Archive for August, 2010
by Erica Westly
The highlands of southwestern Ethiopia should be ideal for growing coffee. After all, this is the region where coffee first originated hundreds of years ago. But although coffee remains Ethiopia’s number one export, the nation’s coffee farmers have been struggling.
The Arabica coffee grown in Ethiopia and Latin America is an especially climate-sensitive crop. It requires just the right amount of rain and an average annual temperature between 64 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to prosper. As temperatures rise — Ethiopia’s average low temperature has increased by about .66 degrees F every decade since 1951, according to the country’s National Meteorological Agency — and rains become more variable, Ethiopian coffee farmers have suffered increasingly poor yields. Last year was especially bad, with exports dropping by 33 percent. Some have moved their coffee trees to higher elevations, while others have been forced to switch to livestock and more heat-tolerant crops, such as enset, a starchy root vegetable similar to the plantain. Read more here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/27/coffee-threatened-beetles-warming
By Julio Godoy (Paris)
Africa is heading towards a bright economic future, according to a new book co-authored by the former director of the French state agency for economic cooperation and released recently in Paris.
In the book ‘Le temps de l’Afrique’ (‘The African Age’), Jean-Michel Severino, until last April director of the French state agency for economic cooperation, and his co-author Olivier Ray, argue that sub-Saharan Africa has started the new millennium in far better economic and social conditions that generally assumed.
To support their thesis that ‘Africa is rushing towards affluence’, as Severino put it in an interview, the authors use the most recent economic and social data, showing rapid economic growth, high investment and sinking poverty.
‘The vision that we in Europe have of Africa — of a continent frozen in poverty and disease — is simply wrong,’ Severino declared. ‘On the contrary, today’s sub-Saharan Africa is a region of high economic growth, with numerous business opportunities. Sub-Saharan Africa is now a high speed train rushing towards affluence and prosperity.’
Severino recalled that since the beginning of the century, the sub-Saharan African economy ‘has grown by a yearly average rate of 5.5 percent, against only 1.35 percent in the euro zone’.
Severino quoted a recent study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which shows that African poverty ‘is falling rapidly’.
The NBER paper, by the distinguished economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin and his research assistant Maxim Pinkovskiy, predicts that if ‘the present trends continue, the millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people with incomes less than one dollar a day will be achieved’ by 2015.
‘We are not nursing dangerous illusions about Africa,’ Severino told IPS.
All regional indicators, from demographic growth to foreign investments, from urbanisation to participation in international trade, aided by political stability, support the thesis that Africa is steadily moving towards prosperity.
Severino explained that the demographic evolution in the region is now marked by a simultaneous fall in the birth rate and a continued, more moderate population growth.
‘By the year 2050, Africa will count some two billion inhabitants, with 60 percent of them living in cities,’ Severino said. ‘Such a conjunction of urbanisation and demographic growth has historically always led to development, by improving productivity, by creating large markets, by stimulating domestic demand, with positive spill-over effects for the countryside.’
Severino calls this ‘the demographic dividend’ and adds it to the considerable improvement in African state finances, due to the massive writing off of foreign debts and to increases in tax revenues.
Investment too, both state and private, has been steadily growing since the mid-1990s. High prices of commodities and raw materials further help to consolidate this strongly growing collective African economy.
In addition, Africa possesses a significant energy potential. ‘Africa exploits less than seven percent of its hydroelectric potential. The continent also disposes of a large energy potential in wind, sun, biomass and other renewable resources, practically untouched,’ he said.
Severino also considered the People’s Republic of China’s growing economic investments and links with sub-Saharan Africa as another indicator substantiating the thesis of the region’s economic take-off.
At the same time, Severino noticed no single African economic model, strictly speaking. ‘But there are several common factors, such as political stability, sound public finances, investments in infrastructure and relatively high rates of savings and investments.’
Severino cautioned that climate change constitutes a major threat for Africa: ‘The inter-tropical zones are going to be the most affected by climate change. Because the region is very poor, its vulnerability to climate change is even higher.’
Rain patterns have already changed, leading to people remarking that ‘there is no rainy season anymore’. Such changes damage agriculture. In addition, climate change can increase deforestation, with skyrocketing mitigation costs, Severino added.
Some French commentators and economic analysts have praised ‘Le temps de l’Afrique’ as ‘the most passionate book on Africa published (in France) in recent years’ and as ‘offering an innovating view on Africa’.
Other analysts adopt a more critical stance on the book’s optimistic diagnosis.
Bakary Traoré, researcher at the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, regretted that the book ‘does not refer to the consequences of the global economic crisis on African development, or to the challenge of bewildered youth that continues to suffer educational deficits and the consequences of atomised societies.’
Similarly, Traoré regretted that the ‘absence of a welfare state and the inadequacy of political debate allow religion to take on a crucial role in public questions beyond its pure confessional function’. Such subjects, Traoré said, are not discussed in ‘Le temps de l’Afrique’.
Traoré underlined that Severino’s analysis offers an ‘updated reading of the changes taking place in Africa at the moment, and points to the powerful endogenous factors contributing to economic growth.
‘However, Severino and Ray ignore essential questions shaping Africa’s future: The permanent crisis in education; the management of Africa’s strategic market of agriculture; the use of the fiscal and savings resources of the region; and the quality of social protection and assistance.’
All these factors, Traoré said, must be analysed in depth to conceive ‘sound public policies that could transform the present momentum in the region into a steady force to drive African development’.
© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
By Edris Kisambira
Even though ICANN has not yet issued the license that will allow for the creation of the .Africa domain name registry, there seems to be a lot of interest at the pan-African level.
Even though ICANN has not yet issued the license that will allow for the creation of the .Africa domain name registry, there seems to be a lot of interest at the pan-African level.
“If I can grade the level of interest on a scale of zero to five, I would say it is at five,” said Sophia Bekele, founder and executive director of DotConnectAfrica (DCA), the nonprofit umbrella organization for the .Africa domain initiative.
Bekele was in Kampala, the Uganda capital, to attend the East Africa Internet Governance Forum, which ended Friday.
“I have seen interest at the pan-African level, and a lot of companies that have pan-African operations like mobile-phone operator Zain, continental banks and even multinationals with African operations are excited about it,” Bekele said.
Bekele said that aside from the policy bodies like the African Union and the African Development Bank (ADB), prospective users of the .Africa name include pan-African companies like MTN, ECOBank, United Bank for Africa and foreign companies doing business in Africa like Microsoft, Goggle and Coca-Cola.
The ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) board in February next year is set to expand the generic top-level domain space from four — “.com,” “.org,” “.net” and “.biz” — to 21.
Bekele, a policy adviser to ICANN between 2005 and 2007, said the idea for an .Africa domain came up at the time she advised ICANN on existing top-level domains like .com and .org, and geographical names like .EU and .Asia.
“I asked why not .Africa? I initially went to the existing African grouping and African persons serving on the board, and I was told it was a very difficult task getting the African governments to agree,” she said.
Bekele said she has spent the past two years working with the African Union’s (AU) infrastructure commission to get the endorsements required for the application to ICANN.
In November last year, the Council of African Internet Communication Technology ministers meeting in South Africa adopted a resolution to “establish Dot Africa as a continental top-level domain for use by organizations, businesses and individuals with guidance from African Internet agencies.”
In February this year, the AU heads of state meeting in Addis Ababa endorsed the DotAfrica initiative.
The DCA proposal has been endorsed by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), which coordinates African ministries of economic affairs.
DotConnectAfrica, if it receives a license, will operate the .Africa top-level domain registry with help from sponsor organizations and business people. Money generated will go directly to an African organization to build capacity in Africa, Bekele said.
The .Africa initiative will also work with the country code top-level domains of Africa. Most ccTLDs are run by technical people who could use help on the business and marketing side of operations.
Bekele said she will engage in a continental marketing campaign, working with pan-African institutions to encourage development of content to popularize the .Africa name.
The push for the .Africa domain has not been smooth sailing for the DCA, however.
“So far the challenges we have faced are from existing African groupings that had resisted our applications to do the .Africa name,” Bekele said.
The DCA is often mistakenly seen as representing U.S. interests and being led by the private sector, Bekele noted.
Appealing for support at the conference in Kampala, Bekele said, “A continental project is complex and requires many stakeholders to make it a success, so we call upon everyone to join us and make it happen, instead of detracting from the process.”
Source: Computer World
By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Resurgent coffee sales and diversification into other products lifted Ethiopia’s exports to a record $2 billion in 2009/2010 from $1.5 billion in the previous year, the trade ministry told Reuters on Friday.
“Coffee has bounced back to $528 million this year,” trade ministry spokesman, Amakale Yimam, told Reuters.
Ethiopia’s export total fell well short of the $2.9 billion predicted by Minister of Trade, Girma Birru, in an interview with Reuters in November.
But Amakale said the Horn of Africa nation projected $3 billion in export revenue for 2010/2011 based on growth in new export commodities.
“Diversification has also helped our exports,” Amakale said. “We’re going to make more money from leather products and vegetables and flowers … So we’re confident we can make $3 billion.”
In 2008/2009 (June/July), coffee earnings in Africa’s biggest coffee exporter slumped to just $375.8 million after bad weather obliterated entire crops in some growing zones.
Exports last year were also shaken by Japan’s insistence on testing beans on arrival after it found some were contaminated with pesticides. Japan, which buys almost 20 percent of Ethiopia’s beans, has resumed imports.
Ethiopia prides itself on being the birthplace of coffee. Some 15 million smallholder farmers grow the crop, mostly in forested highlands in the west of the country.
Coffee accounted for some 60 percent of Ethiopia’s foreign exchange revenue in the 2007/2008 season, when it earned more than $525 million in export revenue.
Despite the rebound, coffee exports amounted to little more than a quarter of the total in 2009/2010, the figures showed.
Flower exports accounted for $158 million in 2009/2010, an increase of 20.9 percent, Amakale said. Vegetable exports were just $32 million, but the sector is seen by the government as an industry with strong potential growth.
Ethiopia’s exports were also boosted in 2009/2010 by growing sesame exports and by buoyant foreign sales of a narcotic leaf known as khat, Amakale said.
Ethiopia this year earned $209 million from khat, a 50 percent increase on 2008/2009, and $129 million from sesame — a boost of 30 percent. Ethiopia is the world’s fourth-largest sesame exporter after China, India and Myanmar.
Gold exports tripled to $300 million dollars in 2009/2010, Amakale said.
The country has made $450.5 million from about 48 tonnes of gold exports in the last 10 years, according to the central National Bank of Ethiopia.
The only export commodity that showed a fall in revenue was leather.
“We earned $56.5 million from leather this year, which was a 25 percent decrease,” Amakale said. “But that is because we are in a transition phase, trying to move from exporting raw material to finished goods like handbags and shoes.”
The Ethiopian government predicts growth of about 10 percent for 2010/2011. The International Monetary Fund says the economy will grow by 7 percent.
© Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved
THE NUMBERS: Incoming containers,* Port of Los Angeles -
January-June 20082.00 million
January-June 2009 1.67 million
January-June 20101.85 million
* Measured in “TEUs,” or “twenty-foot equivalents.” One TEU is the arrival of a single standard 20 x 8 x 8.5 foot shipping container. A forty-foot container is two TEUs.
WHAT THEY MEAN:
How is the American economy doing? The White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, looking at American economic trends last Thursday, uses macroeconomic data to suggest an answer:
“The fall in GDP from 2007:Q4 to 2009:Q2 was 4.1 percent, making this the deepest recession since 1947. The process of steady recovery from the recession continues. Nevertheless, faster growth is needed to bring about substantial reductions in unemployment. Much work clearly remains to be done before the U.S. economy is fully recovered.”
The CEA’s figures come from estimates of growth, savings, investment and consumption. The flow of containers into and out of American ports tells the story in a tactile and physical, rather than statistical, way.
Each container is a box of goods — shoes, TV sets, chilled salmon, telescopes, auto parts — on its way to a buyer. The arrivals of these boxes peaked in at 18.5 million in 2007, began to turn down in the middle of 2008, then plunged in the winter and spring of 2009 to end with a 14.6 million annual total. Measured by tonnage or by dollar value, imports fell more sharply in 2009 than in any year since 1938. Figures for outgoing containers filled with American exports dropped but less drastically, from a peak of 11.3 million in 2008 to 10.5 million in 2009.
Data for 2010 remains scattered, as the Maritime Administration, which tracks container arrivals nationally, reports only annual totals. But figures from individual ports provide a hazy picture of recovery. Four giant container ports — Long Beach and Los Angeles in southern California, New York/New Jersey, and Savannah — together handle over half of American container traffic, shipping out 5.0 million of last year’s 10.5 million outgoing containers, and bringing in 9.2 million out of the 14.6 million arrivals. Their figures for the first half of 2010 suggest the nascent recovery CEA depicts in its report:
Incoming: The four ports handled about 5.65 million TEUs** between January and June of 2010, up by about 10 percent from the 5.05 million TEUs arriving in the first half of last year. Arrivals seem to be accelerating over the spring, suggesting a 2010 total somewhere between 16 million and 17 million TEUs, roughly comparable to the totals for 2005 and 2008, but below the record figures for 2006 and 2007. The growth suggests a modest revival of American shopping habits. CEA’s report bolsters this, noting that American families are saving about 6 percent of their income these days, up from barely 2 percent before the crisis.
Outgoing: The ports’ outgoing container shipments rose from 2.9 million in the first half of 2009 to 3.35 million TEUs so far this year. The 16 percent growth, roughly the same as the dollar-value growth in American exports, suggests that the national total for 2010 will be 12 million or so outgoing containers, which would be slightly above the 2008 record.
Some good signs, then — but whether we use the CEA’s macroeconomics or the ports’ count of moving boxes, still a long way to go.
** Including an estimate for the Savannah port’s June traffic, whose data is complete only through May.
Source: Trade Fact
By Dan Morrison
This post is part of a special National Geographic news series on global water issues.
I was standing inside a colonial-era circuit house in a sprawling, malarial city called Malakal in southern Sudan. I had come to see a man about a river, but the man, an Egyptian hydrologist, wasn’t talking.
“It is forbidden,” he said solemnly, “to speak of the Nile.”
I pointed towards the window. “But it’s right there,” I said. This was, after all, a measuring station of the Egyptian water ministry, one of several it maintained in Sudan and Uganda to track the volume of the world’s longest river.
The hydrologist didn’t need to look out the window. He knew where the Nile was–he’d devoted his life to its study. But there was nothing he could say to a stranger about something so important to his nation’s survival. I might have had better luck inquiring about Tehran’s nuclear program. Read more…http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2010/08/can-uganda-and-ethiopia-be-water-bankers-for-egypt.html
Source: National Geographic News