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Rwanda : Jacqueline Mukarukundo Tackles the Problem of Electronic Waste

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Electronic Waste is poisoning Africa 

When it comes to electronic waste (e-waste), Africa has long faced two battles to fight. Not only does it have to deal with its own e-waste, but it also has to cope with the large amounts of e-waste imported, often illegally, from other continents. E-waste can refer to any electronic product that is either coming to the end of its working life or that already has passed that use by date and can include computers, televisions, mobile phones’ etc. 

For example, the UN Environment Programme’s study in 2009 found that Ghana imported 215,000 tons of electronic equipment that year with only 30% of that total being new. Of the rest, around 22,5000 tons could neither be recycled nor sold and would end up in landfill sites. The problem with the amounts that end up in landfill – something that is repeated across many African countries – is that these electronics often contain toxic elements such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, which then enter the soil and water. 

Finding Solutions, Recycling for the future.

Compared to other areas of the world, recycling is an industry still in its infancy in Africa, particularly when it comes to e-waste. In East Africa alone, and not counting any imported e-waste, some 130,000 tonnes of e-waste is produced every year and only about 20% of that is recycled. 

It needs dedication and vision to make the industry viable across the continent. And those are two attributes that you can say Jacqueline Mukarukundo has for sure. This young Rwandan entrepreneur was recently awarded the Margaret Prize which is given to women who are creative and active in the digital world.

It Began with an Accident

Her idea began with an accident back in 20011, when Mukarukundo was only around 13 years old. With some friends, she was taking part in a recycling campaign in the northern Rwandan city of Musanze. As they were working on a landfill site, a landslide happened (a common and dangerous occurrence on these sites) and her friend was lucky to escape. For Mukarukundo and her friends, that incident was the catalyst to get more involved in waste management and recycling. 

In 2018, at the age of 20, Mukarukundo co-founded Wastezon along with Ghislain Irakoze. The company uses mobile technology to link consumers and businesses who have e-waste that needs disposed of to the main recycling companies in that area. 

Simplicity Means Ease of Use

In order to make the process easy to use for consumers and recyclers, the person with the e-waste simply posts a photo of the e-waste – most often computers or mobile phones – and the recycling companies can then choose what they want and make an offer for the waste. 

Since they started, Wastezon has enabled 400 tonnes of e-waste to be sold, a drop in the ocean for now but an idea that is both working and growing. The monetisation side of the app comes from Wastezon taking 10% of all transactions. 

Low Internet Use and Mobile Phone Penetration Means There is a Long Way to Go

It has to be recognised that with a low level of internet connections (especially outside the capital, Kigali) and low mobile phone penetration (though this has dramatically increased to over 9 million subscriptions in recent years), this is an idea that is very much creating a foundation for future benefits. Rwanda also need to transform from a linear economy to a more circular one, though the amount of people repairing appliances rather than throwing away is also increasing. 

As Mukarukundo herself says: “The biggest challenge is the transformation of mentalities and funding.”

Recycling and waste management tend not to be businesses that attract a lot of funding as though the societal and environmental benefits are many, it is not a sector that sees high profits. 

Building for the Future

Mukarukundo knows that they have to keep pushing forward. They plan to expand their business to the cellular network to capture those consumers who do not have smartphones. And as 90% of the waste produced in Rwanda is organic, they also plan to expand their services to include that. 

“I dream of a world without waste, and I believe in the power of technology to achieve it.”

She also dreams of enabling other young Rwandan women to follow her entrepreneurial path and hopes to have her own funding in place one day to achieve that.

With dreams like that, and with the dedication and visions she has been showing for most of her life, there is little doubt that the amounts of e-waste ending up in Rwandan landfill sites will continue to decline and that Mukarukundo’s business will continue to grow. 

Photos : web24.news and media-exp1.licdn.com

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Rwanda tops World Bank governance ratings for Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Life in Rwanda

The African nation, along with Cabo Verde, Kenya and Senegal receive the continent’s highest rankings for efforts to support growth and reduce poverty.

Rwanda, Cabo Verde, Kenya and Senegal lead the continent in the quality of their governance and institutions that support economic growth and reduce poverty, according to a new report by the World Bank.

The Evaluation Policy and Institution Investment for Africa 2015 gave Rwanda a rating of 4 of 6 possible points while the three other countries each scored 3.8. The average score for the continent was 3.2, the same as the year before. South Sudan and Eritrea had the lowest scores, 1.9.

Of the 38 countries evaluated, seven improved their ratings – Ghana, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Guinea and Niger. Twelve countries saw their ratings decline, with large drops in Burundi and Gambia.

The report attributed the lack of greater progress on the continent to economic challenges in 2015.

The report ranks national governance based on 16 indicators including economic management, social inclusion policies, public sector management, and structural policies.

Significant progress cited in Rwanda

According to the World Bank, Rwanda has made significant progress in transforming from a low-income agricultural economy to one that is service-based.

The government’s “Vision 2020” plan seeks to speed growth and reduce poverty with a focus on economic transformation, youth employment productivity, rural development and government accountability. The plan seeks to increase gross domestic product per capita to $1,000 by 2018 and reduce poverty so that less than a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Rwandan youth learning to til

“These goals build on remarkable development successes over the last decade, which include high growth, rapid poverty reduction and reduced inequality,” the World Bank said.

Rwanda, which emerged from a dark period of civil strife and genocide 20 years ago, has seen growth of its gross domestic product averaging 8 percent annually since 2001. The economy grew by 7 percent in 2014 and 2015.

However, the World Bank said poor infrastructure and lack of access to electricity are drags on private investment in the East African nation, which has a population of about 11 million people.

Cabo Verde tourism flourishes

Cabo Verde, an archipelago of islands off the west coast of Africa, has developed rapidly in recent years, thanks largely to a growing tourism industry. The government is also working to make the islands a trade and transport hub, the World Bank said.

The bank described Cabo Verde’s politics as “consensus-oriented,” with established respect for majority rule and civil liberties. It noted that since it gained independence from Portugal in 1975, Cabo Verde has not had a single coup, a distinction shared only with Senegal in West Africa.

Still, economic growth slowed to 1% in 2015 as direct foreign investment fell.

Like Cabo Verde, Senegal is considered one of the most stable countries in Africa, with strong democratic institutions dating from the country’s independence from France in 1960, according to the World Bank. The Senegalese recently approved changes in the nation’s constitution that created a new assembly and will allow independent candidates to run in elections.

Senegal’s economy grew by West Africa behind Ivory Coast. High demand, stimulated by lower energy and transportation costs, as well as a government investment program, drove growth in an economy dominated by agriculture and services.

Kenya reforms economy

With assistance from the World Bank, Kenya has implemented major structural and economic reforms that have sustained economic growth for the past 10 years. While poverty and inequality persist, the bank said the country’s 2010 constitution ushered in a new political and economic governance system that has transformed and strengthened accountability and delivery of services locally.

At the bottom of the scale in the new World Bank governance ratings, South Sudan and Eritrea struggle.

One of the least developed nations in Africa, Eritrea has seen thousands of citizens fleeing the country for the European Union via Sudan and Ethiopia to escape what they describe as forced labor and other human rights violations.

In South Sudan, meanwhile, fighting between the government and rebel forces have sent refugees pouring into neighboring Ethiopia and Sudan as well.

 

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Rwanda says eyeing $200 mln worth of short-term facility from IMF

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KIGALI (Reuters) – Rwanda said on Wednesday it had asked the International Monetary Fund to offer it a short term facility worth $200 million to help fend off foreign exchange risks in case the country’s reserves dwindled.

The central African state has previously said it had approached the IMF for help but had not revealed the amount involved.

“The IMF facility is actually to help us not going into problems and that facility is $200 million,” Finance Minister Claver Gatere said at a post-budget press briefing in the capital Kigali.

Gatere said Rwandan authorities expected the IMF to announce a decision on their request “tonight” (Wednesday).

In the budget speech, Gatere said Rwanda’s overall expenditure in 2016/17 fiscal year would rise to 1.95 trillion francs ($2.60 billion) from 1.81 trillion francs in the year ending this June.

 

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; editing by Elias Biryabarema/Mark Heinrich)

 

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In race to catch up, Rwanda risks property bubble

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KIGALI (Reuters) – When property consultant Simon Ethangatta set up in Rwanda’s capital in 2011, the view from his office was of tin shacks overlooked by modest suburban homes on the wooded hillsides.

Now, some of the slums have made way for mirror-glass office blocks while smart houses spring up beyond in Kigali districts which were once littered with corpses during the 1994 genocide.

“It’s changing so fast,” said Ethangatta, a Kenyan. “These guys are so ambitious.”

To the government, this is proof of Rwanda’s dramatic recovery in the two decades since 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered by Hutu extremists.

But the pace of change – part of a ‘Vision 2020’ plan to turn one of world’s poorest states into a middle-income country by the end of the decade – is starting to reveal the risks of going too far, too fast.

As imports are sucked into a nation dependent on farming, foreign aid and modest mineral exports, the Rwandan currency has fallen, some banks are turning cautious on property lending and economic growth – while still strong – has slipped.

All this is threatening to take the shine off President Paul Kagame, a former rebel who masterminded the revival but has drawn criticism from Rwanda’s tiny domestic opposition as well as foreign governments for changing the constitution. This could allow Kagame, who has already effectively run the country for more than 20 years, to stay in power until 2034.

“If people start to question whether he can deliver, there will be trouble,” said one Kigali-based diplomat.

 

APPETITE FOR IMPORTS

The authorities dismiss such worries and point to the record of change. In the last decade, the economy grew at an average rate of 8 percent a year, one of the fastest in Africa.

This week, hundreds of foreign visitors are attending the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, where four international hotels – two Hiltons, a Marriott and a Radisson – will open in the next three months.

Hundreds of new homes are coming on the market worth $500,000 each – a huge sum for a country where most of the 11 million population are subsistence farmers and the per capita income is just $730, far short of the $1,045 that the World Bank defines as middle income.

The appetite for cars, household appliances and smart phones from an emerging middle-class is adding to the import bill, just as mineral exports have been hit by a downturn in global commodity prices, shrinking dollar income.

Rwanda’s franc weakened 11 percent against the dollar in 2015 and the central bank expects a further 8 percent drop this year. Foreign currency reserves are under pressure, with one diplomat saying they were worryingly low and sufficient to pay for just 3.2 months of imports. The central bank does not publish timely reserve figures.

“Rebuilding reserve buffers will be critical to enhance the country’s resilience to future shocks,” the International Monetary Fund wrote in January.

In a report in April, it said growth remained robust at 6.9 percent in 2015 but cited a “significant loss” of commodity export revenues among challenges facing the land-locked country.

Rapid growth in commercial credit, much of it to fund housing and construction, has also raised fears of a bubble.

Central Bank Governor John Rwangombwa told Reuters he was watching lending levels for signs of overheating.

“For now we don’t see any big challenge because the performance of these loans is still fair,” he said, adding that non-performing loans – where borrowers are significantly behind with repayments – stood at 6.2 percent of total lending in December, a slight decrease from 2013.

 

TIGHT CONTROL

But if a bubble were to burst, this could shake the social compact of rising living standards that has maintained Kagame’s grip on power since his rebel army marched into Kigali in 1994.

Diplomats said a referendum vote last year that approved the constitutional change was pushed through with limited debate and the government offers too little room for opposition.

“It’s a very tightly controlled regime. Anybody steps out of line, it’s prison – or worse,” another Western diplomat said. “The Kagame lustre has definitely worn thin.”

Two former senior military officers have been sentenced to up to 21 years in jail on charges of inciting the public to cause an insurrection and links with exiled critics of the president.

Rwanda has denied any involvement in attacks on exiles, including a former spy chief who was killed in 2014 in South Africa, but have called them traitors who should expect no forgiveness or pity.

Kagame himself points out that the constitutional change won 98 percent backing in the referendum.

“If some people seek to stay in power when their people don’t want them – and it has happened, I’ve seen it in Africa – that will always end in a disaster,” he said earlier this year. “Is it the same case with Rwanda? I’m telling you no.”

While the nation still depends on aid for about 40 percent of its annual budget, officials say the economy remains on track.

Credit handed out by Rwandan banks, led by Bank of Kigali, the largest domestic lender, rose 26 percent year-on-year in December, much of it in the form of mortgages.

Some people are less sanguine than Rwangombwa about the rise in mortgages, which estate agents say typically charge a hefty 17 percent annual interest and usually account for 70 percent of a property’s value.

The Independent, a weekly business magazine, reported that 100 small hotels closed last year after failing to repay bank loans. Some bankers have grown wary of bricks and mortar.

“We are being very careful about lending to the construction sector,” one senior executive at a foreign-owned bank said, asking not to be named for fear of offending the government.

 

(By Ed Cropley. Editing by Edmund Blair and David Stamp)

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Rwandan economic growth to slow to 6.8% in 2016

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KIGALI (Reuters) – Rwanda’s economic growth rate will ease to 6.8 percent in 2016 from 7.1 percent in 2015, the World Bank said on Friday, noting the slow implementation of the country’s budget.

Rwanda maintained “steady growth and macroeconomic stability” for much of 2015, the bank said in a report, adding that the aid-dependent country had benefited from low oil prices.

“Downside risks have been increasing, both externally and domestically,” Yoichiro Ishihara, the bank’s senior economist for Rwanda, said in a statement. “On the domestic front, delayed execution of the budget and inadequate financing for development are of concern.”

Rwanda is one of the economies in the region that investors have hailed for solid fundamentals, including low debt and inflation.

The growth rate averaged 8.2 percent from 2006 to 2012 in the landlocked state, which has become a favourite with international investors two decades after the 1994 genocide.

 

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Edith Honan and Hugh Lawson)

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Rwanda’s economic growth to slow to 6.3% this year

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

KIGALI (Reuters) – Rwanda’s economic growth is likely to slow to 6.3 percent this year from an estimated 7 percent last year, mainly due to smaller expansions in the agriculture, construction and services sectors, the central bank chief said on Thursday.

Governor John Rwangombwa told a news conference the slower rate of expansion was partly due to the effects of El Gino rains.

“Agriculture has a big hand in that slight reduction from 7 percent to 6.3 percent,” he said, putting growth in the sector, one of the main drivers of the economy, at 5.1 percent this year compared with a projected 5.5 percent last year.

Rwangombwa said the service sector was expected to expand 7.1 percent this year after growing 7.3 percent in the first three quarters of last year.

He added the construction sector was also seen slowing compared with last year.

He said inflation was expected to remain within the 4.5 and 5.5 percent range during the year.

Rwanda’s urban inflation rate, a key indicator for the central bank, was unchanged at 4.5 percent in January compared with the previous month.

 

(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Cargo drones, an economic revolution for Africa?

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Africa drone

Cargo drones come to Africa and it could mean an economic revolution for the continent

Drones are now part of our modern consciousness, our everyday reality. Having had a sinister reputation from the association with warfare, their potential is now being harnessed for good.

The development of cargo drones is currently underway across the globe, sparking interest from pioneering technological heavyweights like Google and Amazon, as the revolutionary form of delivery transport.

Cargo drones are essentially un-piloted flying robots that carry medium sized goods. There are different styles to fit different purposes and sizes vary between 3-6 meters in length.

Top internet retailer, Amazon, said on their website that soon viewing cargo drones will be, “as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”

For Africa this could mean far more than how a parcel is delivered. Their use has been put forward as a possible boost for the continent’s economy.

Leapfrogging the problem of infrastructure in Africa

With Africa’s rapid economic growth comes the need to build and improve infrastructure. It is estimated that Africa’s shortfall is a much-needed $50 billion per year in this sector. There simply is not enough money to build the roads and lay the new train lines required to keep up with increasing trade.

John Ledgard, the director of Afrotech and long-time Africa correspondent of the Economist has a plan. The futurist thinker sees a way to combat the gridlock that African trade is otherwise unquestionably going to face, failing spending $93 billion a year on financing infrastructure. He hopes to unlock the sky by eventually linking east to west.

Afrotech plans to fill the gap in Africa’s transportation by using cargo drones and their very own aerial highway. Starting by setting up routes in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, eventually all parts of Africa will be connected. The initiative from Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, is working with architects Foster + Partners to create the drone-ports for the routes which hope to be set up by the end of 2016.

“The Droneport project is about doing ‘more with less,’ capitalizing on the recent advancements in drone technology,” said Lord Foster, chairman and founder of Foster + Partners.

The biggest to the smallest airport in the world

Foster + Partners, responsible for the creation of the world’s largest airport in Beijing, China, will now create what could be considered in effect, the world’s smallest airport. Three dome shaped buildings will comprise the Droneport that will rest on Rwanda’s red earth. Designed to run on clean energy, it will eventually provide employment for the surrounding community.

Rwanda was chosen for the trial because the terrain is difficult to travel through and very little air traffic flies over. From here half the country will be reachable via the cargo drone routes. Prioritizing medical and time sensitive cargo initially, Ledgard has a clear vision of how the project will mature. Phase 1: mainly hospitals and humanitarian emergencies. Phase 2: industries that provide spare parts and building equipment.

“Phase 1 and 2 would be enough to make the drones useful contributors. But the real reason for the technology,” says Ledgard “is Phase 3, when the drones will better connect businesses with customers across Africa.”

 

Jonathan Ledgard

Jonathan Ledgard

Turbulence expected

All going to plan, this could be the making of the developing Africa. Inevitably there are valid causes for concern and tangible doubts, but no one is more aware of them than Ledgard himself. He openly cites the areas that may be of concern but says most risks are small or can be overcome and that it is an improvement on current affairs.

Important for Africa is whether it can adopt this new technology quickly enough to make it beneficial. It will need several aspects to come together: the army to ensure security, government leaders of regional economic groupings to put free trade into practice and laws to be passed allowing fully independent drone flight. With Africa united, this could truly be an economic revolution for the future.

“Cargo drones can affordably and precisely collapse time and space….in a city environment you want to collapse time and in a rural environment you want to collapse space,” said Jonathan Ledgard.

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Rwanda tops the UN Human Development Index

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

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The Human Development Index, or HDI, celebrates its 25th anniversary since its induction into economic thought with its report published last month by the United Nations. And notably, this year’s report included a section that evaluated the progress economies have made since 1990- reporting that Rwanda has made the most progress out of all countries in the last 25 years.

This fact is all the more impressive given that its level of development fell during the genocide of 1994. Rwandans can now expect to live almost 32 years longer than in 1990, and spend twice as long at school.

China, the frequently lauded growth powerhouse of the world, comes in at number two.

Kagame’s Rwanda

Rwanda’s ability to move from the recovery of genocide towards a service-dominated economy in one generation highlights the impact proper governance can achieve in lower income economies. Rwanda has one of the lowest corruption rates in the region, and is currently still led by Paul Kagame, the man who led the Rwandan Patriotic Front when the armed wing of the party ended the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Currently, Kagame’s presidency is attracting local and international debate as the Parliament recently passed a nation-wide referendum concerning limits on Presidential terms. With the new constitutional amendment and overwhelming popularity Kagame holds, it seems that the President is set to lead the country through at least 7 more years of economic development.

Despite his popularity and demonstrated effectiveness as President, the referendum has attracted global criticism from other world powers. Both the U.S. State Department and the European Union have condemned the results of the referendum, calling Kagame to step down and “foster a new generation of leaders in Rwanda.”

The international community largely fears another life-long leader in central Africa, a region that has witnessed many saviors-turned-tyrants in the post-colonial era. Many neighboring nations are still ruled by dictators such as Angola’s José Eduardo dos Santos, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, or Cameroon’s Paul Biya, men who have held power over these territories for decades.

However, Kagame has expressed disinterest towards becoming a life-long president. At 58 years old, he said, “I don’t think that what we need is an eternal leader.” The results of the referendum coincide with other leaders in the region seeking constitutional term extensions as well (in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo), and foreign critics’ fears may be largely attributed to what precedent Rwanda’s referendum may set in the region. In neighboring Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term sparked violent protests resulting in over 100 deaths since the announcement.

How does one measure progress?

Most markers of economic progression deal with money: such as gross domestic product or national debt. The HDI paradigm acknowledges something we all know: it’s not all about money. The health of an economy is also expressed in the welfare of its people and how able they are to contribute to this economy.

The index takes into account measures for household income, life expectancy and education into a single development score, which gives a holistic sense of how an economy is doing on a human basis. The report’s philosophy on progress is explained in its introduction, “development is about enlarging people’s choices—focusing broadly on the richness of human lives rather than narrowly on the richness of economies.”

And for once, it’s mostly good news: the fastest progress was seen among low human development countries. Progress on the HDI has been considerable at the country level. For example, Ethiopia increased its HDI value by more than half; Rwanda by nearly half; five countries, including Angola and Zambia, by more than a third; and 23 countries, including Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nepal, by more than a fifth.

The five fastest developing countries in the world are Rwanda, China, Iran, Singapore, and Mozambique.

Rwanda’s reforms serve the bottom 50%

Rwanda’s success can be attributed to conscious economic reform geared towards strengthening the ability of the bottom 50% to engage with business and finance. Last year’s reforms boast an astounding reduction in the number of days required to transfer property from 370 to a mere 32, and jumping from a score of 2 to 19 out of 20 on an index that rates the ease and efficiency of obtaining credit according to a World Bank report published in 2015.

In Africa, Asia and Latin America over 30% of surveyed firms reported access to credit as a major constraint to growth. Rwanda’s new credit guarantee scheme enabled the country to become a major exporter of specialty coffee in one year alone. By creating a financial system inclusive to lower-income households, policy makers have allowed for structural transformation and the creation of work among the bottom 50%.

Rwanda sets the bar for highly developed countries

And Rwanda’s structural transformations that allow for creation does not limit itself to expressions of finance. Their Gender Development Index score is almost perfect at 0.957 out of a maximum score of 1. Rwanda, despite being #163 on the HDI Index, in terms of gender equality scores higher than even highly developed countries such as the Republic of Korea, Greece, and the Netherlands.

Even Switzerland, considered as one of the most developed and egalitarian countries in the world, comes in at only 0.950 in comparison to Rwanda’s 0.957. Rwanda is one of only two countries in the world with a female majority in the national parliament.

And put in perspective, Rwanda’s ability to surpass China is more incredible than it seems. As one of the smallest countries in Africa’s mainland, the country is mired by a lack of natural resources. The growth witnessed over the last 25 years is mostly attributed to a surge in the service industry.

Rather that fear the impacts Kagame’s track record may set in Africa, the foreign community would be amiss to ignore the major successes and beneficial precedents he has set as well, demonstrated in the hard numbers published by the UN’s HDI report in December 2015.

In the same month, an overwhelming 98% of Rwandan voters lifted constitutional bans that would allow Kagame to preside over another 3 mandates, meaning that Kagame could be president until 2034. “What is happening is people’s choice,” said Kagame, adding that Rwandans are a people that “have their future in their own hands. Ask people why they want me.” Given the progress highlighted by the UN Report, the answer seems pretty clear.

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