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Africa’s Great Green Wall is Building Hope For the Hungry, Uniting People Across Borders

Rio de Janeiro: Beneath the glitz and glamour, the Samba and Rio’s carnival-like atmosphere, this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony showcased the most impossible sounding dream of all – Africa’s Great Green Wall.

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The initiative started a decade ago. Once completed it will be the largest man-made structure on Earth and a new wonder of the world.

The progress made shows that land restoration efforts on a mass scale are both possible and offer hope. Senegal has already planted 12 million trees, Ethiopia has restored 15 million hectares of degraded land and Nigeria has created 20,000 jobs in rural areas.

Featured in the Rio Olympics creative director Fernando Meirelles’ film on global reforestation efforts, the Great Green Wall struck a chord as a generation-defining initiative aiming to grow an 8000 km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa, against all odds.

The aim: to restore vast swathes of degraded land in a region called the Sahel and in the process provide food, jobs and a reason to stay for the millions of people living on the frontline of climate change that may be forced to migrate.

The Sahel region of Africa is one of the world’s most impoverished – a key reason being the degradation of enormous tracts of fertile land, which form the basis of people’s livelihoods here.

More than anywhere else on Earth, the Sahel is on the frontline of climate change and millions of locals are already facing its devastating impact. Persistent droughts, lack of food, conflicts over fewer natural resources, and mass migration to Europe are some of the many consequences.

Yet, local people from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East are fighting back. Since the birth of the initiative in 2008, life has started coming back to the land, bringing greater food security, jobs and stability to people’s lives.

Persistent drought, food insecurity, and conflicts over dwindling natural resources are some of the many consequences. Continued inaction means an estimated 60 million people could migrate to Europe from Africa’s degraded areas by 2030.

Meirelles’ film, which features footage from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) virtual reality experience unveiled at December 2015 Paris Climate Summit, provides a stark warning of the need to restore natural resources, like land.

“The Great Green Wall is about far more than just growing trees. It is a mosaic of interventions weaving across the Sahel region that is helping to build community resilience and provide economic opportunity,” said Monique Barbut, head of the UNCCD.

“Already, it is feeding hungry families and malnourished children, putting people back to work and growing peace and security to help communities thrive once more. Most crucially, it provides young people with a genuine alternative to migrating from their communities,” she added.

During the Paris Climate Change Conference, world leaders pledged a further $ 4 billion to the initiative over the next five years. For a poor region with hardly any resources to spare, this raises hopes of moving the initiative closer to its ambition of restoring 50 million hectares of currently degraded land, and sequestering 250 million tonnes of carbon by 2030.

The Great Green Wall is an extraordinary collaborative effort that transcends geographical, political and cultural divides and is uniting people across borders on an unprecedented scale.

“This is a bold ambition that chimes with the spirit of solidarity enshrined in the Olympic dream. It is a global symbol to celebrate our common humanity in divisive and troubling times,” Barbut said.

The Great Green Wall is an African-led project with an epic ambition: to grow an 8000 km line of plants and trees across the entire African continent. Its goal is to provide food, jobs and a future for the millions of people who live in a region on the frontline of climate change.

Under the leadership of the African Union Commission, it brings together African countries and international partners that include the EU, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the Global Environment Facility, UNCCD andWorld Bank Group.
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3 Low-Carbon Transportation Technologies Driving Development in the Global South

Transportation accounts for around one-seventh of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And globally, greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster in transportation than in any other sector, with rapid motorization — more cars and trucks — being the principal cause.

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Enhanced mobility has many positive effects on economic development and social welfare, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, including more efficient movement of goods and improved access to jobs, health services and education. But if this is achieved primarily through increased reliance on conventional private cars, it can mean diverting substantial financial resources to roads and suffering worse air pollution and traffic congestion. The benefits are huge, but the costs also can be significant. And this is accentuated in the developing nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most are experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization, and many have fast-growing economies.

But while the United States and some other wealthy countries struggle with crumbling transportation infrastructure riddled with underfunded bus, subway and light rail systems, many developing countries in the global South are facing an interesting challenge: developing low-carbon transportation systems where no formal transportation infrastructure previously existed. This provides both an opportunity and a challenge: because many cities in the global South lack substantial public transportation infrastructure, they can start with a relatively clean slate — but starting from scratch also can be difficult.

Some developing countries also face issues of changing the historical transportation industry structure, said Rachel Kyte, VP of sustainable development at the World Bank, in a 2011 interview. Many coun­tries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have bus systems that are owned and operated by a large number of small operators. Having a large number of small operators allows for low-cost services, but often leads to poor quality due to severe competition. Other problems include dangerous driving practices, pollution and a tendency to have too much service on profitable routes and virtual­ly no service on non-profitable routes.

Despite these challenges, some current and forthcoming innovations in public transportation are already or soon could help countries in the global South achieve low-carbon transportation systems. Here are some of the promising:

1. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

BRT is a bus-based mass transit system that generally has specialized design, services and infrastructure to improve system quality and remove the typical causes of delay. Sometimes described as a “surface subway,” BRT aims to combine the capacity and speed of light rail or metro with the flexibility, lower cost and simplicity of a bus system.

One of the best examples of BRT in the global South is the TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia. Opened to the public in 2000, TransMilenio consists of several interconnecting BRT lines, each composed of many elevated stations in the center of a main avenue. Users pay at the station entrance using a smart card, pass through a turnstile and wait for buses inside the station. The bus and station doors open simultaneously, and passengers board by walking across the threshold. TransMilenio buses enjoy their own dedicated lanes on the city’s sprawling and congested roads. For a city of 9 million people, TransMilenio was a godsend.

During my year living in Bogotá, I experienced TransMilenio firsthand, as it was my primary means of transportation across the sprawling city. While the system works well during non-peak hours, trying to use it during rush hour is a lesson into what it’s like to be a sardine. Granted, my Colombian friends told me of the horrors of trying to get across town before TransMilenio — people were forced to take so-called colectivos, or small private buses that run random routes throughout the city. Colectivos still play an integral role in getting people around, but for long-distance travel within the city, TransMilenio drastically cuts commute times — while it could take hours on a colectivo to get from one side of the city to the other, TransMilenio can cut this down to less than an hour.

2. Traffic-Straddling Buses

As crazy as it sounds, China has built a massive bus that straddles multiple lanes of cars to move commuters without creating additional traffic. Recently unveiled in Qinhuangdao, China, the prototype bus is limited to a 300 meter long track, with limited turns and traffic challenges.

If the bus proves capable of handling a wide variety of streets and traffic conditions, it could one day carry upwards of 1,200 passengers at speeds of close to 40 miles per hour. Adding a fleet of these buses to a crowded city center would be hundreds of millions of dollars cheaper than introducing new subways or elevated trains to help ease congestion.

3. Hyperloop

First proposed in 2013 by Tesla and SpaceX visionary Elon Musk, the ‘Hyperloop’ Transport System, has been promised to be capable of rapidly transporting people from Los Angeles to San Francisco via a tube in under 30 minutes. Earlier this year,Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), the startup aspiring to bring the Hyperloop to life, began construction on a full-scale, passenger-ready Hyperloop. The prototype will run 5 miles through Quay Valley, a planned community rising from nothing along Interstate 5, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But the first commercial application of the Hyperloop technology would make more sense in the developing world, according to Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of HTT, during an appearance late last year. Cities such as Beijing and Bombay have serious transportation problems, and the Hyperloop could help address them. If powered by renewable energy, the Hyperloop could provide a form of fast, efficient and sustainable travel. Musk claimed that the Hyperloop is going to do for the 21st century what the railroad did for the 19th.
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How business can drive energy access for all

In the past decade, renewable energy growth has broken records year after year, and 2015 was a remarkable one for developing countries.

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For the first time in history, according to the United Nations Environment Program, total investment in renewables exceeded that in developed economies, driven in part by national policies and the improving cost-competitiveness of renewable technologies. Investors, multinational energy players and renewable developers actively are pursuing new business opportunities in these electricity-thirsty markets.

Even so, the increase in renewable capacity, most often integrated into national and local grids, is very unlikely to electrify disconnected areas. Grid connection can carry high costs for building infrastructure and low investment attractiveness for private-sector utility players, and state budgets for electrification often are limited.

According to the International Energy Agency, 95 percent of the 1.2 billion people who lack access to energy today live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia and, due to very limited conventional grid connections in remote areas, they are predominantly in rural communities (around 80 percent).

But conventional grid connection is not the only option available. Projections from theInternational Energy Agency (PDF) show that of the 315 million people in rural areas who are expected to gain access to electricity by 2040 in sub-Saharan Africa, around 65 percent will be connected through unconventional means, such as off-grid and mini-grid systems. And as we wrote in a previous blog, the unconventional grid market is booming: The rollout of well-designed systems can provide electricity to a large number of people, as demonstrated in successful models in many developing countries.

In the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 7 — ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all” — it’s time to close the energy-access gap. Business is well positioned for leadership in this area through partnerships, community investment and stakeholder engagement.

Different off-grid solutions for different needs

To drive access to energy, companies, governments and civil society partners first need to define what off- or mini-grid solutions are available and most appropriate to address the needs of remote communities. Then they can move to how to use investments, partnerships and more to make access possible.

The quickest win is household-level solutions such as LED-based solar lanterns. These lanterns provide basic light for individual households and can be a cheaper and cleaner substitute for kerosene lanterns, which require families to buy fuel and can cause indoor pollution. Solar lanterns can help families save money, provide illumination at night for students to do their homework, and improve health and air quality, among other benefits.

However, solar lanterns clearly cannot respond to all the energy-related needs of families and communities. Standalone, off-grid applications, such as solar photovoltaic technologies backed up by battery-storage systems, can provide reliable supply to houses or facilities disconnected from the main grid. At the household level, this means that families will be able to power additional appliances, increasing access to communication and information, such as television, mobile phones and the internet.

Standalone, off-grid technologies also can power facilities offering essential services, such as healthcare. For instance, 1 billion people (PDF) in the world are served by health centers that completely lack electricity. Healthcare facilities need round-the-clock, reliable electricity to power lights, sterilization equipment and refrigerators for perishable medicines and vaccines.

The third option is mini-grids, or community-based network systems with small-scale, locally connected electricity production facilities, which can serve the village or community level. Mini-grids connect and power community services and buildings, households and local businesses.

According to REN21 (PDF), mini-grids are an attractive option: They can be quickly deployed, encourage private-sector growth and are efficient and flexible. When powered locally by renewable sources, they also can guarantee energy security: In disconnected rural areas, local power generation usually relies on diesel fuel, often imported over long distances and carrying high costs for the communities and the environment. Yet, as shown by a recent study, these costs can be reduced by hybridizing mini-grids with solar photo­vol­taic or other renewable power sources.

Access to energy partnerships for corporate social investment strategies

Once they have identified which solutions are best for communities, companies with operations in or near rural communities that lack access to grid connection should consider including programs on access to energy in their social investment strategies. In particular, extractives, energy players, renewable developers and multinational utilities that operate in such markets could invest in or finance systems such as standalone or mini-grid installations.

Local stakeholder engagement is an essential element to identify the right scale and solution for community energy needs. In particular, renewables developers and utilities have the opportunity to provide tangible demonstrations of the local benefits that they can bring — and at the same time build good neighborly relations.

Access-to-energy programs can be designed and implemented through a range of models, from direct investments and project implementation, to co-ownership with local partners and incubation support. By building partnerships among donors or for-profit investors that have funding, community-based organizations or nonprofits that have experience or networks to reach and engage communities and organizations or businesses with technical expertise, companies can ensure scalable, successful solutions to help close the energy gap.

Opportunities also exist, particularly for utilities and energy players that have in-house expertise, to provide capacity-building trainings on how to run and maintain appliances once they have been installed. This would allow effective knowledge transfer and also create job opportunities and enhance local skills.

A multitude of stakeholders across different geographies, sectors and industries are already contributing to Goal 7 and are pioneering innovative models built or financed in partnership with companies such as Total, Engie, Enel, EDP and other funders such as national development banks. Model partnerships include those with Barefoot College (active in India and in 76 other countries with its solar programs), Powerhive in Kenya, Devergy in Tanzania and Egg Energy in East Africa. These initiatives, however, need more business leadership to reach scalable impacts.

The rallying cry of Goal 7 is mobilizing efforts to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. It is now time for companies to fully connect to this movement.
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Africa needs entrepreneurs

With a majority of African nations diversifying from traditional sources of income, entrepreneurship is increasingly seen as a key to economic growth. So far, entrepreneurship has yielded huge returns for entrepreneurs, and according to experts, there lies great untapped potential to drive the African continent into its next phase of development.

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A study released in June 2015 by Approved Index, a UK-based business networking group, ranked Africa as among the top of the entrepreneurship chart. The Entrepreneurship around the world report listed Uganda, Angola, Cameroon and Botswana among the top ten on the entrepreneurship list.

The group sees entrepreneurship as a “necessity” at a time of high unemployment, saying: “When unemployment is high and the economy is weaker, people are forced to start small businesses to provide for themselves and their families.”

Entrepreneurship is seen as one of the most sustainable job generation tools in Africa.

Roselyn Vusia, a human rights advocate, points out that Uganda’s youth unemployment – estimated to be 83 percent, according to the African Development Bank’s 2014 report – is one of the highest in Africa.

Unemployment around the continent is also worrying. A 2013 study by Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, found that African youth (15 to 24 years) constitute about 37 percent of the working age population. The same age group, however, accounts for about 60 percent of jobless people in Africa.

Kwame Owino of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank based in Nairobi, says: High youth population, poor policy choices and a lack of comprehensive employment plans in many African nations precipitate the high rates of unemployment.”

Skills development focus

Vusia comments on one proactive approach: “The government of Uganda has implemented an entrepreneurship strategy that is focused on skills development, resource provision and access to markets. This seems to be bearing fruit,” she says.

The importance of entrepreneurship was underscored at the July 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, attended by US President Barack Obama, entrepreneurs from more than 100 countries and a group of US investors, among others.

Speaking at the summit, Obama lauded entrepreneurship for its promise for Africa with participants at the GES agreeing with him that entrepreneurship is one of the key ingredients in the toolbox to address youth unemployment in Africa, the region with the youngest population in the world. “Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world – it is the spark of prosperity,” Obama said.

According to Evans Wadongo, listed by Forbes Africa as one of the most promising young African entrepreneurs, many African governments have not been keen on developing policies that will avert unemployment among the youth in a big way.

“Governments are not doing enough. The private sector is trying, but most goods brought into the African market are from China. This denies the youth the much needed manufacturing jobs, which are more labour intensive,” he says.

Kenya’s cabinet secretary in the Ministry of Industrialisation and Enterprise Development, Adan Mohammed, however, defends the policies of most African governments, saying that their efforts have been spurring confidence in the continent and are enabling more young people to turn toward entrepreneurship.

“Success breeds success – as many entrepreneurs make headway, others get on board. Also, technology-based inventions are pulling entrepreneurs,” Mohammed says. “The mindset has changed and many young people now think as employers. Many African governments have ­created opportunities in terms of finance and access to markets.”

Commenting on the increase in foreign investment and economic growth in Africa, Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda says his government’s efforts to promote entrepreneurial culture have produced “remarkable results”. For instance, the state-run Youth Venture Capital Fund trains and provides money to young people with good business ideas. The government also helps young entrepreneurs to market their products.

Most importantly, with youth ­comprising more than 75 percent of its population, Uganda has remodelled its education system to include entrepreneurship as one of the subjects of instruction in secondary schools and colleges.

Also, with the help of the private sector and development agencies, the government has established information, communication and technology innovation hubs, which help entrepreneurs to launch successful start-ups.

Enabling environment

In Kenya, Eric Kinoti, the group managing director at Safisana Home Services, a company that provides cleaning services, hopes the government will follow Uganda’s example by creating an enabling environment to support entrepreneurship that can create jobs for youth.

“Many financial institutions in Kenya expect young people to provide collateral, yet only a few investors are ready to invest in young people’s ideas,” notes Kinoti, who mentors other young entrepreneurs and is listed among Forbes Top 30 under 30 in Africa.

Lack of access to working capital has hampered entrepreneurship in Kenya. Even though the government has created the Youth Enterprise Development Fund and Uwezo Fund to support youth entrepreneurship, budgetary constraints limit their impact.

“Entrepreneurship, if well managed, can create more jobs on the continent and increase the middle class, which is essential in sustaining economic growth. There is need to integrate entrepreneurship training in formal education in Africa to prepare the youth for the future,” Wadongo says.

In Cameroon, Olivia Mukami, the president and founder of Harambe-Cameroon, a social entrepreneurship organisation, insists that Africa needs to prioritise youth unemployment: “African countries are sitting on a powder keg and if they don’t change, it is going to explode.”

Mukami says that in addition to contributing to job creation, entrepreneurship can also help the continent solve some of the social problems that undermine progress. “I am encouraged that the government of Cameroon has prioritised entrepreneurship as a key pillar of Cameroon Vision 2035.”

Andrew Wujung, a lecturer of Economics at University of Bamenda in Cameroon, attributes the country’s entrepreneurship effort to its unique poverty reduction strategy. Unlike other countries in Africa, Cameroon’s poverty alleviation strategy is linked to entrepreneurship. Moreover, the government is organising robust skill acquisition and training programmes for entrepreneurs and making credit facility easily accessible to people with innovative technological and business ideas.

For entrepreneurship to strongly impact Africa’s economy, governments must tackle some of the greatest challenges that impede its progress, including lack of funds, relevant mentorship and poor government policies. In addition, African governments should consider giving the private sector incentives through tax relief to create more jobs. Laws and regulations should favour entrepreneurs.

Mohammed says Africa is on the right path. But to reap the fruits of entrepreneurship, effective strategies and policies are required to create more employment opportunities within small and medium enterprises.
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Rwanda: Green Fund supports climate change

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In East Africa, the Rwanda Green Fund, which is best known in the country as FONERWA, has opened the next round for submission of proposals from all leading organisations in the country to express their interest in obtaining funds.

The invitation is open to ministries, government agencies, districts, private sector companies, academic institutions and civil society organisations to submit funding proposals for initiatives that promote the mainstreaming of environmental protection, climate change and green growth into Rwanda’s economic development programmes.

Rwanda Green Fund – primary focus

It is reported that for this intake around, the Rwanda Green Fund is aiming at projects and programmes developed primarily in line with sectors of Rwanda’s economy, including energy, agriculture, transportation, environment, urban and rural settlement, water and sanitation.

According to local media, the fund requests applicants to demonstrate in their proposals according to the various sectors –wide green and climate resilient initiatives that will improve the performance and sustainability in implementing sector programmes.

To understand the requirements, applicants are encouraged to get more information from the Programmes of Action outlined in Rwanda’s Green Growth Climate Resilience Strategy.

Alex Mulisa, coordinator of the Green Fund explained that: “Climate mainstreaming is about ensuring the environment and climate change are at the core of our development plans, policies and strategies. We want to invest in initiatives that bring all stakeholders to the table to incorporate

Mulisa continued: “By bringing everyone on board, we know the return on investment for Rwanda’s socio-economic development and natural environment will be immense.”

Electricity access

In terms of the energy sector, the procurement of this funding would mean that the sector will be on its way to achieving the target of 70% electricity access to the population by 2018. In 2015 the percentage stood at 23% access rate.

Last month, Jean-Bosco Mugiraneza , the chief executive of Rwanda Energy Group stated that to achieve the set target government is working on both on-grid and off-grid solutions to achieve the target. This will be divided into 48% on-grid and 22% off-grid.

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Scratching the Surface of African Tourism

“Tourism in Africa is on the rise, but has not yet reached its full potential,” is the rallying cry from the African Development Bank’s Africa Tourism Monitor 2015 with a view to 2016 and beyond, as it alludes to a wealth of opportunities, continent-wide, to capitalise on rapidly growing international interest.

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The third annual instalment of the study – in conjunction with New York University’s Africa House and the Africa Travel Association – was aptly titled ‘Unlocking Africa’s Tourism Potential’ upon its release at the start of the year, and through comprehensive insight into facts, figures, contributions, accounts, industry representatives and tour operators, the general consensus suggests there is so much more to come.

And this isn’t to say that the current figures make for grim reading either.

“One of the key findings of the report, as indicated in its introduction, is that the tourism sector in Africa is growing,” reported the African Development Bank upon the document’s release. “In 2014, a total of 65.3 million international tourists visited the continent, around 200,000 more than in 2013. Back in 1990, Africa welcomed just 17.4 million visitors from abroad. The sector has therefore quadrupled in size in less than 15 years.

“According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Africa’s strong performance in 2014 (up four percent) makes it one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations, second only to Southeast Asia.”

The multicultural, multifaceted nature of what Africa has to offer seems to be the reason behind the ever-rising interest among international tourists; diverse attractions from the pyramids in Egypt, to Table Mountain in South Africa, the Sahara, Victoria Falls, rainforests, safaris and plains combining to present a range unparalleled anywhere else on earth.

The only drawback remains the way in which the countries in question continue to market such lures, and how they can continue to build an infrastructure and industry capable of housing the scope of people who would hope to one day grace their shores.

Africa’s Top Three tourist destinations in 2014

“Two North African countries top the list of most-visited countries in Africa. Egypt experienced the strongest growth in the sector in 2014, with 454,000 more international arrivals than in 2013, an increase of five percent in just one year.

“Second on the list is Morocco, which once again recorded more than 10 million incoming international tourists in 2014, an increase of 236,000 when compared with the previous year.

“In third place is Côte d’Ivoire, in West Africa. The country is experiencing a strong economic recovery. Although it recorded “only” 91,000 more international arrivals in 2014 than in 2013, this figure represents a 24 percent rise in just 12 months. This double-digit growth provides yet further evidence of the country’s vast tourism potential.”

–          African Development Bank’s Africa Tourism Monitor, 2015

Simplistic initiatives

Ultimately, the long-term benefits of meeting these demands speak for themselves. Already, the influx of tourists to the continent has had a dramatic effect on each country’s economies and in 2014 alone; Africa recorded US$43.6 billion in revenue from the sector.

In total, international tourism now accounts for 8.1 percent of Africa’s total GDP, and the benefits extend far beyond the initial fiscal statistics as well.

“More tourists also mean more jobs,” the African Development Bank emphasised. “Across the continent, there are around 20 million people working directly or indirectly for the tourism industry. This means that the sector accounts for 7.1 percent of all jobs in Africa.

“Jobs supported by the sector include guides, hotel staff, interpreters, aviation staff and small businesses.”

Beyond that, individual sectors are also thriving as a consequence of the rise, with industries such as hospitality experiencing particularly rapid growth in both developed and emerging nations; once again driving higher levels of employment and domestic business relationships as a result.

The Bank continued: “The hospitality sector is expanding into new countries such as Mauritania, which has, until now, remained largely on the fringes. According to the report, it is sub-Saharan Africa, rather than North Africa, that is benefiting most from the expansion of hotel chains and the corresponding increase in the number of available rooms.

“Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, comes top of the rankings in this respect, followed by Egypt and Morocco. However, the biggest hotel development project in sub-Saharan Africa can be found in Equatorial Guinea, in the Grand Hotel Oyala Kempinski, which, when complete, will feature 451 rooms.”

Again, the onus now is to not only ride the wave of the trend, but to proactively leverage it to its full extent, and numerous initiatives are beginning to manifest around the continent to this end; both to harness the increased number of tourists already visiting the continent, and to attract even more in the future.

The African Development Bank noted: “The report is particularly complimentary about recent simplifications to the visa system and regional cooperation mechanisms, including the introduction of the e-visa and the single visa scheme, enabling tourists to visit all Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states using just one visa.

“Other examples include the “KAZA” (Kavango Zambezi) common tourist visa developed by Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the single visa covering three countries – Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – launched by the East African Community (EAC) in February, 2014.”

Untapped potential

These simple – but effective – schemes are already expected to boost tourism revenue and job creation by as much as 25 percent in the coming years, replicating a successful model adopted across Europe, North America, South America and Australasia over the decades.

It is just the beginning though, with more and more calls coming for an improvement in the infrastructure awaiting tourists once on the continent, as opposed to solely improving the logistical proposition for people choosing Africa as a destination in the first place.

“Transport infrastructure and services is one of the key constraints limiting growth of the tourism sector,” the Bank offered as an example. “As the report indicates, ‘Journeys in the African continent are not always seamless’. In fact, it is more difficult – and more expensive – to travel across Africa than to get there from Europe, America or the Middle East.

“The report also points to other barriers to tourism sector development in Africa, including a lack of dedicated incentive policies, the need for closer regional cooperation, weaknesses in infrastructure and security problems.”

As such, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) launched its Tourism Action Plan way back in 2004 to help develop a more sustainable approach to tourism, but the effectiveness and extent of the initiative is still yet to be realised despite the potential 155,000 jobs it would create, and the US$1.3 billion extra GDP it would generate.

“Security issues have posed a particular problem for the sector since 2013, especially in North Africa, Mali and coastal regions of Kenya,” the Bank added in regards to some of the key drawbacks. “The report indicates that, of the 80 countries for which travel warnings were issued by the US State Department, 30 were located in Africa.

“Moreover, although the 2013-2014 Ebola virus outbreak only affected West Africa, it created a climate of fear that spread to many other countries on the continent; even those far from the source of the outbreak.”

Negative impacts on some of the continent’s natural lures, including the increased number of animals on the brink of extinction and damaging connotations associated with poaching and illegal trading of species are further areas which Africa needs to address in order to turn around the continent’s global perception entirely; and these epitomise a general status which highlights that the recent positive growth in tourist numbers is barely scratching the surface of what can be achieved in the future.

The African Development Bank concluded: “Although international tourism is on the rise in Africa, the continent currently accounts for just 5.8 percent of the world’s incoming tourists and 3.5 percent of global revenue in the sector.

“As such, the sector still has vast untapped potential; potential that, if exploited, could kick-start rapid economic growth.”
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SA’s first green development comes to Menlyn Maine precinct

Pretoria is rapidly attaining a new maturity as the decentralisation of the city centre accelerates and growth nodes such as Menlyn, which is increasingly being dubbed ‘Pretoria’s Sandton’, comes into its own.

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The ZAR10 billion Menlyn Maine precinct starts to come online with the launch of its Central Square in September 2016.

“The City of Tshwane has for long identified a need for additional, new growth and business centres that could provide relief for the overburdened infrastructure of the city centre, while broadening the development of the region,” says Retha Schutte, Pam Golding Properties Regional Executive for Pretoria.

“Now, with properly designed mixed-use mini-cities such as Menlyn Maine increasingly coming on stream, and the opening of the development’s impressive 60 000sqm Central Square scheduled for 21 September 2016, this imperative is finally being realised and in the process Pretoria is reaching an exciting new stage in its development cycle.”

“Menlyn Maine is an immense 315 000sqm purpose-designed green mini-city, which effectively combines office, commercial, residential and entertainment spaces. It is not only the largest project of its kind within the Tshwane municipal region but one of the most ambitious projects of its kind in Southern Africa. The developers of Menlyn Maine have partnered with the international Clinton Climate Initiative and the precinct is one of only 17 green cities that will be built in various countries and the only one in Africa.

“The precinct is already emerging as a prestigious new business centre and the address of choice in Pretoria. We truly believe that this development stands alone and that it is set to change how people throughout the region will work, live and play.”

Thys Greeff of Menlyn Maine Investment Holdings says that the soon-to-be-opened Central Square will be the focal point of the Menlyn Maine precinct. It will include a Virgin Classic Club, a 240-room 4-Star hotel by The Capital Group and 14 835sqm of office space, which will be integrated with the new 30 000sqm the specialty tenanted, boutique retail mall and the Central Square Piazza.

“The city centre will be a meeting place with coffee shops and restaurants offering a handpicked range of alternatives, from early breakfast, to all-day dining and more formal dining, all located within an exciting, accessible and safe urban green space. It will also contain an office tower.”

According to Schutte, Pam Golding Properties partnered with Menlyn Maine to assist with the purchase and assembly of 108 stands in Waterkloof Glen Ext 2 between 2006 and 2007, after which construction could commence.

“Since then, the development of Menlyn Maine has been most impressive. In addition to the launch of Central Square, we are also seeing an increasing number of leading corporates, financial institutions, law firms and a range of other professional service providers, as well as retailers and hoteliers moving into the precinct.”

According to Greeff, South Africa’s first green mini-city has been designed with the greatest attention being paid to appropriate urban planning and green design. One result of this is that the precinct will use much less energy and less water than a comparable development of this size.

“We were effectively able to develop this mixed-use city from the ground up into what we believe is an ideal urban environment. The idea behind Menlyn Maine is to create an easily accessible, exclusive and self-contained urban centre where corporate staff members and residents can work and live within a healthy, attractive and highly productive environment where everything is close to hand and within easy walking distance. Residents and visitors will also have access to a range of highly select retailers and entertainment facilities,” adds Greeff.

“The precinct is designed according to the standards set down in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighbourhood Development rating system. The streets, residential developments, office buildings, retail outlets, dining establishments, commercial facilities as well as all other public spaces are being designed to promote responsible, healthy lifestyles in a sustainable city precinct. This is establishing Menlyn Maine as an address of choice for living, working, shopping and entertainment,” observes Schutte.

On completion, the development will offer prospective tenants a variety of facilities with a total lettable area of approximately 315 000sqm. An exclusive residential component will be added as part of the second phase. All of the buildings in the precinct are required to achieve a minimum of a Four-Star Green Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

Sun International’s application to move their gaming licence from Morula Sun to Menlyn Maine was approved at the end of 2014.

The development of the Time Square Urban Entertainment Complex has already commenced and will include a 5-star hotel, 8 000 seat entertainment arena, a 10 000msqm casino and conference facilities.

The first building to be completed in Menlyn Maine was the regional head office for Nedbank. This is a 16 500sqm building with a 5-Star rating by the Green Building Council of South Africa. Subsequent buildings that have been constructed including the new corporate head-office for Sage VIP as well as the headquarters for Regus. The development of a 4 200sqm building, with the BMW SAP Competence Hub as primary tenant, was completed in November 2015.

“Menlyn Maine is uniquely situated to take advantage of the continued development of Tshwane and is likely to assist in energising the entire eastern region. From a residential property perspective, we believe it will spur growth within the residential property market and will serve as magnet within this eastern region of Pretoria where residential property prices continue to hold their own.”

“As South Africa’s capital, Pretoria has for long needed additional business and development centres that are viable and sustainable. Menlyn Maine goes a long way to meeting these requirements and it is heartening to see this novel mixed-use precinct finally come to fruition,” concludes Schutte.
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Source: biznisafrica


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Africa droughts prompt calls to start pumping untapped groundwater

Despite recent heavy rains, Ethiopia is still reeling from the worst drought to hit the country for half a century, particularly in the livestock-dependent regions of Oromia and Somali. Yet studies (pdf) suggest the country could have billions of cubic metres of untapped groundwater.

The story is the same across many parts of Africa, where farmers rely on erratic rains and depleted surface water while potentially vast groundwater reserves go ignored. Africa’s subterranean water amounts to an estimated 660,000 cubic kilometres (pdf), according to research from the British Geological Society – more than 100 times the continent’s annual renewable freshwater resources.

A new initiative co-led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is aiming to mobilise support for greater use of Africa’s under-used aquifers. Developed in the wake of targets set at the UN Sustainable Development Summit and the Paris climate talks last year, the goals of the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP) include leveraging $1bn (£770m) of investments in sub-Saharan Africa for sustainable groundwater irrigation and improving groundwater access in the region for 4m rural households.

The idea is timely given widespread drought across southern and eastern Africa, yet it is not without controversy. Decades of overexploitation in north Africa(pdf), where groundwater is more abundant, have left many sedimentary aquifers dangerously depleted and in some cases degraded by saltwater intrusion. In Morocco, for example, the water table of the Saïss deep aquifer – one of north Africa’s largest aquifers – has fallen by an annual average of 3m over the past 20 years.

If the right policies and incentives are in place, however, groundwater can be exploited sustainably, argues Jeremy Bird, director general of IWMI.

Not only is groundwater more locally available and more reliable than rain in many parts of Africa, says Bird, it also serves as a better buffer to climate shocks: “It provides an opportunity for farmers to move one step up the ladder from very uncertain rain-fed irrigation, which is subject to the vagaries of climate, to supplementary irrigation, which offers them the ability to provide water when the crop really needs it.”

Improving Africa’s irrigation infrastructure has long been a goal of national policymakers and development agencies. The World Bank, for instance, is currently trying to mobilise international funders to help double irrigation levels in six countries in the drought-prone Sahel region.

The Sahel Irrigation Initiative Programme, with input from IWMI, is now considering the use of simple, farmer-managed pump bores alongside its focus on more expensive canals, reservoirs and other centrally-managed surface water infrastructure projects.

Vincent Casey, water, sanitation and hygiene senior adviser at WaterAid, however warns these simple pumps must be managed well: “Despite the advantages of convenience and affordability, the scale of pumping is very difficult to regulate which inevitably has economic consequences when groundwater is depleted.”

Africa may have considerable untapped aquifers, but not all are able to be easily and affordably accessed, says Casey. “Rural electrification has been limited, discounting the possibility of politically motivated energy subsidies that could make high powered pumping affordable to small scale farmers”. Capacity for groundwater withdrawal is also hampered by a lack of reliable hydro-geological data (Ethiopia hasmapped less than one quarter of its groundwater resources) and relevant expertise.

All these factors contribute to a patchy experience of groundwater projects to date. According to UPGro – a DFID-funded research programme examining groundwater in sub-Saharan Africa – nearly one third of such projects in sub-Saharan Africa fail within a few years of construction. The World Bank puts the estimated cost of groundwater project failures at more than $1.2bn (pdf) in lost investment over the last 20 years.

The main aim of GRIPP, which is focusing on projects not just in Africa but around the world, is to correct this trend through the promotion of research and knowledge-sharing around sustainable groundwater withdrawal practices and policies.

A vital step in this respect centres on farmer buy-in, says Ugandan water planning expert Callist Tindimugaya, vice president of the International Association of Hydrologists, a GRIPP partner. Because groundwater is an “invisible commons”, he argues, farmers struggle to know what comprises sustainable usage. Government provision of cheap power for water pumps and other price incentives to promote agricultural productivity can lead to overuse as well, he adds.

“Local initiatives to co-manage the resource are increasingly being explored as an important element in sustainable groundwater use as farmers realise their common interest in safeguarding the resource,” says Tindimugaya.

A case in point from another part of the world is in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where farmer groups in over 700 communities agreed to collectively monitor groundwater levels, to plan their crop planting jointly and to adopt water-saving techniques. The project, which ran from 2003 to 2009, successfully reduced overexploitation (pdf) in the semi-arid state. Since the project ended, however, and without adequate governance systems in place, most of the farmer-led initiatives have ceased.

Policymakers might find incentives the best initial defence against unsustainable abstraction, says Bird. He cites a pilot project in the Chinese province of Shanxi, where farmers access set volumes of water from the state-run pumping system with pre-paid smartcards. If they use less than their quota of pumping time, they can trade it with other farmers.

“Our role is to identify the types of policies which might work in a particular situation, learn lessons from other areas and then assess the impacts of these policy decisions over time and see what the implications have been,” says Bird.
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Source: theguardian


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AECOM partners with University of Salford to fund sustainable infrastructure research

Environmental consultancy firm AECOM and the University of Salford have struck up a new partnership that aims to improve understanding of how major infrastructure programmes interact with the environment.

The new partnership will co-fund research that potentially leads to PhD studies and scientific papers covering building projects in ‘environmentally sensitive’ areas and biodiversity disruptions during construction, which will be ‘increasingly important’ for future sustainable infrastructure projects.

AECOM’s chief executive of environment and ground engineering for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa Peter Skinner said: “Shaping research so that it is applicable to specific projects provides students with opportunities to make a tangible difference to both academia and industry through their learning.

“Greater collaboration between universities and the private sector will make an important contribution to mitigating the impact of infrastructure on the environment and protecting the natural world. AECOM is proud to be working with the University of Salford on this initiative to increase understanding of the environmental and ecological aspects of infrastructure projects.”

The partnership evolved as a result of AECOM’s work with the Mersey Gateway project – A six lane toll bridge that will stretch across the river Mersey and one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK – in which AECOM are advising on the complex and sensitive estuarine environment surrounding the construction areas.

As a part of this project, AECOM decided that further research on large infrastructural impact on similar sensitive environments would be beneficial to sustainable construction.

The University of Salford’s vice chancellor for research and enterprise Nigel Mellor said: “This partnership will provide a unique opportunity for both parties. It fits into our aim of focusing our research at real life challenges and to deliver real life impact for society. It will also give our students the chance to get involved in a live project and help them develop key skills for industry.”

Green tape

AECOM expressed concerns regarding sustainable building practices being hindered by Government and Mayoral politics in an exclusive talk with edie in April. Ant Wilson of AECOM highlighted the Green deal and the zero-carbon homes policy as examples of green policies that have been stunting sustainable growth within the sector.

This issue is evident in various large cities. For example, whilst London is one of the leading cities in adopting green buildings in the UK, the city is suffering from a ‘quantity over quality’ approach to sustainable buildings and is unwilling to set quantifiable energy efficiency targets for buildings.

However, this new partnership could alleviate concerns and push forward initiatives to promote best practices for sustainable building development. Moreover, the recently introduced Natural Capital Protocol – a standardised framework to measure business value impacts on natural assets – also tackles misunderstanding and differing opinions on sustainable business construction, providing a more direct path to follow for sustainable business growth.
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Africa: Innovative Upcycling of Food Waste Expands Opportunities for Food Waste Management

PRESS RELEASE

London — Key emerging opportunities will be in the conversion of food waste to products such as plastics, fruit juices, food ingredients, and liquid fuels, finds Frost & Sullivan

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The concept of food waste management (FMW) has gained traction with the declaration of food waste reduction as a target in the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Countries across the globe are showing greater interest in reducing as well as managing food wastage. The present gap between the amount of food waste generated globally and the number of storage and recycling facilities in operation translates to significant opportunities for the development of effective FWM technologies.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Emerging Trends and Opportunities in Food Waste Management, finds that policies favouring food waste reduction in Europe and North America and the setting of global targets greatly aid the development of FWM technologies. The most popular methods for FWM at present are composting and anaerobic digestion. However, they do not help salvage unspoilt food from the food waste. These processes can also be energy intensive, substantially reducing the overall environmental benefits of FWM.

“Currently, there is a demand for technologies that can convert food unfit for human consumption to animal feed,” said TechVision Research Analyst Lekshmy Ravi. “Technology developers are simultaneously working on repackaging or repurposing food waste to food for human consumption using less energy-intensive solutions and employing novel management models.”

There are considerable research and industry initiatives for the conversion of food waste to products such as plastics, fruit juices and food ingredients. Additionally, innovative FWM companies are trying to convert food waste to valuable products such as liquid fuels.

While technology developers are looking to eliminate inefficiencies in FWM, it is also necessary to form strategic partnerships along the various links of the food supply chain. These synergies can help improve the efficiency of FWM and facilitate the exchange of technologies and techniques.

“Eventually, companies are likely to adopt models that enable the efficient and cost-effective extraction of valuable products from food waste,” noted Ravi. “Overall, key emerging opportunities are expected to be in the extraction of edible ingredients from food waste, conversion of misshapen fruits to saleable products, and conversion of byproducts from food production.”

Emerging Trends and Opportunities in Food Waste Management, part of the TechVision subscription, offers a detailed account of FWM’s global trends. It discusses various solutions for FWM and studies the various pathways that could be adopted, as well as innovative technology and management solutions. Our expert analysts have identified emerging business models for FWM and employed Porter’s Five Forces to analyse the various FWM pathways.

Frost & Sullivan’s global TechVision practice is focused on innovation, disruption and convergence and provides a variety of technology based alerts, newsletters and research services as well as growth consulting services. Its premier offering, the TechVision program, identifies and evaluates the most valuable emerging and disruptive technologies enabling products with near-term potential. A unique feature of the TechVision program is an annual selection of 50 technologies that can generate convergence scenarios, possibly disrupt the innovation landscape, and drive transformational growth.

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Source: allafrica


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