Saturday, 23 August 2014

Ebola: Africa needs support, not reckless scaremongers

Oscar Kimanuka
Nearly every corner of the African continent is currently engaged in frantic efforts to stem the tide of the deadly Ebola disease that started in Guinea, spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and other parts of West Africa. 
Mobile telephone companies are bombarding their clients with messages on how to avoid contracting the Ebola virus through mobile phones. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently assisting governments across the continent to be in a state of preparedness and take no chances with the current onslaught of this deadly virus.
However, despite the arrangements being put in place to thwart the unforeseen dangers of Ebola, there are people out there who are now bent on boycotting conferences and meetings as well as visits to many parts of our continent.
This is such a long-held international ignorance and the lingering perception of Africa as one country and not a continent with 54 countries!
Take the example of Namibia, so distant from West Africa, whose Chamber of Commerce and Industry was expecting a delegation from Brazil at the beginning of this week.
The said mission was cancelled at the last minute owing to fears of Ebola. Someone remarked, rather angrily, ‘Africa is a diverse continent, not just a country!’ Namibia is not alone in experiencing boycotts.
While it is true that the Ebola outbreak has so far killed more than 1,500 people in the affected areas, the risk of transmission in those countries is already having serious impact on travel to several countries, including those that are far from the affected areas. 
Ghana, while not far from the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, has reportedly cancelled any would-be international conferences in the country for three months for fear of the potential spread of the deadly Ebola virus.  
Some carriers like the Korean Air have suspended flights to some parts of East Africa. Conferences scheduled to take place in countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Equatorial Guinea have reportedly been cancelled, some indefinitely.
What is all this? The international media have always focused on Africa as a continent beleaguered with intractable problems of corruption, poor governance records and dysfunctional state institutions. 
The good stories that come from our continent rarely receive attention. 
While the media are understandably pre-occupied with momentous events in Europe and North America, the temptation has been strong to ignore the second largest continent and the cradle of mankind not simply because Africa still appears remote and strategically inconsequential to the rest of the world, but rather because its seemingly grave problems and acute suffering appear to be beyond redemption.
While the Ebola outbreak has reached crisis proportions, it is said to pose no particular risk to air travelers according to health officials and airlines. In fact air service should, according to experts, continue to serve affected areas to help thwart further spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
Already, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has advised that aviation constitutes a “low risk” for Ebola transmission and has gone ahead to advise airlines to screen passengers at airports in infected areas, apply rigorous procedures including isolation when handling suspected cases, and disinfect planes afterward.
It may sound easy to allay fears about a fatal disease like Ebola with no known cure or vaccine; it is quite another thing to persuade people to carry on with their normal routines and leisure trips to the affected parts of West Africa.  
What affects one part of our continent surely affects the rest of us. Our airlines should desist from issuing a blanket approach when cancelling flights to West Africa.
I have heard of Kenya Airways cancelling flights to parts of West Africa from this week. I hope that RwandAir and other East African Airlines will not follow suit.
Africa needs support not reckless scaremongers. We need to protect our tourism, trade and other endeavors that contribute to the growth of our economies and people.
Africa is a truly rich continent whose riches, oil, gas, minerals and more have driven rapid economic growth over the last decade. To sustain this growth that improves the lives of our people, the continent will need an economic transformation that taps into our other riches: the land and fertile soils, extensive fisheries and forests and, above all, the energy and ingenuity of our people.
These are the stories to tell.
The writer is a consultant and visiting lecturer at the RDF Senior Command and Staff College, Nyakinama.
Contact email: oscar_kim2000[at]

Tackling trade-offs in the food-water-energy nexus: lessons for the SDGs

Speakers currently confirmed
Peter Newborne - Research Associate, ODI, on the Brazil case study.
Andrew Scott - Research Fellow at ODI, overview of progress in development and the water-energy-food nexus.
Prof. Melissa Leach - Director, Institute of Development Studies.
Ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September, ODI and CDKN bring you two days of events focused on environmental sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On 10 September, an event hosted by CDKN will share and discuss perspectives from the South on how climate change should be reflected in the SDGs. This will be followed, on 11 September, by a closer look at the food-water-energy nexus and how countries across three continents are managing the challenge of reducing poverty while developing sustainably. Book your places today.
Achieving poverty eradication and sustained progress in development will depend upon the use of natural resources as we enter a new era of post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The longer-term sustainability of natural resources, threatened by population and income growth, can be a low priority for many policy-makers in developing countries faced by the immediate challenges of poverty and low productivity. But how these development objectives are achieved can enhance sustainability, through appropriate policies and practices. In particular, it requires the integration of policy, planning and implementation across sectors – especially food, water and energy. National interpretation and implementation of SDG targets will also require integration across these sectors.
This event will examine how certain developing countries have tackled the trade-offs inherent within the food-water-energy nexus, balancing environmental concerns with the need for development, and it will reflect on the importance of integrating across sectors for the implementation of the SDGs. New research conducted as part of ODI’s Development Progress project will be discussed, including:
  • Case studies on sustainable energy and development in Viet Nam and Brazil
  • A case study on sustainable agricultural techniques in Burkina Faso
  • A case study on water resource management in China
  • A report on development progress and the food-water-energy nexus over the past two decades
The launch will include a public event with a panel of experts, followed by an invited roundtable to allow for further inputs and more in-depth discussion.