African countries

CHOGM 2022: an important homecoming for African countries

Last Friday, the curtain was drawn for the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held from 20-25 June 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda. The week-long program was attended by over 50 government leaders and joined by leaders from business, philanthropy, royalty and civil society.

Convergence, on the theme ‘Delivering a common future: connecting, innovating, transforming” is all to one end – reaffirming shared values ​​and agreeing on actions and policies to improve the lives of all Commonwealth citizens.

What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The Commonwealth includes countries from advanced and developed economies. Leaders of Commonwealth countries meet every two years for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), hosted by different member countries on a rotating basis. Since 1971, 24 meetings have taken place, the most recent being in the UK in 2018. The main takeaways from the meeting for Africans are:

Gabon and Togo are now members of the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth admitted Gabon and Togo as its 55th and 56th members. Notably, neither country has a historical association with the Commonwealth, with both gaining independence from France in the 1960s. When the Queen became head of the Commonwealth in 1949, the body numbered just eight ( 8) member countries. Seventy-three years later, the Commonwealth nations are now 56. There were nineteen Commonwealth member states in Africa, and Rwanda was the last country to join the Commonwealth in 2009.

Membership would help these countries access new export markets, open the economic door to 2.5 billion consumers in the Commonwealth realm, fund development projects and enable their citizens to learn English and to access new educational and cultural resources.

The eligibility criteria membership of the Commonwealth imply that a candidate country must demonstrate its attachment to democracy and its many qualities (free and fair elections, rule of law and independence of the judiciary, protection of human rights). But the admission of Gabon and Togo could raise questions because the two countries have been under dynastic rule for more than half a century and elections have been hampered by irregularities, violence and allegations of fraud.

The Commonwealth renews its commitments to end malaria and NTDs.

Reinforcing commitments to eliminate malaria and NTDs by 2030, Commonwealth leaders pledged more than $4 billion in new funding and pharmaceutical companies donated 18 billion tablets.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, but its prevalence is disproportionate. Africa is the most affected due to factors such as local weather conditions which often allow transmission to occur all year round, resource scarcity and socio-economic instability which has hampered the effectiveness of activities in the fight against malaria.

In 2020, malaria caused approximately 241 million clinical episodes and 627,000 deaths. Of these deaths, 95% occurred in the WHO African Region. Malaria costs society in many ways. No less than 12 billion dollars are incurred each year in direct costs (illness, treatment, premature death).

Similarly, NTDs, which most often affect some of the world’s most vulnerable people, are endemic in forty-six of the fifty-four Commonwealth countries, accounting for two-thirds of the global burden.

Progress against malaria and NTDs has stalled in recent years and even reversed in some countries due to lack of funding, overcrowding and the coronavirus pandemic. The Commonwealth’s commitment will again serve as a sustainable means of addressing these health deficiencies.

The Commonwealth adopts the “Living Lands Charter”

Members of the Commonwealth have agreed to dedicate “living land” in their respective countries to future generations, in line with the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. The Living Earths Charter mandates the 54 member countries to protect the world’s earth resources while taking coordinated action against climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable land management.

This would reinforce the commitment made under the Paris Agreement to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to continue efforts to limit the increase in temperature. at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This charter has many advantages for the African continent, which is bearing the full brunt of the harmful effects of climate change. Also a Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Center assists developing country members with human and institutional capacity to mobilize climate finance for enhanced climate action, including through the development of bankable projects and sound climate policies, etc.

Two African countries to lead Commonwealth action on clean energy

The governments of Kenya and Eswatini have stepped forward to champion action on geothermal energy and energy literacy under the Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Transition (CSET) programme.

The CSET Agenda is the Commonwealth’s flagship for accelerating the global energy transition. According to the Commonwealth, Kenya and Eswatini will lead the formation of willing coalitions of member states willing to work together to develop strategies on geothermal energy and literacy.

Currently, four Commonwealth member countries have installed geothermal energy. New Zealand and Kenya have the highest installed capacity with 984 MW and 823.8 MW respectively, followed by Papua New Guinea (56 MW) and Australia (0.31 MW).

However, there is great potential for its development in the Commonwealth, especially in countries rich in geothermal resources such as Canada, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean and Americas ; Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda in East Africa; and Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific.

The Energy Literacy Action Group will share information, know-how and best practices and collaborate to promote energy literacy among children, young people, local communities and other relevant stakeholders. Countries like Malta, Ghana, Seychelles and Sri Lanka have already registered to join the Action Group.