Google's Investment in Africa
In 2018, Google reached the milestone of having trained over two million people in Africa. This training is digital skills training which enables the trainees to pursue careers in technology. Google currently has many active projects that have been active in Africa since 2016, ranging from training to providing access to faster and more accessible internet. These projects aim to help propel more people into the workforce and market. This article will explain how Google’s investment in Africa benefits both the people of Africa and Google’s business model as a whole.

Google’s Initiatives in Africa

Google has focused on three main areas to achieve its objectives. The first area is the training of individuals in digital skills. This comes through Grow with Google which is a global initiative helping prepare people for the changing demands of the job market by providing education on the production of software and hardware materials. The second initiative is for Google to support innovators and startups through its launchpad accelerator program. This program gives startups the push they need in the form of investment and training to become a successful company. The third method is through GV, formerly Google Ventures, the venture capital arm of Google. It has provided businesses such as Andela, a tech company that helps to train people in Nigeria and Kenya for software development with valuable capital to gain access to markets.

Achievements

So far Google’s investment in Africa has achieved a great deal in improving the lives of the people there. Not only has it trained over two million people in digital skills, but it has helped the bright young minds create successful businesses. Beyond this, Google has provided artificial intelligence through a new AI research center in Ghana that helps farmers more easily identify disease in their crops, and AI to help bridge communication gaps on the continent. In Nigeria, Google has opened public wifi stations that give people free access to wifi. Google is helping improve the lives of Africans through education and practical applications of technology.

Why Africa?

Google has a good reason for trying to develop both technology providers and consumers in Africa. Africa is a massive market for technology and Google intends to tap into that. Both Nigeria and Ghana have developing tech industries and their cities show great potential for growth. Their populations are young and modernizing quickly meaning more potential customers for Google’s services. The more Google can help to develop the tech industry in Africa, the more people that will be using their products. In 2017 alone, Google saw a 13 percent increase in revenue from Africa, and this was only early on in its investing process. As time goes on, Google hopes to get more people online and continue to see huge return on its investment in Africa.

Why it Matters

An important conclusion to take from this information is why people outside of Africa should care about Google’s investment in Africa, and in particular, countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. The answer is that Google is taking important steps towards opening potential future markets that could be future trade partners with U.S. companies and contributors to the U.S. economy. Nigeria and Ghana currently have a massive potential to contribute to the international economic scene and Google is providing essential education and capital to help them get there.

– Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

BubzBeauty Helps Build Schools
Pencils of Promise is a nonprofit organization that emerged in 2008. Since then, it has built 512 schools in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos, and has helped 102,215 children obtain a quality education in those countries. Not only does the organization raise money for schools, but it also has programs to help support teachers working at and students attending these schools. Through Pencils of Promise, YouTuber BubzBeauty helps build schools in its three countries of interest.

BubzBeauty’s Involvement with Pencils of Promise

On August 8, 2015, Lindy “Bubz” Tsang announced her first campaign with Pencils of Promise to raise $50,000 to build two schools in Laos. She felt compelled to use her YouTube platform and large following to help children in poverty obtain an education and better their lives. For this first fundraiser, Bubz designed a sweatshirt for her subscribers to purchase; 100 percent of all proceeds went toward the school fund.

It was a huge success, and on January 18, 2016, Bubz released a vlog of her visit to one of the two schools, named Beauty of Knowledge. The name was a tribute to her beauty channel on YouTube, since it and its subscribers were what made the building of the school possible. As Bubz says in her vlog, “beauty doesn’t have to be just about makeup and skincare. Beauty is also knowledge.”

Building Schools in Laos and Ghana

Before the building of the new schools, the kids in Tad Thong, Laos went to school in a temporary classroom structure made from bamboo with a makeshift roof. There was no way for it to support all the children coming to attend, so the school held six grades in only three classrooms. In Saen Oudom, Laos, children also attended school in extremely poor conditions, with the building having a leaky roof and many safety hazards. Thanks to Bubz, both towns have a safe space for the kids’ education to continue and thrive. Tad Thong now has a five-classroom school and Saen Oudom a three-classroom school.

Since then, Bubz has raised money to build a total of five schools, ultimately impacting a total of 3,469 children around the world. Bubz and her beauty community have helped construct two schools in Laos and three in Ghana. The Ghana fundraiser gained monetary aid from another shirt design with all profits going toward the campaign. Additionally, Bubz created an eye shadow palette where $2 from each one sold went toward the fund. Here is a list of the three areas Bubz has helped:

  • Atravenu, Ghana: Four grades were sharing two classrooms in a chapel. This proved to be a distracting environment for both teachers and students, hindering the education process.

  • Kpando Torkor, Ghana: The school building had unfinished classrooms. The first and second graders were in the most unsafe rooms and the 91 students attending caused overcrowding, a safety hazard.

  • Mafi Agorve, Ghana: Children were attending school in makeshift structures that did not include windows or doors. This exposed them to harsh sunlight throughout the day and outdoor distractions.

With Bubz’s help, all three towns were able to build a three-unit class structure, and Kpando Torkor was also able to renovate its already existing classrooms.

Plans for the Future

In the description of her most recent update video on the schools (May 10, 2019), Bubz wrote, “When we build schools, we’re not just building a physical structure, we also build up a child’s confidence, dreams and goals. We build up communities’ potential and standard of life.” Bubz’s campaigns through BubzBeauty not only helps build schools but also helps the communities surrounding those schools flourish more than they would have without her help. Education leads to a better life for these children and brighter futures for the countries.

Even present day, BubzBeauty helps build schools with Pencils of Promise. In May 2019, she announced that profits from her formulated lipstick would go toward a fund to raise money to build a school in Guatemala.

“Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear lipstick.” — Lindy Tsang

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in AfricaAfrica boasts one of the biggest farming industries in the world. Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of the continent’s paid employment and 30 percent of its overall GDP. However, due to a lack of market information, modern farming technologies and financial stability in smallholder farming, the continent suffers from low farming productivity. With so much of Africa’s development being dependent on agriculture and farming, low productivity rates pose an array of problems for the continent’s pursuit of advancement. These five tech start-ups are tackling these issues and transforming agriculture in Africa.

5 Tech Start-Ups Transforming Agriculture in Africa

  1. ZenvusZenvus is a Nigerian tech start-up centered around precision farming and is rapidly transforming agriculture in Africa. Farmers in Africa often don’t have access to information that could help improve their harvesting yields, and Zenvus is looking to change that with an innovative solution that uses propriety technology to collect data like soil nutrients and moisture, PH values and vegetative health. The information is collected and sent to a cloud server through GSM, satellite, or wifi networks, at which point the farmers receive advice from the program. This data arms them with the best information in seeking the proper fertilizer for their crops, optimizing their irrigation systems while encouraging data-driven farming for small-scale farmers. Zenvus also provides specialized cameras to track the growth of crops, as well as features like zCaptial that provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity raise capital by providing collected data from the program’s precision farming sensors to give banks an overall sense of profitability in farms registered with the service.
  2. M-FarmM-Farm is a tech service app based in Kenya that provides small-scale farmers with information on retail prices of products, prospective buyers in local markets and up-to-date information on agricultural trends. Information is gathered daily by independent collectors using geocodes and is then sent to subscribers phones via SMS messages. Collectors use geocoding to ensure that all pricing and market-related data is being collected from traders that are located in the users’ actual markets. The app, which now serves 7,000 users and tracks 42 different kinds of crops in five major markets throughout Kenya, aims to help small-scale farmers connect directly with suppliers, and even provides considerable discounts on fertilizers and seeds.
  3. EsokoEsoko is another striking example of a tech start-up transforming agriculture in Africa where, historically, many farmers had a limited understanding of market pricing and agricultural trade. Market middlemen often took advantage of this and persuaded unknowing farmers to sell products well below market price. In 2005, Esoko aimed to change that by providing farmers with real-time information on market prices, weather forecasts and agricultural techniques through SMS messaging. The start-up currently serves one million users across 19 African countries, gained $1.25 million in equity from two major venture capital companies, with a study finding that farmers who used the app were able to increase profits by 11 percent.
  4. Apollo Agriculture – Founded in Nairobi in 2014, this tech start-up has raised $1.6 million in the pursuit of helping small-scale farmers get maximum profits for their products and diminish credit risk. The start-up does this through machine learning, remote sensing and the utilization of mobile phone technologies. Apollo Agriculture not only assesses credit risk for farmers, but it also uses satellite data to provide personalized packages specific to farmer behavior, location, crop yields and even soil and vegetation health.
  5. Kilimo SalamaKilimo Salama (Safe Agriculture) founded in 2010, is a Kenyan tech start-up that provides small-scale farmers a more informed approach to weather index/micro-insurance for their land. The start-up uses an app to send users SMS messages regarding weather patterns and up-to-date climate data. This ensures that users can more readily prepare for weather that might be detrimental to their crops. The app also includes a feature that allows users to receive confirmation of insurance payouts through SMS messaging. Users also receive educational messages with tips and techniques on how to increase productivity, food security and crop protection.

Africa suffers from low farm productivity due to an array of issues like financial instability, limited access to modern farming technologies and lack of information. However, countless tech start-ups across the continent are actively combating these issues with innovative tech solutions for transforming agriculture in Africa.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Selena Gomez and UNICEFAfter starting her career at age seven starring in “Barney and Friends,” Selena Gomez rose to fame in her most well-known role as Alex Russo on Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.” Whether she is starring in shows on television or speaking out about the dangers of social media, Gomez often finds herself in front of the camera.  More recently, Selena Gomez and UNICEF have been working together to aid children in need.

In 2009, Gomez added UNICEF ambassador to her already decorated resume. She previously acted as a spokesperson for the organization for a year. At the age of 16, Gomez became the youngest UNICEF brand ambassador at that time. Together, Selena Gomez and UNICEF advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children by participating in campaigns, events and initiatives. “Every day, 25,000 children die from preventable causes. I stand with UNICEF in the belief that we can change that number from 25,000 to zero,” said Gomez.

Gomez in Ghana and Chile

In October 2009, one month after partnering with UNICEF, Gomez took a week-long trip to Ghana on behalf of the organization. This was an opportunity for the new ambassador to get a firsthand look at what the organization is all about. “My trip to Ghana was life-changing. I couldn’t believe the things I saw. They were so loving, compassionate and strong. Watching these kids fight for what they want was so inspirational,” said Gomez.

In 2016, when compared to adults, children were 40 percent more likely to live in poverty in Ghana. This number has increased significantly from the 1990s when it was only 15 percent. Over the past few years, Ghana’s economy has shown steady, positive growth and transformation, but clearly more needs to be addressed in regards to childhood poverty.

In February 2011, Gomez performed at a sold-out concert in the coastal city of Valparaiso in Chile. While there, Gomez met with some of the poorest Chilean women. Eighteen percent of children live in poverty in Chile; therefore, some children must work. Street children pose a large issue, especially indigenous children because they do not retain the same rights as other Chilean children.

Selena Gomez Turns to Fans for Support

In 2010, Gomez became the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF spokesperson. The Kids Helping Kids Ⓡ event raised nearly $177 million as of 2018. In August 2011, Gomez joined more than 70 musicians for the George Harrison Fund as part of UNICEF’s Month of Giving.

Gomez took to social media to share a personally recorded message with her fans encouraging them to support the effort. In total, the efforts raised $1.2 million for children in the Horn of Africa affected by famine and droughts. Gomez closed out 2011 by participating in 12 Days of UNICEF, an annual tradition in which individuals are able to purchase a life-saving gift in remembrance of a loved one for children in need.

Gomez has performed three charity concerts for UNICEF with all proceeds benefiting the U.S. fund for UNICEF. Her concerts have raised more than $200,000 for UNICEF. She teamed up with Rihanna, Robin Williams, Taylor Swift, Dwight Howard and Adrian Grenier to participate in UNICEF’s Tap Project Celebrity Tap campaign by bottling tap from her home and taking part in PSA’s on behalf of UNICEF’s clean water programs.

Gomez in the Sahel Region and Nepal

In April 2012, Gomez traveled to the Sahel region of West and Central Africa to advocate for the millions of children facing malnutrition. Furthermore, she took to the media and created a public service announcement encouraging donations for the Sahel. She also used her Twitter following to promote #SahelNOW to initiate conversation and prompt awareness. The United Nations recognized a 50 percent increase in hungry children in the Sahel region as more than 1.3 million children faced acute malnutrition in 2018.

While in Nepal in 2014, Gomez visited with children at the Satbariya Rapti Secondary School, female health volunteers in Gangaparaspur Village, female mediators in the Hapur village and watched a skit about sanitation in Gangaparaspur Village. Nearly half of the Nepalese population lives below the poverty line with children fighting for their lives each as their fundamental needs go unfulfilled.

“Nothing is more important than helping children in need around the globe. I’m thankful that I can use my voice to bring awareness and much-needed funds to UNICEF, so they can continue their critical work. Together, with my fans, we can save lives,” said Gomez. Thanks to Selena Gomez’s work, conditions are slowing improving for children around the world.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Poverty
Africa has a long and complicated history. From the Portuguese exploration of the continent in 1460 to the Atlantic slave trade and modern-day ethnic conflicts in Sudan, it is, unfortunately, no surprise that the continent has long-standing issues with poverty. Ethiopia and Ghana are changing this trend. New, innovative farming techniques such as flexible growing practices and government-sponsored programs are reducing poverty, and famine rates have been declining in these countries. Worldwide organizations such as Africa Renewal are hoping that the agricultural reforms taking place in Ghana and Ethiopia can spread throughout the rest of Africa to reduce poverty.

While the mining industry is important for African countries such as South Africa, agriculture is by far the most important economic sector for a majority of African countries. Not only does agriculture provide jobs for residents, but it also acts as the main food source for over 1.2 billion Africans.

Farming in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has relied on ox-driven plows for centuries. Ethiopian farmers are primarily field farmers, which means they grow their crops on typical farmland rather than other alternatives such as in water-soaked rice patties. Ethiopia has dealt with severe famine over the past several decades, and farmers have helped alleviate famine by being flexible. Over the past century, Ethiopian farmers have shifted their main food source from enset to tef-based crops. Another change Ethiopian farmers are adopting is more flexible growing practices, which means rather than growing one crop at a time, farmers are beginning to grow as many as 10 different crops at once. Flexible growing practices add diversity to the food supply and help fight against weeds and pests, leading to increased food supplies, ultimately reducing poverty.

Ethiopia’s government launched the Growth & Transformation Plan II in 2015 that aims to significantly increase economic growth by investing heavily in sustainable and broad-based agricultural practices and manufacturing sectors. The end result of this initiative is for the world stage to recognize Ethiopia on the world stage as a lower middle-income country by 2025. While no one will know the full results of this initiative until 2025, the preliminary data shows that the program has been helping with Ethiopia’s GDP increasing from $64.46 billion in 2015 to $84.36 billion in 2018.

These new farming practices, along with government investment into agricultural practices, increased Ethiopia’s GDP by nearly 10.3 percent over the past decade, which is one of the fastest growth rates in Africa. The new agricultural practices that are stimulating the economy are a significant reason why Ethiopia’s poverty rate has also fallen from nearly 40 percent in 2004 to approximately 27 percent in 2016.

Farming in Ghana

Like Ethiopia, Ghana also has a history of poverty, with 24.2 percent of all residents facing poverty as of 2013. Ghana’s approach to reducing poverty is unique because the country is using economic growth. While Ethiopia is also focusing on economic growth, Ghana is not utilizing new farming practices in order to achieve economic growth. Rather, Ghana is using increased GDP to revitalize its agricultural sector.

Ghana’s unemployment rate is 6.71 percent as of 2018. With many residents unemployed, the agricultural sector provides job opportunities. Approximately 40 percent of Ghana’s available agricultural land is still available for use, which means there are many opportunities for agricultural expansion. Today estimates determine that the agricultural sector employs 33.86 percent of all Ghanian workers, meaning agriculture is the country’s main source of income for a third of its residents. Alarmingly, though, agriculture makes up only 19.7 percent of Ghana’s GDP as of 2017, which is the lowest total since 1983, when agriculture made up approximately 60 percent of the total GDP.

World Vision, a non-governmental organization, has worked in Ghana since 1979. Currently, World Vision implements 29 area programs. One such project is the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage Project that provides instruction to farmers on how to store cowpea without chemicals. Storing cowpea without chemicals helps reduce post-harvest losses and maintain cowpea’s nutritional value.

With vast amounts of land still available and with the GDP increasing by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate will decline significantly as more residents head to the fields and plant crops. Agriculture’s share of the GDP will also rise, reducing the downward trend since 1983, and ultimately, put more money into resident’s pockets.

Reducing Poverty

Ethiopia and Ghana have made gains in their plans to reduce poverty among their citizens. Poverty in Ethiopia has fallen from 71.1 percent in 1995 to 27.3 percent in 2015, and Ghana’s poverty rate has fallen from 52.6 percent in 1991 to 21.4 percent in 2012. While these countries are making improvements, there is still a lot of work remaining before all of Africa’s citizens are free from poverty.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

child labor in GhanaGhana, a small African country nestled between Togo and Ivory Coast, is one of the highest achieving nations in the sub-Saharan region. It is the world’s second-largest producer of both cocoa beans and gold, and this generative economy has propelled much of the Ghanaian population out of poverty.

While ahead in some regards, Ghanaian children are still subject to human trafficking. According to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, over 152 million children around the world are forced into the workforce. Africa is among the worst offending areas, and as such, brings child labor in Ghana to international concern.

Child labor is a National Issue

Currently, one out of every six children is involved in child labor in Ghana. Offending sectors are numerous and widespread; 88 percent of children work in agriculture, typically harvesting cocoa beans, while 2.3 percent are fishermen. Others are subjected to domestic or sexual work.

Many Ghanaian children participate in child labor due to desperation and ignorance. While free public education is available in Ghana, many families cannot afford the uniforms and books required to enroll in school. Poverty is, therefore, cyclical in these circumstances – much more than cheap labor is being exchanged. A child is also selling his or her childhood, dignity and future potential to their traffickers.

Lake Volta Region

Lake Volta is the largest man-made lakes in the sub-Saharan region. It is notoriously known as an area where the worst forms of child labor prosper. Here, one-third of children between the ages of seven and 14 work full-time.

Children are valued workers on Lake Volta because their labor is affordable and efficient. Recently, the lake’s fish population has decreased considerably. Fishermen, therefore, do not have the financial means to accommodate other sources of labor. Furthermore, children provide the nimble fingers needed to untangle fish from the minuscule-sized holes in fishing nets.

Aside from posing as a serious human rights violation, work on Lake Volta is quite dangerous for Ghanaian children. Nets often get stuck on objects underneath the surface. This forces children to go diving in order to prevent tears in the nets. Drowning is a concern, as well as contracting several illnesses including bilharzia and guinea worm.

Government Effort

The central government made several, moderate efforts to control the unbridled child labor in Ghana. In 2017, the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking was enacted. With it, the government identified itself as an entity against the exploitation of its young generation. Children working in mines are a specific concern for the government, as mercury poisoning is prevalent among workers in this sector. Feeding programs have also been instilled in schools and refugee camps in order to protect children from malnourishment.

These efforts, while well-intentioned, are not efficiently enforced in the country. This leaves many children in enslavement, or at risk of falling into this dark reality.

International Action

Child labor is a human rights violation to which the international community has responded with animosity and vigor. There are countless organizations working to end all forms of child labor and trafficking.

APPLE is just one NGO that specifically works to hinder the growth of child labor in Ghana. This organization has stationed itself in fishing villages around the Lake Volta region. Their efforts to eliminate child labor compromises of immediate and long-term solutions. The banning of nets with small holes is believed to decrease the value of children on the lake, and education is provided in order to warn families of the calamities that human trafficking inflicts.

While the sub-Saharan region is not the only area that violates international human rights laws, child labor in Ghana is on the rise. Efforts to protect the most innocent collection of the population need to be mobilized with the utmost zeal. These children need aid in order to liberate, educate and relocate those displaced by this practice.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Dry Flush ToiletsDry flush toilets is a term that likely conjures up images of unsanitary, foul-smelling contraptions. But, in reality, they are quite the opposite. Revolutionary and effective, they have even caught the eyes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a promising solution to the life-threatening sanitation-related diseases, such as cholera and diarrhea. These diseases are faced by the 2.4 billion people around the world who still lack access to clean running water.

How do Dry Flush Toilets Work?

Multiple companies have developed dry flush toilets. Perhaps the most notable development is Cranfield University’s Nano Membrane Toilet.

First developed in 2014, the toilet “flushes” by using a waterless rotating scraping mechanism that separates solid waste from liquid waste. Nanofibers, arranged in bunches inside the chamber, then help to condense the water vapor generated by the urine. They condense it into a tube that eventually flows to a tank externally connected to the toilet. By then the water will have been thoroughly filtered and, as a result, is then suitable for everyday use.

Solid waste, on the other hand, is transported into a combustor. This converts them into energy and ash, via a mechanical screw. The energy then powers the toilet’s future “flushes.” The energy can also charge electronics.

Award-Winning Functionality

Dry flush toilets are designed for daily usage. It can accommodate up to ten individuals daily. The toilets are manufactured at the cost of $2,500 per unit. They can last for up to ten years. The product is still undergoing product and product implementation testing. Researchers have reported promising results from their first phase testing in 2014. They conducted the phase in Ghana. According to their survey, “people seemed very open to most of the concepts around the toilet.”

Since the beginning of its development, the ingenious invention has received an accolade of prestigious awards including the Kiran and Pallavi Patel Grand Innovation Award as well as the Excellence in the Field of Environmental Technology Research from the CleanEquity Monaco.

Challenges

The most prominent challenge facing the implementation of dry flush toilets in developing countries is likely scalability. Communities that choose to implement the contraption would have to have a team of specially-trained technicians to safely maintain the toilets.

Another question is regarding how the toilets would be distributed. Currently, the best path is to rent them to households at either a monthly or weekly rate. This is an approach that companies with similar products employ, such as Loowatt’s waterless toilet. Renting these other products has reflected great success.

In addition, the team is working to make the toilet more affordable, with a goal of a final cost of five cents per person per day.

Another anticipated challenge to dry flush toilets is overcoming cultural barriers. While most Africans prefer Western-style seat toilets, squat toilets are far more common and desirable in Asia.

An Innovation to Aid Impoverished Communities

Conclusively, although still emerging from the prototype phase, dry flush toilets very much so have the potential to change millions of lives within a short period of time from implementation. By ensuring that every individual on this planet has reliable access to a flushing toilet, millions of bases of water-borne diseases can be avoided each year.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Drone Delivery Service in Ghana
After Zipline,  a California-based automated logistics company launched its service in Rwanda three years ago, it announced on April 24, 2019 that it would expand its operations to Ghana. Since Zipline has planned to make 600 drone flights a day and deliver more than 170 vaccines, blood products and other life-saving medications to 2,500 facilities, it expects to reach 12 million people. Because this operation is so immense, Zipline is describing its drone delivery service in Ghana as the largest drone delivery service in history.

The Background of Zipline

Zipline’s mission is to provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies with small drone aircraft. To accomplish this mission in countries with citizens who struggle to access the medical supplies they need, Zipline operates autonomous systems for delivering lifesaving medicine to the world’s most inaccessible regions.

Zipline began its first drone service in Africa in the country of Rwanda. This service, which began in 2016, provided life-saving medical supplies to Rwandan citizens in remote areas in minutes. Ever since 2016, Zipline has refined this drone delivery system and the Rwandan government has expanded it across the country. Currently, Zipline has made over 13,000 deliveries outside Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. A third of these deliveries have been in emergencies in which someone’s life was on the line.

Zipline in Ghana

The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, launched the world’s largest medical drone delivery service during an inaugural ceremony in the city of Omenako, which is also one of the four Zipline drone distribution centers in Ghana. This drone delivery service in Ghana operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each center is equipped with 30 drones and delivers to 2,500 facilities, serving 12 million people across the country. Some of the treatments that Zipline provides to Ghanaians in remote areas are vaccines for polio, tetanus and diptheria, and the World Health Organization’s Expanded Project on Immunization provides these. Health workers can place an order by text message and they can receive delivery of these and other treatments by parachute within 30 minutes.

The drone network will integrate into Ghana’s national health care supply chain. The plan is to prevent vaccine stockouts in health facilities and during national immunization campaigns. Zipline will manage the logistics of this network through its hardware and software systems in each of the four distribution centers, and it will make deliveries to hospitals and health clinics. In collaboration with Zipline and in consultation with Gavi, UPS will provide consultancy services and technical guidance when necessary.

Looking Ahead

Many expect that the commercial partnerships Zipline has with Ghana and Rwanda will save tens of thousands of lives over the next several years. Ghana will be the base for training future flight operators who will join Zipline as it expands its operations to countries beyond Ghana and Rwanda. Officials from Senegal and Nigeria plan to launch a similar service in their own countries. Throughout this year, Zipline is working hard to expand its drone delivery service to developed and developing countries across Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas. Zipline’s drone delivery service in Ghana is another innovative step the world is making to liberate men, women and children from the effects of poverty throughout the world.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Wikipedia

Anemia in GhanaIn Ghana, a country nestled in West Africa, 66 percent of children aged six months to five years have moderate to severe anemia. While other conditions may garner more publicity, anemia in Ghana is widespread and debilitating.

Anemia is a blood disorder with which there is an insufficient amount of red blood cells. Since red blood cells supply the entire body with oxygen, anemia affects multiple organ systems. Background anemia is the most common form of micronutrient deficiency; it affects “over a quarter of the global population.”

Causes of Anemia

Although anemia in Ghana has several causes, a low intake of easily absorbable iron is a known leader. Other nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12 and zinc, also lower iron levels in the body.

In Ghana, the burden of anemia falls more heavily on women than men. Post-pubescent women are at increased risk for the condition due to monthly blood loss of menstruation. USAID studies find that 29 percent of women in Ghana are anemic.

Primary infections such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and those from parasites such as helminths can also lead to secondary anemia. According to UNICEF, 3.5 million people contract malaria every year in Ghana, making the country account for 4 percent of the global burden of malaria. Furthermore, UNAIDS reports that 330,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Ghana in 2018. The prevalence of these infections has increased the population’s exposure to anemia.

Consequences of Anemia

According to Mayo Clinic, those who are anemic may experience fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain. Left untreated, anemia can cause premature birth in pregnant women, which often leads to infant mortality. Young people who experience anemia can have “irrevocable cognitive and developmental delays and exhibit decreased worker productivity as adults.” Untreated severe anemia can additionally result in an irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and even death.

While the health ramifications due to chronic anemia are devastating, having a largely anemic population also has national economic consequences. For example, chronic fatigue from anemia in Ghana could mean an increase in lost workdays and diminished productivity at work. While these indirect costs can be difficult to quantify, they still deserve attention.

Preventing Anemia

To manage anemia in Ghana, the government is offering nutritional support through supplementation and education about iron-rich foods. However, it must also target the rise and persistence of these infections. A multi-focal approach has been and will continue to be necessary.

While the consumption of fruits and vegetables drastically lowers the risk of contracting anemia, generally, rural populations in Ghana have an increased risk of mild to severe anemia. One study suggests that women in urban areas consume more fruits and vegetables, which contributes to the lower incidence of anemia.

As mortality from malaria for children under five years of age has declined drastically from 14.4 percent in 2000 to 0.6 percent in 2012, so has the incidence of new HIV infections from its peak in the late 1990s. While the reduction in each of these primary infections is enough to celebrate, it also means a diminished risk of secondary anemia.

Ghana is hopeful. In 2014, the country achieved 93 percent iron-folic-acid (IFA) supplementation in pregnant women. This nearly ubiquitous IFA supplementation is a milestone because it will lead to less preterm labor and fewer neonatal disorders.

While this is by no means the end of Ghana’s struggle with anemia, the country has made strides toward combatting primary anemia from nutritional deficiencies and secondary anemia from widespread infections like HIV/AIDS and malaria. The future appears positive for anemia in Ghana.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Drones Bringing Vaccinations

Over the past few decades, Ghana has been able to drastically improve its vaccination rates through education and communication with communities. Right now, vaccination rates for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough are at 98 percent in Ghana, compared to 94 percent in the U.S. The child mortality rate in Ghana has dropped by 30 percent and is now at 5 percent.

Additionally, measles, which used to be one of the predominant causes of child mortality in Ghana, has now been nearly eradicated. This is due in part to the double-roll out in 2012, which was the first time any African country introduced two vaccines at the same time, the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. It proved to be wildly successful, reinforcing Ghana as a model for neighboring countries.

Despite these improvements, one of the main roadblocks to increasing the coverage and effectiveness of vaccines in Ghana is accessibility. One promising solution to this roadblock is drones bringing vaccinations to Ghana.

Drones Bringing Vaccinations to Ghana

Planning to reach the remaining unvaccinated Ghanaians, the Ghanaian government recently launched the start of its partnership with Zipline, a company utilizing drones to deliver medical supplies to underserved regions. The technology increases the accessibility of essential medical supplies without having to wait for the costly infrastructure development of better roads and train access. Zipline is currently able to provide 13 million people vital medicine incredibly quickly. At the four distribution centers located throughout Ghana, doctors can place an order via text for any necessary medications and reliably expect a delivery within 30 minutes.

In addition, one of the primary challenges in increasing vaccination coverage is access to electricity for refrigeration. Zipline’s quick and reliable delivery system solves this issue as supplies are received still cold. This innovative battery powered medical delivery system is able to deliver goods pilotless, thus reducing emissions costs and medicine transport costs. This makes it an incredibly cost-effective mode of transport, aiding initiatives to offer free vaccinations to children in Ghana.

With dozens of hospitals relying on Zipline for emergency medicinal deliveries, access to life-saving medical supplies has already increased dramatically in hard to reach areas. In Rwanda, where Zipline has served for the past 3 years, maternal mortality rates are dropping drastically due to emergency drone deliveries of rare blood types.

Just a few decades ago, Ghanaians were in a statistically alarming situation. The introduction of Zipline is bringing medical supplies to Ghanaians who still lack access. With plans to eventually provide access to vital medical supplies all around the world, Zipline appears to be revolutionizing the world of medicinal accessibility for the world’s underdeveloped regions. As Zipline is a relatively new company, it’s too soon to have data determining long term impacts. However, given the rapid changes Zipline has brought to Ghana and Rwanda’s medical access already, it’s feasible to imagine a future where drones bringing vaccinations is commonplace.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr