In response to this intriguing question, raised by Dele Fatunla on the Diaspora Debate blog at African Arguments Online, we believe the Diaspora is a rich source of much-needed human and financial capital that ought to be better leveraged to benefit Africans on the continent.
As we gather in kitchens and dining rooms during this season of eating and charity, let us pause for a moment to review the state of food trade in Africa: how does cross-border commerce in key crops fare on a continent with pockets of harsh weather and unpredictable politics? How is the traffic in grains and tubers?
It’s clear that prices are high, following the February 2011 peak worldwide. The price of maize in Nairobi has tripled this year alone, while the price of a 50 kg bag of rice in Dakar has risen from $36 to $43.50. These spikes can be blamed partly on increased demand for food crops – including for biofuel production in Europe and the United States. They are also due to supply-side factors, such as higher energy prices which impact transportation and fertilizer costs, and weak harvests in large exporting countries.
But on a global scale there is no food shortage. In 2010, the world produced 2.2 billion tons of cereals, up from 820 million tons 50 years ago (a 268 percent increase). Over the same period, the world’s population has grown from three billion to seven billion people: an increase of 233 percent. In Africa, food staple production is abundant in some areas even though the continent is a net importer of food. Mali grows enough excess sorghum to supply its neighbors, and Uganda, the bread basket of East Africa, makes regular shipments of maize to Kenya, Southern Sudan and Rwanda. The problem is that the surplus food does not always get to those in need. Often shipments of perishable goods are stopped at the border and excessive inspections frequently cause delays.
Linked in the distant past through colonial-era trade enterprises, Brazil and Africa are becoming close partners again. More than two centuries after establishing a slave trade route across the Atlantic, both regions are again re-engaging, this time to exchange knowledge and further economic and social development.
Sub-Saharan African countries are looking to replicate Brazil’s successes in boosting agricultural production and exports, and private investments, which have made Brazil a key economic player in the international arena. This is no coincidence. The world is going though rapid changes, resulting in a new financial architecture, with emerging economies and countries in the South increasingly participating and influencing global decisions.
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.
In Burundi, a World Bank-supported project focused on educating female sex workers about the risks of contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases has contributed to Burundi's overall declining infection rate.
Thirty years after the HIV/AIDS virus first appeared, more than 34 million people world-wide are living with HIV. Sub Saharan Africa is most heavily impacted; some 68 percent of all those living with HIV live in the region. Despite the high prevalence, the HIV incidence rate declined by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2009 in 22 Sub-Saharan Africa countries. In West and Central Africa, HIV prevalence remained under two percent in 12 countries.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé outlines what the global community is doing to further fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.
I recently had the opportunity to organize and take part in an exchange learning visit to Thailand and Vietnam. The visit was aimed at improving the effectiveness of Ethiopia’s land administration system by enhancing stakeholders’ understanding of the sector’s policies and institutional constraints and how to address them through integrated but multi-faceted reforms and programs.
Over the past decade, Ethiopia has successfully implemented the worlds’ largest rural land registration program. The registration is implemented equitably and with clear positive impacts on conflict, productivity, investment, and rental market participation. However, constraints still exist. There’s a disconnect between urban and rural registration and administration, stagnant policy revisions remain, and there is often weak institutional capacity to act on and implement innovative ideas with the required speed.
When I first entertained the idea of heading to the Far East to learn from the experiences there, I was very skeptical and thought Vietnam and Thailand were just way too far… and I don’t just mean geographically. Once I arrived there, I realized that I was wrong and was pleasantly surprised to discover lots of very useful lessons that can help to initiate, improve, or at least reaffirm the course of Ethiopia’s land administration system.
Mamtoai puts her blue token key into the slot of the standpost and out flows water.
It is an early spring morning in October and the sun shines brightly in Lower Ha Thetsane, an area of Maseru, Lesotho, where Mamtoai lives. Other women and young kids are busy chatting as they wait for their turn to collect water. Mamtoai fills up her 20-liter plastic container, snaps the lid tight and raises it up in the air to carry the heavy load on the crown of her head.
The installation of pre-paid water standposts that provide piped and treated water in Ha Thetsane is recent. The distance to a communal tap, installed long ago when the area was a rural settlement, used to be far longer. If pipes or taps were broken, water would be lost and turn the earth floor into mud. The cost of water tanked by local entrepreneurs to these peripheral areas could vary hugely - invariably much higher than the formal regulated water system. To expand water distribution, Lesotho’s largest utility the Water and Sewerage Company WASCO has installed water standposts into areas like Ha Thetsane.
In 2007, for the first time in human history, 50 percent of the global population lived in urban areas. The United Nations predicts that this figure will rise to 69 percent by 2050. A significant part of this urbanization is taking place in developing countries as a result of natural growth within cities and large numbers of rural–urban migrants in search of jobs and opportunities. Rapid urban growth tends to overwhelm developing cities, where there is already a struggle to develop infrastructure.
I have lived in Lagos, Nigeria all my life. Lagos city is the economic capital of Nigeria with the country's higest population density at 4,193 people per square kilometer. The U.N. estimates that the population of my city will hit 16 million by 2015 making it the worlds 11th largest urban system.
A combination of official neglect, corruption, extreme poverty coupled with rapid, largely uncontrolled, population growth has led to the decay of Lagos’ existing city infrastructure, which determines how livable a city is. Specifically, the human waste (sewage), water and sanitaion systems are largely inadequate. The infrastructure is poorly organized and not controlled. It is common to see drinking water pipes pass through open drainage systems. At times, these systems receive human waste as a result of locals opening their septic tanks into them or the tanks leaking. The city does not treat all of the human waste generated by millions of individuals every day. This waste is emptied directly into the Lagos lagoon. The urban poor are affected the most. Because the drinkable water infrastructure is so poor, many Lagosians depend on satchet water, local water vendors, private boreholes or expensive water filtaration units for their the daily domestic and sanitation needs.
The UN Population Division has determined that the 7 billion world population mark will be reached today, October 31, 2011. This week’s Economist, the Guardian online, and the New York Times have written on this already, and other news media are following suit. Having produced the World Bank’s demographic projections for some years, and now working as a demographer in the World Bank’s Africa Region, let me add my perspective to the mix.
The approximate date of the world reaching the 7 billion mark is no surprise. When the Bank issued demographic projections back in 1985 (linked to World Development Report 1984– the only one in the series to have specifically focused on the demographic aspects of development), the 7 billion milestone was forecast for early 2011. This is quite close to the current estimate, especially when you consider the projection span of 26 years. At the global level, demographic projections are fairly reliable (but less so for individual countries or small regions).