aims to “re-humanise cities” in the face of trends impacting them, from population growth, demographic shifts, and increasing the risk of disasters induced by climate change.

This year’s theme: “Changing the world: innovations and better life for future generations” spotlights the role of technology and young people in building sustainable cities. To do so, Thursday’s commemorative event will be organized along four key discussion themes: ‘Cities 4 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’, ‘Cities 4 Climate Action’, ‘Cities 4 Communities’, and ‘Cities 4 the Future’.

In line with its multidisciplinary mandate, UNESCO’s 2004 Creative Cities Network continues to harness the various ways cities spanning the globe are placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans.

From gastronomy in Tucson, Arizona, to design in Nagoya, Japan, the network engages 180 cities in total, which integrate creative approaches in their development plans. See the complete list of cities, and their creative undertakings here.

For World Cities Day this year, UNESCO is partnering with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)UN-Habitat, and refugee agency (UNHCR) to amplify the concerted action of the United Nations for cities alongside their planners and other urban players.

The UN-proclaimed World Day serves as a call for States, municipalities and city dwellers to work together for transformative change and sustainable strategies for cities, as urbanisation continues to swell.

 

This story was originally published by UN News

African Development Bank Shareholders approve landmark $115 billion capital increase, signalling strong support

By African Development Bank
Oct 31 2019 (IPS-Partners)

  • Bank’s capital base more than doubles. Jumps from $93 billion to $208 billion
  • Largest capital increase in the Bank’s history signals a united front by shareholders

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 31 October, 2019 – At an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting today in Abidjan, Governors of the African Development Bank, representing shareholders from 80 countries, approved a landmark $115 billion increase in capital for the continent’s foremost financial institution.

The capital increase, the largest in the history of the African Development Bank since its establishment in 1964, is a remarkable show of confidence by shareholders.

With the approved increase, the capital of the Bank will more than double from $93 billion to $208 billion. This solidifies the Bank’s leadership on development financing for the continent.

The boost in capital ensures that the Bank will continue to maintain a sterling AAA rating, all stable, from the top rating agencies.

The African Development Bank launched discussions on the request for a general capital increase two years ago, to help fast track the delivery of its High 5 development strategies, the sustainable development goals and the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the President of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara said: “the integration of the continent’s priorities into the High 5s indicates that the African Development Bank group is a strategic partner for African governments.”

In the past four years, the Bank’s High 5 priorities have delivered impressive results on the ground, including helping to connect 16 million people to electricity, 70 million people provided with agricultural technologies to boost food security; 9 million people given access to finance through private sector investee companies; 55 million people provided improved access to transport services; and 31 million people with access to water and sanitation.

According to African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina,  “We have achieved a lot, yet there is still a long way to go. Our responsibility is to very quickly help improve the quality of life for the people of Africa. This general capital increase represents a very strong commitment of all our shareholders to see better quality projects that will significantly have an impact on the lives of the people in Africa –  in cities, in rural communities, and for millions of youth and women.”

With the new general capital increase, the Bank plans to do more, with the following expected results: 105 million people to have access to new or improved electricity connections; 244 million people to benefit from improvements in agriculture; 15 million people to benefit from investee projects; 252 million people to benefit from improved access to transport; and 128 million people to benefit from improved access to water and sanitation.

Adesina noted that “the Bank will continue its leadership role on infrastructure development, strengthening regional integration, helping to realize the ambitions of the African Continental Free Trade Area, supporting fragile states to build resilience, ensuring sustainable debt management, addressing climate change and boosting private sector investments. We will do a lot more. This is a historic moment.”

He added: “I applaud the shareholders for their strong confidence in the Bank and for boosting support for Africa’s development”.

President Adesina, Bank senior vice-president Charles Boamah and vice president for Finance and African Development Bank Chief Finance Officer Bajabulile Swazi Tshabalala, will be available for interviews and further comment about the increase.

Contact: Victor Oladokun, Director, Communications and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: v.oladokun@afdb.org

 

 

Locked Out – Nigeria’s Trafficked Children Have Never been to School

Child labour is a cancer in Nigeria, with children engaged in domestic labour, forced begging, quarrying gravel and armed conflict. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

By Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe
LAGOS, Nigeria, Oct 31 2019 – “Human trafficking is when someone is taken from Nigeria to another country to be a prostitute. Or, to do other illegal jobs that are not good for humanity,” said Kingsley Chidiebere, a commercial motorcycle rider in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

He is one of the over 27 Nigerians interviewed so far by IPS who thinks human trafficking is when a “lady goes to Europe to prostitute herself”.

Though a father himself, Chidiebere, like others interviewed, does not know that children are trafficked to other countries and within Nigeria as well.

Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) April to September 2018 report indicates females are the overwhelming majority of identified victims in Nigeria. According to the report, most rescued victims are now from Kano State, closely followed by Edo State. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), founded in 2003 in response to the country’s high rate of human trafficking, said while most of the victims of trafficking here are women, children and men now make up a significant portion of trafficked victims compared to a decade ago.

  • In a 2014 report,  NAPTIP said children comprised 28 percent of detected victims, and men, 21 percent. 
  • NAPTIP said that the two most-reported human trafficking cases here include cases where women are prostituted internationally and the employment of children as domestic workers. In many cases these child labourers also suffer physical abuse. 

Human trafficking and modern day slavery involve the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain and is a $150 billion global industry.

Two thirds of this figure — $99 billion — is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while another $51 billion results from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work, agriculture and other economic activities. 

Nigeria remains a source, transit and destination country when it comes to human trafficking. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its 2016 Global Report On Trafficking In Persons says globally more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected between 2012 and 2014.

  • In Nigeria, 42 percent of detected victims between 2012 and 2014 were adults, with the remaining numbers accounting for children.
  • The UNODC reports 69 countries reported to have detected 21,251 victims from Sub-Saharan Africa between 2012 and 2014. Nigeria had 1,030 detected trafficking victims. Of these, 322 were adults (61 males, 261 females) and 708 were children (458 boys, 250 girls).
  • “More recently, reports have surfaced that children in northern Nigeria are being forced by the terrorist group Boko Haram to carry out suicide attacks, the ultimate form of exploitation.
  • “Earlier this year, UNICEF reported that suicide attacks by Boko Haram rose 11-fold from 2014 to 2015, and that 20 percent of the attacks were committed by children as young as eight,” the report stated.

Barrister Julie Okah-Donli, the Director General of NAPTIP said parents who give their children away to work as domestics are endangering them. She warned that these kids end up in the hands of human traffickers. 

The 2018 Global Slavery Index Report reveals Nigeria ranks 32/167 of the countries with the highest number of slaves. The report indicates Nigeria produces no fewer than 1,38m slaves. According to Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the average age of trafficked children in Nigeria, is 15. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

Nigeria’s government agency responsible for tackling trafficking reported in 2016 that 75 percent of children trafficked within the country are trafficked across states, while 23 percent of the kids are trafficked within states. Only two percent of those who are trafficked are trafficked outside the country. The boys in the yellow and pink shirts are pictured transporting goods from the market during school hours. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

In 2006, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report indicated child trafficking was the third-most common crime in Nigeria after drug trafficking and economic fraud. UNESCO highlighted Nigeria’s gross poverty, corruption, conflict, climate change/resulting migration and Western consumerism as factors which increase vulnerability to being trafficked in the country. The boys in the yellow and pink shirts are pictured transporting items they had begged for from the market during school hours. Like most trafficked children they don’t understand or speak English. These boys spend their days begging for money and food. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

In January, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report stating that the number of modern day child slaves constitute almost one-third of all global victims. A young boy works at a shop during school hours selling palm oil from morning to night for the ‘madam’ he works for. He said she brought him to Lagos from a village and away from his family. Where the village from where he comes is, he doesn’t recall. When asked by IPS, he said he did not know his age. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

 

A report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) reveals shocking statistics: 99 percent of the 4.8 million victims of commercial sexual exploitation in 2016 were women and girls, with one in five being children. The young girl pictured here has never been to school and has marks from flogging over her hand. She timidly tells IPS that rice fell on her hand, but the signs of beating are clear. She lives with the person for whom she sells rice for and does not know her age. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

The Global Slavery Index reveals women and girls represented 84 percent of the 15.4 million people in forced marriages, and 59 percent of those in private, forced labour. The Index maintains that modern day slavery is most prevalent in Africa with Nigeria being one of the leading countries where the practice thrives. Africa, has no fewer than 9.24 million modern day slaves with an average vulnerability score of 62/100. When young women and children are trafficked to Lagos from Northern Nigeria, mostly Kano and Kaduna state, they have no where they sleep. Often their traffickers make them sleep in the streets and beg for money which they hand over to the person who trafficked them. Credit: Tobore Ovuorie and Yemisi Onadipe/IPS

—————————————–

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 8 with a special emphasis on Goal 8.7 which ‘takes immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms’.

The origins of the GSN come from the endeavours of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders signed on 2 December 2014. Religious leaders of various faiths, gathered to work together “to defend the dignity and freedom of the human being against the extreme forms of the globalisation of indifference, such us exploitation, forced labour, prostitution, human trafficking” and so forth.

Africa Watch: Morocco Tourism Gains Momentum

Medina of Fez in Morocco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site frequented by tourists.

By Hugo Bourhis
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 30 2019 – The crème de la crème of Hollywood was in Marrakech, Morocco, for the wedding of British movie star Idris Elba in April this year. Elba tied the knot with his Canadian model girlfriend, former Miss Vancouver Sabrina Dhowre, at the Ksar Char-Bagh hotel, an exquisite Alhambra-style hotel.

Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, American actress Jessica Alba, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and others have all embraced the glamour of the rose-coloured city of Marrakech and its plethora of tourist attractions, including the vibrant Jemaa el-Fnaa square and the picturesque Majorelle Garden.

Morocco draws tourists from the far corners of the world. They may be seen strolling along the Corniche in Casablanca—an oceanfront boardwalk lined with restaurants, nightclubs, theatres and hotels—or dining at one of the small cafés in the quiet city of Azemmour—a short day trip or overnight jaunt from the big city.

Adil El Fakir, director of the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT), says that over 12 million tourists visited Morocco in 2018, of whom 2.4 million headed for Marrakech.

Morocco’s tourist attractions include the spectacular beaches of Essaouira, an Atlantic coastal town included on the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 2001, and the country’s mountains, particularly the Atlas and the Rif.

“Tourism is a terrific land-use tool, and our territory is rich in its activities, its landscape, its heritage, its culture and its gastronomy,” declares Mohamed Benamour, a former president of the Morocco Tourism Federation.

A cultural crossroad
The country is also a cultural hub, reflecting the diversity of its inhabitants’ national origins: sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle East. This crossroads attracts fashion designers, artists, filmmakers and other cultural tourists.

In 2017, for example, a museum on the international luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent opened in Morocco. “Marrakech taught me colour. Before Marrakech, everything was black,” Saint Laurent once noted.

Over 50 Hollywood motion pictures have been shot in the country, including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much; Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean; Orson Welles’ Othello; Jesus of Nazareth, directed by the late Franco Zeffirelli; and the latest James Bond movie, Spectre.

The country is also becoming a major hub for international conferences due to its proximity to Europe, Middle East, the Americas and the rest of Africa. The country recently hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which brought about 20,000 participants to Marrakech.

Last year, the Global Forum for Migration and Development and the conference on the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration were held in Marrakech and attracted representatives from most UN member states and nongovernmental organizations.

In March the city hosted the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development on “fiscal policy, trade and the private sector in the digital era: a strategy for Africa”, which was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

This year, UNESCO’s first International Forum on Artificial Intelligence in Africa and the Africa Youth Leadership Summit, among other events, will take place in Marrakech. These international conferences shine a spotlight on the country while contributing to the economy.

Tourism revenues account for 11% of total GDP, according to the tourism ministry. Industries in the sector, such as air and land transport, food service and hospitality, generate significant employment opportunities for young people. Morocco was the most visited country in Africa in 2016, with 10.3 million tourist arrivals.

Despite the potentials in the tourism sector, climate change effects threaten to put a dampener. In 2015, for example, Morocco’s economic growth nosedived to 1.5% due to drought, according to the World Bank. To address the situation, the country is constructing the world’s largest desalination plant, which turns seawater into drinking water, in Agadir, near the Atlantic coast.

It has also set ambitious goals that focus on, among others, generating 52% of its electricity needs from renewables by 2030 and improving coastal zone management.

Regulatory reforms introduced in 2010 are bringing Morocco closer to its goal of making the country one of the world’s 20 leading tourist destinations by 2020. Its 10-year plan, dubbed Vision 2020, is aimed at creating eight new tourist destinations and 470,000 new jobs while doubling tourist receipts.

That goal is within reach, it seems. The country has set its sights on a good slice of the 1.4 billion global tourists traveling abroad annually, many of whom are Chinese. Following Moroccan king Mohammed VI’s visit to Beijing in 2016, the number of Chinese arrivals in Morocco skyrocketed to 180,000 in 2018, up from 42,000 in 2016.

By 2020 Morocco hopes to reach the 500,000 mark, according to the Moroccan National Tourist Office, a wing of ONMT.

Investing in tourism
Massive investments in new infrastructure, such as new airport terminals, roads and railways, and the relaxed visa requirements for citizens of some countries, such as China, are two factors in Morocco’s success.

Thanks to the new airport terminal in Casablanca that was opened earlier in 2019, the airport can now handle up to 14 million passengers a year, up from 7 million. Another newly built terminal in the Rabat-Salé Airport can now handle 4 million passengers a year, up from 1.5 million.

Investments in airport infrastructure have had a domino impact on the broader economy. For example, the Rabat airport expansion is transforming the neighbouring city of Kenitra into a fast-growing industrial hub, attracting international companies such as Groupe PSA, the French company that manufactures Peugeot and Citroën.

“[The economic growth of] Kenitra has exceeded our expectations,” says Moulay Hafid Elalamy, minister of industry, investment, trade and the digital economy.

With improving infrastructure, safety and security, Morocco is on its way to becoming a premier destination for an increasing number of tourists.

This article was first published by Africa Renewal.

Solar Cookers Produce More Than Food for Mexican Women

Solar cookers function as a sort of greenhouse that cooks food by concentrating heat. They are are low-tech devices that use reflective panels to focus sunlight on a pot set in the middle.

By Emilio Godoy
VILLA DE ZAACHILA, Mexico, Oct 30 2019 – The sun’s rays are also used to cook food and thus replace the burning of firewood and gas, improve the health of local residents and fuel the energy transition towards the use of renewable sources – the objectives of an enterprise in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Sponsored by the Washington-based non-governmental organisation Solar Household Energy (SHE), women from 10 communities have received some 200 solar cookers, including residents of the municipality of Villa de Zaachila, which has about 43,000 inhabitants.

Solar cookers function as a sort of greenhouse that cooks food by concentrating heat. They are are low-tech devices that use reflective panels to focus sunlight on a pot set in the middle.

 

 

The pot “uses as fuel the sun’s rays, which are totally free, are 100 percent clean, do not emit carbon dioxide and thus promote the energy transition. The technique foments women’s empowerment, makes it possible to cook healthy foods and keeps women from inhaling smoke from burning firewood,” explains Margarita Christlieb, SHE’s representative in Mexico.

In 2004, the first attempts began to distribute solar cookers in Oaxaca. In 2008, activists created the initiative “Solar energy for mobile food stalls in Mexico”, sponsored by three Swiss institutions: the Geneva city government, the SolarSpar cooperative and the non-governmental organisation GloboSol.

In 2016, SHE initiated a pilot project in indigenous communities to evaluate how well the solar cookers had been accepted.

The four-litre pot, which has a useful life of between five and 10 years, costs about 25 dollars, of which SHE covers half and the beneficiaries the other half.

Some 19 million of Mexico’s 130 million people use solid fuels for cooking, a practice that led to an estimated 15,000 premature deaths in 2016 from the ingestion of harmful particles, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).

The main material consumed by 79 percent of these households is LPG, followed by wood or charcoal (11 percent) and natural gas (seven percent).

In Oaxaca, gas and firewood each account for 49 percent of household consumption, with other fuels making up the rest. It is one of the three Mexican states with the greatest energy poverty, defined as more than 10 percent of a household’s income spent on energy.

The promoters of the initiative are betting on expanding the delivery of the devices. But to do so they need government and private support, as part of a broader policy fomenting the use of solar energy.

 

African Development Bank Group’s Board of Governors to hold fifth extraordinary meeting in Abidjan

By African Development Bank
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire , Oct 30 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Board of Governors of the African Development Bank will hold its fifth extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 31 October 2019, at the Sofitel Abidjan, Hotel Ivoire. During the meeting, the Bank’s shareholders will make signification decisions, and a major announcement is expected.

The Board of Governors of the Bank represents the 80 members, including 54 countries of the African continent, and 26 across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

About the Bank

The African Development Bank was established in 1964 by 33 African countries, many of which had only just achieved independence. Their objective was to have an African development finance institution to manage African issues and under African control, a role the Bank has effectively played since its inception. The Bank currently has 80 member countries, including the 54 states of the African continent, and 26 across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Apart from the Bank’s unique and central role in Africa’s economic transformation, it has several comparative advantages, with considerable experience and skill in: investing in quality infrastructure, strengthening Africa’s private sector, promoting regional integration, strengthening economic governance; and mobilizing development funds for Africa.

Media Contact: Alkassoum Diallo, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank, email: a.a.diallo@afdb.org

If India Stopped Growing, Would the IMF and World Bank Say So?

Justin Sandefur is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD). Julian Duggan is a research assistant at the Center for Global Development.

By Justin Sandefur and Julian Duggan
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 30 2019 – Leading economic indicators have slowed or reversed. Criticisms of official statistics are mounting. But the IMF and World Bank continue to forecast 6-percent growth by simple extrapolation.

As of late last year, official data suggested India was the fastest growing major economy in the world. But serious doubts have begun to emerge about the true state of the economy.

The head of the government’s own think tank has expressed alarm at a liquidity crisis that he called “unprecedented in the last 70 years,” and analysts are debating the causes and depth of an ongoing economic slowdown.

Nobody was surprised earlier this month when the World Bank lowered its 2019 growth projection for India to 6 percent from 7.5 percent just four months earlier, and the IMF followed suit, dropping its 7 percent forecast from July down to 6.1 percent.

But given the state of affairs in India’s economy to date in 2019, the immediate question for the World Bank and IMF isn’t why they lowered their forecasts, but why they still remain so high.

The dramatic slump in non-GDP indicators
We looked at the growth of leading economic indicators from official Indian government sources for April to September 2019, which corresponds to the first six months covered by the IMF’s new forecast.

Several key indicators are not just slowing, but in absolute decline, including non-oil imports (-6.6 percent in current dollars), non-oil exports (-1.6 percent in current dollars), and the index of production of capital and infrastructure goods (-3.5 percent up to August 2019).

Other indicators show positive growth, but far below the 6 percent benchmark that the World Bank and IMF project for the economy as a whole: the aggregate index of industrial production is up just 2.5 percent, the index of manufacturing output up just 2.1 percent, and receipts from the goods and services tax are up just 1.6 percent in real terms. Growth in toothpaste sales is slowing, car sales have declined for 11 consecutive months, and reports suggested declines in underwear sales.

India: IMF growth forecast versus early 2019 indicators

The IMF’s 2019 growth forecast for India looks optimistic given other key indicators for the first half of the fiscal year

Note: Growth of non-oil imports and exports are expressed in current US dollars, downloaded from the government of India, Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics. GDP is measured in real Indian rupees, deflated with the official CPI. The 2018 growth rate is taken from the World Bank WDI. The index of industrial production is taken from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and ends in August rather than September 2019.

The failure of GDP to track imports has been cited as evidence of manipulation of official growth rates, particularly in the case of China.

A recent paper by John Fernald, Eric Hsu, and Mark Spiegel of the San Francisco Fed shows that the correlation between GDP and imports is higher in countries with better statistical systems (0.9 for the U.S.), and that imports—which can be verified using the export data of third parties—are a better predictor of other leading economic indicators than is GDP in China’s case.

In India’s case it is not just imports, but also exports, industrial production, tax revenues, and the banking system all pointing in the same downward direction.

New data, new doubts
The latest indicators from April to September 2019 reinforce doubts about India’s official GDP that made a big splash in Delhi earlier this year.

In June, Arvind Subramanian, former Chief Economic Advisor to the government of India and our former colleague here at the Center for Global Development, published a Harvard working paper (and a follow-up paper) suggesting that technical changes in national accounts methodology in 2011 had led India to significantly exaggerate its official GDP growth rate ever since. Rather than 7 percent growth from 2011-12 through 2016-17, Subramanian suggested the true rate might have been closer to 4.5 percent.

That discrepancy is, as they say, big, if true.

Official government of India sources dismissed Subramanian’s analysis out of hand, and some independent analysts have questioned whether the recent divergence of GDP growth from growth in other indicators was a sufficient basis to abandon the official figures.

But other analysts have looked at the data and reached broadly similar conclusions as Subramanian. Whichever numbers you believe, the core mystery posed by Subramanian remains: How is India growing so fast if, as the government’s own statistics show, a long list of other major economic indicators have slowed or even reversed?

Any errors in India’s data are baked into IMF and World Bank forecasts

Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that Subramanian’s concerns are justified, and that actual growth has been considerably slower than reported growth.

Wouldn’t independent analysis by the World Bank and IMF serve to ’fact check’ the government of India’s numbers?

It seems not.

The problem is that, rather than examining independent indicators of economic activity, the Bretton Woods’ forecasts appear to be based primarily on (a) extrapolation of the official growth figures, and (b) some subjective adjustment based on staff’s assessment of policy changes.

The details of the IMF’s growth forecast methodology are not publicly documented, but in response to a query, the IMF noted that the India forecast takes into account data from the first quarter of 2019—i.e., an official growth rate of 5 percent—combined with the IMF staff’s assessment of recent policy moves, including more accommodating monetary policy from the Reserve Bank of India and a cut in the corporate income tax rate.

While reasonable on its face, this approach is extremely vulnerable when confronted with erroneous official numbers. If the growth series up to 2019 is mis-measured, then all those errors are going to be directly baked into the IMF forecast as well.

With trade volumes shrinking and indicators of real economic activity slowing to a crawl, it might be time for the IMF and World Bank to ask some harder questions. India no longer relies on the Bretton Woods institutions for any meaningful share of its financing needs, but if these DC institutions have one thing to offer Delhi, it should be an impartial, technically sound perspective on economic reality.

That reality suggests that Indian growth is in barely positive territory, while the IMF-World Bank forecasters appear too timid to tell the emperor he has no clothes—not to mention cars, toothpaste, or underwear.

Galimedix Therapeutics, Inc.’s GAL-101 Gains from Target Validation by Positive Phase 3 Results of Biogen’s Aducanumab

KENSINGTON, Md., Oct. 29, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Galimedix Therapeutics, Inc., an emerging leader in the development of new solutions for neurodegenerative diseases of the retina and the brain, today announced that the recent positive results of a Phase 3 study in Alzheimer's disease with Biogen's aducanumab also validate the target of the company's lead molecule, GAL–101.

"Following decades of failure in large Alzheimer neuroprotection trials, the recent Biogen announcement may be considered a breakthrough and a validation of amyloid beta oligomers as a target for new Alzheimer drugs," commented the company's chief scientific officer, Hermann Russ, M.D., Ph.D. "Aducanumab and GAL–101 share that they both clear the highly toxic amyloid beta oligomers. However, GAL–101 has the advantage of being a small molecule and blocks the formation of all forms of toxic oligomers at source while the antibody eliminates them only after their formation."

Aducanumab is an antibody binding specifically to aggregated amyloid beta monomers, which are also called amyloid beta oligomers. The company considers the recently announced aducanumab results in Alzheimer's disease to be validation for GAL–101 eyedrops, which target the same amyloid beta pathology in dry macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma. A Phase 2 program in these two indications using GAL–101 eyedrops is currently under development. An additional oral formulation of GAL–101 is in IND–enabling studies and the company believes studies in Alzheimer patients with GAL–101 capsules could start in 2021.

"These results represent a long–awaited reward for companies like Galimedix that never gave up their strong belief in amyloid beta being the right target for Alzheimer's disease, if only addressed appropriately," added Galimedix' executive chairman of the board, Alexander Gebauer, M.D., Ph.D. "Small molecules like GAL–101 have the potential to revolutionize the treatment of amyloid beta–driven diseases like dry AMD, glaucoma and Alzheimer s. We look forward to continuing to learn about the aducanumab results, as well as to sharing our own successes in targeting amyloid beta."

About Galimedix Therapeutics, Inc.
Based in the United States and Israel, Galimedix is a Phase 2/3–ready pharmaceutical company with a world–class drug development team advancing a novel, patented small molecule drug with a unique MOA addressing glaucoma, dry AMD. The company's most advanced compound, GAL–101, which utilizes an eye drop delivery platform, is expected to provide an effective, convenient and safe treatment for two of the leading causes of blindness. Studies with Galimedix's eye drops in monkeys, the closest model to humans, have demonstrated that therapeutic levels are quickly reached in the retina. Compelling efficacy data from GAL–101 eye drops in relevant animal models have demonstrated more than 90 percent neuroprotection, and in vitro studies in neuronal cells that have lost function have shown that GAL–101 can restore the neural function, suggesting it could potentially improve visual function in patients. The Company has successfully completed Phase 1 studies in 70 subjects, including 30 glaucoma patients. The compound is supported by many of the world's leading experts in glaucoma and in dry AMD, who also support the design of the company's proposed Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies.

GAL–101 is also potentially capable for oral delivery and is in active development towards Phase 1 studies with the oral formulation. In this oral formulation GAL–101 can be developed as treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Contact:

Jules Abraham
Core IR
julesa@coreir.com
917–885–7378