Information and stories about Africa.

danceforchangeIt is not always easy to capture the attention of political leaders. Often, inspiring action requires a creative approach, unique storytelling and personal anecdotes. In May 2019, the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a dance challenge on TikTok called #DanceforChange designed to do just that. The award-winning choreographer Sherrie Silver paired up with African recording artist Mr. Eazi to use the immense power behind dance and self-expression to communicate the need for increased agricultural investment; this will play a significant role in the fight against global hunger and food insecurity.

With increased awareness and assistance from the IFAD, the duo intend to create opportunities for young people living in rural areas around the world. Since 1978, IFAD has provided $20.9 billion in grants and loans for international projects that have affected around 483 million individuals.

Numbers of Impoverished Children

The number of youths living in areas with extremely high levels of poverty remains high today. Almost 385 million of the world’s children live in extreme poverty. Around 260 million youths around the world do not receive a formal education, and children are considered twice as likely as adults to live in a state of extreme poverty. Global hunger is also rising; one in nine people in developing nations go to bed hungry each night. The dance challenge supports creating opportunities for youth to combat hunger and poverty, and is becoming an integral piece of the fight for change.

Sherrie Silver and Mr. Eazi

Silver and Mr. Eazi believe that the current generation has both the capacity and resources to put an end to global hunger. Their mission is to spark that change by reaching world leaders and establishing sustainable agricultural investment for current and future farmers. Silver was born in Rwanda and received a formal education in the United Kingdom. She has been recognized for her choreography in Childish Gambino’s award-winning video, “This is America,” which went viral in 2018. For the current campaign, she created a unique dance move for participants to mimic and believes that young people living in rural areas are beneficial and influential resources. According to Silver, “they have the power to feed the world and transform food systems if given the opportunity to succeed.”

Her partner, Mr. Eazi, is a singer, songwriter and entrepreneur from Nigeria. He recorded the song “Freedom,” written for and molded specifically towards the initiative. He wrote the song with the intention of portraying the agricultural industry in a positive light and enticing young people to get involved in farming. In a recording posted on TikTok, Mr. Eazi said he believes that “more investment in young people and farming means more food, more jobs and more freedom for us all.”

#DanceForChange

The global dance challenge creates opportunities for youth to advocate for sustainable agriculture and employment outlets. Young people around the world are encouraged to record a dance video that is up to 15 seconds long on short-form video app TikTok. For the challenge, Participants must download the app and create an individualized dance routine inspired by Silver’s choreography to “Freedom.” They then upload the video with the hashtag #DanceForChange to help spread the message and gain a wider reach. In June 2019, the IFAD released a Rural Development Report focused on developing opportunities for rural youth across Africa. The report is designed to identify what impactful roles young people can play in economic transformation and will be central to advocating for increased investment.

Sustainable Agriculture

In rural areas in Africa, agriculture is considered one of the largest sources of livelihood. It is not only a widespread source of income, but a means of food generation and familial support. Across the continent, it is estimated that 11 million young people will enter the job market over the next 10 years, and supporting sustainable agriculture can develop opportunities for rural youth searching for employment in urban areas. Agriculture accounts for 44 percent of all land use across sub-Saharan Africa, therefore designating the farmers that work on the land as key contributors to the international economy. Political figures and branches of government play a vital role in enforcing continued investment in agricultural systems and maintaining natural resources such as soil, water, forests and wildlife.

Success on TikTok

In May, the TikTok app ran a pre-launch promotion for #DanceforChange to project how widespread their reach may be. Nearly 5,000 individuals around the globe uploaded creative dance videos or memes with the hashtag to express their support for creating youth employment opportunities and fighting global hunger, proving that the unique dance challenge creates opportunities in a number of domains. Canada, India, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. had the highest levels of engagement.

Simply utilizing a creative initiative such as the #DanceForChange challenge can help spread awareness toward issues like global hunger, poverty, unemployment and other difficulties facing youth in developing nations. Through an art form as universal as dance, individuals across the globe are speaking to the combined power of media engagement and self-expression.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

African Sleeping Sickness, also known as African Trypanosomiasis, is common in rural Africa. It is spread by the tsetse fly, which is only found in 36 sub-Saharan countries, with about 70 percent of cases occurring within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the tsetse fly bites, a sore develops and within weeks hosts suffer from fever, severe headaches, irritability, extreme fatigue, joint pain and skin rashes. As the disease progresses and invades the nervous system, people face confusion, personality changes and ultimately sleeplessness. African Sleeping Sickness can prove to be fatal within months, if not treated.

Due to regional differences, there is both an East African Sleeping Sickness and West African Sleeping Sickness. The Eastern disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, with a couple hundred cases reported each year by the World Health Organization (WHO). The West African Sleeping Sickness on the other hand is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, with nearly 10,000 cases reported annually by the WHO.

The Span of the Disease

Unfortunately, due to the lack of medicine and awareness in these rural African regions, there is minimal caution taken to avoid the disease. The African Sleeping Sickness is often neglected by other countries due to its limited region. A majority of those in affected regions have minimal access to health care or knowledge of disease prevention and treatment. Due to overcrowding and poverty, transmission increases among both animals and people. In fact, 40,000 cases were reported in 1998 from the WHO, but researchers estimate that at least 300,000 cases were left undiagnosed that year. The fear with this is that the disease will be allowed to escalate. There have been cases in which the patients have attacked their own family members, experienced frightening hallucinations or have screamed in gut-wrenching pain.

Treatments

The limited research and knowledge of this disease puts the victims at a heavy disadvantage. While there are a few drugs available for both East and West African Sleeping Sickness, at the moment there is no cure or vaccine. The most commonly used drug, pentamidine, is often used for first stage West African Sleeping Sickness, with other CDC approved drugs being uramin, melarsoprol, eflornithine and nifurtimox. However, these approved drugs can also have negative side effects, with melarsoprol found to have reactions that can prove to be fatal, and pentamidine causing stomach issues. The disease, if left untreated, can lead to meningoencephalitis, coma or death.

Organizational Support

Despite the grim standings of the disease, organizations are making efforts to change the status quo. The WHO is working to supply technical aid to national programs in Africa and are having volunteers deliver anti-Trypanosoma medicines for free. In 2009, the WHO established a biological specimens bank for researchers to conduct studies regarding new drugs and treatments. When attention towards the disease began to fade, the WHO developed a coordination network for victims of the disease to secure and maintain efforts against it. Starting in 2002, Bayer, supplied 10,000 vials of suramin treatment annually for an entire decade. Bayer took steps to expedite the fight against the disease in 2013 by funding and supporting mobile intervention teams in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through combined efforts, non-profit organizations as well as private companies are taking great strides against the deadly African Sleeping Sickness.

Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Poverty
Africa has a long and complicated history. From the Portuguese exploration of the continent in 1460 to the Atlantic slave trade and modern-day ethnic conflicts in Sudan, it is, unfortunately, no surprise that the continent has long-standing issues with poverty. Ethiopia and Ghana are changing this trend. New, innovative farming techniques such as flexible growing practices and government-sponsored programs are reducing poverty, and famine rates have been declining in these countries. Worldwide organizations such as Africa Renewal are hoping that the agricultural reforms taking place in Ghana and Ethiopia can spread throughout the rest of Africa to reduce poverty.

While the mining industry is important for African countries such as South Africa, agriculture is by far the most important economic sector for a majority of African countries. Not only does agriculture provide jobs for residents, but it also acts as the main food source for over 1.2 billion Africans.

Farming in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has relied on ox-driven plows for centuries. Ethiopian farmers are primarily field farmers, which means they grow their crops on typical farmland rather than other alternatives such as in water-soaked rice patties. Ethiopia has dealt with severe famine over the past several decades, and farmers have helped alleviate famine by being flexible. Over the past century, Ethiopian farmers have shifted their main food source from enset to tef-based crops. Another change Ethiopian farmers are adopting is more flexible growing practices, which means rather than growing one crop at a time, farmers are beginning to grow as many as 10 different crops at once. Flexible growing practices add diversity to the food supply and help fight against weeds and pests, leading to increased food supplies, ultimately reducing poverty.

Ethiopia’s government launched the Growth & Transformation Plan II in 2015 that aims to significantly increase economic growth by investing heavily in sustainable and broad-based agricultural practices and manufacturing sectors. The end result of this initiative is for the world stage to recognize Ethiopia on the world stage as a lower middle-income country by 2025. While no one will know the full results of this initiative until 2025, the preliminary data shows that the program has been helping with Ethiopia’s GDP increasing from $64.46 billion in 2015 to $84.36 billion in 2018.

These new farming practices, along with government investment into agricultural practices, increased Ethiopia’s GDP by nearly 10.3 percent over the past decade, which is one of the fastest growth rates in Africa. The new agricultural practices that are stimulating the economy are a significant reason why Ethiopia’s poverty rate has also fallen from nearly 40 percent in 2004 to approximately 27 percent in 2016.

Farming in Ghana

Like Ethiopia, Ghana also has a history of poverty, with 24.2 percent of all residents facing poverty as of 2013. Ghana’s approach to reducing poverty is unique because the country is using economic growth. While Ethiopia is also focusing on economic growth, Ghana is not utilizing new farming practices in order to achieve economic growth. Rather, Ghana is using increased GDP to revitalize its agricultural sector.

Ghana’s unemployment rate is 6.71 percent as of 2018. With many residents unemployed, the agricultural sector provides job opportunities. Approximately 40 percent of Ghana’s available agricultural land is still available for use, which means there are many opportunities for agricultural expansion. Today estimates determine that the agricultural sector employs 33.86 percent of all Ghanian workers, meaning agriculture is the country’s main source of income for a third of its residents. Alarmingly, though, agriculture makes up only 19.7 percent of Ghana’s GDP as of 2017, which is the lowest total since 1983, when agriculture made up approximately 60 percent of the total GDP.

World Vision, a non-governmental organization, has worked in Ghana since 1979. Currently, World Vision implements 29 area programs. One such project is the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage Project that provides instruction to farmers on how to store cowpea without chemicals. Storing cowpea without chemicals helps reduce post-harvest losses and maintain cowpea’s nutritional value.

With vast amounts of land still available and with the GDP increasing by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate will decline significantly as more residents head to the fields and plant crops. Agriculture’s share of the GDP will also rise, reducing the downward trend since 1983, and ultimately, put more money into resident’s pockets.

Reducing Poverty

Ethiopia and Ghana have made gains in their plans to reduce poverty among their citizens. Poverty in Ethiopia has fallen from 71.1 percent in 1995 to 27.3 percent in 2015, and Ghana’s poverty rate has fallen from 52.6 percent in 1991 to 21.4 percent in 2012. While these countries are making improvements, there is still a lot of work remaining before all of Africa’s citizens are free from poverty.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

Mall for Africa Boosts Prosperity
Mall for Africa boosts prosperity by allowing African consumers to purchase items from retailers located in the United States and the United Kingdom. The company’s innovation offers a secure and easy way for African citizens to purchase items online.

The Foundation of Mall for Africa

Chris Folayan, a Nigerian citizen and the founder and CEO of Mall for Africa, opened Mall for Africa in 2016. Foloyan founded this organization in Nigeria because this nation is the most affluent and high-powered country in Africa. Folayan has plans for Mall for Africa to expand in several other African nations as well, such as Ghana and Kenya.

The primary objective of Mall for Africa is for customers to purchase items from the U.S. and the U.K. and to market their own goods effectively in the absence of fraud and theft. Companies transport their products to the United States and United Kingdom infrastructures. Africa then receives the items.

In 2018, Mall for Africa began coordinating with the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in order to construct facilities in 15 of Africa’s nations. The purpose of this was to reduce shipping costs from international companies and allow for secure payment methods with provincial dollars.

Africans who make purchases online often pay high-cost fees for shipping items. To counter this, Mall for Africa opened storehouses in Portland, Oregon and London to reduce transportation costs. Furthermore, customers are able to purchase items using their own currency through new payment options.

Market Advantages

Mall for Africa boosts prosperity in Africa because of the availability of supplies and materials that generate employment opportunities, improve schooling and new forms of medical treatment. In particular, one entrepreneur purchased a sewing machine which enabled her to begin her own sewing operation. Educational institutions have benefited from Mall for Africa by having the ability to purchase necessary academic materials. These materials include items such as computers and books.

The medical field has benefited from the ability to obtain medical equipment. This gives doctors the ability to effectively pronounce medical conditions and offer treatment options.

Mall for Africa has helped create jobs for Nigerian residents. For instance, more than 60 citizens work full-time. Some expect the number of workers to increase with the implementation of new infrastructures in other African countries.

Since the company first launched, Mall for Africa has boosted prosperity in terms of profit. In fact, it has produced millions of dollars in yearly profits. An expansion of profits should happen due to the implementation of this business in other African nations. In 2019, Nigeria and Kenya are expecting to see a large increase in sales due to the development of various enterprises and the expansion of the working class earning more pay.

eBay’s Collaboration with Mall for Africa

While Africans are able to purchase products overseas as of 2017, Americans now have the ability to purchase original artifacts from Africa through the Mall for Africa application on eBay. Residents in some countries have the ability to sell their artifacts through eBay and market these products to U.S. consumers. Some of these countries include Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Burundi. The commodities will be available through the Mall for Africa application on eBay, which enables entrepreneurs to expand brand awareness and increase economic prosperity in Africa.

The primary groupings of products are fashion, antiques and jewelry. Mall for Africa will likely include other groupings in the future with the addition of other African countries selling their products.

Mall for Africa’s shipping co-partner, DHL, handles the transportation of all packages. The merchant packages their items then delivers the package to the closest DHL shipping facility. In February 2017, DHL reported a substantial rise in international sales. The company predicts that by 2020 the online market will progress at a rate of 25 percent annually. That is close to double the volume of sales achieved nationally.

While this partnership is expected to expand inventory to the United States, there will also be opportunities for economic advancement for Africans who now have the option of selling their products internationally. Overall, Mall for Africa boosts prosperity for the African continent.

– Diana Dopheide
Photo: Flickr

Affordable Medicine in Developing Countries
In 1997, thousands of people in low-income, developing countries died every day from treatable diseases because they could not pay the high price pharmaceuticals charged for medicine. Today in these same regions, millions are receiving treatment and mortality rates have dropped dramatically as drugmakers around the world are providing affordable medicine in developing countries.

Pharmaceuticals in the Past

In 1997, AIDS was killing thousands of Africans each day. In the same year, people with AIDS in the U.S. were enjoying greater life expectancy and quality of life, with AIDS-related deaths dropping by 42 percent thanks to the use of anti-HIV drugs.  With a $12,000 per patient per year price tag and strict patent laws forbidding the purchase of generic types, these life-saving drugs were inaccessible to millions of AIDS victims in developing countries. Unwilling to lower their prices, the pharmaceutical industry looked on while thousands of people died with treatment just beyond their reach.

Refusing to sit by as its people died every day while a treatment existed, South Africa legalized the suspension of drug patents in 1998, making it possible for South Africans to purchase generic anti-HIV drugs at affordable prices. Thirty-nine top pharmaceutical companies promptly engaged South Africa in a lawsuit, attempting to keep them from accessing HIV drugs at a reduced cost for fear that other countries would follow and the industry would miss out on profits.

The pharmaceuticals soon dropped the lawsuit when the international community received word that drug companies were keeping poor and dying people required medicines. However, drug prices remained inaccessibly high.

Finally, a turning point came in 2001 when Indian drug-maker Cipla shocked the international pharmaceutical industry by announcing its plan to sell anti-HIV drugs directly to poor nations and to Doctors Without Borders for only $350 per patient per year (less than $1 a day). Cipla’s offer exposed the huge markups pharmaceutical companies were profiting from, prompting several major drug-makers to lower their prices and make drugs more accessible to developing countries.

Pharmaceuticals Today

Today, the pharmaceutical industry’s attitude and approach toward providing affordable medicine in developing countries have greatly shifted. The Access to Medicine Foundation shares that nearly all major drug companies have goals for addressing access to medicine now, while many have pioneered innovative ways to reduce costs and create medicines and vaccines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In the past 10 years, drug makers have doubled the number of medicines they are developing for LMICs.

Nine companies that own patents for HIV/AIDS treatment now use their IP rights flexibly to allow LMICs to import and purchase generic supplies. As a result, over 14 million Africans are now on HIV drugs, and AIDS-related deaths dropped drastically by nearly 40 percent over the past 10 years.

Seven drug companies have made efforts to include the poorest populations in their customer base, focusing on products for diabetes, heart disease and other NCDs which are a rising problem in the developing world. In 2017, the leading drug maker, Pfizer, partnered with Cipla to sell chemotherapy drugs to African countries at prices just above their own manufacturing cost, selling some pills for as little as 50 cents.

Several leading pharmaceuticals now partner with generics to produce affordable drugs for Africa, Asia and Latin America, and a fair price strategy now covers 49 percent of products. Thanks to the improvements in the pharmaceutical industry, hundreds of thousands of people now have access to affordable medicine in developing countries.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

5 facts about Prosper AfricaThe Prosper Africa initiative is the Trump administration’s plan to move from an aid-focused to business-heavy strategy in Africa. In the words of USAID Administrator Mark Green, Prosper Africa targets Africans’ “innate desire to want to lead themselves” and construct “their own bright future.” The continent’s rapid growth provides ample opportunities for investment in African business and increased African employment. Exactly how the U.S. will take advantage of these opportunities is described by these five facts about Prosper Africa.

The Next Big Market

Africa is quickly urbanizing and consuming new products. The Brookings Institution found that urbanization accounted for 80 percent of African growth. African consumers and businesses spent $4 trillion in 2015 amid this explosion, a number expected to rise to $6.66 trillion by 2030.

Local businesses have become very profitable. There are 400 African firms that make at least $1 billion yearly. Successful companies secure themselves from the continent’s instability using a variety of methods. Dangote Industries, for example, forms relationships with host governments and creates its own electricity to run its facilities.

Supporting African Business

Despite these victories, Africa’s business environment still suffers from shortcomings in infrastructure and employment. Firms are difficult to run when 600 million people throughout the continent lack electricity. Youth unemployment compounds this issue. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance Minister, worries that African youth will turn to violent extremism if economic opportunities do not appear.

Prosper Africa will not only seek to remedy the abovementioned ailments but also compete with China’s trade dominance in the region. According to Business Insider, China’s Belt and Road initiative is already in full force. This initiative seeks to strengthen ties with Africa through trade and business development. President Xi Jinping announced in 2018 that $60 billion would go toward Africa’s development. Among the new projects funded by China are a $31.6 million East African trade headquarters and a $500 million cement factory in Zambia.

5 Facts About Prosper Africa

  1. The goal: Prosper Africa will herald more private investment in the continent and enhance bilateral trade relationships with the United States. The International Trade Administration says that it will increase innovation, transparency and start-up firms by reducing risk and providing access to American trade support services. Besides aiding African businesses, Prosper Africa hopes to expand the number of U.S. firms active on the continent. Africa contains over 1 billion consumers, and the U.S. has a purchasing power of $13 trillion to make the most of an improved relationship.
  2. How it works: Prosper Africa launches a whole-of-government effort that uses existing agencies to remove investment barriers. The Department of Commerce and USAID will work together to focus on the three problem areas including knowledge, expertise and regulations. Administrator Green stated that “Deal Facilitation Teams” at U.S. embassies will support interested African entrepreneurs in moving past gaps in business knowledge or expertise. Prosper Africa will also provide loans to new firms, so banks will allow credit access.
  3. USAID’s critical role: USAID will provide crucial support for the initiative. Their previous experience within many African nations makes them aware of measures needed to overcome poverty. In 2016, USAID helped Kenya eliminate a 30 percent government shareholding requirement in foreign firms. The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition reports that this created a more attractive market and raised American exports there by $60 million. Efosa Ojomo, co-author of “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty,” says a transition to more permanent forms of aid like this will ensure lasting success.
  4. Increasing stability: Prosper Africa will increase stability on the continent, resulting in less need for American troops. In remarks before the Heritage Foundation, National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that Africans would take security into their own hands once economically empowered. The U.S. hopes more prosperous regional alliances, like the G5 Sahel Joint Force, will reduce violence and fight crime. There are currently 6,000 American troops in Africa on 100 missions. A Center for Strategic and International Studies report projected that U.S. military presence will drop by 10 percent in the next decade as a result of Prosper Africa.
  5. Increasing employment: According to the World Economic Forum, 15 to 20 million new workers will appear yearly by 2030. Africa only maximizes 55 percent of its human capital, however. Prosper Africa’s new business deals will work to solve this problem. The Trump administration announced a $20 billion investment by Texas natural gas company Anadarko in Mozambique on June 19, 2019. Anadarko has already trained 500 people in the country and currently has 1,000 Mozambicans in its classes. Its success resonates with African businesses, and 900 have already registered as suppliers for Anadarko.

These five facts about Prosper Africa show that the U.S. is taking a new approach to fighting poverty in Africa. Direct foreign investment will pave the way for prosperity going forward, and aid will have a training focus. Prosper Africa has potential not only to compete with China’s investments but also to generate healthier environments across the continent.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Pixabay

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo
With a population of more than 85 million people, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has struggled with political and social instability since the Belgian conquest in the early 20th century. More than 100 armed groups are active in the DRC to this day. The second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, where more than 1,600 people have died, rages against this backdrop of violence. Since the virus’s discovery in 1976, the DRC has had 10 documented Ebola outbreaks, including this most recent one.  Despite these grim circumstances, a group of Congolese tech-savvy youth has developed an unlikely weapon against Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; an app called Lokole.

Ebola is a virus that causes fever, sore throat and muscle weakness and later progresses to vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding. Patients die due to dehydration and multiple organ failure. Developed during the West African epidemic of 2014-2016 where more than 11,000 people died, the investigational vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV is currently in use to fight the outbreak in the DRC under the Compassionate Use Clause since no one has commercially licensed it to date.

What is Lokole?

In addition to medical interventions, the Congolese Ministry of Health is seeking technological tools. Through collaboration with Internews and Kinshasa Digital, it organized a hackathon in March 2019 which brought 50 students in communications, medicine, journalism and computer science together. These students divided into teams of approximately seven members, and each team sought to answer the question: “How can Ebola response teams leverage new technologies to achieve their communication goals at the local, national and international level?” Thrown together for the first time, Emmanuel, Ursula, Aurore, Joel, David, Israël and Maria worked for 24 hours and emerged with Lokole, the winning technology.

Lokole is an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) mobile application that is “designed to facilitate the real-time transmission of data and information between communities and the Ebola response teams” despite poor internet connectivity in rural areas. This team of seven chose the name Lokole because it is the name of a traditional Congolese drum Congolese people use to transmit messages over long distances. With this app, they hope to increase communication about the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

USSD technology is a text-based communication system used by Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) cellphones, which are used in most countries except for the U.S. and Russia. Even though text-based communication might seem outdated with smartphones in the picture, smartphone use across Africa is less than 35 percent and even those with smartphones might not have access to data plans. As such, a real-time mobile to mobile communication platform based on USSD technology is inherently more inclusive, cheaper and more useful.

How Will Lokole Help?

The Lokole app allows community workers to note and document Ebola symptoms through questionnaires, which are then relayed to Ebola response teams and the Ministry of Health.

“Real-time management of information by the different components of the Ebola response will help detect and provide treatment to patients more quickly and deploy resources on the ground more swiftly, which will help lower Ebola mortality rates,” David Malaba, one of the app’s developers, said.

While analog in comparison to smartphone technology, Lokole’s USSD platform offers the potential for real-time communication without having to invest in widespread expensive improvements in its internet connectivity infrastructure. Lokole empowers the everyday Congolese person with the tools to fight Ebola. It is a democratic grassroots health care model. In fact, similar USSD technology which connects the average citizen with a nurse or physician in a matter of minutes powers large-scale telemedicine platforms, such as BabylRwanda in neighboring Rwanda.

The development of the Lokole app is exciting in its fight against Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the galvanization of local Congolese talent is a game-changer. Hackathons that bring disparate youth together to problem solve big, often overwhelming, issues inspire others to pursue change. Lokole is just the beginning.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

African CropsGlobally, there are about 7,000 domesticated crops. But, today, just four crops–rice, wheat, soybean and maize–account for two-thirds of the consumed calories worldwide. These crops are incredibly nutrient-hungry and added to the common practice of mono-cropping, which has led to the degradation of a third of the Earth’s soil. It is estimated that the global population in 2050 will increase to 10 billion; food production will have to likewise increase by 50 percent to avoid mass hunger. Many scientists think that previously ignored African crops, aptly nicknamed “orphan crops,” are the answer to preventing the oncoming crisis.

4 Wildly Underrated African Crops

  1. Moringa Trees – Also known as the drumstick tree, Moringa trees are a fast-growing species whose leaves, roots, flowers and seeds can all be used for a variety of purposes including as a dietary supplement, water purifier and food. Eight species of it are native to Eastern African countries and it is also endemic to Southeast Asia. Although completely obscure to most Westerners, it is considered by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be one of the most economically valuable African crops. The Moringa’s tiny leaves are incredibly nutritious, being filled with antioxidants, iron, vitamin B6 and more, and are generally ground into powders or packed into capsules to serve as a natural dietary supplement. Its seed pods, which can be consumed both raw or cooked, are also exceptionally high in vitamin C: just one cup of them provides 157 percent of the daily requirement. The seed pods can also be processed into a sweet, non-drying oil.
  2. Bambara Murukku – Ranked as the third most important legume of Africa after peanuts and cowpea, the Bambara is grown mostly by subsistence farmers in semi-arid Africa, thus making it known as a poor man’s crop. Its nuts, which are rich in carbohydrates and protein, can be eaten boiled or roasted or ground into a powder to make flour for usage in bread and cakes. Additionally, Bambara groundnut does not require fertilization as it is self nitrogen-fixing, making it an ideal crop for nutrient-poor areas. Furthermore, the plant is drought-tolerant, making it an ideal crop in the face of climate change.
  3. Teff – A staple crop of Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff makes up two-thirds of those residents’ protein intake. Resembling a skinny wheat stalk, its tiny, thin grains are used for making bread and porridges and its straw is often utilized as a construction material for reinforcing mud walls. It comes in a variety of colors, with the white grains considered the most prized and the red grains fetching the lowest price. The demand for teff has been the fastest-growing of all the African crops in this article in recent years with exports rising by 7 to 10 percent annually. This has been largely due to the media hailing it as the next super grain as well as an apt gluten-free flour option. The export of injera, the Ethiopian pancake made out of teff flour, has also enjoyed an upward trend in recent years. Ethiopian companies, such as Mama Fresh, regularly fly their injera overseas to eager customers.
  4. Okra – Although it is disputed whether okra has originated from either West Africa or Southeast Asia, it is generally agreed that it is one of the most important African crops. Grown mainly for their pods and leaves, its fibers can also be used as a construction material, for handicrafts such as baskets or as a kindling fuel. The plant is incredibly adaptable and resilient and can thrive in just about any condition and climate. High in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium but low in calories, the okra has much potential in Western markets as diet food. It has, until recently, been all but unknown outside of its native land. More research and experimentation needs to be conducted on it to unlock its full potential. Currently, researchers are investigating its possibility of being used as a commercial oilseed and medicinal mucilage.

From custard apples to bread trees, there are hundreds more other under-utilized crops in both Africa and around the world. The status quo of the global diet is far too dependent on a mere handful of plants. In order to prepare for and feed the ever-growing population of this planet, people must become more open and adventurous in various culinary tastes by incorporating these orphan crops into daily meals.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

SolarAidHaving access to working electricity and lights is something most first-world countries tend to overlook and forget to point out how fortunate it is to have such a thing. Unfortunately, there are countries who do not have that privilege and have to cut the day short, which interferes with work and children’s studies. SolarAid is a charity founded in 2006, to combat poverty and provide electricity to developing countries such as Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. They are responsible for many innovations including solar lamps, study lights and solar light libraries. SolarAid charity works alongside numerous partners and even created their own social enterprise, SunnyMoney in 2008, located in Africa so that rural communities have a local main seller and can receive information on how to use solar lights. This charity has done many projects that have transformed and impacted the communities within Africa.

Uganda

In 2014, SolarAid started doing projects in Uganda. Households in small, remote villages in Uganda rely on expensive kerosene for lighting where residents have to travel back and forth to trading centers to buy the kerosene which can get expensive over time. Many schools were also affected by the lack of light until SolarAid created the “world’s most affordable light”. The SM100, also known as a study light, is the world’s most affordable light selling in rural communities for as little as $5, tax-free. This light can be charged in low sunlight and provides light for about five hours. It has a stand attached so that it could easily be set up on the ground and it can also be hung on the wall. Because of its rectangle shape, the SM100 can be taken off its stand and can be attached to straps so that residents can carry it around or use it as a head torch.

A 70-year-old widow, who raises her four grandchildren, lost their hut due to her grandchild knocking over a kerosene lamp sparking a fire. With the SM100, this light is safe for her young grandchildren to use. Students at the Star Light primary school have successfully increased their grades due to having an adequate light source.“My teachers used not to plan their lessons at night and candidate class was limited to the use of three kerosene lamps but ever since I purchased 40 SM100 for my pupils and teachers, everything changed”, said Okello George, the director of the school board. This light has provided many solutions for the community in Uganda that are safe and efficient with doing everyday tasks.

Malawi

On April 1, 2019, SolarAid launched Project Switch in the Mandevu village in the Kasungu district of Malawi providing the village with solar light for the first time. This village has zero access to electricity cutting days short once the sunsets. During the execution of Project Switch, SolarAid provided this village with a solar charging station which is essentially a building with different solar energy enabling options such as renting solar lights for a few pennies and rent to own lighting options including phone charging systems. There is also an option to outright buy solar lights systems. SolarAid has also provided lights and switches inside of households where people are able to turn on a light with just one light switch, something this village has never experienced before.

Along with this, SolarAid teamed up with the Malawi Red Cross after Cyclone Idai hit neighboring countries and caused flooding and high winds forcing 86,000 people to leave their homes and into emergency camps. Interested to see how light can have an impact in aid relief, the Malawi Red Cross and SolarAid provided the emergency camps with 100 solar home systems, and 100 portable solar lights. These systems can help charge phones, keep women and children safe and reduce the risk of dangerous animals or reptiles such as poisonous snakes.

Zambia

Just like in Uganda, SolarAid’s participation in Zambia has positively impacted the school environment. In January 2019, SolarAid’s social enterprise team SunnyMoney in Zambia sought out to rural areas where the majority of the community is living without electricity power lines. They visited a rural school in the Rufunsa district and delivered a solar light library. The solar light library is available for children to use throughout the day to study and do homework, mostly after dark. Throughout the day, there are household chores, farm work, etc., and children, especially girls considering they tend to the majority of the daily household tasks, have little daylight left to do schoolwork. They rely on battery-powered torches or candles, items that don’t last long enough to get an adequate amount of homework done. There are 50 lights available to borrow in the solar light library for as low as 25 Zambian Kwacha (which is roughly two U.S. dollars).

SolarAid is the perfect example of a charity who is taking advantage of the knowledge of renewable energy and using that knowledge for a great cause. With their brilliant innovations made specifically for developing countries, communities will no longer have to suffer to do important tasks throughout the night. As the fight for solar-powered energy continues to increase, these three countries now have the help they need to continue to shine the light in their communities.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr