Information and stories about economy.

period poverty in Ghana
Ghana, formally known as the Gold Coast, was the first African country to achieve independence from British colonial rule. Ghana is a leading country in Africa but continues to struggle with poverty. Period poverty in Ghana is a prevailing issue, especially in rural areas. One study in the Zabzugu and North Dayi districts found that 95% of girls in the region missed school due to menstruation.

The causes of period poverty vary. However, the key factors are affordability, lack of education on periods and a dearth of access to menstrual materials. Grassroots and international organizations have stepped in to help solve these issues. An end to period poverty in Ghana is achievable through various strategies.

Eliminating the Tax on Menstruation Materials

 In Ghana, there is currently a 20% import tax on menstruation materials because the country considers them a “luxury” item. This creates a price increase that makes it difficult for families in low-income households to afford these items. An income report on rural Ghanaian cocoa farmers, for example, estimated a monthly income of GHS 1,464 equating to about $329 USD.

The estimated cost of one pad in Ghana averages to about GHS 5. Organizations that support healthy menstruation management, like J-Initiative, believe the Ghanaian government should remove the tax on these materials. #FREEMYPERIOD and #DONTTAXMYPERIOD are just a few of the grassroots campaigns created by advocacy groups urging Ghana’s government to consider menstruation materials as essential.

Recently, Ghanaian youth activists were successful in a six-month-long NOPADTAX campaign. Organizers garnered 2,000 signatures for a petition advocating for the removal of the tax. They presented the petition to the Ghanaian government on Menstrual Hygiene day, May 28, 2020.

The Ghanaian government heard the call for change and responded with a promising answer. At a political event held on August 22, 2020, Ghana’s vice president Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia said that “We will eliminate import duties on sanitary pads to improve health conditions, particularly for girls. It is very important. What we intend [on] doing is to make sure we produce sanitary pads in Ghana [and] until that happens in their numbers, we are going to eliminate import duties to bring down their cost.” Organizers view this as a prominent step toward ending period poverty in Ghana.

Manufacturing at Home

Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed manufacturing menstrual materials like sanitary pads and reusable sanitary cloths. Organizations like Days For Girls have been working to create alternative solutions to combat period poverty across the globe. This organization employs local women and girls to produce reusable sanitary pads utilizing local materials.

The Ghanaian chapter of the Days for Girls organization has provided 10,000 girls across all 10 regions of Ghana with free menstruation kits through its initiative. Many Ghanaian advocacy groups have proposed grassroots manufacturing initiatives for menstruation materials as an economically and environmentally sustainable solution. Organizers believe that manufacturing menstruation materials on the ground would reduce costs and increase accessibility for these vital products.

Providing Menstrual Supplies

Providing menstruation supplies is another proposal to combat period poverty in Ghana. The Global Partnership for Education and DFID has offered to fund possible scholarship programs that seek to supply sanitary pads and school supplies for girls living in rural Ghana.

The Muslimah Mentorship Network, a Ghanaian based organization, created a campaign entitled #1Girl12Pad. This campaign aimed to provide menstruation materials and education on menstruation hygiene for Ghanaian girls. The group visited a school located in the northern region of Ghana and provided almost 300 girls with 12 packs of sanitary pads each, which is enough to last a whole year. The organization’s goal is to implement the campaign in three schools in each region of rural Ghana.

These kinds of initiatives also hope to encourage girls to continue to attend school while menstruating.

Education on Menstruation

Ghana has a variety of misconceptions and stigmas about menstruation. A popular belief is that menstruation is unclean, leading to mismanagement in menstrual hygiene. Organizations are taking the steps to educate both young women and men about menstruation. With proper education, Ghanaian girls will be better equipped to manage their periods and feel more confident with the idea of menstruating.

Advocacy groups hope that Ghana will place more importance on the value of proper menstrual hygiene and menstrual supplies through this increased knowledge. Education on menstruation is a vital tool in helping to reduce misinformation and stigma surrounding menstruation.

Normalizing Healthy Menstrual Hygiene Management

A healthy understanding of how to manage menstruation is vital. Menstrual hygiene management offers coping mechanisms to girls who suffer from cramps, headaches and other side effects of menstruation. Reports state that these coping skills help encourage girls to continue attending school while on their period.

One study on menstrual health management reports that pain was the leading cause of girls missing school. Healthy menstrual management combats this while also providing girls with crucial information on proper hygiene practices, like changing sanitary pads. Menstruation management can counteract the likelihood of hazardous practices that can lead to infection.

Period poverty is a prevailing issue in Ghana. However, there are many efforts to provide sustained solutions. Education on menstruation, healthy menstrual hygiene management and supply distribution and the elimination of the import tax on menstruation materials provide a feasible way to end period poverty in Ghana. 

Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Belarus
The Eastern European post-Soviet state of Belarus has had a tumultuous, bumpy ride in the last 30 years. A long-treasured satellite of the Soviet Union for almost the entirety of the 20th century forced the country to adopt massive changes when it broke off from the Soviet Union when it collapsed in 1991. Since then, one man has ruled this small country with an iron grip. Alexander Lukashenko has been a dictator-like figure masquerading in a phony democratic society. He has been drawing social, economic and political policies in Belarus for the last three decades since the fall of the Soviet Union. Though he did reduce poverty according to official government statistics, there has been a high fluctuation in actual figures related to the poverty rate in Belarus since he took office in the early 1990s. Understanding the underlying causes and remedies of this poverty in Belarus is a complex affair, however, it is clear that certain political, economic and social actions have impacted the country in many ways.

Poverty in Belarus

Being one of the poorest countries in the geographical limits of Europe, the inability to properly take care of its citizens hampered Belarus. Showing its signs of instability, the Belarusian system creaked heavily during a brief two-year recession during 2015-2016. Within a matter of months, the share of the population living below the poverty line increased by three percentage points while in rural areas that number doubled. This fluctuation shows an economy and political system that is not yet resilient to normal market pressures. Additionally, according to a UNDP report, Belarus ranked in the bottom third in countries on the metric “socioeconomic sustainability” which predicts the longer-term impact of economic growth factors and the sustainability of economic output.

Compounding this dilemma, a comprehensive study concluded that much of Belarus’ economic growth in the past 20 years is quite vulnerable, citing both demographic concerns about aging and continuous reforms in the utility sector, which employs much of the workforce of the country. The myriad of challenges facing Belarus is not just abstract downstream economic impacts. President Alexander Lukashenko hampers the prosperity of his own citizenry in many ways through his brash leading style and the specific intricate political decisions that impact his citizens.

According to the University of Pennsylvania professor of Eastern European Studies, Mitchell Orenstein, the Lukashenko regime “is certainly repressive. His regime regularly beats peaceful protesters and threatens and imprisons and tortures opposition presidential candidates.” This type of social order is not conducive to finding the best public policy that helps the most people, but rather a closed-off system that is resistant to change–which is important when advancing important economic interests that lift people out of poverty in Belarus. Orenstein also notes that many Belurrusians tolerate much of this behavior, as President Lukashenko argues, “Belarus must have a powerful dictator to prevent invasion from outside forces, noting Belarus’s World War II history, and Russia’s desire to undermine Belarusian sovereignty. He also blames NATO for seeking to subdue Belarus.” This provides an underpinning of legitimacy that was successful at holding off dissatisfaction among his people, but as poverty trends stagnate, that dissatisfaction may inevitably boil over.

Improvements in Belarus

Upon examining the raw data, one might come to the conclusion that Belarus has been dealing with its poverty problem quite well since Lukashenko took office. In the year 2000, 41.9% of the population was below the national poverty line while in 2013 that number astoundingly fell 36.2 percentage points to 5.7% below the poverty line in the country. This was due to mass mobilization of the public sector for manufacturing–mainly to fuel the growing Russian economy at the time. Moreover, massive investments from multilateral organizations, such as the World Bank, spurred the production of critical infrastructure all around the country and international investment.

With the 90 million Euro investment from the World Bank in 2019, coupled with numerous other investments like the UNDP project, Belarus is making extraordinary strides in not only fighting poverty but developing and cultivating the systems that attract foreign investment in their country. Moreover, innovative NGOs are tackling every angle of the poverty cycle in the country. Organizations like Ponimanie are fighting to protect children’s rights and ensure positive outcomes for vulnerable groups of children.

This type of organization is crucial for breaking the cycle of poverty and providing opportunities to succeed in disadvantaged communities in the country. In addition, poverty in Belarus has received aid from the fact that Belarus’ main trading partners–like Russia–have experienced an economic boom as well. This reaction sets a favorable sequence into motion that spurs production in its energy and agricultural sectors lifting people out of poverty.

Importantly, while Belarus has made great strides in its ability to fight poverty (as shown by the successful years of positive economic policy and results), many of the trends have leveled off during recent times. Life expectancy, education and GNI per capita all increased dramatically over the course of the first years of the 21st century while then plateauing into the 2010s. This certainly shows progress but also highlights the inability of the Belarussian system to maintain and replicate the growth and prosperity that the country experienced 15 years ago.

While poverty in Belarus is most certainly an ongoing threat, understanding some of the more intricate causes of instability and continued poverty are important for determining the outcome of millions in this Eastern European country in the future.

– Zak Schneider
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Iceland
Popular for its beautiful landmarks and picturesque views, Iceland is now facing an issue that highlights a much darker reality taking place on the nordic island. Iceland has been able to keep poverty at a relatively low percentage for much of its history. However, in the past decade, the country has experienced a drastic rise in poverty and child poverty in Iceland in particular. One can largely attribute this to the economic collapse that the country experienced a little over a decade ago.

The Situation

In 2008, Iceland’s banks defaulted as a result of loans that the country had taken out with many foreign banks. At the time, Icelandic banks were some of the most lucrative banks globally. The country accumulated a massive amount of debt following large loans and grand foreign investments. The intention was to further boost the economy and to take advantage of the financial prosperity taking place in the country at the time. The value of the Icelandic currency, the Krona, was at an all-time high with a 900% increase in value. The country experienced an economic boom, and citizens received encouragement to take part in the flourishing economy. As a result, many purchased expensive homes, took on multiple mortgages and invested in foreign companies. The country was, unfortunately, unable to pay these large sums back. The result was catastrophic. Banks defaulted on foreign loans leading to a massive national financial crisis. Iceland’s credit was tarnished and almost every business in the country had gone bankrupt. Citizens ended up with large bills with little or no way to pay them. What followed was an extreme rise in poverty.

The Consequences of the Crash

Healthcare expenses experienced a peak, and with mortgages nearly doubling in cost, the price of living increased exponentially. Many households were unable to afford the basic and vital services required for daily living. According to a report discussing the consequences of the crisis, unemployment rates rose to 7.6%. This was 5% higher than the annual unemployment rates prior to the economic downturn. Inflation was another result of the crash. Mortgage prices increased nearly doubling. With the national currency, the krona, experiencing a decrease in value, the price of many goods and services suffered an impact as well. Iceland saw a substantial rise in housing insecurity and homelessness. Citizens took to the streets to protest many of the issues taking place at the time, and to express their frustrations with the government’s reactions to the crisis. This resulted in a new left-leaning government that promised to offer support for its struggling citizens.

Child Poverty in Iceland and Government Aid

Child poverty saw a drastic rise during this time of economic downturn. In fact, child poverty increased from 11.2% to 31.6% between 2008 and 2012. Unemployment was on the rise, and families faced immense financial strife that greatly affected the home. Iceland’s government was able to provide its residents with support for regular access to vital resources such as food, housing and healthcare. Healthcare programs that Iceland put in place prior to the crash offered much-needed support to Icelandic citizens with healthcare services during the crash. The Icelandic government also provided support in many areas. This included welfare services for low-income households, along with a tax decrease for low-income earners and a tax increase for high-income earners. This ensured financial support for the most vulnerable during the crash. Low and mid-income-earning citizens received social benefits and debt relief. Wealth redistribution played a large role in the economic support provided for citizens during this time.

The Case of Child Poverty

The ways in which poverty can present itself differs from nation to nation. One can find many of the challenges most common amongst Icelandic children living in poverty in many nations across the globe. According to a report by Humanium.org, some of the key issues that impoverished Icelandic children face are varying health issues, emotional strife, sexual exploitation and labor exploitation.

Confronting Child Poverty

Throughout Iceland’s history, poverty rates have been well managed in comparison to other less developed Islands. Prior to the financial crisis, Iceland held a relatively low poverty rate. According to a Statistics Iceland report, a total of 9% of the population was at risk of living in poverty in comparison to 16% in other nordic islands and the estimated 23% in the United Kingdom.  While poverty existed in the country, it was certainly not as high as during or after the crisis. Iceland has done tremendous work to repair its economy. The programs that Iceland’s government implemented provided support for many low-income families while also helping to boost its then damaged economy. Unfortunately, citizens who plummeted into poverty as a result of the economic downturn have struggled to find a way out. To combat this, the Icelandic government has implemented many methods of support for citizens facing these challenges. This includes lower-cost healthcare services, debt relief for mortgage holders and social services for low income earning citizens. These policies have proven to provide much promise for a reduction in poverty overall in the country. The goal is that with a decrease in general poverty, the child poverty rates will also reduce in Iceland.

Imani A. Smikle
Photo: Flickr

U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay

Women’s Rights in South Korea
Historically, women’s rights in South Korea have had limitations and have handicapped the country’s progression. In all realms of society – socially, politically, economically and culturally – women have ranked lower and had fewer rights than their male counterparts. However, there are significant advancements in improving the status of women in South Korea. Specifically, efforts in closing the country’s gender gap could allow for the economy to flourish, and in return, lower overall poverty rates.

Gender Inequality in South Korea

Traditionally, South Korea previously used Confucianism to rule its moral codes and societal structure. For women, these codes determined that they should be obedient to the men in their lives – fathers, husbands and sons. Until the 21st century, men had the title of the head of the household for their families, which reinforced the deep inequality between South Korean men and women. For women, the continuation of familial lines was the primary societal expectation. These historical-cultural expectations set precedence regarding women’s rights in South Korea in modern times.

In 2005, South Korea’s Constitutional Court made the decision to officially retire the tradition of “hoju,” which placed the man at the head of the household. The abolishment of this system had intentions of uplifting South Korean women by improving their daily lives and shows the country heading towards a more inclusive society. In modern-day South Korea, men and women now have equal rights, and furthermore, female employment rates have risen to over 52% since 2018. These significant improvements in women’s rights in South Korea have the potential to create a future with a flourishing economy.

Despite best efforts, South Korea still continues to rank towards the bottom for economic opportunities for women. South Korea ranks at 115 for the country’s economic gender gap, ranks at 124 for economic participation and female opportunity and has the largest pay gap among OECD countries. In addition, South Korean’s working population has started declining and expectations have determined that birthrates will begin to decrease by 2028. A simple, straightforward solution to these issues would be a higher integration of women in the workplace. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an increase in female labor would also increase South Korea’s GDP by 7%, a substantial amount. So, the question is, what is South Korea doing to support female involvement in the workplace?

Solutions

In a 2015 interview, Kim Hee-Jung, the minister of gender equality and family, discussed the ways South Korea is attempting to close its gender gap. Kim Hee-Jung first corrected a common misconception that people have in regard to increasing women’s opportunities by stating an increase in opportunities for women does not decrease men’s opportunities. She proved her point by stating that “the statistics show that in OECD countries with high rates of female economic participation, birthrates and economic growth rates tend also to be higher.” Furthermore, there are policies to aid in creating a sustainable work-life balance for both South Korean men and women. For example, the government initiated the “two-track support for paternity leave,” where men will receive their entire month’s salary if they decide to take paternity leave after their wives have. Kim Hee-Jung ended the interview on a promising note for the future of female power in South Korea’s economy.

Overall, women’s rights in South Korea have greatly improved in this past century. Although South Korea began by placing social expectations and limitations on its women, it has made great efforts in changing these traditional roles. For the South Korean economy to truly thrive, others must continue to recognize and reduce inequality in the workplace. With this acknowledgment, South Korea has the ability to uplift its women in order to enhance its entire economy.

– Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr

'Developed' and 'Developing'While the categories of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ to describe countries may have been useful in the 1960s, Bill Gates and Hans Rosling—author of the book “Factfulness”—have begun using a new categorical system; four distinct income levels are now recognized as a more accurate way to describe countries and the range between them.

‘Developed’ and ‘Developing’ Countries

The terms ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ have become almost universal terms to describe the economy or wealth of countries. However, there is not one specific definition for these terms. Organizations such as the United Nations use the terms colloquially. However, they never introduced a specific, measurable definition for what actually classifies whether a country is developed or still developing.

In the 1960s, the terms were mostly based on infant mortality and birth rates. Developed countries had lower mortality and birth rates while developing countries had higher infant mortality and birth rates.

But ‘developed’ and “developing” have become outdated in this way, as just about every country in the world has improved infant mortality rates since the 1960s. In fact, some ‘developing’ countries of today have lower infant mortality rates than ‘developed’ countries in 1960.

Overall, the two terms are incapable of separating countries beyond ‘rich’ and ‘poor.’ This is a problem because the majority of people in most countries live somewhere in the middle. In fact, one can label 85% of countries as ‘developed.’ Meanwhile, 15% are in between and one can consider only 6% as “developing” in terms of fertility and mortality rates. That is why Hans Rosling uses four income levels to describe all countries instead.

The Four Income Levels

  • Level One: The majority of people live in extreme poverty on a daily income of $2 or less per day. Countries such as Lesotho and Madagascar are currently level one countries. For many people in level one, the main mode of transportation is walking. Some may not even have their own pair of shoes to travel in. In these countries, infant mortality, hunger and preventable disease prevalence are high. Approximately 1 billion people live at this level.
  • Level Two: People in countries such as China, Nigeria and Bangladesh generally live on $2 to $8 per day. They may ride a bicycle instead of walking, and they have their own pair of shoes. An estimated 2 billion people live at level two, which is more than any other level.
  • Level Three: In countries such as Egypt, Rwanda and the Philippines, about 2 billion people live on $8 to $32 per day. Transportation may include electric bikes, scooters, public transportation and cars. About 2 billion people live at level three.
  • Level Four: The wealthiest countries make up level four. The average person having an income of more than $32 per day. There is a large market for nice cars and houses. Simple necessities like clean water and nutritional food are widely available. The United States, Mexico, much of Europe and South Africa are some examples of countries at this income level.

This four-tiered system does not completely account for the variations within countries, but it provides more information than the previous terms. For example, some people living in level one countries are significantly richer than the $2 per day average, and many people living in level four countries experience poverty.

However, organizing countries in this way allows for a more accurate measure of progress. Bill Gates has argued that “It’s hard to pick up on progress if you divide the world into rich countries and poor countries. When those are the only two options, you’re more likely to think anyone who doesn’t have a certain quality of life is ‘poor.’” It is important to properly track global progress and development. We can then use the information to understand where further action must be taken.

A New Official Classification

It is difficult to distinguish between various countries with only two terms. The World Economic Forum stopped using the terms ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ in official reports. Instead, it has used a similar four-tiered categorization since 2016. The World Economic Forum states that it will now collect data “for the whole world, for regions, and for income groups – but not for the ‘developing world’ (or the sum of low and middle income).” Similarly, in 2016, the World Bank released a working paper looking into classifying countries by income as well.

According to Bill Gates, “Any categorization that lumps together China and the Democratic Republic of Congo is too broad to be useful.” Using these levels in data analysis creates a better understanding of variations between countries and their incomes.

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash

 

Increase in Poverty in Libya
Following the 2009 overthrow of the authoritarian Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi, the country underwent serious social upheaval. Many citizens faced an increase in poverty in Libya. Libya is home to a wealth of natural resources. Markers such as life expectancy and literacy rates are substantially higher than other countries in the region. Nevertheless, ongoing political conflict combined with various refugee crises has dramatically elevated the number of people living below the poverty line. In fact, roughly one-third of the population lives in poverty, which is about 2.2 million people.

Violence and Politics

Numerous domestic parties and foreign countries have a stake in the political landscape. As a result, violence and fractured political relationships characterize Post-Qaddafi governance in Libya. Current Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj leads the Government of National Accord (GNA). It has garnered substantial support from the international community. However, the presence of militias and former Qaddafi supporters in the region have created lasting violence and contributed greatly to the impoverishment of its citizens. Opposition leader Khalifa Haftar has been leading a violent campaign against the GNA for the past several years. He envisions himself “a bulwark against extremists,” but his ties to the Islamic State worry his critics.

The Economic Aspect

Additionally, there are various international actors with an economic interest in the region. Countries like Italy, Russia and Turkey all have investments in Libya’s economic prosperity, and these investments tie closely to its remarkable oil and natural gas reserves. Historically, these countries have contributed to poverty in Libya by exploiting these natural resources. Ultimately, the conflict prolonged and intensified. It led to an increase in poverty in Libya by foreign leaders with personal interests in the outcome of the war. The fighting has destroyed important infrastructures such as roads and functioning sewage systems. This leaves many Libyans without access to clean water or food.

Improvements to Fight Libya’s Poverty

The political instability and constant violence increased poverty in Libya over the last decade. Moreover, the 90% of refugees migrating to Europe from Libya has compounded it. About 217,002 Libyans are currently displaced within the country, according to the UNHCR. This is in addition to another 43,113 asylum seekers who are passing through in search of a country that will take them in. Also, the number of “people of concern,” or those in dire need of aid, has increased by 50% since 2018. The political and social infrastructure to handle such numbers of displaced people is not available. However, groups like the IRC and UNHCR are working to improve the lives of Libyan citizens and asylum seekers. These organizations, among others, provide services such as community development centers and telephone hotlines in order to help identify, register and assist those who need it.

Furthermore, they work to provide humanitarian assistance to refugee camps and end the practice of detention centers in the region. Although terrorist and militia attacks on foreign aid centers have complicated efforts, there is noticeable improvement due to programs like these.

The Outlook

Ultimately, political violence and the competing desires of colonial powers has resulted in the increase of poverty in Libya in recent years. Religious conflict and foreign involvement have made the road to progress difficult. Aid will only reach 39% of those identified to be in need of critical assistance in 2020, according to the U.N. However, the outlook is not entirely bleak: the international aid community is working to provide relief to those in need. Also, the natural resources Libya possesses put the country in a unique position to recover and prosper. The region draws more international attention and humanitarian organizations continue to direct resources to Libyans in need. Therefore, there is reason to be hopeful that the country will soon be out of poverty.

– Leo Posel
Photo: Flickr

African supply chains
USAID recently announced its plans to invest $15 million in the development of a state-of-the-art research and training facility in Ghana that aims to improve African supply chains. Supply chains constitute the path that goods take as they go from a mere idea to a concrete purchase. Goods move through supply chains from companies to manufacturers and finally to buyers. Supply chains often operate on a global scale as communication and technology have progressed. Struggles to join capital-building and international supply chains prevent many African economies from experiencing serious growth.

According to Arizona State University research, healthy, efficient supply chains are essential for economic development. Furthermore, healthy supply chains are crucial to providing widespread access to necessary goods such as medicine and sanitary products. To grow African economies and expand access to resources, USAID is sponsoring a groundbreaking research and training facility in Ghana. It will be named the Center for Applied Research in Supply Chain-Africa. This facility aims to strengthen supply chains across the African continent.

A Research and Training Facility Rooted in Innovation and Education

The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and University Technology in Ghana and Arizona State University, who have successfully partnered on projects in the past, will spearhead the Center for Applied Research in Supply Chain-Africa, also called CARISCA. Accordingly, the research and training center will function as a facility to “connect African researchers, practitioners, and businesses to supply chain assets around the world.” Additionally, the partnership between Kwame Nkrumah University and Arizona State University is a facet of USAID’s BRIDGE-Train program that seeks to connect American and African institutions in order to strengthen international relationships in education. Thus, the training center will not only connect business professionals but students and educators as well.

The Center for Applied Research in Supply Chain-Africa intends to boost economic autonomy in African countries. As a result, it focusses on providing marginalized populations with the opportunity to join expanding supply chains. USAID has committed itself to investments that will stimulate long-term growth. These will consequently reduce global poverty and decrease the need for international aid.

An African Free Trade Agreement

With the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area in 2019, the research and training facility in Ghana will likely prosper. The agreement will permit free trade between 28 African countries. Moreover, it will remove barriers that previously hindered movement through African supply chains. In 2016, only 18% of exports were intra-regional, meaning that relatively little trade is taking place between African countries. Researchers believe that by increasing intra-regional trade, many African economies could grow in order to make the whole continent a more dynamic force in international markets.

The development of the Center for Applied Research in Supply Chain-Africa in Ghana is a major investment in African economic growth. It will hopefully provide opportunities for innovation in African businesses.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Pixabay

tourism and COVID-19COVID-19 has caused major disruptions for travel on a global scale. The tourism industry has already experienced a loss of over $300 billion in the first five months of 2020, and that number is projected to increase to as much as $1.2 trillion due to the pandemic. Additionally, 100 to 120 million jobs associated with tourism are at risk. Tourism and COVID-19 have struggled to co-exist amidst the turmoil of 2020, especially in three major tourist countries. However, organizations are working to protect the future of the travel industry.

Global Tourism and COVID-19

Tourism is considered the third-largest export sector. It is an essential component of the global economy, comprising 10.4% of total economic activity in 2018. Some countries rely on tourism for 20% or more of their total GDP. Many countries rely on capital from tourists, ranging from small, low-income island countries to larger, high-income countries. However, according to a U.N. policy brief, there will be an estimated 58-78% decrease in tourists in 2020 compared to 2019. Three countries that have been especially affected by COVID-19 and tourism are Spain, Thailand and Mexico.

  1. Spain: Spain experienced the second-largest overall economic loss in tourism due to the pandemic, behind the United States. The country lost $9.7 million in revenue due to travel restrictions and decreased tourism. Because Spain is a high-income country and has various other contributors to its economy, it is expected to recover with greater resilience than similarly impacted, lower-income countries.
  2. Mexico: In 2018, Mexico gained a total of 7.15% of its GDP from tourism. However, Mexico’s income from tourism in April 2020 was a mere 6.3%. Additionally, the tourism sector accounts for approximately 11 million jobs in Mexico alone, many of which are now at risk.
  3. Thailand: Thailand has lost nearly $7.8 million due to travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic. The country has taken these limitations seriously in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, this action has come at the cost of earning a ranking as one of the countries hit hardest by economic losses associated with tourism. The tourism sector is responsible for about 10% of the country’s total GDP.

Government Response to Tourism and COVID-19

Although COVID-19 has introduced an unprecedented economic strain on a global scale, governments are working to help countries recover. Spain released an aid package allocating €400 million to the transport and tourism sectors, €14 million to boost the local economy and €3.8 million for public health. Mexico’s government is distributing 2 million small loans of 25 thousand pesos (about $1000) to small businesses. Lastly, Thailand has approved three tourism packages to assist the local economy and small businesses.

NGO Policy Response to Tourism and COVID-19

With government and NGO action, experts predict that the travel sector will return to 2019 economic levels by around 2023. Many organizations are stepping in with policy solutions, providing hope for the industry’s revival. The U.N. World Tourism Organization released the COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Technical Assistance Package, highlighting three main policy areas: “Managing the crisis and mitigating the impact,” “providing stimulus and accelerating recovery” and “preparing for tomorrow.” Similarly, the International Labour Organization released a policy framework with four main pillars to protect workers, stimulate the economy, introduce employment retention strategies and encourage solutions-based social dialogue.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development provides “Travel in the New Normal,” a series of six policy areas. These include helping businesses to implement “touchless” solutions, sanitation supplies, health screenings and other protective measures to prevent COVID-19. The OECD states that domestic travel will be vital for the recovery of tourist nations, contributing to 75% of the tourism economy in OECD member countries.

These efforts, along with other policy strategies, are vital to the recovery of the tourism industry. They will be particularly important for small- and medium-sized enterprises, industry-employed women and the working class as a whole. These policies will also further U.N. Sustainable Development Goals like No Poverty, Reduced Inequality, Partnership, Sustainable Cities & Communities and Decent Work & Economic Growth.

The tourism sector has suffered major losses in response to COVID-19, with a significant amount of revenue and jobs lost or at severe risk. Countries of all regions and income levels have been affected by the pandemic, including Spain, Mexico and Thailand. However, these setbacks provide unique opportunities to both transform the tourism industry and promote the Sustainable Development Goals.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Flickr

China Technological Innovations
As a highly populated country, China is home to many different demographics, when it comes to income distribution. Poverty in China frequents the rural areas, where development is slower when compared with metropolitan cities. Despite the country’s massive population, more than 82 million citizens are no longer impoverished. In that same vein, the poverty rate of China decreased from around 10% to just less than 2%. As a result of some technological innovations in China, the country has seen improvements in poverty rates.

Generating Synergy

An initiative done by China to reduce poverty is through increasing synergies within China’s markets. By connecting public and private businesses — small and hard-earning jobs like farming can gain more income. Not only does creating partnerships with different companies increase the flow of money — but it is also helping more jobs become available for struggling citizens. Moreover, it boosts the overall productivity of each organization involved. In 2019, the cooperation between China and the E.U. made over 3 trillion yuan (nearly $450 billion), an increase of nearly 10% from the previous year. Creating synergy has benefited China’s economy with new jobs and income sources — especially for low-earning workers.

Farmer Field Schools

Farmers in rural China are among the most vulnerable in the country, as they are the most impoverished. Farmer Field School is a 2019 initiative that provides educational and informative training for small farmers. These forms of training include teaching social skills and business management. Those immersed in this training reached a new profit of more than 15,000 yuan (more than $2,000). This figure represents an increase of around 105% compared with those who did not participate in the training. Farmer Field Schools have reinforced China’s rural farmers’ decision-making skills when it comes to agriculture. Furthermore, they have helped reduce the level of poverty seen among rural farmers by increasing their earnings with newfound knowledge.

BN Vocational School

BN Vocational School (BNVS) is an education program that is free of charge for the underprivileged youth. This organization focuses on generational poverty and how to help end it. As a vocational school, BNVS sets students up for success by equipping them with the skills they will need in their future career paths. Nearly 7,000 disadvantaged children have received education from BNVS via the 11 schools operated. BNVS helps its students escape poverty by nurturing their education to help them secure jobs in the future.

INOHERB Cosmetics

INOHERB Cosmetics is a Chinese company that specializes in herbal medicine: in particular, the Rhodiola plant. As a country that loves herbal medicine, Rhodiola became a product of high-demand — giving farmers an increased new workload. INOHERB proposed a policy that would pay farmers additional wages if they successfully grew the plant. With more than 8,000 seedlings planted and a successful survival rate of more than 80%, farmers were granted an additional 30,000 RMB (around $4,500) on top of their original income. INOHERB Cosmetic’s unique approach towards alleviating poverty has benefited more than 1,200 farmers and continues to mobilize and support impoverished workers.

Innovations in China Paving the Way Forward

With proven results, China’s efforts towards poverty relief has provided impoverished people with a second chance of increasing their incomes. Innovations in China have taken on distinct forms, such as educational initiatives and creating public and private business synergies. These innovational initiatives have certainly benefited the country and with a little more help and support from continued initiatives — more rural citizens can continue to do better.

Karina Wong
Photo: Flickr