Italy's Pandemic Recovery
Italy quickly became a coronavirus hot spot at the pandemic’s onset, and its healthcare system and economy have struggled ever since. In early 2021, the Italian government announced a €235 billion Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) that will launch several economic initiatives over the next five years. Prime Minister Mario Draghi seeks to emphasize institutional reform and GDP growth in Italy’s pandemic recovery process.

How Italy Handled the COVID-19 Pandemic

Italy has documented more than 4 million COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. It has confirmed more than 127,000 deaths as of July 6, 2021. The pandemic hit Northern Italy the hardest and fastest, with nearly 80% of COVID-related deaths coming from the northern region in the first four months of the pandemic.

Italy’s unemployment rate rose from 9.2% in 2020 to 10.2% in 2021, with youth disproportionately affected. In the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Campania, youth unemployment climbed to 46%. Additionally, 45% of Italians agreed that the pandemic has impacted their personal income.

A four-level color-coded system sorts locations in Italy by infection risk. White and yellow areas have “total freedom, by day and night,” representing a lower risk of coronavirus infection. Orange represents a higher risk, and red represents an extreme risk. Orange and red regions observe a curfew between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. As of June 28, 2021, all regions are white areas. It is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors, but the country is suggesting that people continue carrying one and observe safe social distancing rules.

Italy’s Plans for Tourism

Tourism is a vital component of the Italian GDP, and in just one year, the country saw a 60% drop in tourists due to COVID-19. Italy estimates a loss of around €120.6 billion in tourism revenue for 2020, and so far, 2021 has also been a lackluster year for tourism.

Italy’s pandemic recovery process includes once again allowing foreign visitors. In June 2021, the country opened to tourism from most European countries and a few others as well. Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates who arrive on COVID-tested flights can also enter the country. All tourists from outside the European Union, Israel or on COVID-tested flights must quarantine for 14 days and provide a negative COVID-19 test. However, most tourist attractions, including beaches, theaters and museums, are open to the public at limited capacity.

Italy’s Economic Recovery Plan

Draghi continues to work with the E.U. to secure aid for Italian citizens. As a result, Italy will receive the largest share of the E.U.’s €705 billion recovery fund because of the economic strain the pandemic placed on the country. The plan will offer environmentally conscious solutions for economic expansion.

The Italian government will allocate €18.5 billion to hospitals to reduce pressure on the healthcare system. The RRP will help hospitals digitize and will invest in “community hospitals” for patients not needing extensive care. It will also set aside €7 billion to strengthen home care. All these plans are efforts to relieve hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Forty percent of the RRP is for green-related investments. A study by Scientific Reports found that Italy’s air pollution played a larger role in spreading the pandemic than population density, so Italy plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The RRP will also fund construction, which will offer many citizens job opportunities. The construction market is estimated to grow 3.5% in the COVID-19 recovery process.

Many Italians are looking forward to life returning to normal. Italy’s pandemic recovery plan offers hope that the country will succeed in its economic expansion and infrastructure development.

Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

Trade Partnership Between The EU And India
The European Union and India have recently agreed to resume trade negotiations since 2013. The European Union has acknowledged that trade leads to the reduction of national poverty, a huge benefit. The trade partnership between the E.U. and India is strategic to the E.U. in terms of India’s geographical location and natural resources.

National Poverty in India

In India, 30% of the population lives under extreme poverty, meaning that individuals earn less than $1.25 per day. India is one of the subcontinents with the highest toll of poverty in the world. The lack of resources creates a chain reaction, leading to unemployment, child labor and lack of education. Similarly, the poverty rate in India is concerning, alarming other nations to develop impactful relations with India. The economy in India bases on exporting spices, coffee, tea, tobacco, iron and steel. The current COVID-19 pandemic struck India with the lowest economic growth in years. It affected rural areas in India the most. People are reducing spending due to the crisis and financial situation. The European Union has agreed to trade with India to pursue common interests.

Trade Agreements Between the EU and India

The European Union agreed on trading with India for better development and strategic commerce. Europe and India froze their relationship in 2013. This decision strongly affected India’s financial situation. Trade partnership between both nations creates impactful relationships and empowers women. Strengthening the relationship between both countries strengthens human rights and reduces the poverty index, helping civil society. The trade deal between nations is 8.5 billion euros. The European Union and India agreed to build infrastructure projects to increase cooperation.

Both nations have compromised to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewable energy. The pledge between both will improve citizens living conditions and minimize national poverty. According to the European Commission, India is amongst one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The trade partnership with the European Union could potentially grow India’s GDP up to 6%. The European Union will exhaust available channels to work with India to ensure a transparent market and respect multilateral obligations.

Trade Drives International Development

Open trade policies enable economic development in countries. The cooperation of international trade will benefit the importer and exporter in numerous ways. For instance, trade is critical when it comes to ending global poverty. Multilateral relationships create a win-win scenario, improving productivity and innovation. Poverty means the concentration of individuals deprived of basic needs, often disconnected from global or even regional markets. Consequently, increasing trade creates jobs and grows the exporting sector.

Improving Living Standards in India

In conclusion, emphasizing trade partnership is a national growth strategy. With the collaboration and agreement, India could increase up to 6% of its annual GDP. According to the World Bank, trade-open markets help create an inclusive and integrated environment. The European Union will help India significantly reduce national poverty levels. All sectors in India benefit from bilateral and multilateral negotiations. Above all, it is essential to have an equitable economy to ensure growth in society. The United Nations has prioritized poverty as a millennium development goal emphasizing MDG 8, which corresponds to international trade as a growth strategy to reduce poverty. Thus, the trade partnership between the E.U. and India is conducive to India’s future economic success.

Ainara Ruano Cervan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Poland
Poland has been a NATO member since 1999. It was not until five years later in 2004 that Poland became a member of the European Union (E.U.) after signing the Accession Treaty. In addition, Poland has been a member of the Schengen area since 2007. Poland’s cooperation and membership in these intergovernmental organizations continue to benefit its economic condition. E.U. membership, in particular, stimulated Poland’s economy towards sustainable development and helped in the fall of poverty in Poland.

Economic Situation of Poland (After and Before Accession to the European Union)

After Poland’s accession, E.U. regional policy programs guided the country through many beneficial investments over the years. Through these investments, Poland was able to develop and maintain its infrastructure, economy, tourism, education, healthcare and governance. In order to eliminate disparities between its regions, the E.U. fund seeks to build a stronger economy, stable territorial lines and cohesion in the union. During the 2014-2020 programming period, Poland managed to enforce hundreds of projects.

According to data from 2003 until 2018, the economy of Poland is continuously improving. In 2003, a year before E.U. membership, the total value of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Poland was $477.94 billion. After five years of being a member of the E.U., Poland’s economic growth for 2009 was $760.35 billion. In this case, membership in the E.U. benefited the economy of the region. According to the European Commission’s 2012 Aging Report projects during 2010-2060, Poland will be the second-fastest-growing economy in the E.U., following Bulgaria.

The strong economic performance over the years led to the rapid rising of GDP per capita in Poland. Its GDP per capita has risen from $5,693 in 2003 to $15,565 in 2019. In 2004, the annual growth rate of GDP per capita was 17.35% in comparison to 2003. It is also important to mention that, in 2009, the annual growth rate of GDP per capita declined by -17.67% compared to the previous year. The economy of Poland was under tension in 2009 and another sizeable fall in numbers occurred in 2015. In 2014, GDP per capita was $14,348 and in 2015, it decreased to $12,572. However, from 2017 to 2019, the numbers increased. In fact, in 2019, the GDP per capita in Poland reached the highest point ever in the country’s history at $15,565.

Unemployment in Poland

Various indicators estimate a trend of decreasing poverty in Poland. The unemployment rate demonstrates this well. After Poland regained its independence, unemployment was one of the most pressing social and economic issues. E.U. membership contributed to the decline in the unemployment rate. Foreign investments and the funds from the E.U. financing programs decreased the percentage of unemployment and created new jobs. At the same time, the opening of the European labor market created job opportunities outside of Poland for the unemployed, subsequently aiding the fall of poverty in Poland.

From the beginning of 2003 to 2009, the unemployment rate decreased significantly in Poland. The unemployment rate decreased from 19.07% in 2004 to 3.47% in 2019. According to some economists, if Poland never joined as an E.U. member, they would be at the same level as Ukraine, which had a slightly higher GDP than Poland in 1990.

Conclusion

Poland underwent a successful transition from a communist-state background to a stable and competitive European country. One of the main reasons for their success is that Poland joined. In 2007-2013 and 2014-2020, Poland was the largest beneficiary of the E.U. funds. Investments helped Poland improve its transport infrastructure, health, education, environment efficiency, network infrastructure, social cohesion, research and development.

– Tofig Ismayilzada
Photo: Flickr

A New Proposed Bill to End the Gender Pay Gap in the EUIn March 2021, a new law was proposed to end the gender pay gap in the European Union (EU). This bill, written during COVID-19, aims to give more power to job candidates and to employees, especially women. Pushed by the European Commission, this proposed bill is great news for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Gender Pay Gap in the EU

The gender pay gap is the average difference in salaries between men and women. It is a central social and economic issue affecting all EU countries.

The EU consists of 27 member countries. In 2019, all 27 countries showed differences between men’s and women’s hourly incomes with an average of a 14.1% pay gap.

These statistics also highlight gender pay gap differences between EU countries. For instance, Estonia presented a 21.7% gender pay gap — the highest gender pay gap rate in Europe. On the other hand, the top three countries each showed less than 5% pay gap: Italy showed 4.7%, Romania 3.3% and Luxembourg 1.3%.

Making Equality a Priority

These significant differences within the European members underscore the need for the EU to achieve unified and equal salaries between men and women. Although EU countries acknowledge inequalities in salaries, the gender pay gap rate has only minimally improved. The difference between men’s and women’s salaries has decreased by only a point between 2016 and 2019.

Not only will achieving gender wage equality make European societies fairer, but it can also improve their economies. In 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that gender equality makes companies more competitive and productive.

In March 2021, the European Commission proposed a law addressing the gender pay gap issue in Europe. The bill relied on the “equal pay for equal job” principle and would be based on a system of fines for companies that do not respect gender pay equality.

Toward Transparency and Equality

In addition to penalties, the law would require companies to be more transparent about gender pay gaps. Increasing transparency would enable women to acknowledge discrimination and provide them with the information and tools to defend themselves against these inequalities and consequently empower women.

Transparency is a key point of the European bill to end the gender pay gap. It also requires the implementation of strict legal frames. Additionally, the proposed law considers the use of reports and audits, which are both parts of the right to information and can underline potential gender-based discriminations.

Gender Pay Inequality: A Multi-faceted Issue

It remains crucial to tackle invisible facts undermining women’s chances on the job market. For instance, the bill must consider the inequalities in unpaid activities mostly handled by women, like domestic chores or care work. Before COVID-19, women performed on average three times more unpaid work than men. During the pandemic, these numbers increased, especially because more women lost their jobs than men.

The inconsistency of women’s jobs is also crucial. For instance, in 2019, 29% of the gender pay gap in France’s culture-related jobs was due to the gap between full-time and part-time jobs for men and women.

The current pandemic has also underlined significant inequalities in women’s employment situations. During the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of front-line workers were women.

Equal pay between men and women represents a fundamental value of the EU. The “Equal Pay for Equal Work” principle was part of the foundation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. However, the gender pay gap remains a complex and systemic problem embedded in European institutions. The law proposed by the European Commission in March 2021 is an essential step toward ending gender-based discrimination on an international level. Closing the gender pay gap in the EU will, in turn, reduce inequalities and increase overall economic productivity.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

European Union Membership
The European Union, or E.U., stands as a pillar in Europe, promoting economic and political stability. The partner countries of the E.U. make up a thriving economic landscape. The 10 poorest countries in Europe are not members of the European Union. This includes nations such as Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo, which stand as the three poorest countries in the continent. If these countries were to have European Union membership, would they benefit?

Anatomy of an Impoverished Country

Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo a history of government corruption in common. In Moldova, the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system in 2014 was due to various politicians. Losses like this, high public debt and detrimental business decisions have allowed corruption to thrive. This severely impacts growth potential.

Similarly, in Ukraine, the elite still controls the economy. The economy never healed from the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Politicians with ulterior motives have quickly hijacked any start of the national budget, such as the military budget. Competition has disappeared in multiple sectors inhibiting growth. For example, politicians frequently make pricing decisions with business in mind rather than individuals.

The preservation of the elite interests blocks agricultural reform, while the monopolization of government funds by private bank owners shuts down bank reform before it can start. As well, the Ukrainian diaspora does little to combat this.

In Kosovo, the political climate remains volatile, with former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj having resigned in July 2019. The E.U. reported that the messy election process that followed in his wake lacked “constructive political dialogue,” in part due to the lack of minimum-member requirements to make forum meetings valid.

Following this, a caretaker government remained in place under the leadership of former Prime Minister Albin Kurti until the election of current Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. The 2019 election revealed several unsavory truths about the state of politics in Kosovo. Voter intimidation tactics underwent deployment against non-Srpska Lista (the Serb List, a minority political party) candidates and supporters.

Whether the activities of the government include explicitly skimming funds initially for the welfare of the people, or suppressing voices when the nation has the potential to change, corrupt governments are all too common in impoverished countries. The elite seeks to protect specific interests and fund individual exploits at the expense of the people.

European Union Membership

Countries that want to undergo consideration for E.U. membership need to meet three major criteria. The first requires the applying nation to have a stable, democratic government that protects human rights. The second is a competitive economy. The third is that the applicant must be willing to comply with the E.U.’s political, economic and monetary policies.

In joining the E.U., citizens of partnered countries access a market with diverse choices and stable prices, as well as a secure and lucrative economy. Moreover, the nation joins the global economy via the E.U., presenting a cohesive, prominent European identity. All of these factors lend support and power to the people, unlike when support and power are at risk under a corrupt government. However, an obstacle to E.U. membership that remains, is these formerly corrupt governments must meet a certain ethical standard.

The International Committee of the Red Cross

Fixing the main obstacles inhibiting these countries’ growth requires more than one solution.  While European Union membership could be a valuable resource and an incredible step forward for countries like Kosovo and Ukraine, they have to make several strides before they can receive membership. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) can help triage several of these issues, stabilizing the area to help get them closer to European Union membership.

For example, in Ukraine, where infrastructure has taken a hit with government corruption and negligence, the ICRC provided 850,000 people with water, due to trying to fix the sanitation sector and setting up waterboards. Meanwhile, 67 health care facilities received necessary supplies. Moreover, 120,000 obtained food, hygiene, cash aid for agricultural endeavors and grants for business opportunities.

Looking Ahead

Joining the E.U. is not a cure for poverty in Europe. Meeting the baseline criteria concerning human rights and the economy can be challenging for many impoverished countries. Additionally, E.U. membership is a partnership that does not have the intention of being a one-way deployment of aid.

For the E.U., the protection of human rights, a stable economy and a cohesive identity are important factors. The lack of these qualities often allows poverty to thrive. A weak and volatile economy leaves many citizens income-insecure, especially in places where minority groups receive poor treatment. Furthermore, corruption, like siphoning government funds, can prevent an economy from getting on its feet.

Organizations like the ICRC can help stabilize areas as it can help Ukraine and Kosovo obtain their daily needs and start growing their infrastructure. This would help them join the E.U. in which nations agree to make policies that will abide by the E.U.’s goals. This will allow nations like Ukraine and Kosovo to work more easily with other E.U. members and promote regional stability and consistency of policy and cohesion of identity.

Stronger together than apart, the E.U. provides more opportunities for individual nations inside to trade with those that lay outside the immediate vicinity.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in Nagorno-KarabakhNagorno-Karabakh is a region in the country Azerbaijan and is home to an Armenian majority. While the region is within Azerbaijan’s borders, Armenia has claimed the region for itself. The first intense conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was in 1988 when the Soviet Union was nearing the end of its existence. Recently, conflict in the region began again in late September 2020 and lasted for about a  month until a ceasefire was brokered by Russia. Additional ceasefires were brought into fruition by France with the help of Russia and the United States. Despite the ceasefires, the conflict in the region is continuing. The fighting in the region has drastically impacted the civilian population of the region. This has in turn created a strong need for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The European Union Assists

The European Union (EU) is actively providing aid to the civilian populace affected by the conflict and has done so since early October 2020. The initial amount of aid provided by the EU was €900,000. Then, in November, the EU commissioned an additional €3 million to the civilians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to the EU, this humanitarian aid will provide the necessary assistance that humanitarian organizations partnered with the EU need to carry out their duties. This includes providing food, winter clothing and medical assistance.

The United States’ Aid

The United States is also providing its share of financial assistance. In total, the United States has provided around $10 million in humanitarian assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2019 fiscal year. Of the $10 million, $5 million has been allocated to the International Committee of the Red Cross and similar humanitarian organizations to help civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflict. Assistance coming from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also be used for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh. The support these two institutions will be providing will come in the form of food, shelter and medical support for the people impacted by the conflict.

People in Need

There are also NGOs that have provided humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh as well. One organization, People in Need, has done just this. People in Need is an organization dedicated to providing immediate aid to countries should a natural disaster or war take place.

People in Need has provided support, not to Nagorno-Karabakh, but to the city of Goris in Armenia. People in Need directed its humanitarian aid to this Armenian city because many of the displaced civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh have gone there for refuge. The displaced people either move on or stay in the city. People in Need have been able to provide hygienic supplies to 1,200 displaced families in Goris. Additionally, People in Need have provided 480 children, 600 women and 110 seniors with their own individual hygienic kits. People in Need have also taken into consideration the psychosocial needs of children impacted by the conflict. To help these children, People in Need opened a child-friendly space in the city library where children can engage with other children and partake in other activities.

While the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continues, international institutions, individual countries and humanitarian organizations are trying to provide all the support possible to help the civilians impacted by the conflict.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Vital Relief to VenezuelaThe country of Venezuela has an economy that is extremely reliant on its oil sales. About 99% of its exports come from the sale of oil. The natural resource also takes up a quarter of Venezuela’s GDP. Such high reliance on this resource has caused the country economic hardship in recent years. The GDP of the nation shrank by two-thirds between 2014 and 2019. The struggling economy has been devastating for the citizens of Venezuela. It has caused five million Venezuelans to leave the country and flee to neighboring ones. As of 2020, 96% of Venezuela’s population live in poverty when measured solely according to income levels. Despite the dire situation in Venezuela, countries and organizations are trying to deliver vital relief to Venezuela.

USAID’s Assistance

USAID is working on behalf of the United States to provide aid that Venezuelans so desperately need.USAID has provided more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid to vulnerable Venezuelan communities. The monetary aid is used by NGOs and organizations to assist the Venezuelan people. The assistance these groups provide includes food, health and sanitation supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world has worsened the situation for many Venezuelans. On top of the severe economic situation, Venezuelans are now dealing with the impact of a pandemic a well. USAID has adapted its efforts to help Venezuelans during COVID-19. The funding of USAID has allowed affiliated partners to provide important healthcare assistance for the delivery of vital relief to Venezuela.

The European Union Helps Venezuela

The European Union (EU) has been active in providing support for Venezuela in these trying times. Since 2018, the European Union has provided a total of €156 million to not only Venezuela but to the neighboring countries that Venezuelans have fled to. Similar to the way aid from USAID is carried out, the EU’s funding goes to partners that then use it to help the Venezuelan people. The partners of the EU include multiple U.N. agencies, international NGOs and the Red Cross. The partners of the EU provide the same type of assistance the USAID’s partners do. However, the EU notes that much of the supplies go to groups that are especially at risk. These groups include children that are under the age of 5, the elderly and the indigenous people of Venezuela. The EU also provided enough aid for 500,000 Venezuelan people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The monetary support of the EU continues to help in providing vital relief to Venezuela.

NGOs Assisting Venezuela

Other small NGOs in Venezuela are trying to provide help to Venezuelans as well. Fundación Madre Luisa Casar, for example, has secured multiple donations to provide support to the Jenaro Aguirre Elorriaga School that is located in the slum called Barrio 24 de Marzo. Its goal is to make sure that the children are provided the education and human rights they need.

Hogar Bambi Venezuela also helps children under 18 who are unable to live with their families due to abuse, mistreatment or economic difficulties. These two NGOs are just a few of many that are making vital relief in Venezuela possible.

With all the humanitarian aid coming in to provide vital relief to Venezuela, it is hopeful that the country will soon be on its way to recovery.

– Jacob. E. Lee
>Photo: Flickr

European Union in the DRC
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the largest sub-Saharan country and has the fourth largest population in Africa. Throughout the years, the DRC has faced a combination of local, national and regional tensions as a result of violent conflicts, mass migrations, militias and profound poverty. These issues ultimately limit the opportunity for achieving peace and stability in the country. One of the most consistent efforts to improve the country’s conditions comes from the work of the European Union in the DRC.

History of Financial Aid

The history of the European Union in the DRC starts with the first European Development Fund (EDF) of 1958-59. After a 10-year suspension, the cooperation dynamics have been increasing exponentially. For instance, in January 2002, the National Indicative Program (NIP) was signed under the 8th EDF with a value of €120 million, increasing to €205 million the following year.

Between 2001 and 2003, the DRC received a total of €1,868 million from the EU, making the country one of the bloc’s main aid recipients. Most of the money was destined for development efforts (72%) followed by humanitarian aid and cooperation in the areas of politics and security (23.5% and 4.5% respectively).

The EU institutions persistently rank within the three top donors, together with the United States and the United Kingdom, in humanitarian aid for the DRC. Moreover, ECHO Flight is the European Union’s provision for humanitarian air service, especially directed to remote areas lacking proper road infrastructure.

Ongoing Work

Currently, under the 11th EDF National Initiative Program, the work of the European Union in the DRC designates €620 million for the period of 2014 to 2020 to fund the following sectors:

  1. Health: assisting the Congolese government in the development of a health system that is accessible, efficient and of good quality.
  2. Environment and Sustainable Agriculture: financing conservation efforts and development through electricity accessibility and sustainable agriculture.
  3. Governance and Rule of Law: strengthening policy reforms in spheres such as defense, justice and security.
  4. Transport: contributing to the completion of the key transportation axis, which is a national road of 150km.

The EU has also undertaken three civilian missions and two military ones. This makes the DRC the country with the most Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) missions. The contributions of one of the military missions, EUFOR RD Congo (requested by the U.N. in 2006), were crucial for preventing the spread of violence on the eve of celebrating the DRC’s first democratic elections in more than 40 years while ensuring a peaceful process. Civilian missions tend to focus on strengthening the DRC’s security forces and justice sector. These missions led to the creation of the Police Reform Monitoring Committee and also assisted with the draft of the Congolese National Police’s framework of activities.

New Efforts

More recently, the EU agreed to contribute to policy reform initiatives with €60 million. The aim of this funding is to increase civilians’ trust in the security forces and warrant the rule of law. Its four objectives are:

  • Enhancing the implementation of reforms and police accountability measures.
  • Improving the professional level of the police and the criminal justice system.
  • Improving human resource management.
  • Activating and maintaining community security to restore public confidence.

According to Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, “There can be no development and sustainable growth without a more peaceful environment. That is why the European Union is stepping up its support for security, peace and stability in the DRC.”

Finally, the European Union is providing €19.5 million of humanitarian aid to help the DRC in its fight against COVID-19. The DRC is the most impacted country in the region after Cameroon. The money will help improve access to health care and awareness-raising efforts. This will occur while the ECHO Flight continues with its regular assistance, especially to those most vulnerable.

Helen Souki
Photo: Flickr

Tony Elumelu FoundationThe ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting nations around the world, including the nations of Africa. Many African nations responded to the pandemic with strict lockdowns and social distancing initiatives, often stronger than that of European nations. However, the people of Africa face a much more severe economic impact. Although poverty reduction measures have been met with success across the continent, roughly 500 million Africans still live in extreme poverty. The sub-Saharan areas of Africa have the highest rates of poverty in the world, estimated at 55% in 2014. Foreign direct investment is down by 40% and 49 million more Africans could fall into extreme poverty in the world’s first global poverty increase since 1988. The Tony Elumelu Foundation hopes to reduce poverty in Africa through entrepreneurship.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation

A nonprofit operating since 2010, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) fights global poverty in Africa through the funding of entrepreneurs and small enterprises, These are the very types of businesses that the pandemic impacted most, both across the world and in Africa. With an endowment of $100 million, the organization has already had significant success propagating what it terms “Africapitalism,” which is the use of the private sector for economic growth and development.

The EU Partnership

In December 2020, the European Union (EU) announced a formal partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The plan comes as part of two broader EU strategies: the EU External Investment Plan and the EU Gender Action Plan. It involves technical training and financial support for 2,500 female African entrepreneurs in 2021 across all 54 African countries through 20 million euros in increased capital. Speaking on the partnership, Tony Elumelu, the founder of the TEF, expressed delight in being able to partner with the EU and said the partnership will create great opportunities for African women who have “endured systemic obstacles to starting, growing and sustaining their businesses.” The Commissioner for EU International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, stated that empowering female entrepreneurs is an integral part of creating sustainable jobs and growth.

How Entrepreneurship Helps

In Central Africa, approximately 71% of jobs are in the informal sector. These jobs are particularly vulnerable to lockdowns. The strict measures put in place as responses to COVID-19 have left many of these people jobless. Entrepreneurship creates more stable jobs and allows a country to be more self-sufficient and can be just as effective as foreign or philanthropic aid in fighting poverty.

Even after the effects of the pandemic subside, Africa still has much to do to eradicate poverty. Fostering entrepreneurship is an innovative approach to this economic problem, one that the Tony Elumelu Foundation has seen significant results with, with more than 9,000 entrepreneurs mentored before the partnership with the EU. The full impact of these endeavors remains to be seen but the potential exists for African entrepreneurs to have a major impact on poverty in Africa. The TEF’s partnership with the EU will only intensify these positive impacts.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

rice exportsPakistan and India are battling a rice war, as India is attempting to gain exclusive branding rights to export basmati rice to the EU. India’s trademark “geographic indication” for basmati rice has received approval from the EU and Pakistan has three months to respond to this claim or it will not be able to export basmati rice to the EU. Further implications of expanding geographic indication could compromise other markets for Pakistan, yet its response so far has been slow and inconsistent. The EU’s decision on basmati rice exports will influence each country’s economy, and with hundreds of millions of impoverished people between the two, there is much at stake.

The Value of Rice in Pakistan and India

The basmati rice industry is one that Pakistan heavily contributes to and relies on. Pakistan contributes to 35% of global basmati rice exports and its trade to the EU has grown from 120,000 tons in 2017 to 300,000 tons in 2019. A whole 40% of Pakistan’s workers work in agriculture, with rice accounting for 20% of agricultural land.

India exported 4.4 million tons of basmati rice between 2019 and 2020, which made up 65% of global basmati rice exports.

Rice Yield Challenges

Despite rice production increasing due to new practices, rice yields in both Pakistan and India are lower than the global average. Growing challenges such as drastic climate change can negatively influence annual rice production. Experts conclude that improving irrigation facilities and increasing the use of new technology will allow the countries to effectively expand their rice yields.

Population Growth & Economic Contraction

Already the fifth most populous nation in the world, projections have determined that Pakistan will grow from 220 million to 345 million by 2045. As its population continues to grow, its economy must grow at least 7% to prevent unemployment. However, in 2019, the economy contracted from 5.5% to 1.9% and the COVID-19 crisis further exacerbated this shrinkage. Unemployment has increased each year since 2014 and currently sits between 4% and 5%. It is imperative that Pakistan jumpstarts its economy or unemployment and poverty will spread.

Poverty in South Asia

Pakistan made great strides in reducing poverty in the early 2000s but has since stalled under more recent governments. By 2015, roughly one in four people, or 50 million Pakistanis, lived under the poverty line. Furthermore, there remains little opportunity for economic improvement.

India also has few opportunities for the poor to improve their lives as it placed 76 out of 82 countries in terms of social mobility. The lack of social mobility means that most people who are born poor will die poor, with minimal chances to jump to a higher social class. India also suffers from severe social inequality and a lack of growth in rural areas. A whole 364 million out of 1.3 billion, or 28% of the world’s poor live in India. However, globalization has allowed India to bring 270 million people out of poverty between 2005 and 2015. Consequently, since 1990, the life expectancy has increased by 11 years, schooling years have increased by three years and India has increased its human development index to above the medium average.

Malnutrition Causes Infant Mortality

Pakistan has an alarmingly high infant mortality rate of 55 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is twice that of India’s. A multitude of factors causes this, most notably, the malnutrition of mothers and their infants. Although wheat and rice are produced in abundant quantities, 44% of children under 5 suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The problem is not whether food is available but it is that food is not accessible for the poor.

Rice as a Key Export

In Pakistan, rice provides value both nutritionally and economically. Rice accounts for 1.4% of the GDP and the traditional basmati rice makes up 0.6% of the GDP. However, most rice is sold as an export and is not used to feed hungry mouths domestically. In 2019, Pakistan exported $2.17 billion worth of rice, of which $790 million was basmati, a 25% increase from 2018.

A whole 90% of the rice grown in India is consumed domestically. Boasting the second-largest population in the world of 1.3 billion people, India accounts for 22% of global rice production but has many more people to feed than Pakistan. India is projected to produce 120 million tons of rice between 2020 and 2021.

Basmati rice exports generate massive profit for each country, If one country were to gain an advantage over the market, it would create enormous value for the winner and dire consequences for the loser. The winner would stand to gain economically and competitively as a result of increased production and profits. Additionally, increased demand for agricultural workers and production in rural areas would create revenue in historically impoverished areas.

– Adrian Rufo
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