5-initiatives-improving-the-gender-wage-gap-in-ghana
Despite great progress in economic growth and poverty reduction, the gender wage gap in Ghana shows the distribution of these benefits remains unequal. A huge portion of Ghana’s labor market is in the low-paying informal sector, where the most vulnerable people — women and children — find themselves. In fact, women make less than 30% of what men make — one of just two countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region to experience gaps at that extreme. The wage gap is largely a result of systemic barriers in terms of access to health care and education, as well as social norms regarding women’s roles in the workforce and household.

About the Wage Gap in Ghana

More than 23% of the Ghanaian population lives below the poverty line, according to the U.N. Women Data Hub. Most schools lack proper facilities and information on menstrual hygiene for their female students, ultimately contributing to frequent absences and dropouts.

In lower-income households, where financial constraints are prevalent, women often sacrifice their education so they can seek work to support their families. Women and girls spend 14% of their time on unpaid care and domestic work. Due to traditional social norms, some girls in Ghana’s rural areas find themselves in marriage or unions from as young as 18 — which typically prevents them from pursuing an education or better-paying jobs. In light of this, here are five initiatives reducing the gender wage gap in Ghana.

The Soronko Academy

The Soronko Academy is an information and communications technology development center in Ghana. Its main focus is equipping women and girls with the technical and soft skills needed to attain better-paying jobs. Women and girls in underprivileged communities learn new modern skills such as branding, graphic design, coding, digital marketing and app development.

The Soronko Academy also helps young entrepreneurs build a technical edge around their website development and social media management. Classes and programs start from as early as 5 years old, even working with schools to integrate coding into their curriculum. Founded in 2017, the Soronko Academy has trained more than 20,000 women in a dozen or so regions across Ghana.

Solidaridad

Solidaridad is a global organization working directly with communities to create fair and sustainable supply chains. In Ghana, small-scale mining employs roughly a million people, with nearly half the workers women engaging in informal mining.

With pollution and other unsafe working conditions, Solidaridad’s project aims to improve the financial and social position of women in Ghana’s small gold mining communities. It supports 130 women by introducing village savings and loan associations, external funding for business support while also hosting discussions with women and men on household and business roles for women.

The banking associations receive funding from Solidaridad’s project partner Kering — the owner of fashion brands such as Gucci & Balenciaga — and serve as a means to boost local entrepreneurial endeavors, reducing their reliance on bank loans. This project also offers training on responsible mining and leadership skills.

Global Partnership for Education

The Global Partnership for Education is a global fund dedicated to improving education in developing nations. Together since 2004, the partnership has more recently provided the Ghanaian government $1.5 million in grant support for its COVID-19 learning response.

Its active presence in Ghana is an attempt to prevent already-present gender inequalities from continuing into the next generation. It tackles gender barriers in several ways: supporting public awareness campaigns, building schools near communities and also providing for proper menstrual hygiene management.

The partnership also works with the Ghanaian government to identify and address gender barriers in the education system. In fact, its educational programs have boasted considerable success when it comes to the number of young girls completing primary school — now at nearly 95%.

UN Women in Ghana

U.N. Women in Ghana works with the government and its various departments — like the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection — to make gender concerns such as the wage gap part of the national development process.

The organization also works with non-governmental organizations and other private sector groups to promote gender equality and responsive issues. To execute this, U.N. Women has numerous active programs, including one addressing the link between HIV and the financial effects it has on women and girls — like the cost of treatment — oftentimes after divorce. Women end up without any assets to support themselves and pay for treatment.

The organization also aims to install property and inheritance rights, offering women some form of protection. Another works on economically empowering women by introducing small-scale farmers to good agricultural practices in hopes of reducing post-harvest losses. Additionally, the group works in the north and north of the Nkwanta district to enhance the leadership skills of adolescent girls.

Alliance for African Women Initiative

Founded in 2006, the Alliance for African Women Initiative is a grassroots organization fighting to reduce the gender gap by empowering women and children in Ghana. Its livelihood project seeks to enhance the financial independence of women in hopes it can help families rise above the poverty line. The initiative also provides workshops and training programs intended to help women with all things business and personal finance, teaching bookkeeping and business skills as well as commercial consultancy and management. The initiative provides opportunities for women to connect and share ideas within its network.

Traditionally, the livelihood project creates its own small savings accounts since some women cannot afford to open one in a bank themselves. Then, after the training and workshops, women receive small loans to either expand their business or invest in new ones. More than 2,100 women have attended these programs, and another 150 or so have received loans to start up their own businesses.

These five initiatives are attempting to take the steps needed to build an equal system for men and women. They are also showing the many intricacies of solving an issue — such as the gender wage gap — and that the solution is much more than just providing employment opportunities.

– Owen R. Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Ghana Tech Lab
The Ghana Tech Lab, a collaborative tech-centric company, has now connected 7,000 youths with digital and technical education as part of its Ghana Startup Ecosystem program. The goal is to build the next generation of tech entrepreneurs in Africa.

About the Ghana Tech Lab

The Ghana Tech lab is a company building a launch platform for young tech talent in Ghana. Headquartered in Accra, the lab takes a multi-stage approach to launch startups. First, trainees complete a three-month intensive training program to develop technical and digital skills. The top talents from this program then move to the incubation program, where trainees build a business model and receive mentorship.

Finally, the company connects the new startups with seed funding through grants and a network of venture capitalists. By supporting entrepreneurs, the company hopes to fight poverty through innovation, economic development and job creation. Since its founding in 2018, the base program alone has trained 3,933 Ghanaians and incubated 68 startups.

Once a founder begins a startup, it joins the Ghana Startup Ecosystem, a program and database run by The Ghana Tech Lab. Its goal is to act as a central hub for tracking and supporting Ghanian startup ventures. The Ecosystem tracks human capital, market and financial data across Ghana. The database serves to contextualize ventures and produce market trends to substantiate ventures. This system legitimizes startups and encourages global investment.  

In fact, 50% of the startups within the system secure funding. The adjunct of the Startup Ecosystem has led to the launch and funding of 100 startups in Ghana, according to AllAfrica. Data-driven innovation has become a central tenant of the Ghana Tech Lab, as a way to promote long-term success. Rather than focus on the symptoms of poverty in Ghana, the company hopes to use economic revitalization as a way to target poverty at the source.

About the State of Poverty in Ghana

In order to understand why tech plays a role in poverty reduction, it is important to contextualize poverty in Ghana. As of 2021, Ghana has a poverty rate of 11.3%. It means that 3.57 million people live on or under $1.90 a day. The country experienced a decrease in poverty from 52.6% to 21.4% between 1991 and 2012. However, the rate of decline has become stagnant over recent years. At the same time, economic development has steadily improved over the last decade. The combination of economic growth and poverty maintenance has led to an increasing rate of economic inequality.

Because of these conditions, the World Bank in Ghana has determined that developing human capital, growing the job market and improving economic resiliency are the best strategies for decreasing poverty and economic inequality. The Ghana Tech Lab has created a business model that targets all three strategies.

The Way Building Tech Startups Fights Poverty

By directly increasing access to education and skill development, the Ghana Tech Lab removes barriers of entry for skilled work. Sourcing funding for startups benefits job production and improves long-term job security. The innovations that startups spur on also improve economic resilience. Often, the startups that come out of the Ghana Tech Lab target poverty directly. For example, Farminista Africa is a woman-led company that helps smallscale female farmers grow their businesses. By 2030, the Ghana Tech Lab expects to produce 30 million new jobs through technical education and economic development, according to AllAfrica.

By increasing accessibility to digital skills, the Ghana Tech Lab is building a new path forward. The company shows that poverty reduction is a natural byproduct of community empowerment.

– Aiden Smith
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 has Affected Child Labor in Ghana
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have hurt economies and workers worldwide, disproportionately affecting the world’s most impoverished citizens. Data has indicated that these rising levels of poverty link to increased levels of child labor in Ghana and across the world. Since 2000, the world has made notable and significant progress in reducing the number of children exposed to child labor: this number has reduced by 94 million, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). However, the pandemic is hindering, and perhaps even reversing, this child labor progress in impoverished countries like Ghana. Here is how COVID-19 has affected child labor in Ghana and other countries.

Poverty in Ghana

According to Opportunity International, of the 30.4 million people living in Ghana, 13.3% survive on less than $1.90 a day. In other words, there are more than 4 million Ghanaians living in extreme poverty. Despite these numbers, Ghana holds the title of a progressive West African country in terms of its significant economic advances. In fact, between 2010 and 2019, annual economic growth averaged 6.8%, according to the Brookings Institution, a public policy nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, many deem this progress unsustainable for both the planet and the people as mineral and crude oil production are responsible for this growth.

According to Opportunity International, even those who live at or above the poverty line are not far from falling below it as one small financial setback can draw many Ghanaian families back into poverty. When families lack money for basic necessities, children often end up in child labor to help provide for their families. Although there is no official data pinpointing the rise of child labor in Ghana, amid COVID-19, the International Labour Organization estimates that millions more children will be subject to child labor, “which could lead to the first rise in child labor after 20 years of progress.”

The Realities of Child Labor in Ghana

Although in 2018, 93% of children in Ghana completed their primary education, today, they still face the threat of child labor, especially with many schools closing in the wake of the pandemic. On top of this, due to pandemic-induced job losses and salary cuts, the rise of child labor in Ghana poses a serious threat to these children.

In a report on child labor during COVID-19 in Ghana, Nepal and Uganda, researchers conducted interviews with “81 working children.” The children reported working in dangerous and hazardous conditions, with some breathing in toxic fumes and others enduring cuts from sharp tools, among other hazards. In each of the three nations, more than 33% of children worked a minimum of 10 hours per day, sometimes “seven days a week.” Several Nepalese children report working “14 hours a day or more in carpet factories.” In return, these children earn little money, if anything. Exploitative employers sometimes even withhold pay.

Actions to Reduce How COVID-19 Has Affected Child Labor in Ghana

Before the onset of the pandemic, several nations addressed child labor by supplying “cash allowances to help families and reduce pressure on children to work.” In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch emphasizes that “As millions of families struggle financially due to the pandemic, cash allowances are more important than ever to protect children’s rights.”

Ghana stands as “the first to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Today, Ghana’s second phase of the Nation plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in Ghana (NPA2) began in 2017 and runs until the close of 2021. NPA2 intends to “build on the gains made” by NPA1, “utilizing good practices and lessons learned to address [child labor] in a more effective and sustainable manner.”

In particular, NPA2 intends to “mobilize more resources, focus action in local communities and strengthen educational outcomes so that children are enrolled and retained in school.” With international support, the government can strengthen this plan further by providing cash allowances to struggling families so that children are not obligated to earn an income.

Though this situation is dire, it is far from unfixable. As long as the world continues to keep child rights at the center of legislation, advocacy and broader policies, child labor is a solvable problem. With continued international support to the countries that COVID-19 hit hardest, incidences of child labor can dramatically reduce.

– Cameryn Cass
Photo: Flickr

Olympic Stars
There are three Olympic stars who have not only earned gold medals in their individual and team competitions, but also in providing support for children around the world. During the late months of July 2021 and early August 2021, these stars’ faces were present on television stations, as people watched them compete against other nations in sports. However, media does not always show their behind-the-scenes work.

Despite traveling to new countries every four years and having children of their own, these stars have devoted both time and money toward organizations. They are not just traveling around the world, they are also changing it. Here are three Olympic stars making a difference.

Allyson Felix

Many people know Allyson Felix for her speedy running skills on the track, competing in the past three Olympics and bringing home six gold medals. However, the star does much more than this. Since 2011, Felix has been a supporter of Right to Play, after visiting a program in Lebanon and continuing to devote funds toward vulnerable children.

Right to Play is an organization with a focus on providing children with an education and protection. Its main goal is to protect these children from the harsh realities of war and abuse and teach important life lessons regarding relationships and sexual health, by teaching children the importance of graduating from school and receiving a degree.

The main areas of focus are games, sport, creative and free play. Through these areas, Right to Play is able to engage these children in healthy ways that allow them to express themselves in a safe way, and overcome obstacles they see and experience each day within their countries. Right to Play has helped reach over 2.3 million children each year, in 14 countries such as Ghana, Mali, Thailand and Uganda.

In a chance to win yet another gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Felix has committed to donating a portion of her earnings toward Right to Play. Through her continued advocacy and visits to other countries along with Right to Play, Felix has continued this organization’s legacy, as well as the importance of helping children in underdeveloped countries.

Michael Phelps

Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympians and many know him as one of the best swimmers in history. Phelps’ love for swimming prompted the creation of the Michael Phelps Foundation in 2008 with the money he earned from the Beijing Olympics. The Foundation’s main focus is to promote water safety and to provide children with the encouragement that all their dreams can come true.

Named as a Global Ambassador in 2011 from Special Olympics China, Phelps has continued to provide opportunities for children through the use of his IM program. The IM program is a program that the Michael Phelps Foundation designed to help children overcome the fear of drowning and other water-related accidents. Since 2011, children from more than 35 countries have received the opportunity to become more confident and faster swimmers through the work of Phelps and his program.

Serena Williams

Tennis star Serena Williams created the Serena Williams Fund, which has the main goal to create equity and promote education for children in other countries. Over the years, Williams has partnered with various organizations in a quest to design and build new schools. In 2019, Williams helped build the Salt Marsh Elementary School in Jamaica through her Foundation, in partnership with Helping Hands Jamaica.

Currently, Williams serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF continuing to build schools and provide an education for vulnerable children. UNICEF mainly tailors these initiatives toward children of Africa and Asia, but Williams’ work in providing an education for children extends far beyond that.

These three Olympic stars have made significant strides in combating inequities through work with several organizations. Through their continued work, circumstances should only improve.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

Ending Bushmeat Consumption in Ghana
People in Ghana eat more bushmeat than anywhere else in the world. This is especially true in rural areas. Organizations worldwide are trying to stop Ghanaians from eating so much bushmeat because it spreads disease among humans and endangers several animal species. Ghanian bushmeat includes baboon, aardvark, warthog and rats. However, bushmeat represents the freshest and most affordable meat available for Ghana’s rural citizens. The African Conservation Foundation may be a key part of stopping bushmeat hunting and bushmeat consumption in Ghana in the years ahead.

The Dangers of Bushmeat

Bushmeat is a term referring to the meat of wild animals, most typically applied to those that are hunted in Africa. The most common types of bushmeat are rat, antelope, warthog, bat and monkey, all of which carry diseases. Despite Ghana outlawing bushmeat, black markets still sell it because much of the population relies on bushmeat for protein.

Bushmeat can transmit diseases such as Ebola, Monkeypox, HIV and SARS, even holding the potential to cause outbreaks of diseases yet unknown to man. Diseases can transmit whenever a hunter comes into close contact with the live animal, cleans the animal or when people consume the animal. Additionally, live animals can be very dangerous to hunt. They can be large and hostile, like the warthogs, and overpower a hunter. Also, many conservation groups worry about the animal extinction that bushmeat hunting causes. According to a report the Royal Society published, overhunting is currently threatening 301 land mammals. Because bushmeat hunting occurs yearly, and excessively, more species become extinct each year.

Rural and Urban Consumption

In 2021, over 3.57 million Ghanaians live below the poverty line, subsisting on less than $1.90 a day. Because bushmeat is much cheaper than chicken or beef, it is the only protein option for many. Bushmeat is also often the freshest meat in the country, leading people to believe that bushmeat is the best option available. During the “dry” seasons, farmers are unable to provide enough protein to their citizens. Rural citizens see bushmeat as an affordable option as opposed to the safer but more expensive farmed protein. The business is so lucrative that Ghanaian hunters earn up to 3.5 times the government minimum wage.

Bushmeat is most common in rural communities rather than urban. This is because bushmeat is much cheaper than safer meats in rural communities. According to an NCBI report, bushmeat consumption worldwide occurs most frequently in villages with poor transportation links and few alternative protein options. Because the illegality of bushmeat limits its hunting to rural areas, the markets for bushmeat in suburban areas are more expensive. There must be money to pay the middle-man to transport the meat, causing the suburban prices to be more expensive than the rural areas. Still, urban markets find buyers in wholesalers, market traders, restaurants and individual consumers.

The African Conservation Foundation

The African Conservation Foundation (AWF) is an international, non-governmental organization that prioritizes wildlife and their habitats in Africa. Its Director of Global Leadership, Edwin Tambara, recently stated that “AWF is working to engage elected officials in Washington, D.C., and in countries around the world to inform policies ensuring that wildlife conservation and stopping the illegal wildlife trade is prioritized in the wake COVID-19.”

There are a number of ways AWF seeks to accomplish this. Firstly, the organization influenced the Ghanaian government’s decision to make the bushmeat market illegal. Now, AWF is attempting to use education to stop the markets. Most importantly, AWF provides funding as an incentive to stop wildlife hunting and counteract the majority of Ghanaians who consume bushmeat because of its affordability.

Looking Ahead

Ghana leads the world in bushmeat consumption, but looks now to other alternatives because of its uncleanliness and endangering of species. The African Conservation Foundation is one organization contributing to ending bushmeat consumption in Ghana. Thanks to its incentives, policies and education, the way forward looks hopeful.

– Sydney Littlejohn
Photo: Flickr

Ghana's #FixTheCountry Protests
Recent protests have broken out in Accra, Ghana, as Ghanaians express their displeasure with the nation’s current democratic government. Rallying behind the hashtag #FixTheCountry, an overwhelmingly youthful group of protesters has taken to the streets, donning red and black and chanting patriotic songs. As these protesters call for change, it is worthwhile to investigate what they are fighting for and how certain conditions in Ghana have precipitated their outcry. Here are five facts about the causes, execution and stakes of Ghana’s #FixTheCountry protests.

5 Facts About Ghana’s #FixTheCountry Protests

  1. A young social media influencer masterminded the protests: People know social media influencer Joshua Boye-Doe as Kalyjay. With Twitter as his primary platform, Kalyjay, who boasts more than 450,000 followers on the site, began the movement back in May 2021 in response to raised prices and tax increases. On Kalyjay’s Twitter account, one might discover an interesting variety of memes, videos and retweets about Ghanaian soccer players and other Ghanaian athletes. Most significant, however, are the tweets that end in #FixTheCountry —“Enough is enough,” one reads, or “Tomorrow we go on a peaceful walk to rewrite history.” Each one of his tweets reaches hundreds of thousands of followers, and on August 4, his movement came to a head as he helped organize several thousand people to peacefully protest in the nation’s capital.
  2. Discontent and turmoil have been brewing since President Nana Akufo-Addo’s December reelection: The current democratically elected President of Ghana is Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. He narrowly won reelection in December 2020 in a race against John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress. According to the BBC, Ghana has a history as one of the more stable democracies in all of Africa when it comes to fair and legal elections. At the same time, there has still been plenty of public outcry to Akufo-Addo’s reelection. In the week following the December election, at least 60 incidents of violence related to the election took place, with five Ghanaians killed as a result. Though independent officials described voting and polling as fair and free, Mahama refused to concede the election for several days after the announcing of the results.
  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Ghana’s economic problems: Following a difficult economic year during the COVID-19 pandemic, President Akufo-Addo promised to reinvigorate Ghana’s economy, which had suffered due to price fluctuations of oil and cocoa, two of the nation’s key exports. Now in mid-2021, #FixTheCountry protesters are frustrated with the administration’s apparent inaction. Prices of basic goods and services have risen over the past year, and the government has imposed several new COVID-era taxes. Some are particularly displeased with the president’s decision to build a $200 million national cathedral, asking for $16 monthly donations from citizens. Many protesters view this project as non-essential, urging the administration to focus on fixing the economy at large.
  4. This kind of public protest is unusual for Ghana: Due to its strong democracy, Ghana is not a country well known for large, public demonstrations from its citizens. Ghana has a history of maintaining free media and holding relatively peaceful elections with subsequent transfers of power. Ghanaians typically utilize the power of the ballot box to voice their dissatisfaction. The 2020 election saw a voter turnout of 79%, higher than the U.S.’s 67% turnout in the same year. Though the population is incredibly politically active, perceptions abound that individuals cannot influence or pressure political officials. Eighty-five percent of responders from a 2019 survey stated that they had never contacted a member of parliament. The #FixTheCountry protests are thus somewhat unusual to see, but they connect to the fears of poverty that worry many young Ghanaians.
  5. This nonpartisan hashtag has become a movement: Ghana’s #FixTheCountry protests have denounced both of Ghana’s primary political parties. Rather than focusing on partisan politics, the #FixTheCountry movement has swelled around passionate, frustrated young people. With more than 70% of Ghana’s population younger than 35, this young crowd hopes to tackle and address unemployment and other economic issues. Just 10% of graduates from Ghanaian universities find a job within their first year of graduation. Among the movement’s specific demands is a new constitution with limits on the power of the executive and an economic charter that directly guarantees economic liberty, ensuring liberation from poverty.

Looking Ahead

Accra’s recent #FixTheCountry demonstration highlights the ways in which the fight to downsize poverty is continually evolving. In a developing nation like Ghana, where poverty and inequity continue to plague many pockets of the population, young people have found a voice through Ghana’s #FixTheCountry protests, organized through social media, to fight economic inequality.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

WaterAid GhanaWaterAid is a non-governmental organization dedicated to bringing “clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene” to those living in poverty around the world. Established in 1981 in the United Kingdom, the organization now works in 28 countries, including Ghana. WaterAid Ghana plays an especially important role in Ghana as more than 5.5 million Ghanaians currently lack access to clean water. As COVID-19 continues to leave its mark throughout the world, access to water is more important than ever. WaterAid helps improve hygiene during the pandemic in several major ways.

Play for Health

WaterAid Ghana has partnered with the popular Ghana soccer team, Accra Great Olympics, in a project called Play for Health. Play for Health hopes to use soccer to encourage improved hygiene practices and adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures during the pandemic. The educational initiative will focus on communities in the coastal regions of Accra and Tema.

The first official event of the project occurred on April 18, 2021. A team of WaterAid volunteers and Accra Great Olympics soccer players assembled to distribute face masks and hand sanitizer to community members. This included police officers and taxi drivers. Team members also went door-to-door to relay information on COVID-19 protocols.

Educating Women on Menstrual Hygiene

WaterAid Ghana has also partnered with the Akuapem Community Development Programme (ACDEP) to educate women about menstrual hygiene. The campaign was held in Adawso, Ghana, on June 17, 2021. The target audience included women working in the market and other young women. Due to menstrual stigma, menstrual health is often a taboo subject in nations such as Ghana.

Because menstruation is not a subject of discussion, many girls and women lack the necessary menstrual education needed to properly and safely manage their menstruation. By hosting this educational campaign, WaterAid Ghana and ACDEP, along with many female speakers, were able to encourage improved menstrual hygiene in the community.

Prioritizing Hygiene

WaterAid Ghana has also supported adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) stations in public spaces throughout Ghana where infrastructure is often lacking. According to WaterAid, “Clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene services are fundamental to economic development.” WaterAid reports that handwashing with soap is a critical way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, yet almost 60% of Ghanaians “are unable to practice hand hygiene at all critical times.” WaterAid asserts that “Handwashing with soap affects not just health and nutrition, but also education, economics and equity.”

Prior to the pandemic, hygiene and sanitation were not the most significant priorities. However, turning a blind eye to these issues is no longer possible in the face of the current global health crisis. The longer the pandemic continues, the more damage is done to Ghana’s markets. The inability to properly contain the virus leaves Ghana’s markets in a constant vulnerable position of potentially shutting down.

In June 2021, WaterAid Ghana worked to improve access to two WASH facilities in two districts of the Upper East Region of Ghana. These facilities are located in rural areas where community members typically struggle to maintain proper hygiene routines. Later in June 2021, WaterAid Ghana also helped open another WASH facility in Bawku West, further improving access to hygiene facilities in the country.

Moving Forward

WaterAid Ghana’s work has made a tremendous impact in the region, but in terms of overall access to water and WASH facilities, there is still room for progress. The organization calls upon people around the world to advocate for the right to clean water in Ghana, especially during the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

Ghanaian local businessesOn June 26, 2021, the 22nd annual Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMAs) crowned Diana Hamilton Artist of the Year. This honor makes her the first female gospel singer to ever win the trophy and comes on the heels of year-long praise for her song “Adom,” which also won Gospel Song of the Year. While Vodafone Ghana sponsors the VGMAs to support the celebration of Ghanaian musicians like Hamilton, the company also recently partnered with Invest in Africa to aid local Ghanaian businesses and ignite growth in Ghana’s economy.

A Promising Partnership

Created in 2012, Invest in Africa (IIA) operates in five African nations: Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia and Mauritania. According to Carol Annang, IIA’s Ghana country director, IIA strives to create jobs and attract investment opportunities for local businesses. By uniting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with large corporations, Annang says that these types of partnerships can help corporations “use their local buying power as a force for good.”

Since Vodafone Ghana has expressed its dedication to Ghana’s economic and social growth, the partnership with the IIA gives Vodafone Ghana the opportunity to utilize its resources in accordance with the company’s mission. Additionally, because Vodafone Ghana has served small businesses for years, the company can provide IIA with additional experience in “network-based IT and communication solutions.”

Specific Solutions

The IIA and Vodafone Ghana will focus on two solutions to propel the growth of Ghanaian local businesses:

  1. Red Trader: This mobile application and web portal assists traders in overseeing their inventory. Additionally, the application features tools that allow traders to track and collect payments.
  2. Your Business Online: This proposal helps SMEs expand their businesses online with the assistance of Vodafone Ghana’s team. The company’s experts help businesses create an online presence through professional site designs, “e-commerce integration and social media marketing.”

Through these measures, IIA and Vodafone Ghana hope to expand the digital presence of local Ghanaian businesses and boost the economic growth of these businesses. These solutions are set to begin implementation on April 1 for at least two years.

COVID-19 Setbacks and Steps Forward

As Ghana continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, this plan for Ghanaian business growth comes at an opportune time. While coronavirus infections rose throughout the country and businesses permanently closed, by the third quarter of 2020, Ghana entered a recession for the first time since 1982. Additionally, Ghana’s GDP grew only 1.1% in 2020 compared to a growth of 6.5% before the pandemic began.

Because of this low GDP increase and Ghana’s high population growth, the real per capita income of Ghana was “1% lower [in 2020] than in 2019.” Moreover, according to the World Bank Group, additional impacts of the pandemic will include decreases in “foreign direct investment and tourism receipts.” Consequently, many families in Ghana have become impoverished and the country’s poverty rate has increased since the start of the pandemic.

However, one of the principal objectives of the collaboration between IIA and Vodafone Ghana is to help businesses recover from COVID-19 setbacks. In fact, William Pollen, the CEO of IIA, expressed how necessary it is to support SMEs because these enterprises employ the majority of people living in sub-Saharan Africa and constitute roughly 80% of business activity in the region.

The Road Ahead

On the whole, despite the past year’s struggles and the hurdles that arise on the road to economic recovery, the partnership between IIA and Vodafone Ghana presents a positive outlook for the future of local Ghanaian businesses. In the words of Tawa Bolarin, the director of Vodafone Business, “these are indeed exciting times for us and the entrepreneurial community in Ghana.”

– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in GhanaA sign reading “Property of EEPD Africa” stands prominently in an otherwise empty plot not far from Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The land it sits on, covered in native shrubs and grasses, may one day be home to an innovative new school designed specifically with disabilities in mind. For now, it serves as a reminder of a dream that is yet to come to fruition — reducing the ties between disability and poverty in Ghana.

EEPD Africa

Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities in Africa (EEPD Africa), is one of many organizations in Ghana that advocates for and provides assistance to people with disabilities. Started in 2012 by Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie, a survivor of polio, EEPD Africa works to analyze and support legislation related to disability and accessibility.

Alongside this work, Komabu-Pomeyie has included another project into the EEPD, one that lies close to her heart. The dream of building an accessible school comes from her own experience as a child with a disability. For her, education is crucial. “If I had not been able to be in school, I don’t think you would even know me,” Komabu-Pomeyie states in an interview with The Borgen Project. “I would have been on the streets begging.”

Disability and Poverty in Ghana

Around the world, people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in their communities. More than 700,000 individuals in Ghana have a disability and households that include a person with a disability experience poverty at more than 10% the rate of other households.

People with disabilities face barriers to education, employment and healthcare. This lack of accessibility means that many are unable to take part in formal society and often have to resort to begging for money and food. “There are a lot of people with disabilities on the street right now,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “You will see them lined up in traffic, they go from car to car begging.” Poverty is especially hard on children with disabilities, who may not have equal access to schooling. People with disabilities may also be unable to afford the medications needed to manage their conditions, which can have tragic consequences.

Another part of disability and poverty in Ghana is the stigma that is often attached to having a disability. Many families in Ghana keep relatives with disabilities inside their homes, hidden from their communities. This limits access to society for people with disabilities in Ghana. Komabu-Pomeyie recalls how her father saw her disability as a source of shame. This eventually led him to abandon her and her mother. “One day he just woke up and wrote on a paper and put it on the table for my mom: “I can’t live with this thing,” Komabu-Pomeyie reiterates her father’s words.

Disability Advocacy in Ghana

Disability advocacy groups are battling stigma in Ghana, often helmed by people with disabilities. One of the earliest advocacy groups, the Ghana Society for the Blind, was founded in 1951. Other organizations soon followed.

In 1987, the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations was created to facilitate collaboration between different disabled communities. This overarching group currently has seven primary organizations as members, including associations for the blind, deaf, physically disabled and those who have neurological and immunological conditions. These organizations raise awareness about disabilities and create opportunities for people to access medical care, education and employment. These efforts provide a vital lifeline for people experiencing disability and poverty in Ghana.

One of the biggest achievements advocates have seen is the passing of the Disabled Persons Act in 2006, which makes it illegal to discriminate against or exploit a person based on disability. The act also puts government supports in place to improve the accessibility of infrastructure, education and employment.

The enforcement of these protections is now a primary goal for advocacy groups. In spite of the law, in many places, children are still turned away from schools because of a disability. Advocacy organizations still have to step up to ensure the child’s right to an education. “The bigger challenge we have in Ghana is implementation or enforcement,” Komabu-Pomeyie says.

Inclusive Education

Komabu-Pomeyie’s belief in the importance of education in addressing disability and poverty in Ghana comes from her own experience. Her mother, a school librarian, would carry her to school every day where she would learn underneath her table. This devotion to her education inspired Komabu-Pomeyie, who eventually earned her doctorate despite the painful and dehumanizing challenges she faced. “When you see me, beautiful, sitting here today, I went through a whole lot of pain,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “That pain is what I don’t want any child with disabilities to go through.”

The experience fuels her motivation to build an inclusive and accessible school for children with disabilities. Having worked with the Ghana Education Service, Komabu-Pomeyie has the knowledge and connections necessary. She completed the plans for the school and purchased the land with community support. Funding, however, remains an obstacle. The project is estimated to cost $200,000, but less than $500 has been raised. Despite having land and community support, a lack of finances presents a significant barrier.

Komabu-Pomeyie remains determined to complete the school and help children with disabilities access inclusive education with the accommodations that they require. Disability and poverty in Ghana is a complex issue, but it is one that organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to address.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana
Ghana’s poverty rate has halved over the past 20 years, but COVID-19 stunted the country’s progress. Amid an economic crisis, many Ghanaian people have lost their jobs, healthcare and education due to the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana is severe, especially for women and children.

Child Labor is on the Rise

Global child labor decreased by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2020, but COVID-19 forced many children into the workforce. Before the pandemic started, 160 million children participated in child labor. If countries cannot mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19, around 168.9 million children could be in child labor by the end of 2022. Children in low-income countries like Ghana are particularly at risk of experiencing child labor. Between expansive school closures, increased unemployment and lost family members due to COVID-19, Ghanaian children have become more susceptible to child labor since the pandemic started.

Children and families often turn to child labor because it is the only option available to meet their basic needs. Ghanaian children as young as 8 years old work jobs in industries such as mining, carpentry, fishing and transporting goods to support themselves and their families. Most countries have developed economic relief packages to assist families who are struggling, but it can be challenging for low-income countries to afford adequate social protection programs. The World Bank found that low-income countries, on average, spend only about $6 per capita in response to the pandemic. Adequate social protection programs may be necessary to fully combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Educational Opportunities are Sparse

Many Ghanaian children have lost their educations since the pandemic started because of school closures or the need to drop out and support their families. At a shortage of proper funding, schools in Ghana struggle to afford food, technology for remote learning and resources for students with disabilities. Food insecurity has increased for students who formerly relied on their schools to provide meals every day. According to a recent study by Innovations for Poverty Action, 72% of Ghanaian children in public schools did not receive their usual daily lunches and 30% said they experienced hunger as a result of their schools closing. Without access to education, Ghanaian children are at risk of hunger and exploitation due to the vast impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

To combat malnutrition, UNICEF is providing children with micronutrient supplements, such as iron folate, to improve children’s health. The Girls Iron Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, which UNICEF helped the Ghana Health Service implement and develop, has reduced anemia in girls from the Northern and Volta Regions of Ghana by 26%. UNICEF is also helping Ghana attain educational resources and create school programs that are inclusive to students with disabilities.

Ghana’s Limited Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased access to healthcare in Ghana, particularly for pregnant women seeking antenatal care. According to UNICEF, many pregnant women did not receive any antenatal care during the pandemic, either because it was unavailable or because they feared contracting COVID-19 at a health facility. Additionally, many children who were supposed to get standard vaccinations when the pandemic broke out did not receive them due to a vaccine shortage and fears of catching COVID-19 at health facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Ghana to make healthcare more accessible, ensuring health facilities are safe and have the resources they need. As the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine in February 2021, Ghana has been on the road to recovery from COVID-19 for several months. The country also received 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May 2021. The Ghanaian government, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are collaborating to endorse and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Unemployment and Wage Reductions Skyrocket

According to the World Bank, more than 770,000 Ghanaian workers experienced wage reductions between March and June 2020 because of the pandemic and 42,000 workers experienced layoffs. While some businesses received support from the government, others did not or were unaware that such resources were available. Many businesses had to close at the beginning of the pandemic, which led to long-term financial struggles. The World Bank is working with the Ghanaian government to help businesses overcome damage from the pandemic and gain resilience in preparation for other economic changes. The organization is focused on raising awareness about government support programs like the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme, which protects jobs and benefits small businesses. The World Bank is also working on creating long-term, educational solutions that prepare young people in Ghana to enter the workforce with adaptability, certifications and a wide range of skill sets.

Solutions in the Works

Many organizations are working alongside the Ghanaian government to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana. Organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch are actively working to provide Ghana’s impoverished people with the resources needed to survive, including food, water, healthcare and education. The COVID-19 vaccine offers hope that Ghana will recover from the pandemic, opening the door for improvements in healthcare, education and jobs.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash