Information and stories about Africa.

river_blindness_treatment

A new mobile iPhone application developed by UC Berkeley undergraduates is promising to overcome a roadblock in the treatment of river blindness in rural African communities.

River blindness is caused by the parasitic worm onchocerca volvulus, which is transmitted to humans by blackfly bites. River blindness has a high incidence rate near fast-flowing streams in tropical climates, with 99% of cases occurring in Africa, and 1% in Latin America and Yemen, where experts speculate the fly migrated with the slave trade centuries ago. The disease is termed “river blindness” due to the effect the parasite’s larvae (microfilariae) have on their human host: if left untreated, the microfilariae migrate to the skin and eye, where human immune response is somewhat limited. The microfilariae can lacerate the cornea, over which scar tissue forms to eventually cause permanent blindness.

As the second leading cause of infectious blindness, river blindness has a devastating impact on local communities, often forcing migration from fertile land. Local communities face a trade-off between productivity and susceptibility. The World Health Organization estimated that in the 1970s, river blindness cost communities $30 million in potential economic opportunities.

While somewhat correlated with geographic location, the relatively high incidence of river blindness in Sub-Saharan Africa is a result of poor health infrastructure in rural agricultural areas that cannot provide thorough prevention and treatment programs. Many blackfly bites are in fact needed to cause infection, indicating that diligent community interventions can curb parasitic transmission. By partnering with pharmaceutical giant Merck to distribute the drug Mectizan (which kills the parasite’s larvae), the Carter Center spearheaded a successful campaign to eliminate river blindness in Colombia, and is currently working in Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

However, treatment and prevention campaigns were suspended in some communities after ivermectin (the generic label for Mectizan) was found to harm patients who were also infected with another parasite, commonly known as Loa loa, or African eye worm. Similar to the onchocerca volvulus, Loa loa is transmitted via deerflies found in the rainforests of West and Central Africa and can also cause blindness. Ivermectin administered in patients with high Loa loa levels (exceeding 30,000 per milliliter of blood) can potentially lead to severe or fatal brain damage.

In order to quantify the prevalence of Loa loa parasites in a patient and determine their eligibility for ivermectin treatment, laboratory technicians traditionally counted them manually in blood samples—a technique not conducive to use in the field or in mass treatment campaigns, such as those led by the Carter Center. By drastically improving the efficiency and accessibility of Loa loa screening, however, the new iPhone app CellScope Loa, promises to increase the reach of river blindness treatment and prevention programs.

Born from an optics class project in 2006 by a group of undergraduate students at UC Berkeley, the mobile phone application was first developed by UC Berkeley’s Fletcher Lab in 2009. A $400,000 project to expand its global health application was later funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UC Berkeley Blum Center for Developing Economies, USAID, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). Thomas Nutman, the head of clinical parasitology at the National Institutes of Health and a bioengineering professor at UC Berkeley, led the team of UC Berkeley engineers at the Fletcher Lab to design CellScope Loa.

CellScope Loa is breaking ground in the field of mobile imaging technology because it uniquely combines hardware and software to provide point-of-care testing. The hardware—a 3D printed plastic base, microcontrollers, gears, circuitry LED lights and a USB port—captures images of the sample, while an algorithmic software analyzes the “wiggling movements” observed to determine the prevalence of the parasite. CellScope Loa is more accurate than laboratory testing, which was more vulnerable to human error. The entire testing process also takes about three minutes: one minute to obtain a blood sample via finger prick, and two minutes for the microscope to analyze the sample using motion testing.

Their initial testing of 33 patients in Cameroon yielded zero false negatives and two false positives; Fletcher and Nutman are taking 15 devices back to Cameroon this summer to test 40,000 more patients. If successful, CellScope Loa would mark a significant stride in mobile health technology, which is shifting the approach—and increasing the impact—of public health initiatives. Although its applicability is somewhat limited to motion-sensing tests (versus tests for antibodies that diagnose other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B), CellScope Loa can also be used to guide ivermectin treatment of lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, and may have future applications in tuberculosis and malaria testing.

Jacqueline Fedida

Sources: Bloomberg News, The Carter Center, Science of Translational Medicine, UC Berkeley, Washington Post
Photo: Bloomberg

african_urbanization

More and more young Africans are picking up their possessions and leaving their rural villages for lives in the big city. And while this influx of migrants is creating a new wealth of potential laborers for Africa’s generally growing economy, the sheer number of new residents is causing housing prices in cities to skyrocket.

According to an article by Gant Daily, a CNN News affiliate, UN-Habitat estimates that by the year 2030, more people in developing regions will live in urban than rural environments. The UN-Habitat report specifically highlighted Sub-Saharan Africa as an affected region.

With so many young people uprooting themselves for city life, it appears to be a good sign that the African economy is growing and more jobs are consistently being created to retain the influx of immigrants. Unfortunately, most major Sub-Saharan economies are facing a serious housing shortage. Some cities, according to a survey by the Ministry of Lands and Housing, are estimated to face a housing deficit of two million units in the next 10 years.

This high demand and low supply has made city slums an even bigger issue than before. And even among nicer accommodations, living and office space is in such high demand that landlords can demand exorbitant prices.

The upwardly mobile youth are not just moving to cities seeking better jobs and improved housing conditions. As the average income of African youth increases, educated and career-focused individuals are moving to cities looking for ways to spend their disposable income. This means that, in addition to an increased demand for additional housing, there is also a demand for better infrastructure and better retail and commercial opportunities, according to an article by AFK Insider.

While the dramatic housing deficit facing rapidly burgeoning African economic centers could be a recipe for disaster, it also presents an excellent economic opportunity for investment in the real estate and development sectors.

According to AFK Insider, Africa as a whole saw a 46% increase in investment in the construction, transportation and energy projects sectors in 2014; Central Africa alone experienced a 117% increase in the value of construction projects.

Investment in constructing additional affordable housing, improving infrastructure and expanding business opportunities stimulates the economy through job expansion and the creation of a wider consumer marketplace. It is a proven trend that, as people’s quality of life improves, they spend more, thereby inject more money into the economy.

Africa’s urbanization boom may soon lead to its largest economic boom in centuries, and to a new and better quality of life for Africa’s poorest.

Gina Lehner

Sources: Gant Daily, AFK Insider
Photo: NEO

education_in_africa

Though millions of African children still attend school in run-down, shack-like buildings, rising income across the continent of Africa has created a new consumer class— one that is willing to pay for a better education.

Sub-Saharan African countries consistently rank among the lowest in the world for the overall quality of their education system, according to the World Economic Forum. Though increasing numbers of children are attending school, the lackluster curriculums leave many prepared for little more than manual labor.

But as incomes rise, more and more African families are willing to pay, sometimes thousands of dollars, for their children to receive a high quality education at a private school.

According to Reuters, the private education sector in Africa has advanced at breakneck speeds over the last two decades, with some investors more than tripling their initial investments. Private schools can range in cost anywhere from $2,000 to $16,000 annually, says Reuters.

A report by South Africa’s Centre for Development and Enterprise released last month found that over the last 15 years, private or independent school attendance in South Africa has doubled. Though the price tag is high, the dramatic increase shows a demand for better education in Africa.

The booming private sector has drawn the attention of foreign investors from around the globe, including Britain-based Pearson and Dubai-based Gems Education. With so many of the schools already in place and pulling in large profits, Gems Education said they plan to open additional low-cost schools in an interview with The Guardian.

Private schools help meet the educational demands when the governments of impoverished regions cannot afford the investment. Though the overall school attendance in Sub-Saharan Africa is among the lowest in the world, in the last two decades, even the most impoverished regions have seen school attendance nearly triple, according to The World Bank’s “world development indicators.”

However, the boom isn’t restricted to the education sector. As more and more young Africans are receiving higher education, the demand for better paying jobs is on the rise and the growing availability of skilled laborers leaves the door open for investors interested in expanding into new regions. For example, Facebook recently announced it will be opening an office in South Africa this year. In this way, the education boom is sparking an economic boom in Africa.

Gina Lehner

Sources: Reuters, The Guardian, The World Bank
Photo: The Guardian

electrify_africa_act_2015
On June 23, 2015, California Representative Ed Royce introduced an updated version of his “Electrify Africa Act” in hopes that, after a year of gaining attention, the bill would have more traction in 2015.

First introduced nearly two years earlier, H.R. 2847 (2014 version, H.R. 2548), known as the Electrify Africa Act, seeks “to encourage African countries to provide first-time access to electricity and power services for at least 50,000,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Though certain language has been rearranged and some bill descriptions altered between the years, both versions address the same goal: to have the U.S. Government establish policy to “partner, consult, and coordinate” with the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa and international agencies in order to provide reliable access to electricity.

Findings reported to Congress in the 2014 act showed that an estimated 68% of Sub-Saharan Africans lacked access to electricity as of 2010; with Africa’s rapid rate of population growth, this percentage is likely even higher today. At a minimum, first-time access to electricity must be provided to 50 million people in the region, some 10% of the estimated population lacking power.

Residents of Sub-Saharan Africa living without electricity are forced to use time-consuming and inefficient heating and cooking methods, such as using wood and dung for fuel. In addition to being time-consuming, the fuels utilized in these regions can produce toxic fumes, which, according to the report, cause nearly 3 million premature deaths due to respiratory disease each year.

The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 would establish a precedent in U.S. foreign policy to aid developing nations in creating and expanding their electrical infrastructure in a sustainable and effective way. Expansion of the electrical grid would reduce the prevalence of carbon-emitting and toxic materials being used for heating and cooking purposes, as well as reduce poverty by creating jobs, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities and lowering energy prices.

The bill further calls for a focus on expanding and promoting energy development strategies, including the use of renewable and cleaner energy sources as a way to build the overall economy by increasing investment across the region.

Electrify Africa 2014 (first introduced in June 2013) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with significant bipartisan support and a vote of 297 to 117. However, the bill stalled out once it hit the U.S. Senate floor, where it was read twice before being referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, as documented on Congress.gov.

The Electrify Africa Act 2015 has since been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it awaits further action. Though the bill has garnered significant support in 2014, the 2015 version will need to raise the bar in order to make it all the way to the President in this legislative session.

– Gina Lehner

Sources: EAA 2014, EAA 2015
Photo: Huffington Post

5 Major Successes in the Global War on Poverty-TBP

This month will mark the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, just two of the programs that constitute the American War on Poverty. Although remaining under constant threat and scrutiny, social programs such as these have noticeably decreased poverty levels in the United States from 26% in 1967 to 16% in 2012. To Americans, those figures might seem significant. However, they pale in comparison to much of the progress made on a global scale. Below is a list of five quantifiable successes in the global war on poverty that put America’s efforts to shame.

1. Between 1990 and 2010 extreme global poverty was cut in half.

Obviously, this is fantastic news for humanity. In 1990, half of the population living in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 per day. Only two decades later, the rate fell to 22%. At this pace the levels of global poverty declined enough to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) five years ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, work still lies ahead for the UNDP. Recent economic stagnation has deflated the prospects for job growth in many developing countries with 56% of all employment deemed vulnerable. Not surprisingly, this employment risk is greater for women, who show higher rates of vulnerable employment across the board. Overall, though, this is a monumental achievement that bodes well for the 21st century.

2. Hunger is expected to decline by half by the end of 2015.

If all goes according to plan this year, global hunger should also meet the UNDP’s Millenium Development Goals. In developing regions, the rate has fallen from 26% in 1990-92 to 14.3% in 2011 to 2013. This adds up 173 million people no longer suffering from chronic hunger. While in 1990, 40% of young children had inadequate height for their age, today this figure stands at 25%. Despite progress, global hunger remains a pressing issue; in total, 842 million people still suffer from chronic hunger. In regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, one in four remain malnourished. While much more still needs to be done, the heads of three U.N. food agencies encouragingly wrote, “This is proof that we can win the war against hunger and should inspire countries to move forward, with the assistance of the international community as needed.”

3. The debt burden of developing countries has fallen greatly.

While concerns over debts have risen recently in developed countries the opposite is true in the developing world. In 2012, the debt burden—or the proportion of external debt to export revenue— was 3.1%, a quarter of what it was in 2000. This is due in part to increased trade, better management of debt and foreign aid from the developed world that have reduced the debts of many of the poorest countries in the developing world.

4. Modern communications is taking off in the developing world.

At the end of 2014, the number of Internet-users worldwide hit nearly three billion people, or essentially 40% of the global population. Of these three billion, two-thirds lived in developing countries, where, according to a UNDP report, “the number of Internet users doubled in just five years between 2009 and 2014.” Africa represents the vanguard of this transition with 20% of inhabitants now on the Internet, in comparison to just 10% in 2010. Still, four billion lack access to the Internet with 90% of these people from the developing world. While today only a third of the youth in developing nations are digital connoisseurs, with five years of experience on the Internet, this number is expected double in the next five years. The global spread of communications technology relies greatly upon young digital natives welcoming technology into the developing world.

5. Africa is actually making notable progress.

Despite its reputation as perpetually impoverished and continuously unstable, Africa has experienced a variety of successes in recent years. Most notably, headway has been made in disease prevention and control. Many countries have experienced dramatic increases in retroviral therapy coverage for AIDS/HIV. Rwanda increased coverage from just 1% in 2003 to 71% in 2007, while Namibia’s coverage grew from 1% in 2003 to 88% in 2007. The Southern African Initiative has also worked to eliminate childhood death from measles in seven countries through vaccination efforts. Economic growth has also expanded, with countries such as Mozambique paving the way. Since the end of its civil war in 1992, Mozambique grew at a rate of 8% annually on average. Between 1997 and 2003, its rate of poverty fell by 15%, lifting almost three million people out of extreme poverty. However, half of its population is still impoverished. Mozambique represents much of Africa’s recent improvements; good, but not yet good enough.

Andrew Logan

Sources: The United Nations, United Nations Development Fund 1, United Nations Development Fund 2, United Nations Development Fund 3, The Washington Post, The World Bank
Photo: Wikipedia

education_struggles
There have been many successes for girl’s education in the developing world. Challenges remain, however, creating a puzzle for problem solvers around the world.

Girls face many more education struggles than boys do. This is especially the case during puberty. For one girl living in Uganda who wants to be a doctor, lack of proper toilets causes embarrassment and results in missed days at school. “Some toilets don’t have doors and so we fear to enter as people can see or enter the toilets at any time. At the toilets, they don’t have water to flush or wash, and so it’s complicated to attend school when I have my period.”

While some might think this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO has found differently. One in 10 girls across Africa miss school during their period. Half of girls attending school in Ethiopia miss between one and four days of school a month because of menstruation.

In India, the problem is even worse. Sixty-six percent of schools there do not have functioning toilets. Without private toilets, girls’ health is put at risk. Coupled with the stigma and taboos associated with menstruation and periods, and the result is often that girls drop out of school in the developing world.

Another issue that also affects girls’ education in Africa is child marriage. Every year, 15 million girls 18 or under marry. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent are married before 18, and 12 percent before they are even 15. In Chad, the number of girls married under age 15 jumps to 29 percent. Even with minimum age laws, marriages still go ahead with parental consent.

This has implications for young women’s education. Once they are married, they are expected to fulfill duties at home which leaves them with them no time to pursue their studies. This begins a vicious circle: without education girls are not informed of their rights and are able to act on them.

Despite these challenges, there have been huge gains in education for girls around the developing world. By 2012, most countries had reached the Millennium Development Goal target of girls primary education parity with boys. For many countries this meant that for every 100 boys, 97 girls also attended primary school.

However, even in this victory lies a caveat – not all countries have actually reached full parity. Sub-Saharan Africa enrollment rate for primary school-aged girls was still languishing at 75 percent in 2010. “Three-quarters of the countries that have not achieved parity at the primary level enroll more boys than girls at the start of the school cycle.” To equalize enrollment at the beginnings of school years would be to achieve parity.

Afghanistan stands out as a beacon of success when it comes to girls’ education, especially with the Taliban influence in the area that discourages girls in school. Girls enrollment in 2014 reached 3.75 million girls. In 2002, only 191,000 were enrolled.

While there are still big problems girls face around the developing world when it comes to attending school, it is important to acknowledge the victories. More work is needed but if progress continues, more successes will come.

– Gregory Baker

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, The Guardian 4, The Guardian 5, UN Women
Photo: The Better India

Sleeping-Disease
Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as Sleeping Disease, is prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, affecting rural, poverty-stricken populations with close to 10,000 new cases each year. There are 2 strands of the disease: East African Trypanosomiasis and West African Trypanosomiasis. Both strands are only spread in rural Africa via the bite of tsetse flies and cause similar symptoms, but the incubation periods and medications used are slightly different.

A tsetse bite infects the patient with a parasite, which then lives in the host’s lymphatic system and blood stream. There is also a chance that a pregnant woman can pass the infection on to her child. HAT can cause headaches, fever, weakness, joint pain, stiffness and irregular sleep patterns in its first stages. When the infection advances and crosses over into the host’s nervous system, psychiatric disorders, seizures, coma and death can occur.

The East African strain, named for the region that it is typically found, is the least common of the two with only a few hundred people becoming infected each year. This strain moves particularly fast, though, as patients see symptoms within 1-3 weeks and, if left untreated, death can occur within a few months. This strain is also a bit harder to control, as it is a zoological disease—several animals are able to host the parasitic strain.

The West African strain is the most common with 7,000-10,000 new cases reported each year. This strain can be hard to detect because symptoms can take up to a few months to surface and death can occur after the patient has been infected for several years. This strain, even with its prevalence, can be easier to contain, as humans are the primary hosts of infection. Effective treatment of infected humans will help stop the spread of the disease.

There are medications to help people combat the disease, but different medications are used depending on the stage of infection. Detection can be difficult and the medicine can be expensive, which makes treatment less accessible to those infected, as they reside primarily in rural areas. Spinal taps must be administered to ensure that the disease has not breached the central nervous system, which would cause the treatment plan to change. Even after a patient is considered cured, he or she must undergo routine screening, including a spinal tap, for up to two years. Even with precautions in place, relapse remains possible.

Even with few infected tsetse flies and a relatively small number of cases, the disease saw a resurgence of new cases after several years of latent activity. Nevertheless, the number of new cases are once again reducing every year; reports to the World Health Organization (WHO) have gone from 300,000 in 1995, down to just over 17,000 in 2004, below 10,000 in 2009 and only 7,139 in 2010.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available for HAT and recovery from a case does not result in immunity, yet progress is being made.

The WHO has taken great measures to aid African countries that are considered endemic: “technical assistance, access to diagnosis, training [and] access to treatment.” When these areas are focused on, things improve. Access to treatment has been a priority for the WHO because the medicine used for the second stage of the West African strain is an arsenic derivative. New treatments are being worked on to reduce the need for medicines that are accompanied by detrimental side effects.

Not every tsetse fly carries the disease, but the higher number of bites a person gets increases a person’s chance of becoming infected. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tells U.S. travelers to wear protective clothing when traveling in rural African areas with lots of brush, wear neutral colors that do not attract the flies, inspect vehicles for flies, avoid bushes, and use insect repellent. Repellent does not guaranteed protection against the tsetse fly, but it will help.

This disease’s resurged because it was ignored for a time. With the CDC’s suggestions and the WHO’s work in the field, the disease could become virtually non-existent in a short time if the decline seen in recent years continues. The medication used will help people gain their lives back and once again become productive members in their society. With all the good work being done to get rid of HAT, this disease could become a thing of the past in rural sub-Saharan communities.

Megan Ivy

Sources: CDC, WHO, PLOS
Photo: the journal.ie

world_globe_borgen_africa
Earlier this June, several African nations came together to create the Regional Scholarship and Innovative fund to recommit to developing technology skills. The fund is a partnership that will help create thousands of new jobs across Africa, as well as develop specialized skills for African workers everywhere.

The fund is a project facilitated by the World Bank’s Partnership for Skills in Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET). The initiative of PASET is “to accelerate the creation of a skilled, high-quality workforce in Africa to power Africa’s socio-economic transformation,” according to Ghanaweb.com.

The fund was created out of a $5 million investment from the World Bank back in 2013. Africa’s decision to commit itself to advancing skills in science and technology stems from a disparaging gap in work skills between African workers and workers worldwide.

The idea behind the fund is modeled after similar ideas done by Brazil, India and China years ago when their own economies were struggling. By deciding to invest heavily in science and technological research, these global powerhouses reinvented themselves by cultivating specialized skills for their workforces.

One specific area of reform targeted by the fund is the immediate training of 10,000 doctors across Africa to begin bolstering the continent’s health issues. By making an effort to modernize key industries such as medicine and engineering, Africa is preparing to step onto the same level as other major global powers.

The fund seeks to develop essential 21st century skills in Africans in the hopes that it will help “bring together all partners – public and private, traditional and emerging partners.” By allowing the African workforce to develop into a self-sustaining group, Africa can begin to move away from a heavy dependence on foreign aid.

PASET is the means by which Africa will enter a new era of social and economic development. The skills being taught to Africans will affect agriculture, infrastructure and modern medicine in a continent plagued by poverty and malnutrition. With the World Bank behind it, Africa is poised to leap into the 21st century as an economic power.

– Diego Alejandro Catala

Sources: World Bank, Ghana Web

Human Rights and Gender Equality on the Rise in Africa-TBP
Recently in Dakar, Senegal, UNAIDS and the Alliance Nationale Contre le Sida, or ANCS, held a three-day capacity workshop. This workshop was designed to discuss the continued political, legal, cultural and social challenges that hinder efforts addressing the HIV epidemic in Africa.

So then, why are human rights and gender equality so important? According to UNICEF, “A lack of respect for human rights fuels the spread of HIV and exacerbates the impact of the epidemic … at the same time, HIV undermines progress in the realization of human rights and hampers the scale-up of high-impact interventions.” Without proper education of human rights and gender equality, atrocities like gender-based violence not only increase the vulnerability of the area, but also the likelihood of transmitting the HIV infection.

The discussions focused on the fact that human rights, gender equality and the involvement of people living with HIV were rarely factored into the national programs and planning aimed at reducing or preventing HIV. In the few instances where human rights, gender equality and the involvement of people living with HIV were included, they were not addressed at the cost and budgeting phase; with little ability to track progress, these programs were not evaluated or taken to scale.

Over fifty participants from ten countries across Western and Central Africa, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Chad, participated in the workshop.

Participants stressed the importance of different approaches and tools for ensuring the inclusion of programs to advance human rights and gender equality. Each country elaborated on individual national action plans with specific commitments to integrate these human rights and gender programs into their national HIV/AIDS response.

Leopold Zekeng, deputy director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for West and Central Africa, said, “Unless the legal and social environments are protective of the people living with and vulnerable to HIV, people will not be willing or able to come forward for HIV prevention and treatment. Human rights need to be at the core of our Fast-Track efforts towards ending the AIDS epidemic in the region.”

At the end of the meeting, the delegation concluded that human rights and full access to services for everyone in West and Central Africa should be the core of the “Fast-Track” declaration, now named the Dakar Declaration, which aims at scaling up the HIV response in West and Central Africa. With this new plan, one hopes to see positive and significant change—such as erasing AIDS from the region by 2030.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: UNICEF, UNAIDS, HRW

AngonixA platform for neutral Internet traffic exchange was set up in Luanda, the capital of Angola. It is called Angonix and it is meant to help serve all Internet users with improved content viewing by structuring a better connection with global networks and content providers. With a previously less optimal experience in Angola, Angonix will expand Internet usage to the South African Development Community and elsewhere.

Angonix will change the connection performance. Content delivered by outside sources had provided minimal performance and high latency. The main goal of Angonix is to ensure every member connected to the platform will have low latency and improved content.

Angonix is operated by Angola Cables, who also oversee the connectivity of Angola with the world’s undersea fibre-optic cables. With Angonix, quality service to content will enable the progression of African Internet outreach and global connection. Places in Africa, such as Zambia, still rely on satellite Internet connectivity, which is ultimately unreliable.

Launched March 16, 2015, the expected traffic has enhanced quality content especially in exchanging information between clients and providers. In the past, local clients had to travel some distance to interconnect. This was thanks to configuration problems of network providers.

Working to minimize that distance, providers will have easy access in communicating with clients and vice versa. This development is meant to dramatically change the African Internet landscape. It’s been designed to reach beyond Angola and to help provide low latency between Africa, East Asia and the Americas.

iHub is an online and offline community that hosts a place for 50 companies to connect to clients and has held 500 events. It is a space for online developers working with technology software and is a very well known site in Africa.
Sites like this need to be able to connect elsewhere on the continent. Governments are currently struggling with net neutrality debates and whether or not laws should be in place to support investments that connect rural Africa to enabled environments.

Fibre-optic cables are still needed in South Africa to improve Internet access and link those citizens to the world. The problem is that homes and businesses cannot connect.

Rural Africa is the untapped market. Lesser-developed regions such as Somalia had 200 users in 2000, but 163,185 users in 2014 with a population of 10 million. The Congo Democratic Republic had 500 users in 2000, but 1.7 million users in 2014 with a population of 77 million.

The Communication Commission of Kenya reported 330 thousand mobile users in 2001, and 30 million in 2013. The Angola population had 30 thousand people using the Internet in the year 2000, and 4 million in 2014 with a population of 19 million. Kenya had 200 thousand Internet users in 2000, but 21 million users in 2014 with a population of 45 million.

In sub-Saharan Africa there are over 754 million connections and over 35 mobile networks operators. An SMS-based banking system called M-Pesa in Kenya transfers $24 million daily. Zimbabwe’s EcoCash signed up 2.3 million people in more than a year, after starting in 2011. More than a million accounts push $200 million through EcoCash monthly.

Yet, the continent produces less than one Terabits per second. Angola produces 20 gigabits per second. The demand of improved, constant Internet access is supposed to raise Terabit per second to 10 by 2020, according to TeleGeography.

Projects like West African Cables Systems and South Africa Cable Systems improve connectivity as Angonix improves capacity services. With this, better quality increases capacity of performance, communication and outreach.

The Southern African Development Community has advanced its Internet market. The opportunity for expansion and innovation comes from this improvement. Angola Cables is working to better the growth of Africa with its new technologies in providing services. By improving outreach to the World Wide Web Africa’s communication and business, practices will continue to enhance and expand to rural areas.

– Katie Groe

Sources: IT News Africa, Angola Cables, Angonix 1, Angonix 2, UN, Internet Word Stats
Photo: Africa 21