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‘Wake-up call’ to assist DR Congo battle food insecurity

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photo: UNICEF/Patrick Brown

UN agencies raised the alarm on Wednesday over the growing food crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), calling for an urgent scaling-up of assistance. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) warned that without help, widespread and unabated food insecurity could worsen in the coming months.  

Some 27 million people, one-quarter of the country’s population, face crisis or emergency acute food insecurity conditions, fuelled by poor harvests, violence-driven displacement, disease and collapsing infrastructure, according to a newly published Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis for the central African nation. 

The food situation for many people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains desperate, with so many different obstacles – insecurity, disease, devastation and lack of infrastructure, low access to quality inputs and finance to name but a few – ganging up against their chances of being able to properly feed themselves and their families”, said Aristide Ongone, FAO’s DRC Representative.  

Bailing out a ‘leaky boat’ 

The number of Congolese in the crisis phase of acute food insecurity, is higher than any other country analysed by the IPC. 

The new IPC report, which shows even the capital Kinshasa is badly affected, forecasts the alarming hunger numbers are likely to remain unchanged through the first half of next year.  

Indeed, the nutrition picture could even worsen in some regions and among particularly vulnerable groups, including young children and pregnant or nursing mothers. 

“These numbers are a wake-up call for more action and to do things differently”, said WFP DRC Representative and Country Director, Peter Musoko.  

“Right now, it feels like we’re bailing out a leaky boat. We need to get together with the Government, our partners and the private sector, to figure out how to give hope to the people of this country.” 

Toxic blend 

DRC’s food crisis stems from a dangerous mix of factors, from violence and insecurity that have weakened agricultural production, to crumbling transport and communication links, along with multiple armed groups displacing millions – especially in the northeast, where insecurity is on the rise in two particular hotspots. 

Even where food is available, high prices and falling incomes mean many people are unable to afford proper nutrition.  

And COVID-19 has exacerbated the calamitous effects of natural disasters while measures to contain the pandemic have devastated the economy – plunging local currency and rendering millions out of work, including in the informal sector.  

From the coronavirus fallout to insecurity, agricultural livelihoods have been hit hard, limiting farmers’ access to markets, shrinking production and decimating crops and livestock. 

“The only way to break the cycle and shift these trends is to help them increase their resilience and productivity”, said Mr. Ongone. 

Urgent, complex crisis 

To fast track an effective response to the scope, urgency and complexity of the crisis, FAO has scaled up its support to the most vulnerable.  

While the UN agency needs a total of $65 million to provide life-saving livelihood assistance to 1.1 million people in areas affected by high acute food insecurity, only $4.5 million has currently been received. 

FAO’s focus is on increasing households’ access to tools and seeds; providing livestock, which plays a key role in improving nutrition; supporting food processes and storage; and helping small farmers fight animal and plant diseases.  

Range of support 

Despite an extremely tough operating environment, WFP aims to reach 8.7 million Congolese this year with food, nutrition and cash-based assistance – nearly two million more than in 2020; and feed 200,000 school children in the 2021-22 academic year and half-a-million by 2024. 

The support ranges from meeting the immediate food and nutritional needs of the most vulnerable to building longer-term resilience for families.  

Overall, WFP needs $99 million through April 2022 to reach those most needing support. 

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Africa Today

Africa Industrialization Week 2021 at UNIDO

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A series of webinars on themes such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, climate-related challenges in industrialization, and opportunities for Japanese and other international investors on the African continent, marked the beginning of Africa Industrialization Week 2021 at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Africa Industrialization Week, observed by the United Nations system each year in November, focuses on raising awareness of the importance of Africa’s industrialization and the challenges faced by the continent.

“The African Continental Free Trade Area  – AfCFTA – agreement, which came into being this year, opens up a huge market of 1.3 billion people and is a US$3.4 trillion economic bloc with the potential to lift 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty. Coupled with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, it will help focus on addressing the existing challenges and opportunities to accelerate the industrial development of the continent,” said UNIDO Director General, LI Yong, in his message on the occasion.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has deep implications for sustainable development of Africa, and governments’ policymaking approach towards new technology and innovation needs to be more agile, flexible and resilient,” according to Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, UNIDO Managing Director of the Directorate of Digitalization, Technology and Agribusiness at UNIDO.

At a webinar on ‘Road to 4IR for Africa,’ Calzadilla-Sarmiento said that by 2030 Africa’s potential workforce will be among the world’s largest and there is a massive opportunity for growth when this is coupled with the needed infrastructure and suitable skills for innovation and technology use.

Other panellists from the field of robotics, Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things also discussed the potential strengths and opportunities, as well as the challenges for African industrialization.

In a separate webinar, hosted by UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Tokyo, the panelists discussed ways to facilitate and promote investment and technology transfer, especially from Japan, for industrial development in Africa. Panelists emphasized that there was a need to increase manufacturing capabilities and improve capacity building, especially in sectors like pharmaceuticals, both for domestic consumption and for export.

“There are projected business opportunities valued at US$ 5.6 trillion by 2025 due to the increased spending capacity of US$ 3.5 trillion and growth in household consumption to US$2.1 trillion. This creates great business opportunities for investors from Japan, as well as from the rest of the world,” opined Mansur Ahmed, Vice President of the Africa Business Council.

In a webinar on “Carbon-Neutral and Resilient industrialization in Africa,” the panelists discussed ways of addressing the challenges of climate change and ensuring an inclusive and sustainable industrial development on the continent. They agreed there is a need for a policy environment that allows private sector participation in energy generation, and a need to develop pathways aligning industrial policy goals with national climate action priorities and policies.

In 2016, the United Nations proclaimed the period 2016-2025 as the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III) and tasked UNIDO with leading the implementation of the Decade, in collaboration with a range of partners. According to Victor Djemba, chief of UNIDO’s Africa division, UNIDO coordinated the development of a Joint Roadmap to better streamline international efforts into programmes and projects for the continent’s industrial development activities. “The vision for the implementation of IDDA III is to firmly anchor Africa on a path towards inclusive and sustainable industrial development,” he added.

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Ethiopia: Humanitarian aid needed as situation deteriorates in Tigray

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Food is distributed in Zelazle in northern Ethiopia, after a convoy reached the region on Monday. © WFP/Claire Nevill

With the dire humanitarian situation in Tigray, Ethiopia, continuing to deteriorate, it is critical to establish a regular flow of humanitarian aid into the region, the Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General said on Wednesday. 

Yesterday, almost 40 trucks with humanitarian supplies, including food, left the Afar capital of Semera for Tigray – the first convoy to do so since 18 October.  

Meanwhile, trucks containing fuel and medical supplies are still waiting for clearance in Semera. 

Around 500 trucks of humanitarian supplies are required per week, Farhan Haq informed journalists at a regular press briefing. 

Seven million food insecure 

In November 2020, heavy fighting between central Government troops and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have left Ethiopia’s northern regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 

And after months of killings, looting and destruction of health centres and farming infrastructure, including irrigation systems that are vital to the production effort, those needs have only surged. 

Currently, some seven million people throughout the country are suffering acute food insecurity. 

Growing needs 

Meanwhile following their suspension on 22 October, UN Humanitarian Air Service flights to Mekelle have resumed, allowing the UN and humanitarian partners to rotate staff in and out of Tigray and transfer a limited amount of operational cash.  

However, said the Deputy Spokesperson, “humanitarian partners on the ground continue to report significant challenges due to cash shortages for operations”. 

Despite a $40 total injection of new resources to Ethiopia – $25 million from CERF and $15 million from the country-based Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund (EHF) –  the country still faces a funding gap of $1.3 billion, including $350 million for the response in Tigray. 

Despite an extremely challenging operating environment, humanitarian partners continue to respond to urgent and growing needs across northern Ethiopia, including in Amhara and Afar. 

In Amhara, a major food assistance operation kicked off in Kombolcha and Dessie towns, targeting more than 450,000 people over the next two weeks. 

Relocate families 

Yesterday, the UN announced that given the security situation in the country, and out of an abundance of caution, it is reducing its footprint in Ethiopia by temporarily relocating all eligible dependents.  

“It is important to note that staff will remain in Ethiopia to deliver on our mandates”, said Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.  

The UN will monitor the situation as it evolves, keeping in mind the safety of the staff and the need to continue its operations and support all those who need assistance. 

Earlier this month, the Organization confirmed that at least 16 UN staff and dependents had been detained in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and that it was working with the Government of Ethiopia to secure their immediate release.

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Africa Today

Ghana Can Create Better Jobs through Accelerated Economic Transformation

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Ghana has an opportunity in the coming decades, to accelerate economic transformation and create more and better jobs, after navigating through the heights of the pandemic. It can achieve this through fostering greater global integration, technological transformation, macroeconomic stability, and financial sector development, says the World Bank’s latest economic analysis for the country.

The newly released Country Economic Memorandum, Ghana Rising – Accelerating Economic Transformation and Creating Higher Quality Jobs says Ghana has all it takes to continue being an economic development star, if it takes the right steps to nurture growth and job creation.

“Ghana faces an acute challenge of generating more and better jobs and has a ‘missing middle’ of employment in mid productivity sectors”, notesPierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “This is the time for Ghana to fill that ‘missing middle’ by cultivating export-oriented activities in both manufacturing and services and harnessing the transformative potential of trade; it faces an historic opportunity to do so with the Africa Free Trade Continental Area (AfCFTA).”

The report highlights four main pillars for accelerating economic transformation and improving jobs outcomes:

  • To create jobs, Ghana will need to drive sectoral transformation through the movement of workers into higher productivity firms and sectors and spatial transformation through trade, urbanization, and connectivity. ‘Global innovator’ services, in particular ICT and business services, could play a critical role.
  • To deliver productivity growth and boost innovation and entrepreneurship, it will need to drive technological transformation through the adoption of digital and complementary technologies in domestic firms. To enable this change it will be key to improve internet connectivity, invest in foundational skills and advanced digital skills, and facilitate technology adoption for firms.
  • To support more inclusive private sector development, Ghana will need to leverage the financial sector to facilitate firm expansion, technology adoption and innovation.
  • To enable long-term inclusive growth, Ghana will need to double down on macro-fiscal stability, natural resources management and revenue mobilization (to generate the revenues to fund reforms for economic transformation). Environmental taxation can boost revenues while helping to minimize the impact of climate change on households and incentivize sustainable land-use.

This report lays out three scenarios for an accelerated economic transformation for better jobs” adds David Elmaleh, World Bank Senior Economist, and co-author of the report. “Without reforms, in a ‘business as usual’ scenario, Ghana’s economy is currently projected to reach upper middle-income status by 2037, while under a ‘bright horizons’ scenario, which includes the adoption of some key reforms to drive economic transformation, Ghana’s economy could reach upper-middle-income status by 2032. However, under a ‘pitfalls’ scenario, Ghana would have to wait until 2040. The greatest impact on GDP would be from reforms to raise the productivity of export-oriented global innovator services and manufacturing. This can start now, under the new budget.”   

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