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    Workshop Proceedings: Beyond Talent Scarcity: Unlocking Mauritius’ Workforce Challenge

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    Charles Telfair Centre, June 2024

    In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, several sectors of the Mauritian work landscape have experienced labour shortages and poor rates of talent retention. To better understand the dynamics influencing this phenomenon and explore potential solutions, the Charles Telfair Centre, in partnership with Rogers,  organised the “Beyond Talent Scarcity: Unlocking Mauritius’ Workforce Challenge” workshop on May 22nd at the Voilà Hotel Bagatelle.

    Moderated by Manisha Dookhony, Chairperson of MINDEX, the event brought together practitioners from various sectors, including hospitality, IT, finance, health, and education, as well as experts in human resource management, law, and economics. Centred around three main themes: education, work culture, and policy, the discussions highlighted the complexity of the factors influencing labour shortages in Mauritius. This brief highlights the key outcomes of the discussion and the proposed roadmap for action.

    Delving into contributing Factors

    Data suggests that education, labour retention, and emigration patterns are the main factors contributing to talent scarcity in Mauritius. However, the exact impact of these factors is less clear.

    Education

    Education plays a crucial role as the producer of an efficient and effective future labour force. Its ability to do so was one the first element addressed: the workshop explored to what extent educational institutions and training programs were able to respond adequately to our economic needs and how it contributed or not to brain drain.

    In a context of declining demographics, the historically low number of students registering for the High School Certificate (HSC) examinations raise concerns about the future job-seeking population size: “If Mauritius wants to be a high-income country, the lack of qualified graduates presents a bleak picture for the future,” one participant highlighted. The workshop underlined concerns on the dwindling quality of the public education system resulting in many students struggling to achieve basic qualifications. The ability of the education system to produce the relevant future workforce is challenged by its inadequacies in guiding students towards pertinent career pathways.

    The discrepancy between university degrees offered locally and the needs of the labour market was also pointed out as a significant deficiency. Priority sectors such as ICT, finance, and economics suffer the most from this mismatch with an insufficient number of graduates in these disciplines. A such, these sectors face a dire scarcity of qualified human resources.

    To compound this gap, factors such as the lack of specialised degree and the strong presence of international recruiters for study abroad contribute to exacerbate the brain drain and hence the local talent shortage. The absence of certain specialised degrees in local universities, give students no choice but to study abroad. Students may also turn to international institutions, if they perceived these as offering more progressive, advanced quality programs. Similarly, the increasing number of recruitment agents from international universities in Mauritius feeds a mindset that international studies are preferable to local training. The lack of oversight on these activities was highlighted as another possible shortfall of the educational landscape.

    Throughout the discussion, it emerged that the shortcomings of educational institutions are structural in nature. From decreasing quality education to perceived inconsistencies in the current curriculum, the issues raised suggest that addressing them would likely require systemic reforms and a change of mindset.

    Labour Retention and Emigration

    In the context of an aging population and a declining workforce size, the Mauritian labour market displays various push factors contributing to low retention rates and increased emigration patterns.

    Work culture

    With the first three to nine months of employment being critical for labour retention, the latter and related brain drain were seen as a direct result of inadequate work culture with perceived limited equity and inclusion within public and private organisations. These unfavourable conditions, it was argued, are driving work emigration from Mauritius.

    One participant pointed that “today’s generation seeks a work culture prioritising work-life balance, autonomy, and growth within their work environment”, elements that employees perceive to be lacking in the current labour market. Perceptions of nepotism and systemic inefficiencies across the public and private sectors contribute to local dissatisfaction and the desire to seek employment abroad.

    Wage and careers

    A core driver of emigration highlighted during the workshop is our inability, in Mauritius, to compete with international wage levels compounded by the more limited career prospects that Mauritian organisations are perceived to offer compared to global organisations. Wage and career prospects were also highlighted as those leading to most dissatisfaction in the Mauritius National Employee Survey. One participant added that “despite companies striving to address these gaps, workers are still deciding to leave”.

    Socio-Cultural context

    Indeed, the roundtable offered insights into sociocultural factors driving emigration. The lack of adequate human experiences in terms of healthcare, family dynamics, social fulfilment, and security was identified as instrumental in fostering brain drain.

    For instance, limited access to efficient healthcare services was raised as a motive. One participant specified that some individuals decide to migrate to ensure better healthcare for their families and aging parents through family reunification procedures.

    Local family dynamics, which can be unsupportive of individual independence, and the lack of public spaces for social realisation were also identified as contributors to emigration among the youth.

    Diaspora

    With limited or ineffective incentives for the return of the diaspora, the country has not yet been able to fully capitalise on its large educated and skilled diaspora.

    Participants noted a certain detachment between Mauritians abroad and their country of origin. This phenomenon is evidenced, they argued, by the low rate of remittances being sent to Mauritius compared to other Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

    It was also highlighted that those among the diaspora who have returned have done so out of necessity rather than choice, with family needs being a primary reason for return migration. Participants who have migrated back to Mauritius after working overseas mentioned the difficulty of adapting to the local work culture, which, among other things, offers less flexibility and opportunities for challenging careers. They also shared that the reduction in life and cultural experiences upon returning was an additional drawback.

    Recommendations

    The workshop identified some initial steps for a labour retention roadmap.

    Educational Reforms

    • Strategic higher education & vocational streams: To address perceived inconsistencies between education and labour market needs, participants recommended comprehensive educational system reforms. Specifically, they suggested that Mauritius draw inspiration from Singapore’s educational strategy, which sets specific quotas to ensure sufficient human resources for priority economic sectors. The workshop proposed that Mauritius could implement similar practices to alleviate labour shortages in key sectors.
    • The proposition for a schooling system focused on redressing economic gaps by steering students into sectors most affected by labour shortage was, however, not unanimous. Referring to the high numbers of students choosing to undertake their tertiary education abroad, it was posited that locally producing graduates with a varied skills set could also prove valuable to Mauritius. More so as the absence of more specialised degrees in local universities may well be also contributing to brain drain, as students turn to international universities that offer more progressive degrees.
    • Employer partnerships with education providers: Institutions should also strive to equip students with a clear understanding of the career pathways and potential work experiences offered by different courses. This could be achieved through improved partnerships between universities and industry, providing students with more sustained workplace experiences through work-integrated learning programs, such as long-term internships and industry projects. A young-adult participants highlighted that: “while I had little optimism for my future in Mauritius at the start of my studies, my experiences at university through industry projects, industry visits and internships have changed my perceptions: I believe now, that there are interesting career growth prospects for graduates in Mauritius”.
    • Work-Study balance: On a more practical side, universities and training institutions and employers need to get better at tailoring student timetables and work planning to allow positive education and work experiences. This is particularly important for international students who can legally work for up to 20 hours per week.
    • Communication Bridges: The disconnect between young adults’ perceptions and aspirations and what employers can provide could be addressed by multiplying initiatives to create effective communication channels between the education sector, the industry, and the youth. Such efforts would allow for a better understanding of young people’s professional and personal aspirations, but also for the youth to better understand what Mauritian employers have to offer.

    Labour Force Reforms

    The workshop participants advocated for policy reforms regarding wages, labour retention, and attracting the diaspora back to Mauritius as well as aligning company culture with workers’ expectations.;

    • More competitive remuneration packages: Participants suggested that strategic incentives, such as competitive remuneration and benefit packages, could not only encourage Mauritians to stay in the local labour market but also attract highly skilled migrants to the island. According to theory and evidence higher pay leads to improved employee productivity, turnover and recruitment.
    • Connecting the diaspora: To engage the diaspora in the island’s development, it was suggested to create a platform where Mauritians abroad can register and stay updated on local opportunities. Such platform could be managed by stakeholders such as the Economic Development Board and Business Mauritius.
    • Extending the Retirement age: Extending the retirement age was argued to be effective in retaining experienced professionals in the workforce, thereby mitigating the current scarcity of qualified talent.
    • Organisational Culture Shifts: Rethinking organisational culture by developing more inclusive, flexible and empowering work cultures would help attract and retain talent. They suggested implementing strategies to improve workplace engagement by promoting better work-life balance, transparency, employee autonomy and living the company’s stated missions and values with authenticity.  Employers should enhance their talent management systems with clear and transparent communication around pay structures and potential career growth opportunities within the organisations. Such initiatives would not only help attract and retain talent, it would also improve company performance.

    Diversifying the Workforce

    • Structural Planning: More generally, a lack of structural planning was identified at the national level. To address this deficiency, participants called for less diversification of focus areas and recommended building expertise in key sectors such as finance, ICT and tourism. They argued that such a strategy would create a viable economic structure, reflecting a more positive image of the island and attracting both local and international talent. This could be achieved through better communication and partnership between the public and private sectors, working together to design creative ways to build expertise on the island.
    • Tapping into the African Talent pool: While retaining local labour and encouraging return migration were central recommendations, it was also highlighted that tapping into the African talent pool could help remedy the labour shortage. Migration from Africa to Mauritius can be enhanced through improved education, work opportunities, and legislation to facilitate labour movement. To attract professionals, the workshop recommended implementing cultural integration strategies along with better wages. Additionally, participants advocated for Mauritius to further explore development opportunities in collaboration with African countries.
    • Tapping into the female labour pool: Using the feminisation of the textile industry in the 80s & 90s as an example, participants urged for the design of strategies to further attract female workers into the labour market, given the current low level of female labour force engagement. Beyond greater government incentives, current organisations are shaped and moulded with a male employee as its typical worker, a bias reflected in workplace design and function. To address this gender gap, companies can develop strategies to better accommodate the specific needs of women.

    As Mauritius faces an unprecedented shortage of labour, endangering its competitiveness and productive capacity, the workshop provided valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of talent scarcity. While the challenges are significant, the solutions discussed offer a roadmap for building a sustainable diversified pool of available talent. By reforming the educational system, implementing strategic policy changes, enhancing corporate contributions, and leveraging the country’s unique advantages, Mauritius can unlock its workforce potential and build a sustainable future. The engagement of all stakeholders, from government and educational institutions to businesses and the diaspora, will be crucial in making this vision a reality.

    The Centre wishes to thank Manish Bundhun, Chief People executive at Rogers and Manisha Dookhony, Chairperson of Mindex for giving their time by joining the organisation committee of the workshop and for their invaluable insights in structuring the discussions.

    Main photo by pch.vector on Freepik

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Buying and selling forest carbon as a commodity is dangerous if it trumps other environmental and social uses – new report

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    Constance McDermott, Senior Fellow in Forest Governance and Leader of Ecosystems Governance Group, University of Oxford

    Eric Kumeh Mensah, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Oxford

    Mark Hirons, Environmental Social Science Research Fellow, University of Oxford

    Forests are great carbon sinks – they absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they release. Globally, forests remove nearly all of the two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that is currently being removed from the atmosphere every year.

    These days, companies can buy “carbon credits” for the carbon that is stored in living forests and offset this against their own greenhouse gas emissions. International financiers estimate that by 2050, Africa could be selling US$1.5 trillion in carbon credits per year, mainly from its forests. Environmental social scientists Constance L. McDermott, Eric Mensah Kumeh and Mark Hirons are co-authors of a report on global forest governance for the International Union of Forest Research Organisations. They have found that buying and selling forest carbon as a commodity is dangerous if it is prioritised over the other environmental and social uses of forests. It could even result in environmental damage and the displacement of forest-dependent people.

    What is a carbon sink?

    All living things contain carbon, and are considered carbon sinks when they absorb more carbon from the atmosphere than they release. Many ecosystems serve as carbon sinks, but forests have a large biomass (wood and twigs and leaves on the forest floor). This makes them a very important sink from a climate perspective.

    The carbon that trees capture is sequestered (stored) in their wood, leaves or needles, and roots. When forests are cut down or burned, their stored carbon is released into the atmosphere and becomes a source of carbon emissions rather than a sink. Forest carbon sinks can be conserved by leaving live trees standing, or created and enhanced by planting or natural regeneration of trees.

    Why is it a problem for a forest to be seen only as a carbon sink?

    Forests support and regulate soil, water and nutrient flows, and provide habitat for the majority of the world’s species that live on land. They provide people with food, fuel, fibre, medicine and other products.

    They are important to the cultural survival and well-being of many communities. In Africa alone, an estimated 245 million people live within five kilometres of a forest, and many of these people rely directly on forests for their livelihoods.

    Our research found that forests are increasingly being managed as carbon sinks, and the carbon they store treated as a commodity that can be internationally traded. Carbon markets allow businesses and governments to earn credits by paying for forests that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is cheaper than reducing their own emissions. This is part of what we call the climatisation of forests.

    Governing forests only as carbon sinks can promote “green grabs” where non-forested land, such as grasslands, used by communities for farming and other activities, is taken from the community and used by wealthy companies or governments to plant large tracts of trees to store carbon. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, is being targeted as a readily available and inexpensive location for one million hectares of forest restoration and tree plantations.

    This is especially threatening for people who do not have secure rights to the forests and land they depend on. These communities can even be restricted or banned from entering the forest. Research has found that forest-dependent communities are rarely given power to address their own priorities in forest carbon sink schemes. This can cause conflict locally and weaken local democracy.

    Let’s take the example of the Mai-Ndombe forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which supports about 100,000 people in 23 villages. Activities in the Mai-Ndombe under the global Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) climate change mechanism have focused on changing the practices of local forest-dependent communities away from cutting trees for artisanal logging or firewood collection. These communities have also been told not to continue with traditional methods of shifting cultivation (where parts of a forest are temporarily cleared to grow food crops without deforesting the area permanently).

    Yet in Mai-Ndombe and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s other forests, land is already allocated to companies for timber (mainly for the export market), for mining, and increasingly for forest carbon sequestration. The result is that large companies continue to extract major economic benefits from forests in ways that exclude local communities.

    Ghana’s Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme is another example. In a bid to reduce deforestation and increase forest carbon stocks, the government of Ghana pays farmers and local communities to not plant cocoa crops in forested areas and to grow shade trees on their cocoa farms.

    These efforts to share benefits locally are very important. However, asking farmers to plant or conserve trees does not address the fact that farmers are not earning a living income from selling cocoa.

    Ghana’s cocoa farmers receive less than 7.5% of the value of a chocolate bar sold in international markets, and they suffer from food insecurity and increasing crop failures due to climate change. They do not have legal rights to the native trees that regenerate naturally on their cocoa farms.

    The focus of REDD+ on channelling large amounts of money into forests as carbon could mean that many farmers lose access to land for growing food and meeting other livelihood needs – unless this is balanced by major investments to address the core challenges the farmers are facing.

    What are some solutions?

    Forests can absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and still support communities. A people-centred approach to forests is needed. This means giving local communities secure rights to their land and forest resources, and governing forests according to what best suits the local context, rather than making forest use fit the international market.

    The important role of traditional authorities and local customs in managing land and resolving conflicts must be recognised. Many traditional practices have managed forests sustainably for thousands of years. The challenge is to value and support these alternative approaches.The Conversation

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Main photo by Kazuend on Unsplash 

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Seychelles: floating baby corals can help save damaged reefs – new study

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    April J Burt, Research Associate at the University of Oxford

    Noam Vogt-Vincent, Postdoctoral fellow at University of Hawaii

    The Seychelles archipelago of 115 islands stretches across a vast area of the western Indian Ocean. Each island is fringed by coral reefs.

    Coral reefs are formed by colonies of invertebrate animals that build hard skeletons and grow in a myriad of forms. These complex tropical reefs support a third of all species in the ocean as well as the livelihoods of millions of people. Dependency on coral reefs for food security and economic stability is particularly acute in small island developing states such as Seychelles, where a high proportion of people live close to reef systems and there isn’t much land for alternative ways of life.

    Corals reefs are also the ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change, due to the sensitivity of tropical corals to ocean warming. Marine heatwaves that cause widespread coral mortality are becoming more frequent and more severe, leaving insufficient time for coral recovery to take place.

    The only solution to this threat is rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but effective marine management may buy coral reefs some time.

    One of the ways a damaged reef can recover is if there is a consistent supply of baby corals. Although adult corals are attached to the seabed and cannot move, baby corals float freely in the ocean. Baby corals can therefore be transported over large distances by ocean currents. Some coral reefs are more isolated, but others may be strongly connected, acting as a source of baby corals for many other reefs. Prioritising these source reefs for conservation may improve the resilience of corals in the wider region.

    In our recent study, we mapped coral reef connectivity across the Seychelles using a combination of population genetics and computer modelling. Despite the remoteness of many islands, both genetic and modelling approaches suggested that the connectivity between these remote reefs was high, with ocean currents shuttling larvae across the archipelago. We also developed an interactive web app to help marine managers understand these connections.

    Our findings suggest that localised conservation efforts have the potential to benefit coral reef health more broadly. This would be the case both within Seychelles and along the east African coast.

    Coral superhighways

    If currents transport baby corals between a pair of reefs, we say that those reefs are connected. Mapping these connections allows us to design more effective management strategies. Some corals also appear to be more resilient to hotter temperatures, and connectivity may allow baby corals to introduce genes responsible for this resilience to other reefs.

    Baby corals are tiny – usually less than one millimetre across – so they are impossible to track directly over large distances. To quantify coral reef connectivity, we have to use indirect methods. One approach is using DNA from corals in different reefs, and analysing how similar they are genetically. The more similar they are, the greater the connectivity likely is.

    Alternatively, with the help of ocean current data and biology, we can use computer simulations to predict the transport of baby corals between coral reefs.

    Because many coral reefs in the Seychelles are exceptionally remote, one may expect connectivity to be low. However, our findings demonstrate that this is not the case.

    To map connectivity across the archipelago, we analysed the DNA of 241 coral colonies from 12 islands across the Seychelles archipelago, and found evidence for recent connectivity between distant pairs of islands. For example, the DNA of many corals in the exceptionally remote Aldabra atolla world heritage site – shares strong similarity to corals on the most populated island in Seychelles, Mahé, despite being separated by over 1,000km of ocean.

    We found these genetic similarities by comparing the sequenced DNA of all our samples and focusing on sites where variations occurred (known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs). These variations are inherited, so individuals that are closely related will have more SNPs in common than those who are distantly related.

    Computer simulations provide insight into how the strong connectivity between remote islands in Seychelles occurs. Although the inner (highly populated) islands of Seychelles are usually surrounded by an eastward flowing ocean current, wiggles in the currents (similar to weather systems in the atmosphere) can transport some baby corals to the south. This allows them to enter a rapid, westward current that efficiently transports them towards remote islands in south-west Seychelles, such as Aldabra.

    Baby corals from Aldabra are catapulted further west by this current, away from Seychelles and towards east Africa. Aldabra may therefore be a source of baby corals for thousands of kilometres of coral reef across east Africa.

    Next steps

    Our research, as well as the development of an app, will contribute to effective management of coral reefs such as the development and maintenance of marine protected areas. Interventions on land can also, surprisingly, help vulnerable coral reefs. For example, removing rats improves coral health and resilience by restoring seabirds which rain down nutrients in the form of guano onto the islands. These nutrients reach near-shore waters and significantly increase growth and fish biomass. But eradications are extremely costly. Coral connectivity data can help island nations like Seychelles decide where to invest in such costly actions to maximise positive impacts for coral reefs.The Conversation

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Main photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

     

    The Global Economy Is More Vulnerable Than It Seems

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    Bertand Badré, former managing direct of the World Bank and CEO and Founder of Blue like an Orange Sustainable Capital.

    Yves Tiberghien, Professor of Political Science and Director Emeritus of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia.

    Today’s economic outlook is strangely contradictory. While global markets, led by technology and energy, have been ebullient over high short-term profits, the mood at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund last month was decidedly somber. Two global institutions that normally speak in banalities issued strong warnings about the growing risks of economic fragmentation.

    The idea that an interdependent global economy can work within a geopolitical system based on the national sovereignty of nearly 200 states has always reflected a certain amount of idealism. Or perhaps it was more like hubris. This strange marriage did, after all, collapse in the 1930s, with the division lasting through the end of World War II.

    But idealism was not dead, and the global system was subsequently rebuilt on a foundation of agreed rules, shared international institutions, a degree of mutual forbearance, and crisis management. From the start, security considerations were kept as separate as possible from the economy, but this became especially important in the 1990s, when countries with radically different regimes began integrating into the global economy.

    Today, however, the foundations of this system are eroding fast, and global economic integration has seemingly gone into reverse. As Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, recently explained, economic fragmentation could have far-reaching implications for trade, such as reduced efficiency gains, and increase the risk of macro-financial volatility. Fragmentation could also reduce capital flows to the Global South and undermine the provision of global public goods, including climate action.

    Five key factors are driving this trend toward fragmentation. First, rising geopolitical risks have fueled mistrust and reduced systemically important countries’ will to cooperate. Though policymakers rarely acknowledge it, a crisis over Taiwan – a flashpoint in the Sino-American rivalry – could well bring down the global economic system.

    Second, key countries are increasingly allowing security considerations to shape economic policy, with some taking expansive action to secure access to inputs, infrastructure, and technologies. While this is understandable, countries must exercise restraint. Whereas globalization happened gradually, a deglobalization process driven by security-motivated measures (which are almost guaranteed to trigger escalation by rivals and partners) would probably be fast and unwieldy, posing severe systemic risks.

    The third factor underlying economic fragmentation is a deepening rift between the Global North and Global South. Public and private support for developing economies has collapsed at a time when many are wrestling with the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic and confronting climate change. The decades-long trend toward convergence with developed economies has seemingly been interrupted, and resentment is building in the Global South. Net financial flows to developing countries have turned negative in 2023, and the trend is worsening in 2024. This partly explains the reluctance or refusal of many Global South countries to back the West on key geopolitical issues, such as sanctions against Russia in response to its war of aggression in Ukraine.

    Fragmentation also reflects the rapid escalation of climate risks and disasters. With “once-a-lifetime” floods, mega-fires, and droughts proliferating, many countries are at risk of destabilization within the next few years, and there is no global “safety net” in place. Meanwhile, as Harvard’s Dani Rodrik has pointed out, countries are competing for dominance in green technologies, rather than working together to accelerate progress.

    Lastly, the exponential growth of artificial intelligence is fueling national competition, rather than the global cooperation that is required. As MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson have noted, regulations, policies, and institutions will be essential to ensure that AI creates jobs, rather than only destroying them. Global South countries need a voice in AI regulatory efforts.

    To be sure, the global economic system still has many sources of resilience. As the recent Indonesian, Indian, and Brazilian G20 presidencies have shown, most of the Global South remains committed to both interdependence and global governance. Furthermore, the private sector is still characterized by interdependence. We still have dedicated international organizations, global education networks, and a global civil society.

    But we must not underestimate the dangers ahead. There is good reason to think that the coming months and years will bring a series of shocks and crises. If leaders respond with tit-for-tat policies aimed at securing advantages over rivals, the integrated global economy could unravel. The speed of that process could overwhelm policymakers, and the path from economic pain to social upheaval to the abandonment of shared global rules may well prove to be short.

    As it stands, leaders are so preoccupied with wars, power struggles, social tensions, and political polarization that they appear largely unwilling to invest in saving the integrated global economy, let alone strengthening its capacity to deal with the existential risks we face. But history, economic theory, and current empirical trends indicate that this is a mistake.

    Even a partial collapse of our interdependent global economic and financial systems would be catastrophic, not least because it would undermine investment in global public goods. For politicians worried about migration’s effect on their countries, it is worth noting that, without massive investments in combating climate change, reversing desertification, and reducing poverty, millions could be attempting to cross the Mediterranean by 2050.

    National security must be a priority for policymakers. But measures to “secure” the economy must be combined with efforts to improve communication with rivals and invest in global public goods. To this end, world leaders should use the G20 and other plurilateral bodies to elevate working groups and institutions that support collective governance, with a focus on managing AI risks, addressing climate change, and averting the collapse of the global economic system on which we depend.

    Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2024.
    www.project-syndicate.org

    Main photo by energepic.com on Pexels

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Climate change is causing marine ‘coldwaves’ too, killing wildlife

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    Nicolas Benjamin Lubitz, Researcher in marine ecology, James Cook University

    David Schoeman, Professor of Global-Change Ecology, University of the Sunshine Coast 

    The effects of ocean warming are profound and well-documented. But sometimes changes in the patterns of winds and ocean currents cause seawater to suddenly cool, instead.

    Surface temperatures can plummet rapidly — by 10ºC or more over a day or two. When these conditions persist for several days or weeks, the area experiences a “coldwave”, which is the opposite of more familiar marine heatwaves.

    When a “killer coldwave” manifested along South Africa’s southeast coast in March 2021, it killed hundreds of animals across at least 81 species. More worrying still was the fact these deaths included vulnerable manta rays and even specimens of notoriously robust migratory bull sharks. In southern Africa, bull sharks, whale sharks and manta rays have previously washed up dead following such sudden cold events, especially over the past 15 years.

    As we report in Nature Climate Change, the conditions that can drive these killer coldwaves have grown increasingly common over the past four decades. Ironically, strengthening winds and currents as a result of climate change can also make these deadly localised coldwaves more likely in places such as the east coasts of South Africa and Australia, potentially putting even highly mobile species such as sharks in harm’s way.

    What’s going on?

    Certain wind and current conditions can cause the sea surface to cool, rather than warm. This happens when winds and currents force coastal waters to move offshore, which are then replaced from below by cold water from the deep ocean. This process is known as upwelling.

    In some places, such as California on the US west coast, upwelling happens regularly along hundreds of kilometres of coastline. But localised upwelling can occur seasonally on a smaller scale, too, often at the edges of bays on the east coasts of continents due to interactions of wind, current and coastline.

    Previous research had shown climate change induced changes in global wind and current patterns. So we investigated the potential consequences at particular locations, by analysing long-term wind and temperature data along the south-eastern coast of South Africa and the Australian east coast.

    This revealed an increasing trend in the number of annual upwelling events over the past 40 years. We also found an increase in the intensity of such upwelling events and the extent to which temperatures dropped on the first day of each event – in other words, how severe and sudden these cold snaps were.

    Mass deaths warrant investigation

    During the extreme upwelling event along the southeast coast of South Africa in March 2021, at least 260 animals from 81 species died. These included tropical fish, sharks and rays.

    To investigate the ramifications for marine fauna, we took a closer look at bull sharks. We tagged sharks with tracking devices that also record depth and temperature.

    Bull sharks are a highly migratory, tropical species that only tend to travel to upwelling regions during the warmer months. With the onset of winter, they migrate back to warm, tropical waters.

    Being mobile, they should have been able to avoid the local, cold temperatures. So why were bull sharks among the dead in this extreme upwelling event?

    When running and hiding isn’t enough

    Bull sharks survive environmental conditions that would kill most other marine life. For example, they’re often found several hundred kilometres up rivers, where other marine life would not venture.

    Our shark tracking data from both South Africa and Australia showed bull sharks actively avoid areas of upwelling during their seasonal migrations up and down the coast, even when upwelling isn’t too intense. Some sharks take shelter in warm, shallow bays until the water warms again. Others stick close to the surface where the water is warmest, and swim as fast as they can to get out of the upwelling.

    But if marine coldwaves continue to become more sudden and intense, fleeing or hiding may no longer be enough even for these tough beasts. For example, in the event in South Africa that caused the death of manta rays and bull sharks water temperatures dropped from 21°C to 11.8°C in under 24 hours while the overall event lasted seven days.

    This sudden, severe drop paired with the long duration made this event particularly deadly. If future events will continue to become more severe, mass deaths of marine life could become a more common sight – especially along the world’s mid-latitude east coasts.

    Still learning how climate change will play out

    Overall, our oceans are warming. The ranges of tropical and subtropical species are extending towards the poles. But along some major current systems, sudden short-term cooling can make life difficult for these climate migrants, or even kill them. Especially if events like the one in South Africa become more common. Tropical migrants would increasingly be living on the edge of what they are comfortable with in these areas.

    Our work emphasises that climate impacts can be unexpected or even counterintuitive. Even the most resilient life forms can be vulnerable to its effects. While we do see an overall warming, changes in weather and current patterns can cause extreme cold events as well.

    This really shows the complexity of climate change, as tropical species would expand into higher-latitude areas as overall warming continues, which then places them at risk of exposure to sudden extreme cold events. In this way, species such as bull sharks and whale sharks may very well be running the gauntlet on their seasonal migrations.

    The need to limit our impacts on the planet by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions has never been more urgent, nor has been the need for research into what our future might hold.The Conversation

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Main Photo by Marek Okon on Unsplash

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s). 

     

    Embracing ‘brain circulation’ is a huge opportunity for Africa’s development

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    Dr Ephias Ruhode, lecturer and researcher at University of the West of Scotland’s School of Business and Creative Industries and researcher at the Centre for African Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CAREED)

    The “brain drain” narrative misses the opportunities that a highly educated and dynamic diaspora can bring to Africa, writes Ephias Ruhode.

    African countries have collectively exported intellectual capital to the world, especially to countries in the global north. While un-skilled and semi-skilled labour moves within the continent, western nations like the UK, France, Australia, Canada, and the US are frequent destinations for highly skilled, highly educated human capital from Africa. This human capital flight, traditionally referred to as brain drain, has had a devastating effect on the African continent, while receiving nations have benefitted from innovations, patents and profits by African scholars, experts, and intellectuals. In today’s knowledge-based and globalised economy, how can African countries benefit from their human talent scattered across the diaspora?

    Knowledge-based economies are agile, well educated, and can rely on their citizens to drive innovation, entrepreneurship, and dynamism in that society’s economy. In the contemporary world, intellectual capital, more than savings or investments, is key to achieving the developmental goals of nations. Development and modernisation through the application of human knowledge and creativity are steadily overtaking the extraction and processing of natural resources as drivers of wealth creation in Africa. Zimbabwe is experiencing a rebirth of agriculture (more than 40 per cent of GDP), owing to modern approaches to knowledge exchange, learning and innovation in the sector. The Smart Africa Continental AgriTech Blueprint which was developed by Zimbabwe, foregrounds agricultural innovation and creativity as the backbone of success in agricultural output. The Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture and Agroecology in Eastern Africa is another example of a centre of excellence where agricultural knowledge and innovation systems have made Kenya’s agricultural sector the main contributor to the economy.

    In our globalised society, humans and systems can operate at an international scale under the facilitation of enabling technology. After centuries of technological progress, our world has become connected, home and office devices are now wired intelligently, and there are phenomenal advances in international cooperation. It no longer matters where the individual is based, they can contribute to any economy in the world.

    From drain to circulation

    There is increasing recognition that members of the African diaspora, regardless of their physical location, can contribute to innovation and competitiveness in Africa. The willingness of experts in the diaspora to serve their countries of origin has given rise to the term ‘brain circulation’.

    Brain circulation can take the form of transfer of resources, finance, technology, knowledge, and ideas, without physical movement of the diaspora communities.

    The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that work is not a place that we go to, but it is what we do. To a knowledge worker, physical location is no longer a factor in productivity due to digital connectivity. Teleworking is a reality that African institutions should innovate around (notwithstanding the existing infrastructural challenges). Globalisation and internationalisation are now opportunities for African institutions to take advantage of.

    The democratisation of knowledge brought about by the internet has bolstered knowledge interchange and collaboration. However, Africa needs to give more attention to organisational transformation underpinned by knowledge sharing and collaboration. Once this is in place, they can utilise digital tools to collaborate with the diaspora and benefit from their skills regardless of their location.

    A digitally engaged diaspora

    Traditionally, the economic contribution of the diaspora has only been spoken about in terms of financial remittances. Less is mentioned about diasporans as facilitators of global knowledge and expertise and how this can contribute to innovations in Africa.

    A step forward would be to appoint African diaspora experts to company boards and university councils. This is low hanging fruit in the process of globalising African institutions that can be grabbed to harness free and available expert knowledge.

    There is a direct benefit of accessing diverse global knowledge and practices which prepare people for the competitive global economy. It is on this basis that appointments to company boards and university councils would be hugely beneficial to knowledge creation, innovation, and sustainable development.

    China and India have developed their high-tech industry through the brain circulation model. It is recorded in AnnaLee Saxenian’s book The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy, that the Chinese and the Indians, after establishing their IT innovations in America, replicated the same technologies in their home countries. In our globalised environment, it is much easier for the African diaspora community to participate virtually in the developmental projects of their country. A fertile ground for such participation must be cultivated deliberately by institutions and companies in Africa to gain the advantage that this opportunity presents.

    Main photo by DC Studio on Freepik

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s). 

    Blue whales: first discovery near Seychelles in decades – what our study found

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    Jeremy Kiszka, Associate Professor, Institute of Environment, Coastlines and Oceans Division at Florida International University

    Blue whales are fascinating animals. At 24-30 metres in length (longer than a basketball court) they are the largest creatures on Earth. They are also among the rarest. Estimates suggest that there are only around 5,000 to 15,000 blue whales left in the world.

    Their populations experienced a 89-97% decline due to commercial whaling activities worldwide that started in the North Atlantic in 1868. Blue whales were primarily valued for their blubber, transformed into oil and used in cosmetics and soap, for the lubrication of industrial equipment, and as lamp oil. In 1978, the last deliberate capture of a blue whale was recorded off Spain.

    Today, blue whales are found in all oceans except the Arctic. They usually migrate from their summer feeding grounds where they almost exclusively feed on krill to their winter breeding grounds. However, their migration patterns are still poorly understood, particularly in the Indian Ocean, where limited research has been conducted.

    Historically, the Seychelles archipelago – off the coast of east Africa – was an opportunistic whaling ground for Soviet whaling fleets en route to and from the Antarctic. In the waters of the northern Indian Ocean, whalers illegally killed more than 1,200 blue whales, including 500 near the Seychelles, between 1963 and 1966.

    Since then, no dedicated research had occurred to assess the abundance of blue whales in this region until 2020, when I partnered with the University of Seychelles, Oceanic Films (UK) and my colleague, Kate Stafford, to investigate.

    We carried out two expeditions in November 2020 and 2021. After surveying about 5,500km across the northern Seychelles, we had a total of five sightings of up to 10 blue whales.

    This was a phenomenal finding. We were prepared to not see any blue whales due to the high level of hunting that occurred fairly recently and absolutely no information was available since the last blue whale was killed in the region in 1964.

    When blue whales were sighted, we approached them slowly to obtain details of their group size and behaviour. Photographs of both left and right sides of the dorsal region were taken to identify them.

    Because colouration patterns are unique to each animal, we knew that at least five individuals were identified during this expedition.

    After sharing our pictures with other research groups working on blue whales in the Indian Ocean, no “match” was found. This means the whales we identified in Seychelles might have been photographed for the first time ever!

    Even though blue whales are no longer hunted and are protected by several international conventions, they are still listed as endangered on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. They face a range of threats. For instance, shipping traffic causes noise pollution that can alter communication and lead to collisions. Climate change is also affecting the distribution and abundance of their key food, krill.

    Finding the whales

    The blue whale’s vast oceanic habitat and elusive nature make them incredibly challenging to study. Moreover, their deep dives and extensive migrations spanning thousands of kilometres present logistical hurdles for researchers aiming to track their movements and behaviour.

    Understanding their ecology, population dynamics and conservation therefore requires innovative and resource-intensive research methods, such as systematic surveys from large vessels or planes to assess their abundance or satellite tagging to investigate their movements and migrations.

    Our expeditions consisted of vessel-based visual surveys that focused on the deep waters (500−2,000 metres) off the northern portion of the Mahé Plateau.

    In addition, for over a year, we placed a hydrophone (an underwater microphone capable of recording whale vocalisations) in an area where blue whales were likely to occur. This allowed us to confirm that blue whales in Seychelles were more common than we thought but highly seasonal (even though we recorded blue whale calls throughout the year), primarily from December to April.

    This method also revealed that our expeditions (in November of 2020 and 2021) did not occur when blue whales were the most abundant. It means that our future surveys will have to take place during the months of March and April, when their abundance is at its peak.

    Their songs matched those of blue whales recorded near Sri Lanka (about 3,100km from Seychelles), in the central tropical Indian Ocean. The seasonality in Seychelles is similar to the presence of blue whales in Sri Lanka, which is also highest from December to April.

    After spending five weeks scanning the ocean, we recorded a total of 23 species of whales and dolphins in 30 days of active search effort, which is remarkable.

    We recorded over 100 sightings of Bryde’s whales (Balaenoptera edeni), a non-migrating whale species exclusively living in tropical and subtropical waters, but also many sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) and beaked whales. The presence of all these species in Seychelles suggests that the environment is productive enough to support large quantities of cetaceans. We will further investigate this in the future, particularly to ensure that these extraordinary animals, including blue whales, persist in these waters.

    Of the four subspecies of blue whale that we know exist, three are known to be present in the Indian Ocean. We believe that the pygmy blue whale is the subspecies visiting Seychelles, based on the physical characteristics of the animals we observed and, most importantly, the nature of their call.

    The pygmy blue whale is generally smaller than other subspecies. It typically reaches lengths of around 21-24 metres. Other blue whale subspecies, such as the Antarctic blue whale, can grow to 30 metres or more. The pygmy blue whale is primarily found in the southern hemisphere and has acoustic characteristics that are distinct from others, particularly Antarctic blue whales.

    What’s next?

    Because of our blue whale discoveries, we have engaged with local tourism operators and the government, particularly to identify measures to limit the impact of the potential development of whale watching as an activity. These are positive steps towards their conservation. The involvement of local students at the University of Seychelles and young researchers is also critical for the long-term sustainability of research and conservation initiatives.

    We still know so little about blue whales. But the data collected in Seychelles gives us hope and encourages us to do more.

    We now need to increase our research efforts to assess the abundance of these blue whales in Seychelles and discover why they are using Seychelles’ waters. Do they just breed or feed in these waters, or both?

    We also want to gain further insights into what they eat and how the changing climate is affecting their distribution and behaviour in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean.The Conversation

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Main photo by Kenny on Flickr

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s). 

    Quality Journalism Is More Important than Ever  

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    Anya Schiffrin, Director of the Technology, Media, and Communications Specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs

    Dylan W. Groves, Assistant Professor of political science at Lafayette College

    Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank and University Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in economics.

     

    NEW YORK – Although news consumption soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, subscriptions have since fallen, and news outlets around the world have been laying off reporters or even shutting down altogether. That is bad news for all of us.

    Our new UNESCO brief highlights recent research that demonstrates just how important high-quality information is to a well-functioning economy, society, and democracy. New studies in economics and political science use rigorous methods to confirm what journalists already knew: that their work has a positive influence on democratic norms, civic engagement, and governmental and corporate accountability. By building social trust and promoting human rights, serious, credible reporting also supports economic performance and sustainable development.

    The 2021 UNESCO Windhoek+30 Declaration – which reaffirmed the importance of information as a public good (one from which everyone benefits, and none are excluded) – was based on numerous studies from Africa, India, Latin America, and the United States. This literature shows that high-quality news and journalism promotes accountability and responsiveness even amid rising tides of misinformation and disinformation. Fact-checking can indeed counter the lies and distortions now flooding societies around the world.

    Moreover, high-quality journalism remains more effective than social media in disseminating accurate, trustworthy news. While technology can enhance the spread of good information, it is currently doing the opposite. Large digital platforms regularly downrank news, claiming that users are more interested in other categories of content. But Pew Research Center data suggest that news consumption across platforms has remained stable (at least in the US) since 2020. And with more people voting in elections this year than ever before, there has never been a greater need for quality reporting.

    Everyone – even those who do not invest in journalism themselves – benefits from the investigation, curation, and dissemination of trustworthy and useful information. But this public good is unlikely to be adequately provided in a free market, even with the help of public-spirited philanthropists, aid organizations, media companies, and governments. In many markets, their support is not enough.

    Governments, especially, have a responsibility to ensure the provision of public goods. Enabling high-quality journalism requires legal regimes that protect free expression and the “right to tell.” But that is not enough. For journalists to do their jobs, there also must be laws and enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure the right to access information: the “right to know.” While many countries have passed such laws, they are rarely enforced. When public authorities even bother to respond to information requests, they often do so only after long delays, and with extensive redactions.

    Legacy media outlets are a key part of the media ecosystem and require continued support; but so do smaller outlets and those targeting underserved areas. Some promising ideas for supporting journalism include providing special funds or tax breaks (such as payroll tax credits or targeted value-added-tax (VAT) reductions) and issuing news-subscription vouchers. During the pandemic, governments around the world launched variations of these policies, thus producing a wide range of models that can now be emulated.

    Another crucial step is to ensure that journalists are appropriately compensated for their work. Big Tech (the proprietors of search engines, social media, and most artificial-intelligence platforms) relies on news media to engage users and improve its products. Since tech firms do not produce news themselves, they have no way to fulfill users’ demand for high-quality news and search results without the content provided by journalists. However, they have long used content produced by journalists without providing much (if any) compensation, thus depriving media outlets of a major revenue source: advertising. This cycle is destroying the information ecosystem on which they, and our society, depend.

    Many countries have helped sustain high-quality journalism through investments in independent public broadcasting. Healthy public broadcasting institutions build social trust and generate an important spillover benefit: competition that forces private media companies to hold themselves to a higher standard. The institutional structures that facilitate the development of public broadcasting are well-known; what is required is the political will to establish the necessary frameworks.

    A general principle in economics is that without public support, there will be an undersupply of public goods. Unfortunately, quality journalism is fast becoming Exhibit A for this principle, despite rigorous scholarship demonstrating its importance. Journalism’s business model is threatened by the rise of AI and the power of tech monopolies that distribute news without paying a fair price for it, and this is happening just as misinformation, disinformation, and political polarization are magnifying the dangers of journalism’s decline.

    Around the world, there is a growing sense that democracy is in decline. An important step toward reversing this is to enhance support for quality journalism, starting immediately. The costs of inaction may be enormous.

     

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s). 

    Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2024.
    www.project-syndicate.org

    Main Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

     

    Africa is being courted by China, Russia and the US. Why the continent shouldn’t pick sides

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    Bhaso Ndzendze, Associate Professor (International Relations), University of Johannesburg

    Some three decades since the end of the Cold War, the world order is undergoing a structural transformation. At the heart of it is the challenge posed to the hegemony of the US. This is primarily being led by Russia and China which are discontented with Washington’s excesses across the global stage. The most recent example of this rebellion was the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Fiona Hill, a British-American foreign affairs specialist, observed that the war was a “proxy for a rebellion by Russia and the ‘Rest’ against the United States”.

    The African continent is an obvious contender for major power courting as this realignment takes place. This is for at least four reasons.

    Firstly, it is the largest regional bloc in the United Nations, representing some 28% of all the votes in the General Assembly. Secondly, it possesses some crucial raw minerals that are found only in the continent. Thirdly, it possesses some important sea trade routes, particularly in east Africa. Finally, the continent is home to the fastest-growing youth demographic, and will account for about 42% of the world’s youth by 2030.

    I am a scholar of geopolitics and have conducted research on the continent’s trade ties to the major powers. My findings have led me to the conclusion that Africa can gain more by being neutral than by picking sides.

    The drivers

    Africa’s size in the UN General Assembly can’t be overstated. The continent sometimes struggles to respond in a co-ordinated way. Nevertheless, it has, in the past, been able to vote in sync in a way that has proved influential. The most notable example of this was the 1971 vote for the resolution that brought mainland China into the UN and replaced Taiwan. In total, there were 76 votes in favour, of which 27 came from African member states.

    In today’s UN, having this large grouping on one’s side helps countries the most when it comes to passing – or defeating – resolutions. With the UN Security Council in gridlock because the five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US) have veto power, there has been a shift towards the UN General Assembly, which works on one-member-one-vote. General Assembly votes are mainly symbolic. But they are a useful indicator of where the international community stands, and are a powerful moral weapon for any major power.

    Africa’s other major attraction is, of course, its resource wealth. This has become even more pronounced and taken on extraordinary importance in the push towards alternative sources of energy, both renewable and non-renewable. And in the production of products driven by the rise in technological innovation, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo’s cobalt, which is needed to make device screens among other things. The DRC is the world’s leading producer of this crucial mineral.

    At the same time the oil reserves of Algeria, Angola and Nigeria will become increasingly important as countries look to diversify away from Russia for natural gas, and from fossil fuels more broadly.

    Then there are the trade routes. The Red Sea route, which straddles northeast Africa and links it to the Indian Ocean, constitutes 10% of annual global trade .

    The Red Sea route passes countries such as Eritrea and Somalia. Both have been actively courted by Russia.

    For its part, China has earmarked the route through its Maritime Silk Road initiative. Its aim is to boost port infrastructure among countries with Indian Ocean coastlines.

    Lastly, Africa is home to the fastest-growing youth population. This will be important in the search for future markets, particularly in sectors such as technology and education.

    The US and Europe are also keen to tap this human capacity as their own populations age above the global average. Many are looking to Africa as a source of inward migratory flows.

    Africa’s ties with the major powers

    In 2022, the continent as a whole exported US$43.1 billion worth of goods to the US and imported goods worth US$30.6 billion.

    By comparison, China exported US$164.1 billion to Africa and imported US$117.5 billion worth of African goods, in the same year. With African exports totalling US$661.4 billion, the US accounts for 6.5% and China 17.7%.

    China, the notable growth story of the past half-century, has thus become the African continent’s single biggest trading partner, though the combined power of the European Union’s trading bloc of 27 countries still leads.

    China’s ties with the continent are the result of decades of diplomatic and commercial efforts to woo the continent through the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation. Part of this has been driven by its desire to counter the US. The other driving force has been to sustain its economy, given Africa’s untapped potential.

    Russia has pursued a different strategy. Given that its trade with the continent is at a minimum – exports and imports were around US$18 billion in 2021 – it has rather sought to become a security partner, drawing on sentimentalised Soviet history.

    Washington’s principal instrument for growing trade, and encouraging good behaviour, in Africa is the African Growth and Opportunity Act, set to expire in 2025. The framework is a lever. But, as the data show, trade is in evident decline.

    The general picture can obscure some nuances. Some African states are more deeply intertwined with the US than others. For example, Djibouti has an American military base (along with other states, though not Russia at this point). And Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa are also among the top recipients of US direct investment.

    On the other hand, Eritrea, which was the only African state to brazenly vote against the UN General Assembly to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, seems to have no aspirations to be in America’s good graces. This notorious outlier aside, the world is deeply intertwined, with high interdependence even among the competing major powers.

    The US and China, despite their trade war, have struggled to decouple from one another, with their bilateral trade reaching new heights as recently as last year.

    In light of the comparatively diminished US-Africa trade, the US may be looking to make use of third parties. It could potentially influence the EU to influence Africa. The Huawei issue demonstrates this. The US has successfully pressured quite a few of its allies to halt doing business with the Chinese technology giant. According to Unctad data, France (US$60 billion) and the UK (US$65 billion) are the principal holders of African assets.

    As these and other European states seek to “de-risk” from China, there may be third-party consequences for Africa. This might include undue pressure on the continent to behave in certain ways towards China and towards Russia.

    Picking sides isn’t the best option

    Recent research, including my own on US-China trade “competition” over Africa, shows that the prevailing notion that smaller countries need to “pick sides” in polarised global contexts is false. Africa is best served when it conducts trade with as many partners as possible.

    Indeed, as shown, the major contenders are themselves conducting record-breaking trade with one another.

    All the while, Europe continues to conduct trade with Russia following the war against Ukraine (indeed, it is growing in some respects).

    The continent can, therefore, afford to be neutral. What it cannot afford to do is pick sides and preclude any partnerships. In the oncoming multipolar order, there are no self-evident, African-specific needs to pick sides. All options can be on the table.The Conversation

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Main Photo by Lara Jameson on Pexel

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    76% of Africa’s energy could come from renewable sources by 2040: here’s how

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    Christiane Zarfl, Professor for Environmental Systems Analysis, Faculty of Science, University of Tübingen  

    Rebecca Peters, PhD candidate in Environmental Systems Analysis, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Tübingen

     

    Over half of Africa’s people – about 600 million – lack access to even the bare minimum of electricity. The tough question to answer is how access can be extended without adding to global warming by relying on fossil fuels.

    We – a team from Rwanda and Germany who work in the field of renewable energy scientific modelling – set out to find the answer by building the Renewable Power Plant Database Africa, the first on the continent. It’s a database of available open access data on hydro, wind and solar energy sources that we’ve analysed.

    The database shows that some countries, such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe, have enough projects in the pipeline to potentially transition away from fossil fuels by 2050. And that 76% of all electricity required on the continent could come from renewable resources by 2040. This would happen if the capacity of existing hydro-, solar and wind power plants were fully utilised and if all plants currently on the drawing-board were built.

    The 76% from renewables would be met by 82% hydropower, 11% solar power and 7% wind power. Hydropower has been the main renewable energy resource to date, but declining costs for solar photovoltaics (90% decline since 2009) and wind turbines (55%–60% decline since 2010) mean solar and wind have potential to lead sustainable renewable energy options.

    We conclude that combining the advantages of hydropower with wind and solar would be a more sustainable alternative to hydropower alone. And that hybrid solutions would be the best option.

    But none of this can happen unless countries are willing to get into transnational electricity sharing arrangements. In addition, providing openly accessible and location specific data is fundamental for the development of an integrated sustainable renewable energy mix.

    What the data says

    We compiled the publicly available records of 1,074 hydropower, 1,128 solar and 276 wind power plants into one database. These were both existing and planned plants. We included the location of each proposed plant for all African countries.

    We then integrated the data into a harmonised and updated database. This is the first comprehensive overview of renewable energy plants in Africa that includes their geographic coordinates, construction status and capacity (in megawatts).

    This database shows that some countries have enough projects in the pipeline to potentially transition away from fossil fuels.

    Hydropower is used by Eswatini, Angola, Djibouti, Gambia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo as a major or main source of renewable electricity.

    Other countries, including Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Libya, Cape Verde, Morocco and Tunisia, are lagging behind in renewable energy development. These countries are highly electrified and their economies depend strongly on fossil fuels.

    We found that hydropower could more than double to 132GW. This would happen if those plants that have already had feasibility studies carried out were built. The Aswan High Dam has an installed capacity of 2.1GW and generates most of Egypt’s energy. So 132GW would be enough to provide power for several countries.

    However, hybrid solutions are more likely to provide reliable electricity to a growing population in a changing climate. The cost of wind and solar power is dropping while a recent analysis concluded that barely any hydropower will be profitable after 2030. If hydropower is not a favourable option under future climate change scenarios, wind and solar will be able to step in.

    Hybrid power plants that generate a combination of renewable energy are another option. A promising example of this is the installation of floating solar panels on existing reservoirs.

    Share electricity, data and experience across borders

    To meet the demand across Africa, we recommend the following.

    Firstly, that there is international electricity sharing between African countries. This is the only way to ensure a renewable electricity supply to all countries.

    Secondly, African leaders must also move away from economic driven development and integrate the different interests from people involved or affected, such as local residents, the general population, and governmental and non-governmental organisations. In the past, the land-intensive expansion of renewable power plants has caused conflicts with farmers, national parks and industries.

    Thirdly, renewable energy development must include the interests of different people involved or affected by new energy projects, such as local communities and the general population. In the past, the land-intensive expansion of renewable power plants has caused conflicts with farmers, national parks and industries.

    Fourth, governments must share experience across borders to avoid mistakes such as damming the Nile River for hydropower. The Aswan High Dam, for example, disturbs the transport of sediments down to the delta of the Nile, threatening the highly biodiverse wetlands and inducing shoreline erosion, putting humans at risk. The Great Ethopian Renaissance Dam, currently under construction, is a recent prominent example of the need for cooperation and river management across borders, especially when facing potential impacts of climate change like droughts on the efficiency of the hydropower plant.

    Fifth, we call for a general rethink on how data is managed. All data should be shared and openly accessible across the world. Countries need to share high-quality data, including data about their power plants. High-quality data is key to analysing the different routes that electricity development should take across the continent in future. Such projections are only as good the knowledge and data they are based on.

    African countries that follow this route will be global role models for a renewable energy transition.

     

    (Jürgen Berlekamp, Charles Kabiri, Beth A. Kaplin and Klement Tockner co-authored the research that this article is based on.)The Conversation

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Main Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).