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South Africa's democracy: Complexity theory in action

Brian Levy's picture

“The edge of chaos is the balance point where the components of a system never quite lock into place, and yet never quite dissolve into turbulence, either…The edge of chaos is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive and alive...” - M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity.

Climate Change and Health: Does it Matter?

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Somali refugee in Ethiopian camp, UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, is in full swing now, aiming to reach consensus and agreements on addressing the  climate challenge by its close on December 9. While there are high expectations, people also realize that this is not an easy issue to tackle.  Uncontrolled, man-made carbon emissions, which climbed to a new record of 30 billion tons worldwide in 2010, are at the core of the climate change dilemma. Curbing this trend is not only a daunting multisectoral task that demands sophisticated technical solutions, but its complexity is intensified by disagreements among countries on the size of the problem and what to do about it.

Climate change should matter to all of us, since changing weather patterns, including more frequent extreme climate events (e.g., the 13 warmest years on record have been in the last 15 years) and natural disasters (e.g. in some regions the number of particularly large hurricanes has increased), negatively impact the lives and well being of ALL people—the raison d’être of development.  In this context, climate change should be seen as a critical health challenge that demands increased attention and management.  Why?

A landmark 2009 report by The Lancet Commission documented how climate change over the coming decades could have a disastrous effect on health conditions across the world. There are both direct and indirect health threats through changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population growth and migration.

What the HIV prevention gel trial failure implies for trials in economics

Berk Ozler's picture

For the World AIDS Day, there is a sign at the World Bank that states that taking ARVs reduces rate of HIV transmission by 96%. If this was last year, a sign somewhere may well have read “A cheap microbicidal gel that women can use up to 12 hours before sexual intercourse reduces HIV infection risk by more than half – when used consistently.” Well, sadly, it turns out, so much for that.

Will Durban deliver?

Andrew Steer's picture

The next two weeks will see nearly 20,000 people descending on Durban for this year’s Climate Change negotiations.  What might they achieve? Not much, if you believe some of the pessimistic assessments in the press. Are the gloomsters right? No, not necessarily.

What could be achieved?   

Here goes… starting with the practical decisions that are on the agenda, and could affect peoples’ lives fairly quickly:

  • A global system of technology centers that would provide access to knowledge and capacity building in developing countries for climate smart technology – which in turn could yield more investment, more jobs and lower costs.
  • A system that would help developing countries prepare and finance their adaptation plans.
  • A decision to incorporate agriculture fully into the Convention (something that, oddly, has never been done), allowing poor farmers to benefit from climate finance.
  • Simpler rules on how to credit greenhouse gases from forests, in turn making it simpler to prevent deforestation, and for forest dwellers to access support.
  • Common rules allowing city-wide approaches to dealing with climate change. (Many cities are showing more leadership than countries).
  • New eligibility procedures that would help bring sustainable energy to the 65% of African households that currently have no electricity.
  • Agreements that would encourage the development of a long-term networked carbon market that would lower the costs of addressing climate change and bring finance and technology to developing countries.

There is a risk that these measures will be crowded out by the big political decisions at Durban. This would be a mistake. While not game-changers individually, they are important building blocks towards an eventual global deal. 

Prospects Daily: European equities rally, while Greek bond yields climb above 100%

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture

Important developments today:

1. European equities rally, while Greek bond yields climb above 100%

2. ECB cuts policy rate by 25 basis points

A small country bringing about big change

Ritva Reinikka's picture

Thousands of Basotho joined HM King Letsie III last Friday at the inauguration of a state-of-the-art hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. The new hospital, together with its three filter clinics, is bringing modern, high-quality health care to about half a million people—or a quarter of Lesotho’s population—living in Maseru district, and also serving the country as a revamped national referral and teaching hospital. 

Prime Minister Mosisili reminded the audience of Lesotho’s history as a British protectorate. “The protectors gave the country its first national hospital in 1957 and named it Queen Elizabeth II after their Queen,” the PM said. “The new hospital is ours and we named it after our Queen, ’Mamohato.”

Why is this hospital so important? It symbolizes a fundamental change in publicly-funded health services in Lesotho.  The transformation in the country's health sector is supported by a unique partnership between the government and the private sector that is truly exciting as Africa looks for ways to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to saving mothers and children and fighting HIV/AIDS.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Nielson Wire
Mobile Phones Dominate in South Africa

Africa is in the midst of a technological revolution, and nothing illustrates that fact than the proliferation of mobile phones. Consider this: more Africans have access to mobile phones than to clean drinking water. In South Africa, the continent’s strongest economy, mobile phone use has gone from 17 percent of adults in 2000 to 76 percent in 2010. Today, more South Africans – 29 million – use mobile phones than radio (28 million), TV (27 million) or personal computers (6 million). Only 5 million South Africans use landline phones.  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Kiwanja
Putting data integrity on the map

"To kick off the discussion around the new guide, we hosted a panel discussion at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, where FrontlineSMS’ Sean McDonald joined Jon Gosier of metaLayer, Development Seed’s Paul Goodman, and Internews Vice President for New Media Kathleen Reen, who moderated the event. This research effort, based on FrontlineSMS user input and research by Kristina Lugo and Carol Waters, focused not on mobile system security, a critical issue better addressed by others, but more on the ways that contextualized program design and implementation can improve data quality and reduce user risk. Above all, we learned through the process, context is key. Understanding the needs and norms of the target population, and the goals of the project itself, is vital in determining the proper tools and approach to designing a FrontlineSMS workflow that can achieve those goals." READ MORE

Joburg's Transit Breakthrough

News story by Gail Jennings, Johannesburg

Informal ‘jitney’ associations transcend their warload past to become shareholders in South Africa’s first-ever Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system

JOHANNESBURG – Waiting, waiting, without facilities, still waiting, crammed, hemmed in, no brakes, no license, angry club-wielding drivers fighting for the most lucrative routes.  Weaving haphazardly through traffic at often frightening speeds. .. Scrabbling for the right coins, late, confusion, music that leaves your ears ringing, fists, bullets, escape... The stories travellers tell of their minibus taxi adventures.

Bus Rapit Transit in JohannesburgThis sort of  informal, unscheduled and unregulated taxi system still exists in most of Johannesburg.

But the 25km link between the central business district and Soweto with its 1.4 million residents is now plied by sleek red buses travelling on time and on schedule. Three years ago, the government launched Rea Vaya (“we are going”), South Africa’s first bus rapid transit system (BRT).  Rea Vaya has replaced the ramshackle minibuses with modern vehicles and an entirely different, formal operating system.

When democracy and inequality collide

Brian Levy's picture

I voted in South Africa’s founding democratic election in 1994, but it was via an absentee ballot cast in downtown D.C. Last month, when voters came out on May 18th to elect their local governments, it was the first time I had actually been in the country for an election. Turnout was high – upwards of 70% in some of the more hotly contested municipalities.


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