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Dealing with climate change key to sustainable economic growth in Africa: Experts
8 February 2020, 1:22 AM

Africa must address issues of climate change if it is to grow its economies and achieve sustainable growth. This is the strong warning from experts on the sidelines of the African Union Summit.

They are holding preparatory meetings ahead of the Heads of State Summit on the weekend in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 SABC journalist Sarah Kimani unpacks some of the issues expected to be discussed at the summit:

According to African climate change advocates and activists, a large dose of political will, funding and innovation is needed to hold the line against what has been described as Africa’s next big challenge.

Climate change remains high on the agenda of the African Union with incoming Chair South Africa expected to grapple with the negative prospects it presents for the continent’s growth.

“We can expect from the models that have been developed that climate change will have an impact of between 3 and 5%  on GDP growth,  meaning that Africa will lose 3 to 5%  of GDP just linked to climate change. Putting that in the context of low growth, most countries including African countries are now having low growth, in fact, the average African growth is only 3%. So what climate change means is that it is a direct immediate break on economic development because agriculture accounts for 80% of the generation of gross domestic product in African countries,” says United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Jean-Paul Adam.

Speaking at a side event at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, Ambassador Josefa Sacko, said the need to protect sectors such as agriculture, livestock and fisheries, is critical to socio-economic development.

“Our priority on the continent is adaptation,  as you know our rural farmers still don’t have the capacity to adapt because they are poor, they don’t have access to new technologies, smart agriculture is not available to them so I think that is an area we really need to focus on if we want to ensure that Africa is food secure.”

Sacko says that African countries have shown the political will in making their contributions towards building climate-resilient and low-carbon economies. However, mitigating climate change is an expensive business, according to Adam.

“Access to finance to address the climate change issue is limited,  the Green Climate Fund has provided some funding but most African countries are still in line waiting so there has to be additional resources available for African countries to bridge that gap in the immediate because a lot of funding has to be front-loaded, a lot has to be done immediately and economic growth is not going to provide enough for that. So much of the focus of the ECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa) is on giving technical support to countries but also identifying where investment can come in,  investment that recognises the challenges of climate change.”

With COP 26 coming up later this year in Glasgow Scotland, Africa will need to roll up its sleeves at the AU meeting to ensure that it will not continue to bear the brunt of the world’s climate change burden.

 

SA prepared to deal with coronavirus but resources remain a concern : Ndung’u
7 February 2020, 8:15 PM

Africa Health Research Institute Deputy Director, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u,  says although South Africa is prepared to deal with the coronavirus, the availability of resources needed to deal with such an epidemic might pose a challenge.

The coronavirus, which is currently gripping China, has so far claimed more than 600 lives.  According to Ndung’u , South Africa is lacking when it comes to resources such as clinical facilities to deal with such a virus.

“We need to strengthen our response systems in terms of our ability to diagnose the cases and in terms of clinical facilities to deal with the clinical cases and manage them medically and for infection control measures. I think that could be challenging depending on the number of cases that we get but considering that we are likely to see a few cases, if we can respond very quickly in dealing with any responsive cases that will help us a lot before it becomes a big epidemic. “

Last week, the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize assured South Africans that contingency measures are in place to deal with the epidemic.

In the video below, Dr Zweli Mkhize briefs the media about South African’s preparedness in dealing with the coronavirus:

Ndung’u says the country is doing well in responding to what is happening in China.

“The first thing we do not want to do is to panic because this is an infection that is primarily taking place in China but has not been to Africa yet and hopefully it stays like that. Government has been giving information but this is a new virus, so there is a lot that we do not know about this virus and how it is spread. But the little that we know, for example, we know that it is transmitted through human contact, we know the major symptoms, fever and coughing, we know all of that and there have been a lot of messages on how to control it.”

No cases of the virus have been confirmed in South Africa.

Coronavirus in Africa

On Thursday, Botswana’s Ministry of Health announced that the five suspected cases of coronavirus tested negative. There have also been suspected cases in Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Sudan; however, no case has been confirmed.  Ndung’u says the rest of the continent, same as South Africa, has infrastructural challenges to deal with the epidemic.

“As a continent, in general, we have poor infrastructure and this is a major concern. As a continent we may not very well be prepared because should this virus come to Africa our health systems would not be able to cope and we saw this even with Ebola, we do not have enough diagnostic facilities and we do not have clinical facilities to isolate people and make sure that they are treated and to go home only after they have either recovered or the infection has been ruled out. So that is a major concern for the continent. We need to strengthen our epidemic response mechanisms to ensure that we can handle an epidemic of this nature.”

Ndung’u has commended the way China has dealt with the epidemic.

Click below to listen to Ndung’u’s response on how China is handling the epidemic: 

Below is a Live Tracking of the cases, death toll and other information related to the virus:

As South Africa takes over the chairmanship of the African Union, infrastructure challenges in the continent will be a priority.

 

 

 

 

No laboratory confirmation of cases of coronavirus in KZN: Health Department
6 February 2020, 11:21 PM

The Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal says there is no laboratory confirmation of cases of coronavirus in the province. The Province’s Health MEC Nomagugu Silelane-Zulu says irresponsible and sensationalist reporting by some news media has created a false impression that there are two possible cases in the province.

It says two patients who exhibited symptoms similar to the virus are being held in isolation as a precautionary measure.

The Department’s spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Noluthando Nkosi says one patient is being monitored in a public hospital and the other one in a private facility in Durban.

“ There are a number of cases that are sent to us where there’s a level of suspicion depending on presenting features but to date, we’ve not got any case that’s positive, neither do we have any case that meets what we call the full case definition. Full case definition is when an individual that has been to the area of the epicentre of this outbreak or has been on contact with people in the epicentre and is within the incubation period and thereafter presenting symptoms,” says Acting Director-General of the National Department of Health Dr Anban Pillay.

More than 500  people have died since the outbreak of the virus in China.

Below is more information about the virus: 

 

 

Unrest spreads amid Palestinian anger at Trump plan
6 February 2020, 9:34 PM

At least two Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank and 16 Israelis were hurt on Thursday in a surge of violence that erupted amid strong Palestinian anger at a US peace plan. In Jerusalem, an Arab citizen of Israel was killed after he shot and slightly wounded an Israeli paramilitary border policeman at an entrance to the walled Old City, Israeli authorities said, calling the attack politically motivated.

The peace proposal announced by US President Donald Trump would give Israel most of what it has sought during decades of conflict, including the disputed holy city of Jerusalem and nearly all the occupied land on which it has built settlements.

With violence on the rise, the Israeli military said it was sending reinforcements to the West Bank, where Israeli troops in the city of Jenin shot dead a 19-year-old man during clashes.

Palestinians said he had thrown rocks at soldiers who came to demolish the home of a Palestinian involved in the 2018 killing of a Jewish settler.

In a separate incident in Jenin, a Palestinian officer in the local police station was killed by what Palestinian authorities said was Israeli gunfire. Israeli officials did not comment, and Israeli media reported he was shot by troops by mistake.

In a scene reminiscent of a wave of Palestinian street attacks in 2015, a car ran down Israeli soldiers on a Jerusalem sidewalk, injuring at least 14 of them, Israeli police said.

The assailant fled and was arrested later in the day, the Israeli military said, without immediately identifying the driver. Israel’s YNet news website identified him as a 25-year-old Palestinian.

On a road to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, a suspected Palestinian gunman slightly wounded an Israeli soldier before fleeing, the Israeli military said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Israel for the deaths, linking them to what Trump has billed as the “deal of the century”.

The Palestinians, who have long shunned the Trump administration, accusing it of bias towards Israel, say the plan falls far short of their demands for a viable independent state and other rights.

Israel supports the Trump plan. The Arab League opposes it, while the European Union has rejected parts of it.

Visiting Israeli security forces in the West Bank after Thursday’s incidents, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Abbas of inciting violence.

“We will do everything necessary to protect our security, to define our borders and to ensure our future,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We will do it with you or without you.”

On Wednesday, Israeli troops shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian elsewhere in the West Bank, saying he had thrown afire-bomb at them during a violent protest against Trump’s plan. He was the first fatality since the blueprint was announced.

The Israel-Gaza border has also been shaken by several days of violence.

Palestinians have launched mortar fire, rockets and balloon-borne explosives into Israel, causing panic but no serious casualties. Israel has carried out nightly air strikes against sites belonging to Gaza’s ruling Hamas Islamists.

Infrastructure development top of SA’s priority list at the upcoming AU Summit
6 February 2020, 9:25 PM

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu says that South Africa will be highlighting the importance of infrastructure development on the continent at the African Union (AU) Summit taking place in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia later this week.

South Africa has been at the helm of the AU’s Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, which is aimed at promoting priority development projects.

Mthembu says as incoming AU Chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa will be ramping up the need for infrastructure as the lifeblood to continental development and integration.

“We are in charge of over 15 or so corridors throughout the length and breadth of Africa from Algeria, Nambia, you name it, Egypt. All these corridors that are meant not only to ensure that we have the African Trade Area, but also that we have roads that lead people to the African Trade Area and that is what we are championing.”

Mthembu says that Ramaphosa will be pushing for South Africa to host a High-Level Forum on Infrastructure in 2020 in which the proposals for funding across the continent may be tabled.

“Linked to this summit on infrastructure that we will hold in 2020, therefore there is a possibility that the Heads of States indeed may agree that why don’t we create an Africa-wide infrastructure fund so that all of us do not pay lip service to infrastructural development in our continent but indeed there are means to ensure that there is infrastructure development.'”

Head of South African Electrotechnical Export Council Chiboni Evans says the African continent has come far in developing infrastructure.

Speaking in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Evans highlighted the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in Mozambique and the Lapsset project in East Africa as some of the successes in infrastructure development in Africa.

Through the LNG project, a floating storage and regasification unit will be moored in the harbour of Maputo and then connected to a new gas power plant nearby and South Africa’s gas network.

Watch the video below for more on the story:

The Lapsset project is the largest project in East Africa, which involves railway, a highway, a crude oil pipeline and a fiber-optic cable connecting Kenya with Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan.

“The good thing about that is the way that the Lapsset project owners have dealt with the project. As far as possible, they have used African expertise to help with the project,” says Evans.

As South Africa prepares to head the AU, Evans says the aim should be holistic growth of the African continent.

“One of the things that we really need to start doing is to start, not looking just at the growth of South Africa in isolation, but the growth of South Africa as part of the African continent because if we don’t grow the economies around us, South Africa will not be able to grow. One of the things that we have done as South Africa quite successfully, in 2016, the Department of Trade and Industry launched a unit called Trade Invest Africa and the key thing about Trade and Invest is that investment is also in skills and knowledge transfer.” – additional reporting by Lerato Matlala and Busisiwe Chimombe

 

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