(The Economist) For most urban Africans, owning anything other than a slum home is out of reach

LAGOS, the congested commercial capital of Nigeria, has a population variously estimated at anything from 12m-21m. But what is certain is that people are moving to the megacity and its smaller counterparts across the continent in droves—and not into brand new flats with recently acquired mortgages.

With around 40% of its people living in cities, sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s least urbanised region. But it is changing fast: the UN predicts that its urban inhabitants will more than treble in number to 1.1 billion by 2050, accounting for 56% of the region’s population. By 2030 Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg and Luanda will have joined Kinshasa and Lagos as megacities, each with more than 10m people.

Most of that growth will be in slums, which are currently doubling in size every 15 years while they shrink in many other parts of the world. They’re not always cheap to live in, either. Economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, residents devoted almost a third of their non-food expenditures to rent. More than 90% of them are tenants. In Kenya’s countryside, by contrast, 90% of households pay no rent at all, typically because they built their own shelter on informally owned land.

Rural migrants who want to take advantage of the opportunities Africa’s cities have to offer often have no choice; formal housing is unaffordable in most countries. The cheapest new, privately-built formal house in Ethiopia cost $68,783 in 2013, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa, a South African non-profit. A 100 square metre state-subsidised apartment sold for $16,600, 35 times the average Ethiopian’s earnings (by comparison, in Britain the ratio is around five times). Even in Mali the cheapest legally-built private homes in the region, at $5,800 (plus another $1,000 to $4,000 for land, depending on location) are out of reach for most.

It is no surprise that sub-Saharan Africa has the smallest mortgage market in the world. Just 3.7% of adults in urban areas had any type of home loan in 2011, according to a World Bank report released this week. The value of Nigeria’s mortgages more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2011, but was still equivalent to no more than 0.5% of GDP, compared with more than 25% in South Africa.

That won’t change until more of the region’s land is registered (just 10% was in 2013) and the tangles of state and customary ownership are resolved. Rwanda’s computerised land registry is the kind of reform that might help. It cut the time it takes to transfer a property from a year to a month. Countries from Ghana to Uganda are trying similar reforms. African cities will also have to invest huge sums in sewage systems, roads and other infrastructure if they want to house the millions of people who are likely to move there in the coming years. In the meantime Africa’s slums will continue to swell.

The article was published on The Economist.

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(The Conversation) A short guide to some of Africa’s best, and cleanest beaches

December 13, 2015 11.19pm EST

Africa has some of the best beaches in the world. Tourists will be flocking to them soon as those in the southern hemisphere take summer holidays and those from the north look for ways to escape their winter.

So where are Africa’s top beaches?

In drawing up the list I have taken both an objective as well as subjective approach.

For the objective assessment I have used the ratings of the Blue Flag awards as well as my own research. South Africa is the first country outside Europe as well as the first African country to implement the Blue Flag scheme. It currently has 39 fully complied beaches with another 30 in the process of complying.

For my subjective list I have drawn on my own experience and knowledge as well as experiences of friends and family.

The top performers

Africa has some wonderful beaches. A serious traveller or beachgoer should certainly visit at least one of them once in a lifetime. The list below is not in order of preference, but offers would be travellers different opportunities and experiences.

Most of South Africa’s Blue Flag beaches are in the Western Cape followed by KwaZulu-Natal and then the Eastern Cape. Blue Flag award beaches have to comply with 33 criteria including safety, cleanliness, environmental management and water quality. The award can be revoked if a beach does not comply.

Camps Bay in Cape Town is listed as a Blue Flag beach Shutterstock

The longest running Blue Flag beaches in South Africa and a must visit are Grotto Beach in the Western Cape, Humewood Beach in the Eastern Cape, and Ramsgate and Marina beaches KwaZulu-Natal.

From a more subjective standpoint I would recommend Tofo Beach at Inhambane in Mozambique. This is an 8 km stretch of beach that also offers diving and great sea life. Added benefits are facilities for rest and relaxation – as well as excellent prawns.

Tofo Beach, Mozambique Shutterstock

Namibia also offers tourists beautiful beaches. One of my favourites is the Skeleton Coast. It offers space and great marine life as well as ship wrecks. Crowded beach won’t be a problem. There might in fact be nobody around depending on when you visit.

Shipwreck at Skeleton beach, Namibia Shutterstock

Another country that offers wonderful beach experiences is Kenya. The beach I propose is Shela Beach in Lamu. It is also a UNESCO Heritage Site and is generally accepted as the country’s top beach.

Shela Beach, Lamu, Kenya Shutterstock

I also have to include Angola. This is the new kid on the block and I propose Mussulo Bay peninsula. This is for the adventure traveller, offering wonderful beach as well fishing.

Ilha do Mussulo Beach, Luanda, Angola www.skyscrapercity.com

And then the islands

One of my ultimate favourites is Tanzania. I must admit I love Zanzibar. It offers great diving, snorkelling and swimming. This is a little piece of heaven on earth. Enjoying the locally produced gin is a treat as well.

Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania http://www.sand-and-land.com/html/english/ocean.htm

If we move to Madagascar, my choice is Sainte-Marie Island. It offers beautiful sandy beaches with palm trees. Once again, diving and great sea life are on offer as well as good food.

île Sainte-Marie, Madagascar www.lelibertalia.com

It would unfair if I didn’t include Malawi. My choice falls on Likoma Island, which is part of Lake Malawi. This is one of Africa’s jewels. Clear clean water, great for swimming, diving or snorkelling, and friendly communities.

Likoma Island, Malawi www.ilovemalawi.blogspot.co.za

And then there is the Seychelles’s Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue. It is regarded as one of the world’s greatest beaches, truly something out of this world.

I could add more beaches in the west and north of the continent. But this list at least provides a taste of what Africa can offer. Hopefully the Blue Flag award scheme will be implemented in other African countries so that the continent can get its lion’s share of beachgoers, one of the biggest generators of revenue globally.

The article was published on The Conversation.

(Reuters) For U.N.’s Ban, climate deal is personal victory after setbacks

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was among the most jubilant – and most relieved – of the leaders raising their arms on a stage on Saturday to celebrate a historic agreement on climate change.

For almost a decade, Ban, 71, has traveled the world from the glaciers of Antarctica to corporate boardrooms in New York in search of photo opportunities and allies to secure an elusive global deal to curb global warming.

Saturday night marked a personal victory after a long, often thankless road, in stark contrast to a failed 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen when he sat glumly on the podium at a fractious all-night session as the meeting unraveled.

“This is the apex of multilateralism,” he told Reuters of the deal reached in Paris among 195 countries that aims to end the fossil fuel era by phasing out greenhouse gases this century to rein in the rise in temperatures.

“(It is) a decisive turning point in our common efforts to make the lives of peoples sustainable and prosperous as well as a healthy planet,” Ban said.

“We have to make sure that all these agreements should be implemented. I will spare no efforts until the last day of my term as secretary-general,” he said.

Ban, now widely praised by governments for his tireless focus on climate change, will host a signing ceremony for the deal on April 22, 2016, and follow that with a meeting in May to encourage actions by governments, businesses and civil society.

The road to that signing has had more downs than ups.

Ban said some of his key staff advised him when he took office in 2007 that his plan to focus on climate change – among challenges such as wars, economic upheaval and pandemics – would be risky with no guarantee of success.

He ignored that advice.

Among unexpected bright spots, he once won encouragement from former U.S. president George W. Bush, whose Republican administration often raised doubts about the science underpinning global warming.

BALI

At a U.N. climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007, when Bush was in office, the United States was the last nation to drop opposition to a plan to launch two years of talks that led to the ill-starred Copenhagen summit. The U.S. delegation was even booed by other delegates for opposing the plan.

Ban said Bush confided to him at a private farewell lunch towards the end of the president’s term in 2009 that the U.S. delegation leader had phoned him from Bali for advice.

Bush told her, “‘I would appreciate if you do it as the Secretary-General of the United Nations wants’,” Ban said. “Then the U.S. agreed to this Bali roadmap. That was the most memorable and touching moment for me.”

But Bali led nowhere, because the 2009 Copenhagen summit two years later collapsed. Left-wing Latin American nations and Sudan blocked a deal in a riotous final overnight session. Ban calls Copenhagen among the “frustrating moments”.

Still, he said “I never was deterred” even though many other world leaders gave up on climate change to focus on other issues such as fixing the financial crisis.

And in Copenhagen, a simple problem was that world leaders at the time did not appreciate the risks of global warming, from droughts and heat waves to more powerful storms and rising seas.

“They were not even fully educated,” Ban said.

But the rubble of Copenhagen did provide a basis for success in Paris, he said. Ban has hosted three summits of his own on climate change since 2007, and joined a march of what he said was 400,000 people in New York last year.

The U.N. leader grew up in a home in South Korea with no electricity and reading by a kerosene lamp.

That made him aware of the dilemma for many developing nations, where governments are trying to widen public access to electricity – usually from cheap, dirty coal-fired power plants – even as they try to cut emissions.

“I myself know all of these climate problems,” he said.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

The article was published on Reuters. 

(Reuters) Zuma’s firing of South African finance minister dismays investors, ANC supporters

Screen shot 2015-12-10 at 3.33.10 PMBy Joe Brock and Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 10 South African President Jacob Zuma’s sacking of his respected finance minister in favour of a relative unknown has shocked investors and emboldened critics who say the 73-year-old is driving the economy to ruin.

Even some supporters of the African National Congress (ANC), Nelson Mandela’s erstwhile liberation movement that has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994, expressed dismay about Wednesday’s appointment of a Zuma loyalist to the crucial post.

Zuma gave no details as to why on Wednesday he dismissed Nhlanhla Nene, who has overseen the Treasury for just under two years, other than to say he had “done well… during a difficult economic climate”.

Markets reacted unambiguously, with the rand plunging to a record low against the dollar, losing just over five percent since Nene was removed. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s banking index lost 13.5 percent on Thursday.

New Finance Minister David van Rooyen acknowledged he had taken on “a colossal assignment”.

Local media speculated this week that Nene might be on the chopping block after he rebuked Dudu Myeni, the chairwoman of state-owned South African Airways and a close ally of Zuma, for mismanaging a 1 billion rand ($67 million) deal with Airbus.

Myeni is executive chairwoman of Zuma’s charitable trust, the Jacob Zuma Foundation.

The main opposition party went on the attack. “It is clear that if you stand up to Zuma, you don’t stick around,” Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, told Reuters. “Zuma has reached new heights as a leader who puts himself ahead of his country and the economy.”

Zuma’s office did not respond to Reuters requests for comment. The ANC said in a statement it “notes and respects” the president’s decision.

“TOO MUCH CORRUPTION”

The sacking and the financial fallout hit a raw nerve with some ordinary South Africans. “With the rand getting battered like this, firing Nene is not the right move,” said Dominic Ratau, a 74-year-old pensioner and lifelong ANC loyalist, expressing his dissatisfaction with Zuma.

“I’ve been an ANC supporter because of the older generation who were running the party. But this guy is leading the country to disaster. He’s allowed too much corruption.”

Nene’s reluctance to rubber-stamp an ambitious plan to build a number of nuclear power stations to ease severe electricity shortages, a project that might cost as much as $100 billion, is also seen as contributing to his downfall.

His successor van Rooyen is an ANC lawmaker who sits on parliament’s finance committee.

Van Rooyen said he would implement policies aimed at creating favourable investment conditions after he was sworn in. “Mine is a colossal assignment coming at a time when the global economic outlook is not favourable, more especially for emerging markets,” van Rooyen said.

Many economists have questioned van Rooyen’s ability to steady an economy being hammered by the collapse in prices of South Africa’s commodity exports that range from coal to gold, and raised concerns that public spending could spiral out of control.

Credit agency Fitch downgraded South Africa last Friday, leaving the continent’s most sophisticated economy just one notch about “junk” status, and said on Thursday Nene’s firing “raised more negative than positive questions”.

A Reuters poll on Wednesday showed analysts expect the economy to grow just 1.4 percent this year and 1.6 percent next, 0.1 percentage points lower than last month’s forecasts.

WHO’S NEXT?

Nene’s removal has raised speculation about more casualties within Zuma’s team, after the axing in September of mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who investors said had done a decent job in a tough but crucial portfolio.

South Africa is gearing up for important local elections next year where the ANC is expected to be run close by the Democratic Alliance in urban areas, including the economic hub of Johannesburg. The countryside remains an ANC stronghold.

Significant erosion of ANC control in metropolitan powerbases could strengthen Zuma’s opponents, especially if South Africans blame him for the floundering economy.

“Zuma’s power is becoming more brittle and his lines of support stretched thinner and thinner,” said political analyst Nic Borain. “He is engaging in actions that parts of his party find repulsive and there is a point beyond which a system under stress can quickly unravel as the connections snap.”

A #ZumaMustFall Twitter campaign kicked off within hours of Zuma’s announcement, echoing one earlier this year calling for the removal of colonial-era statues.

SCANDAL

Zuma, a polygamous Zulu traditionalist with little formal schooling, has been beset by scandal throughout his career. In 2005 he was charged with raping a woman he knew to HIV-positive, but was found not guilty when the court ruled the sex was consensual.

Last year, the Public Protector, the top anti-corruption watchdog, ruled that he had “benefited unduly” from a 246 million rand state-funded security upgrade to his private home that included a swimming pool and amphitheatre.

Despite this, he has maintained his authority and standing in the ANC. His presidential term ends in 2019. Were he to be forced out early, his ex-wife and African Union head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, are the front-runners to succeed him.

($1 = 14.9655 rand) (Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Mfuneko Toyana; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by James Macharia and David Stamp)

This article was published on Reuters.

 

(Global Risk Insights) Africa seeks more equitable deal at UN Climate Summit

courting-paris-800x500_c

Despite contributing only a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is being hit hardest by the effects of climate change. Now armed with a common approach, African leaders are pushing for a more equitable and prosperous deal in Paris.

Photo Credit: Global Risk Insights

As the UN Climate Summit in Paris enters its final week and negotiations are ramped up, leaders from developing nations will continue to push for a more equitable deal. Already officials at the conference have cleared a major hurdle, producing a draft accord on Saturday 5 December. That leaves a week for ministers to clinch a historic agreement, with many optimistic that the Paris Summit can erase the disappointment of past talks, including Copenhagen in 2009, which ended in failure and frustration.   

Yet even with a blueprint being reached, major sticking points, not least between developed and developing states, must be overcome if a positive and more equitable outcome is to be reached. That will not be easy. 

Africa, small island developing nations (SIDS), and other least developed countries (LDC’s), have all argued that their contribution to climate change has been minimal. Unsurprisingly, they demand favourable concessions when it comes to the prickly issues of climate finance, new targets for countries based on carbon dioxide stock taking, and the overall responsibilities of developed versus developing countries. These issues are referred to in the draft agreement but remain unresolved.

For its part, Africa has laid out a number of proposals that will be keenly debated this week. Now armed with a common position and an expert team of around 200 climate negotiators, both of which were sorely missing in past multilateral talks, including in Montreal in 2005, Africa has submitted three main requests. 

First, it asks for $11bn a year from the international community to help it adapt to climate change in the future; having contributed little to the problem, its leaders are loath to pick up the bill.

Second, as it aims to bring electricity to 600 million people across the continent, it is seeking an additional $55bn a year in investments until 2030 in order to help it transform its energy sector, much of which will be powered by renewables.

Finally, it urges countries to reconsider the demands they make of one another; limiting the global temperature rise to 2C by the end of the century may appear more achievable, but African leaders argue a revised target of 1.5 degrees is needed in order to avert climate disaster.

These are tall orders, to be sure. But those in Africa point to the fact that they have too often drawn the short straw when it comes to climate change.

Despite accounting for roughly 15% of the world’s population, the continent contributes less than 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, says James Wan at the Royal African Society. And more often than not, it is Africa that bears the brunt of global warming, with flash flooding and crippling droughts occurring with unfailing frequency. 

Until now, the West appeared relatively unmoved by Africa’s desperate plight and moral posturing. But recent forecasts by the World Health Organization paint a devastating picture, not just for Africa.

With a likely drop in country GDP’s across Africa, widespread crop eradication amid falling rainfall, the prospect of millions being pushed back into poverty, deepening security concerns in the region, and the possible spread of disease and climate refugees, African leaders are right that the West can ill-afford to view climate change as a problem of the Global South. Whether they like it or not, the fates of Africa and the rest of the world are indelibly linked. 

Beyond such gloom, however, African officials are quick to point out the potential benefits of implementing greener alternatives now. Not only have the majority of African states committed to bigger cuts than other higher-emitting nations, but they have also proposed the prospect of a nascent energy revolution – one that would benefit both Africa and the rest of the world.

As well as possessing much of the world’s most prized natural resources, Africa is home to some of the world’s most promising renewable energy reserves. ‘The potential,’ writes Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank, ‘is breathtaking.’ He says the continent can source an additional 10 terawatts of solar energy, 1,3000 gigawatts of wind power, and 15GW of geothermal power. Taken together, that ‘would not just solve Africa’s own energy problems but also those of other countries near and far.’ Energy investment and further cooperation between Africa and the West will be pivotal in turning such dreams into reality.

But add to that the fact that the forests in central Africa, which account for roughly a fifth of the world’s stock, act as one of the greatest carbon sinks in the world, and it is easy to see that Africa, more than ever, can play a crucial role in helping the world reduce its greenhouse emissions. 

What does this mean for the Paris Climate Summit and Africa? Despite these lofty ideals and more consensus and cooperation than ever before, a binding resolution calling for a rise of 2C or less seems doubtful.

The past few years have seen countries favour Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), voluntary pledges. These bottom-up pledges will remain the dominant commitment by states this time around, too, not least because of the freedom they confer to those who invoke them.

Without the burden of legal obligations, states can implement initiatives and targets that suit their needs best; the downside, of course, is that there is no one at the end of the line to ensure that they make good on such promises. That means Africa’s pleas to keep any temperature rise below 1.5C will not be heeded.

Climate funding, meanwhile, will remain a thorny issue and it is doubtful Africa will receive the full $11bn per year it wants. A fairer deal for Africa thus seems somewhat out of reach, at least this time around. 

Still, some positive signs are emerging: last week, France committed over 2bn euros to renewable energy projects across its former colonies over the next five years. Other projects will no doubt follow, even if they do not meet Africa’s starry-eyed expectations. That is no reason to celebrate, of course.

But for Africa – and all those at Paris – these gradual steps must feel somewhat encouraging after the bitter disappointment of Copenhagen five years ago. 

This article was published on Global Risk Insights.