Products Tackling Global Poverty
People who live in poverty-stricken communities typically do not have access to simple products that can be the difference between life and death. Below are five products tackling global poverty.

5 Products Tackling Global Poverty

  1. The Shoe That Grows: The Shoe That Grows produces a shoe for kids living in poverty. It expands up to five sizes and lasts for years. Kenton Lee founded the shoe after he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. He lived and worked with kids at a small orphanage and noticed that many of the children either had broken, worn shoes or none at all. He came up with the idea of a shoe that expands to prevent soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause children to miss out on their education and even death. As of now, the company has distributed over 200,000 pairs of shoes to 100 different countries. The organization sent 30,000 of those to Ethiopia alone.
  2. NIFTY Cup: The NIFTY Cup is a device that some use to feed premature babies in Malawi and Tanzania who are unable to breastfeed. Unlike the metal cups and spoons that people in poverty-stricken countries often use, the NIFTY Cup contains durable, soft silicone that one can shape to allow all nutrients to reach babies’ mouths without causing them to cough or choke. The cup serves as a life-saving resource for mothers who do not have the necessary medical assistance necessary to keep premature babies healthy. Donors have made it possible to send over 6,000 NIFTY Cups to hospitals in Malawi and Tanzania.
  3. The Lucky Iron Fish: The Lucky Iron Fish is a tool used to fight iron deficiency in developing countries. Families place the iron fish in boiling water before cooking to add proper nutrients to meals. One of these iron fish is equivalent to five years of iron pill bottles. The Lucky Iron Fish company works on a one-to-one donation scale. This means that when people in developed countries buy one of the fish, the company donates another to a family in a developing country. As of 2018, the company impacted 54,000 lives because of the buy-one-give-one system. The impact fund has distributed the fish to Nicaragua, Tanzania, Cambodia, Haiti, Benin and more.
  4. Embrace Warmer: Embrace Warmer is a life-saving tool that developing countries use. In these places, newborn babies often suffer hypothermia due to being premature and low weight. The tool is essentially a sleeping bag that helps regulate the body temperature of newborn babies during their first few days of life. Embrace Warmer began as a class project at Stanford, when students had to design a cost-effective product to help battle neonatal hypothermia. Eventually, the product expanded to rural India and has now helped 200,000 infants in developing countries.
  5. Flo: Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit that Mariko Higaki Iwai designed to provide a solution for women and girls in developing countries to take care of their bodies. The kit allows girls to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads. This kit makes it easier for girls to stay in school, prevent reproductive diseases and illnesses and take care of their menstrual cycle in privacy. Flo is still a prototype but people working in the field in developing countries have been trying to make Flo available for their communities. The team is currently seeking manufacturers to make this possible.

These life-saving products are working at tackling global poverty, while also giving those who live in poverty-stricken communities a better chance at having a healthy lifestyle.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

 

Digital Education in KenyaDespite Kenya’s large economy and rapid digital and technological growth, the country still suffers a vast digital gap. This gap is especially apparent in Kenya’s primary schools. As of 2015, Kenya spent 95.7 percent of its total education expenditure on primary public institutions. But, there is still only one teacher for every 47 students, the majority of whom do not have access to the internet. Tech-start ups and pilot projects are trying to close this gap by creating innovative programs that are helping students to earn a digital education in Kenya.

Opportunity for Everyone

In 2016, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology created the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP). The project promised to deliver 1.2 million digital devices to 21,718 primary public schools nationwide. The launch was successful and by 2018 the roll-out provided 19,000 schools with more than 1 million laptops, tablets and mobile devices pre-programmed with interactive, educational materials for students.

According to the ICT Authority of Kenya, 89.2 percent of public primary schools have been supplied with these devices. Since its launch, teachers involved with the DLP have also reported increased student alertness, boosted attendance and reported an overall increase in student admissions. The DLP has also created 11,000 employment opportunities in ICT support centers, local laptop assembly plants and digital education content development.

Despite the DLP’s successful roll-out of devices, experts in the field speculated that teacher-engagement combined with access to materials is the most effective way to ensure students’ success. The Inter-American Development Bank carried out a study in 2012, reporting that 860,000 computers supplied to Peruvian schools made teachers feel disengaged from students and did not improve student test scores. The DLP and projects like it looking to innovate digital education in Kenya took note of this and put more emphasis on teacher training. The DLP alone has trained 91,000 teachers to deliver digital learning content through the project since its launch.

Combating Educational Imbalance

Despite the overwhelming contributions provided by the DLP, obstacles still remain in terms of digital education in Kenya. Students in rural areas rarely have access to traditional libraries and textbooks. Then, there is also the issue of not having enough teachers to cover the multitude of students in each classroom. These same areas also suffer from regular power outages, making it difficult to keep devices charged throughout the school day. This, on top of an overall lack of internet access, creates a significant imbalance in the quality of resources provided to students and a system that can’t ensure equal opportunities for every child to be successful.

BRCK, a tech company based in Nairobi, aims to combat this imbalance with an innovative solution called the Kio Kit. The kit provides 40 tablets per school, that can be charged wirelessly, a wifi hotspot and a small server packed with educational content. The Kio Kit is connected to the cloud, making its server self-updating. The kit’s self-updating capabilities ensure that students and teachers utilizing its platform receive the most diverse and up-to-date information that BRCK’s content providers, like TED Education, Khan Academy and the like have to offer. The kit’s wide-ranging content also enables teachers to identify learning techniques that are unique to each student and apply them in the classroom.

Kenya still faces many challenges in quality education for all students. But, innovative tech projects like the DLP and the Kio Kit are working to combat these issues by ensuring both teachers and students have access to the best tech and resources available and helping to make great strides toward strong, digital education in Kenya.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

 

Green Energy in KenyaKenya has big plans for its future as a major green technology user. About 70 percent of Kenya’s electricity comes from renewable energy, which is almost three times the global average. The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, which was completed in 2018, and the Meru County Energy Park are two important developments in wind and solar power, each helping Kenya to reach its target of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

Meru County Energy Park

Meru County Energy Park will be Africa’s first large scale hybrid wind, solar photovoltaic and battery storage project. It will provide 80 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy that could power more than 200,000 households. The project is a great step in producing green energy in Kenya and also acts as a model for other countries seeking to advance in low-cost, clean energy. Construction begins during 2021 in Meru County, Kenya.

The $150 million investment consists of 20 wind turbines and more than 40,000 solar panels. The Meru County Energy Park is a lead project by the Meru County Investment and Development Corporation (MCIDC) and its partners WindLab and Eurus Energy. WindLab is a wind energy developer that has completed projects across three different continents. During the signing of the agreement between Meru County and Windlab, Governor Peter Munya stated that “The development, construction and operation of a large scale renewable energy project within the County will bring employment, energy security and expertise to the region.”

Lake Turkana Wind Farm

The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, operational since 2018, is another major development in Kenyan green technology. It’s Africa’s largest wind power project, consisting of 365 turbines with a capacity of releasing 310 MW of sustainable low-cost energy. The wind farm is located in the Turkana Wind Corridor that channels wind between the mountains in the north and south of the desert region.

It’s also another stride in achieving Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya’s long-term development plan to create a better nation by 2030. The energy provided by the Lake Turkana Wind Farm is helping to create “a newly-industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment.” The entire energy sector has grown tremendously. Thanks to advancements in green energy in Kenya, electricity access in 2018 stood at 73.4 percent, an increase from 56 percent in 2016.

Since September 2018, the Lake Turkana Wind Farm generated 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and saved taxpayers about $77 million from reduced use of diesel-operated power. The project proves that wind power is an efficient and low-cost alternative for rural regions that often rely on more expensive and environmentally harmful methods of electricity, such as diesel.

Future of Green Energy in Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta plans to continue reducing Kenya’s carbon footprint by welcoming private investment in green technology. Major investments from corporations such as WindLab and Eurus Energy are simply the beginning to Kenya reaching its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020. The nation ranks ninth in the world for geothermal power generating capacity, making green energy in Kenya a viable option to help those in poverty who struggle to access electricity. Since 70 percent of Kenya’s current power usage is already from renewable sources, the country is on an upward trajectory to achieving its green technology goal.

– Lucas Schmidt
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

Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an abbreviation for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, Efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It is also home to year-round warm water and humpback whales. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, use aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to alleviate themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

 

Education for internally displaced childrenViolence or conflict internally displaces approximately 17 million children worldwide. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their country of origin. A majority of IDPs live in urban areas, where they often lack access to basic services, including health care, housing and education. Ensuring access to education for internally displaced children is essential to improving livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.

Initiatives in Nigeria and Kenya represent important steps toward ensuring education for all internally displaced children in those countries.

Barriers to Education

For internally displaced children, schools are crucial to integrating into their new host community and regaining some normalcy after fleeing violence. Unfortunately, a myriad of challenges prevents many of these children from being able to attend school. A lack of documentation, financial struggles, language barriers, physical distance from the nearest school and a lack of education facilities in the area could possibly prevent internally displaced children from pursuing their education.

Furthermore, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed forces and gangs are other significant barriers to education for internally displaced children. IDPs often experience severe poverty and, as a way to make more money, send their children to work within the informal sector, thereby preventing them from going to school.

Child marriage is seen as another way to help overcome poverty, as marrying into the host community can provide economic and social benefits. Child marriage is frequently forced onto internally displaced children, especially girls. For IDPs who choose to marry when they are young, becoming independent from their parents may be a motivating factor. Once married, children rarely begin or continue their education.

Additionally, internally displaced children tend to live in poor, crime-ridden districts. They are more likely to be recruited by local gangs or armed groups in these areas. In Colombia, armed groups seek out children because they are able to avoid heavy criminal sentences if caught.

Conflict also negatively impacts education infrastructure, hurting educational opportunities for internally displaced children. Displacement disproportionately affects girls, who face additional challenges. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school in countries experiencing conflict. Gender-based violence and harassment that occurs at school and on the route to and from education facilities keep many girls at home. The abduction and rape that has occurred in at least 18 countries, along with the bombing of girls’ schools, also encourages families to keep their daughters at home rather than sending them to school.

UNICEF Recommendations

UNICEF recommends several tactics to overcome these barriers to education for internally displaced children. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure humanitarian organizations and governments begin to see education as a greater priority for IDPs. Education is commonly seen as secondary to addressing violence. Unfortunately, when conflicts last for years and decades, waiting to invest in education can leave generations of internally displaced children without schooling.

Key recommendations include strengthening education systems, abolishing school fees to reduce financial constraints and adapting curricula to address prejudices and promote diversity and social cohesion.

Case Study: Kenya

A study conducted at a Kenya school in 2013 and 2014 provides valuable insight into the benefits of educating internally displaced children alongside local children. At the school studied, 71 percent of students were internally displaced. However, efforts were made to provide an inclusive education that strengthened community relationships.

The study found that many internally displaced children were initially apprehensive about being accepted by their new school community. This sometimes lasted, but usually dissipated after a few weeks as the children become comfortable with each other. One student, Jey, told an author from the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, “I like this school because pupils like me. I don’t have any enemies all of them help me.”

Furthermore, students at the school developed community-consciousness. Many were aware of social inequalities that existed in Kenya. Internally displaced children recognized the disadvantages they and their families faced and were motivated to complete school to improve their futures.

Overall, more schools like this one in Kenya are needed to help bridge gaps between host communities and IDPs. This will improve opportunities for internally displaced children.

Plan International: Nigeria

In Nigeria, Plan International is creating learning centers to provide education for internally displaced children. These centers are created in areas that lack educational infrastructure and seek to support IDPs.

Patim, one of the teachers at a learning center in Maiduguri, noted that many of the children she teaches have lost their parents and require a great deal of support. The learning centers are doing what they can but often lack adequate resources and staff. However, the work being done is still directly benefiting many children. Patim recognizes that many of her students would be working on the streets if it wasn’t for the learning center. Attending the center helps keep children safe during the day.

Moving Forward

More communities and nations need to adopt UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure the availability of education for internally displaced children. Hopefully, recent attention to this issue will spark significant change in more countries, improving the livelihoods of IDPs around the world.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Tala is Changing the WorldShivani Siroya’s startup, Tala, is changing the world by making a better, more equitable financial system one loan at a time. Billions of people around the world do not have a financial identity, making it impossible for them to advance due to a lack of credit history, but Tala is changing this.

The Financially Anonymous

Only 30 percent of the world’s adult population has a financial identity. The other 70 percent lack a credit history or any way of applying for loans. This severely limits opportunities to financially advance because loans are often necessary for larger investments, like starting a business, purchasing farm equipment or investing in better irrigation systems.

Credit and loans are only accessible with some type of paper trail or financial history if customers are borrowing from traditional banking institutions. It would be too risky to lend money to anyone lacking credit and financial history. Siroya, Tala’s founder and CEO, realized “that there are billions of people around the world who are not ever seen and don’t even have an identity. That felt really wrong.”

How Tala Works

Tala is a smartphone application available to anyone with an Android phone. With permission from the user, the application uses data collected from smartphones to create a digital credit history that determines if the customer is eligible for a loan. It serves the same purpose as traditional credit history to create a unique financial profile for each user. It is currently serving customers in Kenya, Tanzania, the Philippines, Mexico and India with Kenya accounting for the majority of users.

Using nontraditional data, Tala analyzes each of its three billion users using 10,000 unique data points to determine a user’s risk profile and whether they would be a credible borrower. Data points come from information gathered from texts, calls, sales transactions, application usages and personal identifiers that help to create a unique profile for each user. About 85 percent of Tala users receive a loan within 10 minutes of this vetting process. The average Tala loan is $50. Users typically invest these loans in equipment or business licenses, which are important opportunities that are not available to those who cannot access credit.

Tala expects customers to repay the loan within 30 days, which 90 percent of customers do on time. Tala is a loaning service that deals in microloans, ranging from $10 to $500. Since the company’s inception in Santa Monica in 2014, it has granted a total of six million loans worth $300 million and amassed a customer base of 1.3 million. Investors like Revolution Growth, IVP, Data Collective, Lowercase Capital, Ribbit Capital and Female Founders Fund with around 215 employees around the world fund Tala.

How Microloans Change Lives

Tala is a microfinancing company, using small loans to make big changes. Siroya herself has seen how these small funds make disproportionate improvements in people’s lives. Jennifer in Nairobi, a 65-year old food-service entrepreneur, needed credit to invest in a food stall and start her business. However, she had no credit history and banks refused to invest in her business aspirations. Her son heard of Tala and introduced her to the smartphone app. After answering eight to 10 questions, Tala approved her for a loan.

Over the last two years, Jennifer has taken out 30 loans and subsequently opened three food stalls. Additionally, she now has a formal credit history and can borrow money from formal bank institutions. In fact, Jennifer has used this opportunity to take out a small business loan from a bank and begin opening her own restaurant.

There are more people like Jennifer who lack opportunity but with help from Tala, they are beginning to see changes. By developing a real relationship with their customers, Tala is changing the world by updating the face of microfinancing and the very notion of credit history. Now it is possible to identify those who banking institutions ignored and give them a fair chance at empowering themselves.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Pixabay

The International Development Association
The International Development Association (IDA) is one of five institutions that work together to form the World Bank. The IDA’s main goal is to reduce global poverty by working alongside the world’s poorest countries. To accomplish this goal, the IDA issues grants and loans to development programs in impoverished countries. These development programs try to spur economic growth and improve living standards. Currently, the IDA involves itself in a plethora of projects around the world. In the fiscal year 2018, the IDA began 206 new operations.

How the IDA Works

The IDA has managed to raise $369 billion since 1960 to aid underdeveloped regions and it invested all of the money into various development projects. The IDA was able to accomplish this through communication with partner countries and contributions from wealthier nations.

Donor governments meet with receiving countries to discuss funding and a repayment plan and ensure that the development project is feasible and will be successful. The IDA releases reports from these meetings, which publicly allows anyone to learn about the organization’s future projects. The IDA also frequently consults think tanks and civil society organizations to receive feedback on their work. On top of all of this, the IDA reviews a country’s economy and recent history to determine whether it is eligible for a development project. After completing each of these steps, the IDA can determine how to allocate resources appropriately and effectively.

The International Development Association’s Work in Action

The International Development Association continues to change the lives of millions every year. In 2019, farmers in Ethiopia reaped the benefits of the Second Agricultural Growth Project (AGPII). The AGPII aims to improve agricultural efficiency and productivity in Ethiopia by teaching farmers about agriculture, improving irrigation systems and providing fertilizer. The AGPII also helps farmers access new markets which help raise their incomes. Thanks to the AGPII, one farmer increased her potato production by 400 percent and another was successful enough that they could start a family.

Improvements like the ones in Ethiopia are the norm for IDA projects and not rare. For example, in Madagascar, the IDA funded a program titled the productive cash-for-work program (ACTP) in 2015. Since then, many economically vulnerable communities have been able to improve their lives and take advantage of new economic opportunities. The ACTP provides money and training to impoverished people in exchange for work. The program has helped 31,250 households so far and has aided in the creation of small businesses.

IDA funding has had similar effects in other countries. From 2013-2018 new roads in Afghanistan helped create over two million new jobs. In the Gambia, an agricultural project doubled rice yields between 2014 and 2018. Meanwhile, in Kenya, three million people benefited from infrastructure improvements. Overall, between the fiscal year 2011 and 2018, IDA projects led to the building and repairing of more than 140,000 kilometers of roads, the gaining of clean water access for 86 million people and the immunization of 274 million children.

The International Development Association is crucial to global poverty reduction. The IDA has created a system to ensure that the world’s poorest countries receive an appropriate amount of funding and support for future social and economic development. The results speak for themselves as the IDA has changed many people’s lives for the better.

– Nick Umlauf
Photo: Flickr

KOKO Networks' Launch in KenyaThe KOKO Networks’ launch in Kenya will provide multi-purpose consumer access machines to areas in need. KOKO believes that this technology will allow consumers safe access to clean fuel. Additionally, it will offer them a connection to e-commerce and video content all within a short distance from their homes. KOKO Fuel has partnered with Vivo Energy Kenya, the local Shell-branded fuel owner and distributor, in order to decrease time and money in supplying fuel.

KOKO is a tech company that distributes its innovations throughout East Africa and India. Consumers can get “KOKOpoints” to be used at local stores for goods and services offered by KOKO. In Kenya, KOKO will provide services such as a fuel ATM, an e-commerce kiosk and an in-store digital media experience.

KOKO Fuel

This innovation offers safe and affordable bioethanol cooking fuel. Not only does the fuel benefit the environment but it also gives isolated communities a more reliable food-cooking source. The cooking fuel market in Africa is worth over $20 billion. However, it is still dominated by dirty and unsafe fuels like charcoal and kerosene. KOKO’s new technology could allow the bioethanol fuel industry to grow rapidly. Furthermore, it can compete with the more prominent dirty fuels.

The government in Kenya has already set a goal of 100% clean cooking fuel in Kenyan households because of both massive deforestation and indoor air pollution caused by other fuels. Deforestation in Kenya causes changes in rainfall and harmfully impacts the agriculture industry, one of the most important industries in the country. Additionally, indoor air pollution is responsible for more than 21,000 deaths a year with most victims under the age of five. With KOKO Networks’ launch in Kenya, these negative consequences can be significantly reduced.

Improving Living Conditions in Kenya

Greg Murray, KOKO CEO and co-founder, has previously commented that Kenyans are notable for embracing technological innovations and advancements that can greatly improve their living conditions. Those who decide to use the KOKO networks fuel will use KOKOpoints to fill their smart canisters at the KOKO machines.

After they fill the canisters, the fuel can be used at home with the KOKO cooker. The cooker is an affordable, high-power ethanol stove with two burners that produce less pollution. A partnership with an astounding 700 shops is assisting in KOKO Networks’ launch in Kenya in order to serve a wide range of people.

Impact in Kenya

If bioethanol fuel can replace charcoal, the forests and rain supply that support agricultural productivity can be restored and protected. Additionally, the production of the fuel takes place in Kenya through the sugar industry. As a result, local production would contribute to employment and economic growth.

Overall, KOKO Network’s launch in Kenya hopes to have a huge impact on both Kenya’s economy and environment. If the project is successful here, it is likely they will expand the infrastructure into other areas. This technology could also help Kenya in reaching the Paris 2030 carbon emissions reductions target by more than 10 percent with minimal government investment and risk.

– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

understanding industrialization
The systemic ills of many African countries find their roots in the Scramble for Africa, the period between the 1880s and World War I where European countries claimed African territories for themselves. Countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda found themselves under the control of foreign powers. The long, historical fight against poverty in Africa starts by understanding failed industrialization and the decades of colonial rule by rich and powerful European countries that exploited Africa’s resources, labor and infrastructure.

Colonialism, Influence and Poverty

After the tumultuous first half of the 20th century, western powers tried to right the wrongs of colonization by industrializing newly independent African countries. Import substitution industrialization (ISI), a common and popular form of industrialization, involves manufacturing goods that other industrialized countries import usually. This means that countries enact policies to shut out outside competitors and give local industries, such as agriculture and power, larger market shares of the domestic economy. ISI also tries to create a more nationalistic and powerful domestic economy by encouraging local industries with subsidies, while discouraging outside influence with tariffs.

Unforeseen Consequences of ISI

While the theories behind ISI presented simple fixes to complex issues, African countries that attempted ISI now find themselves behind the curve in the global economy. Kenya’s GDP (adjusted for purchasing power parity) sits at $163.7 billion making it the 74th poorest country in the world. Kenya also still heavily relies on agriculture with 34.5 percent of the economy dedicated to agriculture as of 2017. Compared to China, which industrialized in the same time frame, Kenya has a low GDP and a high percentage of the economy in agriculture. China has the largest economy in the world with a GDP of 23.21 trillion (adjusted for purchasing power parity) and agriculture makes up only 7.9 percent of its economy.

Kenya’s failure shows that ISI could not provide the solution the country needed. ISI may strengthen a domestic economy, but it weakens the overall product. Countries using ISI do not expose themselves to international competition, so their products may not be as good as international products. This allows other countries creating superior, cheaper products to outperform domestic products. The inability to compete globally stifles domestic markets and creates a system of poverty. When the economy fails to produce meaningful success, the impoverished become worse off. The fact that Kenya cut off global markets limited its trade partners and opportunities for innovation.

Overcoming Industrialization

Kenya’s road to recovery begins with opening its economy to the world. Agra, an NGO dedicated to supporting African agriculture, starts the process of economic revitalization with fixes to Kenyan agricultural policy and practice. Agra’s main goal is to create initiatives that drive productivity and benefit small farmers’ incomes, food security and nutrition. Agra plans to support a more streamlined and efficient marketplace for agricultural leaders to conduct business. With an easily accessible market, farmers can begin to engage with the global market in a more effective way.

Agra also works toward making agriculture a more inclusive industry by helping more young people and women work in agriculture. Agra believes that more participation from women and youth will increase economic independence among rural farmers and the market will become a stronger base for further developing the Kenyan economy.

One must undergo the process of understanding failed industrialization and how it contributed to poverty in Africa in order to fix those wrongs and ensure the success of the continent’s countries. The old economic industrialization theory of ISI broke many African countries, but with a greater understanding of the economy comes a more focused effort to right the wrongs of the past. By starting small and building up businesses from the roots of the Kenyan economy, NGOs like Agra play a crucial role in getting not only Kenya’s economy back on the right track, but also that of Africa as a whole.

– Spencer Julian
Photo: Wikimedia Commons