The Democratic Republic of the Congo is going through its worst ever Ebola epidemic and there appears to be no end in sight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 72 people contracted the disease last week — more than double the number of the previous weeks’ averages. Since the widespread outbreak of the epidemic in August 2018, more than 1,000 people have contracted Ebola, the Congo Health Ministry reports.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared DR Congo’s Ebola outbreak an international health emergency, sounding a rarely used global alarm after the virus threatened to spread to a major city and into neighbouring countries.
The health agency also says the disease has spread into neighbouring Rwanda citing the infection of a pastor who rode from Butembo to Goma, and it’s identified 60 people who were on his bus tha have since been quarantined and vaccinated.
West African Ebola virus epidemic
February 2014 – The Western African Ebola virus epidemic was the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history—causing major loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in the region, mainly in the countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
London (CNN Business)The world’s biggest metal exchange is changing its rules to combat child labour, money laundering, bribery and corruption. The London Metal Exchange will require producers that operate in high-risk and conflict zones to demonstrate that their products are responsibly sourced by 2022.
“Global consumers rightly demand action on responsible sourcing — and our industry must listen,” CEO Matthew Chamberlain said in a statement. He said the exchange is adopting the standards because “it’s the right thing to do” and because “the value of our market is based on providing metal which is acceptable to those consumers.
“The London Metal Exchange has come under increasing pressure after a 2017 Amnesty International report found child labour and human rights abuses at cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The country is responsible for roughly half of the world’s production of cobalt — some of which is traded on the London exchange and later used to produce batteries for smartphones and electric cars.
Media and watchdog reports have detailed widespread bribery and corruption connected to mining around the world, as well as evidence that revenue generated has been used to finance conflict. Many companies are trying to ensure their supply chains are free from conflict minerals and child labour. Volkswagen (VLKAF), for example, has just launched a pilot program that uses blockchain technology to trace raw material back to the point of origin.
The London Metal Exchange pledged last year to change its policy in response to allegations that it allowed untraceable metals to be traded. It published a position paper in December outlining its next steps, but more than a dozen NGOs including Amnesty International and Global Witness responded by pushing for even stricter standards and more transparency. The exchange, which handled $15.7 trillion in metals trade in 2018, said Tuesday that it had considered the feedback when drafting its new rules.
Companies that produce metals traded on the exchange will be required to run their own “red flag” assessments based on guidelines from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development by the end of 2020. The exchange will then review the assessments. Producers with red flags will be audited by the exchange by the end of 2022. Starting in 2024, the exchange will require the producers to publish their assessments. The exchange said Tuesday that it wants to work with the companies on a voluntary basis, but added that its “core power” is to suspend or remove the companies that refuse to cooperate.
Global Witness said Tuesday the new requirements are a step in the right direction. Sophia Pickles, a supply chain investigator at Global Witness, said that the decision to require brands to publicly report on financial crime and corruption risks was particularly important. However, she said the exchange should take additional steps.”The [London Metal Exchange] must also go further when it comes to tackling the impacts of its brands on the planet … [and] require companies to report on environmental and climate risk, too,” she added.
Earth Journalism NetworkA coalition of non-governmental organizations has called on France to end support to industrial logging in the Congo Basin.
CRIMSON TAZVINZWA|AIWA! NO!|The Norwegian government says it is taking “very seriously” evidence that the Democratic Republic of Congo is issuing new logging licenses after agreeing a $200million initiative to prevent deforestation.
The news comes despite a moratorium on new logging licences being in place in the country since 2002.
The Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) aims to limit deforestation in the world’s second largest rainforest, the Congo Basin. The deal is also backed by the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union – with Norway providing the vast majority of the funding.
Yet materials reports suggest that the country’s former environment minister Robert Bopolo Mbongeza signed documents pledging logging concessions in northern Congo to two companies.
The vast forest of the Congo Basin is the second largest tropical rainforest on earth and the lungs of Africa. Its incredibly rich and diverse ecosystem provides food, fresh water, shelter and medicine for tens of millions of people, and is home to many critically endangered species including forest elephants, gorillas, bonobos and okapis. Of the hundreds of mammal species discovered there so far, 39 are found nowhere else on Earth, and of its estimated 10,000 plant species, 3,300 are unique to the region.
The rainforest supports an astonishing range of life, within its teeming rivers, swamps and savannahs. But it also helps to sustain life across the whole planet. An estimated 8% of the earth’s carbon that is stored in living forests worldwide is stored in the forests of the DRC, making the country the fourth largest carbon reservoir in the world. The Congo Basin rainforest plays a critical role in regulating the global climate and halting runaway climate change, for the benefit of the entire biosphere.
But the forest, and the people and animals that depend upon it, are under threat as the unquenchable global thirst for natural resources, crops and foodstuffs means African lands are, more than ever, a target for investors. The solutions to these threats lie firmly with those who live there.
Multi-million dollar fund
The Norwegian government provided $190m of the funding for the CAFI deal, with the UK backing the agreement but providing no direct funding.
Responding to the story, Lars Andreas Lunde, the state secretary of Norway’s climate and environment ministry said his government was taking the revelations “very seriously”.
“We are working with and through the secretariat of the Central African Forest Initiative to resolve this situation with DRC authorities,” he said.
“We take these revelations very seriously, and we note that the concessions were awarded by a now departed minister of environment. We have been reassured by the DRC authorities that they will deal with this issue as quickly and decisively as possible according to their own rules and procedures.”
Being a digital entrepreneur in the Democratic Republic of Congo comes with many challenges, not least that internet access is very limited in a vast country of more than 80 million people.
Overcoming the odds, a small vibrant tech scene is emerging in the sprawling capital, backed by funding from the DRC diaspora.
Dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs and curious investors recently gathered in Kinshasa for the launch of “Ingenious City,” a dual-use meeting and office space with high speed internet for Congolese start-ups.
WapiMED, an online map where users can book and pay for medical consultations, was founded by two Congolese, Jose Zefu Kimpalou and Steve Nkashama. Their startup is self-financed for now.
“As entrepreneurs, we don’t think about the risks; we think about how we can initiate change and bring about a solution to a problem,” said company country manager, Daddy Kabeyal.
Kabeyal, who studied in Europe before returning to Kinshasa, joined the team last year after a career in marketing.
Using their online platform, a Congolese living abroad can pay for medical treatment for relatives back home.
Fighting for funding
Access to high speed internet is not the only problem — many investors are wary of the political and security risks in DRC.
The banks can provide some funding but entrepreneurs find it difficult to convince them that they are a safe bet.
“Being an entrepreneur in Kinshasa is a bit like being thrown in the middle of a boxing ring and you have to fight against someone who is stronger than you”, said Baya Ciamala, known as Narsix and founder of Baziks, a music streaming app.
“We need working capital. We need to invest in research and development for our projects, because it’s really a new industry that requires flexibility and funds to be able to move forward and operate, and that is really not easy in Kinshasa”, he added.
“We’re going to tell the banks — here are those you should give funds to,” said Serge Nawej, president of the National Commission for Young Entrepreneurs (CNJE).
“We’ll give our members legal advice and encourage revenue sharing,” said Nawej, who hopes to reach 55,000 members by 2020.
Thomas Strouvens, a Belgian citizen with Congolese roots, moved to Kinshasa five years ago, deciding to leave his job in advertising and launch a start-up last year with his co-founder Jean-Louis Mbaka.
The pair created Youdee, a real-estate website that connects owners, renters, buyers and sellers. Since launching in 2017, they have been attracting 5,000 views per month. Strouvens and Mbaka were able to raise funds and hire eight employees in Kinshasa.
“We are better organised and have a stronger tech community than people think. There’s a real potential here,” said Strouvens. “Entrepreneurs need a bit more support from the state and from the private sector, but we really don’t have anything to envy from our neighbours.”
‘Useful to my country’
Jonathan Kiloso, who spent several years in France, recently co-founded an incubator called Start It Congo. His aim is to support six Congolese start-ups this year.
“I want to be useful to my country,” he said, “but it’s also a business venture. In a market that isn’t very competitive, the digital space presents an opportunity but you have to have an idea”.
Kiloso backs Baziks, which aims to promote Congolese and African musicians.
“Music in the DRC is like football in Brazil”, said Ciamala. “We could have started our company in France but I think it’s important to start in the country of origin”.
Baziks connects African musicians with listeners through a system of “followers”. The application offers a pay-by-song service as well as a premium subscription service.
Ciamala’s goal is to reach two percent of the connected population in the DRC.
“It’s a bit philosophical but it’s also to prove that we can do things here, that we can export internationally, instead of the other way around”.