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A worker at Thuru Lodge in the semi-arid Kalahari Desert inspects a carcass in January 2020. Even the desert-adapted endemic species are dying after several years of extreme drought in the region.
A worker at Thuru Lodge in the semi-arid Kalahari Desert inspects a carcass in January 2020. Even the desert-adapted endemic species are dying after several years of extreme drought in the region. (Photo by Guillem Sartorio/via AFP)

A study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Change found that global efforts to track and research heat waves have largely ignored sub-Saharan Africa, and that they’re biased in favor of developed countries. This scientific blind spot is all the more egregious considering that Africa is the hottest continent, with millions of people facing growing dangers from heat waves and rising temperatures.

Climate models project temperature increases higher than the global mean temperature increase for sub-Saharan Africa, as well as longer and more frequent heat waves.

 

The Need to Adapt

A 2014 report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged that heat waves and heat-related health effects were only beginning to attract attention in Africa. One of the conclusions was that data and research gaps hamper decision making in processes to reduce vulnerability, build resilience, and plan and implement adaptation strategies.

Correcting this will require developing climate models specifically tailored to Africa, and compiling more historical climate data to observe trends and map heat spots more accurately.

Pilot programs are under way in The Gambia and Ghana, where hospitals, epidemiologists, and researchers are collaborating to study the direct effects of extreme heat on people’s health. This is a positive step, but the immediacy of the danger posed by escalating heat waves on African populations demands more urgent action.

 

Claude Borna, director of the Sèmè City Development Agency (Yanick Folly/AFP)
Claude Borna, director of the Sèmè City Development Agency (Yanick Folly/AFP)

Benin is set to open Sèmè One, a tech start-up incubator that is part of the larger Sèmè City, envisioned to be a high-tech regional innovation center. Located near the Nigerian border in the commune of Sèmè-Kpodji, this “smart city” was announced two years ago by President Patrice Talon as part of the Revealing Benin development program. The Beninese government aims to turn the country into a West African hub for advanced technology, akin to Paul Kagame’s efforts in Rwanda to transform the capital Kigali into the “Singapore of Africa.”

Planned to be fully operational by 2030, Sèmè City will welcome students and entrepreneurs from across West Africa, who will have access to research centers and laboratories.

Responding to COVID-19, twenty-nine-year-old Donald Tchaou and five friends approached the Sèmè City Development Agency with an idea to develop a mobile app to enforce social distancing and help with contact tracing. Not only were they given access to Sèmè City’s resources, but they also benefited from personalized coaching throughout the development process.

Sèmè City’s director is Claude Borna, a Beninese native who obtained degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, and McGill University, and worked for Deloitte and Amazon, among other corporate groups, before returning to Benin in 2016.

 

Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba
Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba

Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, one of Africa’s foremost philosophers, civil rights activists, and pro-democracy scholars, passed away at the University Clinic of Kinshasa on Wednesday, July 15.

Wamba dia Wamba obtained his education in the United States after earning a scholarship through the African-American Institute, studying at Western Michigan University before earning his MBA at Claremont University. He taught at Brandeis and Harvard universities while in the United States, where he met his wife and got involved in the civil rights movement through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

 

He became a history professor at the University of Dar es Salaam

 

He moved Tanzania and became a history professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, which had become an intellectual nexus of Pan-African thought. He founded the university’s philosophy club, and from 1992 to 1995 he served as the president of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

In 1998, Wamba dia Wamba founded the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) with the support of Uganda and Rwanda, and began a campaign against newly installed DRC president Laurent-Désiré Kabila. In August, the RCD launched an attack on Goma, starting the Second Congo War. The RCD later split into two factions, supported by the two rival neighboring countries, after which Wamba dia Wamba faced revolt in his own faction.

After the war, Wamba dia Wamba became a senator in the DRC government and helped to draft a new constitution. He continued to write and was a noted political theorist. More recently, in May 2017, he was appointed president of the political-religious movement Bundu dia Mayala.

 

 

Sylvia Arthur, founder of the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora (LOATAD), photographed in the library in Accra, Ghana. (Nipah Dennis/AFP)
Sylvia Arthur, founder of the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora, photographed in the library in Accra, Ghana. (Nipah Dennis/AFP)

The Library of Africa and the African Diaspora (LOATAD) in the Ghanaian capital Accra is the product of a dream Ghanaian-British writer Sylvia Arthur had of opening a library dedicated to African literature. She founded the library, called Libreria Ghana, in 2017, and after an expansion and renovation it reopened to the public under the new name on July 1. For a small subscription fee, members can borrow books from the library.

In an interview on the literary platform Literandra’s YouTube channel, Arthur says she could afford to accumulate such a large collection of African and African diaspora works partly because African writers are not as highly valued in the market as Western writers. Her own collection forms the nucleus of LOATAD’s catalogue, which currently offers some 4,000 literary works by authors from across the continent—including world-renowned writers Chinua Achebe, Ayi Kwei Armah, J. M. Coetzee, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o—and by African diaspora authors in the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States. 

On the LOATAD Facebook page, the library is described as a “decolonized space,” reflecting a broader cultural movement that seeks to reassess how cultural works from previously colonized nations and peoples are valued.

Books displayed on a shelf in the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora (LOATAD) in Accra, Ghana, founded by by Ghanaian-British writer Sylvia Arthur. (Nipah Dennis/AFP)
Books displayed on a shelf in the Library of Africa and the African Diaspora. (Nipah Dennis/AFP)

 

A man rests on the octagon surrounding the destroyed plinth upon which a colonial era statue of H.M. Queen Victoria had stood in memoria since it's unveiling in 1906, at the Jevanjee gardens in Nairobi on June 13, 2020. The statue was removed following a vandalism incident a few years ago.  Statues of controversial historical and political figures are under scrutiny worldwide. TONY KARUMBA / AFP
A statue of Queen Victoria stood on this plinth in Jevanjee Gardens in Nairobi, Kenya, from 1906 to 2015, when it was removed after it had been vandalised. (Tony Karumba/ AFP)

The murder of George Floyd, an African American man, by police officer Derek Chauvin for the alleged crime of spending a $20 counterfeit note has resulted in widespread anti-racism protests under the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement across the United States and the globe. One aspect of this movement has been the reconsideration of public monuments to historical figures connected to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In Bristol, England, BLM protesters brought down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it in the nearby harbor. In Oxford, calls to remove a statue of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes have gained renewed interest, reviving a 2015 campaign modeled on the #RhodesMustFall student movement in South Africa.

 

Newer memorials dedicated to Kenyans include a monument in honor of Tom Mboya

 

Similar sentiments have bubbled over in Kenya, which is dotted with its own assortment of statues, hotels, parks, and street names honoring former colonial figures such as Queen Victoria and Hugh Cholmondeley, an influential British settler and landowner in then British East Africa Protectorate, now Kenya.

Newer memorials dedicated to Kenyans include a monument in honor of Tom Mboya, one of the founding fathers of the independent Republic of Kenya, in the Nairobi CBD; a UK-funded memorial to Kenyans killed by British forces during the Mau Mau Uprising in the 1950s in Uhuru Park in Nairobi; and a recently unveiled statue of Dedan Kimathi, the spiritual leader of the Mau Mau Uprising, in Nyeri.

 

School Girls Burkina Faso
A policeman walks behind schoolgirls in Yemboate, a village in the far north of Togo, as they cross the border into Burkina Faso on February 17, 2020. Togolese security agencies have intensified surveillance around the border to prevent incursions by jihadists.

Human Rights Watch has reported that over 2,500 schools in Burkina Faso have been forced to close in response to escalating numbers of terrorist attacks, holding back around 350,000 primary school-aged children from receiving an education. Since 2017, the country’s Ministry of Education found that at least 222 education workers have been deliberately targeted and made “victims of terrorist attacks”.

The report documented 126 attacks and threats of violence against educators, learners, and schools, more than half of which occurred in 2019 alone. This added security concern compounds the risks posed to Burkinabe children, who are set to return to school in nine days following countrywide closures put in place on March 14.

Armed Islamist groups have targeted schools in opposition to the teaching of French and other forms of Western-based education.

 

Joint Military Operation

The marked negative impact that terrorism has had on Burkina Faso’s schools reaffirms the importance of a joint military operation with Côte d’Ivoire, dubbed Operation Comoé, which recently reported a successful raid on a jihadist base in the border town of Alidougou in southern Burkina Faso.

 

 

Students walk towards the General Education College (CEG) in Godomey, as school resumes on May 11, 2020. Schools in Benin reopened on Monday, with strict instructions on distance, hygiene and distribution of masks, after several weeks of closure to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
Students walk toward the General Education College (CEG) in Godomey, as school resumes on May 11, 2020. Schools in Benin reopened on Monday, with strict instructions on distance, hygiene and distribution of masks, after several weeks of closure to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

 

Benin’s decision to reopen schools after six weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made the small West African country the only one on the African continent to do so. Except for nursery schools and universities, all educational establishments have reopened, and the government has said they would be providing hand sanitizers, masks, and viral screenings for learners.

 

The demonstration led to the death of one protestor.

 

In March, students at the University of Abomey-Calavi demanded the closure of the university during the pandemic. Police arrested three students trying to empty lecture theaters, and there was a confrontation following a demonstration to demand their release that led to the death of one protestor.

Parents remain cautious about the reopening, and many want to verify that proactive measures have been taken. Despite government promises of providing personal protective equipment like masks for free, several students reported having to procure their own for the first day of resumed classes, and some didn’t have a mask.

 

European Learners are Also Returning to School

Benin joins countries like Denmark, Germany, Israel, and the Netherlands in resuming schooling for some of its learners. There is limited research, but a recent survey of the literature couldn’t find an example of a child under ten passing the SARS-CoV-2 virus on to others, and studies show children are less likely than adults to get infected. Skeptics have argued that the data available are not statistically significant, and urge governments to be cautious about allowing young children to gather in crowds until more research has been conducted.

Despite these warnings, a handful of other African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Guinea, are expected to open up schools over the next few weeks.

 

One of the first things many national governments in Africa did when faced with the first cases of COVID-19 was to close the schools. This closure has affected about 300 million African learners, who since have had to rely on alternative means of continuing their schooling, such as radio, TV, and online platforms.

 

Digitalization and Inequality 

The main problem for Africa is that access to digital technology, not to mention affordable and reliable Internet coverage, remains unevenly distributed. Even with notable improvement in communications infrastructure in the past few years, Internet penetration in Africa still lags far behind the global average, at just 39.3 percent as of March 2020 compared with the rest of the world at 62.9 percent.

 

Africa has the most expensive mobile data in the world.

 

The number of mobile phone users on the continent has increased dramatically in recent years; not that it would help much, given that Africa has the most expensive mobile data in the world.

 

Children take school lessons on television at their home in Abidjan on April 10, 2020, after the Ivorian Ministry of National Education initiated on April 9, 2020, teaching on television for primary and secondary school children in since the closure of schools in the country following the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP
Two children do their lessons in front of the television in their home in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, after the Ministry of National Education initiated television programs on April 9 to teach primary and secondary school subjects. (Issouf Sanogo / AFP)

 

Window of Opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for educators and administrative bodies to assess current gaps in delivering quality education to the continent’s most marginalized communities. As African heads of state petition international financial institutions and other countries for aid to help them through the pandemic, perhaps there can be special funds established exclusively for the purpose of improving at-home educational tools, especially for families where both parents must work full time and lack the means to assist their children with schoolwork.

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