Friday, July 22, 2016 EDITORIAL

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 EDITORIAL 
National unity is a must to fight against militancy
Constant threat of lethal militant attack and death horror have gripped the mass psyche since the country’s worst hostage crisis on 1 July at the high security zone of Gulshan in the heart of Dhaka that killed 22 people including 17 foreigners, three Bangladeshis, two police officials and later 5 gunmen at Holey Artisan Bakery.
Different political parties including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jatiya Party called for a national unity or a national dialogue to resist extremism in the wake of extremist attack. Without paying heed to their call Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked citizens to stay more alert against any further attacks like those in Dhaka and at Sholakia in Kishoreganj, and said that the nation is already united against terrorism and militancy, apparently in a negative response to the main opposition party BNP chief Khaleda Zia who had called for national unity regardless of party affiliations and views. Referring to the Court’s ban on crossfire and blaming Hasina for the recent killing of a suspected militant with his handcuffs on in the so-called ‘crossfire’ during the arrestee’s remand in the custody of the Detective Branch of the police, Khaleda Zia questioned Hasina’s claim that a national unity against militancy has already been formed.
A nation refers to a people, or aggregation of men, existing in the form of an organized society, inhabiting a distinct portion of the earth. It needs no elaboration that a nation cannot function or be constituted in a territory, in which over a third of the people are excluded from a crucial public effort to fight against Jihadi militancy. A conservative estimate says that no less than 36 per cent people vote for the BNP. Bangladesh’s Constitution has been described as the solemn expression of the will of the people. Then where is the popular will of 90 per cent Bangladeshis as per “Org-Quest” study which said the people supported Khaleda Zia’s political standpoint on neutral, free, fair and credible general elections under an independent election-time administration. [Vide “Human rights must be upheld”, the Holiday, dated 13 March 2015]. The BNP ruled this country for 20 years, while Khaleda Zia herself ruled this country for 10 years. A couple of years ago her popularity soared beyond imagination if one takes into account the “Org-Quest” survey which said some 90 per cent Bangladeshis supported her political view. [Vide “Human rights must be upheld”, the Holiday, dated 13 March 2015]. Broadly speaking, perhaps more than 60 per cent of the electorate support Khaleda, which fact can be proved if a non-party election-time administration holds a general election [not like the 2008 polls held under Army Chief Gen. Moeen U Ahmed; and the totally farcical 5 January 2014 polls under PM Hasina in which 153 lawmakers did not contest and yet could become chosen, unelected MPs]. This has been described as “the country’s poor democratic infrastructure”. [Vide brown political review.org /2015 /01/ political- persecution -in-bangladesh/]. Therefore, exclusion of real opposition BNP will be a myopic decision of the government of Sheikh Hasina.
The massive 11-hour-long joint forces’ drive of 18 July 2016 in Bogra began with a bang and ended with whimper. As many as 450 members of the police, Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh were engaged in the operation aimed at tracking down militant training camps in remote char areas of two upazilas in the district, but the outcome was rather disappointing—-they could recover barely nine Jihadi books, six sharp weapons, a coil of wire and five empty boxes. Similar was the result of the drive in Chapainawabganj;  Lt Col S M Abul Ehsan, commanding officer of 9 BGB Battalion, said they did not find any militant den or training camp during the eight-hour drive, said a news reports.  These speak of extremely inept intelligence gathering and poor homework.
The student wing of the ruling Awami League, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) is a terrifying group many of whom are most often engaged in armed clashes over securing government work contracts and gunfights in colleges and public universities. The PM should ask these terrorists not to join the fight against terrorism.
While the people are bewildered at the inconclusive pattern of the attacks directed against Muslim holy men, Hindu priests, Christian pastors and Buddhist monks including agnostic bloggers, it is up to the intelligence apparatus to find the culprits. The identification and tactical analysis of crime patterns is a primary responsibility of crime analysts at police agencies around the world. Analysts query and mine data in an effort to link cases by key factors and disseminate information about known and newly-discovered patterns to fellow police personnel. This analysis improves the safety of communities by facilitating police response which can, in turn, prevent and reduce crime. While the pattern identification process is reasonably standardized, there is a diversity of perspective on what constitutes a crime pattern. Regarding this the inquest procedure of the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) can be of significant help.
In the wake of target killings some weeks back the police handed over bamboo sticks to groups of people in various districts presumably for the purpose of fighting militancy. The most recent of the bamboo distribution ceremony took place in Jessore in presence of the senior most police officer. The so-called “Lathi-Bashi Defence Party” initiative to create resistance in the wards and villages lacks sound judgment. Can bamboo sticks stave off militants equipped with firearms?
The rights watchdog ‘Ain o Salish Kendra’ (ASK) has expressed deep concern as two of the rescued Gulshan café hostages, Abul Hasnat Rezaul Karim, a former teacher of North South University, and Tahmid Hasib Khan, an overseas student have been missing since they were taken by the law enforcers on that day, according to their family. However, police claimed that they are no more in their custody.
The authorities concerned shall have to take appropriate step in this regard.

Comment

Constant threat of lethal militant attack and death horror have gripped the mass psyche since the country’s worst hostage crisis on 1 July at the high security zone of Gulshan in the heart of Dhaka that killed 22 people including 17 foreigners, three Bangladeshis, two police officials and later 5 gunmen at Holey Artisan Bakery.
Different political parties including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jatiya Party called for a national unity or a national dialogue to resist extremism in the wake of extremist attack. Without paying heed to their call Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked citizens to stay more alert against any further attacks like those in Dhaka and at Sholakia in Kishoreganj, and said that the nation is already united against terrorism and militancy, apparently in a negative response to the main opposition party BNP chief Khaleda Zia who had called for national unity regardless of party affiliations and views. Referring to the Court’s ban on crossfire and blaming Hasina for the recent killing of a suspected militant with his handcuffs on in the so-called ‘crossfire’ during the arrestee’s remand in the custody of the Detective Branch of the police, Khaleda Zia questioned Hasina’s claim that a national unity against militancy has already been formed.
A nation refers to a people, or aggregation of men, existing in the form of an organized society, inhabiting a distinct portion of the earth. It needs no elaboration that a nation cannot function or be constituted in a territory, in which over a third of the people are excluded from a crucial public effort to fight against Jihadi militancy. A conservative estimate says that no less than 36 per cent people vote for the BNP. Bangladesh’s Constitution has been described as the solemn expression of the will of the people. Then where is the popular will of 90 per cent Bangladeshis as per “Org-Quest” study which said the people supported Khaleda Zia’s political standpoint on neutral, free, fair and credible general elections under an independent election-time administration. [Vide “Human rights must be upheld”, the Holiday, dated 13 March 2015]. The BNP ruled this country for 20 years, while Khaleda Zia herself ruled this country for 10 years. A couple of years ago her popularity soared beyond imagination if one takes into account the “Org-Quest” survey which said some 90 per cent Bangladeshis supported her political view. [Vide “Human rights must be upheld”, the Holiday, dated 13 March 2015]. Broadly speaking, perhaps more than 60 per cent of the electorate support Khaleda, which fact can be proved if a non-party election-time administration holds a general election [not like the 2008 polls held under Army Chief Gen. Moeen U Ahmed; and the totally farcical 5 January 2014 polls under PM Hasina in which 153 lawmakers did not contest and yet could become chosen, unelected MPs]. This has been described as “the country’s poor democratic infrastructure”. [Vide brown political review.org /2015 /01/ political- persecution -in-bangladesh/]. Therefore, exclusion of real opposition BNP will be a myopic decision of the government of Sheikh Hasina.
The massive 11-hour-long joint forces’ drive of 18 July 2016 in Bogra began with a bang and ended with whimper. As many as 450 members of the police, Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guard Bangladesh were engaged in the operation aimed at tracking down militant training camps in remote char areas of two upazilas in the district, but the outcome was rather disappointing—-they could recover barely nine Jihadi books, six sharp weapons, a coil of wire and five empty boxes. Similar was the result of the drive in Chapainawabganj;  Lt Col S M Abul Ehsan, commanding officer of 9 BGB Battalion, said they did not find any militant den or training camp during the eight-hour drive, said a news reports.  These speak of extremely inept intelligence gathering and poor homework.
The student wing of the ruling Awami League, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) is a terrifying group many of whom are most often engaged in armed clashes over securing government work contracts and gunfights in colleges and public universities. The PM should ask these terrorists not to join the fight against terrorism.
While the people are bewildered at the inconclusive pattern of the attacks directed against Muslim holy men, Hindu priests, Christian pastors and Buddhist monks including agnostic bloggers, it is up to the intelligence apparatus to find the culprits. The identification and tactical analysis of crime patterns is a primary responsibility of crime analysts at police agencies around the world. Analysts query and mine data in an effort to link cases by key factors and disseminate information about known and newly-discovered patterns to fellow police personnel. This analysis improves the safety of communities by facilitating police response which can, in turn, prevent and reduce crime. While the pattern identification process is reasonably standardized, there is a diversity of perspective on what constitutes a crime pattern. Regarding this the inquest procedure of the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA) can be of significant help.
In the wake of target killings some weeks back the police handed over bamboo sticks to groups of people in various districts presumably for the purpose of fighting militancy. The most recent of the bamboo distribution ceremony took place in Jessore in presence of the senior most police officer. The so-called “Lathi-Bashi Defence Party” initiative to create resistance in the wards and villages lacks sound judgment. Can bamboo sticks stave off militants equipped with firearms?
The rights watchdog ‘Ain o Salish Kendra’ (ASK) has expressed deep concern as two of the rescued Gulshan café hostages, Abul Hasnat Rezaul Karim, a former teacher of North South University, and Tahmid Hasib Khan, an overseas student have been missing since they were taken by the law enforcers on that day, according to their family. However, police claimed that they are no more in their custody.
The authorities concerned shall have to take appropriate step in this regard.

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Chinese claim rejected by Tribunal on South China Sea

Barrister Harun ur Rashid
 
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres.
The legal basis of Beijing’s claim over most of the South China Sea has been rejected on 12th July by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague raising fears that escalating tensions could trigger a naval confrontation between China and the US. The Permanent Court of Arbitration said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources.
 
Sabre rattling
The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed.
It ruled on seven of 15 points brought by the Philippines. Among the key findings were:
Fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, and China had interfered by restricting access;
China had “destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea” that formed part of the dispute;
Transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation - one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles granted for rocks visible at high tide.
The ruling is binding on the parties as the Philippines filed a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration as the the dispute machinery at The Hague under the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention  after China took control of a reef about 140 miles from the Philippines coast. It is noted that the Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement.
China reportedly poured thousands of tonnes of concrete on to reefs and then establishing aircraft runways and military defences on them. China considers that the artificially formed island can itself generate its 12 miles and 200 miles economic zone. Other countries including Vietnam which claim their ownership reject the Chinese claim.
The US has three times in recent months carried out freedom of navigation exercises within 12 nautical miles of these structures demonstrating that it recognises these areas as Chinese territorial waters. Australia has regularly sent warships and RAAF aircraft through the area but not within these supposed 12-mile limits.
John Blaxland, a senior fellow at the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, warned that as the decision approached rhetoric was being ratcheted up, China and the US were rehearsing their war skills and their fleets were nearby and on standby.
 
Grave implications
The ruling by the Court of Arbitration is certainly make the situation more delicate and confrontational.
“The People’s Liberation Army Navy and its white-painted maritime fishing fleet proxies, have rehearsed drills, as have the two US Navy carrier strike groups operating nearby,” Dr Blaxland said. “But the possibilities of miscalculation are considerable. China’s prestige is on the line, as is the resolve of the US to remain engaged in these contested waters. The implications of miscalculation for Australia and the region are grave.”
Beijing has repeatedly said it does not recognise this court process and will not consider the -decision binding.
Don Rothwell, deputy dean at the ANU College of Law, said it would have a long-standing impact on South China Sea disputes now and well into the future. The Court sent a clear message to China on its ambition on territory and power built on the high seas artificially.
The US called the decision an “important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea”, and urged all parties to consider it “final and legally binding”.
Taiwan, which also claims the disputed area, said the ruling had “seriously damaged” its rights. “We hereby solemnly state that we will definitely not accept this ruling,” the foreign ministry said.
The US sent an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region ahead of the decision, while the Chinese navy has been carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.
Analysts believe that this result represents a major loss of face for China, and yet the first response from Beijing to the UN tribunal’s demolition of its claims seems be rather conciliatory.
 
Negotiated settlement
On the one hand, the Chinese government has re-stated that it has territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the area and that the activities of its people there date back to over 2,000 years ago.  However, it then goes on to talk about “consultation with the states directly concerned” and proposes “joint development in relevant maritime areas”.
Airlines and shipping companies will be pleased to hear that China has also restated that it respects “freedom of navigation and over flight enjoyed by all states under international law in the South China Sea” and that it stands ready to ensure “unimpeded access to international shipping lanes”.
All this seems to point towards Beijing possibly seeking some sort of negotiated settlement rather than ramping up the pressure on the Philippines following Manila’s comprehensive victory in The Hague and the attitude of the newly elected President of the Philippines.
It is noted that the Court of Arbitration in 2014 decided a part of maritime areas in the Bay of Bengal between India and Bangladesh and both countries accepted the judgment.
 
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

Comment

Barrister Harun ur Rashid
 
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres.
The legal basis of Beijing’s claim over most of the South China Sea has been rejected on 12th July by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague raising fears that escalating tensions could trigger a naval confrontation between China and the US. The Permanent Court of Arbitration said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources.
 
Sabre rattling
The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed.
It ruled on seven of 15 points brought by the Philippines. Among the key findings were:
Fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, and China had interfered by restricting access;
China had “destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea” that formed part of the dispute;
Transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation - one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles granted for rocks visible at high tide.
The ruling is binding on the parties as the Philippines filed a complaint with the Permanent Court of Arbitration as the the dispute machinery at The Hague under the 1982 UN Law of the Sea Convention  after China took control of a reef about 140 miles from the Philippines coast. It is noted that the Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement.
China reportedly poured thousands of tonnes of concrete on to reefs and then establishing aircraft runways and military defences on them. China considers that the artificially formed island can itself generate its 12 miles and 200 miles economic zone. Other countries including Vietnam which claim their ownership reject the Chinese claim.
The US has three times in recent months carried out freedom of navigation exercises within 12 nautical miles of these structures demonstrating that it recognises these areas as Chinese territorial waters. Australia has regularly sent warships and RAAF aircraft through the area but not within these supposed 12-mile limits.
John Blaxland, a senior fellow at the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, warned that as the decision approached rhetoric was being ratcheted up, China and the US were rehearsing their war skills and their fleets were nearby and on standby.
 
Grave implications
The ruling by the Court of Arbitration is certainly make the situation more delicate and confrontational.
“The People’s Liberation Army Navy and its white-painted maritime fishing fleet proxies, have rehearsed drills, as have the two US Navy carrier strike groups operating nearby,” Dr Blaxland said. “But the possibilities of miscalculation are considerable. China’s prestige is on the line, as is the resolve of the US to remain engaged in these contested waters. The implications of miscalculation for Australia and the region are grave.”
Beijing has repeatedly said it does not recognise this court process and will not consider the -decision binding.
Don Rothwell, deputy dean at the ANU College of Law, said it would have a long-standing impact on South China Sea disputes now and well into the future. The Court sent a clear message to China on its ambition on territory and power built on the high seas artificially.
The US called the decision an “important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea”, and urged all parties to consider it “final and legally binding”.
Taiwan, which also claims the disputed area, said the ruling had “seriously damaged” its rights. “We hereby solemnly state that we will definitely not accept this ruling,” the foreign ministry said.
The US sent an aircraft carrier and fighter jets to the region ahead of the decision, while the Chinese navy has been carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.
Analysts believe that this result represents a major loss of face for China, and yet the first response from Beijing to the UN tribunal’s demolition of its claims seems be rather conciliatory.
 
Negotiated settlement
On the one hand, the Chinese government has re-stated that it has territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the area and that the activities of its people there date back to over 2,000 years ago.  However, it then goes on to talk about “consultation with the states directly concerned” and proposes “joint development in relevant maritime areas”.
Airlines and shipping companies will be pleased to hear that China has also restated that it respects “freedom of navigation and over flight enjoyed by all states under international law in the South China Sea” and that it stands ready to ensure “unimpeded access to international shipping lanes”.
All this seems to point towards Beijing possibly seeking some sort of negotiated settlement rather than ramping up the pressure on the Philippines following Manila’s comprehensive victory in The Hague and the attitude of the newly elected President of the Philippines.
It is noted that the Court of Arbitration in 2014 decided a part of maritime areas in the Bay of Bengal between India and Bangladesh and both countries accepted the judgment.
 
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

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 VIEW PIONT 

Energy grid can be green and affordable

K  Friday Phiri
 
PEMBA, Zambia: It’s just after two p.m. on a sunny day and 51-year-old Moses Kasoka is seated outside the grass-thatched hut which serves both as his kitchen and bedroom. Physically challenged since birth, Kasoka has but one option for survival—begging. But he thinks life would have been different had he been connected to electricity. “I know what electricity can do, especially for people in my condition,” he says.
“With power, I would have been rearing poultry for income generation,” says Kasoka, who is among the estimated 645 million Africans lacking access to electricity, hindering their economic potential. “As you can see, I sleep beside an open fire every night, which serves for both lighting and additional warmth in the night,” adds Kasoka, inviting this reporter into his humble home.
But while Kasoka remains in wishful mode, a kilometer away is Phinelia Hamangaba, manager at Pemba District Dairy milk collection centre, who is now accustomed to having an alternative plan in case of power interruptions, as the cooperative does not have a stand-by generator. Phinelia has daily responsibility for ensuring that 1,060 litres of milk supplied by over a hundred farmers does not ferment before it is collected by Parmalat Zambia, with which they have a contract.
“Electricity is our major challenge, but in most cases, we get prior information of an impending power interruption, so we prepare,” says the young entrepreneur. “But when we have the worst case scenario, farmers understand that in business, there is profit and loss,” she explains, adding that they are called to collect back their fermented milk.
The cooperative is just one of several small-scale industries struggling with country-wide power rationing. Due to poor rainfall in the past two seasons, there has not been enough water for maximum generation at the country’s main hydropower plants.
According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report, Zambia’s power deficit might take years to correct, especially at the 1,080MW Kariba North Bank power plant where power stations on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River are believed to have consumed far more than their allotted water over the course of 2015 and into early 2016.
The report highlights that in February, the reservoir at Kariba Dam fell to only 1.5 meters above the level that would necessitate a full shutdown of the plant. Although seasonal rains have slightly replenished the reservoir, it remained only 17 percent full as of late March, compared to 49 percent last year. And refilling the lake requires a series of healthy rainy seasons coupled with a moderation of output from the power plant—neither of which are a certainty.
This scenario is just but one example of Africa’s energy and climate change nexus, highlighting how poor energy access hinders economic progress, both at individual and societal levels. And as the most vulnerable to climate change vagaries, but also in need of energy to support the economic ambitions of its poverty-stricken people, Africa’s temptation to take an easy route through carbon-intensive energy systems is high.
“We are tired of poverty and lack of access to energy, so we need to deal with both of them at the same time, and to specifically deal with poverty, we need energy to power industries,” remarked Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the 2016 African Development Bank Annual meetings in Lusaka, adding that renewables can only meet part of the need.
 
Different route
But former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan believes Africa can develop using a different route. “African nations do not have to lock into developing high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access to energy by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world. Africa stands to gain from developing low-carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets,” says Annan, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel (APP).
In its 2015 report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, the APP outlines Africa’s alternative, without using the carbon-intensive systems now driving economic growth, which have taken the world to the current tipping point. And Africa is therefore being asked to lead the transition to avert an impending disaster.
The report recommends Africa’s leaders use climate change as an incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage. In the words of the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, “For Africa, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. If Africa focuses on smart choices, it can win investments in the next few decades in climate resilient and low emission development pathways.”
But is the financing mechanism good enough for Africa’s green growth? The APP notes that the current financing architecture does not meet the demands, and that the call for Africa’s leadership does not negate the role of international cooperation, which has over the years been a clarion call from African leaders—to be provided with finance and reliable technology.
The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) mourns the vague nature of the Paris agreement in relation to technology transfer for Africa. “The agreement vaguely talks about technologies without being clear on what these are, leaving the door open to all kinds of false solutions,” reads part of the civil society’s analysis of the Paris agreement.
However, other proponents argue for home solutions. According to available statistics, it is estimated that 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood.
But what would it take to expand power generation and finance energy for all? The African Development Bank believes a marginal increase in energy investment could solve the problem.
“Africa collects 545 billion dollars a year in terms of tax revenues. If you put ten percent of that to electricity, problem is solved. Second, share of the GDP going to energy sector in Africa is 0.49 percent. If you raise that to 3.4 percent, you generate 51 billion dollars straight away. So which means African countries have to put their money where their mouth is, invest in the energy sector,” says AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, who also highlights the importance of halting illicit capital flows out Africa, costing the continent around 60 billion dollars a year.
While Kasoka in Southern Zambia’s remote town awaits electricity , the country’s Scaling Solar programme, driving the energy diversification agenda, may just be what would light up his dream of rearing poultry. According to President Edgar Lungu, the country looks to plug the gaping supply deficit with up to 600 MW of solar power, of which 100 MW is already under construction.
With the world at the tipping point, Africa will have to beat the odds of climate change to develop. Desmond Tutu summarises what is at stake this way: “We can no longer tinker about the edges. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow. As a matter of urgency we must begin a global transition to a new safe energy economy.  
—IPS

Comment

K  Friday Phiri
 
PEMBA, Zambia: It’s just after two p.m. on a sunny day and 51-year-old Moses Kasoka is seated outside the grass-thatched hut which serves both as his kitchen and bedroom. Physically challenged since birth, Kasoka has but one option for survival—begging. But he thinks life would have been different had he been connected to electricity. “I know what electricity can do, especially for people in my condition,” he says.
“With power, I would have been rearing poultry for income generation,” says Kasoka, who is among the estimated 645 million Africans lacking access to electricity, hindering their economic potential. “As you can see, I sleep beside an open fire every night, which serves for both lighting and additional warmth in the night,” adds Kasoka, inviting this reporter into his humble home.
But while Kasoka remains in wishful mode, a kilometer away is Phinelia Hamangaba, manager at Pemba District Dairy milk collection centre, who is now accustomed to having an alternative plan in case of power interruptions, as the cooperative does not have a stand-by generator. Phinelia has daily responsibility for ensuring that 1,060 litres of milk supplied by over a hundred farmers does not ferment before it is collected by Parmalat Zambia, with which they have a contract.
“Electricity is our major challenge, but in most cases, we get prior information of an impending power interruption, so we prepare,” says the young entrepreneur. “But when we have the worst case scenario, farmers understand that in business, there is profit and loss,” she explains, adding that they are called to collect back their fermented milk.
The cooperative is just one of several small-scale industries struggling with country-wide power rationing. Due to poor rainfall in the past two seasons, there has not been enough water for maximum generation at the country’s main hydropower plants.
According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit report, Zambia’s power deficit might take years to correct, especially at the 1,080MW Kariba North Bank power plant where power stations on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River are believed to have consumed far more than their allotted water over the course of 2015 and into early 2016.
The report highlights that in February, the reservoir at Kariba Dam fell to only 1.5 meters above the level that would necessitate a full shutdown of the plant. Although seasonal rains have slightly replenished the reservoir, it remained only 17 percent full as of late March, compared to 49 percent last year. And refilling the lake requires a series of healthy rainy seasons coupled with a moderation of output from the power plant—neither of which are a certainty.
This scenario is just but one example of Africa’s energy and climate change nexus, highlighting how poor energy access hinders economic progress, both at individual and societal levels. And as the most vulnerable to climate change vagaries, but also in need of energy to support the economic ambitions of its poverty-stricken people, Africa’s temptation to take an easy route through carbon-intensive energy systems is high.
“We are tired of poverty and lack of access to energy, so we need to deal with both of them at the same time, and to specifically deal with poverty, we need energy to power industries,” remarked Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the 2016 African Development Bank Annual meetings in Lusaka, adding that renewables can only meet part of the need.
 
Different route
But former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan believes Africa can develop using a different route. “African nations do not have to lock into developing high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access to energy by leapfrogging into new technologies that are transforming energy systems across the world. Africa stands to gain from developing low-carbon energy, and the world stands to gain from Africa avoiding the high-carbon pathway followed by today’s rich world and emerging markets,” says Annan, who now chairs the Africa Progress Panel (APP).
In its 2015 report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, the APP outlines Africa’s alternative, without using the carbon-intensive systems now driving economic growth, which have taken the world to the current tipping point. And Africa is therefore being asked to lead the transition to avert an impending disaster.
The report recommends Africa’s leaders use climate change as an incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage. In the words of the former president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, “For Africa, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. If Africa focuses on smart choices, it can win investments in the next few decades in climate resilient and low emission development pathways.”
But is the financing mechanism good enough for Africa’s green growth? The APP notes that the current financing architecture does not meet the demands, and that the call for Africa’s leadership does not negate the role of international cooperation, which has over the years been a clarion call from African leaders—to be provided with finance and reliable technology.
The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) mourns the vague nature of the Paris agreement in relation to technology transfer for Africa. “The agreement vaguely talks about technologies without being clear on what these are, leaving the door open to all kinds of false solutions,” reads part of the civil society’s analysis of the Paris agreement.
However, other proponents argue for home solutions. According to available statistics, it is estimated that 138 million poor households spend 10 billion dollars annually on energy-related products, such as charcoal, candles, kerosene and firewood.
But what would it take to expand power generation and finance energy for all? The African Development Bank believes a marginal increase in energy investment could solve the problem.
“Africa collects 545 billion dollars a year in terms of tax revenues. If you put ten percent of that to electricity, problem is solved. Second, share of the GDP going to energy sector in Africa is 0.49 percent. If you raise that to 3.4 percent, you generate 51 billion dollars straight away. So which means African countries have to put their money where their mouth is, invest in the energy sector,” says AfDB Group President, Akinwumi Adesina, who also highlights the importance of halting illicit capital flows out Africa, costing the continent around 60 billion dollars a year.
While Kasoka in Southern Zambia’s remote town awaits electricity , the country’s Scaling Solar programme, driving the energy diversification agenda, may just be what would light up his dream of rearing poultry. According to President Edgar Lungu, the country looks to plug the gaping supply deficit with up to 600 MW of solar power, of which 100 MW is already under construction.
With the world at the tipping point, Africa will have to beat the odds of climate change to develop. Desmond Tutu summarises what is at stake this way: “We can no longer tinker about the edges. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow. As a matter of urgency we must begin a global transition to a new safe energy economy.  
—IPS

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