Ifriqyia Energy Hub, Sep. 18-20

The 1st edition of the Ifriqyia Energy Hub (IEH 2023) will be held on September 18-20 at the Culture City in Tunis.

The conference hosted by the Tunisia Energy Society (TENS), will bring together key energy players from across the African Continent to discuss challenges related to building a sustainable energy framework and promoting inclusive dialogue about energy-related topics.

The conference will also cover a range of topics including renewable energy, hydrocarbons, electricity and energy efficiency.

This conference will be attended by the main players in the region, regional organisations, financial institutions, political and parliamentary representatives, civil society, industrial companies and energy experts.

Keynote speakers from African countries and from Tunisia will be invited and specific panels will be on the following themes: Oil and gas evolution, energy transition, energy management solutions, social and environment sustainability and African energy synergies.

2024 President of the Society Of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Terry Palisch will be among the honorary guests.

Tunisia Energy Society (TENS) is a non-profit and non-partisan organisation bringing together energy professionals with the aim to support the executive and the legislative body building a sustainable and well-governed energy markets in Tunisia.

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

Oasis sector in southern Tunisia: Green belt of Gafsa prey to climate change! (FTDES)

The oases of Gafsa, which cover around 3,000 hectares, or 5% of the total surface area of oases across Tunisia, are having considerable difficulty surviving against the challenges they face, according to the biannual Environmental Justice Review, published by the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES).

“The oasis sector in this region suffers from a number of problems, with the negative impact of climate change and the succession of years of drought posing the main challenge. This drought is due to the scarcity of rainfall, the depletion of water resources, and the resulting high salinity of the water and soil. Urban expansion, pollution caused by industrial activities, and the agricultural model adopted, characterised by monoculture, are also factors that have aggravated the risks facing this sector.”

“The results of prospective studies on climate change predict that southern Tunisia will be seriously affected by climate change. Temperatures will rise by 1.9 degrees Celsius by 2030 and by 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2050, while rainfall is expected to fall by 9% up to 2030 and by around 17% in 2050.”

“Tunisia’s oases are likely to be seriously affected by climate change, especially as the depletion of groundwater resources will lead to an increasing drop in the level of water tables, a worsening of their quality and high pumping costs.”

//Support for export: Has the State’s policy exacerbated the degradation of the oasis sector?

Despite its economic importance to farmers in the region, the oasis is facing threats to its biodiversity and sustainability due to the country’s export subsidy policy.

The FTDES considers that the institutional, legal and organisational failings of the State are increasingly hampering good governance of this agricultural system.

“For years, Tunisia has been encouraging the cultivation of the “Deglet Noor” variety for purely profit-making purposes in line with the country’s commitment to international trade in agricultural products. However, Noor dates require huge quantities of water and are more susceptible to disease than other varieties. It has therefore become imperative for the State to review its policy in the oasis sector and adopt new strategies that will help generate economic profits while preserving the ecological balance,” the forum pointed out.

//The Gafsa Oasis: Environmental and human heritage

“The Gafsa oasis has been classified by the FAO as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) that must be preserved for future generations. This is due to the rich tangible and intangible heritage of biodiversity and its importance in achieving food security in the region, as well as the efficient use of soil and the rationalisation of water consumption,” said Noureddine Nasr, an agricultural engineer and researcher specialising in rural geography.

“the governorate of Gafsa is characterised by continental oases clustered in the delegations of South Gafsa, Legsar and Legtar, forming a belt that protects the environment and prevents the desert from advancing. It is also home to thousands of olive trees, vines and palm trees. Thanks to the region’s water resources and soil quality, agriculture has been possible there for decades.”

“What makes the Gafsa oasis unique is its association with the towns (urban agriculture), encouraging the integration of livestock farming. It is essentially family farming based on agro-ecological practices.”

“The farming system adopted since ancient times has been “multi-layered,” with crops spread over 3 levels. Grain and vegetables are grown on the lowest level, fruit trees such as olives and apricots on the second and date palms provide shade for the lower levels.”

“The oasis system plays a key environmental role in combating desertification, preserving the ecological balance and conserving biodiversity in desert areas. It also provides oxygen to towns and their neighbouring regions.”

The Gafsa oasis also plays an important economic role, providing jobs and improving food security through the abundant production of dates.

“Nevertheless, the Gafsa oasis is one of the areas suffering from the effects of climate change, which are increasingly threatening it. Its productivity has fallen considerably, and the lack of water has adversely impacted the richness of oasis products and led to a proliferation of single-layer oases.

It is also necessary to point out the increasing degradation of these oasis areas due to the excessive and irrational exploitation of water resources.

These scarce resources are under enormous pressure.

furthermore, demographic pressure has contributed to growing urban expansion and uncontrolled construction, at the expense of oasis areas.”

“It is also crucial to take into account the dilemma of the fragmentation of farms and the small farm area due to inheritance, as well as the loss of the commercial value of date crops and varieties, particularly with the emergence of new varieties that are better adapted to the market. Soil fatigue and salinisation are also additional factors to be taken into consideration,” the FTDES warned.

The record rise in temperatures due to climate change has led to the emergence of agricultural pests such as the dust spider, explained researcher specialising in biology and entomology, Samah Ben Shaaban.

//Supporting multi-layered agricultural systems

The current situation in the oasis sector calls for support for multi-layered agricultural systems, as studies have demonstrated their resilience and ability to withstand climate change, unlike modern oases that rely solely on Deglet Noor palms, as confirmed by Noureddine Nasr.

Intelligent irrigation practices must also be adopted to provide the palm trees and the various crops grown in the oasis with the quantity of water they need at each stage of their life cycle.

At the Regional Forum for Environmental Justice in Gafsa in 2021, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights stressed the importance of enforcing laws and legislation relating to the oasis sector, in particular the law on abandonment. It also called for tighter controls on unplanned construction on agricultural land and for action to combat urban sprawl to the detriment of oasis areas.

In addition, the cultivation of date varieties that consume less water should be encouraged, while preserving the soil, a crucial element of the oasis, and ending all practices that lead to its degradation, such as industrial pollution and toxic gases from institutions specialising in extractive industries like the Gafsa Phosphate Company and the Chemical Group.

It is also recommended that the old oasis model, capable of adapting to climate change, be adopted.

Environmentalists are also calling for the provisions of the National Charter for the Protection and Development of Oases in Tunisia to be activated.

This national declaration aims to recognise and consider the oasis system in all its environmental, social, economic and cultural dimensions.

Faced with these challenges, Tunisia should adopt and implement a vision of sustainable development in order to preserve oasis wealth and seek genuine alternatives to support farmers with the challenges posed by agricultural activity in oases and adaptation to climate change, recommends the FTDES.

Translated by Ben Dhaou Nejiba

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

Road safety: Over 3 deaths per day on Tunisia’s roads

Tunisia has recorded over 3 deaths a day from road accidents since the start of the current year, according to figures released by the National Road Safety Observatory on its website.

The Observatory indicated that the number of deaths due to road accidents recorded from the beginning of the year to mid-September 2023 reached 840, up 18% compared with the same period last year (711 deaths).

A total of 3,864 traffic accidents were reported during the same period, an average of 15 per day.

A drop of 213 accidents compared with last year.

These accidents resulted in 5,439 injuries, compared with 5,963 in 2022, down by 524 compared with the same period.

According to the observatory’s data, the most affected regions are as follows: The governorate of Sfax topped the list with 107 deaths, followed by the governorate of Tunis with 67 deaths, then the governorate of Nabeul (54) and finally the governorate of Sousse (53).

The highest number of road deaths was registered on national roads (217 deaths), followed by regional roads (142) and local roads (133).

Inattention and lack of vigilance are the main causes with an estimated rate of 41.33%, the National Road Safety Observatory considered.

Speeding was the second most common cause, accounting for 16% of accidents, while failure to give way came third, accounting for 8.36% of accidents recorded up to September 14.

Speeding was the main cause of death in these accidents, with 254 fatalities, while inattention and lack of vigilance caused the highest number of injuries (1,924).

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

Visit by European delegation: “There has been no prior coordination with Tunisian authorities” (MOFA source)

The members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) who were due to visit Tunisia on September 14-16 “did not coordinate beforehand with the official Tunisian authorities,” said a source of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

In a statement to TAP, the same source explained that members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) had been due to visit Tunisia on September 14-16, but that there had been no prior coordination with the official authorities, as required by established international custom for the organisation of visits by foreign delegations.

Such visits are regularly coordinated in advance with the official authorities of the host countries, particularly with regard to the date of the visit, the composition of the delegation and the work programme.

This approach, the same source indicated, is “completely unacceptable” and contravenes international standards, considering that it is an unjustified “provocation,” and that Tunisia will never be an arena for the settling of scores between different foreign political sides.

Tunis, for its part, has never sent parliamentary delegations to inspect or assess the situation in any country in the world, the same source pointed out.

“Tunis is keen to maintain excellent relations with the European Parliament and to further consolidate them, in view of the major role played by this institution within the European Union.”

The same source recalled the recent exchange of several visits by Tunisian and European parliamentary delegations, which, it said, testifies to the shared commitment to pursue a positive and constructive dialogue based on mutual respect and without interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

The MOFA source recalled the numerous visits made by European parliamentary delegations to Tunisia over the past period, including those of MEP Manfred Weber, Chairman of the European People’s Party group (the largest group in the European Parliament), and the Green Party delegation, in addition to the forthcoming missions scheduled by parliamentary delegations from European Union member States.

The same source added that among the members of the parliamentary delegation due to travel to Tunisia are MEPs known for their “hostile positions towards Tunisia” and for their “partisan and non-objective remarks about Tunisia, the choices of its people and its institutions.”

The Tunisian authorities refused to receive this delegation and asked the European side, via the European Union mission in Tunisia and the Tunisian embassy in Brussels, to change the composition of the delegation and include more objective MEPs, the same source said.

The same source specified that the concerned sides had agreed on the same composition of the parliamentary delegation.

Besides, the delegation’s programme of visits had not included a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as had been the case during their previous visits to Tunisia, the same source added.

Tunis was constraint to declare that the members of the delegation “are not welcome on Tunisian territory.”

The source also reaffirmed Tunisia’s willingness to carry on constructive dialogue with the European Parliament on the basis of mutual respect, reiterating its total rejection of any interference in its domestic affairs, while insisting on respect for the choices of its people.

Five members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs were refused entry to Tunisia on Thursday.

The purpose of the visit, according to a European Parliament press release, is to assess the current political situation in the country (…) and to take stock of the migration agreement signed in mid-July between the European Union and Tunisia.

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

Fitch Solutions publishes “Tunisia Logistics & Freight Transport Report”

The Fitch Solutions published the “Tunisia Logistics and Freight Transport Report,” which analyses the utilities infrastructure, transport systems, trade procedures and supply chain risks in Tunisia utilising the BMI Logistics Risk Index that compares levels of risk across 200+ markets worldwide.

According to the report, businesses in Tunisia largely benefit from the country’s easy road connectivity to vast areas in the country, as well as to its trading partners via air and sea transport.

Businesses in the manufacturing sector would incur higher operating costs as a result of the overreliance on imported refined petroleum.

Additionally, businesses are vulnerable to supply chain interruptions due to the poor condition of the infrastructure of the road and rail networks, and congestion at seaports, the same source added.

The country’s capacity to draw critical investment in transportation infrastructure has been weakened by continuous political and social unrest, with certain crucial projects experiencing delays.

“This has caused the quality of the country’s transportation system to gradually decline, aggravating supply chain inefficiencies for businesses operating there,” reads the report.

The report further turned on four sections: transport network, trade procedures and governance, uilities network market overview.

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

FPB CEO appointed as Vice Chair of Global Online Safety Regulators Network

Film and Publication Board (FPB) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Mashilo Boloka, has been appointed as Vice Chairperson of the Global Online Safety Regulators Network (GORSN).

Boloka’s appointment as Vice Chairperson, was made by the Global Online Safety Network during a meeting hosted by the UK’s Communications Regulator, the Office of Communications (OFCOM) in London.

His one-year term will run until 2024.

Welcoming the new leadership, outgoing Chairperson and eSafety Commissioner’s Julie Inman-Grant, said they are happy to hand over the reins to OFCOM under the capable stewardship of Gill Whitehead.

“The 2024 Vice Chair will be the incredibly energetic Mashilo Boloka, CEO of the South African Film and Publication Board. We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder in working together to work towards creating a safer, more positive online world,” Inman-Grant said.

Boloka’s appointment follows the FPB’s acceptance as a member of the GORSN earlier in July 2023.

The network was established in November 2022 to promote online safety and share information and good practice around online regulation.

Dr Boloka said the network represents a collaborative initiative to fight the borderless online harms, pursue harmonisation to avoid fragmentation of online safety legislation and coordinated online safety measures.

“As the Film and Publication Board of South Africa, we are excited to be a member of this Network. As the only representative on the African continent, we will ensure that voice of other regulators on the continent and the other developing worlds is heard.

“We will persuade other regulators on the continent to join the Network so that they can seize the opportunities it provides, information sharing on experiences and best practices so that we can together promote a safer online environment and fight online harms wherever it exists,” Boloka said.

During the London meeting, the Network discussed the need to promote regulatory coherence and underscored the importance of collaboration on shared issues, including industry engagement and new and emerging technology.

It also agreed on creation of a technology and public education working group.

Source: South African Government News Agency

Call for a review of National Strategic Plan on GBVF

South African children have reiterated a call for the review of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP-GBVF).

The call was made during consultations with children on Pillar 7 of the NSP on GBVF, held simultaneously in Limpopo, the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.

The Department of Social Development has been on the road consulting children on the NSP-GBVF – the country’s blueprint document to combat Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

This follows a call by children during the Presidential GBVF Summit held last year, that the document should have Pillar 7, which will specifically look at violence against children.

During the summit, the children expressed their dissatisfaction about adults speaking on their behalf.

The NSP-GBVF currently has six pillars namely:

• Accountability, coordination and leadership;

• Prevention and Rebuilding;

• Justice, Safety and Protection;

• Response, Care Support and healing;

• Economic Power; and

• Research and Information.

During consultations, the children noted that the document is not child friendly, and does not include children and men.

The children believe that the “gender” in gender-based violence indirectly means women, and not children and boys.

They challenged the drafters to look into the document and count how many times children are mentioned.

“Maybe instead of a pillar, there should be a strategic document on how to deal with violence against children, seeing that adults have already drafted their own,” 17-year-old Rebecca Smith said.

The children also raised concern on the document being written only in English, noting that they do not think that their communities even know what “gender-based violence” is.

“The seventh pillar must all be about us – the children,” said Mondli Mncandi.

Patience Sibande (17) said she had to continue consulting her dictionary because of the difficulty in terminology and language used.

“We don’t understand it, and it excludes us as children from the rural areas,” she said.

The children also pointed out that while the drafters of the document may think that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA) community is mentioned, the document glosses over their issues and it does not understand [what] children who are of a different sexuality go through.

“The document is sound but lacks inclusivity in the sense that it only mentions the LGBTQIA community towards the end, the document should include them throughout,” said 16-year-old Northern Cape Child Ambassador Shareez James.

The department started the consultations last week with the children from Gauteng and the Western Cape.

“The consultative sessions seek to ensure that children have an opportunity to express their views on the NSP-GBVF and how their issues can find expression in the document. The Children’s Act encourages the right for children to participate in all matters affecting them,” the department said.

The consultations will continue in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga on 23 September 2023.

Upon the conclusion of the consultations, the inputs from children will be submitted to the national steering committee responsible for the NSP-GBVF so that a decision can be made on whether to include Pillar 7, as asked by the children.

Source: South African Government News Agency

Science and technology are key to development

International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor has highlighted the importance of science, technology and innovation in the development of countries.

Speaking at the General Debate at the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the G77 + China, the Minister said that there “is no doubt science technology and innovation are strategic levers for development.”

“The struggle for the soul of the South and for unilateral global dominance has never been more intense and as the South, we must seize this historic moment to ensure we develop the ability to be free agents of a development agenda that will advance our battle against poverty inequality and unemployment,” she said.

Pandor was representing President Cyril Ramaphosa at the two-day Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Group of 77 (G77) + China in Havana, Cuba. The Summit began on Friday.

“Effective support for science research, innovation and digital technologies has the potential to advance these objectives but it must be buttressed by effective organisation, coordination and well-crafted G77 science diplomacy. South Africa confirmed the efficacy of science diplomacy in our collaboration in genomic sequencing research that assisted us in combatting COVID-19.

“Increased attention must be given to ensuring we have a science and innovation ecosystem that can support our ambition,” she said at the debate on Saturday.

She said investment in research universities, increased graduation of science and technology researchers at PhD level, centres of excellence and the building of robust science councils are needed.

She also spoke of ensuring equal access to science and innovation for women and girls.

“Since the achievement of freedom and democracy in 1994, South Africa has increased investment in research, development, and innovation. Funding to create ninety Centres of Excellence has been provided as well as support for thousands of young people to study for PhDs in science, engineering, economics, humanities, and technology. The support has included investment in young women scientists.”

Government has also funded over 200 Research Chairs and attracted local and international talent to these chairs.

She added that science partnerships between researchers and university systems must be formed drawing on the successes of Cuba, China and India.

“Greater focus must be given to Africa expanding its science and innovation ecosystem and to using science to resolve our most intractable challenges.”

“Mr President science and innovation will provide the means to grow a green economy in the South, to increase productive capacity and high value addition to our mineral wealth.

“Alongside pursuing this important agenda let us also reinforce our commitment to effective reform of the United Nations mechanisms, especially the Security Council and also actively jointly advance the fundamental reform of international development finance institutions,” she said.

Source: South African Government News Agency