Over the last two months we’ve seen a major city and other parts of Mozambique devastated by Cyclone Idai in mid-March and then hit again by Cyclone Kenneth late April. They’ve impacted nearly 2 million people in Mozambique alone with over 600 lives lost.
The economic cost of the destruction to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi by Idai alone has been estimated at $2 billion. It’s notable as more global policymakers and leaders start to consider climate change as a core economic issue of our age.
It’s why, this week, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde described the consequences of climate change as “unequivocally macro-critical in many countries.” Lagarde was discussing a new IMF report on fiscal policies in the climate change age during an event at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC.
The report focuses on how carbon taxes or equivalent pricing for fossil fuels can help mitigate carbon dioxide emissions on fiscal, domestic environmental and economic grounds.
But for African policymakers and leaders the bugbear remains the same: we (all 54 countries) produce 6 million tons of carbon, but China alone produces over 9 billion tons, so why do we have to make sacrifices? And yet African countries do, if for nothing else but prepare for the predicted rise in the frequency of extreme weather as seen in Mozambique over the last two months or the droughts across southern Africa over the past three years. In fact, Africa is expected to bear the brunt of the negative impact of global warming.
One lever to pull in the battle with climate change, which IMF highlights in another working paper, would be to remove expensive fossil fuel subsidies around the world valued at 6.5% of global GDP or $2 trillion in 2017.
But it won’t be easy, as noted by former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was speaking on the same panel. She recalled her time battling political and labor forces in trying to remove the oil producer nation’s fuel subsidy in 2012. “The subsidy was unsustainable at around $11 billion to $13 billion, or 5% to 7% of GDP.” But the plan created uproar and major “Occupy Nigeria” protests in several cities. “The lesson we learned is to think about how we communicate that people at the bottom won’t get hurt and the funds will be used for their benefit.” In the end the Nigerian government did cut about 50% of subsidies but in many ways that was just the start.
Okonjo-Iweala, who is co-chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, later told Quartz her priorities for African countries in tackling climate change: “African governments need clean energy access, to focus on building infrastructure with low carbon emissions and to look at our policy environment and incentives to take advantage of renewable sources which we have with wind, solar and geothermal.”
— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
STORIES FROM THIS WEEK
How challenging the global palm oil industry sent a Liberian lawyer into exile. Alfred Brownell was one of the earliest in his country to realize the ecological importance of the Upper Guinea forest to Liberia’s future and global biodiversity. The lawyer turned activist to raise awareness and soon clashed with the powerful palm oil industry trying to raze the rainforest for its own interests. This week Brownell was one of the winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
The tropical getaway island with Africa’s most lucrative Airbnb listings. It’s not often France-administered territory, Réunion Island comes up as an African destination. But the remote Indian Ocean volcanic island has all the top 10 African locations for average occupancy on Airbnb, according to independent data.
Mogadishu’s first motorcycle hailing app tries to solve a transport problem. Somalia’s capital city Mogadishu has been through decades of war, civil strife and upheaval so much so that even as the coastal city returns to a semblance of normalcy its inadequate road infrastructure buckles under the strain of traffic. A team of young entrepreneurs have launched an app to help users get around the city on motorcycles, writes Abdi Latif Dahir.
Scientists are developing immunotherapy solutions for Africans in the battle with cancer. As the incidence of cancer and other non-communicable diseases rise in Africa it has become clear much of the medication and therapies, have been focused on patients in more advanced economies. These University of Cape Town scientists are focused on finding immunotherapy solutions given the weak health systems and the high cost of cancer drugs in Africa.
Caster Semenya is now running her most difficult race. The Court of Arbitration on Sport ruled in favor of International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) regulations that force “hyperandrogenic” athletes like South Africa’s Caster Semenya to take medication to adjust their testosterone levels if they wish to compete against other women. Scientists say it is not entirely clear if anyone knows what exactly the right level of testosterone should be for female athletes. Sports historians and a former Olympian remind us that ever since women have competed in elite sports top performers have had their gender characteristics questioned.
Veganism isn’t new for Africans—it’s a return to our roots, say these chefs and entrepreneurs. A new group of chefs and entrepreneurs in South African cities are reclaiming the growing vegan movement with new restaurants and products like vegan ice cream. But as Nikita Singh finds the leaders of the movement don’t see this as anything new for Africans for whom many diets were historically vegan.
MESSAGE FROM OUR PARTNER
On May 15, the African tech community will gather at Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus in Paris. Entrepreneurs will connect with companies such as Paypal, Facebook, Vodafone, and Kaspersky. Register now at Afrobytes.com.
CHART OF THE WEEK
Africa is losing its rainforest at an alarming rate led by Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and DR Congo. New data shows last year Ghana lost rainforest faster than any other country in the world, writes Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu. But DR Congo lost the most rainforest in Africa and the second most globally. Overall the world lost rainforest equivalent to the size of Belgium.
OTHER THINGS WE LIKED
The African Muslims who will not choose between their God and being gay. “Islam is very great to me. I would never forsake Islam. Not for anything.” For Mail & Guardian Carl Collison met Muslims in Cape Town who both conform and defy stereotypes in appearance and dress, but remain devout to their faith. And they are proud of being gay despite the many pressures from some within and outside their community.
How we rescue Nelson Mandela’s legacy from sainthood. Nelson Mandela’s legacy has almost been completely taken over with the idea of him as a totem of forgiveness, argues Sisonke Msimang in this edited text from a lecture she gave earlier this year. She says the prevailing idea today of Mandela as a great “forgiver” who made too many compromises with the white leaders of apartheid South Africa shows a lack of understanding of his power, principles, pragmatism and determination.
Has China already won the technology war in Africa? Over the last decade China has been working closely with numerous African governments and public agencies in financing and building out Africa’s digital networks for the 21st Century. The United States and Europe have been largely missing from this important area of development as much of the partnership has been focused on more traditional areas of donor aid and development, reports Chiponda Chimbelu for Deutsche Welle
Chimamanda goes in on the good, the bad and the unevenness of Lagos. In this warts and all essay for Esquire magazine, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares her love for Lagos, Africa’s largest city. “If Lagos has a theme it is the hustle—the striving and trying. The working class does the impossible to scrape a living. The middle class has a side hustle. The banker sews clothes. The telecommunications analyst sells nappies. The school teacher organizes private home lessons. Commerce rules.”
KEEP AN EYE ON
South Africa goes to the polls (May 8). South Africans will go to the polls on Wednesday for elections for the president, national assembly and provincial legislatures. While president Cyril Ramaphosa and the African National Congress (ANC) are widely expected to win there are real concerns about the country’s persistent inequality so much so it has given way to a serious discussion by economists about the introduction of a wealth tax. But like many issues in Africa’s most advanced economy most of these discussions become fraught and debated along racial lines. All this could allow leading ANC rivals Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters to narrow the ruling party’s lead.
*This brief was produced while listening to L’Hiver Indien by Baloji (DR Congo)
Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, tree saplings for rainforest across Africa and keys for Airbnb apartments in Réunion to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.