Take an African scientist and an African engineer and ask them to find a solution to water-borne problems that impact on 783 million people, and cause 443 million ‘lost school days a year’ due to disease. Chances are that they will come up with a solution to provide Africans with safe, healthy drinking water.
For Dr Lloyd Muzangwa, a Zimbabwean scientist, and his friend George Kahabuka, a Tanzanian engineer, knowledge is something that has to be shared with others.
“Life does not measure you on the basis of your credentials, but on the results you deliver,” they explain. This philosophy formed the basis of their entry into the recent Standard Bank Water 4 Africa challenge. Dr Muzangwa’s and Kahabuka’s submission was announced as the winner of the ‘Mid-stage’ (tested solutions, ready for first deployment) category of the competition, which saw them walking away with a prize of US$5,000 for the development of their MAJI 1200 water purification system.
The category was one of three that saw inventors from around the globe competing for the honours for their innovative work in developing water solutions that could be implemented across the African continent.
Winners in other categories were:
· Late stage (deployed solutions, ready for scale) – a single prize of US$10,000, which was awarded to the inventor of the SpaTap in Australia.
· Early stage (new and promising concepts) – which saw three prizes of US$2,000 each being awarded to inventors Joel Mukanga of Uganda, Felix Manyogote of Tanzania, and James Murphy of South Africa.
Applying their minds and scientific and engineering skills, gleaned in Africa as well as with major US and European high tech companies, the inventors of the MAJI 1200 saw it as their duty to use their abilities to benefit Africa’s people.
Their prize money will go towards the construction of MAJI 1200 units that will be donated to schools in far-flung areas of rural Zimbabwe. Bringing together the natural energy of the African sun and trends in modern water purification practice, the MAJI 1200 promises to bring first-world science and engineering knowledge about potable water to African water treatment, explains the 28-year-old Dr Muzangwa.
He adds that he spent his childhood in rural Zimbabwe, but now spends his time as a researcher in the areas of chemistry, physics, astro-chemistry and astro-biology.
“The MAJI 1200 system uses innovative ultraviolet (UV) light technology and solar energy to purify water, using technology that is becoming acceptable to public and regulatory agencies for use as an alternative disinfectant.”
“When municipalities install UV systems, the water supply is protected from chlorine-resistant micro-organisms. UV disinfection can also be used as a virus-barrier against Adenovirus – a major cause of respiratory problems and diarrhea – in a multi-barrier strategy to provide confidence in water supply.”
“While chemical disinfectants destroy or damage a microbe’s cellular structure, UV light inactivates microbes by damaging their DNA, thereby preventing the microbe’s ability to replicate (or infect the host). UV light does not impart tastes or odours to water as chlorine does, and does not form harmful disinfection by-products, or increase bacterial regrowth in distribution systems.”
“The MAJI 1200 can be used as a mobile or fixed water disinfection system. It can help communities in rural areas since it is solar powered, is relatively affordable to construct, and delivers high volumes of water. It is basically a maintenance-free system in which only the lamp and filter require replacement.”
Looking to the future of the system, Dr Muzangwa says that funding is required to set up an installation plant in Africa. A positive spin-off of this could be job opportunities with each installation being tended to and operated by people trained in its use.
With the present cost running at approximately US$2,000 per unit, funding to scale up production and conduct further research would be a bonus. To this end, active lobbying for donors, sponsors, NGOs, and governments is underway.
In the meantime, the MAJI 1200 inventors aren’t resting on their laurels. They are developing other systems that use generators and electricity as well as smaller purification systems.
“The MAJI 1200 is undoubtedly a most exciting project from Africa to emerge from the Water 4 Africa challenge. It is already attracting interest in Zimbabwe and Tanzania and has the potential to open access to healthy water for millions of Africans,” says Jayshree Naidoo, Innovation Thought Leader at Standard Bank.
“It is exactly the type of innovative contribution we were seeking when we sponsored Water 4 Africa, and sought global input in major areas of water conservation. These ranged from ensuring the sustainability of groundwater resources, sanitation, and purification of water including solar, through to filtration of water, as well as innovative solutions to promote wise water use.
“Harnessing the internet ensured that inventors and social entrepreneurs from across the globe could take part in helping solve a significant African problem. By using ‘crowd sourcing’, a powerful tool to gather innovative ideas and identify practical solutions to address the water issues, we ensured that collaboration around water saving projects could take place, regardless of geographical boundaries.”
“It was particularly encouraging to see that of the five winners announced across categories, four are from the African continent. It is great to see that Africans from all walks of life are involved in their communities and are intent on spending their time and talents to benefit others,” concludes Naidoo.
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Less than a sixth of the tens of millions of tonnes of electronic and electrical waste generated across the world last year was properly recycled, reused or treated, a study has found.
There was 41.8 million tonnes of “e-waste”, ranging from washing machines to mobile phones in 2014 – containing an estimated £35 billion in resources such as gold, silver and copper, as well as toxins including ozone layer-depleting gases and mercury.
But just 6.5 million tonnes was sent to proper recycling, reuse or treatment systems, the Global E-Waste Monitor compiled by the United Nations University (UNU) think tank found.
While the US and China produced the most electronic and electrical waste overall, contributing 32% of the total, the UK was one of the biggest producers of e-waste per person – coming fifth behind Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark.
The problem is growing as a result of rising sales and shortening life cycles of electronic and electrical equipment, which includes any device with a battery or an electric lead, the UNU said.
UN under-secretary-general David Malone said: “Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’ – a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials.
“At the same time, the hazardous content of e-waste constitutes a ‘toxic mine’ that must be managed with extreme care.
“The monitor provides a baseline for national policymakers, producers and the recycling industry, to plan take-back systems.”
He said it would also help control the illegal trade in electronic and electrical waste.
“This will eventually lead to improve resource efficiency while reducing the environmental and health impacts of e-waste,” he said.
The waste generated in 2014 contained an estimated 16.5 million tonnes of iron, 1.9 million tonnes of copper and 300 tonnes of gold, which was equal to a little over a tenth (11%) of the world’s total gold production in 2013.
Toxins in the waste including 2.2 million tonnes of lead glass, 300,000 tonnes of batteries – as well as mercury, cadmium, chromium, which can harm health, and 4,400 tonnes of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Around 60% of the waste was a mix of large and small equipment used in homes and businesses, with large items including washing machines, dishwashers, electric stoves and solar panels and smaller items including vacuum cleaners, electric shavers and video cameras.
Just 7% of the waste was made up of mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, printers and other small IT equipment.
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Since 2008, when the global financial crisis nearly brought down the world economy, financial reform has been among the top items on policymakers’ agendas. But, as leaders move from fixing the problems of the past to positioning the financial system for the future, they must also grapple with new threats to its stability, particularly those stemming from climate change.
That is why a growing number of governments, regulators, standard-setters, and market actors are starting to incorporate rules concerning sustainability into the financial system. In Brazil, the central bank views the integration of environmental and social factors into risk management as a way to strengthen resilience. And in countries like Singapore and South Africa, companies listed on the stock market are obligated to disclose their environmental and social performance, a requirement that investors and regulators increasingly view as
essential to the efficient functioning of financial markets.
Initiatives like these might once have been regarded as part of a peripheral “green” niche. Today, they are considered central to the operation of the financial system. In Bangladesh, the central bank’s efforts to support economic development include low-cost refinancing for banks lending to projects that meet goals for renewables, energy efficiency, or waste management. In the United Kingdom, the Bank of England is currently evaluating the implications of climate change for the insurance sector as part of its core mandate to oversee the safety and soundness of financial institutions.
In China, annual investment in green industry could reach $320 billion in the next five years, with the government able to provide only 10-15% of the total. In order to prevent a funding shortfall, the People’s Bank of China has recently produced a report with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) setting out a comprehensive set of recommendations for establishing China’s “green financial system.”
In India, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has established a new “green bond” working group to explore how the country’s debt markets can respond to the challenge of financing smart infrastructure. And recent regulatory changes hold out considerable potential for listed investment trusts to deploy capital for clean energy.
So far, such measures affect only a small fraction of the $305 trillion in assets held by banks, investors, financial institutions, and individuals in the global financial system. But they are set to be applied more broadly as financiers and regulators alike recognize the full consequences of environmental dislocation.
Those consequences already are severe. In 116 of 140 countries assessed by UNEP, the stock of natural capital that underpins value creation is in decline. The human and economic costs of continued high-carbon growth include severe health impacts, growing disruption to infrastructure, and water and food security, as well as increasing market volatility, most notably in developing countries. This damage will become worse, with risks becoming unmanageable if emissions of greenhouse gases are not reduced to net zero levels between 2055 and 2070.
As the threat from climate change becomes more evident, financing the response to its impact will become increasingly important. Developed countries have committed to mobilize $100 billion in annual financial flows to developing countries by 2020, but much more is needed.
Above all, it is essential to place the financing challenge posed by climate change within the broader context of the green economy and sustainable development. The task for those charged with governing the financial system is to enable the orderly transition from high- to low-carbon investments and from vulnerable to resilient assets. According to the New Climate Economy initiative, $89 trillion will be spent on global infrastructure investment by 2030 – with an additional $4.1 trillion needed to make it low-carbon and resilient.
To mobilize the required capital, policymakers will need to harness the power of the financial system. The scope of risk management will need to be expanded, so that long-term sustainability and risks from climate change are included in prudential rules for banking, insurance, and investment. New “green banks” can help to bring in funding from debt and equity markets. Transparency will have to be improved, through better corporate reporting and enhanced disclosure from financial institutions. And financial professionals’ skills and incentives will have to be retooled and revised to reflect these new priorities.
Promising avenues for international cooperation are now opening up. For example, the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors have just asked the Financial Stability Board to explore how the financial sector could address climate issues. Actions such as these will not only strengthen climate security; they will also contribute to a more efficient, effective, and resilient financial system.
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Recent news that the U.K. and other Western European countries will join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has prompted a flurry of discussion about how the U.S. — which has been reserved about the new institution — should respond. The Chinese-led AIIB is a new international financial institution (IFI) that will finance infrastructure projects in Asia.
Whatever Washington decides, it’s clear that the AIIB and other new multilateral institutions are becoming an important part of the development finance landscape.
These banks can support much-needed infrastructure improvements in the developing world, but they’ll also need to ensure that their investments do not come at the expense of local communities or the environment.
In terms of economic power and population, emerging economies are underrepresented in existing IFIs such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS countries) togethercomprise 21 percent of the world economy and 43 percent of the world’s population, yet their voting power at more traditional IFIs does not match their size. For example, they collectively hold 14 percent (PDF) and 11 percent of voting shares in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Monetary Fund, respectively.
At the same time, today’s infrastructure investment needs far exceed the amount of finance currently available. In Asia alone, the overall need for national infrastructure investment is estimated to be about $8.22 trillion (PDF) for the period between 2010 and 2020.
Existing available capital will not meet this financial need. New financial institutions such as AIIB and the New Development Bank (NDB), a bank initiated by the BRICS countries, are stepping in to fill the gap.
In October, 21 countries signed an MOU to create the $100 billion AIIB. As of April, 35 countries had signed up to be prospective founding members — including a number of European countries such as the U.K., Germany and Switzerland — and dozens more have applied.
The bank is expected to be formally established by the end of 2015. Also in 2014, the BRICS signed an agreement to create a $100 billion NDB. These banks usher in a new wave of increased development and financial cooperation between developing countries, emerging markets and developed economies.
5 key questions for new development banks
These new actors in development finance have the advantage of learning from existing IFIs’ decades of experience and setting a new international standard.
As they move forward with their operations, they’ll need to ensure that the infrastructure projects they fund do not generate pollution, damage health or otherwise harm people or the planet.
There are a number of questions they should consider, such as:
1. Voice and vote: How will the banks structure governance?
If the intention is for these institutions to address the needs of emerging economies, will emerging economies retain a combined majority voting power?
2. Climate risks: How will they factor climate into investments?
What will be the balance between green investments, such as those in renewable energy and efficiency projects, and brown investments, such as those in extractives? How will they fund climate change adaptation and mitigation projects? Will they rule out investments in high-carbon infrastructure such as coal-fired power plants?
3. Environmental and social risk: What role will environmental and social safeguards play?
Will the banks create environmental and social safeguards to ensure that infrastructure projects do not generate unintended consequences such as pollution or social unrest? How will they incorporate lessons and experiences of existing IFIs? What measures will they take to ensure thorough and robust implementation?
4. Transparency and accountability: How will they handle information and data?
Will information regarding investment decisions be publicly available? Will there be a grievance mechanism and an independent accountability mechanism? What are the expectations for stakeholder engagement policies, and how will they consult stakeholders (PDF)?
5. Country systems and principle-based systems: How will new institutions strike the balance?
How will institutions balance internal safeguard policies with country-level safeguards? Under what circumstances, if any, will country systems operate independently?
It’s clear that the world needs development banks led by emerging economies, both to scale up the level of investment and to give developing countries better representation in the world of development finance.
Yet these new banks also will need to play another role: championing sustainability as they usher in more development.
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