UN Global Compact launches Africa Business Leaders Coalition to advance climate action and sustainable growth across the continent

New York, U.S.A., May 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Convened by the UN Global Compact, Chief Executive Officers from across Africa today announced the launch of the Africa Business Leaders Coalition (ABLC).

The Coalition will provide a platform for African business leaders to have a unified private sector voice as they actively and meaningfully engage to work on the continent's most pressing issues through an organized, forward–looking, principles–based approach.

The Africa Business Leaders Coalition is a CEO–led initiative emanating from the UN Global Compact Africa Strategy 2021""2023, and is committed to advancing sustainable growth, prosperity and development in Africa by bringing measurable impact to its most pressing issues. The ABLC will work closely with the UN Global Compact Hub in Abuja and 10 Global Compact Local Networks operating across Africa.

Ahead of COP27 to be held in Egypt in November 2022, the ABLC will focus its efforts on sustainable development and ambitious climate action by bringing the perspectives of dozens of leading African CEOs and Board Chairs into the global conversation. This will culminate in an ABLC Climate Statement in support of COP27, anchored in the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Global Compact Ten Principles. ABLC members will be invited to sign on and announce credible commitments and actions through this Climate Statement.

Welcoming the founding members of the Africa Business Leaders Coalition, UN Deputy Secretary–General Amina Mohammed urged them to use their influence to drive change across the continent. "This is an opportunity to establish a holistic dialogue to reconcile the development needs of the continent with the need for ambitious climate action, jumpstart the renewable energy transition, and build resilience across the continent," she said.

Launching the ABLC, Assistant Secretary–General and CEO of the UN Global Compact Sanda Ojiambo said: "Climate change presents a $3 trillion investment opportunity in Africa by 2030. But this potential will not be realized unless the private sector is involved. This Coalition has a critical role to play in ensuring the voice of Africa's private sector is heard on the global stage to ensure the continent's growth is not only sustainable but also green."

The 11 founding members of ABLC include Herbert Wigwe, CEO, Access Bank, Nigeria; Brahim Benjelloun Touimi, Chairman, Bank of Africa, Morocco; Hichem Elloumi, Chairman and CEO, COFICAB; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman, Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe; James Mwangi, CEO and Managing Director, Equity Group, Kenya; Karim Bernoussi, CEO, Intelcia Group, Morocco; Phuthi" Mahanyele–Dabengwa, CEO, Naspers, South Africa; Yasmine Mohamed Farid Khamis, CEO and Chairman, Oriental Weavers Carpets Co., Egypt; Peter Ndegwa, CEO, Safaricom, Kenya; Fleetwood Grobler, President and CEO, Sasol, South Africa; and Amir Barsoum, Founder and CEO, Vezeeta, Egypt.

Members of the ABLC commit to upholding the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and becoming a UN Global Compact participant within six months of joining.

During today's launch, the founding members shared their commitment to sustainability across the continent, focusing on potential company commitments, the sustainability efforts they are making across their communities, a move towards more innovative and robust methods of climate finance, and a call to action for the global community.

The virtual launch event was also attended by leaders from the United Nations, including Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly; Collen Vixen Kelapile, President, United Nations Economic and Social Council; Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary–General, United Nations; Cristina Duarte, Under Secretary–General and Special Adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary–General and Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary–General and CEO of the UN Global Compact. They joined together today to launch the ABLC with Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Climate Change High–level Climate Champion for Egypt.

Boston Consulting Group is providing strategy and implementation support to the UN Global Compact for the Africa Business Leaders Coalition. Today's inaugural meeting was Chaired by Sanda Ojiambo with support from Patrick Dupoux, Managing Director, Senior Partner, and Head of Africa, BCG.

Today's launch will be followed by six regional roundtable meetings in Abidjan, Cairo, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi in June and July to discuss, shape and mobilize principled and sustainable business in Africa.

About the United Nations Global Compact

As a special initiative of the UN Secretary–General, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti–corruption. Our ambition is to accelerate and scale the global collective impact of business by upholding the Ten Principles and delivering the Sustainable Development Goals through accountable companies and ecosystems that enable change. With more than 15,000 companies and 3,000 non–business signatories based in over 160 countries, and 69 Local Networks, the UN Global Compact is the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative "" one Global Compact uniting business for a better world.

For more information, follow @globalcompact on social media and visit our website at unglobalcompact.org and Africa Business Leaders Coalition | UN Global Compact

Media Contact

Alex Gee


Sudden regulatory changes are “challenging” but will develop the region into a first-class business destination, say experts

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, May 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — According to a report released this week, "challenging" or "extremely challenging" is how 51% of legal decision–makers surveyed describe sudden changes to regulatory policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The new report also highlighted, that it is not just the pace at which new regulation is being introduced that provides a challenge, but decoding and then enforcing it.

The report, entitled "Legal Leaders in MENA," was commissioned by Al Tamimi & Company to investigate, and lift the lid, on what is keeping the region's legal decision–makers awake at night, and what are the emerging risks and priorities challenging the legal sector across the region. The report captured the views of 700 legal decision–makers across nine countries and 13 industry sectors in the MENA region.

The Legal Leaders in MENA report acknowledges that, while the regulatory environment continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the initiatives being put in place will continue to develop the region into a first–class business destination. The report further identifies that the frequent introduction of new regulatory policy has challenged businesses to stay abreast of legal change. This is reflected by the emphasis businesses are placing on the role of legal decision makers within their organisations, with 54% of respondents stating they now have a seat on their board of directors, or equivalent. Furthermore, 90% of legal decision–makers surveyed revealed that they are now advising on corporate strategy.

The report examines a number of pertinent areas that are high on the legal agenda, including the rise of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). The growing importance of ESG is highlighted within the report, with a massive 94% of legal decision–makers occasionally, or regularly, assessing ESG risk and compliance within their role. Unsurprisingly, 80% of legal decision–makers expect ESG considerations to become more important to their work in the coming years. As ESG transitions into the realm of legal and compliance, the report makes it clear that legal decision–makers will play a central role in the implementation of future ESG policies.

"We welcome the progress being made in the regulatory landscape across the region," said Samer Qudah, Managing Partner at Al Tamimi & Company. "The Legal Leaders in MENA report has highlighted a fast–changing environment, implementation of modern technology, and prominence of ESG as key factors to which the legal community must pay close attention. We will act on this information and ensure our legal teams are regularly upskilled to handle the progressive legal landscape in the region. This will in turn ensure we are equipped to meet the growing demands of our clients and fulfil our evolving role as advisors."

Commenting on the launch of the 2022 Legal Leaders in MENA report, Essam Al Tamimi, Chairman, Al Tamimi & Company, said:
"The regulatory changes and updates being implemented are positive and will align the region with international standards. It is clear, that against a challenging backdrop our role as legal decision–makers is growing in importance, and this can be seen by our increasing influence on corporate strategy. As we navigate our way through a rapidly developing legal landscape, clients will look to us for guidance, answers, and advice more than ever before. We will ensure we are prepared and stand ready to support our clients."

Legal Leaders in MENA – Other key findings:

  • Covid fails to deter investment
    • 43% of legal decision–makers say their companies are planning to increase future investment in the growth of their company, with another 35% holding investment firm.
  • Africa is the investment destination of choice
    • legal decision–makers we surveyed looking to enter new geographies, 81% are looking to expand their operations in Africa.
  • Technology and innovation will underpin growth
    • 48% of the legal decision–makers surveyed have increased their investment in digital capabilities in 2021 compared to the year before.
    • 69% see business model innovation as important, while 39% of legal decision–makers see innovation as core to their business.
  • Legal under the spotlight
    • The top three most pressing risk and compliance issues that legal decision–makers need to address in 2022 are – new financial standards and taxation, changing ownership regulations and new health and employee welfare/employment standards.

A copy of the 2022 Legal Leaders in MENA report can be downloaded here

Amit Joshi
Al Tamimi & Company
+971 (0) 525581217

Photos accompanying this announcement are available at:



Mullen Automotive Announces Impressive Solid-State Polymer Battery Test Results

Results from Indiana's Battery Innovation Center (BIC) shows Mullen Automotive's solid–state polymer battery cell testing exceeds previously stated values of 300 Ah (ampere–hour) at 3.7 volts.

BIC testing shows impressive results of 343.28 Ah at 4.2 volts for Mullen's solid–state polymer battery cell, which is in line with previously reported results from EV Grid.

This data supports solid–state polymer battery cell technology, which when scaled to the vehicle pack level, and at a 150–kilowatt hour equivalent, can deliver over 600 miles of range on a full charge for the Mullen FIVE EV Crossover.

BREA, Calif., May 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — via InvestorWire — Mullen Automotive, Inc. (NASDAQ: MULN) ("Mullen" or the "Company"), an emerging electric vehicle ("EV") manufacturer, announces results of Mullen's solid–state polymer battery testing with the Battery Innovation Center (BIC) in Indiana. Testing results from BIC show the solid–state polymer cell, rated at 300 Ah and 3.7 volts, tested in at 343.28 Ah at 4.2 volts, exceeding expectation and in line with test tolerance from previous EV Grid test results.

Testing conducted at Battery Innovation Center (BIC) in Indiana, show Mullen's solid–state polymer cell coming in at 343.28 Ah at 4.2 volts, which is in line with previously quoted test results from EV Grid. In EV Grid's testing, the solid–state battery cell was rated at 300 Ah at 3.7 volts, with the battery yielding 343 Ah at 4.3 volts. The test data collected from both BIC and EV Grid have exceeded expected test tolerance and show an impressive outcome and future for solid–state batteries.

It is expected that with this technology, when scaled to the vehicle pack level, a 150–kilowatt hour solid–state battery can deliver over 600 miles of range on a full charge for the Mullen FIVE EV Crossover. In general, solid–state batteries offer higher energy density, faster charging time, smaller size and safety compared to traditional lithium–ion cells.

"I'm impressed with the ongoing performance of the solid–state cell after going thru multiple intense testing sessions from accredited testing facilities," said David Michery, CEO and chairman of Mullen Automotive. "The battery has performed exceptionally well, and I'm pleased with the results from BIC in Indiana."

"We are pleased to see that the results from on–going testing are in–line with those previously notated," said Ben Wrightsman, president and CEO of Battery Innovation Center. "The cell thus far has performed as stated, and we will continue to test additional parameters to characterize the overall capabilities and performance."

Mullen recently announced the "Strikingly Different" U.S. Test Drive Tour, covering 19 cities across the U.S. The tour will begin this fall in Southern California and work its way throughout the U.S. Further details can be found here, or place your Mullen FIVE reservation here.

About Battery Innovation Center (BIC)
BIC is a collaborative initiative designed to incorporate leadership from renowned universities, government agencies and commercial enterprises. The Battery Innovation Center focuses on the rapid development, testing and commercialization of safe, reliable and lightweight energy storage systems for defense and commercial customers.

About Mullen
Mullen is a Southern California–based automotive company that owns and partners with several synergistic businesses working toward the unified goal of creating clean and scalable energy solutions. Mullen has evolved over the past decade in sync with consumers and technology trends. Today, the Company is working diligently to provide exciting EV options built entirely in the United States and made to fit perfectly into the American consumer's life. Mullen strives to make EVs more accessible than ever by building an end–to–end ecosystem that takes care of all aspects of EV ownership.

Forward–Looking Statements
Certain statements in this press release that are not historical facts are forward–looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Any statements contained in this press release that are not statements of historical fact may be deemed forward–looking statements. Words such as “continue,” “will,” “may,” “could,” “should,” “expect,” “expected,” “plans,” “intend,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential,” and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward–looking statements. All forward–looking statements involve significant risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward–looking statements, many of which are generally outside the control of Mullen and are difficult to predict. Examples of such risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to whether the solid–state polymer battery cell technology, which when scaled to the vehicle pack level will function as expected or will deliver over 600 miles of range on a full charge, whether the Company will achieve its objectives of launching its EV crossover, the FIVE within anticipated timelines and if so, if the FIVE will be a success; whether production of its own EV battery packs will be successful, reduce dependency on third–party suppliers or result in lower costs and increased overall quality; and whether the Company's partnerships with ARRK, Drr, and DSA Systems and Over the Air (OTA) will result in expediting the rollout of the FIVE. Additional examples of such risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to (i) Mullen's ability (or inability) to obtain additional financing in sufficient amounts or on acceptable terms when needed; (ii) Mullen's ability to maintain existing, and secure additional, contracts with manufacturers, parts and other service providers relating to its business; (iii) Mullen's ability to successfully expand in existing markets and enter new markets; (iv) Mullen's ability to successfully manage and integrate any acquisitions of businesses, solutions or technologies; (v) unanticipated operating costs, transaction costs and actual or contingent liabilities; (vi) the ability to attract and retain qualified employees and key personnel; (vii) adverse effects of increased competition on Mullen's business; (viii) changes in government licensing and regulation that may adversely affect Mullen's business; (ix) the risk that changes in consumer behavior could adversely affect Mullen's business; and (x) Mullen's ability to protect its intellectual property; (xi) local, industry and general business and economic conditions. Additional factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward–looking statements can be found in the most recent annual report on Form 10–K, quarterly reports on Form 10–Q and current reports on Form 8–K filed by Mullen with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mullen anticipates that subsequent events and developments may cause its plans, intentions and expectations to change. Mullen assumes no obligation, and it specifically disclaims any intention or obligation, to update any forward–looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as expressly required by law. Forward–looking statements speak only as of the date they are made and should not be relied upon as representing Mullen's plans and expectations as of any subsequent date.

Mullen Automotive, Inc.
+1 (714) 613–1900

Wire Service Contact:
InvestorWire (IW)
Los Angeles, California
212.418.1217 Office

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/63c3ecc9–89e0–45ef–9527–02cd595a7627

Sanctions Now Weapons of Mass Starvation

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 2022 – US and allied economic sanctions against Russia for its illegal invasion of Ukraine have not achieved their declared objectives. Instead, they are worsening economic stagnation and inflation worldwide. Worse, they are exacerbating hunger, especially in Africa.

Sanctions cut both ways
Unless approved by the UN Security Council (UNSC), sanctions are not authorized by international law. With Russia’s veto in the UNSC, unilateral sanctions by the US and its allies have surged following the Ukraine invasion.

During 1950-2016, ‘comprehensive’ trade sanctions have cut bilateral trade between sanctioning countries and their victims by 77% on average. The US has imposed more sanctions regimes, and for longer periods, than any other country.

Unilateral imposition of sanctions has accelerated over the past 15 years. During 1990-2005, the US imposed about a third of sanctions regimes around the world, with the European Union (EU) also significant.

The US has increased using sanctions since 2016, imposing them on more than 1,000 entities or individuals yearly, on average, from 2016 to 2020 – nearly 80% more than in 2008-2015. The one-term Trump administration raised the US share of all new sanctions to almost half from a third before.

During January-May 2022, 75 countries implemented 19,268 restrictive trade measures. Such measures on food and fertilizers (85%) greatly exceed those on raw materials and fuels (15%). Unsurprisingly, the world now faces less supplies and higher prices for fuel and food.

Monetary authorities have been raising interest rates to curb inflation, but such efforts do not address the main causes of higher prices now. Worse, they are likely to deepen and prolong stagnation, increasing the likelihood of ‘stagflation’.

Sanctions were supposed to bring Russia to its knees. But less than three months after the rouble plunged, its exchange rate is back to pre-war levels, rising from the ‘rouble rubble’ promised by Western economic warmongers. With enough public support, the Russian regime is in no hurry to submit to sanctions.

Sanctions pushing up food prices
War and sanctions are now the main drivers of increased food insecurity. Russia and Ukraine produce almost a third of world wheat exports, nearly 20% of corn (maize) exports and close to 80% of sunflower seed products, including oil. Related Black Sea shipping blockades have helped keep Russian exports down.

All these have driven up world prices for grain and oilseeds, raising food costs for all. As of 19 May, the Agricultural Price Index was up 42% from January 2021, with wheat prices 91% higher and corn up 55%.

The World Bank’s April 2022 Commodity Markets Outlook notes the war has changed world production, trade and consumption. It expects prices to be historically high, at least through 2024, worsening food insecurity and inflation.

Western bans on Russian oil have sharply increased energy prices. Both Russia and its ally, Belarus – also hit by economic sanctions – are major suppliers of agricultural fertilizers – including 38% of potassic fertilizers, 17% of compound fertilizers, and 15% of nitrogenous fertilizers.

Fertilizer prices surged in March, up nearly 20% from two months before, and almost three times higher than in March 2021! Less supplies at higher prices will set back agricultural production for years.

With food agriculture less sustainable, e.g., due to global warming, sanctions are further reducing output and incomes, besides raising food prices in the short and longer term.

Sanctions hurt poor most
Even when supposedly targeted, sanctions are blunt instruments, often generating unintended consequences, sometimes contrary to those intended. Hence, sanctions typically fail to achieve their stated objectives.

Many poor and food insecure countries are major wheat importers from Russia and Ukraine. The duo provided 90% of Somalia’s imports, 80% of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s, and about 40% of both Yemen’s and Ethiopia’s.

It appears the financial blockade on Russia has hurt its smaller and more vulnerable Central Asian neighbours more: 4.5 million from Uzbekistan, 2.4 million from Tajikistan, and almost a million from Kyrgyzstan work in Russia. Difficulties sending remittances cause much hardship to their families at home.

Although not their declared intent, US measures during 1982–2011 hurt the poor more. Poverty levels in sanctioned countries have been 3.8 percentage points higher than in similar countries.

Sanctions also hurt children and other disadvantaged groups much more. Research in 69 countries found sanctions lowered infant weight and increased the likelihood of death before age three. Unsurprisingly, economic sanctions violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Children.

A study of 98 less developed and newly industrialized countries found life expectancy in affected countries reduced by about 3.5 months for every additional year under UNSC sanctions. Thus, an average five-year episode of UNSC approved sanctions reduced life expectancy by 1.2–1.4 years.

World hunger rising
As polemical recriminations between Russia and the US-led coalition intensify over rising food and fuel prices, the world is racing to an “apocalyptic” human “catastrophe”. Higher prices, prolonged shortages and recessions may trigger political upheavals, or worse.

The UN Secretary-General has emphasized, “We need to ensure a steady flow in food and energies through open markets by lifting all unnecessary export restrictions, directing surpluses and reserves to those in need and keeping a lead on food prices to curb market volatility”.

Despite declining World Bank poverty numbers, the number of undernourished has risen from 643 million in 2013 to 768 million in 2020. Up to 811 million people are chronically hungry, while those facing ‘acute food insecurity’ have more than doubled since 2019 from 135 million to 276 million.

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, OXFAM warned, the “hunger virus” could prove even more deadly. The pandemic has since pushed tens of millions into food insecurity.

In 2021, before the Ukraine war, 193 million people in 53 countries were deemed to be facing ‘food crisis or worse’. With the war and sanctions, 83 million – or 43% – more are expected to be victims by the end of 2022.

Source: 2022 Global Report on Food Crises; 2022: projected

Economic sanctions are the modern equivalent of ancient sieges, trying to starve populations into submission. The devastating impacts of sieges on access to food, health and other basic services are well-known.

Sieges are illegal under international humanitarian law. The UNSC has unanimously adopted resolutions demanding the immediate lifting of sieges, e.g., its 2014 Resolution 2139 against civilian populations in Syria.

But veto-wielding permanent Council members are responsible for invading Ukraine and unilaterally imposing sanctions. Hence, the UNSC will typically not act on the impact of sanctions on billions of innocent civilians. No one seems likely to protect them against sanctions, today’s weapons of mass starvation.

IPS UN Bureau


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Davos Fails on Financial Transparency – And Everything Else

By Matti Kohonen
LONDON, May 31 2022 – At this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos which ended last week, the attention of the world’s financial and economic elite was captured by the war in Ukraine whose president Volodimir Zelensky used his address to call to “complete withdrawal of foreign businesses from the Russian market”, despite 380 of the largest multinational companies still operating in Russia.

Many companies still present in Russia were sitting in the audience while Zelensky spoke including HSBC that still maintains operations for existing clients, and Credit Suisse that is scaling them back without signalling that it would pull out of Russia due to the invasion. This is especially troubling given the leaked data in Suisse Secrets about how Credit Suisse oiled the wheels of many oligarchs prior to the Russian Invasion in Ukraine.

The banks at Davos are likely to hold assets of many of the over 6,163 sanctioned Russian individuals and entities despite anti-money laundering efforts to trace these funds hidden behind shell companies. This money in turn is often held in accounts in banks participating at the annual Davos meetings and their assets may never even be revealed due to the lack of stricter banking and financial transparency laws.

Ironically, even talking about these secretive accounts, and the leaks related to these is a criminal offence in Davos under draconian Swiss banking secrecy laws, so raising the issue could get you arrested and fined. Credit Suisse only committed itself to “stop new business in Russia while meaningfully cutting exposure by 56%.” The imbalance is striking, and none of the panels at Davos addressed this uncomfortable issue.

Alarmingly, this signals a business-as-usual approach by many of the top companies represented in Davos, not only failing to tackle Russian oligarchs but more broadly ignoring the issue of offshore funds held by powerful individuals and politicians from the global South.

Revealingly, the event only had 52 participants on the official list from Africa, out of a total of over 1,500 disclosed participants. Winnie Byanyima, director of UN AIDS, was one of them. She called out vaccine inequality and asked delegates to “stop pushing Africa to the back of the queue in terms of vaccine access” and called the patent protection laws a form of institutional racism in times of a global pandemic like COVID-19.

The debt crisis should also have been on the Davos agenda, as on the eve of the opening of Davos on 19 May we saw Sri Lanka descend into a balance of payment and debt crisis as their 30-day grace period to make debt payments to its creditors expired. The dues are mainly due to private creditors who form the largest single creditor group to Sri Lanka, many of whom again such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs were sitting in the audience at Davos, unwilling to commit to debt restructuring of private creditor debt.

Some of these issues were picked up by the annual Global Risk Report, where the key global risks that are identified in the next two years include extreme weather and livelihood crisis, followed by risk of not tackling climate change. Debt ranks as the 8th greatest risk, not something picked up by many of the respondents to the annual survey – of whom 63% were male, and 41% were from the business sector, largely overall represented by Europeans with 44% of all respondents drawn from the region, with only 6% from South Asia.

Why then the media focus on a Davos meeting that fail to deliver anything meaningful? It is a symbol of our age, and a place where the corporate elite get together and offer their view of the world – and where a few critics get to express their opinion about how it is failing to deliver each year. Given the mounting crises we are currently facing, and the role of responsible big business should take, this is plainly not enough.

Matti Kohonen is the director of the Financial Transparency Coalition and previously worked at Christian Aid as the Principal Advisor on the Private Sector, working to ensure that the private sector is a responsible and accountable actor in global development.

IPS UN Bureau


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Conagen’s New Dihydro Resveratrol Made By Clean Bioconversion Inspires Novel Products and Drives Market Growth

Bedford, Mass., May 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Massachusetts–based biotech Conagen announces the development of a new scalable natural compound, dihydro resveratrol, for use in industrial and human health applications. Conagen's dihydro resveratrol is made by bioconversion from p–coumaric acid (pCA), a natural preservative Conagen produced by precision fermentation.

The same proprietary bioconversion technology used to make dihydro resveratrol can be used to make resveratrol and other polyphenol class molecules. Both compounds are natural metabolites of plants, such as berries and grapes, and are commonly found in red wine.

Because resveratrol and dihydro resveratrol exist in only very small quantities in plants, cultivation, extraction, and purification are very inefficient, using more land, water, and energy. Instead, Conagen starts with pCA made using fermentation of microorganisms. Bioconversion of pCA allows Conagen to use a much smaller footprint to make dihydro resveratrol and related compounds.

"The development of dihydro resveratrol demonstrates Conagen's strong capability to manufacture and deliver innovative and versatile compounds for multiple large–scale applications," said Casey Lippmeier, vice president of innovation. "Our proprietary bioconversion and precision fermentation capabilities enable the production of sustainable high–quality polyphenols for use in novel products which drive the growth of new markets."

Resveratrol molecules in the category of polyphenols possess rich antioxidant properties. Its anti–inflammatory and antioxidant activity are linked to protective effects against heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline. Conagen has announced several polyphenol products over the past few years, such as Taxifolin BC–DHQ (dihydroquercetin), kaempferol, Rosaval rosmarinic acid, and hydroxytyrosol, establishing a strong leadership in the development of polyphenol compounds.

In addition to their importance in human health applications for improving the quality of life, dihydro resveratrol and resveratrol are also important industrial intermediates. They offer valuable use in many industrial applications, such as plastic additives, paints, resins, polymers, and high–temperature–resistant biomaterials.

Conagen is working with multiple industrial partners to develop novel applications of dihydro resveratrol, resveratrol, and related compounds.


About Conagen

Conagen is a product–focused, synthetic biology R&D company with large–scale manufacturing service capabilities. Our scientists and engineers use the latest synthetic biology tools to develop high–quality, sustainable, nature–based products by precision fermentation and enzymatic bioconversion. We focus on the bioproduction of high–value ingredients for food, nutrition, flavors and fragrances, pharmaceutical, and renewable materials industries. www.conagen.com


Xenophobia-hit Zimbabweans Saving Country’s Dead Economy

Workers pictured at a home in Zimbabwe’s Mwenezi rural district, where 44-year-old Davison Chihambakwe, based in neighbouring South Africa, has helped upgrade and modernise some of the houses belonging to his family. He uses the money he sends after fleeing this country’s economic hardships 15 years ago. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Workers pictured at a home in Zimbabwe’s Mwenezi rural district, where 44-year-old Davison Chihambakwe, based in neighbouring South Africa, has helped upgrade and modernise some of the houses belonging to his family. He uses the money he sends after fleeing this country’s economic hardships 15 years ago. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
Harare, May 31 2022 – Two decades ago, Trynos Mahamba left Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom, but back home, he has changed the lives of his relatives.

Since the day after he left, Mahamba (53) has been sending money home while Zimbabwe’s economy faltered amidst violent land seizures from commercial white farmers during Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.

In neighbouring South Africa, 44-year-old Davison Chihambakwe, who left this country in 2007, claims he has built a giant construction empire, and, with it, he said, has also made a difference back home.

Even in neighbouring Botswana, 39-year-old Langton Mawere, who left Zimbabwe in 2008 at the height of its economic crisis, has ‘made it’ back home. He has set up a property business by sending money for developments managed by others on his behalf.

Speaking from the United Kingdom, Mahamba says he sends money to his aged parents living in the Zimbabwean capital Harare. The money reaches them through WorldRemit – a money transfer company.

“I have made sure that without failure, I send about 2000 Pounds (sterling) to my ailing parents who are now in their eighties because they need monthly medical check-ups and food as well,” Mahamba told IPS.

From South Africa, Chihambakwe says his family also benefits.

“None of my close relatives or family members are suffering back home because I make sure I send them money to meet their daily needs.”

He sends the money through another international money transfer company Western Union, to his relatives like 32-year-old Denis Sundire, based in Harare.

Sundire says that his SA-based cousin has supported him since college.

“Davison (Chihambakwe) supported me since my college days, and even to this day, as I struggle to get a job, he still sends me money for my upkeep. That’s why he is becoming more and more successful. He is so kind,” Sundire told IPS.

Zimbabwe battles 90 percent unemployment, according to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), although the government has downplayed that to 11 percent, claiming people are working in the informal sector.

Mahamba, Chihambakwe and Mawere all said they fled this Southern African country searching for greener pastures as economic hardships visited this country.

As a result, hundreds of Zimbabwean economic migrants who fled this country have over the years become the panacea to the African nation’s worsening financial woes.

Zimbabwe’s economic migrants like Mahamba, Chihambakwe and Mawere are breathing life into the country’s faltering economy through the remittances they send back home.

Chihambakwe boasts of modernising his rural village in Masvingo province in the Mwenezi district. He claimed he has helped some of his poor villagers build modern houses, doing away with the thatched huts.

For many like Chihambakwe, helping his village and loved ones from his South African base has also increased diaspora remittances into Zimbabwe’s economy.

According to the Ministry of Finance, remittances from outside the country were said to have reached US$1,4 billion in 2021, up from US$1 billion a year before.

Yet even as Zimbabwe’s economic migrants in countries like South Africa make strides, they frequently face xenophobic sentiments and, at times, attacks.

Many South Africans heap blame on migrant Zimbabweans for seizing local jobs and rising crime.

In South Africa, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) results for the fourth quarter of last year showed the official unemployment rate reaching over 35 percent, the highest rate since 2008, when the QLFS began.

Recently, a video of South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi launching a scathing attack on illegal foreign nationals went viral.

He (Motsoaledi) made the remarks on foreign nationals at an ANC regional conference in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

Referring to migrants that he said have flooded South Africa, Motsoaledi said, “something is going wrong in our continent, and SA is on the receiving end.

“When people do wrong things in their countries, they run here.”

“We are the only country that accepts rascals. Even the UN is angry with us that SA has a tendency, because of something called democracy, to accept all the rascals of the world,” the South African Minister was quoted saying.

As Zimbabwean migrants breathe life into their country’s struggling economy via remittances, with xenophobia climbing to new heights in South Africa, a gardener, 43-year-old Elvis Nyathi from Zimbabwe, was this year stoned by a mob in the neighbouring country before being burnt to death ostensibly for being a foreigner.

Recently writing in the Mail & Guardian, South Africa’s Fredson Guilengue working for the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS) regional office in Johannesburg, said “the issue of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals has once again reached disturbing levels in South Africa.

The tensions are also exacerbated by an anti-migrant campaign dubbed Operation Dudula, headed by 36-year-old Nhlanhla ‘Lux’ Dlamini.

Dlamini was arrested and now faces housebreaking, theft, and malicious damage to property charges after Dudula members descended on a suspected “drug house” in Soweto in March.

However, even within the ruling ANC, there have been mixed messages about the operation, with some indicating support, although SA President Cyril Ramaphosa distanced his government from the Dudula machinations.

“The concerns that we have is that we have got a vigilante force-like organisation taking illegal actions against people who they are targeting, and these things often get out of hand, they always mutate into wanton violence against other people”, Ramaphosa said.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Hitachi Energy wins order from Deutsche Bahn to deliver one of the most powerful converter stations in the world

Zurich, Switzerland, May 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Hitachi Energy, the global technology and market leader in power grids, announced today that it has won an order from Deutsche Bahn to provide a 120 megawatt (MW) converter station which enables DB Energie to secure power supply for the Greater Berlin rail network. The network serves a metropolitan population of around 3.5 million people and is the hub for multiple high–speed train services to cities throughout Germany and neighboring countries.

The Thyrow converter station, south of Berlin, will enable Deutsche Bahn to convert electricity from the public three–phase power distribution grid, which operates at a frequency of 50 hertz (Hz) to 16.7 Hz, and feed it into the rail power grid used to power trains and rail infrastructure.

The order follows one awarded last year by Deutsche Bahn to Hitachi Energy for the 160 MW Delitz converter station in the greater Halle/Leipzig area, which will be one of the most powerful converter stations for rail power worldwide.

"We are delighted that Deutsche Bahn has selected Hitachi Energy as partner of choice to secure the 16.7 Hz power supply for their rail network," said Niklas Persson, Managing Director of Hitachi Energy's Grid Integration business. "This is an excellent example of how we collaborate together with customers and partners to accelerate the energy transition and advancing a sustainable energy future for all."

The Hitachi Energy solution for the Thyrow converter station comprises three compact 40 MW static frequency converter modules, which use Hitachi Energy's advanced power semiconductors to provide a steady and reliable power supply at maximum availability and with minimal electrical losses. The solution includes a 30–year service contract and a digitalization package to provide Deutsche Bahn with condition–based and reactive maintenance and data insights into the system status of the converter station over the life cycle.

Hitachi Energy is the world's leading supplier of grid integration and power quality solutions, including rail converter stations and the integration of renewable energy into power transmission systems.

Notes to the Editor

Static frequency converters

Rail frequency converter stations are based on static frequency converters (SFC). They connect three–phase power distribution or transmission grids, which typically operate at 50 or 60 Hz, with single–phase railway power grids, which operate at 16.7, 25, 50 or 60 Hz. Besides the transfer of active power, the SFC can also control reactive power in both grids independently. It responds immediately to grid faults and enables a smooth and interruption–free transition to island mode during an outage.

Power electronics

SFCs are based on Hitachi Energy's power electronics. These integrated gate–commutated thyristors (IGCTs) will be part of this solution. They maintain grid stability and power quality by responding rapidly to frequency fluctuations and grid disturbances. Power electronics are an integral part of many Hitachi Energy technologies, including high–voltage direct current (HVDC) and flexible AC transmission systems (FACTS).

About Hitachi Energy Ltd.

Hitachi Energy is a global technology leader that is advancing a sustainable energy future for all. We serve customers in the utility, industry and infrastructure sectors with innovative solutions and services across the value chain. Together with customers and partners, we pioneer technologies and enable the digital transformation required to accelerate the energy transition towards a carbon–neutral future. We are advancing the world's energy system to become more sustainable, flexible and secure whilst balancing social, environmental and economic value. Hitachi Energy has a proven track record and unparalleled installed base in more than 140 countries. Headquartered in Switzerland, we employ around 38,000 people in 90 countries and generate business volumes of approximately $10 billion USD.

About Hitachi, Ltd.

Hitachi drives Social Innovation Business, creating a sustainable society with data and technology. We will solve customers' and society's challenges with Lumada solutions leveraging IT, OT (Operational Technology) and products, under the business structure of Digital Systems & Services, Green Energy & Mobility, Connective Industries and Automotive Systems. Driven by green, digital, and innovation, we aim for growth through collaboration with our customers. The company's consolidated revenues for fiscal year 2021 (ended March 31, 2022) totaled 10,264.6 billion yen ($84,136 million USD), with 853 consolidated subsidiaries and approximately 370,000 employees worldwide. For more information on Hitachi, please visit the company's website at https://www.hitachi.com.


How the Russia-Ukraine Conflict Impacts Africa

An opportunity to build resilient, inclusive Food Systems in Africa. Credit: Africa Renewal, United Nations

By Josefa Sacko and Ibrahim Mayaki
LUANDA, Angola, May 31 2022 – While Africa is yet to fully recover from the socio-economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict poses another major threat to the global economy with many African countries being directly affected.

Just within a few weeks, global wheat, sunflower, and oil crude prices have soared to unprecedented levels. Africa is heavily reliant on food imports from both countries, and the Continent is already experiencing price shocks and disruptions in the supply chain of these commodities.

The conflict will likely impact food security in Africa. Both through availability and pricing in some food crops, particularly wheat and sunflower, as well as socio-economic recovery and growth, triggered by rising uncertainties in global financial markets and supply chain systems.

Over the past decade, the Continent has seen growing demand for cereal crops, including wheat and sunflower, which has been mainly supported by imports than local production. Africa’s wheat imports increased by 68 per cent between 2007 to 2019, surging to 47 million tonnes.

Josefa Sacko is the AUC Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment (ARBE)

Russia and Ukraine, both often referred to as the world’s breadbasket, are major players in the export of wheat and sunflower to Africa. North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia), Nigeria in West Africa, Ethiopia and Sudan in East Africa, and South Africa account for 80 per cent of wheat imports.

Wheat consumption in Africa is projected to reach 76.5 million tonnes by 2025, of which 48.3 million tonnes or 63.4 per cent is projected to be imported outside of the Continent.

The sanctions imposed on Russia by Western countries will further exacerbate commercial flows between Russia and Africa due to the closure of vital port operations in the Black Sea. Russia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of fertilizers.

Concerns are growing that a worldwide shortage of fertilizer will lead to rising food prices, with knock-on effects for agricultural production and food security.

Russia is also the world’s third-largest oil producer behind the United States and Saudi Arabia. The disruption of oil prices on the world market is expected to lead to an increase in fuel prices and higher costs of food production.

Some regions, including the Horn of Africa and Sahel region, are at greater risk of food insecurity due to country-specific shocks, climate change, export restrictions, and stockpiling, especially if rising fertilizer and other energy-intensive input costs will negatively impact the next agricultural season as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki is the Chief Executive Officer of AUDA-NEPAD

A silver lining to reduce reliance on food imports

While the socio-economic ramifications are already substantial and the situation remains highly unpredictable, Africa must also see the current geopolitical crisis as an opportunity to reduce its reliance on food imports from outside the Continent.

African countries need to take advantage of their 60 per cent global share of arable land to grow more food for domestic consumption and export to the global market. This would lower the number of people facing food and nutrition insecurity caused by external shocks.

Africa’s Common Position on Food Systems

In 2021, the African Union Commission (AUC) and African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) worked with African countries to create a common African position ahead of the Food Systems Summit in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The African Common Position is a synthesis and unified view on how to transform Africa’s food systems over the next decade, primarily on resilience in the face of growing vulnerability and shocks. It is anchored in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth.

Rapid expansion in agricultural and food productivity and production has been identified as one of the game-changing solutions. To prevent future disruptions in the supply chain for wheat and sunflower across Africa, countries that produce these cereals need to increase their capacity to produce and supply to other countries through intra-African trade.

And those that do not should consider incorporating specific food crops into their agriculture value chain. This will reduce the reliance on wheat and grain imports from Russia and Ukraine and, most importantly, promote intra-African trade and grow Africa’s agribusiness sectors.

African Continental Free Trade Area a lever and driver for intra-regional agri-food markets

Another lever in transforming Africa’s food systems is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into effect on 1 January 2021. African countries must take advantage of the world’s largest free trade area.

The trade treaty is expected to offer US$2.5 trillion in combined GDP and agribusiness will significantly contribute to this growth. The AfCFTA will increase production and value addition as well as ensure adequate quality infrastructure and food safety standards to supply and grow local and regional agri-food markets.

The oil and gas factor

To avoid future food price shocks caused by rising oil and gas prices on the global market, African countries must improve their oil and gas production and exploration capability to fill any gaps that may occur as a result of supply chain disruption among the major global producers.

African countries that produce fuel and gas such as Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, and Tanzania should explore boosting production and filling the gas and oil gap within the continent and beyond to alleviate fuel price shocks, which could contribute to lower food costs.

In addition, African governments should invest in or attract greater international investment in oil and gas exploration, particularly in countries where subterranean oil reserves are believed to exist but have yet to be explored.

2022 African Union Year of Nutrition

The AU declared 2022 the Year of Nutrition with the main objective to strengthen resilience in food and nutrition security. The AU CAADP biennial review report of 2019 revealed that Africa is not on track to meet its goal of ending hunger by 2025, noting a deterioration in food and nutrition security on the continent since the inaugural report in 2017.

Increasing food production and expanding Africa’s food basket will serve both nutrition and resilience objectives. In this regard, there must be intentional investments toward increased productivity and production of traditional and indigenous crops. This also requires a systems approach by integrating nutrition into resilient and strong health systems and social protection systems.

Climate resilience in Africa’s food systems

African food systems continue to face several challenges, including extreme weather events and climate change; limited adoption of yield-increasing technologies; dependency on rain-fed agriculture and low levels of irrigation; and most recently, the spread of fall armyworm in parts of the continent.

More than 38 million more people are at risk of hunger and poverty in Africa due to climate change. Climate-resilient technologies present major opportunities for the Continent to increase African food production and productivity while building resilience and reducing poverty and hunger.

Digital and biotechnologies and the transformation of food systems

While the Continent has made significant progress in the adoption and use of information and communication technologies for large-scale food producers, the benefits of digital innovations have not been fully leapfrogged by small-scale producers, processors, and retailers to access extension services, markets, and financial services.

Increasing the competitiveness of African agriculture also includes the adoption of biotechnology, including improved seed varieties, and requires robust food production policy frameworks. Biotechnology is expected to accelerate growth, create wealth, and feed an African population expected to reach 2.2 billion people by 2050.

Regional solutions are a prerequisite to addressing structural weaknesses and vulnerabilities, including poverty and inequality

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has once more exposed the urgent need for policy and investment choices to sustain and build viable, resilient, and inclusive food systems on the Continent.

The African Common Position on Food Systems provides pathways for Africa to increase home-grown agri-food production and ensure inclusive access to sustainable and nutritious food sources, while addressing structural weaknesses and vulnerabilities, including poverty and inequality.

The successful transformation of African food systems will largely depend on the willingness of African countries to realise continental and regional solutions to build and sustain greater resilience in the face of external shocks. 2022 is Africa’s Year to action food and nutrition development goals.

Source: Africa Renewal, United Nations

IPS UN Bureau


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New collaboration establishes Joint Analytical Cell in major step forward for fisheries monitoring and enforcement

Washington, D.C., May 31, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A new collaboration aims to boost equitable access to vital fisheries intelligence, data analysis and capacity building assistance to help developing maritime States combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Founded by the International Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Network, Global Fishing Watch and TMT, the Joint Analytical Cell, or JAC, will harness innovative technology and fisheries expertise to facilitate collaboration among State and non–State actors and transform ocean governance.

The announcement comes in advance of the International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing on June 5 and the second United Nations Ocean Conference taking place in Lisbon, Portugal June 27–July 1at which the Joint Analytical Cell will be showcased by States that recognize the importance of novel collaboration and new technology to help sustainably manage the ocean.

"The establishment of the Joint Analytical Cell marks a sea change in fisheries intelligence and analysis. It will set a precedent for a global shift toward greater use of open data, data analytics, and integrated technology to provide greater transparency of activities occurring in the maritime domain and strengthen fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance efforts," said Mark Young, Executive Director of the International Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Network. "Collaboration between States, nonprofits and technology providers can help tackle IUU fishing by providing actionable data, credible intelligence and capacity building to those that need it most, ultimately improving global fisheries management."

IUU fishing causes significant harm to the health and resilience of the ocean, which is crucial in assuring global livelihoods and food security. Costing States millions of dollars in lost revenue and causing untold damage to marine ecosystems, it is also linked to increases in associated crimes, including labor and human rights abuses, as well as broader maritime security challenges.

Technology and transparency of information can drive change at scale in the fight against illegal fishing. But the global community lacks equitable access to the necessary data and tools, and the resources and training required to use them. Management authorities have traditionally relied on proprietary monitoring systems that have limited information sharing and are not available to all States.

In an effort to streamline the various technology and data offerings in the sphere of fisheries intelligence, the JAC seeks to facilitate a more open, collaborative model that will catalyze pooled data and technology, and conduct capacity–building efforts to improve upon current operating procedures. These insights can be shared across partners and deployed to support maritime enforcement authorities, enabling them to carry out targeted, risk–based and intelligence–led fisheries monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement operations. These actions are also designed to act as a deterrent, since illicit activities will be harder to hide. The JAC will particularly focus on the strengthening of port controls, transshipment activity, and air and sea patrols. Insights from JAC analyses will also be made available to evidence–base international policy and legal processes that target the closure of loopholes that are exploited by illegal fishing operators.

“The IUU fishing challenge continues to evolve, and so must the responses," said Duncan Copeland, Executive Director at TMT. "The opportunities that the appropriate data, the right tools and technologies, and targeted personnel training present to bolstering fisheries enforcement capacities are enormous, but only if they are accessible and adapted to a national or regional context. State and non–State actor cooperation and collaboration are essential, and the Joint Analytical Cell has been formed to enable this objective."

"What we have established with the Joint Analytical Cell is a partnership mechanism that is designed to grow and bring in more complementary platforms and technology providers," said Tony Long, Chief Executive Officer at Global Fishing Watch. "This initiative, when taken to scale, will mobilize the combined expertise of its partners and allow for more targeted analyses and actionable intelligence offerings."

The Joint Analytical Cell will focus on four key areas: fisheries intelligence; monitoring, control and surveillance capacity building; access to data and technology, and partnership development. It will build on existing tools created by the founding members such as Global Fishing Watch's vessel tracking map and related tools like its carrier vessel portal, as well as TMT's Fisheries Analytical Capacity Tool, a fisheries intelligence management system built to capture and support analysis of identities and characteristics of the global fishing fleet and the companies that comprise it.

"Fish are a livelihood and source of nutrition for billions of people globally and it's critical to prevent actions like illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing that threaten this vital resource," said Melissa Wright from Bloomberg Philanthropies. "The new Joint Analytical Cell is an unprecedented step to enhance global collaboration to end fishing piracy, and Bloomberg Philanthropies is excited to support this major effort to expand fishing data. We know that you can't manage what you can't measure and the data from this new fisheries intelligence force will ensure governments, civil society partners, and communities can hold bad actors accountable and fish continue to be an available resource for billions around the world."