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ADB $380 Million Loan to Improve Roads in Mindanao, Philippines

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The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a $380 million loan to help the Philippine government strengthen the road network and spur economic development in Mindanao, the country’s second largest island with about 20 million people.

The Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project, ADB’s biggest infrastructure investment in the island region, seeks to improve about 280 kilometers (km) of national roads and bridges in Mindanao.

The project, which is also the first Mindanao-specific loan granted by ADB in 16 years, will help the transport system better deal with the effects of climate change through features such as elevated pavements, enhanced slope protection, and better drainage. It will benefit women by improving their access to basic infrastructure, social services, and economic or financial resources or opportunities. Communities will also benefit from road safety awareness campaigns to be conducted under the project. All project roads will be geotagged with information accessible on the Internet, so the public can monitor road investment projects throughout the project life cycle, including procurement and construction. 

Additionally, the assistance will help finance the detailed design of 300 km of national highways in Mindanao, which will be constructed through other projects. Institutionally, it will help the Department of Public Works and Highways improve the long-term planning, fiscal accountability, and human resource management in the transport sector in Mindanao and the rest of the country.

The total project cost is estimated at $503 million, with the Government of the Philippines contributing $123 million.

“Improving roads in Mindanao will support the development of economic opportunities in areas such as agribusiness, ecotourism, and logistics, and improve access to markets, jobs, education, and health facilities,” said Jeffrey Miller, Principal Transport Specialist at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

Efficient road transport is crucial for the Philippines’ economic growth, but the sector has not kept up with population growth. About 23% of the national road network is in poor condition, due to various reasons including inadequate funding, lack of maintenance, and the impact of climate change, such as flooding.

Mindanao’s road network is less developed than the national average, with only 70% of the roads paved, compared with 82% in Luzon and 89% in the Visayas. Despite its rich natural resources, Mindanao also has the highest poverty incidence among the Philippines’ three island groups at 32%, largely because of civil conflict and low economic growth.

The “Build, Build, Build” program, the centerpiece of President Rodrigo Duterte’s 10-point Socioeconomic Agenda, aims to increase public investment and accelerate infrastructure delivery. Public spending on infrastructure is expected to reach 7.4% of the country’s gross domestic product by 2022, up from the 5.3% target in 2017.

ADB has been providing comprehensive support to the government to implement and manage sophisticated public works projects. The project will help link the island—economically and physically—to other parts of the Philippines and support the government’s effort to develop Mindanao’s economy, reduce poverty, and achieve high, inclusive, and sustainable growth. The project will also contribute to and benefit from the development of the Greater Sulu Sulawesi Corridor, which encompasses Mindanao, in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Growth Area.

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World Bank Supports Young Digital Entrepreneurs in Botswana

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Digital ecosystems and entrepreneurs are essential to innovation and development in Africa. With support from the World Bank, the Botswana Business Angels Network and the Global Entrepreneurship Network in Botswana brought together local entrepreneurs and global thought leaders to share knowledge and strengthen the operating environment for digital entrepreneurs in the country.

The workshop built upon the recent XL Africa competition, a pan-African acceleration program to find the 20 most promising digital start-ups in Africa and demonstrate that Africa can produce world-class digital entrepreneurial talent.

“The World Bank supported today’s event to help ensure that Botswana’s digital entrepreneurs are able to learn lessons from other ecosystems across Africa,” said Xavier Furtado, World Bank Country Representative for Botswana. “We hope that, over time, this can help address Botswana’s pressing youth unemployment challenge while also contributing to national economic diversification.”  

Through relevant case studies, participants were exposed to methods and tools to help accelerate digital entrepreneurship. With a supportive and dynamic ecosystem, local digital technology companies can spread new technologies across Botswana and abroad.

“Today’s event indicates that supporting Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and investors requires a thriving and connected entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere, Founder of Ngwana Enterprises. “Over time, we hope that the digital ecosystem will attract and link digital startups, more mature entrepreneurs, and impact entrepreneurs from Botswana with potential investors across the continent and beyond.”

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Job creation around agriculture can spur youth employment in Africa

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Agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, but businesses around farming, including processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and financial services, could also create jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas, a senior United Nations official said Thursday.

“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces” the linkages between rural areas and cities, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told a regional conference on employment being held from 19 to 23 February in Khartoum, Sudan.

FAO Regional Conference for Africa primarily focuses on the theme of creating decent and attractive employment in the world’s “youngest” continent in terms of the average age of its population.

Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years. Today some 54 per cent of Africa’s work force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.

With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services.

“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

He warned however that more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.

“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” he added, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers can link public food purchase to family farmer’s production.

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Asia’s youth give their take on the region’s environment

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Twelve young people between the ages of 25 and 35 met in Singapore today to kick off preparations for a youth-oriented version of the UN Environment Regional Assessment for Asia Pacific.

The Asia-Pacific assessment is one of five regional reports on the health of the environment that will feed into the 6th Global Environment Outlook. The youth version of the Asia-Pacific assessment, slated for release at the end of this year, will include the latest information and updated data on the findings of the report.

“While the regional assessment is largely targeted to policymakers, it is also important that we bring young people into the conversation. They constitute nearly 40 per cent of the population in this region and certainly have a vested interest in where we are heading in terms of the environment,” said Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director, UN Environment Asia Pacific. “We also want to inspire young people to consider the environment in their jobs and disciplines and initiate actions that will shape a healthier environment and, in turn, well-being of people.”

The 12 participants were among 50 youth selected to serve as lead authors, contributing authors and reviewers. Areas that they explored include the state of the environment in the region presently, what can be done to address challenges, how to bring value to nature, and climate change and its impacts.

“I am very excited to be part of the team working and contributing towards the publication of GEO-6 Youth for Asia Pacific with UN Environment,” said NEO Mei Lin, Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore. “This is a wonderful opportunity for a young scientist like myself to give back to society by making scientific information more accessible to everyone, especially youths. I hope that this publication will be technically accessible, as well as inspire youths to take small actions in making the environment a better place.”

Jose Isagani, Associate Professor from De La Salle University in the Philippines said that the meeting was engaging and the outcome of the meeting very relevant. “In this era where fake news and post-truth are rampant, the need for reliable and credible information is critical. It is my fervent hope that the documents produced from these meetings will raise awareness about the deteriorating state of our environment, and thus initiate more steps in taking care of our common home.”

The Global Environment Outlook Regional Assessment for Asia Pacific was released in 2016 and found that changing demography and lifestyles, increasingly inefficient use of resources, growing vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters and environment-related health risks could offset the region’s development gains, threaten water and food security, and worsen poverty and inequity. The findings of the regional assessment and youth report will contribute to the 6th edition of the global outlook, due to be released in 2019.

First published in UN Environment

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