TikTok in Africa
TikTok, the popular video-sharing social media platform, has taken a unique approach to enter the African market by empowering young Africans to take a stance as influencers. Many users on the site share short entertaining videos of themselves or friends singing and dancing along to popular songs. They can connect to others based on shared viewing interests. Some users of TikTok in Africa have decided to take things a step further and use the platform to share their support for certain ideas or causes.

TikTok for Good

One way the company encourages activism on its platform is through the TikTok for Good program, where users receive encouragement to share hashtags across the site that promote causes they are passionate about. “TikTok wants to inspire and encourage a new generation to have a positive impact on the planet and those around them,” the company wrote in a statement on its website. By uploading videos with a hashtag that represents a specific cause or campaign, users can become influencers and advocates and continue to share videos within the trend.

Some of the most successful TikTok for Good trends in the past have been #PetBff and #CreateForACause. #PetBff celebrated International Homeless Animals’ Day in 2019 in partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). TikTok encouraged users to share videos of their pets, and for every video that it posted from Aug. 19 to Aug. 22, 2019, the company donated $1 to the ASPCA. According to the TikTok website, the trend had over 490,000 videos created and raised $75,000, the company’s maximum pledge amount. Similarly, #CreateForACause encouraged users to use special holiday filters in their videos in support of DoSomething.org, a completely youth-led nonprofit organization that advocates for social change; Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit organization in support of animal welfare and Oceana, an international ocean conservation advocacy group. TikTok pledged a $2 million donation to the charities during the campaign.

#DanceforChange Inspires Advocacy

A popular advocacy trend on TikTok in Africa has been the #DanceforChange challenge in partnership with the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). IFAD is a Rome-based U.N. agency that works to encourage individuals, companies and countries around the world to invest in more sustainable agriculture in order to improve food security across the globe. According to its website, IFAD has given $20.9 billion in loans and grants towards 1,069 sustainable agriculture projects that it has supported in partnership with 125 governments. In total, it has reached approximately 483 million people around the world with its programs.

The #DanceforChange challenge encourages users to post dancing content to the site with the hashtag. The videos act as a virtual petition that IFAD uses in support of greater investment in sustainable agriculture across rural African communities. “IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience,” the organization said in a statement on its website.

Sherrie Silver, IFAD’s advocate for rural youth and an MTV award-winning choreographer, partnered with the popular African recording artist Mr Eazi to highlight the TikTok campaign in the hopes of inspiring more African youth to take action using the site. “We are dancing to capture the world’s attention and to share a message with young people everywhere: our generation can end global hunger, but only if our leaders invest more in agriculture and the next generation of young farmers,” Silver said in an interview with IFAD.

The #DanceforChange challenge goes further than other TikTok for Good trends by both offering African youth a space to showcase its talents and giving them the opportunity to advocate for themselves and their communities to a global audience. The platform allows users of TikTok in Africa to catch the rest of the world’s attention and ask for help addressing issues like hunger and inefficient agricultural practices that they still face in poverty.

TikTok in Africa

The Chinese-based company quickly gained popularity in the United States and across Europe, though TikTok is now focusing on the African market. Along with the #DanceforChange challenge, TikTok has begun moving some company operations into Africa. For example, in 2018 TikTok partnered with Nairobi Garage, a co-working space in Nairobi that offers meeting rooms, club space and private offices, to offer educational sessions on creating content and safe practices while using the platform. The company also began hiring local staff for TikTok in Africa throughout Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in order to both provide jobs within each country’s business sector and connect to the local African market from within.

By moving TikTok into Africa, the company has been able to offer formal employment opportunities at its new office spaces, which in turn helps to reduce poverty levels in those countries as incomes and quality of life increases. Additionally, TikTok is able to create a more inclusive audience as African creators and influencers join the platform to share their culture.

TikTok in Africa continues to make a positive impact both within the country and across the globe by connecting people from impoverished backgrounds to the same creative spaces the rest of the world is able to access. Not only does the app inspire users around the world to advocate for development in Africa, but it also empowers youth within Africa to take their own action to fight hunger because they have a chance for others to hear and see them.

– Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr

Youth Unemployment in Africa
The growth in the African economy has been steadily increasing overall. However, the vast majority of the increase in jobs is not going to the youth. During a study from 2000 to 2008, only 22% of all employed people were 25 and younger. In 2019, the youth unemployment rose to 11.58% in Sub-Saharan Africa since a dip in 2008.

Youth unemployment rates in Africa are currently at 10.64% and are the lowest they have been in the past 20 years. This improved economy could allow all generations to obtain employment opportunities. Young generations often cannot afford to not work, yet 51% of young women and 43% of young men in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have employment. The young generations in Africa are also becoming more educated with secondary education completion. Many expect that this higher education should rise over 10% in the next 20 years. Despite these statistics, youth unemployment could maintain low rates in the upcoming years.

What is the Digital Economy?

The digital economy is the way that people make money via online platforms, websites, companies and other outlets. The digital economy has transformed in recent years; now, many government services commonly use it and it is one of the main methods to sell products and services around the world. The digital marketplace includes more than just the use of the internet, but other technological tools.

With the invention of the internet and increased technological advances, there have been multitudes of positive impacts on individuals across the globe. There is a tremendous impact on even the most impoverished lives in Africa.

Digital Jobs Africa

Digital Jobs Africa is a project by the Rockefeller Foundation, that people know for its commitment to “promoting the well-being of humanity throughout the world.” One approach organizations are taking to make an impact on the impoverished persons in Africa is by providing support through funding and training for ICT based employment. African impoverished youth have the highest unemployment rates but are in an extremely accessible position. These youth can utilize the opportunities in digital employment to provide substantial support for the communities and families.

Jobs in the informal sector have shown lower wages than formal wages as some have witnessed in Zambia and Ghana. Digital jobs that can be short-term project-based work or a long-term salary position in information technology fields provide significant financial opportunity. Additionally, previously marginalized groups of young workers can step out of the $2-a-day earnings, which is extreme poverty. If technology companies employ African youth, there is potential to halt the continued marginalization of hard-working youth in Africa. The jobs could begin changing the way various industries view youth.

5 Digital Opportunities within the Digital Economy in Africa

  1. Impact Sourcing: Impact sourcing is directly employing those with limited opportunities, i.e. those with high rates of marginalization in the industry.  
  2. Online Work: Online work is another opportunity that can be team-based or individual to complete tasks or projects.
  3. Local Content Innovation: Local content innovation revolves around new technology creation in software engineering, application development, and filling unique local demands for businesses and consumers.
  4. E-Public Goods: E-Public Goods is the idea of using the internet-based application to facilitate higher accessibility and rates of use in government focuses like health, education or agriculture.
  5. E-entrepreneurship: Some are also exploring e-entrepreneurship. These opportunities involve launching a service or product through the training and education that people obtained in IT or technology.

There is vast potential for youth in Africa to gain an education or training in fields of technology. These digital economy opportunities could profoundly impact the unemployment rates in Africa if companies employ African youth.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Poverty in GuineaGuinea is a small, impoverished West African country that has been featured in the news due to the 2015 Ebola outbreak. The virus strained the nation’s already struggling economy. Despite this, the disease did not affect the average life expectancy. Still, Guinea faces many issues that are harmful to life expectancy. Here are nine facts about life expectancy in Guinea that reflect these concerns.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Guinea

  1. The average life expectancy is only 59.8 years with 59.4 for men and 60.4 for women. Guinea ranks about average when compared with its West African neighbors. For instance, Sierra Leone is among the lowest at only 54 years in 2017, while Ghana is among the highest at 63 years. 
  2. Guinea’s life expectancy has increased steadily over time since 1960 with a slight dip in the early 2000s. Despite the fatal impact of Ebola on individuals and communities, the virus did not affect the course of growth for the average life expectancy in Guinea. 
  3. The country has extremely high infant and maternal mortality rates. In 2015, the maternal mortality rate was one of the worst in the world with 549 deaths per 100,000 live births. The infant mortality rate was 60.3 per 1,000 live births in 2016.
  4. About 55 percent of Guinea’s citizens live below the poverty line. This is thought to be due to the prolonged political instability since the nation’s founding in 1974. Furthermore, while 90 percent of the country’s exports come from mining, few such jobs are available; Guinea employs only 2.5 percent in this sector. 
  5. Approximately 24.4 percent of children face chronic malnourishment due to widespread poverty. During the 2018-19 school year, The World Food Programme provided hot school meals to 131,895 children in 896 schools in addition to take-home rations to 12,155 girls who are in their final year of school.
  6. About 14 million people in Guinea experience year-round transmissions of malaria and 25 percent of hospitalizations among children under 5 can be attributed to the disease. USAID support through the President’s Malaria Initiative aims to reduce the malaria mortality rate by 50 percent in Guinea as well as other sub-Saharan African countries. 
  7. Only half of the country’s population has access to public health care services. Access to health services (under 30 minutes) is 38.9 percent with a rate of use of 18.6 percent. This makes Guinea especially vulnerable to pandemics such as the recent Ebola virus. A major hurdle for the country will be expanding health coverage nationwide by strengthening the delivery of such services.
  8. In rural regions, 142 out of every thousand children die each year. This is because rural regions in particular lack clean water, access to health services and a proper sanitation system. Of those living below the poverty line, 80 percent live in rural areas. U.N. and NGO assistance makes up 26.9 percent of all expenditure on health
  9. USAID’s Health Finance and Governance project is working with Guinea’s Ministry of Health to improve transparency and accountability in the delivery of health services. Such methods include better responses to crises such as the 2015 Ebola outbreak. 

These nine facts about life expectancy in Guinea reflect that the nation still has much to improve on before life expectancy reaches the levels seen in western countries. To reduce high mortality rates from tropical diseases such as malaria, better access to health care is a must. Fortunately, some of the funding from the President’s Malaria Initiative is tackling some of these issues.

– Caleb Steven Carr
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Africa's Sahel RegionThe Sahel region of Africa has been described as “the long strip of arid land along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.” The Sahel is comprised of parts of various countries, including but not limited to Senegal, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan and the Northern tip of Nigeria. Due to geography, climate and violent conflict, the region’s perpetual plight with poverty has deep roots. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Africa’s Sahel region and initiatives that are helping the region find solutions.

10 Facts About Poverty in Africa’s Sahel Region

  1. Infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. The country of Chad experiences the highest number with 85 deaths per 1000 births. Niger and Mali see 81 and 69 deaths respectively.
  2. The Sahel struggles with education as well. Epidemiologist Simon Hay created a detailed map that displays years of education and sex disparity in years of education across African countries. Mali and Chad rank especially low. Chad has a literacy rate of about 22 percent. For men, the rate of 31 percent is almost double that of women at almost 14 percent. In Mali, the literacy rate is around 33 with 45 percent for men and 22 percent for women.
  3. The Sahel is one of the most youthful regions in the world. At least 65 percent of the population is below 25 years of age. This makes education and child healthcare even more crucial to the region’s development. As a result, the U.N. Support Plan for the Sahel specifically prioritizes youth empowerment. The plan’s goal is “to scale up efforts to accelerate prosperity and sustainable peace” in 10 targeted countries in the region.
  4. The Sahel region receives limited annual rainfall and experiences frequent droughts. This poses enormous obstacles to poverty reduction and food security. Severe droughts that have occurred between 1970 and 1993 have caused major losses in agricultural production and livestock, according to UNEP.
  5. In 2012, more than 18 million people living in the Sahel region experienced severe food insecurity due to the region’s third drought in a decade. This came after the region’s previous food crises in 2008 and 2010. In 2014, the Sahel region received $274 million in humanitarian aid from USAID to help mitigate its agricultural and food insecurity crises. WFP provided food for 5 to 6 million people monthly through its nutrition and food security program.
  6. Desertification and deforestation have long threatened the region. Abject poverty has led farmers and herders to cut down forests, overgraze livestock and overcrop land. According to the FAO, more than 80 percent of the Sahel’s land has been degraded. Nora Berrahmouni, a forestry officer for drylands at FAO, says, “It’s a battle against time because dryland forests are disappearing and climate change is really happening.” In 2012, FAO programs assisted more than 5.2 million people in crop production and soil and water conservation.
  7. To reverse land degradation, the FAO is working on the ground in multiple countries in the Sahel region. One program trains villagers on how to prepare farmland and how to choose, collect and sow seeds. According to Berrahmouni, the FAO is also implementing traditional techniques such as planting trees and crops together. This helps the land regain its fertility and reduce the chance of drought. To combat desertification, the African Union began the Great Green Wall project in 2007. The goal of the project is to create a plant barrier along the Sahel that is 8,000 km long and 15 km wide.
  8. Violence is affecting more people than ever recently in the Sahel. This could lead to an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis, according to the U.N. The area where Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet is considered the Sahel’s epicenter of violent activity where jihadists have “stoked inter-communal fighting.” More than 1,200 civilians have been targeted and killed here in 2019. To defend the region against violence, the U.N. and France have deployed thousands of troops while the U.S. and EU have “funded joint military operations by five Sahel countries.”
  9. Due to violence and desertification, displacement is occurring at alarming rates. About 4.2 million people are displaced across the Sahel.” This displacement is straining communities that are already scarce with resources and worsening the food insecurity crisis.
  10. Recently, the Sahel region has been experiencing rapid population growth. Though fertility rates are decreasing, the average number of children per woman is more than five. Predictions say the population in Nigeria will be 733 million by 2100. Naturally, this will come with an increase in poverty in Africa’s Sahel region. Every minute, the number of Nigerians living in poverty increases by six.

While the Sahel has seen its struggles with healthcare, education, food insecurity, land degradation and violent conflict, many believe the future is bright. The World Bank says many of the region’s natural resources remain untapped. The U.N. says the Sahel can potentially be “one of the richest regions in the world with abundant human, cultural and natural resources.” These 10 facts about poverty in Africa’s Sahel region reveal why, despite desperate conditions, progress could be on the horizon.

Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr


In the poorer regions of Africa, children are unable to go to school. Developing and post-conflict countries struggle to obtain basic necessities and are sometimes unable to provide children with an education. The result of this is an illiterate generation that will eventually turn to violence in revolt against their continued dependence on aid. MindLeaps is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that seeks to break that cycle, and in fact had successes, by offering these children dance lessons.

The Situation

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 percent of the youth do not receive an education and are illiterate. Usually, people blame this on a lack of access to schooling; however, this claim is inaccurate. MindLeaps discovered that the underlying causes are unstable homes and living conditions, education fees while schools propose free education and even apathy towards children. In some cases, children who do have the means to attend school drop out before completing their education, believing employment and a bright future for themselves is impossible. This belief stems from their lack of a supportive home life and struggles for basic necessities, as well as the influence of crime, prostitution and drugs of the elder generations. Aware of this, MindLeaps saves children by reaching out to them with a means to improve their academic situation through dance lessons.

The Program

Studies showed that dancing and movement are important in the development of learning skills, creativity and self-esteem, as well as the improvement of memory and cognitive thinking. With this research, MindLeaps developed a dance curriculum for at-risk youths in Africa, focusing on both cognitive and non-cognitive skills that they would not have developed otherwise. Students who graduated from MindLeaps have in fact shown significant cognitive and behavioral development in functions such as memorization, language, discipline and teamwork. Once dancing strengthens their minds, the children are then able to move on academically, earning sponsorships and scholarships from the organization and the dance instructors.

The Misty Copeland Scholarship

One of these instructors is Misty Copeland, a well-renowned American ballerina who came from poverty, as well. Copeland works with MindLeaps as an advisor, ambassador and dance teacher, as well as participating in their scholarship program, the International Artists Fund. In 2015, she traveled to Rwanda to help MindLeaps launch its girls’ program and established the Misty Copeland Scholarship, which provides a top dance student the opportunity to attend boarding school. Three years later, Misty returned to Rwanda and found that a student who had received that scholarship, a boy named Ali, had gone to achieve major academic success.

MindLeaps’ Achievements

Ali was not the only one to achieve success through MindLeaps. In January 2017, the organization reintegrated over 50 students into formal education in Rwanda. In March of that same year, more than half of those students ranked in the top 10 positions of their respective classes. MindLeaps’ dance lessons saved more than 600 at-risk children from illiteracy and potentially violent futures in 2017 alone. More than 3,500 children have completed the MindLeaps’ program across six different countries since 2014. The organization has seen a 0 percent drop-out rate for students whom it helped move on to formal education.

In short, Mindleaps saves children in slums and homeless children in underground tunnels thanks to dance lessons. Dance lessons offers them an opportunity to lead a life away from poverty. Developing their cognitive skills and earning their educations, enables these children to help and provide for their families, which in turn spares the next generation from illiteracy and hardship.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Youth Empowerment Programs in AfricaBy 2050, Africa’s child population is projected to reach one billion, which would be the largest among the other continents. Already, the median age in Africa has shifted to 18 years old and increased the labor force substantially. The Center for Strategic and International Study released a report highlighting just how much of an impact the youth of Africa can have on the continent’s economic growth. With these trends in mind, a number of organizations are finding new and creative ways to increase youth empowerment in Africa today.

Here are three programs centered around youth empowerment in Africa.

3 Youth Empowerment Programs in Africa

  1. Young African Leaders Initiative
    The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is one of the programs created by USAID to empower young people across the world. This 2010 U.S. initiative focuses on providing Africans with resources to bolster development. These young people receive support regarding leadership skills and entrepreneurship opportunities in Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa. The four regional centers are located in higher education institutions and primarily target young people between the ages of 18 and 35. For example, one center located at the University of South Africa School of Business Leadership serves Swaziland, Zambia, South Africa and Madagascar. These regional centers help foster entrepreneurship and create opportunities for cross-border collaboration.The program also offers a fellowship for young Africans to study at a U.S. university and further develop their skills to become young leaders. The Mandela Washington Fellowship selects young people from 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to create a diverse group of fellows learning about topics surrounding business, civic engagement or public management.

    One of the most important parts of this program is the large network for young Africans to connect with each other across the continent. With online resources and regional centers in all parts of sub-Saharan Africa, every day, more young people are gaining access to information about professional development and entrepreneurship, creating a strong foundation for long-term youth empowerment in Africa.

  2. Young Africa
    In 1988, Young Africa International was founded in the Netherlands. With a goal to empower young Africans with employability and entrepreneurship skills, the program utilizes a network of independent and local affiliations to run activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.A majority of the funding goes to creating training centers to hire youth across these countries. It also allows local entrepreneurs to run their businesses in a successful environment. By establishing local nonprofits in these youth centers, it promotes local businesses while also giving youth the opportunity to explore career fields, develop new skills and learn lessons about the working environment.

    Targeted to the 15 to 25 age group, Young Africa also provides 43 courses to people in the program. These courses include vocational education in technical, agricultural and commercial skills. Young Africa also focuses heavily on life skills training to help empower young people to make healthy choices and grow their self-confidence so they can make a positive impact on their community.

    The overall impact of the organization can be seen by its milestones. In 2017, there were 1,980 vocational graduates from the program. Sixty-nine percent of them are now employed or self-employed. Overall, there have been 36,894 graduates from the vocational program and their incomes increased significantly. In Namibia alone, the participant’s average daily income increased from $15.30 a day to $40.

  3. International Youth Foundation
    For 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has prepared young women and men to take control of their futures by focusing on a combination of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.Zimbabwe:Works is an example of a program focusing on employment for marginalized groups, especially women. Using the Passport to Success curriculum, the program teaches life skills to increase self-esteem, promote teamwork and motivate young people to engage in their communities. Certain partners and entrepreneurs also assist the process by providing business courses and access to microloans and related programs. Roughly 80 percent of interns with this program have transitioned to full-time employment with various companies. Also, almost 7 out of 10 women in the targeted group received financial literacy training.

    This program is just one of many examples of youth empowerment programs in Africa led by IYF. Across 14 countries, various programs introduce young people to healthier lifestyles and brighter futures.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How Technology is Improving Africa
Africa is the poorest continent in the world with every second person living below the poverty line. From extreme hunger to illnesses and to insufficient agricultural infrastructure, Africa’s population is suffering. Fortunately, groups of researchers and people are continuously creating solutions to change these conditions. Here are four inventions that show how technology is improving Africa.

NEWgenerator Sanitation Systems

Since 2002, a group of researchers at the University of South Florida have been working on a new type of wastewater treatment system that will address sanitation issues in poor countries. They invented the NEWgenerator, which is a solar-powered generator that turns wastewater into recyclable clean water, nutrients and energy. Waste from the toilet enters the tank and it treats the water in a manner that is similar to a coffee filter. As a result, chlorinated water releases that people can use to flush the toilet and irrigate for agricultural purposes. The breakdown of organic material in the waste produces biogas, a form of energy. Lastly, this method releases nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the waste that people can use as fertilizer for agricultural purposes.

The NEWgenerator stays inside a container that batteries power, allowing the unit to be completely self-sustainable. Solar power and biogas from the waste power these batteries, making this device completely independent. The NEWgenerator received initial testing at a school in South India, where the invention succeeded in recycling thousands of gallons of water for 100 people per day. In 2016, the NEWgenerator’s lead professor, Daniel Yeh, earned a $1.14 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to install an improved version in Durban, South Africa. The generators will connect to Community Ablution Blocks (CABs), facilities comprised of toilets and showers. This will multiply the NEWgenerator’s ability to produce water by 10 times and serve up to 1,000 people per day. The research group is currently working on this installation and its dedication illuminates how technology is improving Africa.

SafariSeat Wheelchairs

One in 200 people in East Africa has a disability that affects their mobility, forcing them to remain in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. Janna created SafariSeat and a small group of designers who wanted to help people regain their independence and livelihoods. It is a new wheelchair design that can navigate rough terrain found in South Africa and other developing countries. It works through a lever system, where the person can pump hand levers to control the wheelchair’s speed and power. SafariSeat’s goal is to implement an open-source toolkit in developing countries where the blueprints are free and the resources necessary to build these wheelchairs come from bicycle components at a low cost for local workshops. An open-source toolkit has three components that contribute to its success: the use of diagrams for building purposes, a communication network and a design portal where people can submit ideas for improvement.

In the past two years, SafariSeat set up two workshops, one in Kenya and one in Tanzania. It initially produced the first 50 wheelchairs in Kenya and the first 150 wheelchairs in Tanzania. After these successes, it implemented the SafariSeat Outreach program, which is a team that identifies people with disabilities in Kenya who live in isolation and need SafariSeats. Currently, the founders are working on building a third workshop in Uganda in hopes of expanding their reach and number of wheelchairs. Their ultimate goal is to broaden their impact on the rest of the world, specifically to countries undergoing wars.

Mazzi Cans

Africa has five times as many dairy cows compared to the United States with a total of about 49 million cows. Millions of farmers rely on cow’s milk as their income and source of nutrition for their families. However, if milk does not receive proper handling or storage during the time people transport it to markets, it can develop harmful bacteria that cause illnesses. Since milk contains important nutrients, vitamins, calories and minerals that can fulfill healthy dietary needs, it is necessary for farmers to be able to safely transport their milk. Mazzi is the answer to this problem. It is a 10-liter container system that makes it more efficient for the collection and transportation process. It provides a milking funnel over a durable container stronger than normal Jerry cans and its shape makes it easy to clean, preventing bacteria or soil from accumulating in the container.

Mazzi emerged by partnering with the Global Good, an organization that works with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Intellectual Ventures. Currently, Mazzi is available in Kenya and Ethiopia, with the goal of expanding to Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. It will continue working on making this product more cost-affordable for small farmers.

Lucky Iron Fish

Another technology that is improving Africa is the Lucky Iron Fish which a group of researchers in a Canadian university created in response to the 2 billion people suffering iron deficiency. Iron is a crucial nutrient that helps blood transport oxygen from the lungs to the body. Without a sufficient amount of iron, people experience fatigue, weakness, lack of concentration, shortness of breath and headaches. People can put the Lucky Iron Fish in the pot or pan in which the food is cooking, releasing 6 to 8 milligrams of iron that the food absorbs. This is about 40 percent of a person’s daily iron intake levels. With the return of iron to a child’s diet, they can focus better in school, leading to higher performance results. For working persons, their improved concentration gives them a chance to earn higher incomes.

Once someone buys an Iron Lucky Fish, the organization contributes an equal amount into its Impact Fund. The company uses its Impact Fund to donate Lucky Iron Fish to developing countries and improve educational resources in communities. Women and men receive training to deliver Lucky Iron Fish within these countries and raise awareness about how to solve iron deficiency. In 2018, 54,000 people around the world received a Lucky Iron Fish. Many people (5,175) in Benin, a country in West Africa, were among these individuals. Currently, the organization is looking for more partnerships with NGOs to expand its impact from 88 countries to the rest of the world.

New technology is proving to be one of the crucial answers helping Africa out of extreme poverty with the dedication of numerous research groups and motivated people. These four inventions show how technology is improving Africa each year.

Jane Burgan
Photo: Flickr

Education for internally displaced children

Violence or conflict internally displaces approximately 17 million children worldwide. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their country of origin. A majority of IDPs live in urban areas, where they often lack access to basic services, including health care, housing and education. Ensuring access to education for internally displaced children is essential to improving livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.

Initiatives in Nigeria and Kenya represent important steps toward ensuring education for all internally displaced children in those countries.

Barriers to Education

For internally displaced children, schools are crucial to integrating into their new host community and regaining some normalcy after fleeing violence. Unfortunately, a myriad of challenges prevents many of these children from being able to attend school. A lack of documentation, financial struggles, language barriers, physical distance from the nearest school and a lack of education facilities in the area could possibly prevent internally displaced children from pursuing their education.

Furthermore, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed forces and gangs are other significant barriers to education for internally displaced children. IDPs often experience severe poverty and, as a way to make more money, send their children to work within the informal sector, thereby preventing them from going to school.

Child marriage is seen as another way to help overcome poverty, as marrying into the host community can provide economic and social benefits. Child marriage is frequently forced onto internally displaced children, especially girls. For IDPs who choose to marry when they are young, becoming independent from their parents may be a motivating factor. Once married, children rarely begin or continue their education.

Additionally, internally displaced children tend to live in poor, crime-ridden districts. They are more likely to be recruited by local gangs or armed groups in these areas. In Colombia, armed groups seek out children because they are able to avoid heavy criminal sentences if caught.

Conflict also negatively impacts education infrastructure, hurting educational opportunities for internally displaced children. Displacement disproportionately affects girls, who face additional challenges. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school in countries experiencing conflict. Gender-based violence and harassment that occurs at school and on the route to and from education facilities keep many girls at home. The abduction and rape that has occurred in at least 18 countries, along with the bombing of girls’ schools, also encourages families to keep their daughters at home rather than sending them to school.

UNICEF Recommendations

UNICEF recommends several tactics to overcome these barriers to education for internally displaced children. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure humanitarian organizations and governments begin to see education as a greater priority for IDPs. Education is commonly seen as secondary to addressing violence. Unfortunately, when conflicts last for years and decades, waiting to invest in education can leave generations of internally displaced children without schooling.

Key recommendations include strengthening education systems, abolishing school fees to reduce financial constraints and adapting curricula to address prejudices and promote diversity and social cohesion.

Case Study: Kenya

A study conducted at a Kenya school in 2013 and 2014 provides valuable insight into the benefits of educating internally displaced children alongside local children. At the school studied, 71 percent of students were internally displaced. However, efforts were made to provide an inclusive education that strengthened community relationships.

The study found that many internally displaced children were initially apprehensive about being accepted by their new school community. This sometimes lasted, but usually dissipated after a few weeks as the children become comfortable with each other. One student, Jey, told an author from the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, “I like this school because pupils like me. I don’t have any enemies all of them help me.”

Furthermore, students at the school developed community-consciousness. Many were aware of social inequalities that existed in Kenya. Internally displaced children recognized the disadvantages they and their families faced and were motivated to complete school to improve their futures.

Overall, more schools like this one in Kenya are needed to help bridge gaps between host communities and IDPs. This will improve opportunities for internally displaced children.

Plan International: Nigeria

In Nigeria, Plan International is creating learning centers to provide education for internally displaced children. These centers are created in areas that lack educational infrastructure and seek to support IDPs.

Patim, one of the teachers at a learning center in Maiduguri, noted that many of the children she teaches have lost their parents and require a great deal of support. The learning centers are doing what they can but often lack adequate resources and staff. However, the work being done is still directly benefiting many children. Patim recognizes that many of her students would be working on the streets if it wasn’t for the learning center. Attending the center helps keep children safe during the day.

Moving Forward

More communities and nations need to adopt UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure the availability of education for internally displaced children. Hopefully, recent attention to this issue will spark significant change in more countries, improving the livelihoods of IDPs around the world.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Exploiting Poverty Hurts African Economies
A viral parody video on exploiting poverty that hurts African economies shows Norwegians slipping on the ice while African rapper Breezy V laments Norwegian children suffering from frostbite. He asks Africans to ship their radiators to Norway to help these unfortunate souls who cannot help themselves.

Radi-Aid’s Critique of So-Called Poverty Porn

Radi-Aid, an initiative by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ Assistance (SAIH), created this video to critique Western international aid organizations’ representation of Africa in their fundraising videos. SAIH hopes to recontextualize traditional aid campaigns.

A 2013 TED Talk by Anja Bakken, then president of SAIH, identified poverty, war and violence as standard stereotypes in these advertisements. The 1980s media coverage of the Ethiopian famine first introduced the technique, poverty porn. The 1987 Images of Africa Report found that, by the time the famine had ended, media coverage created the predominant perception that Africans were starving and primitive.

While effective at mobilization, this pity advertising can actually impair the recipient countries more than it helps. When the stereotypes that emerge from these advertisements affect higher debates, they can influence policymakers and potential investors. This is how exploiting poverty hurts African economies.

The Effect of Aid’s Poverty Porn on African Economies

The Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda explains in his TED Talk, “Aid for Africa? No thanks.,” that fundraising campaigns often frame the African continent as a “place of despair” without self-initiative. Exploiting poverty hurts African economies because it dramatically shifts a governments’ structure of incentives. Mwenda argues that governments do not address the root causes of poverty because international aid organizations are responding to symptoms with medicine and food relief. However, the long-term development and wellbeing of society rests on strong economies accepting foreign investment.

According to the 2018 World Investment Report, African countries were not taking advantage of foreign direct investment (FDI). These countries were not adjusting their industrial policies to stay in step with the dynamic global economy, which Mwenda would argue is due to a skewed structure of incentives.

FDI to Africa dropped 21 percent between 2016 and 2017. The 2018 World Investment report postulates that this is partly due to the sharp decline in rates of return in Africa. In his TED Talk, Mwenda explains that the government’s unwillingness to take advantage of FDI causes these low rates of return. Unfortunately, this cycle, if continued, could influence future FDI prospects in the region.

Annual Radiator Awards

From 2013 to 2017, Radi-Aid presented literal rusty radiators to organizations that produced what they considered the most egregious examples of poverty porn advertising. Concern Worldwide, Plan Norway, Band-Aid, Save the Children and Disasters Emergency Committee all won rusty radiators during its five-year stint.

The selection criteria included lack of context and nuance identified as critical for exposing underlying causes of poverty. Radi-Aid worried that oversimplified images were damaging the long-term development of these countries. SAIH argues that the staple representation of passive, starving African children without the agency or desire to better their situation strips people of their dignity.

Radi-Aid argues that there is no need to equate a donation to a saved life. Global issues are complex, so Radi-Aid resists aid organizations’ tendency to convince their audience that solutions are cheap and easy. Presenting a parallel Golden Radiator award each year, Radi-Aid shows advertising can represent individuals with agency, dignity and respect. Campaigns can inspire rather than guilt their audiences. Charity campaigns can highlight the concept of common humanity and solidarity rather than detachment.

Aid Recipients Respond to Ad Campaigns

Between July 2017 and July 2018, SAIH asked 74 people living in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia) for their reactions to the imagery used in major aid campaigns including Save the Children and War Child. The organization compiled its findings into a research report published on its website.

It found that respondents believed the existing imagery unfairly presented Africa as inferior and in need. The respondents lamented that the advertisements presented a distorted, over-dramatized, monolithic Africa in which progress was impossible.

A 22-year-old Zambian respondent explained, “it gives a very negative picture of Africa. It is like people are not trying to improve, but people are actually trying hard… We see the same picture over and over, it is like nothing is changing, although things are changing.”

More Respectful Campaigns On The Horizon

SAIH Norway discontinued The Rusty Radiator awards in 2017 when it found it increasingly difficult to discover examples of poverty porn. Separately, the 2019 World Investment Report showed a significant uptick in FDI flows to African countries in 2018, rising by 11 percent to $46 billion. These two trends, while no means causally related, indicate a change in how Western countries think about the future of Africa.

The nature of foreign aid advertising is beginning to change. A May 2019 UNICEF advertisement entitled “The Class of No Tomorrow” centers around the tragedy of schools destroyed by armed conflicts in Iraq, South Sudan and Ukraine. Rather than degrade the dignity of the causalities, the advertisement symbolically represents the victims as statues, placed so every delegate attending the 2019 Safe Schools Conference will see them. Looking forward, the ad reminds the viewer that “we need to continue the work to give these children a better tomorrow, today.”

Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

 

Infant Mortality in NepalOver the past 10 years, infant mortality in Nepal has decreased. The number of infants dying before they reach age one has been reduced by more than 50 percent. In 2006, the United Nations Populations Fund ranked Nepal as the most affected by infant and maternal mortality in South Asia. Not many people know what chlorhexidine does for Nepal. However, chlorhexidine is becoming more common in routine care nationwide. Over 1.3 million newborns throughout Nepal benefit from this product.

How Chlorhexidine Helps Nepal

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic used in hospitals to disinfect the skin before surgery and to sanitize surgical tools. In countries like Nepal, it is used to prevent deadly infections by protecting the umbilical stumps of newborns. It is safe and affordable. Chlorhexidine comes as either a gel or a liquid. It is easy to manufacture and simple to use. Mothers, birth attendants and others with little training in low-resource settings benefit the most from this antiseptic.

Research and Trials

Between November 2002 and March 2005, Nepal Nutrition Intervention Project, Sarlahi (NNIPS) started a community-based trial. The trial hoped to determine the effects of chlorhexidine on newborns. Nepal Health Research Council and the Committee on Human Research of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health approved the trial. A local female researcher approached women who were six months into pregnancy for enrollment, to explain the procedures and obtain their oral consent.

Education also became a part of the research testing for those in the chlorhexidine trials. Parents in this group received educational messages about clean cord care.

Results

The NNIPS enrolled 15,123 infants into the trials. Of these infants, 268 resulted in neonatal death. Of the surviving infants, researchers found that there is a 24 percent lower risk of mortality among the chlorhexidine group than those who use dry cord-care (no soap and water, chlorhexidine or any other liquid). Also, infant mortality in Nepal was reduced by 34 percent in those enrolled in the trial within the first 24 hours of their birth.

The trial data also provides evidence that cleansing the umbilical cord with chlorhexidine can lessen the risk of omphalitis and other infections. Omphalitis, a cord infection, was reduced by 75 percent when treated with chlorhexidine. The antiseptic was determined to have an overall positive and significant effect on the public health of the country.

Impact in Nepal

In 2009, after results of the trials released, the USAID supported the Government of Nepal to pilot a chlorhexidine program. Saving Lives at Birth: a Grand Challenge for Development, an NGO, included chlorhexidine into routine care nationwide two years later. The Government of Nepal has advocated and promoted the usage of chlorhexidine by packaging the products as a maternal health product. They are now even educating health care workers on the application of the product.

The country received a USAID Pioneers Prize for lowering the neonatal death rate significantly. In 2007 the mortality rate was 43.4 per 1,000. In 2018, it lowered to 27.32 per 1,000.

Global Impact

What chlorhexidine does for Nepal goes beyond its borders. Nepal has also impacted countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bangladesh. These countries are now using chlorhexidine to lower the infant mortality rate and create healthier societies.

In 2013, Nigeria started chlorhexidine pilot programs to also lower its neonatal death rate. The infant mortality rate is determined by newborn deaths per 1,000 people born. Nigeria once had the third-highest number of infant deaths (75.3 per 1,000). However, the infant mortality rate now is ranked as the eighth-highest at about 64.6 deaths per 1,000.

Chlorhexidine is reducing infant mortality in Nepal and other countries.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr