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Japan to fund UNIDO bioplastics project in South Africa

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The Government of Japan and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have signed a funding agreement for a project to support a transition from conventional plastics to sustainable alternatives in South Africa.

The Government of Japan announced the funding support of US$1.8m for the UNIDO project during the G20 Osaka summit in June when the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, held a summit meeting with the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. The initiative supports the G20’s Blue Ocean Vision which aims to reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050.

There are ongoing efforts to develop a local bioplastic industry in South Africa. The South African Bioplastics Forum was established in 2016 as a result of a joint initiative of the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology (DHEST), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Plastics SA. The country has large amounts of sugar cane bagasse and other biomass feedstocks suitable for bioplastics; and an emerging bioplastics industry has the potential to create new jobs.

UNIDO will work with the CSIR to develop an action plan to strengthen the capacity of local industry to manufacture alternative materials, and build up capacities for plastic recycling.

Recently, bio-degradable plastics have gained attention as one approach to deal with the scourge of plastic pollution. However, when bringing new materials onto the market, particular attention needs to be paid to ensuring that the overall environmental footprint is not increased and that new types of waste are not created that cannot be recycled and that increase the amount of waste; or hindering efforts to increase circularity. The project will help to assess all possible scenario and choose appropriate material for South African contexts, and will suggest necessary steps needed to set up an enabling environment.

At the project launch ceremony, Japan’s Ambassador to South Africa, Norio Maruyama, said that the signing ceremony marked the concrete achievement of what was discussed at the G20 in June 2019. He emphasized the importance of the collaboration of South African companies in the project.

Deputy Minister Nomalungelo Gina of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) referred to the key objectives of South Africa’s National Development Plan, and said “The dti welcomes the support by the Japanese government and the partnership between UNIDO and the CSIR, since biodegradable plastics are just being introduced locally.”

The CSIR representative, Khungeka Njobe, said, “We look forward to partnering with government and industry in addressing the very important issue of waste plastic.”

Khaled El Mekwad, UNIDO Representative, said, “Such an initiative will be a model of good practice which can be disseminated to other countries in the SADC region. The experience acquired by South Africa could be extended to neighbouring countries where the triangular cooperation model with UNIDO and Japan may be replicated and adapted to the local development set-up.”

Trudi Makhaya, Economic Advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa, welcomed this initiative. She said, “We hope that from this partnership there is agreement that there will be a lot of innovation but also a lot of practical applications of the innovations to new industries and new forms of economic activity that are inclusive, that take communities along, and that ensure that this new economy does not reproduce some of the flaws of the past.”

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Finance

Dubai Chamber Continues Bolstering Economic Ties Between UAE And Africa

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United Arab Emirates has launched its 6th edition of Global Business Forum Africa (GBF Africa) that aims at scaling-up and strengthening multifaceted business with Africa. With its first class Emirates airline, the airline network will facilitate the participation in the forum of African leaders and corporate business leaders.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, GBF Africa is bringing the trade and investment community back together to explore bilateral trade opportunities between Dubai and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Now in its 6th edition, Global Business Forum Africa facilitates international revenue flows by engaging leading decision-makers on the global investment scene. Influential stakeholders participate in constructive dialogue at the highest level, focusing on key economic developments and investment opportunities emerging across the continent.

This forum among other key objectives aims to build bridges between UAE and African business communities and explore untapped trade and investment potential. It represents an unprecedented opportunity for businesses of all sizes, international organizations and government entities from across the world, to come together to foster a more diversified and resilient global economy, inspire a vibrant business environment and drive sustainable growth.

Besides Africa, it has the Global Business Forum ASEAN established as a platform for insightful dialogue between government and business leaders in the UAE and ASEAN by identifying opportunities for mutual growth. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is set to re-shape global connectivity and add US$186 billion to global GDP by 2030.

It further launched in 2016, Global Business Forum Latin America that seeks to pave the way for long-lasting partnerships between business communities in the GCC, Latin America and Caribbean (LAC). The forum explores existing trade synergies and bilateral business opportunities, while strengthening Dubai’s position as a gateway for Latin American companies.

As expected, Heads of State, more than 30 Ministers, high-ranking Government officials and prominent influential business leaders from Africa have confirmed their participation for the sixth edition of the Global Business Forum Africa (GBF Africa), which takes place on October 13-14, 2021 at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Dubai Chamber is organizing GBF Africa 2021 in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai under the theme “Transformation Through Trade” and the event will be held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The organizers have listed top-level participants including H.E. Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique; H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, President of Congo; H.E. Dr C.G.D.N. Chiwenga, Vice President of Zimbabwe; the Chief Minister of Jersey; the Secretary General of COMESA; more than 30 ministers and high-ranking African officials, including ministers from Ghana, Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda Zimbabwe and Liberia, Kenya, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, Congo and the Kingdom of Lesotho, as well as government officials from Rwanda and Kenya.

H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Countries from across the world that are participating in Expo 2020 are eager to widen and deepen their ties with Africa, and GBF Africa will be a crucial forum where the continent can share its plans and achievements, seek investments and solutions to its challenges and forge new relationships across the globe.”

H.E. Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber, said: “The success that GBF Africa has had in attracting African presidents, ministers and influential leaders to join its high-level talks reflects the forum’s position as a leading global platform for exploring investment opportunities in the African continent. It reinforces the crucial role played by Dubai’s wise leadership in expanding the emirate’s trade links with emerging markets around the world.”

According to Buamim, the Dubai Chamber is keen to continue its efforts to promote building strategic partnerships with the key players in the African business ecosystem. The Chamber is also committed to encouraging and supporting local and national companies to invest in African markets and enhance sustainable economic growth and development.

Ambareen Musa, Founder and CEO of Souqual in the UAE said: “As we grow and scale-up in the Middle East, this gives us a lot of exposure for potentially getting into Africa as a region.”

Through its network of international representative offices, trade missions and high-profile business forums, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry works to raise Dubai’s profile as a global trade and investment hub. The Chamber represents more than 260,000 companies, making it one of the world’s largest membership-based Chambers of Commerce.

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Development

Better Targeting of Social Protection Programs can Significantly Reduce Poverty in Bangladesh

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Social Protection Programs remain central to Bangladesh’s sustainable development policy and are progressively benefitting the poorer households. By improving targeting of the social protection programs, the country can further reduce poverty. Reallocating existing transfers to the poorest could reduce poverty from 36 percent to 12 percent, says a new World Bank report launched today.

The report titled ‘Bangladesh Social Protection Public Expenditure Review’ reflects on Bangladesh’s continued investment towards social protection and how it can improve on its existing framework including planning, designing, programming, and delivery of the various social protection programs and projects.

The report finds that the social protection programs are mostly focused in rural areas. But, with almost 1 in 5 of the urban population living in poverty, and half of the households at the risk of falling into poverty, there is a need for rebalancing geographic allocations between rural and urban areas. About 11 percent of people in urban areas are covered by social protection whereas 19 percent of urban population is poor. The coverage in rural areas is higher than the poverty rate, with programs reaching 36 percent of people, while 26 percent live in poverty. Using a social registry, such as the National Household Database can improve targeting of both programs and households at a reduced cost. 

“Over the last decades, Bangladesh expanded its coverage of social protection programs that now reach three in every 10 households in the country,” said Dandan Chen, World Bank Operations Manager for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need for a more robust, efficient, and adaptive social protection system. Going forward, well-targeted and less fragmented social protection programs that consider the demographic change, unplanned urbanization, labor market vulnerability, and frequent shocks will help the country continue with its success of poverty reduction.”

In FY 20, Bangladesh spent about 2.6 percent of GDP in social protection, which is in line with countries with similar income levels. However, some risk groups remain underserved, in particular there are gaps in programing for early years and for the economic inclusion of poor and vulnerable youth and adults. For example, in every eight poor persons, one is a young child. Yet, the poor young children receive only 1.6 percent of social protection expenditures. Spending will be more effective if the allocations are aligned with the share of the poor in different categories, and with the different functions played by programs.

“Investing in early childhood helps a child grow healthier and be more productive in adult life and thus break the cycle of poverty across generations,” said Aline Coudouel, World Bank Lead Economist and a co-author of the report. “The country has taken innovative programs, reflecting the life-cycle approach. As patterns of risk change in different phases of life, the life-cycle approach needs to encompass support from pregnant mothers to old age, persons with disabilities, as well as from households facing shocks to those in chronic poverty.”

To boost the quality and efficiency of service delivery, Government to Person (G2P) and mobile financial services should be scaled up. It takes about two months to transfer the funds from treasury to the beneficiary. The G2P scheme can cut processing time to 10 days.

This also needs to be paired with increased allocations for staffing, capacity-building training including digital literacy, and improved equipment, which will facilitate enhanced implementation of programs at the local level.

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Africa Today

Eritrea: Release journalists and politicians arrested 20 years ago

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The Eritrean authorities must immediately and unconditionally release 21 journalists and politicians who were arrested in a sweeping crackdown on dissent 20 years ago, said Amnesty International as it launched a new campaign #WhereAreEritreasDissidents

The arrests of the journalists between 21 and 23 September 2001 followed the arrest on 18 September 2001 of politicians popularly known as G-15 and the banning of independent media after they had published an open letter urging reforms.

“It is unconscionable that these brave prisoners of conscience are still languishing in jail 20 years since they were arrested for exercising their human rights, with no word from the authorities on their current circumstances, and that the ban on independent media remains in place,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.  

“Days have turned into months, months into years and now years have turned into decades of unending anguish for these detainees, their families and loved ones. We call on President Isaias Afewerki to take meaningful steps to bring an end to this travesty of justice.”

The journalists arrested between 21 and 23 September 2001 are Dawit Isaak, Seyoum Tsehaye, Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab, Fesseaye “Joshua” Yohannes, Amanuel Asrat and Temesegn Gebreyesus, Said Abdelkader, Yosuf Muhamed Ali and Medhanie Haile. The politicians – all members of Isaias’ ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) – include former Vice-President Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo and his wife and independence war heroine Aster Fissehatsion, and former foreign ministers Haile Woldetensae and Petros Solomon. Nine of the politicians and journalists have previously been reported to have died in detention, a claim the Eritrean authorities refuse to confirm.

“There are also many other politicians, journalists and activists that were arrested and detained without charge before September 2001 and since then and they must be released too,” said Deprose Muchena

Some of the high-profile detainees in Eritrea include former Finance Minister Berhane Abraha, who was arrested in September 2018 following his publication of a book considered critical of President Isaias, and Ciham Ali,  the daughter of the defected former Minister of Information Ali Abdu, who was arrested in 2012 aged 15, as she tried to flee the country.

Amnesty International has documented extremely poor prison conditions in Eritrea, in some cases amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Prisons in Eritrea are generally overcrowded, with inadequate water and sanitation facilities and providing poor-quality food and drinking water.

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