Information and stories about Africa.

Oliberté

Although the average consumer would be willing to pay 15% more for a product to ensure it was not made in a sweatshop, doubling the salary of a sweatshop worker would only increase prices by 1.8%. It is surprising, then, that the shoe industry continues to support sweatshop conditions.

Many clothing brands have attempted to be a force for good. Footwear brand TOMS has become a major force for the “one-for-one” charitable model that has since been picked up by many brands. Nike, a brand notorious for its own labor violations, has engaged in a variety of charity products. These options are readily available, but for a brand that improves labor conditions and empowers workers in Africa, you cannot do better than Oliberté footwear.

Oliberté, which describes itself as “the world’s first Fair Trade Certified footwear manufacturing facility,” was founded by Canadian Tal Dehtiar, founder of MBAs Without Borders. Dehtiar describes his goal as not simply creating an ethical brand of African footwear, but creating a quality brand of African footwear. “We don’t want people to think of Africa as the next China. We want them to think of it as the next Italy,” he said.

With its stylish selection of shoes and footwear, along with its waterproofing “gorilla wax,” Oliberté does just that. All Oliberté shoes are made at a factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. By working to increase employment and fair wages, along with improving working conditions at its own factory, the company supports breaking the generational cycle of poverty through social enterprise, a key point in its business plan.

Along with promoting ethical pay for workers in Ethiopia, Oliberté shoes are sourced from free-range cows, sheep and goats. This is very important for the many Ethiopians who remain economically independent on livestock.

Stylish, sturdy and ethical, Oliberté shoes are not simply a footwear brand but a new perspective on Africa. Instead of casting Africa as weak and hopeless, the brand supports empowerment that goes beyond the traditional white savior narrative of many brands working in the region. And the shoes feel great.

– Andrew Michaels

Sources: Good, Stand 4, Oliberté, Oliberté 2
Photo: Atelier Fifty Five

STEM-Education-in-Developing-Countries

The fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are being heavily encouraged in developed countries, but developing regions are also encouraging and financing STEM education.

STEM focuses on the areas of education that have a scientific focus. Students who earn these types of degrees are able to gain employment in information technology (IT), medicine, higher education and many other fields.

Encouraging STEM growth in developing countries is important because many new jobs are being created in the booming medicine, computer and IT industries worldwide. Educating people in these fields is going to bring tremendous growth to the nation’s economy and help get people out of poverty.

India has been working hard to promote STEM in their educational programs. Even in the United States, the results of their nascent success are visible. However, regions all over Africa are also promoting STEM education to help bolster their economies.

India still suffers from tremendous poverty throughout the country, but the country is trying to change this partly through educational initiatives. The India STEM Foundation strives to build up STEM education as described in their vision: “To create a world where young people are encouraged to celebrate fun and excitement of science and technology, and inspire them to take science and technology based career paths to become tomorrow’s much needed technology leaders.”

To get that vision to come to life, the foundation supports robotics programs and competitions for children. They have many world partners helping to create these positive learning environments such as Lego, John Deere, Caterpillar and United Technologies, to name a few.

Africa is another place that is using education, specifically STEM education, to move people out of poverty. In 2014, the World Bank approved financing for “19 university-based Centers of Excellence in seven countries in West and Central Africa. These competitively selected centers will receive funding for advanced specialized studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health.”

The World Bank is hopeful that this financing will help fill the shortage of skilled workers that Africa is facing in health, telecommunications and industry. Another benefit of financing universities in Africa will be that more students will have STEM education in relative proximity to their homes instead of having to travel abroad for education. This allows more students to have the option of a good higher education. Also, since those students will be trained in their own countries, the skilled workers have an incentive to remain in their regions strengthening the skilled labor force and even creating economic growth.

The United Nations has published findings that affirm that STEM education “can remove poverty and reduce inequality in developing countries.” However, there are several cultural challenges that countries face when implementing long-term improvements in STEM, including children losing interest in STEM classes and the gender stereotypes that often leave girls behind.

Those issues are being addressed. Robotic camps are popping up all over the world, not just in India, and they help encourage children’s interest in STEM fields through fun activities. In addition, more and more women are emerging into STEM fields and breaking down some common gender barriers.

STEM education is becoming more of a focus as our world becomes ever more digital. With the wonderful encouragement that children in developing parts of the world are getting, STEM education and the respective fields should continue improving.

Megan Ivy

Sources: George Mason University, India STEM Foundation, UN, World Bank
Photo: Benignant De Eagle

Investment_in_Africa

Recently, international investors have turned their sights to Africa, whose expanding consumer class and abundant natural resources make it the next prime location for development and innovation. According to the Africa Attractiveness Survey, investment in Africa totaled $128 billion in 2014, up 136% from the previous year. Investment reached $174 million per project, an increase from $67.8 million in 2013. This vast increase is largely spurred by several megadeals on the continent rather than many smaller ones. Although this “big money” form of investment may crowd out smaller investors, it paves the way for future funding from all types of businesses.

According to Charles Brewer, managing director for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, an update in the way investors perceive the continent has been the source of increased funding. Economic growth coupled with an improved business environment and strengthened infrastructure has caused foreign investment to hit a historic high. Sufficient infrastructure is key to successful development because it lowers the expense of logistics. In the past, supply chain costs were nine times greater in Africa than on other continents. Deals such as DHL Express’s not only expand the frontier for international corporations but also lend to growth within Africa as well. Brewer predicts millions more in investment dollars from his company alone in 2015.

“With increased Foreign Development Investment and macroeconomic growth, I believe that Africa will become an economic powerhouse in the future. The region is abound with untapped opportunities and has much scope for growth,” says Brewer. With more and more people benefiting from international aid and earning money, the consumer base in Africa has grown rapidly. This provides immense opportunities for companies to move into these countries and provide previously undeveloped services. Brewer lists 18 countries for which his company has planned major projects. Such economic development will also provide more jobs to African workers and increase spending across the economy, leading to even more economic growth and future foreign investment. Companies such as DHL Express will help reinforce the business environment and create opportunities for African businesses all over the world. In this way, Africa is not a market to be cornered by the rest of the world; the world is a market soon to be cornered by Africa.

– Jenny Wheeler

Sources: It News Africa, African Business Review
Photo: Flickr

Disability-in-Africa
The World Report on Disability estimates that 15 percent of the world population lives with disabilities. The disabled are the world’s most underprivileged minority, and are considered the poorest of the poor.

Disability in Africa is very high, with approximately 80 million African people living with disabilities, according to the United Nations.

It is believed that the number of those with physical and mental impairments will only increase with time. Disability is caused by many factors, such as birth defects, environmental hazards, industrial accidents, war and other conflicts. Some of the factors are easily preventable, such as malnutrition and diseases.

Even walking and playing can be dangerous. According to Rehabilitation International, between 250-500 disabilities are caused simply due to encounters with landmines.

Many people with physical disabilities do not have access to wheelchairs or crutches. Instead, they resort to makeshift items that do not offer quality mobility or comfort.

Because being disabled impacts your ability to work, disabled Africans struggle to support themselves and their families. In most cases, the disabled resort to begging outside of churches and on the streets.

In the poorest parts of Africa, the percentage of disabled children who receive an education are as low as 1 to 3 percent. They are denied education because there are no special facilities to accommodate them. Furthermore, there are cultural attitudes, such as shame and fear, associated with having a disability.

Sunit Bagree says, “…traditional and religious beliefs can make people believe that having a disabled child is a form of punishment, related to the concept of sin.”

This negative stigma is often how disability is viewed by others, and it impacts every opportunity they have.

“Disabled young people all over the world face unfair inequality of opportunities, but in parts of Africa, conditions can be unimaginably hard,” says Damon Hill, Patron of Disability Africa, an organization that strives to improve the lives of disabled Africans.

To improve the lives of the disabled, legislation and organizations strive to change the stigma associated with disability.

In February 2014, the first ever African Leaders Forum on Disability was held in Malawi. At the event, leaders challenged the stigmas and inequalities associated with disability. Ultimately, the goal was to achieve awareness to spark equality and empowerment for people with disabilities in Africa.

“There is something about the plight that faces individuals with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, that is compounded by an entrenched stigma that has endured, unjustly, for centuries and centuries,” says Joyce Banda, President of Malawi.

Determined to finally change the stigma associated with disability, President Malawi passed a Disability Act which created equal rights and inclusion policies for everyone with disabilities in Malawi.

Although many African countries have passed their own disability policies, there is still much more that can be implemented, believes Special Olympics Chairman, Tim Shriver.

President Banda declares, “No region of the world is doing enough for people with intellectual disabilities. Africa, with its emphasis on community and its peoples’ deep understanding of discrimination and deprivation, can be a leader in ensuring human rights, social services and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.”

– Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: United Nations, African Studies Centre Leiden, Disabled World, UNICEF, WHO
Photo: The Salvation Army

Americans-Can-End-Modern-Slavery-in-Africa
Thousands living in poverty and inhumane conditions are forced into slavery for their survival. Many of the victims are woman and children who flee countries in search of refuge but, instead, are captured by human traffickers and sold into what is known as modern-day slavery.

Many of those who end up in modern slavery rings are fleeing persecution in their native countries. This is a particularly prominent issue in African countries that neighbor South Africa. South Africa is a desired destination for many Africans who suffer from poverty and corruption in other countries. It is on their travels from other nations to safety that they unfortunately get sucked into the horrors of modern slavery in Africa.

Some children are forced into becoming child soldiers, while some, along with women, are sold into sex trafficking. Others are used to provide cheap or unpaid labor in agricultural work, factories or domestic work. The number of people enslaved are staggering, with approximately 193,000 in Ghana and about 762,900 in the Congo.

It is important that, instead of just ignoring modern slavery like many have been, we know the power we have in ending slavery around the world. Modern day slavery has been uncovered everywhere, even in the United States in the last 15 years. Ignoring the horrific acts just won’t do.

How can we not only show that we do not support this atrocity but also want to work towards its end?

Many enslaved people are those who make the products we use every day. This includes agricultural goods, clothes and other items. Many who use slaves use other terminology in order to hide the atrocities. Many people are enslaved to make clothes and products in factories, working for inhumane hours at a time for either very little or even no pay. There are ways for consumers to research quickly online about where their products come from and how those who make the clothing are treated.

Much of this information is provided by advocacy organizations that have dedicated time and research into finding these victims.

There are many organizations that work to find and free enslaved individuals, while also dismantling groups that enslave them. One international organization is “Free the Slaves.” Free the Slaves is an advocacy group that speaks for those throughout the world who have fallen victim to such atrocities.

For more information about how everyone can make a difference and end modern slavery in Africa, go to www.freetheslaves.net.

– Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Free the Slaves 1, Free the Slaves 2, African Holocaust
Photo: Rita Bay’s Blog

dbanj_fights_poverty
D’Banj is a singer and peace activist who is featured first on #Music4Dev initiated in 2014 where artists use World Bank to share their music. It’s here where artists talk about poverty and encourage their listeners to work together in ending the crisis. One crucial way to help those in need is to spread awareness about the issue, especially to the youth of the world.

Afrobeat music is believed to have been born out of challenges facing Africa in recent years. Other African genres originate from various nations. These styles include rhumba, makossa, kwaito and highlife. Nigeria’s Afrobeat (or Naija beats) was introduced in the late ’60s by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. With different styles originating from various parts of Africa, this genre escalated only recently with a few artists excelling in the industry.

BBC Radio 1Xtra, the Mobos, MTV Awards and numerous African gatherings have acknowledged the latest African music. Modern techniques have also enhanced the life of video and music quality. Artists and telecom companies are making a large profit while the entertainment industry becomes lucrative.

A common production method includes selling music via mobile phone where customers buy ringtones and dial tones. Much like the Western world, another method to promote the artist is to play popular songs constantly over the radio and on television through video. Artists also appear at concert halls to sell their work.

The youth of Africa are believed to represent the future as a digitally-connected generation. Music unites them for a cause. D’Banj uses music to create poverty awareness and rally Africa’s youth to take a stance against the issue.

He is known for his energetic performances and originality having made the UK’s top ten list as the first Afrobeats artist. He was born in Zaria, Nigeria. He taught himself to play his older brother’s harmonica and has been in love with music ever since.

He has succeeded in making himself heard with 1 million Twitter followers. Kanye West, Akon, Snoop Dogg, Big Sean and actor Idris Elba have acknowledged his likability and recorded with him.

Among this recognition, he has also received Best African Act at MTV Europe Music Awards in 2007 and Artist of the Year in 2009 at MTV Africa Music Awards and BET Awards. In 2013, he attended African Union Year of Agriculture and brought together three million people to form advocacy for the alleviation of poverty.

He implored his followers to address their governments and stressed that more needed to be done for agriculture and small farms. He received two million signatures for the Do Agric Global Africa Campaign.

In 2014, he started focusing on African Union Year of Women’s Empowerment. He wrote a song called ‘Extraoridinary” for the cause. As he says in World Bank’s Blog in an article written by Korina Lopez, “Most of the established small-scale farmers that we have are women… You have to look beyond the body to see the extraordinary potential she possesses.”

D’Banj is known for his humanitarian role as an ambassador for One.org. In addition, he is an ambassador for Nigerian Agricultural Entrepreneurs and has been appointed Nigeria’s first UN Youth Ambassador for Peace.

He has recently been nominated for the MTV African Music Awards (MAMA) Evolution award. D’Banj was nominated with several others including 2face, P-Square and Asa. This award is meant to recognize artists revolutionizing African music with an influence around the world. The announcement of the winner takes place on July 18, 2015. Fans will vote for their favorite, and D’Banj has an admirable status for this particular achievement.

Katie Groe

Sources: World Bank Blog, World Bank Blog, TED 1 , TED 2 , Pulse, The Guardian
Photo: NET

unregistered_births_developing_countries
What if you did not have a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport or health insurance card? There is no way of proving who you are. This is the reality for some children in developing countries.

Millions of people, mostly in the developing world, were not officially registered when they were born. In wealthy countries like the U.S., almost every birth is registered upon arrival with a government agency and documented with a birth certificate.

But in much of Africa and Asia, documentation only happened for a fraction of newborns. And living as an undocumented person is a lifelong problem. You cannot obtain a driver’s license, passport or a health insurance card.

Kerry Neal, a child protection specialist with UNICEF, explains, “A birth certificate is the document from which all others spring. Without one, it can be hard to get into school, get exam certificates, get a passport or even a SIM card for your phone in some countries. You often need to show proof of identity and citizenship to get medical and social services.”

Without proper documentation, children cannot prove their age. This causes children more likely to be trafficked, conscripted or forced to work or marry while underage.

Births should also be registered because governments need to know how many people are being born where in order to plan for services such as schools, hospitals and roads. Birth registrations are the best way to track demographics.

This information piqued the interest of President Obama.

“Earlier in June, President Obama signed the Girls Count Act, which authorizes the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to promote birth registration systems around the world.”

The issue of birth registrations has also been getting increasing attention from UNICEF. In December 2013, UNICEF published groundbreaking reports.

The reports estimated that some 230 million children under the age of five, one out of three children worldwide, never had their birth registered.

The reasons for the million of births never registered are unknown. Some parents in the developing world may not have known about the process, found it too difficult, too expensive or a combination of all these reasons.

Often, registration offices are only found in cities. Many rural families cannot afford to take time off of work, and to spend the money required for the trip. Statistically, children in urban areas have higher registration rates than those living in rural areas.

Parents may also hold religious views that do not support government registration of children. In some areas of the developing world, there may not even be a government system available for registering the births.

For example, the UNICEF report found that in war ravaged Somalia and Liberia, fewer than five percent of births are registered.

Without proper documentation, some children do not exist. This leads to a life full of problems, including lack of schooling, underage trafficking and inability to apply for a job.

Lack of documentation is negatively affecting the developing world. With the help of the Girls Count Act, future generations of children hold a chance to be registered, and to live their life with proper documentation.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: Take Part, UNICEF
Photo: Save the Children

 

z1_world_globe_borgen_africa
In the past decade, Ethiopia has opened its doors to foreign investment. Fashion retailer H&M and Walmart already have factories there, or plan to build them. There are also proposals to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which will be a source of hydropower and accelerate agriculture development.

For Africa’s second most populous country, this will spur an economy that has traditionally been state-led and isolated.

These investments have already had positive impacts beyond their monetary value. Due to financial and economic stability, women are now having fewer children than before. Literacy rates are on the rise, and infant mortality rates have fallen by half.

Just over three years ago, the world’s population crossed the 7 billion mark. By 2100, the United Nations projects that the world population will be roughly 9.1 billion. With distress over resources and a changing climate, overpopulation is a growing concern among world leaders.

While the populations of Europe and North America are beginning to stabilize, Africa is still experiencing accelerated growth. The United Nations cites economic development and the education of woman as solutions to slowing fertility rates.

It has already worked in Ethiopia.

The average number of children women have has fallen from 6.5 to 4.8 in just a decade. In the capital, Addis Ababa, one of the most developed regions in the country, women are now having the replacement level number of children — two.

Although Ethiopia’s fertility rate ensures population growth for the foreseeable future, there remains some hope. Over 64% of Ethiopia’s population is 25-years-old or younger. As this demographic enters an economy catalyzed by foreign investment, continued development will lift many out of poverty, thus slowing the fertility rate even further.

With continued investment, the fertility rate could plummet to 2.5 by 2030.

Ethiopia’s population is well on its way to being sustainable by 2050. International investment works and it is essential if poverty-ridden regions want to experience the success Ethiopia is currently having.

– Kevin Meyers
Sources: CIA, CNBC Africa PRB UN
Photo: U of T Magazine

ghanaWhile this may come as a shock, Ghana has recently been proclaimed a poverty alleviation success story. Sergiy Kulyk, the World Bank Country Coordinator for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, is certainly a credible source. He applauds the anti-poverty action that has taken place in Ghana, and plans for an even brighter future.

Through a carefully crafted recipe of World Bank support, social protection, and government intervention, Ghana has been able to overcome major economic and societal hurdles. It was the first in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty and hunger ahead of the 2015 deadline.

Kulyk originally recommended a reverse mission between the World Bank and Ghana under Ghana’s Social Protection program. This was the first of its kind in the history of the World Bank’s relations with Ghana. Its theme, “Safety nets in Ghana- Innovation and Successes,” helped guide anti-poverty action in the right direction.

Currently, the World Bank supports Social Protection interventions in Ghana through an $88.6 million Social Opportunities Project. Additionally, $50 million is financed for ongoing projects, making the Bank’s total contribution $138.6 million. In the future, the Bank will continue to help reverse Ghana’s poverty situation.

In terms of social protection, there are forty-four programs targeting extremely poor individuals, households, and entire communities in Ghana. For Ghana’s most vulnerable and severely marginalized, these mechanisms bring the social assistance and capacity enhancement needed to break out of poverty.

The government is currently working to ensure that the living conditions of Ghana’s poor population are improved through social intervention programs. Specifically, labor-intensive programs implemented across sixty districts will soon be scaled up in order to achieve the best poverty-reducing and livelihood-improving results.

In countries like Bangladesh, Mexico, and Ghana, regular cash and asset transfers to the poor have helped alleviate poverty by securing food needs and improving access to health and education. Additionally, small, regular income transfers enable the poor to make small investments — a hugely important step in poverty reduction.

It is important to note that while Ghana has successfully cut poverty in half, nine years from now approximately 6 million people will still live in poverty, with 2.2 million living in extreme poverty. Although this does not negate the significance of what has already been achieved, it is a crucial reminder of what is to come.

It is true that there is no perfect model for poverty alleviation. However, there are certainly key elements of focus that have consistently brought the most significant results. By adhering to this wide-reaching, gradually emerging poverty-fighting recipe, Ghana has made leaps and bounds in its poverty fight.

The most common poverty-fighting packages include some combination of microcredit financial aid, public works, training, agricultural extension services, financial literacy and links to credit units. In other African countries like Rwanda, childhood development and childcare services have become key areas of focus too.

Poverty is a complex issue that can be attacked from an infinite number of points. Depending on the time, place, and people involved, target areas fluctuate in terms of severity and significance. Still, at the most basic level, there is a lot to be learned from such success stories. Hopefully, Ghana’s model will spur more like its kind.

– Sarah Bernard

Sources: Graphic Online, allAfrica
Photo: Flickr

fish_tank_pumpThe birth of a child is supposed to be the happiest moment in a parent’s life, but this moment can soon turn into tragedy if a child dies due to lack of necessary equipment. For several parents in certain regions of Africa, this is a reality.

Babies born prematurely struggle for every breath because their lungs are so undeveloped. In developed countries such as the United States, there is technology that can help newborns survive, but in developing countries such as Africa, these luxuries do not exist. This is why students at Rice University set to work to solve this real world problem using nothing but a box and a fish tank pump.

This combination is made to model a CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, which is utilized in developed countries. The difference between a CPAP machine and a simple oxygen breathing tube is that the CPAP provides both oxygen and a small amount of pressure to inflate the baby’s lungs and allow them to begin to function on their own, rather than merely providing them with air. A typical CPAP costs around $3,000 but the students’ version is only $350, which provides massive savings to hospitals in need.

The invention is all part of a program through the university that encourages students to create inventions and test them in the real world. In this case, the students tested their invention in Malawi, a country with one of the highest preterm birthrates, around 18 for every 100 live births, and they saw real progress. The survival rate of premature babies increased from 43 percent to 71 percent.

The CPAP was initially designed in a simple box from Target but after performing these field tests, it is now housed in a metal compartment. This increases the durability and longevity of the product, especially in the harsh African climate.

Several neonatal specialists have reviewed and utilized this new invention and are pleased to report that it is just as good as the actual machine. A CPAP machine provides enough air to inflate the baby’s lungs and circulate the air through. The fish pump in the students’ invention acts in the same way, and it has the perfect amount of air flow so it is able to remain at exactly the right level.

So far the fish pump breathing aid has been utilized in nine hospitals, mainly in Malawi. Most of these hospitals have very outdated equipment and limited staffing – one nurse may be tending to over 40 patients – so this new, cheap invention has given them the technology and extra funds they need to save as many lives as possible.

Although this pump is very well equipped to save lives, it is facing some push-back from the communities since many locals associate breathing tubes with death. Hopefully, over time, families will come to the realization that this is an invention that can save children’s lives and pump life back into their beloved communities.

– Sumita Tellakat

Sources: CNN, NPR
Photo: NPR