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News Article | May 17, 2017
Site: www.ictsd.org

As regional economic integration gathers pace in Africa, how can trade facilitation be leveraged to spur the economic growth and development necessary for its implementation? Is the TFA the answer? Have you ever considered how competitive a country would be if donkeys and camels were the primary mode of transport for its cross-border trade? Over long distances, a donkey can trot at a leisurely 9 km/hour but it can notch up a top speed of 43 km/hour. That is approximately how efficient trade would have been for our forefathers in Africa’s ancient trading kingdoms around Timbuktu and similar cities. It took a trade caravan 40 days to cross the Sahara Desert in those medieval times. Fast forward to the twenty-first century and you would think that things must be totally different and that Africa would have considerably accelerated. Not quite, when you consider that the estimated effective speed of road transport within the Southern African Development Community, for example, is between 6 km/hour and 12 km/hour.[1] The road infrastructure has substantially improved since the medieval era and trucks can move as fast as anywhere else in the world. But when drivers have to be stopped at numerous checkpoints and are forced to spend days at borders, the average speed of an entire journey reduces to donkey pace. It is therefore unsurprising that Africa faces the largest trade costs of any region in the world. And many of the challenges are man-made. Granted, geographic constraints, such as having more landlocked countries (16) than any other region in the world, put Africa at a disadvantage. But such geographic barriers have not prevented Switzerland or Austria from participating effectively in international trade. In fact, the landlock barrier needs to be qualified. In The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier pins it down to being “landlocked with bad neighbours.”[2] Since exports and imports have to pass through one or more borders to reach their intended destinations, bad neighbours make trade especially problematic for landlocked countries. One of the solutions proffered by development practitioners is for African countries to adopt trade facilitation measures in order to reduce trade costs and enhance economic competitiveness. Essentially, the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) concluded under the WTO at Bali, Indonesia, in December 2013 is all about reducing trade costs. The TFA was a major milestone for the multilateral trade talks, as the Doha Development Agenda had lost momentum since its launch in 2001. The agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. Many of these measures were already being implemented to varying extents by some African countries as part of the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) under the World Customs Organization. However, unlike the RKC, which provides good practices on trade facilitation for countries to adopt on a voluntary basis, the TFA entails binding commitments.[3] By 22 February 2017, 87 countries, including 18 African countries, had ratified the TFA, triggering its entry into force. The beginning of the implementation phase again spotlights the importance of trade facilitation to the continent. This article seeks to address the role of trade facilitation in regional economic integration in Africa. It draws lessons from recent experiences and their implications to make the TFA a success. A number of studies have attempted to quantify the benefits of the TFA. For instance, a 2015 WTO study argued that least developed countries (LDCs), the majority of which are in Africa, would experience a 35 percent increase in exports courtesy of the TFA if the agreement is fully implemented. It added that the TFA could boost economic growth in developing countries by increasing exports by 3.5 percent annually, increasing annual economic output by 0.9 percent, while also expanding and diversifying the export basket by as much as 20 percent.[4] Given that Africa is wholly made up of developing countries and LDCs, such estimates suggest that Africa would reap substantial benefits by implementing the TFA. Moreover, since intra-African trade comprises a larger share of products which are more sensitive to transport costs and border delays, it is reasonable to expect that the TFA would help to boost intra-African trade in particular. Simulations by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa demonstrated that implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area, accompanied by trade facilitation measures, would double the share of intra-African trade in the continent’s total trade in a decade, from circa 12 percent in 2012 to 22 percent by 2022, compared to an increase up to 15.5 percent in a scenario without trade facilitation measures.[5] Therefore, the coming into force of the TFA bodes well for Africa’s reinvigorated agenda on regional integration, complemented and underpinned by an industrialisation as well as an infrastructure development drive. This agenda includes the official launch, in June 2015, of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) involving 26 countries that form the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community, and the Southern African Development Community. These 26 countries account for over half of the continent’s gross domestic product and population. Beyond the TFTA, African countries are pursuing negotiations towards the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area. The TFA also brings with it the certainty that binding legal commitments will be implemented by all the countries involved, including developing countries. This will positively impact on the overall business environment. African countries can also benefit from the goodwill generated by the TFA, which will help unlock developmental assistance to support developing countries in their implementation efforts and respond to their specific needs. International goodwill is evident in the establishment of the TFA Facility, launched by the WTO in July 2014, which offers a range of activities designed to enable developing countries and least developed countries to implement the agreement and reap its full rewards. The African Development Bank also aims to expand its Africa Trade Fund, which African countries can call on. African countries can therefore ride this tide of trade facilitation enthusiasm and goodwill from development partners and launch measures aimed at fulfilling the provisions of the WTO’s TFA. Although trade facilitation, per TFA definition,  is necessary for enhancing intra-African trade, it is by no means sufficient to realise Africa’s integration goals.  Inadequate infrastructure (energy, information and communication technologies (ICTs), roads, water) and supply-side constraints associated with low levels of economic diversification, low productivity, low investment, and an underdeveloped and unregulated services sector pose fundamental challenges for regional integration. Moreover, many studies seem to ignore the cost of implementing trade facilitation reforms. Implementing a single window system, for example, requires substantial upfront investment in hardware and software, process re-engineering, and legislative changes, plus recurring maintenance and upgrading costs and training of personnel. These costs must be passed on to economic operators and ultimately to consumers. Ultimately, answers to these questions will provide a more comprehensive picture of what the adoption of trade facilitation measures, and the TFA in particular, really means for Africa. Yet studies analysing such issues in Africa are scanty. Further, the adoption of trade facilitation measures may be hampered by political economy issues as certain categories of stakeholders may feel that their interests are threatened. There is also a degree of apprehension among some African countries over a binding trade facilitation agreement, which may be seen to impose restrictions on their exercise of their development space. In addition, the limited scope of the TFA minimises its impact. For Africa, in particular, achieving its integration aspirations requires a more comprehensiveunderstanding of the concept of trade facilitation which goes beyond the narrow TFA definition, which is about freeing trade by unlocking border and transit measures. A broader definition includes dealing with hard infrastructure development, behind-the-border policies that impact on trade, policies regulating markets in backbone services (including issues affecting the market structure and pricing of marine and road freight), services trade, and trade finance, among many others. The trade facilitation agenda goes way beyond the TFA agreement. Viewed from a wider perspective, there are therefore many ways in which trade facilitation can help address some of the challenges that constrain regional integration on the continent. Beyond the TFA, development institutions such as the African Development Bank need to provide holistic support to deliver on this broader mandate. A few considerations will be vital to success in economic integration in terms of movement of goods, services, and people. These include the following. Trade facilitation measures are best implemented through a regional approach, since they need to be harmonised across countries. In the absence of such an approach, efficiency gains at one point along a corridor may be easily offset by chokepoints at a converging crossing point. Addressing facilitation along the entire length of a corridor and across many countries and regional blocs is imperative if Africa is to achieve integration on the scale of Cape to Cairo and east to west connectivity, as envisaged by its leaders. In other words, corridors and borders should be looked at in terms of “spaces of flows,” rather than “spaces of places.” This entails unbundling an approach to border control concentrating on territory towards one focusing on facilitation However, a regional approach requires levelling up capacities in terms of human resources, ICTs, and other infrastructure, and addressing coordination weaknesses. Implementing trade facilitation reforms tends to have less visible outcomes and may not be the best vote-catcher for political leaders compared to investment in hard infrastructure (roads, airports, railways, internet broadband, irrigation systems, potable water, schools, hospitals, etc.). Pushing for trade facilitation reforms may therefore be challenging if it is not accompanied by bigger and tangible investments in hard infrastructure. The solution is to leverage the hard–soft infrastructure nexus by combining physical infrastructure with soft infrastructure interventions in projects. At the African Development Bank, for instance, 10 percent of the budget for regional projects funded from the regional operations envelope must be carved out for soft interventions. This approach also enhances inclusiveness. A 2012 study by the World Bank on the economic geography of the East Africa Community, found that “border improvements save more time for the most number of people than infrastructure improvements alone.”[6] Given the relative costs involved, a dollar invested in trade facilitation measures is a quick win over new infrastructure. Scaling up funding and effective policy dialogue to bridge the implementation gap Africa tends to lag behind in the implementation of regional integration commitments – rhetoric has not always been matched with action. This seems to be no different in the case of the TFA. The lethargy demonstrated by African countries in accepting the TFA may be indicative of slow donor support in helping countries to fully assess the benefits, define their commitments under the three commitment categories, expand their implementation capacity, and make the requisite investments among many competing priorities. Although the TFA contains promises of technical assistance for implementation, these provisions are not binding and support so far has been minimal, with demand by far outweighing the resources committed. Therefore, development institutions and donors need to scale up support in order to make a dent in the trade facilitation needs of developing countries, including those in Africa. To sum up, for Africa to achieve its goal of boosting trade within its own region and globally, it needs to make a leap from the current inefficient trade logistics. The TFA offers a platform to realise that goal, but it has its own limitations. Therefore, efforts should go beyond the narrow definition of trade facilitation under the TFA to embrace a broader approach that encompasses dealing with hard infrastructure development, behind-the-border policies that impact on trade, regulating backbone services, enhancing competition in logistics value chains on both land and sea, leveraging the hard–soft infrastructure nexus, and embracing a regional approach. [1] UKAID (2014) quoted in Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). Regional Business Barriers: Unlocking Economic Potential in Southern Africa. 2014. [2] Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done about It. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. [3] For more on this, see Kanyimbo, Patrick. “Trade Facilitation in the Bali Package: What’s In It for Africa?” Briefing Note No. 61, European Centre for Development Policy Management, December 2013. [4] WTO. World Trade Report 2015. Geneva: WTO, 2015. [5] Mevel, Simon, and Stephen Karingi. “Deepening Regional Integration in Africa:  A Computable General Equilibrium Assessment of the Establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area followed by a Continental Customs Union.” Paper presented at the 7th African Economic Conference, 2012. [6] World Bank. Reshaping Economic Geography of East Africa: From Regional to Global Integration, Vol. 1 of 2. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2012.


News Article | May 8, 2017
Site: fashionunited.com

Africa Sourcing & Fashion Week (ASFW), taking place at Millennium Hall in Ethiopia's capital Addis Abeba from 3 to 6 October 2017, will focus on sustainability and its central theme “Sustainability in Clothing”. Given that currently, clothing and textiles represent about seven percent of world exports - a percentage that is likely to rise - the trade fair puts particular emphasis on production, the environment and certifications. A fashion show, trend area and matchmaking platform for finding business contacts are just some of the other programme highlights. From this year onward, Messe Frankfurt's three trade fair brands Texworld, Apparel Sourcing and Texprocess have been integrated into ASFW after Messe Frankfurt with the fair's organiser Trade and Fairs East Africa last year. More than 250 international exhibitors from 25 countries worldwide are expected to participate. Because the origins of fashion and sustainable production are becoming particularly relevant to more and more fashion buyers, ASFW is anticipating an increasing interest in eco fashion and will present new approaches in this regard. Fast fashion giant H&M, GIZ (Society for International Cooperation) Ethiopia as well as circular economy and resource efficiency experts of WRAP and development agency Solidaridad will present sustainable solutions. In addition, international manufacturers of textile machines will showcase new technologies for the African market. This includes the Italian textile machine association ACIMIT, which will be represented with a range of product innovations. Visiors also look forward to the annual fashion show with African creations as well as the designer conference where experts will give presentations on “International fashion – designed in Africa”. In terms of trends, trend forecasting and analytics company WSGN will present future trends in women's, men's and children's clothing while “Trend House” showcases international trends made in Africa. The ASFW will take place for the seventh time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2017. It serves as a meeting point for garment manufacturers and the east African textile industry, focusing on apparel fabrics, leather, fashion and fashion accessoires to home and contract textiles, technical textiles and the processing and care of textiles. Machine manufacturers for garment production, CAD/CAM systems, printers, inks and accessories also have a strong presence.


News Article | December 6, 2016
Site: www.marketwired.com

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Dec. 6, 2016) - Asanko Gold Inc. ("Asanko" or the "Company") (TSX:AKG)(NYSE MKT:AKG) is delighted to announce it has received the Ghana Mining Industry Awards ("GMIA") 2016 Corporate Social Investment ("CSI") Project of the Year for the Obotan Cooperative Credit Union initiative. The Obotan Cooperative Credit Union ("OCCU") aims to increase access to financial capital and other financial services to assist small businesses address the challenge of access to credit and to support the development of economic growth in and around the Asanko Gold Mine catchment area. Launched in December 2015, before the Asanko Gold Mine had even poured first gold, the OCCU has over 800 members and more than GHS 200,000 in assets. The OCCU is sponsored by Asanko and the German government-backed development organization, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH ("GIZ"), and is also an affiliate member of the Credit Union Association of Ghana. Peter Breese, President and CEO, said "This award is the highest endorsement by the Ghana Chamber of Mines of Asanko's CSR program and it is particularly gratifying to win such a prestigious award when the Asanko Gold Mine has only been in operation for 10 months. The award is also the endorsement of our strategic partnership with GIZ, who have been a very supportive partner and I look forward to many years of future collaboration. The OCCU is a wonderful initiative that is truly making a difference to people's quality of life and demonstrates that the Asanko Gold Mine is contributing to broader economic development in the area that will be sustainable beyond the life of the mine. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the Ghana Revenue Authority and the Ghana Cooperative Credit Union Association for their role and assistance with the OCCU." The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Mines, Mr. Sulemanu Koney, congratulated Asanko on winning the Best CSI Project Award and stated that, "even though the mine has only been in operation for less than a year, its unique approach to social investments has earned it this award. We trust Asanko will continue to leverage its presence in further enhancing its positive and beneficial impact on its communities." The OCCU is member-owned not-for-profit financial cooperative that provides savings, credit and other financial services to their members. With seed capital provided by the Asanko Gold Mine, Credit Union members pool their savings and deposits to finance loans to other members and benefit from higher returns on savings, lower interest rates and fewer fees. For further information please visit: www.asanko.com, email: info@asanko.com. Asanko's vision is to become a mid-tier gold mining company that maximizes value for all its stakeholders. The Company's flagship project is the multi-million ounce Asanko Gold Mine located in Ghana, West Africa. The mine is being developed in phases. Phase 1 was built within budget and ahead of schedule, with gold production commencing in January 2016 and commercial production declared on April 1, 2016. Ramp-up to steady-state production of 190,000 ounces per annum was achieved in Q2 2016. Asanko is managed by highly skilled and successful technical, operational and financial professionals. The Company is strongly committed to the highest standards for environmental management, social responsibility, and health and safety for its employees and neighbouring communities.


Hamid S.,Health services academy | Malik A.U.,Health Integrated | Kamran I.,GIZ | Ramzan M.,University of Wah
Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare | Year: 2014

Background: Many low and middle income countries lack the human resources needed to deliver essential health interventions. A health care system with a limited number of nurses cannot function effectively. Although the recommended nurse to doctor ratio is 4:1, the ratio in Pakistan is reversed, with 2.7 doctors to one nurse. Methods: A qualitative study using narrative analysis was undertaken in public and private tertiary care hospitals in Pakistan to examine and compare job satisfaction among nurses and understand the factors affecting their work climate. Interactive interviews were conducted with nurses working with inpatients and outpatients. Results: All of the respondents had joined the profession by choice and were supported by their families in their decision to pursue their career, but now indicated that they were dissatisfed with their jobs. Three types of narratives were identifed, namely, "Working in the spirit of serving humanity", "Working against all odds", and "Working in a functional system and facing pressures of increased accountability". Nurses working in a public sector hospital are represented in the frst two narrative types, whereas the third represents those working in a private sector hospital. The frst narrative represents nurses who were new in the profession and despite hard working conditions were performing their duties. The second narrative represents nurses working in the public sector with limited resources, and the third narrative is a representation of nurses who were working hard and stressed out despite a well functioning system. Conclusion: The study shows that the presence of a well trained health workforce is vital, and that certain aspects of its organization are key, including numbers (available quantity), skill mix (health team balance), distribution (urban/rural), and working conditions (compensation, nonf-nancial incentives, and workplace safety). This study has identifed the need to reform policies for retaining the nursing workforce. Simple measures requiring better management practices could substantially improve the working environment and hence retention of nurses. © 2014 Hamid et al.


News Article | November 15, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

The downturn in commodity prices has hit the mining industry globally but in Madagascar, it coincided with the end of a five-year period of turmoil, precipitated by a coup in 2009. Any hopes for the sector to propel itself back on the development track were dashed. “Lots of mining companies came to Madagascar to explore [before 2009] but then we had the political crisis, with all the uncertainty and lack of visibility it brought, and even though we had elections in 2013, that uncertainty has not really lifted,” said Willy Ranjatoelina, executive secretary of the Madagascar Chamber of Mines. In the mid-2000s, Madagascar had given the green light to two large-scale mining projects: Ambatovy, a $8bn (£6.4bn) nickel and cobalt project developed by a consortium led by Sherritt International, and QMM, a $1bn ilmenite project developed by Rio Tinto. Since then new projects have dried up. While the downturn in fortune in large-scale mining is bad news for Madagascar’s revenue forecasts, it offers the authorities an opportunity to turn their attention to an alternative: artisanal and small-scale mining. Although artisanal mining has been practised in Madagascar for centuries, it’s been neglected as a formal activity – a “missed opportunity”, says Ranjatoelina, considering that around a million people work in the sector, second only to agriculture. Formal recognition by the government, it is argued, could bring greater tax revenue and lead to improvements in health and safety and use of child labour in the sector. Most artisanal mining focuses on gold and precious stones (Madagascar is famed for its sapphires, rubies and emeralds) and production isn’t insignificant – at its peak, Madagascar was thought to produce about 40% of the world’s sapphires and its annual gold production is reckoned to be about 15 tonnes, worth about $450m, but virtually all of it remains under the radar. Officially, 2016 will be the first year that Madagascar exports gold (Anor, the national gold agency set up in 2015, hopes to export 500kg, about $15m), yet in 2011, foreign countries (mainly the United Arab Emirates) reported importing $250m worth of gold and gemstones from Madagascar. One of the reasons why the sector has been overlooked is its poor image: much of the artisanal mining takes place in protected areas [pdf], with serious consequences on Madagascar’s unique biodiversity. Artisanal mining is also associated with various socio-economic problems such as child labour, poor health and safety conditions, limited education and health facilities, trafficking and security issues. Despite these shortcomings, artisanal mining, for gold especially, is a lifeline for many. Gold panning is often a seasonal, family activity, one that complements a miner’s main activity and adds a level of resilience to their livelihood, says Brian Klein, a doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. It is slow and steady work, with an average day’s work producing about $2-$2.50 worth of gold, whereas gemstone mining is all about striking lucky with an exceptional stone. With turbulent commodity markets, gold also holds a special place as a reliable monetary alternative, says Vololona Rakotonomenjanahary, head of Anor: “With gold, you can’t go wrong. With gemstones, there are issues of quality and size, but with gold, there is just one product.” There are signs that Madagascar is starting to pay more attention to artisanal mining. One of Anor’s mandates is to improve the skills and professional standards of those working in gold, including miners and local officials who issue permits and collect tax. “Artisanal mining creates employment in rural areas and the revenues it generates can help finance local socio-economic infrastructure,” says Rakotonomenjanahary. “Improving our tax collection would allow artisanal mining to boost local development.” Anor is also working on setting up a national gold refinery that will be responsible for certifying and hallmarking gold for export. A number of donors and NGOs are active in this space, including the World Bank, which is supporting artisanal mining in Madagascar to the tune of $1.8m as part of its public sector performance project. Ranjatoelina says Madagascar expects more interest from donors and potential investors in the months ahead, with a major donor conference scheduled for early December. This is good news, although Hermann Fickinger, head of the environment programme at the German development corporation GIZ, says that all these efforts will only be as good as their implementation. Madagascar already has a basic legal and regulatory framework for the sector – it just isn’t implemented across the board. Klein also sounds a note of caution. “Formalisation is seen as a panacea – bringing people out of the shadows will reduce all negative impacts of artisanal mining – but it could be a vehicle for dispossession,” he says. “There is a danger of not taking into account the impact it could have on the livelihood of people and the power dynamics between small scale mining, the government, NGOs and corporate players.” What Madagascar ultimately wants is to be able to commercialise its gold and gemstones under an ethical label such as Fairtrade or the Responsible Jewellery Council. There is still a long way to go, says Fickinger, but the process has started.


News Article | January 31, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The Bay of Bengal’s basin contains some of the most populous regions of the earth. No less than a quarter of the world’s population is concentrated in the eight countries that border the bay1. Approximately 200 million people live along the Bay of Bengal’s coasts and of these a major proportion are partially or wholly dependent on its fisheries2. For the majority of those who depend on it, the Bay of Bengal can provide no more than a meagre living: 61% of India’s fisherfolk already live below the poverty line. Yet the numbers dependent on fisheries are only likely to grow in years to come, partly because of climate change. In southern India drought and water scarcity have already induced tens of thousands of farmers to join the fishing fleet3. Rising sea levels are also likely to drive many displaced people into the fishing industry. But the fisheries of the Bay of Bengal have been under pressure for decades and are now severely depleted4. Many once-abundant species have all but disappeared. Particularly badly affected are the species at the top of the food chain. The bay was once feared by sailors for its man-eating sharks; they are now rare in these waters. Other apex predators like grouper, croaker and rays have also been badly hit. Catches now consist mainly of species like sardines, which are at the bottom of the marine food web5. Good intentions have played no small part in creating the current situation. In the 1960s, western aid agencies encouraged the growth of trawling in India, so that fishermen could profit from the demand for prawns in foreign markets. This led to a “pink gold rush”, in which prawns were trawled with fine mesh nets that were dragged along the sea floor. But along with hauls of “pink gold” these nets also scooped up whole seafloor ecosystems as well as vulnerable species like turtles, dolphins, sea snakes, rays and sharks. These were once called bycatch, and were largely discarded. Today the collateral damage of the trawling industry is processed and sold to the fast-growing poultry and aquaculture industries of the region6. In effect, the processes that sustain the Bay of Bengal’s fisheries are being destroyed in order to produce dirt-cheap chicken feed and fish feed. The aid that flowed in after the massive tsunami of 2004 also had certain unintended consequences7. It led to the modernisation and expansion of the small-scale fisheries sector, which generated an illusory boom followed by a bust. In recent decades the governments of the nations that surround the Bay of Bengal have striven to expand and encourage their fisheries. But unfortunately these efforts have often ignored questions of long-term sustainability. Although attempts have been made to regulate fishing in the bay they have been largely ineffective. In the 1980s and 90s, fisheries expanded into new grounds and began to target new species and for a while there was an increase in catches5. But catch rates began to decline in the late 1990s and trawlers were forced to move farther and farther from their home waters. This in turn has created a little-noticed grid of conflict. In 2015 Sri Lankan authorities claimed to have spotted 40,544 Indian trawlers in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters8. Seventy trawlers were seized and 450 fishermen were arrested. At least 100 deaths have been reported9. Conversely, many Sri Lankan tuna fishermen have also been arrested in India. On the other side of the subcontinent, large numbers of Indian fishermen are frequently arrested in Pakistan: 220 of them were released in December 2016, as a goodwill gesture. In Myanmar, until a ban was enacted in 2014, the catch collected by foreign fishing boats was 100 times greater than that of local fishermen10. In the troubled Arakan region, where 43% of the population is dependent on fisheries, catches have declined so steeply that many families are mired in debt11. Conflicts over fisheries and other resources are a significant but largely unnoticed aspect of the explosive tensions of the region. The Mergui archipelago on the Thai-Myanmar border is one of the more secluded parts of the Bay. In the late 19th century an English fisheries officer described this area as being “literally alive with fish”1. Today the archipelago’s sparsely populated islands remain pristinely beautiful while some of its underwater landscapes present scenes of utter devastation. Fish stocks have been decimated by methods that include cyanide poisoning. The region was once famous for its coral reefs; these have been ravaged by dynamite-fishing and climate-change induced bleaching. Yet the exploitation of these waters continues without check. At night specially equipped, long-armed boats materialise around the islands and shine high-powered green lights into the water to attract plankton and the squid that follow in their wake. After nightfall, a glow that is bright enough to be visible from outer space12 hangs above the archipelago, like a miasmic fog. These squid boats, some of which are probably crewed by men who have been trafficked like slaves13, help to make Thailand the world’s largest exporter of squid – at least for the time being. At the same time the bay’s ecosystems are also being disrupted by other environmental pressures. Several large rivers empty into the bay, carrying vast tides of untreated sewage, plastic, industrial waste and effluent from the agriculture and aquaculture industries14. The impact of this pollution could be catastrophic. The high load of organic pollutants, coupled with the diminution of the fish that keep them in control, could lead to massive plankton blooms, further reducing the water’s oxygen content. Last month a multinational team of scientists reported an alarming finding – a very large “dead zone” has appeared in the bay. Apart from sulphur-oxidising bacteria and marine worms, few creatures can live in these oxygen-depleted waters15. This zone already spans some 60,000 sq km and appears to be growing16. The dead zone of the Bay of Bengal is now at a point where a further reduction in its oxygen content could have the effect of stripping the water of nitrogen, a key nutrient. This transition could be triggered either by accretions of pollution or by changes in the monsoons, a predicted effect of global warming. What is unfolding in the bay is a catastrophic convergence of flawed policy, economic over-exploitation, unsustainable forms of waste management, and climate change impacts that are intensifying in unpredictable ways. The scientists who identified the bay’s dead zone warn that this stretch of ocean is approaching a tipping point that will have serious consequences for the planet’s oceans and the global nitrogen cycle. Should the bay’s fisheries collapse there will also be very serious human consequences, including intensified conflict and mass displacement. If millions of people lose their livelihoods then we can be sure that the resultant churning of populations will create huge new streams of migration, across the bay, the Indian Ocean, and indeed, the planet. Recent refugee flows in the region suggest that such a process may have already begun. For these issues to be addressed there needs to be a sea change in governmental attitudes and policies. For too long the governments of the region, often with international encouragement, have looked upon the sea as a bottomless resource pit to be despoiled at will. They need instead to view it as a wilderness that requires conservation and informed management, in consultation with the communities that are dependent on it. The situation demands carefully crafted solutions since it involves millions of livelihoods that are already imperilled by the dwindling of the bay’s resources. • Amitav Ghosh is a novelist and non-fiction writer. His most recent book is The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. • Aaron Savio Lobo has a PhD in marine conservation from the University of Cambridge. He is currently a technical advisor for the Indo-German Biodiversity program of the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit ) in India. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of his organisation. 1. Amrith, S. Crossing the Bay of Bengal: the furies of nature and the fortunes of migrants. (Harvard University Press Cambridge, MA, 2013). 2. BOBLME. Results and achievements of the BOBLME Project. (2015). 3. Swathilekshmi, P. S. & Johnson, B. Migrant labourers in the primary sector of marine fisheries: A case study in Karnataka. 38 (Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, 2013). 4. Vivekanandan, E., Srinath, M. & Kuriakose, S. Fishing the marine food web along the Indian coast. Fish. Res.72, 241–252 (2005). 5. Bhathal, B. & Pauly, D. ‘Fishing down marine food webs’ and spatial expansion of coastal fisheries in India, 1950–2000. Fish. Res.91, 26–34 (2008). 8. Scholtens, J. Fishing for access in transboundary waters. The reproduction of fishers’ marginality in post-war northern Sri Lanka. (University of Amsterdam, 2016). 9. Suryanarayan, V. & Swaminathan, R. Fishing in Palk Bay: contested territory or common heritage? Thinking out of the box. (Ganesh and Co.). 11. Ei Cherry Aung. As catch and sales fall, Burma’s fishermen sink into debt. The Irrawaddy (2017). 12. Schonhardt, S. What’s the one thing in Thailand visible from space? The Wall Street Journal (2014). 13. Jones, S. Trafficked into slavery on a Thai fishing boat: “I thought I’d die there”. The Guardian (2015). 14. Kaly, U. L. Review of land-based sources of pollution to the coastal and marine environments in the BOBLME Region. 100 (FAO-BOBLME Programme, 2004). 15. Bristow, L. A. et al. N2 production rates limited by nitrite availability in the Bay of Bengal oxygen minimum zone. Nat. Geosci10, 24–29 (2017).


News Article | September 16, 2016
Site: cleantechnica.com

With the first phase deadline set for 2019, Morocco has launched an ambitious “Energy Efficiency in Mosques” program aiming to provide solar power for all the mosques in the kingdom. By switching to energy-saving LED lighting, solar water heating, and rooftop solar PV electricity generation, significant savings are anticipated for the Moroccan Ministry of Religious Affairs, the agency responsible for paying the mosques’ energy bills. More than two years in the planning, the Energy Efficiency in Mosques program was announced by Morocco’s Ministry of Energy (MEMEE) and Ministry of Religious Affairs (MHAI). The program, also known as the “Green Mosques” program, is likewise partnering with the national agency for renewable energies and energy efficiency (ADREE) and the state energy investment company (SIE). The Green Mosques program was designed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). With a full 99 percent of Morocco’s population registered as Muslim, mosques are very effective launching pads for raising awareness of renewable energy. In total, there are around 15,000 mosques in the kingdom. “In a first phase,” reports GIZ, “at least 600 mosques across Morocco will be equipped with LED lighting, photovoltaic systems, and solar water heaters.” Offering expert support to government partners, GIZ is assisting in all phases of design and implementation of project activities to be launched in all of Morocco’s mosques. After 32 years in the planning, Morocco’s Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca finally opened its doors to worshipers and tourists in 1993. Now an iconic national landmark, the Hassan II Mosque was built in part as a mausoleum to honor King Hassan II’s father, Mohammed V, who passed away in 1961. Plans to build the mausoleum had not progressed by 1980, and so, during a celebration to honor King Hassan II’s 60th birthday celebration, Hassan II directly requested a new building for Casablanca. “I wish Casablanca to be endowed with a large, fine building of which it can be proud until the end of time,” stated King Hassan II. “I want to build this mosque on the water,” he added, referring to a verse in the Qur’an, “because God’s throne is on the water. Therefore, the faithful who go there to pray, to praise the creator on firm soil, can contemplate God’s sky and ocean.” And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six days and His Throne was on the water [Qur’an 11:7] The Hassan II Mosque offers a beautiful realization of the king’s wishes. It is one of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity for over 100,000 worshippers. Designed by French Architect Michel Pinseau, the iconic mosque is also one of the top tourist attractions in Morocco. With the passing of Hassan II in 1999, the monarchy of Morocco passed to his son, King Mohammed VI. Working tirelessly to promote the economic welfare of his realm, Mohammed VI is beloved in his nation and around the world for his visionary efforts. Especially in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency, Morocco is making far better progress than any other nation on the African continent. With a total of 2 gigawatts (GW) in capacity, Morocco’s Noor concentrating solar plant (CSP) is the largest in all of Africa and the Middle East. Perceptions are changing all across the Middle East, with a similar solar PV program announced not long ago for all of Jordan’s mosques. As Morocco’s renewable energy and environmental ministers are also noting, mosques disseminate information at the grass-roots level. Regarding the kingdom’s new “Green Mosques” plan, Morocco’s partners at GIZ point out, “The idea is to use mosques as a starting point.” GIZ adds, “Sermons play an important part in raising awareness of the need to conserve natural resources.” In this way, the kingdom hopes to create “a market for private services in the field of energy efficiency.” After the green mosque stage, the plan is to enlarge the program “towards other public buildings in sectors such as education or health. Developing an energy efficiency market will also help launch the government of Morocco’s plan to boost green job creation. Although demand for such services are low right now, with the introduction of solar energy systems in mosques, interest is expected to grow. To nurture this interest, the government is rolling out training programs at all commercial levels, from corporate decision makers to company employees. Starting with Morocco’s Imams, or worship leaders, and teachers in mosques, the government is focusing on training related to the mosque upgrades, such as LED lighting, solar thermal water heaters, and rooftop solar PV systems. TV and radio programs are also ready for distribution through the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs. These broadcasts are aimed at promoting “long-term consumer demand for new technologies and generating further business opportunities for energy service providers.” Much of this effort on Morocco’s renewable energy front stems from a national goal to meet 42 percent (or around 6 GW) of the kingdom’s energy demand with renewables by 2020. Approximately 14 percent (or 2 GW) is planned to be met by solar PV and solar thermal plants. The approach of the 22nd United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP22) being held November 7-18 in Marrakech is spurring progress, but there is lots of room for improvement. As of yet, Morocco has not developed any remuneration policy framework encouraging investors, be they residential homeowners, business owners, or even utility-scale plant developers. However, as pv magazine noted recently, “the Moroccan government is finally moving to clear the regulatory hurdles in the way of PV development. This could include introducing provisions under which households and building owners can receive feed in payments for electricity produced by rooftop PV systems.” It took 32 years and one big birthday bash to build the celebrated Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Perhaps the COP22 in Marrakech is just what Morocco needs to successfully launch itself into the Renewable Energy Age. 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Wilson D.C.,Imperial College London | Rodic L.,Wageningen University | Cowing M.J.,Independent Consultant | Velis C.A.,University of Leeds | And 6 more authors.
Waste Management | Year: 2015

This paper addresses a major problem in international solid waste management, which is twofold: a lack of data, and a lack of consistent data to allow comparison between cities. The paper presents an indicator set for integrated sustainable waste management (ISWM) in cities both North and South, to allow benchmarking of a city's performance, comparing cities and monitoring developments over time. It builds on pioneering work for UN-Habitat's solid waste management in the World's cities. The comprehensive analytical framework of a city's solid waste management system is divided into two overlapping 'triangles' - one comprising the three physical components, i.e. collection, recycling, and disposal, and the other comprising three governance aspects, i.e. inclusivity; financial sustainability; and sound institutions and proactive policies. The indicator set includes essential quantitative indicators as well as qualitative composite indicators. This updated and revised 'Wasteaware' set of ISWM benchmark indicators is the cumulative result of testing various prototypes in more than 50 cities around the world. This experience confirms the utility of indicators in allowing comprehensive performance measurement and comparison of both 'hard' physical components and 'soft' governance aspects; and in prioritising 'next steps' in developing a city's solid waste management system, by identifying both local strengths that can be built on and weak points to be addressed. The Wasteaware ISWM indicators are applicable to a broad range of cities with very different levels of income and solid waste management practices. Their wide application as a standard methodology will help to fill the historical data gap. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


PubMed | Imperial College London, GIZ, GIZ GmbH, Independent Consultant and 4 more.
Type: | Journal: Waste management (New York, N.Y.) | Year: 2014

This paper addresses a major problem in international solid waste management, which is twofold: a lack of data, and a lack of consistent data to allow comparison between cities. The paper presents an indicator set for integrated sustainable waste management (ISWM) in cities both North and South, to allow benchmarking of a citys performance, comparing cities and monitoring developments over time. It builds on pioneering work for UN-Habitats solid waste management in the Worlds cities. The comprehensive analytical framework of a citys solid waste management system is divided into two overlapping triangles - one comprising the three physical components, i.e. collection, recycling, and disposal, and the other comprising three governance aspects, i.e. inclusivity; financial sustainability; and sound institutions and proactive policies. The indicator set includes essential quantitative indicators as well as qualitative composite indicators. This updated and revised Wasteaware set of ISWM benchmark indicators is the cumulative result of testing various prototypes in more than 50 cities around the world. This experience confirms the utility of indicators in allowing comprehensive performance measurement and comparison of both hard physical components and soft governance aspects; and in prioritising next steps in developing a citys solid waste management system, by identifying both local strengths that can be built on and weak points to be addressed. The Wasteaware ISWM indicators are applicable to a broad range of cities with very different levels of income and solid waste management practices. Their wide application as a standard methodology will help to fill the historical data gap.


News Article | October 27, 2016
Site: www.greentechmedia.com

Latin America is becoming an influential force in solar as developers throughout the region push prices downward. Recent electric power auctions in Argentina, Chile and Mexico resulted in record-low bids for solar, ranging from $29 per megawatt-hour to $41 per megawatt-hour. So what do the success of these auctions say about the health of each country’s solar market? Mexico’s second auction in September assigned power generation contracts and clean energy certificates to 23 firms and consortiums from 11 countries. The projects are expected to add 2.87 gigawatts to the country's installed capacity and rake in an estimated $4 billion in investment, according to the country’s energy control center, Cenace, the regulatory body created out of the 2014 energy reform. The average price per megawatt achieved was $33.40, 30 percent below the price obtained in the March 30 auction. The energy ministry, Sener, says that both auctions combined will result in 34 new power generation companies operating in the country, adding 5 gigawatts of capacity, with a $6.6 billion investment. GTM Research predicted after the first auction that solar in Mexico would grow by 521 percent in 2016 and 134 percent in 2017. Those predictions now appear conservative given the more aggressive prices achieved in the second auction. “We are seeing a disruption in the industry, and a combination of hunger and appetite,” Héctor Olea, president of Asolmex, Mexico’s solar power association, told GTM. “It’s all to do with timing. Five or so years ago, when wind dominated, it perhaps wasn’t the moment for PV, as costs were still high, but in the last five years, the costs of panels have dropped by 85 percent, and now we are taking advantage of the cost reduction,” said Olea. “The stars are aligning, in the sense that the reform has worked well and with the precise timing of the improvement of PV technologies, and we can expect to see solar at the forefront of growth in the renewables sector in Mexico.” Olea said that the energy reform created a more favorable climate for doing business in Mexico, improving project bankability and boosting long-term confidence in the country. However, he also expressed his hope that record-low prices would not jeopardize the profitability of projects and hurt developers. “I don’t dare to forecast anything,” he said regarding a possible further price drop. But he did predict coming growth in large-scale storage, which could further help Mexico harness its vast soar resource. “Storage is the natural complement, and [it] will be commercially viable in five years’ time,” said Olea. The participation of large global players in the auction also allays fears of project delays or cancellations. Among the companies that were awarded contracts to supply electricity to state utility CFE are Enel Green Power; AT Solar, a joint venture between Spain’s Acciona and local firm Tuto Energy; as well as Engie, SunPower and Tractebel. The projects from the auction also have a clearly defined timescale, for 2018 and 2019 completion. “There are always casualties of war, but the majority will be developed,” Olea said. And according to Kevin Levey, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C., Mexico is the Latin American country with the least risk for delays or cancellations. He does harbor some concerns, however. “The pricing is incredibly low, and the question is whether you are going to be able to procure financing for projects, even though Mexico is a fairly mature project financing market,” he said. He also warned that developers could face problems if they haven’t obtained their environmental licenses or land leases. In its first auction earlier this month as part of the RenovAr program launched by the government in May, Argentina awarded contracts for 17 renewable energy projects totaling 1.1 gigawatts. The projects comprise 12 wind farms totaling 708 megawatts, four solar projects with a total of 400 megawatts, and a 1-megawatt biogas project. The prices awarded for wind averaged $59.40 per megawatt-hour, with an average of $59.70 for solar and $118 for biogas. The majority of solar projects were awarded to a consortium made up of Jujuy province's state-run energy and mining company JEMSE, Argentina's Grupo Alberdi and China's Shanghai Electric Power Corporation. Jujuy authorities said in September they expected to sign a financing deal with China-based lenders for the projects totaling 300 megawatts. Spanish firms FieldFare and Isolux Corsan will develop a 100-megawatt project in Salta province. “With government support and a successful auction, Argentina is definitely emerging as a market to watch in Latin America,” said Gwendalyn Bender, product manager for solar assessment at Vaisala, a Finnish measurement and forecasting company that assisted with 30 percent of the due diligence reports submitted as part of the auction. But while the auction ushers in a new era for the renewables sector in the country, Argentina is still grappling with economic troubles that make financing more expensive, according to Squire Patton Boggs' Kevin Levey. “People need to be patient with Argentina. Developers can bring in export development financing, but at the end of the day, solar will remain more expensive than in Chile and Mexico,” he said. “President Macri has done a good job in renegotiating sovereign debt after the default, and there are signs things are turning around.” Argentina has also negotiated a fund with the World Bank to provide securities on power-purchase agreements and assist with project financing. Chile’s most recent power auction in August brought in a bid from Solarpack at $29.10 per megawatt-hour for its Granja Solar project. At the time, this was the lowest bid ever recorded for a solar project. Other winners included GPC, a subsidiary of Spanish firm Gas Natural Fenosa, which secured bids for two solar plants. Chile’s total installed solar capacity is 1.3 gigawatts, with 1.6 gigawatts under construction. Yet despite its massive solar potential and historical position as Latin America’s market leader, Chile faces problems with transmission. It must link its solar generation hub in the arid north to the large population centers farther south, given the country’s tremendous length. Chile passed a transmission law in July. Carlos Finat, executive director of the country’s renewable energy association Acera, described it as “what the country had been waiting for.” The law will allow power to be transmitted between Arica in the north and Chiloé Island in the south, thanks to the SING-SIC interconnection to be completed next year. The law also created a new governing body to manage the transmission network. Also in July, Chile's central grid operator CDEC-SIC launched a tender for three transmission projects that will require investment totaling $192 million. But until that transmission infrastructure is in place, linking up the country’s power generation to its population centers will remain a cause for concern. Those record-low prices are also a concern, according to Levey. “Chile is trying to develop projects in areas of high solar irradiation, but they are susceptible to the prices in those locations. Because there was so much development so quickly, the spot pricing is very low, and there were assumptions made as to the high number of projects coming on-line,” he said. The fall in spot prices has pushed down rates of return, thus hurting project financing. In an attempt to give solar a further boost, the Chilean government launched the Transforma Solar project in September, which aims to create a PV research and development center and offer financing support. Transforma Solar will involve state development agency Corfo, the country’s science and technology council Conicyt, and mining company Enami. German cooperation agency GIZ, as well as Acera, solar power association Acesol and the country’s associations of electricity distributors and generators, Empresas Eléctricas and Generadoras de Chile, respectively, are also engaged in the program. Chile is taking steps to keep supporting solar’s growth. But transmission constraints will continue to limit the industry. “It will all come down to whether the government has the funding to build that infrastructure,” Levey said. “On paper, it looks fantastic, but we need to see if they can execute, and improving that infrastructure is going to be key.”

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