Information and stories about Africa.

Africa's Digital Economy
As the world’s digital economy expands at an exponential rate, it continues to be a vital component in raising the world’s impoverished nations and people out of poverty. By the end of the decade, 70% of new value in the global economy will transpire from digitally-enabled businesses. There is a great opportunity for impoverished and developing countries to boost their own economies and raise their people out of poverty by having access to these emergent digital markets.

However, Africa has been lagging behind in its digital economic growth. That is why Visa, a large multinational financial services corporation based in the United States, has pledged to invest $1 billion in Africa’s digital economy by 2027, helping create opportunities for more Africans to engage in the digital market, as well as have access to safe, reliable financial services and technologies. 

Identifying the Problem

The growth of Africa’s digital economy has been stunted and uneven. As of 2015, almost 500 million adults in Africa or nearly 40% of Africa’s total population lack access to formal financial services including banking services and access to digital purchase platforms. Compounding this issue is the fact that things like digital payment methods are not readily available. More than 40 million merchants (i.e, stores, vendors, etc.) in Africa do not accept digital payments and less than 50% of the entire adult population have made or received digital payments of any sort as of December 2022. 

Digital economic inequality is not only present when comparing Africa to developed nations, but also within its own borders as well. For example, in Central Africa, only 11% of adults have a bank account, compared to 51% in the far more developed region of South Africa. This stark divide is especially present in access to financial technologies. For example, while there are 50 ATMs per 100,000 individuals in South Africa, there are only 11 per 100,000 individuals in North Africa and less than five per 100,000 individuals in all other African sub-regions.

Visa’s Pledge

This lack of access to financial resources and technologies, especially in the global digital market, is a large issue facing the impoverished populations of Africa. It is not insurmountable, however. Visa believes that Africa can overcome its issues, which is why the company has pledged to invest $1 billion in Africa by 2027 to accelerate the growth of the continent’s digital economy. Visa, one of the largest financial companies in the world, has established a plan to upscale the company’s African operations on all fronts, including the deployment of new technologies and providing opportunities to educate locals in digital economics.

Over the next five years, Visa will establish local operations for the first time in several impoverished African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and Sudan. Part of this growth involves the implementation of new technologies that make it easier for both consumers and merchants to make digital payments, like Tap to Phone, a technology that allows people to make purchases with a simple tap on one’s smartphone. Such innovative solutions will not only encourage more consumers and vendors to make digital payments but will also make it easier and safer for them to do so.

Visa has also pledged to invest in education and empowerment for those especially struggling to enter the digital economy. For example, the company has teamed up with She’s Next, a global advocacy program for women-owned small businesses, which brings funding, mentoring and networking opportunities to female entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa. Visa’s plan to increase financial literacy also focuses on crossing language barriers; for example, it is working on the first-ever Arabic version of its financial education program, Practical Money Skills.

Visa’s Pledge to Develop Africa’s Digital Economy

There is still a long way to go to connect Africa’s impoverished people with the world’s digital economy. However, thanks to the work of Visa and other organizations, and to increasing awareness of their need, there will be great progress in accelerating Africa’s entrance into the global digital economy.

Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

Electricity in UgandaElectricity in Uganda remains a fundamental need many citizens live without due to poor infrastructure and high prices far outside the budget of average Ugandans. Uganda’s president has repeatedly complained about the electricity tariffs and soaring fees from private companies. As a result, the Ugandan government decided not to renew its contracts with Eskom, one of South Africa’s top electricity providers. The government is taking Eskom’s plants over with the Uganda National Electricity Company Limited (UNCEL) to control electricity prices, expand access to electricity and decrease multidimensional poverty in Uganda.

Overall, access to electricity is essential for economic growth. Without it, people are fighting to attain a proper education, access to social services, clean water and countless other necessities for living a life free of poverty. As access to these necessities expands, the quality of life could improve and so could the economic productivity of Uganda where 42.1% of people live in a complex web of multidimensional poverty.

Changing Infrastructure of Electricity in Uganda

Electricity in Uganda does not reach the majority of the population. Currently, around 42% of Uganda’s population has access to electricity, leaving the internet penetration rate at 26.2%. Electricity in Uganda has the opportunity to be innovative because it is typically non-reliant on fossil fuels. Uganda’s energy suppliers use biomass, hydropower and wind power more often than fossil fuels. Two hydropower stations are Uganda’s primary sources of electricity: the Nalubaale Power Station on the White Nile and the Kiira Hydropower station. Both hydropower stations have been under lease by the South African company Eskom since 2003. The lease will end in 2023.

Uganda’s government announced that it does not plan to renew the Eskom lease for the hydropower plants. Instead, it will take control of them through the state-run branch, the Uganda National Electricity Company Limited (UNECL). This decision stems from the incredibly high electricity costs limiting Ugandan’s electricity access.

Power Africa in Uganda

Power Africa is a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative striving to bring electricity to all regions of Africa thereby ending energy poverty and improving well-being. Power Africa in Uganda has already brought significant improvements to Ugandans. To date, Power Africa in Uganda has increased electricity access rates by 63% in urban Uganda and 11% in rural Uganda, creating more than 1.5 million new electricity connections in the African nation.

Notably, Power Africa in Uganda has provided loan guarantees to several of the energy providers in Uganda to build miniature hydropower plants. It has also financially supported projects in Uganda to guarantee the building of full-size hydropower plants to secure funding from organizations such as the African Development Bank.

Implementing Plans

Much of the electricity in Uganda comes from hydropower plants. When drought hit in 2005, there was a severe shortage of electricity available in the years since there has been an incredible surplus and increased electricity generation. The surplus has caused high tariffs, making access to electricity challenging and continuing the limited access to the internet. The tariffs are set by Eskom and are free from government regulation, which is why the Ugandan government is taking control of the hydro plants to have proper access to expanding internet penetration at reasonable prices without tariffs.

The government has implemented many plans to boost electricity penetration rates. Coupled with help from USAID’s Power Africa initiative, the future looks bright for Ugandans.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Prison Conditions in Kenya 
The prison system in Kenya is one of the worst prison systems in the world. Prison conditions are gruesome. Hygiene is very low and violence is very high among inmates. Starvation and a lack of medical care are also very common throughout prisons in Kenya.

Poverty and Prison Conditions

Within the prison system in Kenya, inmates have to endure cruel and horrible conditions. The majority of inmates that are in prison suffering from these gruesome conditions are poor. According to Prison Insider, “A study on death-row convicts found that poor and uneducated Kenyans are languishing in prison for either robbery with violence or murder.” Whether on death row or not, poor Kenyans are living in degrading prison conditions just because they are poor.

Kenyans that are poor end up in prison because the police purposely target them. Police officers in Kenya have a history of abusing their power and harassing poor and marginalized people. Since these individuals are very poor, they cannot bribe police officers to release them and they cannot defend themselves due to a lack of legal knowledge. They also cannot hire an attorney so their only option is to go to jail and live in conditions that are inhumane.

Poor Hygiene

Poor inmates in prison have to “wallow in misery and want.” While on the other hand, inmates with money can have self-contained cells with amenities such as flushable toilets and TVs with satellites. Omar Ismael, who is 64 years old and served nine years at Manyani prison, explained that close to 100 inmates share one bathroom and one toilet. Inmates in prison usually end up catching diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia as well as scabies and diarrhea due to how unsanitary things are. Terrible conditions within prisons also consist of overcrowding which is a result of poor infrastructure. Aging buildings and inadequate cells are also part of the problem when it comes to harsh prison conditions.

In western Kakamega prison, inmates have gone five years with no clean running water. Clean water for drinking and showering was not available to inmates. Since inmates didn’t have access to clean water, their poor diets got worse. Water shortages in this prison also led to toilet clogging and overflowing.

Women Facing Poor Prison Conditions

Females that commit crimes often have a background of poverty. Poverty forces women to commit crimes because they have to find a way to support their families. Women in certain countries are often imprisoned for offenses such as prostitution and adultery which are criminalized and called status offenses.

Women that are imprisoned in Kenya often face two of the worst prison conditions which are a lack of sanitation and a lack of proper hygiene products. In May 2020, the Kenya Prisons Service stopped all visits to prisons in order to control the spread of COVID-19. In Korinda Prison, the suspension of all visits severely impacted more than 100 women because these visits supplied women with the necessary hygiene and sanitation products from family members and organizations. Mary Makokha, who is executive director of Busia-based organization REEP, told NATION “They had no panties, no sanitary towels. Women were walking around with blood running down their legs.”

Improving Hygiene and Sanitation

Despite cruel and inhumane prison conditions plaguing inmates in various prisons across Kenya, some are taking measures to improve and fix conditions. Nestle Kenya and the Rotary International District 9212 collaborated with National Business Compact on COVID-19 to improve hygiene conditions in prisons through Nairobi. This collaboration allowed the Kenya Prisons Service to administer 20,000 liters of water a day along with soap and 18 hand washing stations. The National Business Compact on COVID-19 donated soap and hand washing stations to promote and allow inmates to wash their hands more often.

Unfortunately, prison conditions in Kenya are very grim. Inmates that are poor have to endure a lack of hygiene and sanitation which is not safe at all, especially during a deadly pandemic. Poor inmates should not have to face such grueling prison conditions just because they are poor but if more programs and organizations partner together to supply more water and hygiene products to prisons, living conditions can improve for inmates.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Unsplash

Child Marriage in LiberiaChild marriage in Liberia is not uncommon. According to Girls Not Brides, 36% of girls in Liberia enter into marriage before reaching their 18th birthday and Liberia ranks 20th in the world for the highest rates of child marriage.

UNICEF defines child marriage as “any formal marriage or informal union between a child under the age of 18 and an adult or another child” and warns that the effects extend not only to the girl’s health and future prospects but also to the economy through economic detriment on a national level. A 2017 study by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) projects that the prevalence of child marriage “could cost developing countries trillions of dollars by 2030 – the year by which the U.N., through its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), calls for the elimination of the practice.”

Child brides are more likely to face domestic violence and early pregnancy before their bodies have even fully developed. Child marriage also increases the risk of HIV among young girls.

The prevalence of child marriage in Liberia will continue to hinder progress toward gender equality in Liberia unless the government introduces legislation and improvements in policy. For as long as child marriage exists, Liberia will not see significant strides in education or the economy.

Reasons for Child Marriage in Liberia

Plan International describes the generalized reasons for child marriage prevalence in countries as systemic gender inequality, poverty and societal customs/traditions, among other reasons. In terms of poverty, according to the World Bank, 34.6% of the population in Liberia lives under the international extreme poverty line ($2.15 per person per day in 2017 PPP). Due to entrenched gender discrimination and inequalities, impoverished families often view daughters as economic burdens. Parents push young daughters into marriage to ease the household’s financial burden and bring in finances in the form of the “bride price.”

Regarding customs, Plan International details that some families push their daughters into child marriage to safeguard family honor by ensuring that sexual relations outside of marriage do not occur. Child marriage in Liberia persists despite domestic legislation setting the legal age of marriage for girls as 18. Humanium explains that “the lack of consistency of customary and statutory laws” and engagement with traditional leaders means people routinely break these laws and forced marriage practices persist.

It is also important to note that while 36% of girls younger than 18 enter into marriage, this figure stands at 5% for boys in Liberia, highlighting obvious gender inequality and disparities that need to be addressed. Gender-based violence and inequality in Liberia extend to female genital mutilation (FGM). According to Equality Now, Liberia is one of the three remaining West African countries that have not legislated FGM as a criminal offense.

Organizations and NGOs Striving to Reduce Child Marriage in Liberia

BIRD-Liberia (Brighter Initiatives for Revitalization and Development) was founded by Sammenie O. Sydney in 2014. The organization’s latest efforts include working with youth activists to eliminate child marriage. BIRD-Liberia began the Power to Girls campaign, in collaboration with Girls Not Brides, to raise awareness of child marriage.

“The activists will go around the country to speak to students and school administrators,” Emmanuel Quiqui, BIRD’s Office Administrator, said to Girls Not Brides. “They’ll go to radio stations around Liberia and meet with the national legislature to spread the campaign message.” Bird-Liberia has trained 10 activists to educate fellow Liberians on the detriment of child marriage with the aim of ending the practice entirely.

Though child marriage persists, activists and organizations on the ground are showing their commitment to ending the practice and safeguarding children’s rights.

– Priya Maiti
Photo: Flickr

Counterfeit Pain Relief in Côte d'IvoireCôte d’Ivoire — the world’s largest cocoa producer has beautiful landscapes that attract thousands of yearly visitors. It is also a breeding ground for the distribution of counterfeit and illicit drugs. Though the use of counterfeit medicines carries many risks, many Ivorians still seek them out. The growing need for counterfeit pain relief in Côte d’Ivoire has resulted in the expansion of a new sector dominated by adolescents and those in need of a different form of relief.

The Dilemma

In sub-Saharan Africa, counterfeit drugs run rampant, but in Côte d’Ivoire, they run everything. Pharmacies produce only 30% of the drugs circulated in Côte d’Ivoire while the other 70% are counterfeits. Overall, about 42% of the world’s counterfeit drugs were found in Africa, a continent whose inhabitants are the most susceptible to poverty. Since 1998, Côte d’Ivoire’s percentage of counterfeit drug usage has increased by 50%, but the rate of health care availability has remained stagnant.
A 2020 World Bank report found that 33% of Ivorians did not live in close proximity to a hospital or clinic. In two regions, this percentage exceeded 50%. Health care specialists mainly work in major, more developed cities and government spending typically goes for the more developed parts of Côte d’Ivoire. Furthermore, many Ivorians do not have health insurance to aid payments towards their medical bills. As a result, they are at risk of adopting high health expenditures— 74% of it due to their overspending on medications, according to a World Bank report.

Availability

Non-branded or generic medications cost seven times higher than the international standard. Brand-named medications cost 18 more than the international guidelines, according to the same report. The quantity and variety of available medications differ depending on the sector. Just 32% of drugs essential to Côte d’Ivoire’s population made their way into the public sector while 57% of essential drugs are available to the private sector— one that comprises 80% of wealthy Ivorians.

Getting medications after obtaining prescriptions is a time-consuming process. At times, drugs are not readily available for patients. Sometimes, restocking and transferring to neighboring pharmacies can take a while. Consequently, patients will purchase counterfeit drugs from local street vendors as it is a more convenient alternative.
Over a two-year span, law enforcement seized almost 400 tonnes of counterfeit pain relief in Côte d’Ivoire and pharmacies suffered a $173 million loss that was later attributed to the presence of counterfeits. Authentic medications will run the average Ivorian 10,000 CFA or $15. For most, this is too much to pay. Ivorians typically bring in $200 a month.

A Cheaper Alternative

Unlike pharmacies, counterfeit drug markets are open around the clock. Due to the unregulated nature of the informal sector, people in need of medications can purchase any quantity of their desired drug, according to a 2021 research article. A patient in need of just a few pills of their prescription can buy medications individually instead of buying them in a pack like most pharmacies require, further lowering their expenses. However, there are some who take advantage of the cheapness of the drugs and the illegality of counterfeits, buying them to fulfill an addiction, according to the same article. Others buy from counterfeit drug markets because they can’t find traditional forms of medicines in pharmacies, due to cultural or religious reasons.

Many street vendors sell counterfeit pain relief in Côte d’Ivoire to relieve themselves of poverty. Among them are children and teens who function similarly to cashiers, negotiating prices with customers and finding drugs that match a given description.
Counterfeit drugs present buyers with what they perceive to be a cheap alternative with good enough quality. In reality, these drugs are adulterated. Meaning an active pharmaceutical ingredient is present, but is coupled with inferior substance(s). The most common replacement for starchy components found in drugs is flour with water being the substitute for liquid components. Or the counterfeits consist of entirely different substances.
Taking poorly made counterfeits result in the annual deaths of more than 100,000 people in Africa. The cultivation of counterfeit drug products has allowed their effects to go undetected and has started to show signs of the fostering of antimicrobial resistance, according to a WHO study.

Encouraging A New Côte d’Ivoire

Ten years ago Côte d’Ivoire’s government launched a new initiative that provided affordable health care to millions. Unfortunately, it ended up downsizing after government spending exceeded the allocated amount, limiting coverage to women and children under the age of 6.
But in recent years, Côte d’Ivoire began with a universal health coverage plan that is said to broaden the scope of health care and increase its accessibility. The plan includes financial reforms, medical assistance schemes, larger medicinal access and an increased budget to ensure that every Ivorian receives quality health care.
Meditect is a social enterprise that aims to put an end to counterfeit drugs by increasing access to ones of quality. The app tracks the medicine supply from the time it hits the pharmacy to the time it reaches the street, ensuring that the drugs in circulation are authentic and of good quality. It directs patients to a nearby pharmacy that presents them with the best financial and medical options.

Currently, Meditect is available in three francophone countries in West Africa, providing services to the Senegalese, Cameroonian and Ivorian people. Its goal is to expand this initiative to more countries until no African country is facing the issue of the presence of counterfeits.

– Dorothy Quanteh
Photo: Unsplash

Malian Military Junta
Mali recently decided to ban all non-governmental organizations operating with funds or support from France. The decision came in response to France’s announcement to “suspend[]its official development assistance to Mali.” France cited the Malian junta’s alleged use of “the Russian paramilitary group Wagner” to combat jihadism as the reason for this disassociation. Wagner has a reputation for brutality, standing accused of such crimes as rape, abuse of human rights and massacres. The Malian military junta has denied accusations of using Wagner, with Colonel Maiga condemning the allegations as “fanciful allegations” and “subterfuge,” Africa News reported.

Despite the denial of these allegations, tensions have ratcheted and the Malian military junta has chosen to ban all NGOs related to France including organizations focused on providing humanitarian aid. France, similarly, has not accepted Mali’s denial and views the alleged participation of the Russian Wagner group as a “collaboration between the two countries.”

Effects of Aid Loss in Mali

The removal of aid could prove devastating for Mali, which has faced a variety of crises including extreme poverty, the spread of jihadism and massive civilian displacement. For instance, Action Against Hunger reported that, in Mali, almost 70% of the population lives in poverty. Worsening conditions related to conflict and recent droughts have led to many children suffering from severe malnutrition.

Many French NGOs are working in Mali on issues related to food security, health and access to education and French military aid withdrew in August 2022. Germany also made the decision to pull out of Mali and while the Malian military junta has appeared unconcerned, Souleymane Camara, president of the Malian human rights organization LNDH, has claimed, “The withdrawal of the forces of countries that came to help contain the advance of the Jihadists is very worrying because Mali does not have the means to deal with the situation.”

The Malian military junta’s vice president, Fousseynou Ouattara remarked that Mali is against “permanently expanding a foreign military presence on our territory.” However, Mali’s relationship with Germany has been much less tumultuous, with Germany electing to leave some troops in place in anticipation of the February elections and Mali and parliamentary secretary of Mali’s transitional government, Amadou Maiga, has expressed gratitude to Germany and voiced an interest in resuming their alliance in the future, stating, “I think that the cooperation will continue on other levels, like development and security. We thank them and we will face our destiny,” DW reported.

History of Tensions

Tensions with France are not a new conflict in Mali, which has a history that French interventionism has broadly defined. France colonized Mali in 1890, making it French Sudan. The conflict between France and Mali has continued to define the region, as France colonized various regions of West Africa, often with a complete lack of concern for the “local ethnic, religious and cultural dynamics” and “the political and cultural ecologies of the regions…” While this has led to internal conflict, France has also been guilty of more modern atrocities, such as supporting the Algerian government’s “repression of the democratic transition that began in 1988.”

This decision ultimately resulted in the formation of the Islamic Salvation Front which then took power as an oppressive and authoritarian regime with western backing. France also voiced support for Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2012, which lead to fallout and increased violence that endangered West Africa, according to Al Jazeera.

Potential Solutions

This history has made it difficult for Mali to conceptualize France’s presence as anything other than antagonistic, as it has seen the nation interfere with democracy in the past. One could broadly describe Mali’s military junta’s unease with French aid as a result of France’s own making in relation to this history of recent failures. This situation makes it particularly difficult to remedy, as Mali’s military junta is resistant to western aid. However, many France-dependent NGOs are advocating for their ability to work in Mali. CCFD Terre-Solidaire, Handicap International, Médecins du Monde and Oxfam have penned a letter to French President, Emmanuel Macron, claiming that ending aid in Mali would lead to “the cessation of essential, even vital activities (…) for the benefit of populations in situations of great fragility or poverty,” Africa News reported.

Despite fears of rising jihadism, Mali also remains hopeful, as Amadou Maiga claims military withdrawal from the west will “require a reorganization of our troops and maybe a little more logistics”, adding, “But we’ll deal with it. We’ve been expecting this,” according to DW. Hopefully, Mali can reroute its aid relations to nations with whom they have less tumultuous histories and defend against jihadist attacks in the meantime. Also, stabilization could possibly be restored after the German-supervised February 2024 elections.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

Literacy in Africa
The literacy rate in Africa is estimated to be about 70%. Although this is the total continental average, literacy rates vary widely among countries within the continent. For instance, Niger’s literacy rate stands at a mere 19%. Other African countries like Guinea and South Sudan rank low as well, with their literacy rates in the low 30s. However, there are organizations promoting libraries in African schools and communities to increase literacy rates in the continent.

The Importance of Libraries

Libraries all across the globe strive to bring communities together. By definition, a library is a public place that seeks to provide education to all individuals as well as aid in self-development. They often provide many volunteer opportunities and allow people to unite as one. Libraries in general offer a vast amount of resources to the public. These information resources provide knowledge that contributes to a well-informed society. They provide a multitude of learning opportunities to people of all classes. Most people who find themselves in low-income situations lack the resources that they need to receive an education and hence, can benefit from library services. Libraries are built on the foundation of solidarity and are able to increase literacy rates by providing access to free books and resources to schools and communities.

The Importance of Libraries in Africa

Africa is home to the poorest countries in the world, with sub-Saharan having one of the lowest literacy rates. However, African organizations are building libraries and contributing to the continent’s literacy development. The African Library Project in particular is an organization that partners with several African-based programs that work to build libraries throughout African communities. With its goal to promote literacy and library development in Africa, the project sends a set number of books to newly built libraries by initiating book drives and gathering donations. In doing so, they also frequently follow up to ensure that the libraries are running sufficiently. The organization has established 190 libraries in Kenya and 587 libraries in Malawi as well as in other countries across Africa.

In March 2022, South Africa dedicated a week-long South African Library Week to promote awareness of the importance of building libraries across South Africa. With this year’s theme being “Reimagine! Repurpose! ReDiscover…Libraries!” the South African communities had placed a significant value of attention on re-evaluating the state of the current libraries in South Africa.

AfLIA’s Influence on the Growing Sector

Organizations like the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) are also actively promoting this movement. The AfLIA is a nonprofit organization that also works to advance the lives of people in Africa through the services offered by libraries. There has been an ongoing collaboration between AfLIA and OER Africa. They promote libraries as spaces for communities to learn and share information.

Dr. Nkem Osuigwe at AfLIA described the importance of libraries in communities by stating, “This little library could get news from the radio, TV, newspapers, but also books. They knew when and where it was going to rain, the cost of seedlings, and how to get better produce. They were passing this information down to members of the community.” AfLIA also spearheads advocacy in the interest of libraries, library workers and the communities they serve in Africa. The leader of the AfLIA, Mr. Alim Garga, recently traveled to Gabon to discuss the development of libraries being built in Africa. He was able to join AfLIA with the Gabonese library in his contribution to boosting the library and information sector in Central Africa.

Libraries are Beneficial to All

The libraries that are undergoing construction across Africa cover only a small percentage of the globe. The building of libraries would prove to be beneficial in communities around the world. This is especially true in poverty-induced communities where both resources and services are scarce. Africa is just one of the many continents that have benefited from the infrastructures of libraries. With an increased awareness of libraries, poverty-stricken countries all over the world can have access to many opportunities.

– Madison Stivala
Photo: Flickr

Torrential Floods in AfricaAfrica is the second-largest continent with a population of 1.4 million as of 2022, making it the second most populated continent. Africa has an extreme poverty line of 46% in rural areas and 9% in urban areas, with an equal split of poverty between males and females from 30 to 31%, leaving 431 million people living in poverty. In 2022, torrential floods hit many regions in Africa and in the KwaZulu-Natal area, 398 people were reported dead with 27 still missing. The heavy rain destroyed many homes, leaving thousands of people homeless, sinking cargo containers and ruined soil, leaving many farmers without work and families without food during winter.

Factors of Torrential Floods

The National Weather Service (NWS) does not formally recognize torrential rain as a weather term. Instead, ThoughtCo described it as “rain that is especially heavy.” Heavy downpours are classified as rainfall with a rate of 0.3 inches or more per hour that occurs when the moisture in the air mass is larger than its own size. For example, when your sink is plugged, the water will eventually overflow if not turned off, but if it’s unplugged, the water can never outweigh the sink and is held. One can usually catch torrential rain on weather radars and weather services will give different levels of warning if the rain is dangerous enough not to resume daily life as it can cause runoffs, flooding and mudslides.

The Impact of Torrential Floods in Africa

Recent torrential floods have impacted Africa’s farms, including huts, crops and livestock, especially in West and Central Africa. In more than 12 countries, 4 million people have lost a substantial number of crops due to torrential floods in 2022, where many farmers not only supply stock for other people but also rely on their farms for their own use. Six million hectares of farmland are underwater, where the soil has lost its properties to continue growing healthy crops.

With the current season’s harvest ruined by torrential floods, many farmers worry about the future of their farms. Many farmers travel long periods of time to reach their farms, trying to save what they can to survive this season and the rest of the year. While some have managed to save enough for a month, families will become famished over the winter and it is unlikely that the soil will be able to produce healthy crops until after the new year in 2023. The chairman of the Associations of Sorghum Producers, Processors and Marketing for the northeastern Borno state, Goni Alhaji Adam, stated that the floods are “the worst he had seen in two decades,” Al Jazeera reports.

Besides the impact of torrential floods in Africa, other things also had a hand to play in the destruction of farms. Due to conflict in the Sahel region, almost 8 million people faced displacement, many of whom were farmers that could not tend to their land due to the pandemic, according to Al Jazeera. 8% of displaced citizens were agropastoral farmers, meaning they take care of agriculture and livestock simultaneously. Also, with the drought and the Ukraine-Russian war, fertilizer supplies dropped significantly, meaning farmers could not produce as many crops.

Looking Ahead

In order to achieve better nutrition and reach their goals by 2030, Africa is asking for collaboration from multiple countries around the world to help in any way they can. Those who cannot afford farm or crop management need support with food security, nutrition and health, cleaner water and education to prepare for the winter and next year. To achieve SDG 2, the agrifood system also needs support. For example, stakeholders need to “transition to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems” to ensure stronger and healthier production and nutrition to provide a safer environment and a better quality of life.

Africa was making an improvement in food security, however, from 2019 to 2020, Africa was not on track and had seen a dangerous increase in malnourishment that reached 89.1 million people. Where the torrential floods have impacted Africa, 26.7% of food insecure people are from the West and 20.3% are from Central Africa, some of the higher rates compared to the rest of Africa, according to FAO report.

Before the impact of torrential floods, the pandemic, draught and the Ukraine-Russian war, Africa already faced a food security issue. In Nigeria, in two regions, floods have destroyed 30% of maize crops. The president of Nigeria’s Maize Growers and Processors Association, Edwin Chigozie Uche, have started the process of analyzing soil and its nutrients where the floods have subsided to determine when farmers can continue farming, Al Jazeera reports. Though, a significant number of farmers are small-scale and cannot afford soil fertility tests and other farm management methods. Due to this, it is unlikely they will be able to farm the following year without help.

Another bid to lessen the impact of torrential floods in Africa that the army, police and volunteer rescuers use to distribute clean water and soon deploy water tankers. The government has provided 1 billion rands ($58 million) in emergency relief funding. More than 4,000 police officers are supporting relief efforts and keeping citizens safe and orderly due to reports of theft, The Guardian reports. The South African weather service has announced future storms and flooding that could enable citizens to prepare.

– Deanna Barratt
Photo: Flickr

Assisting Flood Victims in Nigeria
Nigeria is a country in West Africa with a population of more than 210 million people. It is the most populous country in Africa and boasts one of the largest economies in Africa. Since September 2022, Nigeria has faced devastating floods that damaged Nigeria’s infrastructure and led to dire humanitarian consequences. These floods stand as the most destructive floods that Nigeria has experienced in more than 10 years. The floods have led to more than 600 deaths, more than 1 million displacements and thousands of injuries. Below are five charities assisting flood victims in Nigeria.

5 Charities Assisting Flood Victims in Nigeria

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC is a global relief agency that has been providing aid to Nigeria since the country’s previous extreme flooding event in 2012. The organization is committed to helping people in poor and vulnerable countries amid conflict and disasters. The IRC specifically supports Nigerians by providing them with food, water, shelter and health services. Nigeria has experienced large cholera outbreaks and an increase in preventable diseases as a result of the floods. In October 2022, the IRC helped Nigerians by providing hygiene and sanitation resources and health programming to stop the spread of these diseases. The IRC has also established three offices in Northeastern Nigeria to expand its crisis response efforts within the country. With more funding, the IRC can reach even more disaster victims in Nigeria.
  2. UNICEF Nigeria. This charity supports children in Nigeria who experience issues that stem from poverty including disease, violence and environmental disasters. Flooding in Nigeria has caused communities, such as those within Bayelsa State, to lose their homes, schools and other essential infrastructure. UNICEF has supported the Nigerian government’s response in three flood-affected states. UNICEF’s response includes “cash assistance, distribution of cholera kits, government-led mobile health teams, temporary learning centers [and] learning kits” the UNICEF website reports. With more support, this organization can scale its efforts and provide critical supplies, including medication, to those who need it the most.
  3. Save the Children Nigeria. For more than 20 years, the organization has supported vulnerable Nigerian children and their families. A November 2022 press release highlights Save the Children’s assistance to flood victims across several countries. In Nigeria specifically, Save the Children is providing flood victims with “life-saving food, safe drinking water, cash assistance, mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, child protection services and emergency shelter kits,” according to the press release. The organization is assisting 36,000 children and 18,000 families in six of those most affected states.
  4. Nigerian Red Cross Society. This organization came about in 1960 through a parliamentary act. The organization helps vulnerable Nigerians facing “disaster, epidemics, armed conflicts” and other issues that bring humanitarian consequences. The Nigerian Red Cross announced an emergency appeal for funding in early November 2022 to raise more money for victims of Nigeria’s recent floods. This aid would support victims across Nigeria on a large scale. The charity has already mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers and hundreds of staff members to assist with “evacuation, camp management and relief activities.”
  5. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This United Nations body is dedicated to coordinating and strengthening international humanitarian responses to disasters. The OCHA facilitates effective responses to global emergencies, such as the floods in Nigeria, by mobilizing support and funding for affected nations. OCHA’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria has called for more support from the international community regarding flood relief efforts in Nigeria as well as a more coordinated effort to mitigate climate-related disasters.

Looking Ahead

These five charities assisting flood victims in Nigeria work to provide essential resources and aid to people who need help. Through their work into the future, flooding victims in Nigeria should be able to continue receiving support.

– Dylan Priday
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Upcycle Africa
Upcycle Africa is an organization focused on re-orienting and re-educating African communities towards a greener future. Through the process of upcycling, a community can reduce its waste accumulation by transforming useless products, materials or energy into something functional. Sustainable development is a well-known concept that involves achieving economic growth in the long term. Upcycle Africa is proof that the goals of a greener industry and profitable entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive.

Waste Crisis in Africa

Waste management in Africa has been a problem since the rise of industrialization and urbanization. The uncontrolled accumulation of waste in both urban and rural areas continues to skyrocket as the population continues to increase. The African population is the fastest growing among all continents, with an annual growth rate of roughly 3.5%. The growing number of people puts more pressure on waste management efforts because of inadequate infrastructure across a large portion of the continent.

Moreover, Asian countries such as China have banned plastic dumping in their own countries so Africa has become the new destination for waste trade. Countries like Kenya and Senegal received 1 billion tons of waste when China banned waste trading. The main problem with waste in Africa is that waste collection and proper treatment are often insufficient – more than half the waste generated is not collected. Africa has 19 of the 50 largest uncontrolled dumpsites where waste is regularly burned and poorly manipulated. People living nearby have to dig through the waste to make a living and are living with constant exposure to dangerous health risks. Prolonged exposure can result in the development of diseases such as asthma, tuberculosis and diabetes.

Sustainable Development is the Answer

Eradicating poverty sustainably has become a priority even though traditionally, the idea was that the least developed countries (LDCs) could not afford to develop their economies without polluting. Over the years, a shift in mentality has led to the acceptance of greener economies and practices. Many have come to the realization that there will be no future economy in case of mismanagement and overuse of the environment and its resources. This is especially true in Africa, where 15% of the continent’s GDP is agriculturally based. Hence, the livelihood of millions of people depends on the preservation of the African natural environment. Waste management is essential for sustainable development; it not only leads to the collection of waste but also prevents further damage to the environment.

Upcycle Africa in Action

Upcycle Africa’s goal is to transform waste-related problems in Africa into employment opportunities. To achieve this it focuses on three programs.

The first, Zero Waste Campaign, addresses the principal problem of waste accumulation in African countries – waste pollution. Upcycle Africa believes that to achieve more effective results, the emphasis should be on specific communities. Understanding how waste can be economically beneficial can be difficult, so improving education is one of the core objectives of the program.

The second program, Waste to Wealth, focuses on cleaning up spaces and encouraging the population to embrace these practices while rejecting the uncontrolled dumping of waste.

The third program, Business Development, is all about green entrepreneurship. A transition to a greener economy starts with initiatives that focus on providing sustainable products and services as well as greener production processes. Upcycling is the perfect way to start this transition, as it transforms a huge pollution problem into a source of job creation.

One of the most successful projects Upcycle Africa has undertaken is the building of houses with plastic bottles in Uganda. Uganda’s rapid population growth makes it difficult to ensure decent housing for everyone. Through this initiative, Upcycle Africa has managed to educate communities about the importance of protecting the environment while also creating something useful. The constructed houses are affordable and highly resistant to earthquakes. In 2021, Upcycle Africa also announced their partnership with Engineered Waste to Energy Solutions for the World (E.S.E.S), an organization committed to generating energy from waste.

Through these initiatives, Upcycle Africa is one step closer to transforming waste collection into an economically beneficial practice in LDCs.

– Carla Tomas
Photo: Wikimedia Commons