NIH-funded project shows graphene could provide alternative to chemicals in insect repellant and protective clothing.
An innovative graphene-based film helps shield people from disease-carrying mosquitos, according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The research, conducted by the Brown University Superfund Research Center, Providence, Rhode Island, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“These findings could lead to new protective methods against mosquitos, without the environmental or human health effects of other chemical-based repellants,” said Heather Henry, Ph.D., a health scientist administrator with the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.
Researchers found dry graphene film seemed to interfere with mosquitos’ ability to sense skin and sweat because they did not land and try to bite. When they looked closely at videos taken of the mosquitos in action, they noticed the insects landed much less frequently on graphene than on bare skin. The graphene film also provided a strong barrier that mosquitos could not bite through, although when wet it did not stop mosquitos from landing on skin.
“We set out imagining that graphene film would act as a mechanical barrier but after observing the mosquitos’ behavior, we began to suspect they were not interested in biting,” said Robert Hurt, Ph.D., director of the Superfund Research Program at Brown University.
Mosquitos threaten public health by carrying infectious viruses such as Yellow Fever, West Nile, and Zika, leading to disability and death for millions of people every year.
Results show that graphene, a tight, honeycomb lattice of carbon, could be an alternative to chemicals now used in mosquito repellants and protective clothing. Until this study, insect-bite protection was an unexplored function of graphene-based materials.
Several years ago, Hurt began devising suits with graphene to protect workers against hazardous chemicals at environmental clean-up sites. He pointed out a wealth of literature demonstrates graphene’s impermeable qualities. Graphene is invisible to the unaided eye, yet harder than diamonds, stronger than steel, and more conductive than copper. Since its discovery in 2004, graphene has been used for a variety of barrier and filtration purposes.
“This innovation using graphene to repel mosquitos could help reduce the burden of ill health associated with a number of infectious diseases and might reduce the need for pesticides to eradicate the mosquitos that carry them,” said William Suk, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program. “New material such as this one should be assessed in the field to determine full public health implications.”
The report also takes stock of the global mini grid market and industry, analyses costs and technological innovations and shows the importance of micro-finance and income-generating uses of electricity.
Over the past decade, mini grid costs have declined significantly, while the quality of service has increased. The per kWh cost of mini grid electricity is expected to decrease by two thirds by 2030.
Reaching the remaining unserved population, including those connected to frail and overburdened urban grids, or living in remote areas and fragile and conflict environments, will require strong policies, increased private financing andcomprehensive approaches to national electrification planning – which consists of main grid extensions, mini grids, and off-grid solar systems.
Estimates show that to achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, 40 percent of all installed capacity will have to come from mini grids. At present the total mini grid investment in countries with low levels of electricity access in Africa and Asia totals $5 billion.
In addition to being cost-efficient, mini grids have many other benefits. They have positive environmental impacts: 210,000 mini grids powered by solar energy would help avoid 1.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions globally.
They also offer national utilities a win-win solution in the electricity sector by paving the way for more financially viable future grid expansion. By the time the main grid arrives, significant demand for electricity would already exist and customers would have greater ability to pay through the generation of productive uses made possible by mini grids.
The prospect of a fully sustainable Blue Economy for Africa gathered significant momentum following the second Africa Blue Economy Forum (ABEF2019) (www.ABEF2019.com) held in Tunis on 25-26 June.
Fishing, aquaculture, shipping, ports, energy and finance industries all came under the spotlight at ABEF2019, which drew in Government ministers, business leaders, international investors, academics and environmental organisations from across the globe.
The need for direct action to deliver the environmental, economic and social benefits for Africa, and particularly its coastal nations given 90 per cent of Africa’s trade is conducted by sea, was stressed during the two days of insight. Speakers at ABEF2019 agreed on the urgent need for better cooperation between the ocean stakeholders, better governance and law enforcement. Regional, national and local strategies are required to build a long-term plan and develop partnerships that are beyond short-term projects. Engaging with new technologies and innovative financing mechanisms are also key to shaping a sustainable Blue Economy in Africa.
Leila Ben Hassen, ABEF founder and CEO of Blue Jay Communication, which organised the forum, said: “We can no longer just dip our toe in the water, we must dive in and be decisive in making and delivering change that will serve Africa for many years to come. It is no longer business as usual. Africa must have a sustainable Blue Business plan which will have a positive impact on the environment, on the economy and on society.”
A sustainable Blue Business plan will accelerate Africa’s transformation, create jobs, sustain livelihoods and empower communities, while offering impactful climate change measures.
This was acknowledged at ABEF2019 across a range of panels with topics that explored how governments and private sectors can collaborate; tackling ocean pollution; innovative funding solutions; enhanced food security and sustainable growth for the fishing industry; sustainable ocean energy; how to engage more women to work in the maritime value chains and the opportunities to embrace the youth generation in the Blue Economy.
Key outcomes from ABEF2019 saw the World Ocean Council, Tunisian Maritime Cluster and SETAP Tunisia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a platform to connect, share information, scientific research and technologies between the Mediterranean and the coastal African countries. In addition, WIMA Africa (Women in Maritime Association) launched the Tunisia Chapter with the objective of empowering women and reinforcing collaborations between Tunisian and African women in the maritime industry.
The event attracted a significant number of high-level speakers, who can drive change and opinions, including government ministers HE Samir Taieb, Minister of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries, Republic of Tunisia; HE Mokhtar Hammami, Minister of Environment, Republic of Tunisia; HE Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Republic of Ghana and HE Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, Minister of Transport, Republic of Ghana.
Rotary (www.Rotary.org) is giving US$100 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year.
The funding comes as Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) (http://PolioEradication.org) address the final—and most pressing—challenges to ending poliovirus transmission, and as Nigeria approaches three years without any reported cases of wild poliovirus, bringing the Africa region closer to polio-free status.
“Routine immunization in high-risk states is helping us prevent new cases of wild polio,” said Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair or Rotary’s Nigeria PolioPlus Committee. “Although the polio infrastructure has become stronger and allows us to also respond to other serious health concerns, we must remain committed to ensuring the political and financial support necessary to ending polio in Nigeria and around the globe for good.”
While there were only 33 cases of wild poliovirus reported in 2018, the last mile of eradication has proven to be the most difficult. Barriers to eradication–like weak health systems, insecurity, and mobile and remote populations–must be overcome. As long as a single child has polio, all children are at risk, which underscores the need for continued funding and commitment to eradication.
To support polio eradication efforts in endemic countries, Rotary is allocating half the funds it announced today to: Afghanistan ($16.3 million), Nigeria ($10.2 million), and Pakistan ($25.2million).
Additional funding will support efforts to keep vulnerable countries polio-free include: Chad ($102,395), Democratic Republic of the Congo ($9.5 million), Ethiopia ($2.6 million), Iraq ($6 million), Kenya ($6.3 million), Mali ($1.2 million), Somalia ($1.4 million), South Sudan ($1.2 million), Syria ($1.7 million), and Yemen ($2.1 million).
The World Health Organization (WHO) (www.WHO.int) will receive $1.3 million to conduct research, and will also receive support for surveillance activities in its Africa ($10.9 million) and Eastern Mediterranean ($4 million) Regions.
Rotary has committed to raising $50 million a year to be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, amounting to $150 million for polio eradication annually. Rotary has contributed more than $1.9 billion to fight the disease, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Gates Foundation later joined. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to 33 cases of wild poliovirus in 2018.
Representatives from four African countries today called for a balanced approach to growing debt vulnerabilities to help low-income African countries meet their commitments to lenders.
The calls were made at a high-level consultative meeting to discuss debt vulnerabilities in Africa, jointly convened by the African Development Bank and the World Bank, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Adama Koné, Minister of Finance, Cote d’Ivoire, praised the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for their assistance but appealed for more “innovative and strategic sources of funding”.
“We want to have CFA-denominated bonds on markets … Since we are not known, we have to pay a premium. If we have a guarantee mechanism, this will allow us to issue those bonds at a lower price,” he said during a panel discussion.
Representatives from Zambia and Senegal said they were taking steps to address their debt situation, while Richard Evina Obam, Minister Finance, Cameroon, supported the call for broader sources of financing, including the Islamic world.
Charles Boamah, Senior Vice-President of the African Development Bank, said the dialogue around debt sustainability “couldn’t come at a better time”.
“It is at the center of many conversations taking place currently … We here at the African Development Bank are engaged in a couple of very important discussions … a 7th GCI [General Capital Increase] and the 15threplenishment of the AFD [African Development Fund],” Boamah said in his opening remarks.
He said debt management had to take into account investment and development needs.
To reach the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] such as health, education and infrastructure, “you need half a trillion US dollars to do that,” Boamah said.
“The World Bank Group’s International Development Association (IDA) and the African Development Fund (ADF) are working together with a common mission to better address debt vulnerabilities in IDA and ADF countries,” said Akihiko Nishio, World Bank Vice President of Development Finance. “We need to provide our clients with the resources and support needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
Over the past seven years, the public debt profile of most low and low middle-income African countries has deteriorated substantially. Twice as many countries are now regarded as facing severe debt challenges.
As of January 2019, 17 borrowing countries from the International Development Association and the African Development Fund (IDA and ADF) are deemed at high risk of external debt distress or are viewed as being in debt distress. That is double the number of countries who were in these categories in 2013.
Entrepreneurs have a pivotal role to play in Africa’s unemployment crisis. Today over a third of the continent’s young workforce (those aged 15-35) are unemployed. Another third are in vulnerable employment. By 2035, Africa will contribute more people to the workforce each year than the rest of the world combined. By 2050 it will be home to 1.25 billion people working aged.
The challenge for countries is how to support the growth of SMEs. Various African governments have experimented with ways to help address the US$140 billion funding gap for startups and SMEs. For example, one approach has been to set up entrepreneurship funds.
Based on my experience of watching their performance over the past 18 years, I would issue some words of caution. Some entrepreneurship support models work better than others. And how they are set up – particularly the governance structures put in place to manage them – is key to their success, or failure.
As new funds are started, African countries must look to the successes and failures of both global and regional funds to replicate best practices and avoid common pitfalls. African governments should explore replicating models similar to Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and the USAID backed enterprise funds. Both include robust investment selection criteria for funds.
In doing so, African government-backed entrepreneurship funds would operate as fund-of-funds – where a fund invests in another private equity or venture fund rather than directly in businesses themselves – as do many development finance institutions globally such as the UK’s CDC or FMO of the Netherlands.
The what and the how
The fund of funds structure creates an arm’s length relationship between the government agency that houses the entrepreneurship fund and the businesses that eventually receive investment. In between, sits a professional fund manager that earns the majority of its income from making good investments, growing companies and exiting them after a period of five to seven years. In this way, there are natural disincentives for corruption and market-based selection criteria for the entrepreneurs who receive investment.
How the fund managers are selected also matters. To ensure true investment independence from the government, fund managers and board members must be chosen in a transparent and competitive process. And once selected, representatives of the government entrepreneurship fund agency can sit on the investment committee for oversight purposes but should respect the fund managers’ independent decision-making.
Government supported fund managers through the FoF model can also catalyse additional investment. By operating in markets and sectors often ignored by traditional private equity funds, Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and enterprise funds have mobilized additional capital for investment-starved companies. African government-backed entrepreneurship funds could do the same by participating in blended finance deals with development finance institutions, social-impact investment funds, local banks and other market players to back growing firms.
While not actively managing the funds’ portfolio investments, governments have a key role to play in guiding the funds priorities. Priorities may vary by country and given Africa’s growing rates of unemployment, funds should prioritise job creation by evaluating investment on key performance indicators. These would include the number of jobs created per dollar invested, indirect jobs created per dollar invested, and average salary of job. In addition to job creation, governments can direct funds to focus on specific sectors either in need of increased capital or high-growth areas in local economies.
Beyond establishing investment criteria, government-backed funds should prioritise rigorous measurement of investment results and long-term data tracking to inform future investment decisions. The UK British Bank regional growth fund found the cost per job created varied considerably by project from £4,000 to over £200,000. It concluded that a better allocation of funds could have led to thousands more jobs created for the same resources.
Data driven investments can not only lead to a better results, but further curtail issues around potential mismanagement of funds.
Tackling Africa’s job creation challenge requires innovative thinking and initiatives that support private sector-led growth. Looking to the model of Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and enterprise funds, African governments can spur local ecosystems and drive new private capital to regions today seen as unfriendly or too risky to outside investors.
Properly structured investments today could yield much larger dividends tomorrow.
Mondelēz International today announced a stronger set of expectations and principles on direct suppliers of palm oil to improve transparency and speed the transition to sustainable practices across the sector.
In the Palm Oil Action Plan released today, the company embeds firmer supplier sourcing requirements while calling for 100 percent transparency and 100 percent sustainability across the sector.
Despite progress made, Mondelēz International believes the industry needs to move faster to eliminate deforestation and forced labor in the palm oil supply chain. Since 2014, the company has called for sector-wide change. In this updated Palm Oil Action Plan, Mondelēz International takes a further step to close the gap to its goal of full transparency and sustainability by strengthening expectations on supplier companies, and their entire upstream supply chains.
“We have a unique opportunity to reform palm oil once and for all and to make this ingredient truly sustainable,” said Alex Turolla, Vice President, Procurement at Mondelēz International. “As a company we are shifting gears and taking action with our suppliers to ensure they share and actively support our commitment. The success of the approach we’re taking to combat deforestation through improved traceability and transparency does require action across the entire sector.”
In the future, any supplier to Mondelēz International will be required to:
Take full responsibility for eliminating deforestation in their own operation and upstream supply chainby mapping and monitoring all plantations and adopting a “suspend and engage” approach requiring immediate suspension of companies involved in deforestation.
Improve traceability and transparencyby maintaining universal mill lists with group level owners clearly indicated, and publishing them regularly, as well as using satellite technology to map and monitor sources of palm.
Demonstrate implementation of supplier progressagainst this updated Palm Oil Action Plan as a prerequisite of doing business with Mondelēz International.
Despite representing around 0.5 percent of demand for palm oil, Mondelēz International has taken a leadership position on palm oil sustainability and recognizes that all actors have a role to play in achieving a solution to this complex problem.
In order to create truly sustainable palm oil, the company believes suppliers must take responsibility across their footprint and be held accountable for not only the physical supply of the oil they source but also the group-level companies that supply them. Mondelēz International also calls on its suppliers to strengthen their knowledge, sustainability strategy and implementation, and to continue to build transparency and confidence in palm oil.