South Africa's Instagram influencersOnline entrepreneurs have popped up around the world. South Africa‘s Instagram influencers, such as Keagan Kingsley and Thithi Nteta, help companies engage targeted audiences for their campaigns. “Microinfluencers” Nteta and Kingsley promote a company’s brand to their many followers for a fee.

Instagram usage in South Africa grew to 3.8 million in 2017, an 8.5 percent increase from the previous year. Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, remains South Africa’s most popular program. Of its 16 million South African users, 14 million of them access Facebook through a mobile device.

In 2010, South Africa had only five million smartphones in use. By 2017, that number increased to 50 million, giving space for South Africa’s Instagram influencers during its rise. Such go-getters let South African companies localize their businesses and compete on a global scale at the same time.

How did such a boost occur? U.S. aid to South Africa helped the country grow wealthy enough to support a national online presence. Between 1946 and 2010, the United States donated over $42 million to South Africa. Though this amount represents less than 1 percent of total U.S. aid given in that time frame, it allowed an emerging economy hungry for social networking sites to support a connected nation.

“Growth in South Africa’s mobile phone market is predominantly driven by the introduction of extremely low-cost smartphones,” says Nicolet Pienaar, a business group manager at GfK South Africa. Inexpensive smartphones have become a staple of foreign aid for their benefits in emerging markets.

What is important to remember is that there is a strong relationship between a country’s GDP and its access to the Internet. Pew Research Center suggests that this correlation levels off once national wealth reaches a certain point. MasiCorp, a South African NGO, provides libraries in Cape Town that can teach the local populace about computers and digital literacy. Cape Town itself hopes to “provide a space where people can enrich themselves and advance their livelihood goals, whether they are working on basic literacy or business ideas.”

South Africa’s Instagram influencers, who compete with the rest of the developed world, could only follow their dreams once the country had enough wealth to support a connected populace. Even the most driven of entrepreneurs needed a little help to get going.
The benefits of deciding one’s economic fate are inspiring. As Thithi Nteta puts it, “I really have been lucky enough to work with brands that get who I am.”

– Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr


In sub-Saharan Africa — a poverty-dense region blighted by infectious disease — there is a relative lack of mental health services. This is partly because most healthcare resources are allocated to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Ninety percent of malaria deaths, 70 percent of HIV/AIDS cases and 26 percent of tuberculosis cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Against this background, mental health problems do not raise an immediate cause for concern; but, mental illness accounts for 10 percent of the disease burden. Child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa rates are just as common; 14 percent have mental health problems and nearly 10 percent have diagnosable psychiatric disorders.

The most common mental disorders in the region are depression and anxiety. The prevalence rates of anxiety and Major Depressive Disorder ranges from 40 to 55 percent.

Poverty, warfare and disease identify as vulnerabilities and risk factors to child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa. In one study conducted in southern Sudan, researchers found that 75 percent of children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A lack of evidence-based research on child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa exists, but psychological distress and mood, conduct and anxiety disorders are common among children who have experienced armed conflict.

In 2011, an estimated 90 percent of children infected or directly affected by AIDS reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Rates of anxiety and depression are significantly higher in children orphaned by AIDS than in healthy children. One study found that 12 percent of children orphaned by AIDS in rural Uganda had suicidal ideations.

There are several challenges to providing quality mental health services in low and middle-income countries. Two of these include cost and the lack of research and needs based assessments. Of all medical conditions, mental disorders are some of the most expensive to treat. In most sub-Saharan African countries, mental health treatment facilities are limited in number and often inaccessible. But without assessments and research demonstrating the value of providing effective treatments and services in the region, improving mental healthcare and its availability to those who need it remains a relatively low priority.

In recent years, mental health has received increased attention and new efforts have developed to improve mental health research and care in the region. In 2011, an association of research institutions and health ministries in Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and South Africa partnered with Britain and the World Health Organization (WHO) to research the effect of community-based mental health treatment in low and middle-income nations and to develop mental health facilities and services in these areas.

Another effort is the Africa Focus on Intervention Research for Mental Health (AFFIRM), which is working with several sub-Saharan nations on infrastructure development and has conducted a number of randomized controlled trials envisioned to create interventions for severe mental disorders that are cost-effective and widely accessible.

This is only a small sample of the development efforts addressing mental health treatment and services in sub-Saharan Africa. Recognition of mental disorders significance in national health and more intervention research will go a long way toward bettering child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr


In one of the smallest African countries, Rwanda, the population growth is recovering from the Rwandan genocide. Rwandans who are below the age of 25 represent 67 percent of the population. As the population grows, new support is needed to educate youth in Rwanda.

“This population represents a youth bulge that is hungry for knowledge and success but is being starved of the access and opportunities,” reads the description of the Basketball Health Corps, just one of the programs provided by the nonprofit Shooting Touch.

Shooting Touch is an international development organization that uses the sport of basketball to educate and provides health care to youth in underdeveloped communities. The organization travels all over the world to spread the sport and their message along with it. Basketball can help kids learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and the importance of staying active together. More importantly, Shooting Touch uses basketball as a platform to educate youth in Rwanda on health and happiness.

Erick Niyitanga, a teenage Rwandan coach who has been playing basketball for years with the Basketball Health Corps, says that the sport has taught him how to carry himself “on the court and in real life.”

Board member of the organization and ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan took a trip to Rwanda to report on the outcomes that their nonprofit produces.

The 25 local full-time and volunteer coaches organize the children into teams, where the children get to pick their own teammates and are educated on consent. Health screening is provided in conjunction with the Boston-based nonprofit Partners In Health.

In the country of Rwanda, many of the communities are economically undernourished — the average monthly salary of citizens living in the impoverished city of Rwinkwavu is just $20 a month. Since Rwandans have little to spend on healthcare, Shooting Touch offers free healthcare to anyone who joins their program. In this way, the organization is not only advocating for healthcare; they are sponsoring it as well. The program also educates youth in Rwanda, with hands-on education.

“When we are on the court together, we are free,” says the mother of one of the players during a basketball tournament sponsored by Shooting Touch. Each player is provided a hot meal, and celebration ensues as the tournament ends. There is not a loss for one team, but rather a huge win for both sides, as all of the players walk away with free food and healthcare.

To educate youth in Rwanda and all over the world is essential to aid the growth of countries and is the first step to bringing families out of poverty. All of this is courtesy of one organization’s passion for lifting the spirits of struggling youth with the universal language of sports.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

The Young Heroes Foundation, founded in 2006, aims to provide financial support for the provision of basic necessities for orphans in Swaziland in addition to providing HIV testing and care programs. The nation is home to the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS globally, illustrated by a staggering number of 70,000 orphans and 15,000 households led by children as reported by Aid for Africa.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), rates of HIV among pregnant woman have reached 39.2 percent and approximately 17,000 children contract the disease every year. It is also reported that more than 120,000 Swazi children who are under 18 have lost at least one parent to AIDS, while more than 60,000 have experienced the loss of both parents to the disease.

Young Heroes has now reached more than 1,000 children in Swaziland by stabilizing households of orphans and vulnerable children, consequently improving the rates of school attendance among those receiving aid. Events such as the Swazi Cycle also help to raise monetary support for Swazi orphans by supporting the Young Heroes Foundation, where American cyclists embark on bike routes from border-to-border across the nation. In 2010 the cycling journey raised more than $100,000 for children in dire need of support in Swaziland.

In addition, citizens of Swaziland are affected by high rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty and extremely unpredictable weather patterns, as cited by the World Food Programme.

Other programs such as the Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (CHAPS) have developed voluntary public health programs such as the Male Circumcision Strategic and Operational Plan for HIV Prevention, projecting to avoid an estimated 31,000 new incidents of HIV by 2028. The initiative utilizes tools of education through mentoring, sports programs and public health outreach administered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

– Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

South Sudan Education Sector
As the world’s newest country, South Sudan has made strong progress in improving its education sector. In just four years, the enrollment of children in primary school has doubled, and the chance for a child in South Sudan to receive schooling has increased by 20 percent in the past decade. South Sudan’s Alternate Education System is also helping over 200,000 youth and adults catch up on their education.

Unfortunately, education in the country is still considered among the worst in the world. The adult literacy rate is only 27 percent and 70 percent of children ages 6-17 have never set foot in a classroom. The dropout rate for children in their first six years of primary education is 60 percent.

Overcrowded primary schools are extremely common and qualified teachers are few and far between. Only 15 percent of teachers in South Sudan are qualified with just three out of five teachers receiving a salary from the government.

In a World Bank article, the Country Director for South Sudan stated that in order to catch up with the rest of Africa, South Sudan needs consistent investment in classrooms, more schools in rural areas, more trained teachers and an efficient distribution of educational resources.

In order to make those improvements and boost education in South Sudan, USAID has implemented various programs and projects benefiting both students and teachers across the country.

USAID has greatly improved the accessibility of education in South Sudan. The Agency has contributed to the construction and rehabilitation of 140 primary schools and five secondary schools across the country.

In the past five years, the Agency has awarded over 9,000 scholarships to girls and disadvantaged boys who were previously unable to afford secondary education.

USAID’s South Sudan Teacher Education Program is helping to improve teacher qualification through in-service training and the implementation of a curriculum and professional teaching standards.

In 2012, the Agency provided technical assistance for the drafting and passage of South Sudan’s General Education Bill. According to a member of South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly, “The bill provides for compulsory and free education for all citizens of the country through primary level.”

Although education in South Sudan is improving, there is still a lot of ground to make up. Organizations like USAID, UNICEF and the World Bank are working with the government of South Sudan to develop a stronger, self-sustaining education system.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr

Myths in Mozambique
Along the Indian Ocean lies a southeastern African country called Mozambique. At nearly 800,000 square kilometers, the country is almost twice the size of California. With this size comes great diversities of habitat and life. Many of the country’s 5,500 plant, 220 mammal and 690 bird species live nowhere else in the world.

Yet despite its richness in resources and biodiversity, Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world. Of the over 25 million people who reside in Mozambique, nearly 60 percent make less than $1.25 per day. The country also faces education challenges, with an adult literacy rate of just over 50 percent.

Unfortunately, one of Mozambique’s worst problems is the prevalence of HIV. Within the country’s borders, nearly 1.5 million people are estimated to live with HIV. Over 100,000 of those affected are believed to be under the age of 15.

These staggering numbers are largely the result of misinformation, gray areas and health myths about proper medical treatment and disease prevention. Clearly, the health myths in Mozambique need to be addressed with public health education. In that interest, many organizations have implemented innovative medical and education programs.

In October 2015, UNICEF launched a text-messaging-based program called SMS BIZ to confront health myths in Mozambique. This program was created to provide people aged 10 to 24 with reproductive health counseling services.

By allowing young adults to ask questions, talk about what is happening in their communities and gain critical information, SMS BIZ hopes to create educated communities armed with facts that allow them to reduce the occurrence of HIV in Mozambique.

By offering weekly discussion questions, SMS BIZ can assess the effectiveness of health services in specific communities. When subscribers answer a discussion question, SMS BIZ collects data regarding their gender, age and area. If surveys reveal that a community lacks knowledge about a specific reproductive health or HIV prevention issue, UNICEF can target the community and help bridge the knowledge gap with constructive feedback.

Services such as SMS BIZ by UNICEF are critical in dispelling health myths in Mozambique. Unwanted pregnancies and HIV contraction often occur when people lack education about reproductive health. Fortunately, over 41,000 people in Mozambique are subscribed to SMS BIZ, and more are joining every day.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

Schools for Africa
Schools for Africa is a UNICEF campaign dedicated to fostering education in developing countries during post-crisis and transition periods.

Shortly following their 2004 launch, Schools for Africa was able to raise over $11 million to invest in education in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe. By 2008, the campaign had been initiated in over nine countries, including the United States, and over five million children had been able to receive a better education as a result of the program’s work.

At present, Schools for Africa offers support for education in 13 countries for over 30 million children. One such child is Usher, who, due to a disability, did not learn to walk until he was five. His family believed he’d never get an education. The creation of a UNICEF-supported school, however, allowed him to go to class like all the other children in his village, where he now hopes to learn how to read, write and count.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review cites a lack of education as one of the reasons for poor life quality and expectancy in developing countries. For example, only 50 percent of children in Ghana complete grade five, with fewer than half of those being able to read at the proper level.

The lack of adequate education also leads a great number of students that drop out at an early age. In one report, the Review explains, “[i]t is not surprising that when education investments do not result in adequate learning, or even basic literacy and numeracy, parents do not keep their children in school.”

Moreover, offering support for education in developing countries does not only enable children to have access to a basic rights. According to Canadian Feed the Children, at least a 40 percent literacy rate is necessary to achieve significant economic growth. Therefore, access to education can also reduce food insecurity for poor children by as much as 25 percent.

The benefits of education are profound. With a stronger economy and greater access to food, impoverished countries become less of a security risk and they also open themselves up to trading opportunities with other states. Education in developing countries is a vital force in the quest to end poverty, and UNICEF’s Schools for Africa is at the helm in such efforts. Schools for Africa betters countless young lives as it pursues academic growth and poverty reduction.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Pixabay

The day of the African child
Since 1991, The Day of the African Child has been celebrated as an opportunity to advance African children’s rights. The day commemorates African students who were killed by police in a 1976 demonstration in Soweto, South Africa to protest education injustice.

The official theme of this year’s celebration, “Conflict and Crisis in Africa: Protecting All Children’s Rights,” recognizes that conflict, natural disaster and disease currently affect 500 million children worldwide. The Day of the African Child (DAC) events have centered on promoting access to education but this year there was a focus on how access is jeopardized by conflict.

According to the UNICEF All in School initiative, 36 percent of the primary-school age children who are not attending school are prevented by their residence in conflict-affected areas. Overall, this accounts for 59.3 million children. The damage to structures and infrastructure makes it difficult for African children who live in conflict zones to attend school.

According to a recent African Union report, Africa remains the most conflict-prone continent in the world. Approximately 57 million children in the world do not attend school and 30 million of those children are in sub-Saharan Africa. Living in a conflict zone not only makes attending school unsafe but also affects children’s emotional health.

The 2016 DAC celebration took place at more than 100 events worldwide thanks to partnerships with organizations like A World at School, which utilizes a network of global youth ambassadors and faith-based groups to accelerate progress in education.

This year 500 young people from around Africa staged a ‘youth takeover’ at Ethiopia’s Africa Union, in Addis Ababa for the DAC. Youth ambassadors played a key role in the celebration and promoting the message.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child provides member states with outlined suggestions for observing the DAC. Their recommendations further push the goals of the celebration by providing outlines of current conflict contexts in Africa, how they impact children and best practice for mitigating the impact.

The importance afforded to three decades of DAC and its worldwide events provides hope for the situation of children across Africa. While the struggles they face are remarkably diverse, more equitable access to education remains a priority.

– Charlotte Bellomy
Photo: Pixabay

Global Communities Poverty in Ghana
A non-profit organization called Global Communities works to end poverty in Ghana with a 5-point plan in conjunction with USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy.

The non-profit organization works in more than 20 countries around the world, with Ghana being a focus of the recent programs. Global Communities, created about 60 years ago, works with the private sector, governments and local communities to provide the “means and ability to live and prosper with dignity,” something it ensures under its organization’s vision.

The Maryland-based organization paired with USAID in support of the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy to be implemented over the years 2014-2025. The program’s goal seeks to reduce chronic malnutrition by 20 percent over those 11 years. Global Communities has put forth these five goals in hopes of accelerating the fight against malnutrition in Ghana.

1. Provide more opportunities for economic growth through microfinance

Individuals who do not have access to the capital provided by large financial services corporations can gain access to funds through various microfunding institutions. These smaller companies allow a more intimate relationship between the lender and the borrower. Global Communities works through Boafo Microfinance Services in order to provide low-income Ghanaians with the money for new businesses, education and homes.

2. Build a more “resilient” Ghana by improving the nutrition in local diets

In order to reach this goal, Global Communities has partnered with the USAID/Ghana Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) program to “reduce poverty and improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations.” The introduction of the sweet potato in local Ghanaian farms was a successful implementation of the partnership. Both USAID and Global Communities hope to educate communities on the importance of good nutrition instead of just providing temporary relief.

3. Create pathways for urban youth to become financially independent

Global Communities has joined the Youth Inclusive Entrepreneurial Development Initiative For Employment in opening up the construction sector to Ghana’s youth. In five of the biggest cities in Ghana, the initiative hopes to “reach more than 23,000 youth” by teaching them the skills for employment. Because Africa’s youth makes up a majority of the population, targeting this demographic is the most effective way to reducing poverty in Ghana.

4. Improve access to clean water and sanitation

Working with both the public and private sector, Global Communities is working to enhance the current water and sanitation infrastructure. With focus on “slum communities” in three cities, the non-profit seeks to optimize every individual’s condition while constructing water and sanitation services that can be sustainable. These efforts are paired with USAID’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene for the Urban Poor (WASH-UP) and USAID’s WASH for Health (W4H). An important part of the relief is affecting a change in behavior which can help create a poverty-free society that operates without relief.

5. Upgrade local neighborhoods and reinforce political and social institutions

After the basic needs of food, water and shelter are met, a society can begin to upgrade its political, economic and social conditions. Global Communities, with the Bill & Melinda Gates SCALE-UP program, echoes this idea as it reinforces educational and financial institutions for residents in the low-income communities of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi. The expansion of government services, such as female inclusivity and public transportation, in those regions is being implemented through the Our City, Our Say project.

Global Communities is just part of a larger non-profit coalition fighting against global poverty in Ghana. The process includes numerous programs with funding from various foreign governments, each generating results through their focus on different parts of the Ghanaian society. Readers can follow the various programs and outcomes on the Global Communities website.

Jacob Hess

Sources: Global Communities 1, Global Communities 2, USAID 1, USAID 2
Photo: Borgen Project

Education in Namibia
The United Nations recently presented its Human Development Report in Windhoek, Namibia. The Report included the U.N.’s Human Development Index (HDI) which not only measures a nation’s economic well-being but also that of its citizens. Many find the HDI useful because it takes into account the citizenry’s quality of life.

The Report provided sobering news for the host nation when it was revealed its HDI rank was 126 out of 188. Despite its status as an upper middle-income nation, Namibia ranks fairly low on quality of life metric.

The HDI shows that a rising gross domestic product cannot cover up the citizen’s poor standard of living. The HDI points out that there is wealth inequality, poverty, poor healthcare and educational underperformance in Namibia.

Babatunde Omilola, the United Nations Development Programme’s chief of development planning in New York offered his opinion on solutions to these issues. In particular, Omilola noted that Namibia “could do better if it invests more in education.”

For example, Namibia invests billions of dollars in its education, yet only 30 percent of 12th graders in 2013 met the requirements for college admissions. With statistics showing that college graduates earn more throughout their lifetime, Namibia’s lack of collegiate students translates to unrealized potential.

By improving education in Namibia, it is likely that its citizens will benefit from increased opportunities and a higher HDI as the country tries to overcome a staggering poverty rate of 30 percent.

Omilola also noted that education “allows people to enhance their capabilities by providing them with acquired skills and knowledge.”

He then concludes this by saying Namibia’s “Education and skills need to be boosted.”

With a greater focus on education in Namibia, it is hoped that the country will produce more college graduates that have 21st century skills. These graduates will be able to fill the nation’s skills gap, and take advantage of the nation’s abundant resources.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Capacity4dev, World Bank, UNDP, Namibian 1, Namibian 2, Namibian Sun, WHO
Photo: UNDP