The year climate change knocked hard on many doors

The year comes to an end in 10 days, wrapping up one of the most eventful years that was characterised by unprecedented global events ranging from geopolitics to extreme weather temperatures.

2023 will probably go down in the annals of history as the year climate change knocked hard on many doors, upending lives of millions of people across the globe, as temperatures shot to an all-time high, triggering a series of natural disasters.

With some global players having been taking a lackadaisical approach on environmental issues, the year also offered numerous opportunities for the world and global leaders to recalibrate their commitments toward an environmentally positive outlook.

Geopolitics also took centre stages with several conflicts breaking out, amid fervent attempts by global organisations to preach peace.

Climate Change

The effects of climate change were felt across the globe, with the World Meteorological Organisation declaring 2023 as the “Earth’s hottest year in human history”.

Extreme weather conditions of varying nature resulted in loss of lives, displacement of thousands of people and destruction of property running into millions of dollars, during the course of the year.

July was recorded as the world’s hottest month and possibly the warmest in 120 000 years, as heat waves and extreme cold temperatures characterised the better part of July, giving credence to climate scientists claims.

Europe experienced some of the worst extreme weather temperatures, which were attributed to El Niño.

Heat waves in Europe resulted in blazes of wildfires, destroying thousands of hectares in Italy, Portugal, Spain, France and Croatia. During the course of the year temperatures in the North West China reached a high 52,2degrees Celsius, breaking that country’s record.

In Africa, the situation was no better as the Horn of the Africa experienced one of its worst famines, as it entered its third year — and sixth consecutive season — of failed rainfall.

Having displaced more than 2,3 million people across the region due to drought, floods hit the region, bringing more painful effects of extreme weather conditions.

Nearly 70 people were killed in Tanzania, 15 in Kenya, and dozens of others in Somalia and South Sudan, during torrential rains, leaving hundreds homeless.

In south-eastern Africa, cyclone wreaked havoc in Malawi and Mozambique, killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands.

It was during the just-ended COP28 that global leaders called for the acceleration of political commitments and resources, if the war against climate change was to be won.

Nearly every country in the world has agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels” – the main driver of climate change — at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

It is the first time such an agreement has been reached in 28 years of international climate negotiations.

COP28 president and oil executive Dr Sultan Al Jaber was elated with the decision and hailed the “world-first” achievement of getting “fossil fuels” in a UN climate change agreement. It remains to be seen if member states will commit to the decision.

Elections

Six African countries — Madagascar, Liberia, Nigeria, Gabon, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe — held elections this year to choose new political leaders in a show of democracy and good governance.

The Democratic Republic of Congo went to the polls yesterday, to elect a President, Members of Parliament and councillors, to consolidate their democracy through a plebiscite widely expected to be peaceful, free and fair given the pre-election tranquillity prevailing in most parts of the country.

Zimbabwe held its harmonised elections in August in a process that ushered in new political players who will represent their constituencies in Parliament and councils for the next five years.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) aggregated results showed a decline in the number of women elected to represent their constituencies in both National Assembly and council seats.

Out of the 70 female candidates who threw their hats for the 209 National Assembly seats that were up for contest, only 22 emerged victorious in these high-octane plebiscite, while a higher percentage was obtained from local authority polls.

The result of female contestants was an expected outcome, considering that all political parties fielded less women compared to men as campaigns heated up months before the plebiscite.

Geopolitics

The unorthodox means of getting in power continued in West Africa and Central Africa in 2023, threatening peace and stability in Africa as external forces continue to create pockets of discontent among the continental citizenry.

Elsewhere in West Africa, attempted coups were also curtailed in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.

Land

The issue of land remains a highly contested and emotive issue that continues to generate so much interest across Africa.

Land lies at the heart of social, political and economic life in most of Africa. Because it boast of arable land, Africa has a keen interest on any related narrative that touches on this key resource.

Most agricultural-related projects, natural resources and other land-based activities that are fundamental to livelihoods, food security, incomes and employment heavily rely on land.

The issue is heavily tied to major historical and spiritual events that took place in most parts of Africa, though in various forms and trajectories.

The need to recover appropriated land from the black majority torched the flames of the liberation movements, which subsequently led to liberation struggles across Africa.

It is because of its significance to the African people that thousands of government officials, academics and researchers gathered in Addis Ababa in November to discuss how the continent can come up with sound policies that encourage active participation of women and youth in agriculture for them to benefit from opportunities under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and digitalisation.

During the five-day conference academics, researchers, land experts including those from Zimbabwe and government officials from member states discussed how land policies can foster inclusive trade, while enhancing social and economic integration as envisioned in Agenda 2063.

The African Land Policy Centre, a collaborative project of the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission, and the African Development Bank, hosts the Conference on Land Policy in Africa every two years.

Open borders

Africa’s big economies are opening up to one another as governments increasingly drop visa requirements and even passports for travellers from other African countries.

The year saw a number of several visa agreements in diplomatic efforts meant to boost and generate more revenue.

The decision by several African governments to open up their borders resonates well with the aspirations of the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA), which seeks to promote and grow this intra-continental trading platform launched in 2019.

Already, over 50 African countries, among them Zimbabwe, have deposited their instruments of AfCFTA ratification.

The creation of a single market under the AfCFTA provides opportunities for both economic growth and the creation of new as well as innovative networks for those operating in sectors such as mining, manufacturing, agriculture, agro-processing and other economic activities that occur on land.

Countries that inked opening of the borders agreements included Mozambique, which waived visas for 29 countries which included Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal.

Rwanda abolished visas for all Africans, while Kenya followed suit after signing a 90-day visa waiver with South Africa.

South Africa also signed a visa waiver with Ghana.

Zimbabwe and Botswana will soon open its borders to allow citizens from both countries to travel using only identity cards, after President Mnangagwa and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi agreed to open up borders between the two neighbours for their citizens to travel with just identity documents.

Speaking to Zimbabwean journalists in Botswana recently President Mnangagwa said the envisioned dispensation — agreed with his Botswana counterpart President Mokgweetsi Masisi — would mean travellers only require their respective national identity documents to travel between the two countries.

“We impose constraints on ourselves which are more colonial than they are patriotic, so we agreed that he (President Masisi) himself on his side and myself on my side are going to instruct the relevant departments to ease these constraints of movement of people between our two countries,” said President Mnangagwa.

The decision is a welcome move that will improve trade between the two countries, while enhancing social relations of citizens from both parties, with some having married across borders.

Herald

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