May 2017

Three ideas on how the new WHO DG can build health systems from the bottom up

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the new Director-General of the World Health Organisation Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus Adhanom is the first African to become the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO). He is also the first non-physician to head up the United Nations’ body.

He has big challenges ahead of him.

He will be expected use his formidable talents – including diplomacy – to boost the WHO’s image and finances, protect it against the whimsical policies of superpowers, and keep the organisation free of commercial influences.

Dr Tedros has already prioritised improving universal health coverage. As he put it:

All roads should lead to universal health coverage. I will not rest until we have met this.

To achieve this, he will need to strengthen health systems. But the challenge he faces is that the responsibility for strengthening health systems is different in different contexts, and it seldom falls directly to the WHO.

Such efforts are often driven by funders’ priorities. And for countries that don’t rely on external resources, such as China and India, investments in health systems tend to reflect domestic social sector policy and priorities.

Meeting the dietary needs of honey bees is tough for South African beekeepers


The world is worried about honey bees. There are fears globally that bees may become extinct. This would have implications for food security: between 50% and 80% of the world’s food supply – fruits, vegetables and the seeds used to produce grain for livestock – is directly or indirectly affected by honey bee pollination.

Most studies suggest that nearly one-third of the world’s crops depend on honey bees for pollination. Others have shown that disruptions in pollination of various crops could have serious implications for public health, particularly in Africa and Asia. About 56% of populations in most developing countries would be at risk of nutrient deficiency if pollinators were wiped out.

Amid all the panic, little attention has been paid to the people and systems that make it possible to keep and manage pollinators – like beekeepers. And in particular, what beekeepers need to be able to meet the food needs of bees.

Populism on the rise as South Africa and Namibia gear up to elect new presidents

President Jacob Zuma, left, gets a courtesy visit from President of Namibia Hage Geingob in 2015 in Cape Town. GCIS

Both South Africa and Namibia’s governing parties are set to hold elective congresses before the end of this year. Those who win the leadership contests will each lead their respective parties into a general election in 2019 as their presidential candidate. How this happens will be crucial for both countries’ political futures.

There are interesting similarities and differences between the two cases. As in many other countries, both states have a strong executive Head of State. There are term limits for the president of the country, if not for the president of the party. Both countries have constitutions that provide for a democratic governance structure, guided by the rule of law.

But in both cases the state presidency has so far been decided by the parties in power. Both governing parties came to power after armed liberation struggles in which a culture of secrecy and suspicion was widespread. Both had to negotiate a regulated transition from a minority regime to a legitimately elected government.

There's not enough evidence to back the claim that humans originated in Europe

The fossil remains which have caused all the consternation. Jochen Fuss, Nikolai Spassov, David R. Begun, Madelaine Böhme/via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Africa is not the cradle of humankind: that’s the claim by a group of scientists who’ve just published what they describe as evidence of pre-human remains found in Eastern Europe (Greece and Bulgaria). The fossils in question belong to Graecopithecus freybergi, and are a little more than seven million years old. This would make them the world’s oldest hominin fossils.

It would also re-root the human evolutionary tree in Eastern Europe, away from Africa. This runs counter to a great deal of evidence which suggests that humans originated in Africa.

Dr Julien Benoit, a vertebrate palaeontologist and palaeobiologist who has worked extensively on the African continent and was not part of the European research team, chatted to The Conversation Africa about the findings.

This new research suggests that Greece, not Africa, should be calling itself the cradle of humankind. Do you think that’s accurate?

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence to support them. The African origin of humankind (Hominini) is currently supported by two really important elements.

EU consensus recognizes that "the achievement of most of the SDGs is strongly dependent on the active involvement of local and regional authorities”

EU Consensus for Development

New European consensus on development recognizes the role of local and regional governments in achieving the SDGs and commits to support decentralization reforms and decentralized cooperation.

On 19 May, the Council of the European Union adopted a new consensus on development, setting out a new framework for development cooperation for the EU and its member states. The European consensus for development is the EU's response to the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. It sets out the main principles which will guide the EU and its member states in cooperation with developing countries over the next 15 years, as well as a strategy for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The consensus is important given the crucial role of the EU in the area of development cooperation. The EU remains the world's largest development aid donor, providing more than half of assistance worldwide.

UCLG welcomes the emphasis that the consensus puts partnerships, including with local and regional governments. The text commits to support capacity-building and calls on all partners to “play their respective roles fully, including their scrutiny role, alongside national governments and actively participate in the decision-making process”.

Sanral pushes on with Wild Coast upgrades

Sanral pushes on with Wild Coast upgrades
© Leon Swart – [[]]</span>The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) is to award R3.1bn in tenders for two megabridges in the Eastern Cape in the next two months.
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The WHO's new African leader could be a shot in the arm for poorer countries

Tedros Ghebreyesus, the newly elected Director-General of the World Health Organisation. Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus is the first African to be elected as the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its 70 year history. The WHO is the United Nations body that directs its member states on international health issues. David Sanders explains to The Conversation Africa some of the main challenges Ghebreyesus will face in his five-year term.

What is the significance of this appointment?

This is the first time the entire 194-strong WHO assembly voted for the position. Votes were cast by secret ballot. Previously the organisation’s Executive Board selected the DG. The massive margin for Tedros – 133 votes vs 50 for the UK candidate David Nabarro – suggests that the entire Global South voted for him. The size of the landslide had not been expected.

The vote almost certainly represents a vote against big power domination and machinations in the WHO which often appears to ignore the main challenges and aspirations of low and middle income countries.

What does he bring to the table?

What does Spatial Transformation mean?" One Day Seminar, 2 June 2017

Wits City Institute & Johannesburg Institute for Advanced study - "What does Spatial Transformation mean?" One Day Seminar, 2 June 2017

Wits City Institute in collaboration with Johannesburg Institute for Advanced study, invites you to a one day Seminar on What does Spatial transformation mean? Possibilities for a more equitable, livable Johannesburg

Venue: Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Tolip Street, Westdene, Johannesburg

Date: Friday, 2 June 2017

Time: 08h00-17h00

Enquiries and to RSVP by 29 May 2017 to: Ms. Inolofatseng Lekaba at

Email :

What can we learn about the city from the new forms of privatized public space like hipster Maboneng, 44 Stanley, and parts of Braamfontein as well as the increasing number of walled-off micro spaces: gated complexes, cluster developments, boomed-off areas, ‘China’ malls, American-style malls, etc.?

Can we read xenophobia, vigilantism, the dearth of low-income housing, inadequate public transport, subpar service delivery and the perennially-high crime rates in relationship to the increasing gentrification and securitization of middle-class Jozi?

   Can urbanization/gentrification projects include instead of displace the less privileged?

Big alcohol is poised to expand into Africa. Why this is bad news for health


The alcohol industry is doing exactly what the tobacco industry did several decades ago to ensure growth and increase profits: expanding into Africa as an underdeveloped market. As a result, exposure to alcohol in African countries is expected to increase in the next few years. With it comes alcohol-related health and social problems.

Strategy hints coming out of the US$ 103 billion merger between SAB Miller and AB InBev provide a good reference point. The merged entity’s strategy clearly shows that Africa will be a critical driver for growth. Competitors like Pernod Ricard and Diageo are not far behind.

Why resilience matters for schools trying to thrive in tough situations

Schools can offer their pupils valuable support systems even if they're short on resources. Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye

Many schools in Southern Africa are functioning in tough situations. Poverty, a lack of resources and poor or non-existent basic services all combine to make a less than ideal environment for education. But a number of schools in Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa display incredible resilience – a concept steeped in indigenous knowledge systems.

The Conversation Africa’s education editor Natasha Joseph asked Professor Liesel Ebersöhn to explain the role of resilience in education.

What is “resilience”, in an educational setting?

Resilience in schools involves a process where teachers, principals, families, students and district officials know and use strategies that help teachers to teach and students to learn.

Resilience becomes relevant in education as soon as there is a shock to the education system that requires intervention. After that shock, resilience can ensure better than projected outcomes for students and teachers.

In a postcolonial, transforming society – like highly unequal South Africa – such “shocks” or challenges are chronic. They don’t let up. They are also cumulative, coming from a variety of fronts.

In South Africa these barriers include a limited number of trained teachers; an unreliable supply of teaching materials; and multilingualism – either teachers and pupils don’t share home languages, or they do but converse only in English for the purpose of teaching and learning.

Jobs: Senior Project Development Manager - Property Development Company

South Africa

PROJECT MANAGER - Project Development Manager

Exciting opportunity with a very successful property development organisation.

Our Client needs a hands on dynamic person to support their ongoing growth. Project range from upmarket high rise commercial buildings , industrial parks and retail centres.

B Sc Building or Civil degree with a CAN DO attitude is essential as well as a high energy person who thrives on challenges.
If you have at least 10 years experience working for a reputable building contractor with a passion to move into project management and a flare for property development. This may be for you. If you have a proven track record handling project management of various buildings in the Gauteng area, we would also love to hear from you.

Superb opportunity for someone who wishes to make a difference in the industry. Please send me an email if you wish to discuss further or send an updated CV and I will be in contact. Very many thanks Jacqui Tuck

Democracy is taking root in Africa. But that doesn't mean it works all the time


The questions that I get asked most often by students, policy makers and political leaders are: “can democracy work in Africa?” and “is Africa becoming more democratic?”.

As we celebrate Africa Day and reflect on how far the continent has come since the Organisation of African Unity was founded in 1963, it seems like a good time to share my response.

Some people who ask these questions assume that the answer will be “no”, because they are thinking of the rise of authoritarian abuses in places like Burundi and Zambia. Others assume that the answer is “yes” because they remember recent transfers of power in Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria.

Overall trends on the continent can be read in a way that supports both conclusions. On the one hand, the average quality of civil liberties has declined every year for the last decade. On the other, the number of African states in which the government has been defeated at the ballot box has increased from a handful in the mid 1990s to 19.

National Urban Policies: Implementing the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda

International Conference on National Urban Policy

Following up the initiative launched during the preparation of Habitat III in 2015, the 2nd International Conference on National Urban Policy (IC-NUP), organized by the OECD and UN-Habitat with the support of Cities Alliance, was held at the OECD Conference Centre in Paris on 15-18 May 2017. It brought together more than 300 policy makers, local and national government officials, and non-governmental actors, as well as experts working in areas of urban policy from more than 35 countries.

Winners revealed in 2017 PPC Imaginarium Awards

Winners revealed in 2017 PPC Imaginarium AwardsThe PPC Imaginarium Awards announced its overall winner, category winners and runners-up at a gala event hosted in May at the UJ Art Gallery in Johannesburg.
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Constitutional Court judges face much more than legal questions in Zuma case

South African President Jacob Zuma faces a vote of no confidence. GCIS

South Africa has been treated to an overdose of legal arguments as its Constitutional Court grapples with whether or not a parliamentary vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma should be conducted by secret or open ballot.

The country’s opposition parties are trying to get Zuma removed. Their latest attempt was triggered by his irresponsible decision to sack Pravin Gordhan, the widely respected finance minister.

I sat and listened as lawyers for both parties argued their cases before the constitutional court judges. I’m a political scientist, not a lawyer. I therefore deserve the label “layman” and my understanding of what’s at stake should be understood within that framework.

I take this liberty because, while the matter is patently legal, its origin is political. This is obvious from the fact that some political parties and civil society groups have declared their wish that Zuma be removed from office. And, whatever the court decides, the reaction by interested parties and the public is bound to be political.

The pros and cons of commercial farming models in Africa

Workers harvesting from a commercial farm in Ethiopia. Reuters/Barry Malone

Colonialism brought large-scale farming to Africa, promising modernisation and jobs – but often dispossessing people and exploiting workers. Now, after several decades of independence, and with investor interest growing, African governments are once again promoting large plantations and estates. But the new corporate interest in African agriculture has been criticised as a “land grab”.

Small-scale farmers, on family land, are still the mainstay of African farming, producing 90% of its food. Their future is increasingly uncertain as the large-scale colonial model returns.

To make way for big farms, local people have lost their land. Promises of jobs and other benefits have been slow to materialise, if at all.

The search is on for alternatives to big plantations and estates that can bring in private investment without dispossessing local people – and preferably also support people’s livelihoods by creating jobs and strengthening local economies.

Two possible models stand out.

Contract farming is often touted as an “inclusive business model” that links smallholders into commercial value chains. In these arrangements, smallholder farmers produce cash crops on their own land, as ‘outgrowers’, on contract to agroprocessing companies.

African scientists are punching above their weight and changing the world

Africa's scientists are doing remarkable work. Shutterstock

Over the past five years, Africa’s contributions to the world’s research –- that is, new knowledge –- have varied from a low of 0.7% to the present and highest level of 1.1%.

There are many reasons for Africa’s small contribution to world research. One of them, sadly, is that at least some of this new knowledge is produced by African scientists working beyond their own countries and continent. Many have chosen to leave because they feel the facilities and funding opportunities are better than those “at home”.

It’s also important to point out that the sum of knowledge generated each year, including Africa’s contribution to it, is measured using research articles published by scientists and scholars in scientifically recognised journals. This means some of the actual work that’s being done isn’t getting the attention or credit it deserves, yet. The journal system is not a perfect way of assessing scientific productivity. For now, though, it’s a means that can be applied fairly to document peer reviewed research from around the world.

These concerns aside there is, I’m happy to report, much to celebrate about research in Africa. For starters, the world’s largest collection of peer-reviewed, African-published journals, is growing all the time. African Journals Online currently carries 521 titles across a range of subjects and disciplines.

Wave of rhino killings points to shifting poaching patterns in South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal is home to smaller wildlife sanctuaries and private game reserves like Hluhluwe-iMfolozi where poaching has increased. Keith Somerville

Rhino poaching in South Africa continues to be a problem. In recent months poaching incidents have spiked in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in the northeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. In one of the worst attacks nine rhinos were found dead, bringing to 23 the number killed so far in just one month.

Earlier this year South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, announced triumphantly that in 2016 fewer rhinos had been poached than in 2015. Her statistics showed that nationally 121 fewer animals were poached in 2016 (1,054) compared with 2015 (1,175).

But my research into the evolution of poaching operations in South Africa – which I shared round about the same time – showed that while fewer had been killed, poaching efforts had simply shifted locations. In particular, illegal killings in areas outside South Africa’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park, have been on the rise.

Cooperation, assistance and the global agendas: the DeLoG network and the localization of the SDGs

 DeLoG network and the localization of the SDGs

DeLoG - Decentralisation and Local Governance, an informal network of 29 bi- and multilateral development partners in the field of decentralization and local governance (DLG), held its 12th Annual Meeting in Brussels, on May 16-18, 2017, hosted by the Belgian Development Agency (BTC). As usual, the Meeting was an excellent opportunity for DeLoG members and partners to catch up on the work that the network has put in place in the last year, as well as to coordinate on next steps and strategic issues. UCLG took part in the meeting alongside other global institutional partners such as UNDP, UNICEF, UNCDF and the European Commission.

Eastern Cape invests R68m in social housing project

Pretoria – A total of R68 million has been invested to refurbish an old Port Elizabeth building into a social housing project, says the Eastern Cape Human Settlements Department.

The project will be implemented by the Qhama Social Housing Institution and will have 220 units consisting of bachelor, one and two bedroom units.

The project, which is for rental purposes, will be opened to people that earn between R1 500 and R7 500 a month.

Eastern Cape MEC for Human Settlements Helen Sauls-August said the first phase of the project will focus on the social housing element of the building.

“This marks a defining moment for the people of the Eastern Cape Province as were are here to witness the fall of a painful past and the new beginning of a historic project,” MEC Sauls-August said at the handover of the site on Friday.

She also committed that the social housing project will preserve the rich history and heritage of the building and create a living memorial of the struggle for liberation.

“It is befitting that during the Year of Oliver Tambo, the work to convert this building into a living memorial of the struggle for freedom commences now,” MEC Sauls- August said.

Work to revamp the building will commence in June and will run for a period of 12 months.

Both the provincial and national government as well the Social Housing Regulatory Authority have invested money towards funding the project.


International Summit of non-state actors on desertification

International Summit of non-state actors on desertification

In partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the Climate Chance association, Mr. Roland Ries, Co-President of UCLG and Mayor of Strasbourg, will host the International Summit of non-state actors on land degradation and climate change in local territories “Désertif’actions”, on 27 and 28 June 2017.  
One year after the adoption of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate, the challenges of food security, forced migrations, international security and stability are being made worse by the intensification of land degradation, climate phenomena and multiple inappropriate practices that increase pressure on land.
The Summit will aim to demonstrate the engagement of non-state actors, including local authorities and civil society, to adapt to climate change and discuss initiatives led at the local level addressing the sustainable management of land and the development of territories, starting with target 15.3 of the 2030 Development Agenda on land degradation neutrality. 


7-13/02/2018. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


The Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum will be the first session to focus on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda adopted in Habitat III.

In the New Urban Agenda, participating States request the report of the implementation of the Agenda to incorporate, to the extent possible, the inputs of multilateral organizations, civil society, the private sector and academia and to build on existing platforms such as the World Urban Forum.

WUF9 will be an instrumental to substantively feed into the inputs for the first report of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda. The Forum will also contribute to global mobilization towards advocating for the common vision on sustainable urban development in advancing on the achievement of the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

This session in Kuala Lumpur will be the second session hosted in Asia after 10 years (WUF4 was held in Nanjing, China, in 2008)

Happiness and meaning in life: The sweet spot where they meet


On the face of it, there are many situations in which doing something that makes us happier fails to make our lives more meaningful. Some recent examples from my life include: having taken a gloriously hot shower, watched several episodes of the HBO comedy series “Veep” while eating chocolate ice cream, and having worn a particularly smart looking suit.

Professional philosophers illustrate this point with “fantastic” or “hypothetical” thought experiments, imagining a life spent in a virtual reality machine that gives the occupant the vivid impression he is doing interesting things that he is not, or a life of rolling a rock up a hill for eternity but enjoying it because of the way the gods have structured one’s brain.

Conversely, there are many occasions when doing something that makes our lives meaningful appears not to make them happier. Consider taking care of a sick, elderly parent who needs constant attention, or slaving away at an alienating job so as to provide for one’s children. For less frequent but even more intense examples, think of those who have struggled against injustice at great cost to their own peace and satisfaction, such as Nelson Mandela having spent 27 years in prison in his struggle against apartheid, or heroes who have given up their lives for others, perhaps by having volunteered to relinquish a spot on a lifeboat that would not hold everyone.

How President Zuma blew the chance to steal a march on his opponents

South African President Jacob Zuma is appealing a High Court ruling that he give reasons for his controversial cabinet reshuffle. GCIS

As the dust was starting to settle on South African President Jacob Zuma’s recent controversial reshuffle of his cabinet, a new storm erupted. The country’s High Court ordered him to give the reasons for his decision.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) is infuriated. The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal organised a march against what the party regards as judicial overreach.

The president is appealing. The main point of his lawyers argument is that the court erred in the way in which it interpreted a Rule 53 of the Uniform Rules of Court. The rules came into effect in 1965 (predating the end of apartheid) to optimise the administration of justice, specifically in relation to the review of administrative or quasi-judicial decisions with pernicious consequences.

The premise of the judge’s ruling seems to be that accountability in the exercise of executive authority is sacrosanct in a constitutional democracy.

The success of post-conflict peace studies rests with teaching teachers

A school teacher, leads a class at the Obama Primary School in Kenya. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

In recent years, it has become common practice within post-conflict countries to introduce peace education or human rights courses into the school curricula.

After the 2007 violent elections in Kenya, for instance, a peace education course was introduced into the secondary school curriculum. This course aimed to mitigate ethnic tensions and increase inter-group tolerance among pupils.

Likewise, one year after the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011, Côte d’Ivoire introduced a course titled ‘Citizenship and Human Rights Education’ into its school curricula. Similarly, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Civics and Moral course was revised in 2007 to include the topics of human rights and a culture of peace.

Ensuring safer pregnancies for Kenyan women in urban slums

Antenatal care is important during pregnancy. Reuters

Globally, there’s a general decline in the number of women who die from pregnancy or childbirth complications. However in Kenya, it remains high at 488 deaths per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality is a health indicator of the wide gaps between rich and poor, urban and rural areas within countries.

The lack of appropriate maternal health services and an almost near absence of public health facilities within the slums has led to the reliance on for profit health facilities.

Most of the health facilities available in the slums face challenges like the lack of skilled personnel and necessary equipment to deal with maternal and child health emergencies.

Transport costs and poverty are barriers to proper utilisation of maternal health care services in the slums leading to deaths of mothers during this critical period.

Africa's rainforests are different. Why it matters that they're protected

Corinne Staley/Flickr

Around 2 million km² of Africa is covered by tropical rainforests. They are second only in extent to those in Amazonia, which cover around 6 million km². Rainforests are home to vast numbers of species. For example, the world’s tropical rainforests are estimated to be home to at least 40,000 tree species, with up to 6,000 in African forests.

Yet African rainforests are poorly studied compared to those in Amazonia and South East Asia. And the continent’s rainforests are being lost to deforestation at a rate of 0.3% every year. This is slower than in Amazonia (estimated to be 0.5% per year in Brazil) and South East Asia (1% in Indonesia).

SAIBD & SACAP : Panel discussion on Transforming the Architectural Profession through the RPL

The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) takes great pleasure in inviting you to attend a panel discussion entitled "Addressing transformation in architecture through the SACAP Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy"

The panel discussion will be hosted by the South African Institute of Building Design (SAIBD) and SACAP has been invited to participate on the panel of this important discussion.

Attendance of this workshop is free and forms part of a series of workshops that SAIBD are offering at the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo which will be held at Gallagher Estate, Johannesburg on 23 and 24 May 2017.

Details of the workshop entitled "Addressing transformation in architecture through the SACAP Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy"

Panelists :
Rowen Ruiters, SACAP Councillor and RPL Committee member
and Dhanashwar Basdew, Architectural activist and transformation visionary.

Videshkumar Boodu, SAIBD National President

Course information: 

15th IAEC Congress

13-16 November 2018. Cascais, Portugal


The city of Cascais (Portugal) will host the 15th IAEC Congress on November 13-16 2018. The Mayor of Cascais, Mr Carlos Carreiras, invites you to save the date and to come and participate to the Congress