Nuvei Expands its Acquiring Capabilities to the United Arab Emirates and North Africa

MONTREAL and DUBAI, Dec. 10, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nuvei Corporation (“Nuvei” or the “Company”) (Nasdaq: NVEI) (TSX: NVEI), the global payment technology partner of thriving brands, announced today its expansion of local acquiring services to support merchants in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and North Africa. Nuvei is certified by the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) and licensed to operate in the free trade zone. This new development positions the Company well to support its existing merchant base, as well as local merchants and international businesses looking to expand their footprint into this booming market.

As a region with an increasing global population, the UAE and North Africa are exploding with cross–border expansion potential: 60% of UAE consumers have purchased from an international online retailer. Alternative payment methods (APMs) like Google Pay and Apple Pay are also gaining significant traction. Nuvei will support growth–minded merchants by offering access to its full stack of innovative solutions, including APMs and other locally–preferred payment methods, plus direct connectivity to all the major payment card schemes. Through one single point of integration, merchants will benefit from a seamless, secure and compliant payment journey for their customers.

According to Global Data, the UAE's eCommerce market has grown by 33% in five years and is expected to grow another 104% by 2024. Through Nuvei's technology, merchants can tap into this potential, enabling them to support the different preferences and requirements of local and overseas consumers. Merchants will also benefit from the Company's state–of–the–art tools, increasing approval rates, as well as reducing the traditional manual and lengthy onboarding process, and associated high payment fees.

“This launch marks the acceleration of our strategic global expansion plans,” said Philip Fayer, Nuvei's Chair and CEO. “Investing in a physical presence and benefiting from our experts' local market knowledge will make a huge difference to our existing clients in the region, as well as the many domestic and international businesses looking to optimize their payment strategies in this flourishing market.”

“We have experienced a surge in new merchant demand in the UAE and North Africa, along with calls for greater support from existing customers in the region,” said Praful Morar, Chief Strategy Officer, Digital Payments at Nuvei. “We are delighted that with our local solutions and expertise, we will be able to meet this demand, as we are seeing major traction in retail, financial services, travel, and digital goods and services.”

About Nuvei

We are Nuvei (Nasdaq: NVEI) (TSX: NVEI) the global payment technology partner of thriving brands. We provide the intelligence and technology businesses need to succeed locally and globally, through one integration "" propelling them further, faster. Uniting payment technology and consulting, we help businesses remove payment barriers, optimize operating costs and increase acceptance rates. Our proprietary platform provides seamless pay–in and payout capabilities, connecting merchants with their customers in over 200 markets worldwide, with local acquiring in 45 markets. With support for over 500 local and alternative payment methods, nearly 150 currencies and 40 cryptocurrencies, merchants can capture every payment opportunity that comes their way. Our purpose is to make our world a local marketplace.

For more information, visit www.nuvei.com.

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Homeless Camps, a Reflection of Growing Inequality in Chile

On Cerro 18, above the affluent municipality of Lo Barnechea, in the coveted eastern sector of Santiago de Chile with a stunning view of the valley and the Andes Mountains, 300 families live in five camps or irregular settlements, many without water, electricity or sewage. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, Dec 10 2021 – Camps made up of thousands of tents and shacks have mushroomed in Chile due to the failure of housing policies and official subsidies for the sector, aggravated by the rise in poverty, the covid-19 pandemic and the massive influx of immigrants.

“Three years ago we were about to be evicted and when my children would head off to school they never knew if our little house would be there when they got home. One morning we were going to school and the carabineros (militarized police) were coming. Many times I had to go home early from work. It was chaotic, difficult and distressing,” Melanni Salas told IPS during a visit to the site.

Salas, 33, presides over Senda 23, one of the five camps that bring together 300 families who occupied public land in Cerro 18, in the municipality of Lo Barnechea, on the east side of Santiago. They have been building shacks with wood and other materials within their reach, which they are gradually trying to improve.

The threat of eviction ceased at the start of the covid pandemic, but the shadow still hangs over their heads because the municipality “built us a septic tank and gave us gifts for Christmas, but has said nothing about housing,” she said.

The community activist previously lived for 19 years as an “allegada”, the name given in Chile to people or families who share a house with relatives or friends, in overcrowded conditions. In 2016 she occupied the land where she and her husband Jorge built the precarious dwelling where she now lives with her three children aged 15, 13 and five years old.

“This used to be a garbage dump and now it is clean and there are houses,” said Salas. “Mine gets a little wet inside when it rains because it is made of wood and because of the strong wind. But I have drinking water, electricity and sewerage thanks to my mother-in-law who lives further up. The neighboring family has neither water nor sewage. They are a couple with three children and one of them, Colomba, was born a week ago.”

She explains that her neighbors “use the bathroom at their brother’s place who lives nearby, but during the pregnancy she went back to her mother’s house.”

In the camps people cook, wash, sleep and live together, observed by passers-by who have become accustomed to this new urban landscape. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

In the camps people cook, wash, sleep and live together, observed by passers-by who have become accustomed to this new urban landscape. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Hundreds of homeless tents now line the main avenues of Santiago de Chile.

Explosive situation

“Every day more than 10 families come to live in an encampment in Chile,” says Fundación Techo Chile, a social organization dedicated to fighting against housing exclusion in the cities of this South American country.

The problem is also seen along the avenues and in the parks where hundreds of men and women set up tents to sleep, cook, wash and live together in full view of passers-by who have become accustomed to the scene.

In the last two years, the number of families living in 969 of these camps with almost no access to water, energy and sanitation services has increased to 81,643, a survey by the Fundación Techo Chile found.

In Chile, the term “campamentos” or camps has also come to refer to slums or shantytowns known traditionally as “callampas”, such as the one where Salas lives, which are built on occupied land and consist of houses made of light materials, although the neighborhoods are sometimes later improved and upgraded, but still lack basic services.

These slums are mainly in Santiago and Valparaíso, 120 kilometers north of the capital, in central Chile. But they are also found in the northern cities of Arica and Parinacota and the southern city of Araucanía.

They are home to 57,384 children under the age of 14 and some 25,000 immigrants, mostly Colombians, Venezuelans and Haitians. “Today, families live there who six months or two years ago were ‘allegados’ living in overcrowded, informal, precarious or abusive conditions. That is what is understood as a housing deficit,” Fundación Techo Chile’s executive director, Sebastián Bowen, told IPS.

“The 81,000 families living in camps are the most visible part of the problem, but the housing deficit, covering all the families who do not have access to decent housing, exceeds 600,000,” he said.

The State provides some 20,000 social housing solutions each year, a figure that is highly insufficient to meet the current need.

According to Bowen, “if we want to solve the problem of the camps, we must structurally change our housing policy to guarantee access to decent housing, especially for the most vulnerable families.”

This explosion coincided with the social protests that began in October 2019 and with the arrival of coronavirus in the country in March 2020.

According to the National Socioeconomic Characterization Survey (Casen), 10.8 percent of Chileans currently live in poverty, which means more than two million people, although social organizations say the real proportion is much higher.

Chile, with a population of 19 million people, is considered one of the most unequal countries in the world, as reflected by the fact that the 10 percent of households with the highest incomes earn 251.3 times more than the 10 percent with the lowest income.

View of some of the houses in Cerro 18, a shantytown where 300 families live, most of them without even the most basic services. In what used to be a garbage dump, on the hillside of one of the wealthy neighborhoods of the Chilean capital, they have built their houses using scrap wood and waste materials. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

View of some of the houses in Cerro 18, a shantytown where 300 families live, most of them without even the most basic services. In what used to be a garbage dump, on the hillside of one of the wealthy neighborhoods of the Chilean capital, they have built their houses using scrap wood and waste materials. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The new constitution holds out hope

Benito Baranda, founder of the Fundación Techo, an organization that now operates in several Latin American countries, believes that the housing policy failed because it focuses on “market-based eradication, forming housing ghettos on land where people continue to live in a segregated manner.”

This policy is also based on a structure of subsidies “born during the dictatorship and which has remained in place because housing is not a right recognized in the constitution,” Baranda, now a member of the Constitutional Convention that is drafting a new constitution, which will finally replace the one inherited from the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, told IPS.

“The decision of where people are going to live was handed over to the market. Not only the construction of housing. And the land began to run out and the available and cheap places were in the ghettos,” he explained.

Baranda criticized the policy of “eradication”, “which created ghettos and generated much greater harm for people,” referring to the forced expulsions of slumdwellers and their relocation to social housing built on the outskirts of the cities, a policy initiated during the Pinochet dictatorship and which crystallized social segregation in the capital.

According to Baranda, “in the last four governments there has been the least construction of housing for the poorest families.”

Baranda was elected to the constituent assembly in a special election in May and proposes “to generate a mechanism that will progressively reduce the waiting times for housing, which today can stretch out to 20 years.”

Twenty-story buildings, where each floor has 50 17-square-meter apartments, are called "vertical ghettos" and are inhabited mainly by immigrants. These ones are located in the Estación Central neighborhood, along Alameda Avenue that crosses Santiago de Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Twenty-story buildings, where each floor has 50 17-square-meter apartments, are called “vertical ghettos” and are inhabited mainly by immigrants. These ones are located in the Estación Central neighborhood, along Alameda Avenue that crosses Santiago de Chile. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Privatization of social housing

Isabel Serra, an academic at the Diego Portales University Faculty of Architecture, believes that “the housing issue in Chile will be solved in some way through family networks…There is a lot of overcrowding here and small families are becoming the norm,” she told IPS.

According to Serra, the mushrooming of camps “clearly has to do with the influx of immigrants and this has grown especially in cities that are also functional or productive or extractivist hubs.”

She criticized the subsidy policy because these “are transferred to the private sector and what they do is drive up housing prices… and most of them are not used because they are not in line with the price of land and housing.”

“A highly financialized private market has made housing a tool for economic speculation…investors have decided to put their funds into the real estate market,” she said.

The problem has already reached the 155-member Constitutional Convention, which has been functioning since Jul. 4 and has a 12-month deadline to draft the new constitution, which must then be ratified in a plebiscite.

In September Melanni Salas and representatives of eight organizations met with Elisa Loncón, president of the Convention, to present her with the book “Constitution and Poverty”, which includes proposals to guarantee the right to housing.

“I hope they include this in the new constitution. The proposals were made by 25,000 excluded people…this document seeks to ensure that we are not left on the sidelines as always,” the community organizer explained.

A human right

Baranda said “in the constituent assembly we are working to get this enshrined as a right and to get the State to assume a leading role, not in the construction of housing itself, but in determining where people are going to live and creating the land bank that people have been demanding for so long.”

“We need the policies, by making land available and expropriating property that is not owned by the State, to create housing projects in places where there is social inclusion,” he stressed.

Serra agreed that “when the issue of housing is discussed in the constituent assembly, it will have to look at how the State buys and sells land.

“Housing is a basic human right and should be enshrined in the constitution, with all the parameters that are established for decent housing,” she argued.

Serra also called for “modernizing the instruments and the institutional framework dedicated to the provision of housing” because, she said, “currently the role of housing provision is clearly played by the market.”

She said it would require “a great deal of political will because land issues in general are political issues, very difficult to implement because there are many economic interests involved.”

Celia “Charito” Durán lives in the Mesana camp on Mariposas hill in the port city of Valparaíso, along with 165 other families, and counting.

The municipality delivers 3,000 liters of water per week to each house, using tanker trucks.

Durán said, however, that the priority is access “because if there is no road, we are cut off from everything: firefighters, water, ambulances.”

In Mesana there is no sewage system, only “cesspools, septic toilets and pipes through which people dump everything into the creek,” she told IPS by telephone.

On the hilltop the wind is very strong and every winter roofs are blown off and houses leak when it rains.

Durán, 56, has lived there since she was 37. She is confident that a solution to the social housing deficit will come out of the constituent assembly, after participating in meetings with Jaime Bassa, vice-president of the Constitutional Convention.

“We have the hope and expectation that the right to housing will be included. So, if tomorrow it is not fulfilled, you could go to the authorities with the right to protest about it,” she said.

“We want to be part of the city and not be segregated and forced to return to the camps,” Durán said.

How Vitamin-Enriched Foods can be the Gateway to Better Long-Term Nutrition

Biofortified crops address the world’s ‘hidden hunger. Credit: CGIAR, formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research.

By Jan Low
WASHINGTON DC, Dec 10 2021 – When one in five pre-school children is stunted due to chronic undernutrition, it is clear that global diets urgently need to improve and diversify to include more nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables and animal-source foods.

Yet with healthy diets out of reach for three billion people worldwide, resulting in insufficient vitamin and mineral intakes and bouts of illness, this shift cannot happen overnight. Instead, improving diets and nutrition must be seen as a holistic process.

Breeding staple foods, which are already accessible and affordable, with additional vitamins and micronutrients – known as “biofortification” – is a fundamental way to support better nutrition for all, but especially those who struggle to achieve a more diverse and nutritious diet.

Many factors contribute to inadequate diets around the world, from cost to climate change, all of which require a comprehensive and systemic transformation with innovation at every stage of the food chain, from incentives and new technologies for producers to education and improved livelihoods for consumers.

But to combat hunger, people simply need sufficient calories, and through biofortification, calories that are easiest to come by can also be source of key vitamins and minerals essential for good growth and strong immune systems.

In drought-stricken southern Madagascar, for example, which is experiencing the first climate-induced famine, a new effort is under way to deploy biofortified varieties of sweetpotato, which are enriched with vitamin A and fast maturing.

Since sweetpotato is a hardy crop that is already widely eaten, the biofortified version is a way to deliver crucial nutrition quickly in a form that Madagascans recognize and are likely to adopt.

A project backed by World Food Programme (WFP) and partners in Nyaruguru district in southern Rwanda is empowering women with agricultural and business skills. Cedit: WFP/JohnPaul Sesonga

The orange-fleshed sweetpotato has already helped make inroads in improving nutrition across Africa with more than six million households benefitting from the crop in 15 countries over the past 10 years. Just one small root, or 125g, of orange-fleshed sweetpotato meets the daily vitamin A needs of a young child.

Meanwhile, the biofortification of rice is expected to provide up to 30 per cent of vitamin A requirements in the Philippines, where it has recently been approved for cultivation and where more than 15 per cent of children under six are vitamin A deficient because fresh fruit and vegetables are often unaffordable.

Biofortification also offers a way to preserve and enhance the nutritional value of the most consumed cereals, including rice, wheat, millet, and sorghum.

One under-reported consequence of rising levels of CO2 emissions is the degradation of nutritional quality of staple foods, with some studies indicating that future CO2 concentrations could reduce levels of protein, iron and zinc in cereals by up to 10 per cent.

Biofortifying grains with zinc can ensure good growth and support more than 200 enzyme systems, which is especially important given that nutrient declines in crops could result in an additional 175 million people being zinc deficient by mid to late century.

Zinc-enhanced wheat not only offers up to 40 per cent higher concentrations of zinc, but is also high yielding and disease resistant, meaning it not only safeguards the crop’s nutritional value against climate change, but it safeguards its productivity as well.

Finally, iron enriched crops such as beans, millets, and potato can help support the proper cognitive development of children as well as their physical development, allowing them the best possible chance to reach their full potential and a prosperous, healthy future.

Almost one-fifth of the population in Rwanda are now eating iron-enhanced beans, which provide 80 per cent of the iron needs of young children and non-pregnant women.

By getting nutrition right in the early years, millions of children will be able to escape the limitations of inadequate diets.

Good nutrition through a diet rich with fruits, vegetables and animal-source foods is the foundation of a healthy, productive society. Yet poor households in low-income countries spend up to 70 per cent of their income on food, and having calories to prevent hunger is their first priority.

Using biofortified staples is a no-brainer way to get major micronutrients into the diet at low cost, a vital pathway towards better long-term, sustainable nutrition and health.

Jan Low is Principal Scientist, CGIAR’s International Potato Center, and 2016 World Food Prize Laureate.

 


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Noorjehan Niaz and Zakia Soman: Bonded to Change the Trajectory of Muslim Women in India

Zakia Soman and Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz are determined to ensure Muslim women take their rightful place in society.

By Mariya Salim
NEW DELHI, India, Dec 10 2021 – Discriminated in society and concerned about the discrimination of women in their homes, the two women who co-founded the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) started the movement to further Muslim women’s leadership and help them reclaim their rights.

In an exclusive interview with IPS, Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman say they started the BMMA or the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement to address communal tensions and prejudice within India and the inherent patriarchal prejudices faced within their homes and beyond.

Both Niaz and Soman say the ‘communal’ tensions, parlance for prejudice and violence against the Muslim minority in India, shaped their understandings of gender and identity. This led them to stand firmly on principles of gender justice and reforms – leading to the formation of BMMA. Since 2007 this movement has grown to more than 50,000 women.

Soman says she became conscious of her Muslim identity while interacting with women survivors of the Gujarat riots in 2002 in Ahmedabad. During these riots, many Muslim women were singled out and subjected to sexual violence.

“Gujarat riots were preceded by 9/11 (the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001) and the so-called war on terror. I felt a huge burden of my identity. My Muslim name invoked curiosity wherever I went,” Soman says.

She realised she was not alone, and many Muslim women shared her feelings.

“On the one hand, there was communalism and communal violence coupled with state neglect. On the other hand, we faced discrimination at home and within the family, wrongly in the name of religion.”

Soman says she was in an “abusive relationship”, and she and other Muslim women “decided to join hands and take charge of our situation.”

BMMA members in a leadership training program. The organisation has grown to more than 50 000 women and they have achieved significant successes.

The BMMA was born out of these sentiments to change a communal, patriarchal world.

For Niaz, the journey began in 1992, just after Babri Masjid, a mosque in Ayodhya, was demolished. What followed was communal violence across the country. Eighteen Muslims were murdered in Ayodhya following the demolition and houses and shops torched. Across the country, including in Mumbai, around 2,000 people were killed.

This communal violence and insecurity were the reasons Muslim women emerged as community leaders, she said.

“By this time, there was also a deeper understanding of all issues, especially of the core basic need for education, livelihood, health, security,” Niaz says. “Additionally, we also had seen from close quarters the legal discrimination that Muslim women faced because of lack of a codified Muslim family law.”

This became the core demand of the  BMMA because “we knew that if we don’t demand it, nobody else will. ‘Our Struggle, Our Leadership’ became our slogan. Muslim women must lead based on the values of the Holy Quran and the Indian Constitution. (She must) demand her rights which emanate from her religion and her identity as a citizen of this country,” Niaz says in an exclusive interview with IPS.

“Zakia approached me with the idea of a national platform, and that is how it all began. We worked for two years on the vision, mission, objectives, values and principles that would govern the movement, with other women leaders,” she said.

After speaking to other Muslim women leaders in various states and after two years of deliberations, in 2007, BMMA was formally launched.

Since its formation, BMMA has been leading change from within on various fronts.

Soman and Niaz recall the various victories and associate these with the relentless struggle of the members who continued to fight for their rights despite little to no resources and often felt the community’s ire for “daring to demand their rights’.

One such victory was the Haji Ali judgement which reversed a prohibition of women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the religious shrine, Dargah/Shrine. BMMA had filed the Public Interest Litigation or PIL to stop the discriminatory practice. It was a victory endorsed by the Supreme Court of India and paved the way for women from other communities to demand the end of discrimination at religious places.

Another significant achievement was the filing of a PIL against triple divorce, polygamy and halala. The BMMA was a significant group that had the practice of triple divorce, a method where Muslim men could divorce their wives by merely pronouncing the term ‘Talaaq’ or divorce, thrice to them, abolished in 2019.

Forming Darul-Uloom-e-Niswaan and training 20 women to become qazis or religious scholars is a first in India and considered by both as a major achievement.

“Some of the women whom we have trained have even performed Nikahs (religious weddings), challenging patriarchal norms,” adds Niaz.

Despite the resource crunch and criticism, the leaders in the states and members continue to work with the most marginalised women, addressing issues ranging from applying scholarship schemes for their children and training them in livelihood skills to empowering them with information on Constitutional and Quranic rights

Most of the leaders run centres from their homes, many in poor ghettos to reach those in most need.

The movement and its leaders have been criticised for addressing women’s rights when Islamophobia and communal violence are on the rise.

Change and reform are slow and require continuous efforts and support from the larger community and progressive forces, according to Soman.

“It is not easy to take on the patriarchal religious establishment that has ruled over the community mindsets for decades. Neither is it easy to fight a discriminatory communal order in the face of state apathy,” says Soman.

“I do not care about the opinions of vested interests. I am satisfied when I look at how dozens of the riot survivor women have turned out to be fiery activists in the last two decades,” Soman says. BMMA has created leaders across the country.

“These women were voiceless in the cacophony of conservative men of religion. (The leaders) have now shown the whole world that gender justice is intrinsic to Islam. They have changed the perception about their religion in the eyes of ordinary Indians,” she says.

The path chosen was never easy. They were asked why the State should be involved in matters of shariah. They were insulted and called stooges of the right-right-wing Hindutva. This criticism came from both religious groups and the so-called secular-liberal feminists

With the additional challenge of COVID-19, Niaz is confident that the path chosen is the right one.

“Amid the heightened Islamophobia, lynchings and open calls for annihilating the community by the state and state-backed Hindutva forces, how can BMMA continue to speak for family law reforms in favour of Muslim women,” they were asked

Niaz’s answer is emphatic.

“Because if we don’t continue to speak and highlight the issue, nobody else will.”

The two women and the leaders from the Indian states, bound by shared objectives of empowering and uplifting Muslim women, find strength in each other. Niaz reflects on this relationship.

“We bond with each other within BMMA. I would like to believe we are soul-mates born with a common divinely sanctioned purpose. Just being with each other, talking to each other gives us strength.”

 


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Fighting Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting in Asia – Podcast

Female genital mutilation, or FGM. It’s a practice that happens in numerous African countries, in which girls’ genitalia are removed or cut, for cultural or religious reasons. FGM has been condemned globally for years and campaigners continue working to end it. But what might surprise you is that FGM happens in Asia too.

By Marty Logan
KATHMANDU, Dec 10 2021 – I suspect that most of you have at least heard of female genital mutilation, or FGM. It’s a practice that happens in numerous African countries, in which girls’ genitalia are removed or cut, for cultural or religious reasons. FGM has been condemned globally for years and campaigners continue working to end it.

But what might surprise you is that FGM happens in Asia too. And not just in one or two countries. According to today’s guest, Keshia Mahmood from Malaysia-based non-profit ARROW, the practice occurs in as many as 13 countries in both Southeast Asia and South Asia. That shocked me. I think I’m pretty well informed, and I lived in Malaysia for four years, but I didn’t know about FGM happening there. Interestingly, the United Nations joint programme to eliminate FGM works in 17 countries, but none of them are in Asia.

Keshia explains why FGM in Asia — which she refers to as FGM/C, or female genital mutilation or cutting — has been so under-exposed, but how that started changing after its elimination was included in one of the Sustainable Development Goals, whose deadline is 2030. Still, ending it will be a huge challenge, in part because practising communities believe that it is a much less invasive version of FGM than those performed in African countries. Another impediment is the growing medicalization of the practice, which lends it an air of legitimacy.

Keshia also discusses a new initiative co-led by ARROW called the Asia Network to end FGM/C, and some of the avenues it is pursuing to support partners working on the ground to end the practice. They have their work cut out for them: every year more than 1 million girls in Asia are cut in the name of culture and religion.

 

 

Female genital mutilation, or FGM. It’s a practice that happens in numerous African countries, in which girls’ genitalia are removed or cut, for cultural or religious reasons. FGM has been condemned globally for years and campaigners continue working to end it. But what might surprise you is that FGM happens in Asia too.

‘Great Mining Migration’: Power-Hungry Bitcoin Leaves China

Bitcoin - Responsibility for addressing the cryptocurrency’s rising energy appetite is now shifting to the US, Canada and Kazakhstan – and Latin America

A worker checks the fans at the cryptocurrency farming operation, Bitfarms, in Quebec, Canada (image: Alamy)

By Joe Coroneo-Seaman
LONDON, Dec 10 2021 – On 14 April this year, the price of a single Bitcoin reached a then all-time-high of around US$64,870. Just over a month later, the price of the world’s most popular digital currency had tumbled to $34,259.

A significant driver behind this sudden drop was the news that China had begun a sweeping crackdown on the cryptocurrency industry, driven by concerns about financial risk and excessive energy consumption. Bitcoin “mining” – the process by which transactions are verified and new coins are created – is highly energy intensive, leading to criticism of the currency’s oversized carbon footprint.

Before the clampdown, China accounted for two-thirds of Bitcoin mining worldwide. In the months since, mining companies have been quick to move their operations overseas. Recent data suggests that energy consumed by Bitcoin has increased in the US, Canada and Kazakhstan, and with it, pressure to address the currency’s soaring electricity appetite.

 

Power-hungry Bitcoin mining

Bitcoin is a decentralised digital currency, meaning that each time money is sent or received, the transaction is kept on a public record, rather than with a bank. But in the absence of a trusted authority to verify each transaction, the responsibility falls to participants in the Bitcoin network known as “miners”.

Herein lies Bitcoin’s energy problem. The more computing power you can muster, the more often you will be first to solve the puzzle and earn the Bitcoin. And the machines used to mine Bitcoin – application-specific integrated units (ASICs) – consume a lot of energy, to say the least.

To verify transactions, miners connect computers to the cryptocurrency network and use them to solve incredibly complex, randomly generated mathematical puzzles. But not just any computer will do the job: Bitcoin mining requires running multiple specialised computers almost 24/7 in order to achieve the computing power needed to find the solution.

Whoever solves the puzzle first is allowed to add a “block” of transactions to the global ledger, and is rewarded with a small amount of newly minted Bitcoin.

Herein lies Bitcoin’s energy problem. The more computing power you can muster, the more often you will be first to solve the puzzle and earn the Bitcoin. And the machines used to mine Bitcoin – application-specific integrated units (ASICs) – consume a lot of energy, to say the least.

In one year, the entire Bitcoin network consumes around 120 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy, or more than the whole of the Netherlands, according to estimates by Cambridge University’s Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI). If Bitcoin were a country, it would rank 32nd in the world by annual electricity consumption.

“That’s the price we pay to secure transactions,” says Anton Dek, cryptoasset and blockchain lead at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, and one of the creators of the index. Bitcoin’s energy usage isn’t an accidental by-product, he explains. Mining Bitcoin is purposefully designed to be costly – both in terms of electricity and money – to prevent would-be hackers from taking over the network.

So far, it seems to have worked. “We haven’t seen any double spending or any attacks on the network, partially because this attack would be too expensive. So it kind of makes sense, though that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be of concern,” says Dek.

 

Bitcoin mining: A climate disaster?

Bitcoin’s energy footprint has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2017, economics blog Digiconomist estimated that the network of specialised mining computers used 29 TWh annually, equal to 0.13% of total global electricity consumption. This had grown to around 0.65% by May this year, according to CBECI data.ƒcbeci

Unchecked, Bitcoin mining operations in China alone were set to generate 130.5 million metric tons of CO2 by 2024, around the same as the total annual emissions of the Czech Republic, according to a 2021 study in the journal Nature.

 

Crackdown

Since President Xi Jinping pledged last year that China would aim to be carbon neutral by 2060, the government’s stance on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining has hardened.

The first sign came in March this year, when Inner Mongolia announced it would phase out cryptocurrency mining entirely after the province failed to meet its 2020 target for reducing energy consumption.

Then in May, China’s Vice Premier Liu He declared at a State Council meeting that the government intended to “crackdown on Bitcoin mining and trading”.

Regional governments were quick to act, revoking licences of companies involved in cryptocurrency mining, cutting off power to mining facilities and in some cases giving firms just seven days to shut down their operations. By the end of June, one industry expert estimated that 90% of China’s Bitcoin mining centres – more than half of the global total at the time – had gone offline. In the same month, Bitcoin’s total electricity footprint was cut in half, according to CBECI data.

 

Mass exodus

“The crackdown in China has resulted in a mass exodus of miners,” explains Peter Wall, CEO of North American cryptocurrency mining firm Argo Blockchain. “Displaced Chinese miners are searching the globe for appropriate hosting sites for their machines.”

Countries with access to cheap electricity like Canada, Russia, Kazakhstan and, especially, the United States are now seeing a surge in interest from Chinese miners looking to partner with local firms. Latin American nations with similarly affordable electricity rates and a weak institutional framework for the industry are also emerging as destinations for the industry.

Venezuela and Paraguay are among those looking to attract miners unable to operate in China and Argentina could become a global bitcoin mining destination, with Canada-based Bitfarms announcing it had begun construction of a 210 MW Bitcoin mining facility in Argentina, the largest in the country. The mine will source its power directly from the Maranzana gas power station.

In September, El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele made headlines when he adopted the currency as legal tender, despite experts voicing concerns that the attendant increase in demand for electricity would make the country more dependent on energy imports than it already is.

So how will this “great mining migration”, as it is described in cryptocurrency circles, shape Bitcoin’s carbon footprint?

“We hope that the long-term impact of this migration is the re-installation of machines in jurisdictions in which mining operations can be powered by renewable energy,” says Wall.

The short-term reality may not be so rosy. In July, Beijing-based crypto-mining giant Bitmain agreed to move a batch of its mining machines to a 180 megawatt (MW) facility in Kazakhstan whose electricity is supplied by a local coal power plant. Given that just 1% of Kazakhstan’s energy mix is renewables, this may not be a one-off. In Canada, oil and gas company Black Rock Petroleum has agreed to host up to 1 million Bitcoin-mining machines relocated from China, with the first 200,000 units sourcing power directly from a natural gas well.

The new global hub of Bitcoin mining, however, is expected to be the US state of Texas. The state’s governor, Greg Abbott, is actively courting the cryptocurrency industry, tweeting in June that “Texas is open for crypto business.” Shenzhen-based BIT Mining plans to invest $26 million in a 57 MW facility in the state.

Texas offers “huge possibilities for mining to utilise renewable sources” says Wall. He points out that in the west of the state, wind turbines power 90% of the grid. Overall, however, the Texas energy grid is made up of just over one-fifth renewable energy, and has proven fragile in extreme weather conditions.

 

Greening Bitcoin

CBECI data now shows Bitcoin’s electricity consumption is climbing once again. As the network becomes more distributed across the globe, what options remain for tackling the currency’s carbon footprint?

One solution may be to rethink how Bitcoin transactions are verified. The current method is called “Proof of Work” because participants must do the work of mining to verify transactions.

The most commonly proposed alternative is “Proof of Stake”. This removes computing power from the equation. Instead of competing against each other, participants who have first made a deposit in Bitcoin are selected at random to verify transactions. The larger the deposit, the greater the chance of being selected and earning the reward.

Several smaller cryptocurrencies already use this method. Ethereum, one of Bitcoin’s main competitors, is expected to make the switch later this year, but some in the industry remain sceptical.

“We have no plans to shift away from Proof of Work,” says Wall. Miners will inevitably migrate to the cheapest electricity available on the grid and increasingly that is not coal, oil or gas plants, he argues. “We are at a point where renewable power is the same price or lower than power generated by fossil fuels.”

“It may be too late for existing digital currencies like Bitcoin to change their methods of confirming transactions,” agrees Truby, of Qatar University. The best option is to “focus on mitigating mining devices’ energy consumption by improving the devices and providing them with renewable energy,” he says.

Norway and Iceland, with their plentiful supply of geothermal, hydroelectric and wind power, have been using renewable energy to power cryptocurrency mining for years. El Salvador also claimed that its Bitcoin mining operations would be powered by “100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy” from a volcano.

Against a backdrop of growing pressure on energy-intensive industries of all kinds to address their contribution to global carbon emissions, Wall is frank about the need for cryptocurrency to adapt: “Proving that crypto can be sustainable is pivotal to its success. The future of energy is green and renewable, so the future of crypto must reflect that.”

This article was originally published by ChinaDialogue

Q&A: Femicides, Domestic Violence and Online Violence Have Been Exacerbated

Gladys Acosta, a Peruvian lawyer and sociologist who is the chair of the CEDAW Committee, considered the fundamental charter of women's rights in the world, stands on a stretch of the Costa Verde boardwalk in Lima after her interview with IPS. The Convention celebrated its 40th anniversary in September 2021. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Gladys Acosta, a Peruvian lawyer and sociologist who is the chair of the CEDAW Committee, considered the fundamental charter of women’s rights in the world, stands on a stretch of the Costa Verde boardwalk in Lima after her interview with IPS. The Convention celebrated its 40th anniversary in September 2021. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Dec 10 2021 – “The level of injustice in the world cannot go on like this…I am not pessimistic about the future,” said Gladys Acosta, president of the CEDAW Committee, in an interview with IPS in the Peruvian capital.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) celebrated its 40th anniversary in September of this year as the binding legal tool for women’s rights for all 189 states parties.

Acosta, a Peruvian feminist lawyer and sociologist, chairs the Committee of 23 independent experts with four-year mandates to monitor the implementation of the Convention.

After an intense period of sessions, Acosta is in Lima and will return in 2022 to her duties in Geneva, where the Committee operates, to finish her term. Until then, she will enjoy her view of the Pacific Ocean and the soothing murmur of the waves for a few weeks.

After stating that she is not pessimistic about the future, she adds that, on the contrary, “I am very critical and pessimistic about what is happening today.”

“We are reaching the limit of an era that is in its death throes because the level of injustice in the world cannot go on like this,” said the expert, who has previously held senior regional positions in United Nations agencies.

Among the issues addressed in her conversation with IPS, Acosta mentioned the importance of analyzing gender-based violence as part of the systemic discrimination against women, and said the pandemic is marking a before and after not only in relation to this problem, but also a change of era where the question of caring for people becomes much more of a priority.

IPS: Do you consider that the covid-19 pandemic marks a before and after in relation to discrimination against women, a step backwards in terms of achievements? Is it possible to make this interpretation?

GLADYS ACOSTA: I think that this will be the case for everything, not just for women, discrimination or human rights; I dare to think that it will be seen as a change of era. We are coming from an era with the greatest concentration of wealth in the history of the world, with a population in growing poverty, which is reaching unsustainable levels.

It is very important to develop this awareness, because we have been sold the idea that having money or buying goods is the non plus ultra of everything. We are in a post-neoliberal world and nobody knows for sure how far we have come, but we are at a breaking point because this economy based on the exploitation of territories, of people, of knowledge is a constant illicit appropriation of everything, and today with the pandemic it has come to light that human beings need care.

This has become a central focus and has been put on the agenda; the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that the presence of this virus has been exacerbated in the absence of care.

(Acosta vehemently recalled that many years ago feminist economics proposed that the economic system could not live without women’s work, especially unpaid work. And she called for an analysis of the current situation with fresh eyes and making better connections in order to, for example, “stop looking at the growing problem of violence against women as something dislocated, a loose wheel”.)

When we in the Committee took a position regarding Nov. 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), we saw that three forms of violence have been exacerbated: femicides, domestic violence and violence online, which has become widespread.

So, yes, there are some new things, but it is very clear that we have not resolved the basic forms of discrimination that are at the basis of society, which include social, political, economic, racial and cultural violence – and in places where there are castes: caste-based violence. There is a discriminatory base that is at its peak and I think it is a serious moment of very unequal and very unjust power relations that I view with great concern.

IPS: At the moment you describe, there is resistance put up by different population groups – young people, feminists, indigenous people – but it is difficult to bring them together in a concerted effort, as seen in Peru and other Latin American countries. Is this a great challenge?

GA: We are living in a highly conflictive time, it is not that we are being swept away by a right wing with no resistance. No. We are in a time of open conflict between political sectors, economic sectors, social sectors and there is a very clear resistance. And I am thinking on a global level, more globally as part of the Committee, not only with regard to what is happening in Peru. The environmental crises are very serious and covid has to do with that.

This is not an epidemic that can be seen as detached from human aggression against nature. Environmental crises accelerated in the twentieth century due to the model of industrialization, production and economic development. Now they are trying to reverse the situation, but global agreements are not easy and do not bear the desired fruits quickly because there are enormous economic interests involved.

Interests that are prepared to kill the planet! They say: “What does it matter, in thirty years we won’t be here.” Just like that, with an atrocious pragmatism. And within these environmental conflicts, we women bear the brunt.

Secondly, there is the social conflict that takes place within and outside these circumstances. And there is an atmosphere of conflict, I would say violent, armed, in different parts of the world and it has to do with this madness of arms production, because this is a war-economic model that produces and sells arms left and right.

And the big countries, even those that seem very democratic and progressive – and I say this because I see it in the Committee – are big producers of arms and sell them to countries that have conflicts and this has repercussions on women’s lives.

(Acosta explained that the Committee would address this problem with arms-producing nations and expects the resistance movement to grow. “The problem I find is that this perversity in the economy is unfortunately linked to a dominance in mass media and with a top-level technology. And I think that these elements, which are more macro, have to be included in the analysis of women’s issues”.)

Gladys Acosta sits on Lima's malecon or boardwalk after an intense year as chair of the CEDAW Committee, made up of 23 independent experts who monitor compliance with the Convention against all forms of discrimination against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Gladys Acosta sits on Lima’s malecon or boardwalk after an intense year as chair of the CEDAW Committee, made up of 23 independent experts who monitor compliance with the Convention against all forms of discrimination against women. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

IPS: Ecofeminists warn of the risk to the sustainability of life, indigenous peoples warn of the threat to nature as long as there are weak or complicit States. How does the Committee contribute to this reflection?

GA: First of all, States still exist. Although the economic power of transnational corporations is enormous, this is the sphere in which we move, we discuss with the States Parties, of which there are 189 in this Convention, in an interesting dynamic of pressure to respect international human rights standards, among which international standards for the protection of women’s rights are very important.

Women’s rights have an enormous connection with the sustainability of life, but not from an essentialist point of view. You brought up the issue of indigenous peoples and it seems to me that in many ways we are discussing a general recommendation on the rights of indigenous women and girls. There is an ancestral indigenous wisdom, especially that of women, which must be protected in a more effective sense.

There is an enormous knowledge about nature, food, seeds and seed reproduction; knowledge about how nature is suffering – they know the symptoms of this suffering and how we could do things differently. It is knowledge that has been handed down through the generations and that fortunately still exists and must be protected.

IPS: In another interview with IPS, in 2009, when you were regional representative of the predecessor organization of UN Women, you said that policies should not see women as a vulnerable sector; do you think there has been progress against that vision described as paternalistic?

GA: I would say there are both. It seems to me that the mobilization today in the world in favor of women’s rights is much more powerful, broader and more political. I think that in different countries you find everything, equality policies that have been very positive and that have opened the way for greater respect of women’s rights and greater access to education, university and work.

I would even say that the issue of parity has advanced despite the fact that something that worries me is also appearing, which is that some very retrograde sectors are taking advantage of the issue and want to make it their own when in reality the only thing they are looking for is more power for themselves. Women end up being nothing more than decorative elements within their political stance.

(Acosta highlighted in this context the emergence of younger movements, of young people who demand more power, and who have more vision about which direction to take than adults and older people, and said she had confidence in these movements, while clarifying that she meant the ones that take a “critical stance”.)

That is why I am not pessimistic about the future. I am very critical and pessimistic about what is happening today, but I do not think that this will remain the same. That is why I say that we are reaching the limit of an era that is in its death throes because the level of injustice in the world cannot go on like this.

This is going to explode and hopefully the damage to people will be minimal. But I know that the level of conflict will not remain unchanged.

Excerpt:

Mariela Jara interviews GLADYS ACOSTA, Chair of the CEDAW Committee.

This article is part of IPS coverage of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence that began on Nov. 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and end on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.