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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What is driving Uber’s global impact?

At the San Francisco headquarters of Uber, three televisions greet visitors and employees just past the check in desk. The central screen plays a video on repeat: “Moving riders, moving partners, moving newlyweds, moving ice cream, moving Kenya, moving China, moving Australia, moving anywhere.” On the opposite wall, bright green dots are plotted on a black world map, demonstrating the spread of this ride hailing company that just completed its 2 billionth ride.

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Uber has evolved from an app that would summon fancy town cars to the most highly valued startup in the world. The transportation company, which has caused some controversy and made some enemies, sometimes activates its platform for social good, providing free rides to give blood or cast votes or donate clothes. But it is through its hyper focus on efficiency that Uber may have the most potential to benefit riders and drivers across the 473 cities and 76 countries where it works.

Uber is focused on building its business, which is what has made the brand so ubiquitous that it has become, like Google, a verb as well as a noun. The company has expanded its mission from providing rides on demand to reinventing transportation as we know it. While sustainable global development is by no means Uber’s goal, the byproduct of its business has early stage impact and long term potential in areas like safe roads and clean air that have traditionally fallen within the domain of aid agencies.

Turning every car into a shared car

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is an engineer turned entrepreneur known for his obsession with efficiency. He described the original idea behind the company, which launched in 2009, as allowing him and his friends to “roll around San Francisco like ballers.” That mission has since expanded to putting more people in fewer cars.

It is efficiency that has led to new services that can reduce costs as well as emissions, the most notable of which is uberPOOL. POOL, which matches riders heading in the same direction for a shared trip, now makes up 20 percent of Uber rides globally.

“What has succeeded in making carpooling and ridesharing mainstream is a company that set out at the beginning to make a high end black car app, moved to uberX to get a lower price and expand the market, and moved to uberPOOL as part of a commercial imperative to use space and driver time more efficiently,” Andrew Salzberg, head of transportation policy and research at Uber, told Devex. He previously worked as an urban transport specialist for the World Bank, one of many agencies that has considered ways to incentivize ridesharing to make transportation more sustainable.

The road map for every Uber city includes POOL, which has expanded to 41 cities across the world, with recent launches in Bogota, Colombia, and Jakarta, Indonesia. The carpooling service has yet to reach sub-Saharan Africa, where general managers are first working to attract enough riders to make the service viable. Still, even without combining passengers, the Uber platform maximizes the number of rides that individual cars are providing daily in these markets.

While Uber is a data driven platform with software that guides most of its operations, POOL is “by far the most interesting thing” the company has done with data, Salzberg said. Algorithms determine how much riders should pay for POOL, constantly integrating new insights and adapting as a result. And the company is gathering information on the hundreds of thousands of gallons of gas and thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide the service saves.

“With the technology in our pockets today, and a little smart regulation, we can turn every car into a shared car,” Kalanick said in a recent TED Talk. If the startup can make car free lifestyles more realistic in markets where mass car ownership has not yet happened, there would be significant impacts extending from infrastructure to environment to health. Still, the public sector plays a critical role.

“Uber is a testament that the global development community needs to continue pushing the envelope in terms of innovations that promote sustainable transport,” said Christopher Kost, Africa program director at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. The success of the company thus far demonstrates the way technology can gather actionable data, monitor system performance, and improve customer experience, he said.

“Bringing these features to public transport systems will require more action from governments and entrepreneurs to innovate; measure societal impacts; and tackle policy, market, and cultural barriers,” Kost added.

Accelerating expansion and employment

While the app is only useful to those who have smart phones and spare income, it is quickly expanding in the developing world, with recent additions in Africa including Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Accra, Ghana; and Kampala, Uganda.

“Uber’s ambition is to be everywhere — any progressive, forward-thinking city that has a need for safe, reliable and efficient transportation, we want to be there,” Alon Lits, ‎general manager of sub-Saharan Africa at Uber, told Devex via email. “We are part of a broader mobility movement, establishing smart cities of the future, and we are constantly exploring our options of where to go next.”

But regulatory roadblocks remain. In many countries, regulators have tried to level the playing field between traditional taxis and smartphone apps they say have an unfair advantage. Other countries are making new ridesharing laws that recognize Uber and related services as “transportation network companies.”

While Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to regulate Uber, a year after the rules were created, the city government has yet to create the fund it announced to collect revenue from ridesharing apps.

The city, home to the largest taxicab fleet in the world, has seen violent confrontations between Uber drivers and official taxi drivers. Battles such as these are being staged on streets across the world because cab drivers say Uber is undermining their businesses by driving prices down and offering services that taxis cannot. But Mexico City also represents an example of the pace at which Uber is expanding from urban to suburban areas, including less wealthy areas historically underserved by transportation, Matthew Devlin, who leads international relations at Uber, said at Devex World.

“So you think about what that means in terms of creating access to jobs, to education, to healthcare, allowing people to participate in the social and civic life of their city,” he said.

Because Uber is a marketplace that matches riders with drivers, the company is constantly adding to the 1.1 million active drivers on its platform to keep up with demand. While driver complaints about the downsides of the freelance model, including the lack of benefits, has led to the launch of new startups focused on making drivers happy, Uber advertises the flexibility the platform gives drivers to be their own bosses.

Last year, the company committed to create 1 million jobs for women drivers on the Uber platform by 2020. But while this offers a public relations boost, the 1 Million Women initiative is — like every Uber priority — ultimately all about operations.

“The reasons why this initiative matters are so fundamental to our business,” Blaire Mattson, global lead for the initiative, told Devex. “I deeply care about it. All the people I work with closely care about it. But because it’s embedded in our business, caring about it is not a prerequisite to actually getting things done on it.”

Uber is partnering with local nongovernmental organizations to implement the initiative, including iCare Life, a social enterprise that trains women drivers in India and takes them through the commercial licensing process.

While the global taxi industry is male dominated, the technology behind Uber minimizes some of the safety concerns that can be a barrier to entry for women. Before accepting a ride, Uber drivers can see the ratings of their passengers, and those riders have a digital trail including trips tracked by GPS. Uber is drilling into its data to understand the differences between male and female driver behavior, identify the gaps between signing up for the service and taking the first trip, and design ways to incentivize women drivers to use the platform.

“Think about the nature of our business: push a button to get a ride. That is a simple concept, but you unpack that, and so many factors come into play to make that happen,” said Ebi Atawodi, the general manager of Uber Nigeria. “Wherever you go and whatever business you take to market, if you don’t understand your market and adapt your service for that market, it creates a disconnect.”

Like every Uber country office, Uber Nigeria is a locally incorporated company that hires employees, runs support services, and adapts the platform to meet the demands of local consumers. For example, while Uber riders in most markets pay via credit card through the app, riders in Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa have the option to pay in cash. Many of these riders and drivers handle these transactions via mobile money transfers such as M-Pesa.

The most populous city in Africa, Lagos, Nigeria, serves as an example of why cities simply cannot afford a future in which ridesharing and carpooling are not the norm, Atawodi said.

Data-driven driving

While some customers are simply making the switch from taxis to apps, others have entirely new options to get from point A to point B now that Uber has come to town. Take Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Women there make up more than 80 percent of the Uber customer base, and before they could simply open the app and request a ride, women had to rely on private drivers if they could afford them, make several calls to find an available driver, or wait half an hour for the limo companies Uber now works with.

But if companies such as Uber want to make a transformative impact on congestion, which can be a major drain on national economies, they should do more to share their data, said Holly Krambeck, senior transport specialist at the World Bank.

“Transport agencies currently spend enormous amounts of time and resources collecting basic data about the transportation network,” she told Devex. “If they could leverage the sizable GPS datasets generated by taxi hailing apps, there are opportunities for unprecedented economies of scale in traffic analysis and congestion management.”

Uber, however, has distinguished between anonymized and aggregated data and the personally sensitive information the company is often asked to share. While the company is forced to provide some data to cities and regulators, it also wants to preserve its trade secrets and protect the private information of its riders and drivers.

Silicon Valley is not the only source of large, successful car hailing app companies. Uber’s primary competitor is Lyft, also headquartered in San Francisco. But Didi Chuxing in China, Ola in India, Easy Taxi in Latin America, and Grab in Southeast Asia have also achieved economies of scale that make them formidable regional competitors.

Uber views competition not just as other smart phone apps, but as any other way people might get around the city — from bikes to buses to cars of their own. Still, the startup does face competition in the more traditional sense. Didi Chuxing is buying Uber China, creating a new company as part of the merger in which Uber will have an 18 percent stake.

In Kenya, the mobile network operator Safaricom announced a partnership with a local software firm to launch a new ride hailing service that could pose a real threat to Uber in that country. And Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed in his recently updated “master plan” that the electric car company plans to develop fully autonomous vehicles that can make money for their owners when they aren’t using them by picking up other riders.

Of course, shared taxis and microbuses — like jeepneys in the Philippines or matatus in Kenya — were popular modes of transportation in developing countries long before Uber arrived on the scene. But car hailing apps improve upon this model, which is usually frowned upon by local authorities as chaotic and unmanageable, in a few key ways.

“Smartphones have the ability to organize that chaos: introducing rating systems, convenient electronic payment, and the ability to have on-demand travel,” said Robin Chase, the co-founder and former CEO of the car sharing network Zipcar. “Uber is an example of how we can tame a mode of transportation that already exists.”

G-Auto in India, which is providing 4.5 million trips a month on 15,000 rickshaws that are owned by individuals, available on demand, and rated, is one example of local entrepreneurs “uberizing” their models. Chase said she would like to see more of these. But while Uber has inspired countless spin offs, the company has also caused the closure of similar apps, and generated opposition or even hostility from the taxi market and local startups.

If Uber expands to Kigali, Rwanda, Peter Kariuki, chief technology officer at the taxi motorbike hailing app SafeMotos, sees two possibilities. Uber could either crash and burn or succeed, in which case SafeMotos might be forced expand to serve new markets that do not yet have the population density Uber seeks.

As Uber aims to fill that world map on its office wall with new green dots, there will be tradeoffs. For example, the investment Uber is making in autonomous cars, which may make roads safer, could also eliminate the jobs the company is creating.

But, from uberPOOL to 1 Million Women to recently announced plans for a global mapping project, whatever will make the platform more efficient, and therefore enable Uber to put more people in fewer cars, will determine how the company handles forks in the road.
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Africa Can Build a Sustainable, Renewable Energy Matrix

Speaking about energy matrix in Africa, last week, Head of Power at Standard Bank, Rentia van Tonder said “Africa is uniquely placed to build a sustainable, renewable energy matrix with immense potential.” “However, how quickly, efficiently and at what cost does the continent builds this energy infrastructure will be influenced by sovereign wealth, governments commitment and capital markets,” she pointed out. The World Bank estimates that only 24% of people across sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity.

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Furthermore, limited, inefficient or expensive distribution networks ensure that the bulk of what little power is available is narrowly concentrated in a handful of countries and commercial centres. The rapid evolution of renewable energy generation and distribution technology provides sub-Saharan governments with a range of new sustainable energy alternatives, however base load electricity remains a key driver. “Scalable wind and solar projects are often smaller and more focused, requiring less capital and time to develop,” said Ms van Tonder. “Smaller renewable projects, while often generating less power, can nevertheless support growth in investment if focused on the most productive sectors of an economy through focused investment.” Renewable energy projects also have the advantage of costing less the longer they operate, depending on the specific technology, operation and maintenance agreements. This means that once they are paid off, through user-pay tariff structures that correctly reflect cost; they can be re-focused on supplying cheaper power to non-capital generating elements of the economy. “Creating the institutional infrastructure to attract global capital at affordable rates, and then manage it efficiently, remains important,” said Ms van Tonder.

“The development of local currency pools of liquidity and capital is essential, and in short, if Africa is to achieve power self-sufficiency, we need to move beyond having to rely on the US dollar to fund every major project.” While project finance is often raised in foreign currency, project revenues on the continent are generally denominated in local currency. Where the exchange rate between the currency of revenue and the currency of debt diverge, the cost of debt increases dramatically. This carries the risk of extending repayment periods – or defaulting entirely – with exponential cost implications over the long term.

Given these risks, and costs, the attempts currently being made by legislators across the continent to deepen domestic capital markets should be encouraged and Pan-African multilateral forums would do well to consider how Asia and other emerging regions deepened local capital markets as a critical development enabler.

While developing a diverse matrix of traditional and renewable energy supply on the continent requires long-term institutional development, shorter- term challenges requiring immediate attention when considering energy projects on the continent include: Countering the effect of lower commodity prices and US dollar strength by; lending against ring-fenced security or cash, allowing pre-paid charges to reflect currency depreciation, seeking innovative non-US dollar denominated financing, or selling off operating assets.

 Avoiding project cost and time creep by focusing on realistically-sized power projects determined by greatest developmental or earning returns. Countering environmental damage and cost while reducing project delivery time-frames by up-weighting renewables in the energy mix. Africa stands uniquely placed to develop a diverse and sustainable energy mix, in the shortest time.

The strategic use of renewables can also deliver this at the lowest costs and least environmental impact while building energy infrastructure with the longest shelf-life addressing the long term power needs for the continent. “Standard Bank’s deep experience in scoping, planning and raising capital for numerous IPPs and PPPs across the continent has positioned it to identify the key institutional attributes that drive the efficient and successful leverage of the global capital for the development of power infrastructure,” said Ms van Tonder.

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Infrastructure investment should benefit all in drive for Africa’s transformation

It must be emphasised that if sustainable development and real transformation are to be achieved, infrastructure development and the approaches chosen to finance it must serve the people, bring education, health and clean energy to the poor and marginalised.

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Agenda 2063, the African Union’s long-term vision and blueprint for transformation, identifies infrastructure development as one among a few key pillars for Africa’s economic prosperity and sustainable development.

Along with good governance, sustained peace and a people-driven and socially just dispensation, the African Union aims to have the necessary infrastructure to support accelerated regional integration and growth, technological transformation, intra-African trade, and expanded investment by 2063. Through infrastructure development, for instance, Agenda 2063 foresees intra-African trade growing from less than 12 percent in 2013 to approaching 50 percent by 2045 and the African share of global trade rising from two percent to 12 percent in that time.

However, despite recent economic gains, Africa still suffers from a crippling infrastructure gap particularly in sectors with a high social return. Analysis by the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank (AfDB) shows that whereas road access rates average 50 percent in other parts of the developing world, in Africa it is only 34 percent, and transport costs are twice as high. Only 30 percent of Africa’s population has access to electricity, compared to 70-90 percent in other parts of the developing world. Water resources are woefully underused with only five percent of agriculture under irrigation. In addition, the Internet penetration rate is a mere six percent compared to an average of 40 percent elsewhere in the developing world. The AfDB has estimated that the poor state of infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa undercuts national economic growth by two percentage points annually.

In dollar terms, the World Bank estimated in 2010 that Africa’s infrastructure needs would cost a whopping US$93 billion – some 15 percent of Africa’s GDP – annually for the period up to 2020. Of this, roughly half is being provided by African governments, external sources and infrastructure users, leaving a financing gap of close to US$50 billion per year. The bulk of this deficit is felt in power (US$29.2 billion), and water and sanitation (US$14.3 billion).

It comes as no surprise therefore that through initiatives such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and other sectoral mega initiatives, the African Union and its partners have embarked on an aggressive drive to bridge the massive infrastructure deficit on the continent. While these efforts are commendable, the existing and emerging approaches and trends to financing infrastructure are threatening to derail the goal of enabling true, people-centred, development and socio-economic transformation on the continent.

To start with, key economic and social development drivers and inequality busting investments in areas such as education and health, as well as essential physical infrastructure, have traditionally been funded by meagre domestic public budgets supplemented by foreign aid. African countries characteristically have low tax bases, limiting their ability to adequately fund provision of these basic services. In addition, countries already saddled with debt have begun to experience rising debt levels, further eroding their ability to fund much needed social and basic services infrastructure. To add to Africa’s woes, against a rising global average, overseas development assistance (ODA) which still enables many African countries to meet their financing needs for health, education and civil service salaries, is in decline.

Against the background of constrained domestic and international public financing, funding for future essential services infrastructure is increasingly being earmarked for delivery via private sector models. Yet the track record of existing projects is mixed, with the worst performing often prioritising profit over delivering public goods to all, regardless of ability to pay. In many cases this has seen public funds blended with private-sector money to fund high-end hospitals and institutions for basic service delivery that charge user fees beyond the reach of many, thereby perpetuating a model that is extremely unlikely to deliver better health outcomes for poor people. This flies against other efforts to end poverty and rein in growing inequality on the continent.

Increasingly ODA is being used to ‘leverage’ private sector money as donors try to encourage more investment from business in infrastructure development.

The private sector is one of the main beneficiaries of improved infrastructure, and it is only right that means be found to help increase private sector investment in infrastructure. This is especially so where such investment translates to more sustainable, well-paying and decent jobs for local communities. However, there is often a thin and muddied line between choosing to deploy public funds to support private sector-led models due to the latter’s efficiency and ability to serve all, and choosing such schemes solely based on their commercial potential, in other words profit. The greatest danger is that the predominant focus on achieving commercial returns on projects financed by the private sector will detract from the developmental imperatives of aid.

Thus leveraging will work at cross purposes with the aim for transformation if it only serves to divert international public funds away from development of social infrastructure and supporting governments to enhance state capacity to deliver quality public services towards greater investment in ‘profitable’ infrastructure projects. Besides, there is not much evidence showing that using aid to leverage private investment delivers significant pro-poor development outcomes.

Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) have increasingly become a key infrastructure financing model across all sectors from agriculture to health and beyond. Cases abound where – driven by the profit potential – PPPs have been implemented leading to some of the continent’s most vulnerable people being forced from their homes and losing their livelihoods to make way for large-scale agriculture, transport and water infrastructure projects. There is also the well-documented case of a health PPP project in Lesotho that has resulted in new health delivery infrastructure that is beyond the reach of many and is exacerbating inequality through user fees and diversion of government funds from investment in several rural primary health facilities to one urban hospital. This case is by no means isolated as other research has shown.

PPPs are also often characterised by inequitable risk sharing, putting a disproportionate financial burden from failed investments on governments rather than private sector partners, and often leaving the poorest communities – rather than the project partners – bearing the brunt of the social and environmental risks. Where aid has been used, recent changes in ODA rules by the OECD Development Assistance Committee will now allow donors to count public guarantees – the money public entities agree to pay private investors in the event of a failed investment – as ODA, thus putting aid at the mercy of risky private sector-led initiatives.

Recognising these risks, over 30 civil society groups meeting at the margins of the just ended 2016 Annual Meetings of the African Development Group called on the AfDB to ensure public funds should only be used to leverage non-exploitative private sector funds that have clear social returns and equitable risk sharing. In addition, the CSOs encouraged the Bank and governments to only harness global corporate players’ role in development where it maximises domestic benefits – creating local jobs, raising domestic tax revenues and contributing to the growth of domestic private sector – rather than based on enhancing global profits.

Further, communities risk being by passed by the current infrastructure development drive if deliberate efforts are not made to ensure that they benefit from the various ongoing and future mega infrastructure development projects on the continent.

In the energy sector, for instance, while investment through PIDA and other programmes runs into billions of US dollars, projects being financed are primarily aimed at increased generation and grid expansion.

However, for a continent that accounts for 16 percent of the world’s population and yet has 53 percent of all the total population without electricity in the world, investments will do more to address energy poverty through ambitious distribution of energy services to poor people than added generation. Expansion in centralised power generation serves industry, the services sector and already-connected households, before it serves the poor. What Africans need most urgently is more investment in beyond-the-grid energy infrastructure as the majority of the energy poor who currently reside in rural areas will not benefit from on-grid increased capacity or extension interventions.

In addition the approach to infrastructure development which links major cities, mining towns and sea ports, for example, is likely to soak up vast amounts of financial resources, only to exacerbate long entrenched patterns of extraction and global inequality. It is important that such projects, for example in transport, directly benefit citizens within countries rather than simply focusing on the needs of corporations for large-scale movement of import and export commodities.

There should be a strong bias towards supporting public means of transport and increasing access of communities to markets and trading centres particularly in rural communities.

Thus, given Africa’s infrastructure deficit the efforts to bridge this gap that being driven by the African Union and its organs, African and international development financing institutions, and other development partners on the continent are laudable. However, it must be emphasised that if sustainable development and real transformation are to be achieved, infrastructure development and the approaches chosen to finance it must serve the people, bring education, health and clean energy to the poor and marginalised.

New transport infrastructure must enable farmers and small scale entrepreneurs to get their produce and wares to local markets as well as move daily commuters between their homes and workplaces at non-extortionate rates. Planning must ensure that communities are able to meaningfully participate in infrastructure decisions that affect their lives.

Adequate safeguards and mechanisms for transparency and accountability must be put in place to protect against human rights violations and environmental degradation.

These, among other necessary conditions, will ensure that Africa’s emphasis on infrastructure development and investment will really benefit the people of Africa, particularly the poorest and marginalised among them, towards attainment of the vision set by Agenda 2063.

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Maritime shipping enables carbon efficient growth in Africa

The climate change challenge cannot be isolated from the on-going need for economic development in Africa, and the aim should be to reduce CO2 emissions whilst increasing trade and economic opportunities for the growing population on the continent.

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Jonathan Horn, Maersk Line Southern Africa Managing Director is shedding light on the environmental challenges that lie ahead, and aims to show that substantial reductions in CO2 are possible while still enabling trade and development across Africa.

Horn explains that in order to create a sustainable low carbon economy, an efficient shipping sector is critical.

“Maritime shipping is the most carbon-efficient method to transport goods – far more efficient than road or air transport. For example, transporting one ton of goods for one kilometre by air or truck emits 560 grams and 45 grams of CO2, respectively. If the same quantity of goods is transported by one of Maersk’s energy efficient Triple-E vessels as little as three grams of CO2 is emitted,” he says.

About 90% of global trade by volume travels by sea and trade is crucial in the pursuit of creating development opportunities. According to the World Bank, no country has significantly increased per capita income the last 50 years without greatly expanding trade.

Horn therefore highlights the need for a more sustainable and efficient trading environment in order to effectively reduce the environmental impacts of trade, still enabling growth.

“The choice of transportation method plays a significant role in the level of CO2 emitted during the transport process. We are committed to further accelerating growth on the African continent while at the same time raising the bar on carbon efficiency. Our commitment is long-term, as is our history in Africa,” adds Horn.

Since 2007, the Maersk Group’s shipping company, Maersk Line, has proven that shipping can decouple growth and fossil fuel consumption, already having reduced emissions per container moved by 42% by end 2015 from a 2007 baseline.

“Maersk Line has driven energy efficiency improvements across the company, pioneering initiatives ranging from network design and speed optimisation, to technical upgrades and the deployment of new and more efficient ships in its network, such as the Triple-E vessels.”

Despite CO2 emissions remaining relatively low in Africa, when compared to other more developed regions, severe consequences can be felt throughout the continent. According to the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, eight out of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. The continent is suffering from increased climate-related ‘shocks’, such as the extreme drought that has persisted across Southern Africa, exacerbated by an exceptionally strong El Niño weather pattern.

“Reducing our carbon footprint remains at the core of our commitment. The Maersk Group is pursuing energy efficiency across its entire portfolio and have set a target to improve CO2 efficiency across the group by 30% by 2020, compared to the 2010 baseline. By the end of 2015, Maersk Group had achieved a 23% improvement,” he says.

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World Bank skills project targets 30,000 youth

A new World Bank initiative has been launched to help Tanzanian youth improve the quality of their skills and tap into the country’s key economic sectors.

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The US$120 million programme announced on 16 June will see at least 30,000 trainees in university, technical, vocational and alternative programmes benefit from an initiative designed to help eradicate deficiencies in workforce skills in Tanzania. The initiative is being funded under the World Bank’s International Development Association.

Dubbed Education and Skills for Productive Jobs, the project aims to improve the quality, quantity and relevance of skills vital for sustainable development and employment.

This will strengthen the institutional mechanisms of Tanzania’s new National Skills Development Strategy – NSDS 2016-2021 – which aims to boost the supply of quality labour for industries.

According to the World Bank, it is critical that Tanzania promotes short-term approaches to capacity building such as short-cycle training and firm-based training in addition to vocational, technical and university training.

Key areas

Young people will be trained in key economic areas such as tourism and hospitality; agriculture, agribusiness and agro-processing; transport and logistics; construction; information and communications technology; and energy.

According to a World Bank statement, Tanzanian firms have identified a skills gap that is higher than the average in Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world. The country also has low levels of skills compared to other developing countries, and the gap is greater at medium and higher skills levels.

An information document linked to the project states that about 32% of the population has either no primary education or incomplete primary education. Around 46% of people have completed primary education.

In addition, a large proportion of unsuccessful firms have complained of skills constraints, with 63% reporting that a lack of workers with the right skills contributed to their failure.

Long-term development

“The improvement of human capital by helping to address the skills gap is critical for the attainment of the country’s goal to become an industrialised economy, create income opportunities and reduce poverty,” said Bella Bird, World Bank country director for Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi and Somalia.

“But also with the population of job-seeking youths growing ever so rapidly, these actions are important for long-term development.”

The five-year initiative will be implemented in accordance with the Tanzanian government’s National Skills Development Strategy guidelines under the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training.

The project will support the progress of integrated reporting and management of information systems, to enable the ministry to collect, consolidate and use real time data on service delivery for planning and monitoring.

Similarly, the project will support training institutions being funded to develop systems to track post-training employment of graduates.
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Africa needs best and brightest to embrace agriculture as a career

EVERY year, thousands of young Africans join an exodus from their families’ small, often struggling, farms in the countryside. Their dream — sometimes fulfilled, often not — is to find a more rewarding and stimulating life in the continent’s rapidly growing cities. Few return, but even fewer ever completely sever their ties.

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It’s a complicated connection and one I deeply understand. My own exodus to the city as a young man opened up a lifetime of opportunity that culminated with serving as president of Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy. But not only did I retain my ties to agriculture, I have now returned to my roots. I’m a farmer again — at Obasanjo Farms Limited — and I’ve never been happier.

Working the land once more has given me a better perspective on two of the biggest challenges facing Africa today: how do we provide employment opportunities to the millions of young Africans, who are the world’s largest population of people under 25 years of age so they can stay in the village and farm? And how do we put an end to the seemingly endless cycles of food crises that are, as I write, playing out again with dismaying familiarity in parts of eastern and southern Africa?

Fortunately, more and more Africans like myself are seeing these issues as intertwined. We see agribusiness as Africa’s biggest opportunity to not only end hunger and malnutrition, but also as Africa’s best hope for generating income and employment, particularly in rural regions. The World Bank estimates that by 2030, demand for food in our rapidly growing urban areas will create a market for food products worth US $1 trillion. This market needs to be owned and operated by African farmers, African agriculture businesses and African food companies.

But one thing is clear to me as I return to farming: to achieve its potential, African agriculture needs a fresh infusion of innovation and talent.

I have many fond memories of my childhood in a small farming settlement near Abeokuta, the capital of Nigeria´s Ogun State. By the age of five, I was accompanying my papa to the fields where we grew cassava, maize, plantain, oil palm and other crops. A proud Yoruba man, my father was considered the most successful farmer in our village. While living with few modern amenities, we grew plenty of food, and we enjoyed the cultural wealth of our Yoruba traditions and history.

Ultimately, this way of life was unable to withstand pressures that would soon intensify — population growth, political turmoil, land scarcity and soil degradation.

Today, African farmers need several things that my father lacked but which farmers elsewhere in the world take for granted. We need improved crop varieties developed to resist disease and tolerate drought. We need access to modern inputs, like fertilisers. We need markets where farmers can profit from their labour and thus justify investments in improved production. We need affordable credit that all small businesses require and extension services that help us keep abreast of sustainable farming practices.

But ultimately we need people. Specifically, we need Africa’s best and brightest to embrace agriculture as a calling and a career.

Recently, I agreed to chair the selection committee for the new Africa Food Prize, an award that aims to recognise outstanding individuals or institutions taking control of Africa’s agriculture agenda. It started out in 2005 as the Yara Prize. But moving it to Africa in 2016 and rechristening it the Africa Food Prize has given the award a distinctive African home, African identity and African ownership. It is also a substantial award: $100,000 for the winner.

The hope is that the Prize itself and its cadre of winners will signal to the world that agriculture is a priority for Africa that all should embrace. It can call attention to the individuals who are inspiring and driving innovations that can be replicated across the continent.

I sometimes portray my return to farming as coming full circle. But in reality, while I cherish my childhood memories, I don’t want to return to the past. I want to be part of the future, where farming in Africa is a lucrative, exciting entrepreneurial pursuit and young people aspire to be farmers because they see talented men and women building a rewarding career in farming and farm-related work.

I hope that the Africa Food Prize quickly becomes a symbol of all that agriculture in Africa can offer and that one day soon, we will see a shift, when young people in urban areas will look longingly to countryside and think: there lies the land of opportunity.

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New climate innovation hub to Jumpstart Ghana’s green economy

The World Bank Group has inaugurated a multimillion climate innovation centre to support Ghana’s growth strategy to help more than 100 local clean technology businesses develop and commercialise innovative solutions to mitigate effects of climate.

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The launch of the first technology hub in the country on Tuesday came barely four months after the World Bank approved a financial package of $17.2 million to fund the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre located at Ashesi University College in Berekusu in the Eastern region.

The centre will support the country’s climate change policy to help over 300,000 Ghanaians increase resilience to climate change in the next 10 years.

It is also expected to support local clean technology ventures to mitigate 660,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the emissions of almost 140,000 cars in a year, World Bank said, and it will contribute to the production of over 260 million kWh of clean energy in the West African country.

Environmental scientists warn that if global temperatures rise by more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the consequences will be severe and, in some cases, irreversible and projected glaciers will continue to shrink, heat waves will be more frequent and the oceans will get warmer and more acidic.

UN special envoy on climate change and former Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, said at the launch that emerging countries like Ghana would be unable to mitigate climate change effects unless they joined global forces.

“I believe global action is crucial to fight the impact of climate change, I believe science and technology should be deployed at every stage, the effort must be global, this is what the world must be awakened to,” he said.

“If we are seeking green solutions to fight the impact, which is global, I believe public policy, donor community support, as well as private ventures should share the risk of investment to transition from fossil fuels to green energy.”

Kufuor urged donors to fulfil their pledges in terms of financial commitments and developed nations to extend technology to back developing countries in Africa’s fight against climate change.

“Africans cannot deal with the problem without global partnership,” he stressed, “we need the global community, the promises and pledges have been there for some time, unfortunately the pledgers have not fulfilled their pledges in terms of financial support, in terms of technological extension.

“No country is an island now, unless the world moves together to do something by 2020 or 2030 to put temperatures under two degrees Celsius, it will be like all of us being on the same boat, we either sail together or we sink together.”

Henry Kerali, World Bank country director for Ghana said, in a speech read on his behalf: “The Ghana CIC solidifies the role of the private sector in helping Ghana manage the effects of climate change.

“By enabling entrepreneurs and green innovators to test and scale new clean technologies, home grown business solutions can help the country build climate resilience, while also contributing to job creation and economic development.”

According to the World Bank report, Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change, without a proper green growth strategy, Ghana’s agricultural gross domestic product is projected to decline by 3 per cent to eight per cent by the middle of the century.

Coastal erosion from rising sea levels could result in significant loss of land and forced migration, while extreme weather events could further strain the country’s infrastructure.

To reduce the long-term cost of climate change and create opportunities for sustainable growth, the bank said the GCIC will provide local companies with the knowledge and resources they need to develop prototypes and market innovative clean technologies in sectors like climate-smart agriculture, waste water treatment, and off-grid renewable energy.

The services offered by the centre will include sea financing, policy interventions, and market connections, as well as technical and business training.

Similar centres have been established in the Caribbean, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morroco, South Africa and Vietnam.

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Climate change puts 1.3bn people and $158tn at risk, says World Bank

Organisation urges better city planning and defensive measures to defend against rapid rise in climate change-linked disasters.

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The global community is badly prepared for a rapid increase in climate change-related natural disasters that by 2050 will put 1.3 billion people at risk, according to the World Bank.

Urging better planning of cities before it was too late, a report published on Monday from a Bank-run body that focuses on disaster mitigation, said assets worth $158tn – double the total annual output of the global economy – would be in jeopardy by 2050 without preventative action.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery said total damages from disasters had ballooned in recent decades but warned that worse could be in store as a result of a combination of global warming, an expanding population and the vulnerability of people crammed into slums in low-lying, fast-growing cities that are already overcrowded.

“With climate change and rising numbers of people in urban areas rapidly driving up future risks, there’s a real danger the world is woefully unprepared for what lies ahead,” said John Roome, the World Bank Group’s senior director for climate change.

“Unless we change our approach to future planning for cities and coastal areas that takes into account potential disasters, we run the real risk of locking in decisions that will lead to drastic increases in future losses.”

The facility’s report cited case studies showing that densely populated coastal cities are sinking at a time when sea levels are rising. It added that the annual cost of natural disasters in 136 coastal cities could increase from $6bn in 2010 to $1tn in 2070.

The report said that the number of deaths and the monetary losses from natural disasters varied from year to year, but the upward trend was pronounced.

Total annual damage – averaged over a 10-year period – had risen tenfold from 1976–1985 to 2005–2014, from $14bn to more than $140bn. The average number of people affected each year had risen over the same period from around 60 million people to more than 170 million.

Although developed countries have been responsible for the bulk of historic global emissions, poorer countries are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change and they demanded financial help from the west as part of last December’s breakthrough global deal to reduce emissions.

Oxfam this week called on rich countries to make good on the pledges made at the Paris conference to provide the funding to help developing countries adapt to the effects of global warming.

“Climate change is a brutal reality confronting millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. Their need for financial support to adapt to climate extremes is urgent and rising,” Oxfam said in its Unfinished Business report.

“International support for adaptation falls well short of what is needed. Latest estimates indicate that only 16% of international climate finance is currently dedicated to adaptation – a mere $4bn–$6bn per year of which is public finance.”

According to the the facility, disaster risk is affected by three factors. It said these were: hazard – the frequency of potentially dangerous naturally occurring events, such as earthquakes or tropical cyclones; exposure – the size of the population and the economic assets located in hazard-prone areas; and vulnerability – the susceptibility of the exposed elements to the natural hazard.

It added that hazard was increasing due to climate change; exposure was going up because more people were living in hazardous areas and that vulnerability was on the rise because of badly designed and poorly planned housing.

The World Bank-run body said the population was expected to rise by at least 40% in 14 of the 20 most populated cities in the world between 2015 and 2030, with some cities growing by 10 million people in that period. “Many of the largest cities are located in deltas and are highly prone to floods and other hazards, and as these cities grow, an ever greater number of people and more assets are at risk of disaster.”

Francis Ghesquiere, head of the secretariat at the The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, said: “By promoting policies that reduce risk and avoiding actions to drive up risk, we can positively influence the risk environment of the future. The drivers of future risk are within the control of decision makers today. They must seize the moment.”

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Water Is the Climate Challenge, Says World Bank

How will climate change affect you? Probably through water.

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That’s the major message of a new World Bank report that finds the way governments treat water can have a profound effect on the economy.

Good water management could lead to a six percent increase in global GDP by 2050, while bad management – or simply business as usual in some places – could reduce GDP by as much as 14 percent in the Middle East, 12 percent in the Sahel, and 11 percent in Central Asia. Poor water policy could even lead to sustained declines in GDP in some places, via losses in agriculture, health, income, and property.

The basic problem is that demand is ever increasing while supply remains finite. In addition, supply  is becoming harder to predict as climate change shifts rainfall patterns. Without major improvements in water efficiency, global demand could exceed supplies by 40 percent over the next 15 years.

To assess how climate change will affect water supply, the authors modeled water runoff in 235 river basins under different conditions and emission scenarios. They then compared those changes to current conditions to identify the most vulnerable regions. For example, Colombia is expected to see a considerable decline in runoff, but the current level of rainfall is already so high, the risks are considered minimal. For arid countries like Iraq, the same decline could have much more severe consequences.

A broad belt stretching from West Africa through the Middle East and South Asia to Japan encompasses the most vulnerable countries. Many of these countries’ river basins, home to 60 percent of the world’s population, already exist in a “state of near-permanent water stress.”

Supply and Demand

To narrow the gap between supply and demand, the World Bank recommends expanding supply, such as by building more physical infrastructure, like dams. But it also cautions that without corresponding efforts to manage use, demand tends to increase at the same rate, leading to little change in water dependence. (Indeed, though the bank is primarily focused on infrastructure and economic policy, others have noted the importance of social change to improving water security and climate adaptation.)

Water pricing is commonly misunderstood

Governments have several options to address the demand side. There are top-down planning and regulatory schemes, and bottom-up pricing and permitting changes. In areas of scarcity, groundwater withdrawals should be monitored and managed to increase performance and avoid pumping aquifers dry. The authors also recommend making it easier to import food in countries that have “no comparative advantage in food production where water resources are being degraded in the attempt to force increases in food supply.”

Market-based solutions, such as changing pricing and incentive structures, are also a part of the answer, according to the World Bank. The report says water pricing is commonly misunderstood. Where water is free or extremely cheap, poor people tend to be worse off and inefficiency and environmental degradation increase.

The Middle East, for example, is the most water-scarce region in the world, which should encourage users to take advantage of every last drop. But the opposite is true. Very low water prices and high subsidies, especially for irrigation, are in part responsible for the worst water productivity rates in the world. Some worry that Yemen, where many farmers have replaced grape vines with more water-intensive qhat, will become the first modern country to literally run out of water.

About Conflict and Migration…

The report makes clear connections between the physical processes of climate change and hydrology and socio-economic results, including economic growth, poverty alleviation, and inequality. These links are especially compelling coming from an organization that plays a leading role in international trade, investment, and financing for developing countries.

One place where the report’s arguments are a little loose is the small section on migration and conflict. Civil conflict and instability are invoked throughout the report as potential consequences of ignoring water concerns. Violent conflict and migration can result from food price spikes, drought, floods, and income inequality, according to the report.

There are indeed legitimate concerns around these kinds of risks (see the New Climate for Peace report for a comprehensive breakdown of seven), but there are also many open questions about how exactly climate change affects stability and human mobility.Oversimplifying these complex interactions can lead to poor policy and unintended consequences.

In one case, the report also seems to misstate one of its supporting pieces of evidences, citing a study that founddemocratic institutions improved after rainfall declines to argue that rainfall shocks, “by straining government budgets,” make “regime change more likely” and “ignite conflicts.”

In their Climate Change Action Plan, released early last month, the World Bank committed to producing a “flagship analytical report” on climate change, migration, and conflict next year, so perhaps we will see a fuller treatment of these dynamics then.

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