Information and stories about Africa.

Energy in EgyptThe poverty rate in Egypt rose to 32.5%, or 32 million people, in 2018. Energy use is rising in Egypt by 6.5% per year, but a disproportionate reliance on finite gas and other conventional energy resources has placed the future of Egyptian energy sustainability and environmental goals at risk. Under the Egypt Vision 2030 initiative, the country has recognized an important need to reduce carbon emissions. This, along with the country’s abundance of sunlight and wind, means that Egypt could very well move toward dependence on renewable energies. This is increasingly important as the growing demand for electricity has exposed the lack of access in Egypt, especially in rural areas. Lack of access to electricity is an issue that the world’s poor face and renewable energy in Egypt could be key to alleviating poverty in the country.

Shifting to Renewable Energy

The Egyptian Government began its shift toward energy security through increased renewable energy in 2014, when it partnered with the World Bank to institute energy sector reforms and attract $2 billion worth of investment for renewable energy sources. Before that, the government had large, inefficient fuel subsidies that outweighed expenditures on social protection, health and education and did not even target the Egyptian poor. This time period also saw frequent power shortages, which contributed to overall social unrest.

By committing to generating 20% of electricity through renewable energy sources by 2022, the Egyptian government showed a comprehensive commitment to energy sector reform. This has helped to create a welcoming political and economic environment for private sector investment, strengthening the shift toward renewable energy in Egypt, which creates the spillover effect of helping the country’s poor, whom energy shortages are likely to more severely affect.

The Benban Solar Park

The result has been several large deals with international banks to finance projects like the Benban Solar Park, which will be the largest solar project in the world once completed. The government received over $650 million in funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to construct the 13 solar power plants that are part of the project. This new initiative will provide power to more than 350,000 Egyptians and generate more than 6,000 for building greater renewable energy in Egypt.

Other Benefits of Energy Reform

The partnerships with the World Bank and the IFC have other benefits, like freeing government spending to go toward social initiatives. By instituting energy reforms, the Egyptian Government was able to double spending on social protection for the poorest 20% of the population. So, while projects like the Benban Solar Park will themselves contribute to a cleaner, more efficient energy security that will benefit those living in poverty, the means by which these projects are funded also enable the government to focus more of its spending on alleviating poverty.

Energy Reform and Poverty in Egypt

The Egyptian Government has partnered with international institutions like the World Bank to reform its energy sector. Past overdependence on gas and oil along with inefficient fuel subsidies placed Egypt’s future energy security at risk while exacerbating problems the nation’s poor faced daily. The country has shown a commitment to clean energy initiatives, which benefit Egyptians living in poverty in two main ways. First, they increase access to power and electricity. Many of those living in rural communities do not have consistent access to electricity, so this reform directly benefits them. Additionally, it benefits the impoverished indirectly by freeing up government spending for increased expenditure on social protection programs. Thus, the future of renewable energy in Egypt is bright and it has the potential to alleviate the struggles of millions of Egyptians.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Youngest CountryWith its formal recognition as a country in 2011, South Sudan stands as the youngest country on Earth. With a population of more than 10 million people, all eyes are focused on how the country will develop. Born out of civil war and gruesome conflict, the first nine years of South Sudan’s existence have presented numerous humanitarian issues. Widespread hunger, unsanitized water, crumbling infrastructure and underfunded education plague the youngest country in the world. If the new nation wants to grow into a fruitful nation, it must address the widespread poverty and the issues that come along with it.

History of South Sudan

South Sudan is the world’s newest country. Neighboring Sudan had previously controlled the land and lives of those dwelling there but a public referendum ended that reign in 2011. Quickly, South Sudan looked to become legitimate and joined both the United Nations and the African Union within days. Violence from militia-led uprisings broke out all across the region as many saw the emergence of a new nation as an opportunity to gain power. Additionally, South Sudan harbors much of Sudan’s oil rigs, thus controlling a majority of the economic opportunities in the area.

With few resources present, controlling the oil fields presented a strategic advantage. In 2013, tensions boiled over into a full civil war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Sudanese and internally displaced 4 million people. The violence related to this issue did not end until 2018, more than five years after the conflict broke out.

The Situation in South Sudan

The South Sudan civil war damaged an already weakened system and has created one of the worst poverty situations. Currently, 82% of those residing in the youngest country in the world live under the poverty line. Due to recent poor harvests, Oxfam estimates that more than 7 million South Sudanese people are in danger of starvation. With an economy almost entirely dependent on crude oil exports, financial stability is nonexistent. The World Bank reports that while South Sudan experienced a GDP growth of 3.2% in 2019, due to the global pandemic, its GDP will shrink 4.3% after 2020, losing more than gained in the previous year. With one-third of the nation displaced due to the civil war, more than half of the country struggling to eat and a nationally shrinking economy, South Sudan is in danger of becoming a region defined by immense poverty.

Aid to South Sudan

With how dire the situation is in South Sudan, leading humanitarian relief agencies have made the youngest country in the world their top priority. Action Against Hunger helped feed over 500,000 South Sudanese in 2019 alone. With more than 300 team members present in the country, Action Against Hunger is extending its reach every year until the Sudanese can once again retain sustainable harvests.

To help keep the children of South Sudan in school, USAID has created special funding just for education. Since the civil war broke out, USAID has actively helped more than half a million students receive schooling desperately needed to break the poverty cycle. To help bring power and electricity to South Sudan, the African Development Bank stepped up to make it happen. Nearly 99% of people in South Sudan live without electricity. The African Development Bank’s power grid project recently received a $14.6 million loan to help get it started.

The Road Ahead for South Sudan

As the new country of South Sudan looks to gain international recognition and support, it must first prioritize the dire humanitarian crises at home. With the work of Action Against Hunger, USAID and the African Development Bank, hope is on the horizon for the youngest country in the world.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in AngolaA whole 54% of Angola’s population of 30 million are multidimensionally poor or suffering from multiple deprivations in four categories: health, education, quality of life and employment. Angolan children under the age of 10 experience even more pronounced poverty and 90% of rural Angolan populations are multidimensionally poor. The overall poverty rate is 41% and the rural poverty rate at 57% is nearly double that of urban areas. Poverty in Angola is a significant issue especially within the context of the rural-urban divide.

The Rural-Urban Divide

In rural areas, Angolans are less likely to be employed and those who do work are mostly in subsistence agriculture. They also have fewer assets and cannot afford “luxuries” like attending school. Additionally, people in rural areas are more likely to be sick or to die early than those in urban settings.

In urban areas, 44% of households are employed and the majority of the rest are involved in informal economic roles like craftsmen, street vendors or informal shop owners. Despite access to employment, labor conditions are poor and incomes fluctuate. This means that people in rural areas are overall more destitute but they actually have a more predictable situation and at least have access to enough basic food and water to survive, while those in urban settings can experience periods of serious shortages.

Overall, poverty in Angola is multifaceted. In rural areas, it is materially severe but there are stronger safety nets in the form of access to land and agriculture. Urban poverty is less materially severe, with better access to employment and social goods, but people are more vulnerable to sudden shocks. The issue is not that only rural Angolans suffer from poverty but that the country at large is suffering and in need of a comprehensive plan to address all the different aspects of poverty in Angola.

World Vision International

World Vision has operated in Angola since 1989 to aid sustainable development in vulnerable areas, focusing on child protection, land ownership and health services. Overall, it has increased access to clean water for more than 50,000 Angolans and improved the health status of more than 1.5 million Angolan children and 25,000 Angolan mothers in rural areas, through increased access to health care and health education. World Vision helps approximately one million Angolans each year through its efforts at improving access to water and sanitation, strengthening civil society and social protection systems, improving educational access and aiding economic development through land ownership.

UNICEF

Larger NGOs like UNICEF have also addressed poverty in Angola. It has identified millions of people in need, especially children, and has looked to gather $15.8 million in funding to provide humanitarian assistance in the face of recent food insecurity, drought, malnutrition, economic insecurity, education issues and health crises in Angola. The organization’s goals for 2020 included screening almost 400,000 children for malnutrition, providing 150,000 children polio vaccines and providing access to primary education to 25,000 affected children. UNICEF is utilizing partnerships with Angolan government ministries, civil departments and national and international NGOs to accomplish these main goals and others, including hygiene education, increasing overall healthcare aid as well as protecting women and children.

The Road Ahead

Poverty has struck millions of people in Angola and it affects rural and urban Angolans in different ways. Despite the complexity of poverty in Angola, organizations like UNICEF and World Vision have stepped up to alleviate the pressure on Angolan families and children. While the crisis is far from solved, efforts like these provide hope for people in Angola in the face of global and regional disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged drought and low crop yields.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

HIV in southern AfricaIn 2006, the Duke of Sussex partnered with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to form Sentebale, a charity focused on providing psychosocial support for children and young adults living with HIV in southern Africa. It partners with grassroots organizations in Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi and works to improve adherence to HIV medication programs.

Sentebale

“We teach them that this human immunodeficiency virus does not have to be a death sentence for anyone anymore, that the real enemy we are fighting is stigma and the antiquated attitudes that work against young people coming forward when wanting to take an HIV test,” said Prince Harry in a speech during a dinner for Sentebale in January 2020.

The name Sentebale was chosen by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso. It means “forget me not” in Sesotho, which is Lesotho’s official language. Princess Diana, Prince Harry’s late mother, and Queen ‘Mamohato, Prince Seeiso’s late mother, were both previously involved in work with children who had been affected by HIV/AIDS. The mission of Sentebale is to become the leading organization for psychosocial support for young people and children with HIV in southern Africa.

The Let Youth Lead Program

In recent years, Sentebale has found that social accountability and peer-to-peer support were central tools to bolstering its mission. In March 2017, Sentebale launched the Let Youth Lead program. The program’s objectives are to eventually have all young people in southern Africa know their HIV status, provide and promote peer-to-peer support and help young people to advocate for themselves at the government level. Another goal of the program is to empower these young advocates with the tools to assist their peers and have their voices heard.

“I volunteered because I wanted to help people. I don’t see this as work, I just want to transform people’s lives,” said Pheto Kutmela, a Sentebale Let Youth Lead advocate. Kutmela has been volunteering in Ha Makunyapane, Thaba-Tseka district, where he lives.

These youth advocates have been able to facilitate community dialogues in 30 community councils, where they are able to discuss challenges they have been facing and suggest improvements for going forward. It can typically be difficult for young people to have their voices heard at the governmental level and this program helps create a platform for them to do so, by giving them the tools to engage with policy leaders and address education and health services.

HIV/AIDS Progress in Botswana

Sentebale has overseen some transformative improvements in the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past several years. In Botswana, HIV/AIDS infected less than 500 children under the age of 14 in 2018 and more than 95% of pregnant women living with HIV were receiving treatment.

Sentabale is in the process of developing a five-year strategy for the organization. In January 2020, it hosted an “initial workshop” to hear the voices of young people and children so that it can shape the organization’s future vision around their feedback. Looking forward to 2021, with a few adaptations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sentebale will continue to prioritize its commitment toward empowering youth who HIV in southern Africa has affected.

– Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Sudan A fractured economy, political protests and the transition to a democratic country are factors that have put Sudan in the global spotlight. Due to shortages within the country and the added weight of COVID-19, Sudan is on track to receive much-needed financial aid from several global sources. Foreign aid to Sudan will provide direct relief to the impoverished people in the country.

Improved Foreign Relations

In February 2020, Sudan’s ex-president, Omar al-Bashir was prosecuted and convicted for the mass murders of people in the region of Darfur. The declaration was made that the country would cooperate with the ICC (International Criminal Court) for the prosecution. This act could serve as a window of opportunity for improved foreign relations and a new international image. There have also been talks of peace agreements between Sudan and Israel. These issues have attracted a global audience as the world watches to see where things could potentially lead to.

Democracy and Debt

One of the country’s most monumental feats was transitioning to democracy after many years of social discord and oppressive power. Unfortunately, this massive change also came with a damaged political system and an outstanding debt of nearly $60 billion. Necessities such as food and fuel have undergone an extreme rise in price at an 80% estimate and the introduction of COVID-19 could be the potential last straw for Sudan’s already overburdened economy. While Sudan’s army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Abdal Fatteh al-Burhan, is a member of the Sovereign Council, the relationship between the country’s government and the military is rocky. The prime minister, Abdalla Hamdock, is desperately trying to avoid a potential military takeover and is calling for any available financial support from allies abroad.

Sudan’s Call for Help

Sudan’s call for help had reached many different listening ears. In a joint effort, the World Bank, the European Union and several other countries signed a deal of almost $190 million that would go directly to families in need through the Sudan Family Support Programme (SFSP). The amount of foreign aid to Sudan would equal out to 500 Sudanese pounds (roughly $9) per person, per month for one year and aims to cover the needs of nearly 80% of Sudan citizens. Prime minister Hamdock noted that while willing donors have given $1.8 billion to help, the country is really in need of $8 billion for a real balance to its economy. The distribution of the aid was set to begin in October 2020 and will eventually total $1.9 billion after two years.

The Road Ahead

With the degree of social and political change in Sudan, the country is certainly moving in a positive direction. Reinventing the country’s image and political structure is no easy feat. Sudan has proven that change is certainly possible, even in the most dire circumstances, especially with sufficient international backing and support. Foreign aid to Sudan gives the people of the country hope for a better future.

– Brandon Baham
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in MozambiqueThe provision of foreign aid from the United States serves as a multifaceted solution and preventative measure to many issues that ultimately impact the United States. In assisting with the development of under-resourced countries and those afflicted by natural disasters and conflict, the country’s interest in strengthening U.S. eminence in the global political ecosystem is served, as is the initiative to foster and stabilize democracies that are essential in maintaining global peace. Mozambique is one such country that receives aid from the United States. Nearly half of the population lives in poverty and while having managed to combat that statistic with an annual decrease of 1%, the country continues to see rising levels of inequality. USAID’s 2019 assistance investment in Mozambique totaled $288 million. Foreign aid in Mozambique is being used in several key developmental areas.

Developing Education

A significant portion of U.S. foreign aid has been invested in providing basic education. This foreign aid in Mozambique has been applied in conjunction with the country’s national budgetary allocation of 15% for basic education. This initiative has led to improved access to education with the abolishment of enrollment fees, an investment in free textbooks, direct funding to schools and the construction of classrooms. With access to education improving, Mozambique now moves to focus on developing the quality of education it provides and extending the initiative of improving access to those who are in the early learning stage. Only 5% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 have access to such services. Moving forward, educational initiatives aim to focus on the improvement of teacher training, the retention of students (as only 8% continue onto secondary level) and optimizing the management and monitoring of education nationally.

Addressing Humanitarian Needs

A large part of foreign aid in Mozambique has been committed to battling humanitarian crises. Cabo Delgado is the northernmost province of the country and is experiencing an insurgency that is decimating its infrastructure and food security. As a result, there is an ongoing displacement of the population. In November 2020 alone, more than 14,300 displaced people arrived in the provincial capital Pemba. The World Food Programme estimates the cost of feeding internally displaced people in northern Mozambique to be at approximately $4.7 million per month, aside from the housing costs and the complexity of managing the crisis amid a global pandemic. This allocation of the country’s foreign aid will be vital in maintaining the wellbeing of people during the conflict and restoring the country’s infrastructure once the insurgency has subdued.

Improving the Health Sector

The bulk of foreign aid in Mozambique goes toward the many challenges the country faces with regard to health issues such as funding family planning, battling tuberculosis, maternal and child health as well as water and sanitation. More than $120 million goes toward this initiative but the most pressing of the issues is mitigating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2014, Mozambique ranked eighth globally for HIV cases. With the support, antiretroviral therapy and testing has expanded, which is evidenced by more than a 40% drop in new cases since 2004. Additionally, with a sharp increase in the treatment of pregnant women who carry the virus, one study recorded a 73% drop in cases among newborns between 2011 and 2014. The executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, has claimed that the epidemic could be completely eradicated by 2030 if such a rate of progress continues.

The developmental progress in Mozambique is reflective of the substantial impact that foreign aid has on developing countries. As U.S. foreign aid to developing countries continues, the hope is for other well-positioned countries to follow suit.

– Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it is inherently tied to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however the most influential is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is considered to be the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole. Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move onto higher education or secure high paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The importance of literacy within the fight against poverty is underscored by the World Bank. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of “Learning Poverty” aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator as to whether or not global educational goals are being met. In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount in the rate of sustainable development in poor countries. Moreover, poverty would be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries were able to read. As educational goals are met and literacy is increased, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty as it was reported in 2016 that 24% of Ethiopia’s population is considered impoverished. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because just under half of its population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates put on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system. and literacy in Ethiopia.

READ II

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or dropout due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach a targeted 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

Unlock Literacy

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy is committed to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material that is applicable to the children being educated. As a result, it has aided in the creation of over one million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million has been provided to train 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. This has been accomplished by giving schools the necessary educational resources that have been designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Digital Gender GapAs the world becomes more technologically advanced and digitally connected, access to technology remains an issue, especially in developing countries. More so, the digital gap between women and men continues to expand, with 300 million fewer women than men using mobile internet, creating a 20% gap. The lack of access to digital devices for these women means being denied essential services including employment opportunities, financial resources, educational resources and medical information. There are several global initiatives trying to bridge the digital gender gap between women and men.

Safaricom

In Kenya, women are 39% less likely than men to have access to mobile internet despite women making up 51% of the Kenyan population. Safaricom, a mobile network in Kenya, therefore created a partnership with Google to offer an affordable smartphone, the Neon Kicka with Android GO, compromising 500 megabytes of free data for the first month. The mobile network believes that empowering a woman empowers an entire community and focuses on the following three barriers: affordability, relevance and digital skills. The company ensured that the price point was the lowest it could be and featured important content including access to health information and educational content to highlight the smartphone’s daily relevance for women. Safaricom recognizes that many women are not familiar with Gmail accounts and therefore developed a guide covering the basics of smartphone use.

Novissi

Togo, a country in West Africa currently run by its first female prime minister, launched a digital cash transfer program called Novissi. Its goal is to provide aid to informal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, covering residents of three urban areas under lockdown. Many underserved women tend to be excluded from COVID-19 relief digital cash transfer programs launched by governments since they either do not have access to digital bank accounts or are uninformed. Through Novissi, women receive a monthly sum of $20, whereas men receive $17, to support the cost of food, communication services, power and water. The three additional dollars allocated to women account for the fact that women are more likely to be informal workers and take care of a family’s nutritional needs.

Wave Money

In Myanmar, Wave Money has become the number one mobile financial service, with 89% of the country benefiting from its agents. Since Wave Money deals with 85% of rural areas in the country, money enters and leaves from nearly every state and facilitates familiarity with the service. The financial service created a partnership with GSMA Connected Women to allow greater access to financial services for women. Through this partnership, women are encouraged to run Wave Money shops in Myanmar, providing them with extra income even if they live in very remote areas of the country.

Telesom Simple KYC Account

It can be challenging for women to acquire the identity documents necessary to open accounts with service providers. In Somaliland, Telesom created a simplified know-your-customer (KYC) account, allowing women that do not possess an ID to sign up for mobile money services. The service solely requires a name, date of birth, image and contact details, favoring accessibility and reducing the digital gap between women and men.

Equal Access International Partnership with Local Radio Station

In Nigeria, women and girls are denied access to technology due to the fear of moral decline that accompanies the widespread culture. Equal Access International recognizes the need to address societal norms for women and amplify women and girls’ voices. In an effort to do so, Equal Access International partnered with a local radio station in order to create a show that tackled cultural taboos and promoted women and girls using digital technologies. The episodes last 30 minutes and cover weekly themes including common misconceptions about the internet, internet safety and moral arguments regarding women and the internet.

Closing the Digital Gender Gap

Despite a digital gender gap that exists between women and men, organizations around the world are making an effort to foster a sense of inclusion and empowerment for women and girls to become familiar and encouraged to take on the digital world that is constantly emerging.

Sarah Frances
Photo: Flickr

Livestock WealthPoverty in South Africa has historically been linked with the institution of the racial apartheid regime. The national government began to pass segregationist policies in 1948, with racial discrimination policies only officially dismantling in 1994 when South Africa became a democracy and Nelson Mandela stepped into power. Livestock Wealth is a company that introduced South Africa to “crowdfarming” as a means of supporting farmers and alleviating poverty in the country.

Apartheid and Poverty

Under the apartheid regime, the minority-white government passed policies aimed at keeping black South Africans, who made up a majority of the population, from having any meaningful participation in the economy. This left millions trapped in cycles of poverty and the residual effects of such discriminatory policies are still being contended with, in the effort to reduce poverty today.

Apartheid laws confined poor South Africans to rural regions and made the migration to urban areas difficult. The lack of opportunities and social mobility in rural areas made overcoming poverty a challenging task. The legacy of this limited mobility is still present today. South African provinces in rural areas have more households in chronic poverty compared to urban provinces. As of 2015, 25.2% of the population of urban areas lived below the upper-bound poverty line (UPBL), whereas 65.4% fell below the UBPL in rural areas. In order to reduce poverty, it is most important that rural communities receive support and investment.

Livestock Wealth

Livestock Wealth is a startup founded in 2015 by Ntuthuko Shezi which aims to provide investment for farmers in South Africa’s rural areas. Livestock Wealth allows investors from anywhere in the world to effectively purchase from South African farmers four different livestock and crop options: a free-range ox, a pregnant cow, a connected garden or a macadamia-nut tree. When the cows or the crops are sold, both the farmer and the investor receive a share of the profit.

The investment provides liquidity to farmers for whom there is limited availability of short-term funds. Livestock Wealth is currently a credit provider with South Africa’s National Credit Regulator and is registered with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council.

Livestock Wealth currently has 58 partner farmers all across the country and all cows are hormone-free and grass-fed. In recent years, its business has expanded to also provide meat for investors who join the “Farmers Club.” There are currently more than 2,800 investors with Livestock Wealth and more than $4 million has been invested.

Alleviating Poverty in South Africa

Livestock Wealth is a representation of an initiative that has great potential to alleviate poverty in South Africa. South Africa’s rural populations have a long history of exclusion from the economy and have struggled to reduce poverty for decades. Livestock Wealth provides cash investments for farmers and creates a market in which they can reliably trade. By doing so, the firm exemplifies an innovation within the South African economy, one which is helping to alleviate poverty and can inspire others to do the same.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

BACE API:Charlette N’Guessan, a 26-year-old Ivorian and CEO of the BACE Group based in Ghana, is the first woman to win the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. N’Guessan and her team earned £25,000 ($32,000) with the 2020 award for their BACE API digital verification software.

BACE API Facial Recognition Software

BACE API verifies identities remotely and instantaneously using artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition by matching the live photo of the user to the image on their official documents. This use of live images and video rather than still images is unique to BACE API and improves the success rate in matching faces and verifying that the images are of real people rather than preexisting photos. Judges for the Africa Prize stated that facial recognition software in Africa is becoming increasingly important and BACE API is just the beginning.

Issues in Identity Verification for Africans

Most facial recognition tools on the market use white faces in their dataset, which leads to higher rates of misidentification of black faces. BACE API, however, was designed with the express intention of improving the design of facial recognition software in Africa. The algorithm of BACE API is designed to draw from a more diverse data set to address racial bias and bolster its accuracy.

Moreover, N’Guessan stated that she created the BACE API tool to address high rates of identity fraud and cybercrime in Ghanian banks. Financial institutions in Ghana spend approximately $400 million per year identifying their users. Not only is BACE API more functionally accurate but it is also convenient as no special hardware is needed and the software can be combined with existing identification apps. So far, the software is being used in two financial institutions for identity verification and one event platform to manage attendee registration.

Identity Verification and Poverty

Facial recognition software in Africa has recently become an important tool to address poverty. There are approximately 1.1 billion people worldwide who lack an official ID, 500 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and 40% of whom are under the age of 18. Women are disproportionately more likely to lack identity documents compared to men. The population of people without an official ID are unable to access basic socio-economic and legal rights, including healthcare, education, voting and legal protection in court. Moreover, people without identity documents are barred from entering the formal economy, for example, starting a business or gaining official employment. The widespread lack of official identification is largely due to the difficulties, inconveniences and expense of registering for an ID, including the common requirement for multiple forms of ID for different functions.

Digital technology, however, is leading the charge to address unequal access to ID’s and basic services, and BACE API is a unique solution to this issue by serving as a one-stop-shop for remote identification. After verifying their identity through the program, users gain access to necessary financial services, education and voting rights.

BACE API’s Benefits During COVID-19

During COVID-19, BACE API is a viable alternative to the in-person verification processes used by most such as fingerprints or personal appearances. Companies and organizations can now remotely authenticate and onboard people without ever meeting them.

Moreover, the demand for healthcare and welfare programs has skyrocketed in the wake of the widespread economic downturn. With BACE API, governments are relieved of the burden of identity verification and can operate more efficiently to provide essential services to people struggling during COVID-19.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Flickr