Why Investing in Africa is the Right MoveAccording to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there is a 16 percent chance that global growth will dip below two percent this year. An unlikely contender as far as investment options are concerned, investing in Africa may be a lucrative opportunity for investors looking for solace in a declining global market.

Africa is notorious for being a troubled continent. However, as the economic problems begin to fade, stock markets are projected to rise, making Africa a prime candidate to overtake Asia in terms of economic growth by 2015.

The IMF has estimated that in the next five years, 10 out of the 20 fastest-growing economies will be in sub-Saharan Africa and two will be in North Africa. An example of exploding economic growth is Nigeria, where the average income has quadrupled since 2000. Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia are all seeing quick economic inclines as well.

While African markets are becoming more and more likely to expand rapidly in the next few years, making investing in Africa a lucrative choice, many investors are still reluctant to invest due to the lack of liquidity (ability to buy and sell) of African stock.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The Telegraph

Books For Africa Teams Up With The Peace CorpsBy pairing with the Peace Corps and other nonprofits, Books for Africa has become the world’s largest shipper of donated books to the African continent. With its headquarters based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Books for Africa has shipped nearly 27 million books to 48 countries in the past 25 years.

In countries where few classrooms have suitable resources, Books for Africa ship libraries of new scholarly and leisurely texts as well as new law and human rights texts. Classrooms in countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa are filled with avid learners whose parents have sacrificed greatly to provide them with an education but often lack adequate supplies.

While many classrooms have adequate textbooks to constitute as reading material, noted on project organizer, the establishment of reading centers such as libraries indulge the hope that “Ethiopian children and their families will be able to experience the joys of reading and literacy activities directly.”

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post

Fair Trade Chocolate
Chocolate, called “xocoatl” by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, has historically been a staple in life to many millions of people.

Cacao concoctions were drunk by Mayan royalty, lauded as a gift from the gods, and was even used as currency by the Aztecs as early as the 1500s.

Today’s chocolate is also worth a lot of money. Recent estimates of chocolate consumption patterns around the week of Valentine’s Day say that “consumers will buy more than 58 million pounds of chocolate candy, raking in $345 million in sales and accounting for 5.1 percent of total annual sales” in the United States alone, reports Sylvia Camaj of PolicyMic.

The history of chocolate has also always included a dark side, however.

Scholars know that Mayan and Aztec rituals regarded cacao beans as an essential element in some capacity; whether the ritual was religious, concerned life or death, did or did not involve the sacrifice of human life – cacao was seen as a representation of divinity.

Today’s dark side of chocolate stems primarily from the statistic that 40 percent of the world’s cocoa, produced for major companies such as Hershey, Nestle, Mars, Kraft and Dove, comes from plantations in Africa’s Ivory Coast and Ghana, and is responsible for the trafficking of an estimated 109,000 children, says the State Department. The children suffer terrible abuse for their work, beating beaten and forced to work long hours while being exposed to dangerous and stunting pesticides and equipment.

However, smart and dedicated consumers are demanding change from these multi-national companies, and the companies are responding. When Cadbury was bought by Kraft in 2010, Kraft promised “to honor Cadbury’s commitment to Fair Trade cocoa sourcing. Nestle has also committed to buying chocolate that meets international labor rights standards.” Hershey has made similar commitments, although the company still has much work to do regarding their Fair Trade labor practices.

Consumers pressuring companies into morally correct business practices is a healthy, growing global trend that must receive continued attention and support from the international community. A commitment to Fair Trade products helps companies achieve a better moral standing with consumers. They can then be seen as more credible producers.

An example of a global company adopting Fair Trade production is Starbucks, a global giant in coffee that has committed to streamlining several of their beans purely from Fair Trade sources.

Learn more about Fair Trade from Oxfam International.

– Nina Narang

Sources: PolicyMic, Smithsonian
Photo: Urban Earthworm

one-direction-is-helping-comic-relief-organizationThe band One Direction includes five boys: Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Louie Tomlinson, and Liam Payne. They recently visited some of the poorer areas of Accra, Ghana as part of Red Nose Day.

One Direction is helping an organization called Comic Relief by giving the proceeds of their upcoming single, “One Way or Another,” to the charity. This single was made as part of the Red Nose Day project, which often gives proceeds to the area of Ghana that the boys visited. Comic Relief is an organization that aims to eliminate poverty worldwide through the form of entertainment.

They have two main campaigns: Red Nose Day and Sport Relief. Sport Relief is a program that involves thousands of people to run a certain number of miles while raising money at the same time through sponsorship. There are also a few other scattered sports-related events to raise money throughout the year. The other campaign, Red Nose Day, is the project that One Direction has chosen to involve themselves in.

The band is helping Comic Relief by following the basic idea of this program: to raise money while enjoying themselves; in this case, through music. Also, One Direction is helping the Comic Relief  Organization by visiting Ghana. When they visited Ghana as part of their video, they encountered the lifestyles of those living in impoverished areas. The boys in One Direction have said their experience in Ghana was life-changing and moving. During the trip, some of the boys were brought to tears by the school they visited, and the children attending it.

Harry Styles commented, “If you get involved in it and you don’t cry, you’re superhuman.” Overall, the boys want to have a positive impact on as many peoples’ lives as possible. To see the band being interviewed on the subject, click here.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Comic Relief, One Direction Music, Belfast Telegraph