African foundation hails China’s pledge to support biodiversity conservation

By XINHUA

A visitor enjoys a seed display during the UN biodiversity conference COP15 in Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan Province. Yang Jinghao/CGTN

China’s financial pledge to support biodiversity conservation in developing countries illustrates its commitment to promoting planetary health, the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation said in a statement.

During the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP15, in Kunming, the capital of southwest Yunnan Province, China announced an initiative to establish a biodiversity fund and took the lead by investing 1.5 billion yuan (233 million U.S. dollars) to support biodiversity protection in developing countries.

“This commitment, alongside those made by other stakeholders, is the start of a resource mobilization drive necessary to meet the annual global biodiversity financing gap,” said the foundation’s CEO Kaddu Sebunya in the statement late Friday.

The China-initiated Kunming Biodiversity Fund will boost the implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, Sebunya noted, adding that the Chinese concept of ecological civilization will have a positive impact on global efforts to ensure that economic development remains in harmony with nature.

Ghanaian start-up introduces Chinese-made EV to help reduce carbon emissions

By XINHUA

Two staff members take a test ride on electric motorbikes imported from China in Accra, Ghana, October 8, 2021. /Xinhua

For a long time, Ghana’s public transportation system has been a key source of carbon dioxide emissions. To address the challenge, SolarTaxi Ghana Limited, a Ghanaian start-up, has decided to make a change by introducing Chinese-made electronic vehicles.

According to Eugene Amponsah, operations manager of the company, the influx of many internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, especially public buses into Ghana, leads to serious emissions.

Official data in 2020 showed the average number of imported vehicles in Ghana stood at around 100,000 per year, while about 90 percent of which were used vehicles with high fume emissions.

The motivation for a cleaner environment spurred the company to turn its eyes on China.

“Now we source most of our cars and the parts from China. We have the BYD, Cherry, and Dongfeng among some other brands from China,” said Amponsah.

From a modest beginning in September 2019, SolarTaxi now has 150 electric motorbikes and tricycles with more than 60 electric cars operating in the country. Some of these cars are solar chargeable, and others grid power-charged.

The introduction, however, met some skepticism in the very beginning. Some local consumers thought they could suffer electrocution in an electric car during rains, while others suspect that they would be stranded if the battery ran out of power in the course of a journey.

According to the company, local consumers’ concern eased gradually as they increased the frequency of electric car use, which proved to be more economical and environmentally friendly. The company has also found a way of commercializing eco-friendly bikes.

“For the motorbikes, we designed them for courier because we do not get a large number of people buying them. What we rather have is courier companies, including Jumia, coming to rent our bikes,” he said.

SolarTaxi has so far created a minimum of 250 direct and indirect jobs, including engineers at the assembling and maintenance plants and riders who work with the courier companies.

“For now, we do the manual assembling but want to get to a stage where we can install machines to assemble many cars and bikes in a day. And that calls for partnership and funding. We, therefore, want to secure partnerships with some of the Chinese automobile companies to support us with training and equipment,” he said.

Amponsah says that from his own working experience, China is one of the greatest places to look at when it comes to the green economy, and the mass production of environmental-friendly cars is a great example of that.

Google to invest $1 billion to lift Africa internet access

By AFP

Google on Wednesday said it will invest 1 billion U.S. dollars over the next five years to allow for faster and more affordable internet access and support entrepreneurship in Africa.

Internet reliability is a problem in Africa where less than a third of the continent’s 1.3 billion people are connected to broadband, according to the World Bank.

But the continent, where nearly half the population is under 18, is a promising market.

According to Google and Alphabet boss, Sundar Pichai “huge strides” have been made in recent years, but more work is needed to make “internet accessible, affordable and useful for every African”.

The investment will support digital transformation by ensuring improved connectivity and access, he said in a statement.

The funds will, among other things, go towards infrastructure development including the Equiano subsea cable that will connect South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and St. Helena with Europe.

The deal expands Google’s pledge announced four years ago to train around 10 million young Africans and small-scale businesses in digital skills.

“I am of the firm belief that no one is better placed to solve Africa’s biggest problems than Africa’s young developers and startup founders,” said Google’s Africa managing director Nitin Gajria.

Internet access is also hampered by the affordability of smartphones.

Google said it will partner with Kenya’s telecoms giant Safaricom to launch affordable Android smartphones for first-time users.

The project will later be rolled out across the continent with other carriers such as Airtel, MTN, Orange and Vodacom.

Zimbabwe partners with Huawei in major network upgrade

By XINHUA

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa launches the National Mobile Broadband project in Harare, Zimbabwe. Sept. 20, 2021. /Xinhua

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday launched the National Mobile Broadband project which seeks to expand and improve the country’s information communication technology (ICT) services and infrastructure.

The project, which is now in the third phase, is a partnership between Chinese ICT giant Huawei, and Zimbabwe’s second-largest telecommunications provider NetOne.

The expansion project, which is funded by the Export-Import Bank of China to the tune of 71 million U.S. dollars, is a strategic cooperation project between the governments of China and Zimbabwe and is aimed at expanding NetOne’s mobile broadband coverage to remote regions.

The first phase of the network expansion project, which began in 2011 and was completed in 2013, saw the installation of 100 new 3G and 350 new 2G base stations across the country.

The second phase commenced in 2014, and under the project, a total of 2,231 base stations were added.

Upon completion, the third phase will see 345 new base stations installed, thereby increasing NetOne’s national coverage from about 75 percent to 85 percent.

The expansion project will also improve the network provider’s 4G LTE coverage and introduce 5G technology.

Speaking at the official launch of the project in Harare, Mnangagwa said building a vibrant digital economy is a vital component of his government’s goal of realizing an upper-middle-income economy by 2030.

“My government’s mandate is to ensure the access and utilization of information communication technologies to improve the livelihoods of all Zimbabweans, irrespective of location. I acknowledge the sterling efforts of NetOne and Huawei, as the country continues to expand its network, digital footprint, and increase access to ICTs in previously marginalized communities,” he said.

Furthermore, Mnangagwa said the project will steer the country towards the digital future that will transform Zimbabwe into a regional technology hub.

Speaking at the same occasion, the Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun assured China’s support towards the development of Zimbabwe’s ICT sector.

“With long term effort of my colleagues, China successfully completed many projects to support Zimbabwe to develop high-tech industry such as high-performance computer centers, the first ICT factory and so on. Especially, the NetOne Phase one and two projects extended the network coverage from major cities to the countryside. Now the NetOne phase three will enable every Zimbabwean to get access to the internet,” he said.

In addition, Guo said as important partners of the Belt and Road Initiative, China and Zimbabwe will continue to explore further cooperation in various fields especially in infrastructure connectivity and realizing diversified independent and sustainable development.

Huawei Regional President Phil Li said the project will not only increase digital connectivity but will also enhance social and economic opportunities that come along with building a strong digital economy.

“Huawei remains committed to its vision and mission of bringing digital to every person, organization for a fully connected and intelligent society. Increasing connectivity, improving education and health care services, connecting the unconnected remains Huawei’s lynchpin goal,” he said.

The network expansion project comes as the Zimbabwean government seeks to ensure the improvement of ICT services which increasingly play a key role in national economic and social development.

China and Zimbabwe have a long-standing relationship in the ICT sector, and Chinese entities have over the past decades provided equipment to Zimbabwe’s network expansion.

S. African university seeks to collaborate with peers to build AI infrastructure

By XINHUA

South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand (Wits) would like to collaborate with African researchers in their recently formed AI Africa Consortium to study artificial intelligence (AI) and innovation, said Vice-Chancellor and Principal Zeblon Vilakazi on Wednesday at the AI Expo Africa 2021.

He invites Africa’s research community to join AI Africa Consortium, which aims to develop a collaborative network focused on the advancement of AI and the application of AI in research and innovation.

He believed that AI and machine learning (ML) “offers huge opportunities for development and progress in Africa”.

“For us to fully participate in the 21st Century, we must use this ‘scientific renaissance’ to drive innovation and foster the growth of a strong scientific ecosystem. In doing so, we can play an active role in achieving true progress and help steer the socioeconomic trajectory of the African continent,” said Vilakazi.

He stated that they would like to bring large-scale AI infrastructure capacity and world-class expertise to the African universities, research institutions, researchers and industry collaborators.

“We embark on these great undertakings because we remain optimistic about the future of our country and our continent. There are huge opportunities to create economic activity and solve problems drawing from AI and ML. This will guarantee the future of our society for generations to come,” he said.

Africa’s road to a carbon-neutral future

By Daniel Plafker

On August 9, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most damning assessment yet of the world’s progress towards avoiding the most devastating impacts of human-caused climate change. In what more than 230 scientists called a ‘code red for humanity,’ the panel warned in unambiguous terms that the failure of the planet’s governments and enterprises to dramatically limit the emission of greenhouse gases like CO2 into the atmosphere is resulting in catastrophic changes to global weather patterns, sea levels, and biodiversity while endangering the future livelihoods of millions. 

A simple glance at the recent news cycle is enough to confirm with our own eyes what scientists have been telling us for decades. Wildfires in Greece and Turkey, disappearing islands in the South Pacific, deadly heat domes in the United States, unprecedented flooding in central China and rain on the normally ice-bound peaks of Greenland all point to one thing: the climate is changing fast and the consequences are already making themselves felt. 

But those consequences are not distributed equally, nor is the portion of responsibility held by rich and poor countries for the output of greenhouse gases that has contributed to this horrific crisis. Relative to their populations, the developed countries of the West, which industrialized earliest and prospered on the back of extractive relationships with the formerly colonized world, bear a disproportionate blame for the devastating climate chaos already being visited on the planet’s poor. Europe and the United States alone have contributed well over half of the total greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere since 1750.

China, which has long argued that developing countries should not be forced to sacrifice their economic prospects to pay the price on behalf of the world’s biggest per-capita polluters, has nonetheless emerged as a climate leader in the global quest for a livable future on Planet Earth.

While the People’s Republic of China has topped the world in raw CO2 emissions since 2008, it has also been a steadfast advocate for urgent and equitable action to mitigate the effects of climate change, standing firm on emissions targets at global fora like the UN’s Conference of Parties and fighting hard to reduce air pollution in many of its cities.

Beijing has made clear that reducing emissions remains an important strategic priority. Late last year, China committed to reaching ‘peak emissions’ within a decade and achieving the far loftier goal of ‘net-zero emissions,’ (wherein any CO2 output is offset by corresponding actions to remove an equal or greater amount from the atmosphere, also known as ‘carbon neutrality’) by the year 2060. Helping the world achieve carbon neutrality will also form an important topic of focus at this week’s China International Fair for the Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, one of the country’s three primary platforms for the wider opening of China’s economy to the world.  

There are few places where the implications of such commitments are more salient than in Africa. While the continent is estimated to have contributed only 3% of historic CO2 emissions, its fragile ecosystems and the communities they support are in some places already beginning to unravel under the weight of catastrophic climate change. 

Desertification is contributing to displacement, conflict and food insecurity across the Sahel. Ocean acidification is wiping out fish stocks relied on by coastal communities. Desert locust populations, spurred on by climate-driven changes in the ecosystem, have wreaked havoc on farmers across East Africa and the Horn, while water pollution is causing life-changing algae blooms and hyacinth plagues throughout the Great Lakes. 

But despite the clear and present consequences of the world economy’s carbon-dependent status quo, the situation surrounding CO2 emissions on the continent is not a simple one. 

Fossil fuel extraction still forms a major pillar of the economies of Sub Saharan oil producing states like Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Nigeria and Cameroon as well as North African states like Egypt, Algeria and Libya. 

Conversely, countries like Kenya boast of some of the world’s highest exploitation rates of renewable energy sources, most notably geothermal, which together with hydro, solar and other renewables, accounts for as much as 90% of the country’s power mix.

South Africa, which is currently the world’s 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has joined China in committing to reaching carbon neutrality by the mid-21st century. The goal is an admirable one but will prove challenging, as roughly three quarters of the country’s primary energy needs are currently provided by coal.

Some countries, like Gabon, which has painstakingly preserved its ecologically vital Congo Basin forests, have already achieved not only carbon-neutrality but are in fact ‘carbon-negative,’ absorbing more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit. 

Others, like Zimbabwe, are beginning to cash in on the increasingly lucrative, if somewhat dubious, market for ‘carbon credits,’ wherein fossil-fuel-extracting companies like French petro-giant Total can ‘offset’ the greenhouse gas emissions of their activities by financing carbon-absorbing actions overseas. Last year, the French company claimed it had produced its first-ever shipment of ‘carbon-neutral’ natural gas by paying villagers to manually clear brushland in eastern Zimbabwe, which could, under the logic of the carbon credit market, otherwise cause bushfires that would dump massive loads of CO2 into the atmosphere.

It’s an arithmetic contested by cynics, who argue that the only way to meaningfully offset carbon emissions is to guarantee the absorption of CO2 that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere, rather than speculating on whether the release of a postulated quantity of the gas might hypothetically be avoided in the future.

Despite the skepticism, the quest for carbon neutrality remains a pressing one for Africa’s people, and the emerging opportunities offered by carbon credit markets could present an opportunity for those suffering the worst effects of climate change to prosper as they fight to reverse it. 

As the governments of China, South Africa and others have made clear in their public commitments to ambitious emission targets, cooperation and global solidarity will be necessary to secure the livable and ecologically balanced future we all deserve. 

Images and graphic design by Agnes Rube, CGTN Africa

Fossil of previously unknown four-legged whale found in Egypt

By Reuters

Dozens of fossilized whale bones have emerged from the Wati El Hitan in the Egyptian desert (pictured) and form the centerpiece of a new museum that has been opened. Among them is an intact 37 million-year-old skeleton of a legged form of whale that measures more than 65 feet (20 metres) long. PHOTO/AP

Scientists have discovered the 43 million-year-old fossil of a previously unknown amphibious four-legged whale species in Egypt that helps trace the transition of whales from land to sea.

The newly discovered whale belongs to the Protocetidae, a group of extinct whales that falls in the middle of that transition, the Egyptian-led team of researchers said in a statement.

Its fossil was unearthed from middle Eocene rocks in the Fayum Depression in Egypt’s Western Desert — an area once covered by water that has provided a rich seam of discoveries showing the evolution of whales.

The new whale, named Phiomicetus Anubis, had an estimated body length of some three meters (10 feet) and a body mass of about 600 kg (1,300 lb), and was likely a top predator, the researchers said. Its partial skeleton revealed it as the most primitive protocetid whale known from Africa.

“Phiomicetus Anubis is a key new whale species, and a critical discovery for Egyptian and African paleontology,” said Abdullah Gohar of MUVP, lead author of a paper on the discovery published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The whale’s genus name honours the Fayum Depression and the species name refers to Anubis, the ancient canine-headed Egyptian god associated with mummification and the afterlife.

Despite recent fossil discoveries, the big picture of early whale evolution in Africa has largely remained a mystery, the researchers said. Work in the region had the potential to reveal new details about the evolutionary transition from amphibious to fully aquatic whales.

With rocks covering about 12 million years, discoveries in the Fayum Depression “range from semiaquatic crocodile-like whales to giant fully aquatic whales”, said Mohamed Sameh of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, a co-author.

The new whale has raised questions about ancient ecosystems and pointed research towards questions such as the origin and coexistence of ancient whales in Egypt, said Hesham Sellam, founder of the MUVP and another co-author.

UNITEL launches mobile money service in Angola empowered by Huawei

By XINHUA

UNITEL on Monday launched a digital money service dubbed, “UNITEL Money” in Angola, the UNITEL’s press office confirmed here to Xinhua.

A resident uses a Nokia Oyj mobile phone in Nairobi, Kenya. Photographer: Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The service allows users to make deposits, withdrawals, transfers and payments via mobile phone, without needing a bank account.

The “UNITEL Money” technology platform is empowered by Huawei, with whom UNITEL has been cooperating “over the past couple of years”, according to a UNITEL’s statement.

“The project is more than a mobile payment service, it enables local ICT ecosystem to tap into mobile payment and grow the digital economy; it brings benefits not only to individuals but also to SMEs to help grow their businesses to fuel the economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 era,” the statement added.

“Huawei is willing to work with UNITEL and commit to providing high-quality telecommunication service and mobile payment services for Angola as always, boost the rapid growth of non-cash payments, and contribute to the transformation of Angola’s digital society and economy,” the CEO of Huawei Angola Chu Xiaoxin said while addressing journalists during a workshop on the subject held on Friday in Luanda.

The initiative will be available in the 18 provinces of the country.

Huawei invests $60 million in Angola technological centers

By XINHUA

The logo of the Chinese company Huawei is seen in Barcelona, Spain on 19 November 2019. (Photo by Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Huawei on Wednesday announced that it had invested 60 million U.S. dollars in the construction of two technological training centers in Angola.

Chu Xiaoxin, representative of Huawei in Angola, made the announcement after an audience with Angolan President Joao Lourenco.

Chu said that the centers with capacity to accommodate 2,000 young people will help discover talent in the telecommunications and information technology sector of Angola.

The project, he said, is included in the digital economy development program in the country.

The meeting with the president is aimed at updating him on the execution of the projects and the company’s contribution in the southern African country, said Chu.

China’s Huawei, Ethiopia’s university launch state-of-art ICT practice center

By XINHUA

VCG

Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, and Addis Ababa University (AAU), the oldest and largest higher education institute in the Eastern African country, on Tuesday inaugurated an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Practice Center realized by Huawei in AAU’s Addis Ababa Institute of Technology (AAiT) to deliver hands-on practical and innovative experience for students and professionals in the sector.

The project aims to delivering hands-on practical experience for students and professionals, targeting to train more than 2,000 engineers including students and teachers to boost talent ecosystem of Ethiopia in the coming three years.

The project is implemented with an investment amounting to some 2.1 million U.S. dollars, including a donation of equipment worth about 1.9 million U.S. dollars for training and demonstration, and Train the Trainer program to AAiT teaching staff.

According to the cooperation mode, Huawei installed the demo equipment on the premises of the AAU Pharmacy Campus, and operates it for three years period, after which, Addis Ababa University will fully take over the ownership of the practice center.

During the ceremony, Huawei also handed over 30,000-dollar scholarship fund to Addis Ababa University for 10 postgraduate students annually within 3 years.

Hailing the project’s role in filling the skill gap, and also in supporting efforts of producing highly qualified graduates, which in turn help the country realizing the vision of digital economy, Mulu Nega, Ethiopia’s State Minster of Science and Higher Education, said, “Huawei is very active in the field of digitalization of education and ICT content embedding is a global trend and the future of the nation.”

Speaking on his part, Tassew Woldehana, President of Addis Ababa University, noted that the Huawei-AAU ICT Practice Center plays a significant role in enabling students to be equipped with appropriate skill, which the country needs, as it is in the process of liberalizing the telecom sector.

Reiterating that the country’s telecom sector has been awarded to private sector recently, the president underlined the need that universities in the country need to graduate capable people who can join those companies that need qualified and skilled graduates in the ICT sector.

Stating also that digital economy is very important for Ethiopia’s economic growth, and that his university is engaged with providing qualified and capable human power with the appropriate knowledge and practical skills, Tassew said the center will serve not only the university, but all Ethiopians. “I would like to thank Huawei for this great initiative.”

Huawei is currently implementing multiple projects benefiting thousands of students and industrial practitioners with a view of building ICT capacity and improving ICT development in Ethiopia.

These projects include the flagship program Huawei ICT Academy, Huawei ICT Competition, Seeds for the Future exchange program, as well as ICT Handshaking forum – a job fair connecting the industry and ICT talents. Since first ICT academy launched in 2018, Huawei has partnered with 36 universities on educational activities. Huawei also aligned with Jobs Creation Commission in talent cultivation and hiring projects.

The ICT practice center is Huawei’s initiative to build ICT talent and industrial ecosystem in Ethiopia and deliver practical experience for students and professionals using high end ICT equipment.

Philippe Wang, Executive Vice-President of Huawei Northern Africa, said the ICT practice center was launched to fill the experience and knowledge gap in the sector.

“Building a long-term relation and platform for resource sharing, joint development efforts and mutual benefits is the responsibility for us all. I firmly believe Huawei-AUU ICT Practice Center, together with Huawei ICT Academy will be the cornerstone in achieving this common target,” Wang said.