Friday, 27 November 2015


After the release of a surprising new U.K. aid strategy on Monday, the aid community is coming to grips with a slew of new priorities and shifts in the government’s aid budget.
U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced Wednesday the results of the government’s comprehensive spending review, and although the Department for International Development’s budget is technically sealed at 0.7 percent of gross national income, the government is delivering on its promise to use more official development assistance in other government departments.
Shelter kits are loaded for shipment from a warehouse in Dubai. 
Despite an overall $6 billion increase in the aid budget by 2020 as a result of the U.K.’s increasing gross national income, DfID will be tasked with cutting $400 million in “efficiency measures” by 2020. Cuts will focus on “streamlining administration and procurement,” a DfID source told Devex.
Other shifts include scaling up the U.K.’s “cross-government” strategy, which will see the bulk of the expected aid increase — about $6 billion, or 27 percent of total ODA — disbursed through non-DfID ministries and departments, including the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, the Ministry of Defense and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, among others.
The decision raises questions in the U.K. aid community about whether these departments — some of which consistently receive “Poor” and “Very Poor” ratings in Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index — will be able to maintain the same aid transparency standards as DfID, which has received a “Very Good” rating for the last five years.
Building on commitments outlined last week to spend half of all U.K. aid in “fragile and failing states and regions,” the new aid strategy will also invest more in cross-government funds, including a new $1.5 billion Prosperity Fund, run by the National Security Council.
Another NSC-affiliated, cross-government fund — the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund — will also be expanded under the new strategy. The aid increase will be used to establish a $1.5 billion cross-government “Ross Fund,” in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to research and develop products to fight infectious diseases and eliminate malaria. Finally, the aid increase will fund a new $750 million “ODA Crisis Reserve.”
But not everyone is happy with these changes. Several of DfID’s major implementers and NGO partners raised concerns about the new strategy.

Is a ‘cross-government’ approach good for aid?

While DfID will continue to spend approximately 72 percent of total ODA, other government departments will be tasked with managing an increasing amount of aid over the next four years, despite persistent questions about some departments’ ability to distribute aid effectively, and concerns among the aid community that variation in contracting and procurement protocol could unnecessarily complicate aid work.
At the same time, some development organizations, like Crown Agents, have actively partnered with non-DfID departments and ministries for many years. Ian Shapiro, chief partnership and growth officer at Crown Agents, told Devex that for organizations already working with these departments, not much will change in terms of strategy.
“Who spends the money isn’t important if those standards are met, and bringing all skills to bear on development work is a really good thing,” he said.
Still, Shapiro pointed out that a “cross-government” approach will present some risk, especially when partnering with those departments that have less experience administering aid.
“DfID has 18 years of experience of assessment, has checks and balances in place, [effective] monitoring practices and so forth, [whereas] other parts of the U.K. government have much less experience,” he said.
FCO was the subject of scrutiny earlier this year when Osborne ordered a review of all FCO aid projects after a series of media reports suggested the office was spending aid irresponsibly.
Publish What You Fund’s 2014 Aid Transparency Index rates the FCO as “Poor,” and rates the MOD as “Very Poor.” The new aid strategy stipulates that all aid-administering departments must achieve a “Good” or Very Good” rating by 2020, but that leaves a five-year window in the interim with potentially low or mediocre aid transparency.
While the cross-government strategy reflects a strong sensitivity to current crises, “there is a real risk of mission creep in government putting ODA at the heart of national security and foreign policy,” said Leigh Daynes, executive director of Doctors of the World. “Aid spending should be predicated on meeting unmet need, never as an instrument of foreign policy, national self-interest or the whims of some sections of the populist press.”
Given that two of the four cross-government funds are either managed by or involve the NSC, concerns that politics and national security concerns could eclipse aid priorities hold some merit.

‘Expanding’ the definition of ODA — a slippery slope

The new aid strategy pledges to stick to the guidelines for ODA set out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee. At the same time, the strategy also commits to working closely with other countries to “modernize the definition of ODA at the OECD-DAC, ensuring it reflects the breadth of the new international development agenda set by the new U.N. Global Goals, and fully incentivizes other countries to meet these goals,” the strategy says.
Some officials expressed concerns that the U.K. could join a small lobby of OECD countries like Norway and Sweden, among others, hoping to expand the definition of ODA to include security-related costs, as well as extend the period in which governments are allowed to use ODA to resettle refugees in-country, which is currently capped at one year.
At the same time, the definition of ODA hasn’t been updated in almost 40 years, an issue that some say has allowed donors and providers to abuse the guidelines.
The new aid strategy, for example, also sets out a funding increase to the BBC World Service by $51 million in 2016 and $128 million in subsequent years, a “significant portion of which will be ODA,” the strategy document says.
Updating the definition of ODA while preventing political abuse of ODA funds could be a challenge for the U.K., Sheard said.
We have real concerns this will trigger a race to the bottom,” Sheard told Devex.
“Rather than tighten the rules, emphasising that ODA's principle aim is to fight and end poverty, it's likely that OECD member states will try to widen the definition to cover all sorts of government spending that doesn't share this core priority.”
Shapiro pointed out that the U.K. would need to manage these risks, as well as those presented by organizations or donor agencies advocating for a more security-friendly definition of aid, or a definition that might be more “provider-focused.”

50 percent of all U.K. aid will be spent on fragile states

The government’s decision to spend half of aid on fragile states has been met with largely positive responses from aid organizations, but some are some concerned that political and foreign policy issues — namely the migration crisis and the Syrian conflict — could eclipse the need for assistance in those fragile states that have fallen from the headlines.
“While there is a clear relationship between poverty and fragility, we must ensure that resources are prioritized for the poorest fragile states such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not just fragile but richer countries such as Egypt and Iraq,” said Diane Sheard, director of the ONE Campaign
If executed well the strategy could create an opportunity and incentive for specialists and organizations across sectors to translate their work into fragile and unstable contexts, she added.
“Hopefully this will create coalitions of talented, capable partners, and we’re trying to encourage other specialist agencies to come and work with us,” said Shapiro. “So if you’re a youth or child rights specialist, for example, you can’t ignore conflict-affected states, because there’s a really important constituency for you there as well.”
The U.K. government currently spends about 42 percent of aid on fragile states, a DfID spokeswoman told Devex, adding that the increase to the 50 percent target is a milestone in the long-held goal to increase aid to “fragile and failing states and regions.”
Considering the complexity of working in fragile states, some aid experts suggest the shift will place a degree of strain on DfID’s already limited staff. With rumors of staff cuts swirling, one alternative is to increase ODA to multilaterals like the United Nations and the World Bank. Romilly Greenhill, team leader for the development finance team at the Overseas Development Institute, sees two advantages to this strategy.
“Multilaterals are important, partly to save staffing costs, but [also because] working in fragile states inevitably involves taking risks,” she told Devex in an email. “Multilaterals tend to be better insulated from public pressure, and thus better able to take risk, and can also pool risk — combining donor aid across a large number of countries and projects, some of which are likely to do better than others.”
Greenhill pointed out that multilaterals are able to work without the political scrutiny that national governments are typically subjected to, which is “particularly important in fragile contexts.”
Questions still remain about how the new strategy will be implemented, namely how funding will be redistributed and from which sectors and to what countries. The ongoing multilateral aid, bilateral aid, and CSO partnership reviews — all due out in early 2016 — will offer a more specific breakdown of funding shifts.

Thursday, 26 November 2015


Senegalese-American singer Akon (right, in suit) during a visit in Pahou,
Benin. Photo by: Akon Lighting Africa
Senegalese-American singer Akon received a special welcome when he arrived in Benin in August, the last stop on his tour of six African countries as part of his Akon Lighting Africa initiative. Benin’s energy minister and other officials greeted him in the small, leather chair-adorned VIP lounge at the Cotonou airport. A fleet of gleaming white Ford Everests awaited his entourage outside, while he was directed to a black Chrysler.
During the following two days, the on-the-go motorcade would keep its police escorts busy — from meetings with the prime minister and the energy minister to an event at the U.S. Embassy and a small ceremony to unveil a solar street lamp in a semirural area not far from the capital city.
Thione Niang and Samba Bathily, Akon’s business partners in the Akon Lighting Africa initiative, joined him on the trip. The roles of all three are clear. Akon is the brand, Niang’s focus is on youth engagement and helping make political introductions, and Bathily is the businessman.
While Akon’s name is a driving force in the initiative, and he’s involved in many of the decisions, he’s never thought of himself as an entrepreneur. He didn’t even know the definition until recently, he said. But he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit — from buying 12 packs of Snickers bars to resell at a markup from his locker at school to the illegal business opportunities he later chased that landed him in jail.
Back then, though, his motivations were different — he just wanted to be rich.
In large part because of his fame, the roughly two-year-old Akon Lighting Africa initiative has drawn a lot of media attention, but also generated a fair amount of curiosity and skepticism. Some of the criticism seems to stem from a lack of understanding of its brand and purpose.
Devex spent time traveling with the leaders of the organization and speaking with each in an effort to answer some of the lingering questions. While the the team touts rapid growth, especially in the past year, they’ve also been working to refine the initiative’s identity and priorities as it expands across the African continent.
Early days
Akon Lighting Africa was born out of a conversation a few years ago.
The initiative is designed to bring attention to the issue of energy poverty in Africa and the massive need for increased generation. Its current focus is on demonstration projects of solar street lamps and home solar kits in several countries.
- Thione Niang, co-founder of Akon Lighting Africa
To date, the solar street lamp business, by way of government contracts and tenders, has been the enterprise’s main business. Those installations and contracts are managed through the company Solektra, which was founded by Samba Bathily, and serves as the business arm of the initiative, which doesn’t actually implement the power deals.
The three partners didn’t know each other when Niang, who has played a role in Democratic politics in the U.S. and runs the Give1Project, invited Akon to speak at an event. Afterward, the two spoke about what they could do “to rewrite the story of Africa,” said Niang, who splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Senegal.
Niang felt he could harness the power of his brand — including his 52.5 million Facebook followers and 5.8 million Twitter followers — to make an impact. As the two discussed where to invest over the next few months, they kept returning to the same issue: the lack of energy.
“When you talk about health, there is no health without energy, no education, no commerce, no trade,” Niang said. “So we said we were going to start from there.”
Niang knows firsthand the challenges of “racing the sun” to complete homework, as does Akon, who spent part of his childhood in Senegal living in a house with no electricity.
Samba Bathily, with his understanding of energy, finances and business, whom Niang had met previously, completed the partnership picture.
Bathily’s Solektra has thus far installed 100,000 street lights as part of the initiative. About five percent were installed as demonstration projects and the rest primarily through government contracts or tenders. Each light costs between $800 to $3,000 depending on size, capacity and reach.
Solektra has worked out a deal with its Chinese suppliers for a $1 billion line of credit, which they use as part of a financing package they offer to governments as they bid for contracts or tenders. The credit line enables governments to pay the cost in installments over several years.
“If you ask most of them to pay one time they cannot do a good project,” Bathily said.
Akon Lighting Africa says it has reached more than 1 million people to date, which does not directly translate to 1 million more people with energy access. The number is calculated as the total of those impacted through their projects — for example citizens of a town or village that now has street lamps.
Stumbling blocks
One of the demonstration projects is a village about a 45-minute drive, at least half on unpaved, barely-there roads, outside of Nairobi, Kenya. There, a row of solar street lamps lines one main road. The schools have solar street lamps too, as do the church, an orphanage and a few other public buildings. There are a few locals who have been trained to repair them should anything go wrong, but as the sun fades, they turn on like clockwork. 
Akon Lighting Africa says it targets areas that lack access to energy and so the village was chosen in part because it was off-grid. However, within six months of the installation of solar lighting in the community, the Kenyan government extended the electric grid to the area, which raises questions about coordination. On the evening of Devex’s August visit, though, it appeared no one was out to make use of the lighted paths or other gathering places.
Still, ALA staff say the demonstration project has made a big difference in safety in the community and improved student productivity in schools. The location was chosen by government officials, as it is for all their work, and a lengthy community meeting and consultation determined the best locations for the street lamps.
Another potential challenge with this demonstration project and others is that ALA has distributed free home solar lighting systems, which could be problematic in a market where businesses are trying to sell similar products.
But the team is learning as they go and tackling challenges along the way, Niang said, one of which is spending a lot of energy educating people and making their case, especially to governments.
That’s been the only frustration that Akon has experienced thus far, he said — trying to explain to certain politicians what it is they’re doing and how ALA approaches things.
“People are used to doing things the way that they have always done it and when we come with our pitch and our approach, it’s always completely opposite and very different than what they’re used to,” Akon said.
It’s also meant relatively little sleep — spending every day, or every other day, in a different country doesn’t really allow for it. But somehow they still find time for fun, which helps break up the marathon of meetings.
When local musicians entertained the crowd of young people at an event in Benin, Akon danced with them on the stage, as did Niang. Bathily, seemingly the most serious, looked on.
Certainly Akon’s celebrity plays a role in the meetings and access the initiative gets; he understands the skepticism around celebrity engagement and the questions of whether this is a vanity project.
“I was one of those people that looked at all the other brands coming in like, ‘What’s happening? Where’s the money going? Where’s the progress?’” he said, adding that he’s always been skeptical of organizations that don’t deliver for the communities they claim to help.
Akon is much more interested in action than talk, he said. 

Working with others

Akon Lighting Africa is looking for partners and recognizes that working together is the only way to effect significant change, the partners told Devex, although some stakeholders in the solar energy sector have questioned its business model, intentions and true commitment to partnership.
There’s no lack of confidence within the team — all three partners mentioned being sons of the African continent and attribute the initiative and Solektra’s business success to their local knowledge of how to get things done. But perhaps in that there’s also a bit of hubris — a sense that they know better, sometimes better than others working in the field.
Though some companies have been working on powering Africa for five or 10 years, Akon Lighting Africa has “probably accomplished more than every last one of them combined in less than two years,” Akon said.
It’s a belief, Niang said, fueled by the evidence of a string of failed projects where an outside company has come in, installed solar lighting, made their money and left only to let it crumble and break.
“Many people come in Africa with many projects and they cash out and there’s no sustainability,” Niang said. “We learned we need to ... make sure what we’re doing has continuity.”
When ALA was getting off the ground, the team talked to everybody involved in an effort to best understand the market, the challenges and who was involved, the partners said.
“You know what we understood? Some of them think that they have like the monopoly on Africa,” Bathily said. “I have discussions with them, Africa is not a monopoly for nobody, we need a solution. Everybody should join hands to bring the solution.”
But Niang said that Akon Lighting Africa has learned a lot from its partners and is looking to build a coalition of organizations working on the issue. He’s been meeting with Power Africa officials to figure out how they might fit into that U.S. government initiative and work together.  
“We’re looking to partner with whoever delivers. We don’t really mind if you’re small or if you’re big — if you’re small we can help you grow and if you’re big you can help us grow. The unity is what’s going to keep Africa in a position where it can grow and be sustainable in the future,” Akon said.
Part of the reason Akon attended the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, in July and has been involved in Sustainable Energy for All meetings in New York is to learn from the various entrepreneurs and development organizations working in the space.
“The best way to recruit is to be in those kind of events and be a part of those things to see what they’re dealing with, what they’re developing, what they’re trying to contribute to the growth of Africa,” he said.
It’s also about charting the road ahead and determining how decisions made in those forums may impact their work.

What’s ahead

The organization will launch the Solektra Solar Academy in Mali in December, and in the long term is looking to become the utility company for rural energy in Africa.
Early on, Akon Lighting Africa realized that finding good human resources was also a challenge, so they began offering scholarships and training to locals to understand the market and the technology. This led to the decision to launch a solar academy, a training school specifically for solar power-related professions to build a cadre of knowledgeable Africans who can design systems, install and repair them, and build the future solar power businesses for the continent.
They’re not the first to recognize the need for talent — Off Grid Electric, a home solar electricity system company based in Tanzania, started a local academy to train potential future staff as they expand.
And while Akon Lighting Africa has focused on streetlights — in part to bring awareness, but also because it was an easy entry point with few regulations involved — it plans to move into developing “minigrids” in the next year. It is also working in partnership with U.S. universities, German researchers, Chinese equipment providers and some NGOs to help build the ecosystem for minigrids and help encourage government policies that would lead to business growth in that area.
And they want to move fast, both because of the need and because that’s what people expect, Akon said.
“We’re not politicians so we don’t move like politicians, but we move like people who need for real action,” he said.
It’s clear that this is a deeply personal pursuit for Akon, one that symbolizes a break from the past.
“Where I’m at in my life, what I’m doing is definitely, clearly not about the money, it’s the feeling you get helping other people,” he said. “You feel more complete because now you start to understand your worth and more than anything you start to realize what you’re here for, your purpose.”
The change is demonstrated by the initiative and echoed by his partners, who strongly believe in the power of a new generation of young Africans.
“Solar can be an answer for energy solutions, not only for Africa but for the rest of the world. We have to drive that,” Niang said.

It may have been his celebrity that put the initiative on the map, but Akon is determined to deliver. He uses music as an escape, he said, and keeps it mostly separate while traveling for Akon Lighting Africa; but he’s sure recent experiences will be reflected in upcoming work — from the positive tone to the world sound. His audience for Akon Lighting Africa, meanwhile, is watching closely.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


President Edgar Lungu’s successful state visit to China early this year that cemented and enhanced bilateral relationship and cooperation has started bearing fruits.
And China under the auspices of the agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation with the Zambian government has donated vehicles, assorted equipment and supplies worth K 18 million to the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda said the Forestry sector in the country has the potential to contribute up to 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said government will continue to make appropriate investments into the sector by rationalizing the regulatory framework in order to actualize its potential as major foreign exchange earners.
The Minister of Finance was speaking at the handover ceremony in Lusaka today where he reaffirmed government’s commitment in making the forestry and wildlife sectors key in creating jobs for Zambians.
He said the donation will help enhance government’s diversification programme away from the mining sector which has been the mainstay of the economy but vulnerable to external shocks.
Mr. Chikwanda explained that the tourism and forestry sector offers government an opportunity to move away from the turbulent mining sector in its economic diversification away.
He noted that protection and preservation of wildlife is a key prerequisite for ensuring sustainable tourism development and management.
And Tourism and Arts Minister Jean Kapata said wildlife crime on a global scale is increasingly becoming sophisticated and involves trans-national organized criminal syndicates that are behind illegal wildlife trade valued at about $ 20 billion annually.
Ms. Kapata noted that the demand for wildlife species such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and pangolins amongst others, robs African countries of its heritage and resource that could significantly help Zambia’s mineral dependent economy.
She further noted that the tourism industry in Zambia is wildlife based and tourists come to see wildlife hence the need to conserve it by all means.
Earlier, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming said China has the strictest laws against illegal forest and wildlife product trade in the world and will therefore play an active role on relevant enforcement actions.
Mr. Yang pointed out that from 2013 to 2015, China joined with other countries from Asia, Africa and South America in the operation cobra, prevented and probed more than 850 cases concerning illegal wildlife smuggling.
He noted that China and Zambia have good cooperation in the forest and wildlife protection field as evidenced by the installation of 8 sets of non-intrusive container scanning equipment in different border posts which has improved law enforcement.
And speaking at the same event, Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Minister, Christabel Ngimbu said the people of the two countries share strong ties that are historical, mutually beneficial and supportive of each other’s aspirations for development.
Mrs. Ngimbu said the equipment will also help her ministry in effective management of forests and wildlife.

China has donated 25 pickup trucks, 40 all-terrain vehicles, 250 motorcycles and 4,915 tents to ZAWA.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Women have been advised to develop a culture of examining their breast every morning in order to combat breast cancer.

Stiletto Ink Coordinator, Chalwe Mumba, said during the awareness campaign for cancer in women and men held in Lusaka today that checking breasts every day will equip women to start feeling any lump that may develop in their breasts.

Dr Mumba said detecting lumps in the breasts early leads to curing of the cancerous cells.

He said breast and cervical cancers are leading cancers among women in Zambia because of late diagnosis.

She urged women to involve the menfolk in the fight against cancer if extensive awareness is to be reached.

Dr Mumba also advised women to take interest in physical exercise as it reduces breast cancer by 40 per cent.

Hundreds of women and men in Lusaka turned up at East Park Mall for the cancer awareness campaign organised by Stiletto, Ink, an organisation owned by doctors involved in various health activities.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


A vial of pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumonia kills more children
under the age of 5 than any other disease.
Photo by: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Few people in the developed world would ever guess that pneumonia kills more children under the age of 5 than any other disease. This serious respiratory infection takes the lives of nearly a million children each year, with the vast majority of these deaths occurring in developing countries.

World Pneumonia Day on Nov. 12 reminds us of the urgent need to reduce health inequity around the world to ensure that no child dies from pneumonia or other vaccine-preventable disease.
As deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — a public-private partnership focused on saving children’s lives in the poorest countries — I am proud to say that since 2000, with the help of our many partners, Gavi has supported the immunization of more than 47 million children against pneumococcal disease. This has helped to almost halve the number of deaths caused by pneumonia.
This comes as part of a broader push that has taken global immunization coverage to an all-time high while cutting child mortality in half. By driving down vaccine prices and increasing access to immunization in the world’s poorest countries, Gavi and its partners have immunized more than half a billion children, preventing 7 million deaths in the process.
But our job is far from finished. More than 19 million children still miss out on the most basic package of vaccinations for common diseases each year, making them vulnerable to disease and death.
In the case of pneumonia what is needed is not major advances in technology, but access to that technology in the form of vaccines. Children are dying because health systems are weak and those who are most at risk are often not being reached with basic health care, including preventive interventions such as vaccines and treatments that they so desperately need when ill.
Access to vaccines is a fundamental human right and one of the most effective ways to protect people from disease and avert illnesses. For children living in the most remote places — whether urban slums, dense jungles or refugee camps — vaccines are often quite literally a lifeline.
Sadly, many of these children are still not being reached, which is all the more tragic given they represent the poorest and most vulnerable children in the world, and those who are most likely to be exposed to the pathogens that cause diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.

Scaling up coverage

Increasing access to vaccines against childhood killers like pneumonia will increase protection rates in the world’s poorest countries and will, in turn, avert billions of dollars in treatment costs and productivity losses. A scale-up in pneumococcal vaccine coverage until 2020 has the potential to save nearly 3 million lives and prevent 52 million cases of illness.
Controlling childhood pneumonia does not just mean reaching the hardest to reach children with vaccines. Immunization often acts as a powerful platform to offer an integrated bouquet of primary health care services, in particular for women and children.

Overcoming obstacles

I have personally been struck by the ability of vaccination services to transcend barriers of physical infrastructure and reach children in community settings through a system of regular and reliable outreach sessions. Notwithstanding the absence of “bricks and mortar” health facilities, determined frontline health workers travel long distances to deliver vaccines to children in nontraditional settings — such as under a tree. Many even use this opportunity to offer a range of additional maternal and child health services including supplementation, deworming, weighing of babies, contraception and nutritional counseling.
The public health impact of vaccines is further bolstered when accompanied by complementary interventions such as messages around WASH — water, sanitation, and hygiene. Fortunately, many of the interventions targeted at pneumonia also help control other childhood diseases, such as diarrhea and malaria. These interventions should be part of a comprehensive approach to child survival and immunization sessions offer an ideal platform for integrated services.

An integrated approach

Last year, as part of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea — an integrated approach to preventing and treating pneumonia and diarrhea — Bangladesh, India and Zambia piloted comprehensive programs aimed at ending the two major preventable causes of child death.
The GAPPD approach includes adequate nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a child’s life, hand-washing with soap, safe drinking water and sanitation, treatment with oral rehydration solution, antibiotics and zinc as well as immunization.
This idea of bringing together critical health services and interventions to create the healthiest possible environments for children is not new, but it is urgently needed in many parts of the world. This is especially true as the poorest and most deprived children often suffer from myriad deprivations, multiple illnesses and conditions all at the same time — substantially increasing their risk of death, disease or disability.
The benefits of integrated health systems and pneumonia immunization are clear: healthier children and families, better education outcomes for vaccinated children, lower health care costs, increased productivity, stronger economies and thriving communities.

It is a blessing that in wealthier countries, children have access to the vaccines and health systems necessary for them to become healthy, self-sufficient members of society. Let’s work to ensure that children everywhere regardless of their circumstances get the prevention and treatment that they deserve.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Government, through the Rural Electrification Authority (REA), will next year start the development of a 590KW Kasanjiku Mini-Hydro power station in Mwinilunga district in North-Western province.

Energy and Water Development Deputy Minister, Charles Zulu, says the project will cost ten million United States Dollars.

Mr Zulu says over 23,000 local people are expected to benefit from the project once it is completed.

The Deputy Minister said this when he officially commissioned a K2.6 million Situmbeko Rural Electrification Project at Kalala Primary School in Chibombo.

Mr Zulu said government will not relent in its effort to ensure that more people in rural areas have access to reliable sources of energy such as electricity.

He said government has continued to electrify as many rural areas as possible because it is aware that electricity is one of the catalysts for socio – economic development.

Mr Zulu said access to electricity does not only increase economic growth, but it also helps to fight poverty especially in rural areas.

And REA Chief Executive Officer, Geoffrey Musonda, said several government and private facilities in the area have since been electrified under the same project.

Mr Musonda urged beneficiaries in the area to use electricity productively and avoid illegal connections.

Meanwhile, Chieftainess Mungule has thanked government for connecting part of her chiefdom to the national electricity grid.

The traditional leader also called on government to ensure that more schools in her chiefdom are connected to electricity, saying this will ensure that pupils learn computer lessons without challenges.

The Situmbeko Project is among the 2014 Grid Extension Projects whose implementation started in the latter part of last year at a total cost of K55 million.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, vice chair of the U.N. Global Compact Board
and chairman of the Global Compact Foundation.
Photo by: Mark Garten / United Nations
Strong leadership has the potential to transform the way a company engages with social, environmental and development challenges. But when development-minded leaders leave their corporations, the challenge lies in ensuring those cross-sectoral partnerships and sustainable business practices live on after their departure.
It’s a challenge that deserves attention, especially as leaders emerge like Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who participated with other private sector chiefs to recommend Sustainable Development Goals framework. But perhaps it begs attention even more so thanks to the examples of companies that have backslid following the departure of a leader — when suddenly a bad quarter means a change in policy.
Devex spoke with Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former chairman of Shell, who has been engaged on these issues for many years, including through his role as chairman of the foundation for the United Nations Global Compact.
Moody-Stuart shares his advice on encouraging accountability and the importance of both individual and coalition leadership in this excerpt from the conversation:

How have you seen private sector engagement evolve? Do you think we’ve reached a pivotal moment yet?
The evolution has taken place. If we go back to the 90s … In those days we started looking at working with multiple stakeholders, looking at stakeholder requirements viewing companies in relation to stakeholders and looking at what we used to call nonfinancial elements. There was very little interest from the investor community.
So I think it’s really changing. I went to a meeting at the New York Stock Exchange [in September] where you had stock exchanges from all around the world talking about the need for listing standards on transparency etc., so it is spreading.
The Sustainable Development Goals took a step forward in that area I think. They were widely consulted, but I still worry in the implementation locally we don’t necessarily have this combination ... if we’re to deliver the goals we have to do it in each country and that means building coalitions in the country. You can’t have real political influence as a single business, even as a coalition of businesses. We don’t want [just] business coalitions [or just] single businesses having influence, but if you can combine them with civil society they can keep each other honest and both sides need keeping honest. And then they can genuinely influence governments.

Who can go about building those local coalitions?
I think the U.N. Global Compact local networks are one potential avenue because they do bring together the affiliates of international business, national business, small and medium-sized enterprises, national NGOs, civil society and labor unions where they exist. That is in an ideal world. We’ve got 85 networks and they’re not all ideal — some of them are quite weak. So we have a lot of work to do, but I’m sure it’s a very good framework on which to work in the coming period in the Global Compact.
It’s going to take hard work and it’s going to take leadership. You only put together these groups if you have quite strong leadership and that could come from every sector; it’s very much an individual thing. But one of my drives is to encourage affiliates of major companies to participate — because sometimes they don’t — and they have a lot to gain from it and vice versa. So I’m not saying we’ve solved it and not trying to over talk the strength of it, but I think it’s a potential solution.

You brought up the issue of individual leadership and we certainly see some examples of corporate executives who are rethinking the way their companies do business. How much of that change is because of leadership at the top and what happens when that leader leaves?
Of course it depends on leadership, but leadership should be distributed and institutionalized so the executive team from whom the likely next leader comes should really believe in it. That again is a question of to what extent, it’s a question of the penetration of values, which is a complicated issue … It depends how you built the values and what process you went through; but having arrived at them, if you allow exceptions to the values, [it is a problem]. So if you have a member of the leadership team who delivers fantastic results and is a very able person but doesn’t actually reflect the values, I think you are in trouble.
The classic thing is every company says, “Respect for people is one of our major values,” but there are behaviors at top companies, which basically is nonsense. If you don’t address that then people think, “Well, actually respect for people is OK, but making money is more important.” So I think the institutionalization of values and embedding values and checking that they are embedded is a major element to leadership.

Corporate engagement on social and environmental issues has often come in response to a crisis. Do companies need to become more proactive rather than reactive?
Crisis is important. But yes, in a perfect world, yes. If you look at the formation of many things that started 20 years ago — traded markets, forest stewardship council, sustainable fisheries and so on. The formation of these things has a kind of common path you can track.
Somebody raises a problem and that somebody is normally not in a corporation, it’s [someone] outside the corporation that says, “Oh, we have a problem.” Corporate reaction might be that, “It’s not a very big threat,” or, “There’s nothing much we can do about it,” “We don’t do that,” or, “It’s a government problem and the government should do something about it” — and you don’t get much happening. And then at a certain point a responsible company says, “I’m not sure this has anything to do with us, but let’s at least talk about it.” Then you begin to talk and then out of that comes experimental solutions … and if they work then that kind of bandwagon builds and I think that’s proactive.

So the answer is to listen very carefully to your critics. I always say business schools should teach people to listen, not just to listen selectively but listen to people who disagree with you. There’s probably a reason and you better find out what the reason is and you better find out if there’s any fire behind the smoke and you may be surprised. I think the answer to being proactive is radar scanning.