Information and stories about Africa.

Jaguza FarmSub-Saharan Africa is home to 19 of the world’s 25 most impoverished countries. Out of the 626 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, 61% have been “classified as agricultural” by the Food and Agriculture Organization. Agriculture made up 13% of the region’s GDP in 1997 and is the main source of income for many impoverished families. Hence, the growth of agriculture could significantly support poverty reduction and economic development in the region. However, despite thousands of families’ dependence on livestock, many people in sub-Saharan Africa face specific challenges. This includes a lack of information on how to treat common livestock diseases, insufficient inventory tools and inadequate access to veterinary services and medicines to enhance productivity.

What is Jaguza Farm?

Jaguza Farm is an agriculture-tech company bridging the gap in multiple countries. It aims to deliver services and solutions to small farmers who lack the information needed to improve their productivity. With help, these farmers can enhance their agricultural processes and techniques to rise out of poverty. Hoping to help local farmers allocate their resources more efficiently and become more productive, Ronald Katamba and Christine Kihunde Kiiza co-founded Jaguza Tech Uganda Ltd. and created the Jaguza Livestock App. The Jaguza Farm monitoring system provides data-driven solutions by allowing farmers to track and monitor their livestock. At the same time, farmers receive animal health data, possible outbreak alerts and educational content on agricultural techniques.

How Does Jaguza Innovate?

By combining data science, expert agricultural knowledge and machine learning, Jaguza helps customers manage their herds and finances and keeps track of their inventory on one accessible and easy-to-use app. Aware that many farmers and users are located in rural areas and do not have access to the internet, Jaguza allows users to use “USSD Code and SMS” platforms to access Jaguza services. Hence, services can be accessed and used offline or online to remove barriers of accessibility that commonly plague rural farmers.

The Jaguza app meets its goals in various ways. After tagging a cow’s ear with a smart monitoring device that is noninvasive and solar-powered, the system gives recommendations on how to increase milk yields, improve reproduction rates and detect illnesses. Developing more strategies, Jaguza also points to drone technology as a way to work in conjunction with data-tracking and herd-managing strategies. In addition to tracking livestock and preventing livestock diseases, Jaguaza Farm allows users to buy livestock and equipment through its app, learn about the local livestock market and access affordable vets.

Utilizing Farm Software

Jaguza Farm allows more than 18,000 users to download its free software onto any smartphone or device. Then, users can import and manage livestock excel spreadsheets and project birth and production rates. Moreover, possibilities include the ability to set up and monitor alerts and access satellite maps to view weather forecasts.

The Jaguza Farm Software allows African farmers to track animal databases through ear tag and sensor numbers. This technology allows farmers to keep health records to plan for long-term and short-term decisions instantly on the navigatable Jaguza cloud server. Ultimately, Jaguza software allows thousands of farmers the chance to better allocate their resources and increase their revenues.

Recognizing Impact and Potential

Currently impacting farmers in 13 different countries, Jaguza has helped its clients see an increase of 35% in their livestock production. Helping accelerate e-agriculture entrepreneurship for growth and job creation in Africa, Jaguza won the 2019 Pitch AgriHack competition, which recognizes young entrepreneurs who work to create a more sustainable economy in the region. The United Nations in Uganda also selected Jaguza Farm as the most innovative startup in 2014. The organization’s efforts were also recognized by IST Africa, the Ashoka Organization and Ikea Social Entrepreneurship.

Providing farmers with innovative and accessible tools improves conditions for countless people. As Jaguza Farm continues to work on behalf of African farmers, a measurable impact in the region becomes more recognizable as farmers are able to rise out of poverty.

Carolina Cadena
Photo: Flickr

cholera in nigeriaBetween January and August 2021, Nigeria experienced a surge in cholera cases with more than 31,000 “suspected cases,” 311 confirmed reports and more than 800 deaths. With close to 200,000 COVID-19 cases, a surge of cholera during the pandemic has heightened public health concerns in Nigeria. As such, addressing cholera in Nigeria is currently a top priority for the country.

What is Cholera?

According to the World Health Organization, “cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.” Despite being both preventable and treatable, cholera is very dangerous as it can kill an individual within hours without intervention. While mild cases are easily treatable with “oral rehydration solution,” more severe cases necessitate “rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.” These are resources that many impoverished developing countries simply cannot afford.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number “of people who die from reported cholera remains higher in Africa than elsewhere.” The WHO emphasizes that the “provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to prevent and control the transmission of cholera.” The WHO also recommends oral cholera vaccines in areas where cholera is endemic.

The Nigerian Government’s Efforts

The Nigerian government continues to implement policies to control the spread of cholera. Promoting basic sanitation, improving hygiene practices and providing clean water are ways the government does this. In an attempt to mitigate the spread of cholera in Nigeria, the government has also supplied solar-powered boreholes with the help of the International Organization of Migration (IOM). As of 2019, the IOM has maintained 58 of these boreholes in Borno state and created 11 new boreholes. The IOM also “rehabilitated 10 and connected them to solar power.”

An important way to stop the spread of cholera is through improving the vaccination system in Nigeria. After an outbreak occurred in 2017, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency instated cholera vaccination programs. The next step will be to increase the supply of vaccines.

The MSF’s Role in Eradicating Cholera

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, is an independent global organization working to prevent cholera in Nigeria, among other missions. Its main focus is to provide medical aid in areas where it is most needed. Beginning in the 1980s, the MSF has responded to cholera epidemics across the world. Since then, the organization has worked to come up with new and more effective ways to eradicate cholera.

The MSF’s efforts to address cholera include supplying cholera kits, investigating outbreaks, establishing cholera treatment facilities, community education, improving access to water and sanitation and vaccinations, among other efforts. Cholera kits include “rehydration salts, antibiotics and IVs, along with buckets, boots, chlorine and plastic sheeting.” Sanitation improvements allow MSF to ensure the availability of clean water to citizens of Nigeria. Additionally, soap and clean water are provided for at-home use.

Promoting health is another major goal of the organization. At the time of an outbreak, those who work in the health field visit churches, schools and homes to help educate people on measures they can take to prevent the spread of cholera. Vaccinations are also employed to address Nigeria’s cholera outbreak. Providing vaccines is difficult, despite their ease of administration. Nonetheless, the MSF is working on vaccine campaigns. With patients receiving the proper care they need at the time they need it, the MSF states that deaths can potentially decrease from as high as 50% to as low as 2%.

The MSF’s Achievements

In 2019, the MSF supplied more than 231,000 cholera vaccine doses to endemic nations across the world. With the work of the MSF and increased government initiatives, it is possible to significantly reduce cholera in Nigeria.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

The Samburu ProjectThe Samburu are indigenous peoples located in Kenya and East Africa. The Samburu tribe is historically nomadic, traveling throughout the region to provide for its members. With close relations to the Maasai tribe, the Samburu tribe shares a similar language, both derived from the mother language Maa. The Samburu Project aims to provide clean water access to the Samburu people.

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights”

Kristen Kosinski founded The Samburu Project after a trip to Kenya in 2005. While meeting with female leaders in the region, Kosinski met Mariama Lekwale, known as “Mama Mussa,” a remarkable women’s rights activist and member of the Samburu tribe. Mama Mussa introduced Kosinski to many Samburu women, all of whom brought up the issue of water during shared conversations. Kosinski learned that water was the focal point of many of these women’s lives. It was the women’s responsibility to procure drinking water for the family, an extremely complicated task.

Safe drinking water was severely lacking in the region, with few available wells. The existing hand-dug wells faced contamination from waste products. Waterborne disease was rampant, causing illness and death across the region. As it is the women’s job to search for water, parents often pull daughters out of school to help with this arduous task, depriving young girls of their education. According to Water.org, globally, women and children “spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water.” This time could go toward more productive activities such as education and paid employment.

Impact in Numbers

Seeing how a lack of access to water disproportionately affects girls and women, Kosinski was inspired to work together with Mama Mussa to drill four new wells in the region before the year 2007. In 2007, Mama Mussa, unfortunately, passed away, however, her son Lucas Lekwale took over this incredible mission. Together, Lekwale and Kosinski committed to drilling an additional 75 wells in the region before the close of 2015. Since its start in 2005, The Samburu Project has built 126 wells in the region, providing more than 100,000 Kenyans with clean and safe drinking water. Over time, The Samburu Project gained many well-known partners such as Whole Foods, OPI, Chobani, Wells Fargo Advisors, Rotary International, Lyft and Forever 21, to name just a few.

The Far-reaching Impacts of Access to Water

According to the United Nations, water forms “the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself.” Furthermore, water is essential for eliminating diseases and “improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations.” As such, The Samburu Project’s mission is an important one.

The Samburu Project’s mission is “to provide access to clean water and continue to support well communities with initiatives that promote health, education, women’s empowerment and general well-being.” Safe water has also played a significant part in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the area. Reducing contamination and increasing access to hygiene practices like handwashing through “tippy tap” handwashing stations has dramatically reduced potential instances of infection and transmission in the region.

Eliminating the search for water gives women time to earn an income, lifting many out of poverty. It also gives young Kenyan girls time to focus on their education, with more than double the number of girls enrolled in school as a result of acquiring access to clean water. With accessible clean drinking water, health, hygiene and wellness improve and young girls can attend school instead of shouldering the burden of collecting water with their mothers. Furthermore, women can focus their energy on activities that empower them to rise out of poverty.

The Samburu Project has done incredible work in Kenya, ensuring that the fundamental right to water is upheld for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

Michelle M. Schwab
Photo: Flickr

Education in KenyaThe World Bank reported in 2015 that 36.8% of people in Kenya lived below the international poverty line, set at $1.90 per day. Estimates from April 2020 predicted that this level would continue to follow a slow downward trend to approximately 33.1% in 2020 and 32.4% in 2021. These recent statistics tend to vary across sources, however. For example, Statista reports that in 2020, 27.3% of Kenyans lived in poverty. Ultimately, sources seem to broadly agree that more than a quarter of the population in Kenya lives under the international poverty line. However, poverty rates could reduce by increasing opportunities for education in Kenya. The potential of education in Kenya reflects in the country’s successes over the years.

Poverty Reduction Progress in Kenya

Though the number of Kenyan citizens in poverty is undoubtedly high, Kenya has made great progress in reducing poverty in the last 15 years. In 2005, the World Bank found 46.8% of people living in poverty. This means that according to the World Bank statistics, poverty in Kenya has decreased by more than 10% in slightly more than 15 years. However, there is still a significant need for further poverty reduction progress in Kenya.

Eliminating poverty is crucial for a number of reasons as poverty has an irrefutable impact on other areas of life. One of these impacted areas is education. Global Citizen argues that poverty is the greatest barrier to education for children. Families living on less than $1.90 a day often cannot afford to send their children to school, whether that be due to high attendance fees, the cost of school materials or the need for the child to contribute to the family farm or business. Hence, addressing education is intertwined with addressing poverty in countries such as Kenya.

Educational Success: Free Primary School

Located in East Africa, Kenya is part of a region where harsh climate, violence and general instability lead to high poverty rates and limited access to education. Yet, in the education spectrum, the country has made great progress in recent years, showing the overall potential of education in Kenya. One successful initiative began in 2003, when the Kenyan government rolled out the Free Primary Education (FPE) program, waiving all primary school fees for students. As a result, Olympic Primary School in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi reported that enrollment nearly tripled. This growth in attendance seems to have occurred nationwide as UNICEF reports that before the COVID-19 pandemic closed many schools in early 2020, primary school enrollment in Kenya stood at 99%.

World Bank statistics show Kenya’s successes in improving education through FPE and other programs, with the most recent data from 2018 showing a literacy rate of almost 82% for people older than 15. This is up significantly from 72.16% in 2007 and 78.73% in 2014. Yet, despite these improvements in literacy and primary school enrollment rates, Kenya still struggles to provide high-quality education and see children through to secondary school. Though nearly all children in Kenya attend primary school at some point, many of them drop out to supplement the family income. In 2017, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center reported a 27% dropout rate in primary school.

Even if students complete primary school, very few of them go on to any further education. Statista reports that in 2019, 10.1 million children attended primary school in Kenya. However, only 3.26 million children enrolled in secondary school the same year and only 509,000 Kenyan students attended college in 2019. More recent data is not available due to widespread school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Potential of Education in Kenya

Getting students into primary schools was the first step to improving education in Kenya. But, while the most recent World Bank data states that, in 2018, the Kenyan government spent 5.3% of the country’s GDP on education, schools are still short on resources and teachers. In some classrooms, the teacher-to-student ratio exceeds 1:100, leaving teachers overworked and overwhelmed. The government is working hard to increase the percentage of students who transition to secondary school but requires more resources to employ enough teachers and support high-quality education for students.

Overall, education in Kenya has seen a vast improvement in the number of students attending primary school in the last 20 years as a result of FPE and other work. Now, Kenya must look to improve in other areas of education in order to fully empower students with the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.

– Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

Resource rushes impact global povertyIn June 2021, impoverished South Africans in the province of KwaZulu-Natal flocked to the town of KwaHlathi after reports of diamonds in the area, the most modern example of a resource rush. Many people hoped this could be their key out of poverty in a country with a 32.6% unemployment rate and a stagnating GDP per capita. Unfortunately, the gems were actually quartz, a common crystal found across the globe, dashing the hopes of these amateur miners. In the developed world, the resource rushes once common in the 19th century have now largely faded away, replaced by institutionalized mining companies. However, the developing world still struggles with informal mining and its environmental, economic and political consequences. Because of this, resource rushes impact global poverty both directly and indirectly.

What is a Resource Rush?

Resource rushes occur when a natural resource is discovered and many people move to participate in its extraction. In the 19th and 20th centuries, resource rushes for gold and diamonds led to the colonization and settlement of many parts of South Africa, Australia and the Western United States. Modern-day resource rushes do not drive the same levels of migration. However, they still carry large impacts on the economies of developing countries.

Why is it Important?

In the 21st century, resource rushes create both opportunities and conflicts. Currently, more than 15 million small-scale “artisanal” miners operate in resource-rich areas, many times informally. Nearly 100 million people rely on the income that artisanal mining brings. Artisanal miners usually have to sell their goods below market price as there is usually only one large local buyer. While an important source of income, the extraction process is largely inefficient due to the small scale of these artisanal mining operations. This creates an opportunity to develop single or multi-person mining operations by increasing the efficiency of artisanal miners and connecting them to global markets.

On the other hand, resource discoveries commonly drive violent conflicts and human rights abuses. Large resource discoveries, combined with access to arms from previous conflicts, have driven wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone. Many times, the armed groups extracting these resources use them to fund their operations, drawing the label of “conflict minerals.”

Resource rushes also lead to migration. Mineral deposits, largely in rural or environmentally preserved areas, attract large numbers of settlers who heighten the human impact on these areas. These impacts create environmental strain, leading to deforestation, lower standards of temporary informal housing and chemical pollution.

Building a Better Mining Industry

Artisanal and small-scale mining ventures offer many opportunities for growth around the world. While problems of health hazards and political conflicts exist, many actions by national, international and NGO stakeholders are working to overcome these challenges.

One project involving the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) partnered with the Peruvian government to improve the environmental impacts and working conditions of small-scale mining. This project utilized technical assistance, working with national governments to create system-wide change. This resulted in the implementation of mercury-reducing technologies in Peruvian mines. Other initiatives in the continent have sought to organize small-scale mines to sell their products on the international market, avoiding price-setting middlemen.

Another project in Central Africa by PACT, an NGO that focuses on mining issues, works to create a verification system so that consumers can choose responsibly sourced raw materials. This verification system includes 54,836 miners spread across 727 mines with 672 government officials tasked with implementing the system. By verifying raw materials and helping consumers gain access to raw material markets, PACT has made a large impact on raw material extraction in Central Africa.

These projects aim to reduce the impacts of informal mining at the local level, but national governments of importing countries can also implement policies toward the same goal. In 2012, the U.S. launched the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Mineral Trade, a multi-sector task force aimed at implementing measures to stop imports of conflict minerals.

Looking to the Future

Resource rushes impact global poverty by fueling conflicts, migration and creating substandard mining industries that further contribute to deforestation and various forms of pollution. However, through projects such as PACT’s, organizations are working to improve the conditions of small-scale ventures so that workers and their dependents can sell their products on the international market. In this way, impoverished people have the opportunity to improve their lives and rise out of poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Keep a Child AliveMulti-award-winning R&B singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, born Alicia Augello Cook, has been a household name since her breakout single “Fallin” in 2001. However, in addition to selling  42 million copies across her seven albums, she also co-founded the Keep a Child Alive (KCA) charity in 2003.

Keep a Child Alive (KCA)

Keys and Keep a Child Alive co-founder and HIV/AIDS activist Leigh Blake met when Blake and U2’s Bono were collaborating on the 2001 revamping of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 single “What’s Going On” as an AIDS awareness charity effort. Blake insisted on bringing Keys into the star-studded affair because of Keys’ newcomer success in the music industry. Blake and Keys remained in touch. When Keys stated her upcoming tour would be making a stop in South Africa, Blake took the opportunity to invite Keys to see the effect of AIDS there. Speaking about the trip, Blake describes visiting clinics in South Africa where women would come to Keys and plead for assistance in securing antiretroviral drugs so that they could live to look after their children.

KCA’s Mission and Vision

KCA aims to properly address and remedy the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa by focusing on treating people, not merely the disease. This essentially means recognizing and addressing the primary causes and underlying conditions driving the epidemic and virus. KCA’s website notes, “The trajectory of HIV and AIDS is closely linked to poverty.” According to the International Labor Organization, the connection between HIV/AIDS and poverty is reflected not only in the inverse relationship between higher infection rates and a reduced number of available workers but also in the effect the virus has on generations long term.

The Broader Impacts of HIV/AIDS

Living in an HIV-affected household increases the likelihood of the disruption of a child’s education in many ways, such as the cost of school becoming untenable due to reduced income in the household and the affected child then being required to work. However, KCA provides education and fosters development for young people and women to earn a living safely since poverty fosters unskilled labor and risky professions, such as sex work, especially among women and children. Additionally, migrant labor and travel for temporary jobs increase the risk of contracting the virus. As it so often does, an unrelenting cycle emerges. With more people contracting HIV/AIDS without appropriate medical treatment, fewer people are able to work and contribute to the economy.

KCA has several locations in Africa. Keep a Child Alive, in partnership with Women’s Equity in Access to Care and Treatment (WE-ACTx), provides medical care to women and children forced to relocate, some of whom contracted HIV/AIDS as a result of sexual assaults occurring during brutal attacks in war-ridden areas. With the evolution of WE-ACTx came the inclusion of mental health and psychosocial services. Keep a Child Alive also partners with the Family Care Clinic, providing pediatric HIV services in Kenya and Alive Medical Services in one of the most economically disadvantaged and heavily populated areas of Uganda, which offers “a beacon of hope: free, comprehensive HIV treatment.” 

Fundraising and Support

Keep a Child Alive’s annual fundraiser in New York is called the Black Ball. The gala, a gathering of various artists, celebrities and philanthropists, has included names such as David Bowie, Annie Lennox, Bono, Lupita Nyong’o, Patti Smith, Clive Davis, Padma Lakshmi, Russell Simmons and Adele since its 2004 inception. The Black Ball raised $2.4 million in 2018 alone.

While the Black Ball is its most prominent charity event, KCA also encourages citizens to join in the fight by creating fundraisers as well as showing support by running marathons. KCA knows this is not an easy ask, but utilizing marathons as fundraising increases impact and engagement across the globe.

Along with its mission to support those around the world afflicted and affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, KCA has stepped onto the frontlines during the COVID-19 crisis. In the lingering wake of the pandemic, the charity has delivered emergency relief to those in need by providing more than one million pounds of food supplies to more than 100,000 people across several countries, principally children and youth younger than 16.

The collective efforts of Keep a Child Alive bring hope to those with HIV/AIDS in impoverished regions, staying true to its vision of “helping children and young people reach their potential, and live healthier, happier lives.”

– Tiffany Pate
Photo: Flickr

USAID Assistance to SudanUnited States Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance to Sudan offers hope to alleviate poverty in the struggling country. Sudan has a population of more than 44 million people, but as of August 2021, approximately 13.4 million Sudanese people require humanitarian aid. Citizens are grappling with conflict, food insecurity, economic crisis and the impact of drought and flooding. The onset of COVID-19 has only exacerbated issues of poverty in the country. Even though there were developmental gains in the past decade, the African country of Sudan is still dealing with widespread poverty, conflict and violence. However, with USAID assistance to Sudan, the country has the potential to make significant strides in reducing poverty.

The Economy of Sudan

The secession of South Sudan in 2011 is a leading cause of many of Sudan’s modern economic struggles. When South Sudan seceded, the most significant economic loss to Sudan was oil revenue. Oil contributed to more than 50% of the Sudanese government’s income and “95% of its exports.” Without oil revenue, the country experienced a lack of economic growth and “consumer price inflation” as well as soaring fuel prices. However, Sudan came to an agreement with South Sudan “to lower oil transit fees” in 2016 in order to address some of these issues.

While oil is still Sudan’s main economic sector, about 78% of the population work in the agricultural sector. However, the agricultural industry in Sudan is highly rain-dependent and very sensitive to “changing weather patterns” that lead to drought and flooding. This volatility can hurt the incomes of the many people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture.

The State of Poverty in Sudan

Sudan faces significant challenges regarding poverty. Sudan has “one of the highest rates of stunting in the region,” with global acute malnutrition impacting about one million children in the country. In addition, roughly 83% of the citizens live in rural areas and 80% of the population survives on less than $1 a day. Furthermore, more than a third of the country experiences food insecurity. The culmination of these factors means, on the Human Development Index, Sudan ranks 170th out of 189 countries. This ranking puts Sudan in the “low human development category,” according to the 2019 Human Development Index.

USAID Assistance to Sudan

“The United States has been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan for more than a quarter-century.” USAID assistance to Sudan aims to reduce poverty and provide immediate humanitarian relief. In June 2020, USAID gave Sudan roughly $356 million “to support the democratic transition in the Republic of Sudan following a peaceful revolution in 2019.” Of this funding, $20 million went toward the Sudan Family-Support Program, “a safety net administered by the World Food Programme” to assist Sudanese people “through a difficult period of economic reform needed to end unsustainable state subsidies on wheat and oil.” In addition, some of the funding went toward strengthening the COVID-19 response in Sudan.

More recently, on August 3, 2021, USAID Administrator Samantha Power proclaimed that the agency will provide more than $56 million worth of humanitarian aid to Sudan. The aid looks to increase healthcare resiliency by assisting with “emergency health care,” medical resources and the training of healthcare personnel. Furthermore, the funding will support victims “of gender-based violence by improving case management and training personnel on survivor-centered approaches.” The funding will also increase resources with regard to water and sanitation. Through this assistance, USAID strives to help approximately 13.4 million Sudanese who need humanitarian aid.

Looking Ahead

With the addition of this recent aid, the U.S. asserts its position as the most significant donor to Sudan, providing nearly $377 million worth of aid since the beginning of 2021. U.S aid to Sudan provides support for millions of Sudanese people who deal with food insecurity, lack of clean water and conflict, among other issues. With U.S. aid, Sudan can make strides in the fight against poverty.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in ZimbabweChild Marriage in Zimbabwe has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without schools functioning in person, children have less protection and experience more human rights violations such as child marriage and pregnancy.

Child marriage in Zimbabwe greatly predates the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that efforts to eliminate the practice will require a wide range of economic and cultural mitigation tactics rather than focusing solely on the eradication of the coronavirus.

Current Events

The topic of child marriage in Zimbabwe caught international attention recently when 14-year-old Memory Machaya died during childbirth. The practice is common in Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church and has led to an online petition entitled “justice for Memory Machaya” garnering nearly 60,000 signatures.

“Female persons are not seen as fully human, with individual rights, choice, right to control our own bodies,” said Zimbabwean feminist activist Everjoice Win in a tweet on August 6, 2021 “The enemy is patriarchy, and the attendant systems within the state and religious institutions and wider society, which do not see us as humans.”

Introduction to Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

Almost one in three Zimbabwean women are married by the time they turn 18. The practice most often occurs in the poorer regions of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West regions, where 50% and 42% of girls, respectively, marry as children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Despite the fact that the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court deemed the practice of child marriage as unconstitutional in January 2016, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, child marriage in Zimbabwe persists.

What Drives Child Marriage?

The risks for child marriage in Zimbabwe have the potential to exist domestically but require unequivocal participation from healthcare providers. In a 2016-2020 healthcare plan, The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Strategy allowed 16-year-olds to receive contraception without parental consent. However, providers remain reluctant and child services are scarce.

Lack of education also drives child marriage in Zimbabwe. The same 2014 survey found that “the average age at marriage is 17.2 years for girls with no education and 23.6 for girls with more than a secondary education.” Nearly half of 15- to 19-year-olds without a secondary education began having children compared to only one in five girls the same age who completed their secondary education.

Potential Solutions

UNICEF published a list of strategies that it plans to implement throughout Western and Central Africa to reduce child marriage. The organization cites the growing child population in Africa behind the urgency in their efforts.

The following practices will help UNICEF reduce child marriage in the year 2021:

  1. Enable At-Risk Girls to Stay in School Through Secondary Education: UNICEF sees education as an opportunity for at-risk girls to develop vital life skills to make their own life choices and stand up for their rights. As this article previously mentioned, the rate at which girls marry depends on the presence or lack of secondary education.
  2. Fuel Positive Opinions Regarding the Investment in Girls: Through community discussion, the opinions of whether to invest and value the lives of girls could help in promoting and implementing practices that limit or eliminate child marriage.
  3. Provide Adequate and Affordable Health and Education of High Quality: Not only is the presence of education and health care important, but the quality is as well. Without providing affordable and effective health care and education systems, girls are at a greater risk of falling into the cycle of child marriage.
  4. Promote Laws to Match “International Standards” and Ensure the Implementation of the Measures: An effective strategy could be to identify countries or regions with an anti-child-marriage framework and incorporate the successes of those systems in the context of Western and Central Africa.
  5. Partner with Governments to Monitor Progress and Data: By utilizing the services of surveillance and relevant technologies of other countries, Western and Central African nations can adequately track progress to ensure that they are meeting set goals.

While the practice of child marriage in Zimbabwe has deep roots, the international community has taken notice and has a plan to reduce its prevalence. With increased empowerment and investment in young Zimbabwean girls, child marriage will soon enough become much less commonplace and eventually, experience eradication.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine HesitancyAfrican governments have struggled to vaccinate their populations, which has become more imperative with recent surges of COVID-19 in the continent and more variants arising as time passes by. As of September 2021, less than 4% of Africa’s population is completely vaccinated. This strongly contrasts the rate of the United States, equating to about 54% and at least 20% of populations on every other continent. There are two main factors contributing to Africa’s extremely low vaccination rate: vaccine hesitancy and inadequate supply.

Inadequate Supply

Low-income countries around the world have struggled to obtain a sufficient supply of the COVID-19 vaccine while wealthy countries acquired much of what was available. This lack of vaccines is apparent in Africa, home to some of the most impoverished countries in the world. Wealthy countries obtained COVID-19 vaccines because they “cut deals directly with vaccine-makers, securing a disproportionately large share of early supply and undermining a fledgling COVAX.”

In contrast to the actions of wealthy countries, COVAX wanted to distribute the vaccine supply to all countries engaged in the initiative. Countries in Africa are especially dependent on COVAX as most African governments cannot afford to buy vaccines. For example, Burundi, with “the highest poverty rate in Africa at 80%” needs aid from COVAX to obtain various vaccines. These countries rely on Gavi, the global Vaccine Alliance behind COVAX to obtain vaccines not only for COVID-19 but for various other illnesses as well. So far, COVAX has delivered more than 31 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to countries in Africa and plans to supply 520 million doses by the end of 2021. While Africa is receiving more vaccines through COVAX, vaccine hesitancy in Africa presents another barrier to vaccination.

Vaccine Hesitancy

The ONE Campaign, UNICEF and the African Union have partnered to create a TikTok initiative to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Africa by addressing concerns and misinformation about the vaccine. During a COVID-19 surge in May 2021 in Africa, “a survey conducted by Geopoll” indicated that a mere 48% of people in Africa would take the vaccine if it was accessible. This statistic decreased from 62% in November 2020, which “further illustrates the impact of continued negative information about the vaccine.”

The TikTok campaign helps correct social media misinformation about COVID-19, addresses people’s concerns and promotes the vaccine under the hashtag #MythOrVax. The campaign will have two phases. The first phase involves a public quiz on TikTok that tests users’ preexisting knowledge of COVID-19 and the vaccine. The second phase of the campaign starts on September 4, 2021, involves the organizations bringing African celebrities and health experts to discuss people’s concerns about the vaccine and the importance of getting the vaccine. While the slow vaccine rollout in Africa is a result of limited supply due to wealthy countries obtaining masses of vaccines, there is still low vaccine confidence in Africa, which the campaign aims to resolve.

Looking Ahead

The vaccine rollout in Africa is lagging but major international organizations and governments are committing to securing more vaccines for people in Africa in the coming months heading into next year. However, vaccine confidence must grow in order for Africa’s vaccination rate to improve, which should ultimately help to reduce the growing number of infections on the continent. With the TikTok campaign to reduce vaccine hesitancy in Africa, Africa can successfully improve its low vaccination rate.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr

;The Potential of Africa
Throughout its history, Africa has faced innumerable challenges. War and conflict have taken a massive toll on the people who call Africa home, and instability is often the norm. Most recently, the rise of Islamic terrorist groups has contributed to growing unrest and instability. Nearly 350,000 people died from a recent Nigerian conflict alone and many governments in Africa are experiencing political turmoil. Overall, Africa has averaged four coup attempts per year in recent decades. On top of instability and violence, Africa’s citizens face frequent environmental challenges. From the 1960s on, millions have died from a lack of food security due to famine and drought. Poverty has a grip on 36% of the African population. Despite all the forces going against the largest continent on Earth, there is a silver lining. Although it has a challenging road to the future, the potential of Africa to be a wealthy, stable player on the world stage is significant.

Considering Africa’s Resources

Africa is extremely resource-rich. Many African countries sit on top of massive amounts of gold, platinum, natural gas or other rare earth minerals. This puts them in an exceptional position relative to other countries when it comes to sheer resources. One pound of gold is worth about $22,000 as of February 2021. In 2020 alone, Africa produced 663 metric tons of gold. It is also responsible for being home to 40% of the world’s gold. In addition, it is home to a massive quantity of the world’s liquid wealth – crude oil, 12% of it. On top of sitting upon massive heaps of gold and oil, the continent is host to some of the largest quantities of diamonds on earth.

Silver Linings Are Not Just Underground

The potential of Africa appears more promising as the continent makes forward progress on many fronts. Population expansion, modernization, increased access to tech, poverty rates and life expectancy have all seen positive statistical changes. About 45% of Africans live in poverty as of 2012, about a 5% drop from 1981. Further, Africa’s population has increased exponentially in recent years and is on track to keep increasing with a larger and larger percentage of this population moving to cities.

In due time, projections have determined that Africa will have some of the largest megacities on the planet. Traditionally a continent without much internet access, recent years have seen remarkable breakthroughs in online connection. As time goes on, Africans are adopting more cellular tech. Those with high-speed internet connections or broadband have reached 16% as of 2012 and could reach 99% by 2060. Lastly, life expectancy has gone up dramatically.

As Africa continues to make positive changes, its future looks brighter and brighter and inches ever closer to a new era for the continent. The potential of Africa is on the rise.

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Unsplash