Public Education_Africa
Although it invests more money into its education system than any other African country, South Africa is currently facing a public education crisis. One-quarter of students failed their final examinations this past school year. The dropout rate has also increased, resulting in less than half of current students completing their secondary education, which greatly contributes to the South African education crisis.

Students in South Africa often face challenges in the areas of mathematics and science. One explanation for this issue is that 25 percent of secondary schools do not offer math classes for grades 10 through 12. In 2014 and 2015, South Africa’s math and science programs ranked last out of 140 countries in the Global Competitiveness Report.

Language barriers between teachers and students are also a major dilemma, as South Africa is a very linguistically diverse country with 11 official languages. According to Professor John Volmink, in order to bridge the gap, teachers must be better equipped to teach English to their students.

Multiple leaders also point out the negative consequences for education stemming from apartheid. Schools of better quality are mostly located in predominately white areas, meaning that black students must travel to these schools or settle for sub-par schools in their neighborhoods. Though apartheid is over, the South African education system is still working to reduce its residual negative consequences.

South African Minister of Education Angie Motshekga recognizes the weaknesses in the South African education system and continues to work to overcome the legacy of apartheid. She also plans to work with unions to increase teacher attendance, allowing students more time in the classroom.

However, while these factors do play a part in the reality of the education system in South Africa, there is hope. Business Tech is quick to point out that the South African education crisis, and specifically the country’s rankings, do not “reflect the ability of the country’s learners but are indicative of an education system that needs urgent intervention.”

Some schools that lack even basic educational resources still excel academically. South Africa also has many high-quality private institutions, although not all families are able to afford these schools. With help from the international community, more South African students can reach their full academic potential.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

AmeriCares
Category five super-cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Feb. 22, 2016. With winds of up to 180 mph, Winston was both the strongest cyclone to ever hit Fiji and the strongest cyclone on record to make landfall in the South Pacific archipelago overall. Fortunately, AmeriCares has stepped in to support Fijians in need.

AmeriCares, an emergency response and global health organization based in Stamford, Connecticut, is currently helping Fijians in their recovery and relief efforts. The organization has dispatched an emergency response team of volunteers to provide the medical care and assistance that some inhabitants require. AmeriCares has also prepared approximately 5,000 pounds of medical and relief supplies to deliver to Fiji.

Founder Robert C. Macauley first conceived of AmeriCares during the Vietnam War. In 1975, he and his wife sent an aircraft to Vietnam in order to airlift 300 infant orphans to safety in California. In order to do so, Macauley was forced to take a mortgage out on his house.

Since then, AmeriCares has worked in over 140 countries. These countries include North Korea, where the organization has sent medical supplies since 1997 — and Syria, where $7 million in medical aid has been delivered since 2012.

Approximately 909,389 people inhabit 110 of the 332 islands that compose Fiji. In Cyclone Winston’s wake, 347,000 now find themselves in need of humanitarian aid, of whom 120,000 are children, says UNICEF.

42 Fijians have been confirmed dead and some of the villages within the more remote islands of Fiji are thought to have been completely obliterated by the storm. An article by the Huffington Post reports that 35,000 are currently living in evacuation centers, some of which are running low on supplies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXXk1U7HgSw

Two major hospitals were also damaged by the cyclone, according to AmeriCares’ website. AmeriCares’ aid may thus prove an important component in supplementing some of the infrastructural support that was lost in the cyclone.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: AmeriCares, The Huffington Post, UNICEF, William Grimes

Low-Carbon_EmissionsIs it feasible to provide energy to the poor with low-carbon emissions? The World Bank believes so. It claims clean energy is the solution for getting people out of poverty.

In our modern age, those in poverty can’t get out without access to reliable energy. Currently, 1 billion people globally have no power, which means no opportunities to run a business, provide light for kids to study, cook and Internet access to search for jobs and be informed.

Climate change is and will continue to affect everyone, but no one will suffer more than the poor, throwing away decades of development work.

The World Bank Group supports building low-carbon, climate resilient cities, forward movement on climate-smart agriculture as well as speeding up energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the Group is also focused on supporting work on ending fossil fuel subsidies and developing carbon pricing to increase costs of emissions that will lead to energy for all and decreased emissions. The focus is a balancing act on growing economies and reducing emissions, but it can be done.

More and more we see a shift to renewables, such as hydropower, geothermal, solar and wind. Government financial departments are realizing how costly the effects of climate change are with rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns and human migrations, costing trillions and potentially killing hundreds of thousands.

Notably, there has been an increase in renewable energy of 45 percent globally from 2010 to 2012, with Asia leading by 42 percent. Governments such as those in Bangladesh are developing sustainable strategies with more than 3.5 million solar home systems, creating 70,000 direct jobs.

In addition, Morocco is leading the way in Africa with its formation of an agency for solar power and coming up with a super grid for solar, wind, hydropower and biomass. The country has increased its renewable energy investment, to some extent by reducing fossil fuel subsidies from $297 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2013.

For the rest of Arica, the cost of renewable energy is out of reach for most governments, and the private sector doesn’t want to invest in it because it doesn’t know if it will be a safe investment. This is a shame given the amount of resources Africa has. The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) is providing some funding.

Carbon taxes are or will be used by 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces to decrease emissions, generating nearly $50 billion. Green bonds are also increasing in popularity, with the World Bank raising $8.4 billion through the 100 total it has issued in 18 currencies.

Green bonds are currently funding two energy efficient projects in China that are eliminating 12.6 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, the equivalent of eliminating 2.7 billion cars every year.

It seems that some governments have realized the cost implications of the inaction to climate change, mostly because they are being affected more and more by it.

Not only is it cost-effective to address this problem, it’s also moral to get people out of poverty and prevent them from having to endure the bulk of the consequences of a problem they didn’t create.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: African Development Bank Group (AfDB), The Guardian
Photo: Pixabay

Solar_Power_Kits
When a bike accident left Pascal Kassongo injured, out of a courier job, and nearly destitute, his prospects looked grim. But thanks to the Amandala Project, Kassongo has found a new source of income with the Ecoboxx.

Lightweight and portable, each Ecoboxx can supply up to 50 hours of power and comes with a fan, hair clippers and charging ports for cell phones and other devices. Since launching in January of 2015, the Amandala Project, whose name means “power” in Zulu, has distributed 300 solar power kits to South Africans in need, with plans to distribute almost 600 more kits in the near future.

The goal of the project is to supply the unemployed, and particularly the migrant, residents of South Africa with the means to start their own small businesses, free of any charge past the initial investment. An individual can make up to 1,600 rand (about $128) cutting hair each week, and another thousand charging phones and other devices. The average income in South Africa for unskilled workers is around $500 per month.

While some choose to stick with running a barbershop with their Ecoboxx, others have come up with creative alternative uses. Janet Bete, who came to South Africa from Zimbabwe, rents out her kit for lights to local businesses and churches operating when it is dark. The enterprising woman also takes time to give back to her community. “Whenever there is a funeral in my community and there is no power, I donate my lights—it’s my way of paying [people] back for living well together,” said Bete.

Kassongo has also opted to put his solar kit to an alternative use. Rather than run a barbershop himself, Kassongo, a father of four, rents his kit out to neighbors who do own barbershops, sharing the proceeds with them. “It helps put something on the table,” said Kassongo.

The Ecoboxx, which retails at around 4000 rand, is being distributed by the Amandla Project, a subsidiary of the South African organization Community Chest, for a nominal fee of 200 rand. Community Chest CEO Lorenzo Davids said he hopes the kits will “electrify” rural South Africa, and when combined with creative entrepreneurialism, help generate income in the regions that so desperately need it.

Gina Lehner

Sources: All About Africa, EcoBoxx
Photo: EcoBoxx

parenting_intervention
Often it is the simple, low-resource interventions that can have the most impact in improving the lives of women and children.

In Lira, Uganda, a community-based parenting intervention has proven to be successful in supporting both child development and maternal wellbeing.

The link between maternal wellbeing and child development is important. Maternal depression can be stigmatized or regarded as unrelated to child health. However, the study implemented by Dr. Singla and his colleagues reveals that maternal and child health are related and can be addressed together.

The study selected 12 parishes in Lira; half participated in the parenting intervention and the remaining parishes served as a control group. Mothers were paired with their children in the study. The children were between 12 to 36 months old, and the mothers were selected for a background of low maternal education.

The parenting intervention group consisted of 12 fortnightly peer-led group sessions related to maternal wellbeing and caring for children. Topics discussed included increasing the involvement of fathers as well as ways to care for children in regards to playing, talking, hygiene practices and expressions of love and respect.

Results of the intervention program were assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. The endline results were collected three months after the 24-week program ended.

Children who were in the intervention group had higher cognitive scores and receptive language scores. Mothers in the intervention group also self-reported fewer symptoms of depression. These results are positive and confirm the hypothesis that maternal and child health can improve in a unique way when the issues are addressed together.

Atif Rahman, Professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of Liverpool, and his colleagues support the integration of maternal mental health into maternal and child health programs. They also emphasize that this work must connect to broader goals, such as poverty reduction and gender empowerment.

It is significant that this Ugandan program was successful with non-professional, local community members because this indicates that similar programs can be implemented without great expenses.

Iliana Lang

Sources: The Lancet Global Health, PLoS Medicine
Photo: Pulitzer Center

Wind_PowerConstruction has begun on the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which will become Africa’s largest wind power farm. It is estimated to be finished by 2017 and the farm will produce a fifth of Kenya’s total energy. Additionally, Kenya Power has signed a contract to purchase energy from the farm for the next 20 years. The 40,000-acre farm has 365 turbines and will take advantage of a low-level jet stream known as the “Turkana Corridor Winds,” which blow year round.

Regarding the powerful wind speeds and the energy potential, Carlo Van Wageningen, director of the Lake Turkana Wind Project, states, “On average, we obtain 11.8 metres per second. Now, if you make a comparison with onshore wind farms in Europe, you’re looking at a good wind site being about 7.5 to 8 metres a second at best.”

Investors from the European Union have financed the USD $690 million project with the African Development Bank. The program is a milestone in a broader global effort to maximize Africa’s wind power production. Wind power has taken off already in many African countries, such as Morocco, Sudan and South Africa. More than two thirds of Africa’s total population does not have access to electricity. These efforts aim to provide universal access for impoverished Africans living in both urban and rural areas.

In January, a transmission line failure caused a power outage that left over half the country without electricity for four hours. It is absolutely necessary for a country of 4 million people to have a more reliable and accessible source of energy. While power interruptions are becoming increasingly less common, these blackouts can have severe implications for families living in poverty.

The wind farm’s completion is coming at a crucial time for the country. Approximately 80,000 South Sudanese have taken refuge in Kenya to escape their civil war. This massive migration has greatly increased the need for electricity, both for native Kenyans and for refugee camps. Less than 25 percent of Kenyans have access to electricity, but it is estimated that the farm’s energy will provide the majority of the population with access to electricity.

Additionally, the farm will provide temporary construction work for almost 2,500 Kenyans and will employ 200 full-time upon completion.

The outlook for the future is quite promising as well. Eight African countries have the most wind energy potential among developing world nations. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that sub-Saharan Africa alone could produce twice the energy that Africa as a continent currently consumes.

The IEA estimates that by 2040, wind power capacity in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 12 gigawatts. There are one billion watts per gigawatt and a single LED light bulb requires approximately 15 watts. For a continent that is so severely energy-deprived, a seemingly basic amenity like a light bulb can make a monumental impact.

Frasier Petersen

Sources: QZ, AFKInsider, CNBC
Photo: Flickr

global wa
With a conflict as large and diverse as global poverty, it can be difficult for people, particularly small or independent nonprofit organizations, to feel like they are making a legitimate difference in the lives of others around the world. Larger associations have been popping up recently that serve to unite all advocates, and one particular association is Global Washington.

Headquartered in Seattle, Global Washington works to strengthen “Washington state’s vibrant global development community and [increase] the impact of [its] members.” By using this approach, more areas of global poverty are covered and relief is provided through a number of outlets.

Global Washington connects businesses, companies and non-government organizations with opportunities to support numerous global development projects as well as to create engaging strategies that promote global welfare and focus on global development issues.

There are numerous benefits to having one association umbrella over the global development community. This “mutual friend” in Global Washington allows new connections to be made between businesses and fundraisers or philanthropist. Through Global Washington’s work, new partnerships have been formed that serve to strengthen smaller organizations in the fight against global poverty. Global Washington also allows every country around the world to be interconnected through the numerous businesses, organizations and individual philanthropists that take part in the work.

According to Global Washington, one in three jobs in Washington state is dependent on trade and global development, and each state in America holds similar statistics. Global Washington has over 300 nonprofits working internationally, serving to improve millions of lives, creating thousands of jobs and providing a sense of stability and hope for the future. Foundations such as World Vision and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered with Global Washington to provide support and improve living conditions, health and sanitation and education.

Global Washington is ushering in a new wave of global poverty reduction by creating one association that can adopt numerous organizations, businesses and individuals. Unifying all actions against global poverty increases the rates and effects of poverty reduction. With so many vast challenges and struggles to battle, strong unity among dedicated advocates is crucial to accomplish the work of reducing poverty’s harshest realities. Global Washington is setting the bar for future businesses and organizations to work together in order to fight global poverty.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: Global Washington, Seattle Foundation
Photo: Google Plus

holiday gifts
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend over $600 billion on holiday gifts during the 2014 season alone. A staggering statistic when compared to the fact that an estimated $40 billion would be necessary to provide clean water and sanitation, reproductive health for women and basic education, health and nutrition to every person living in a developing country worldwide.

Fortunately, many nonprofits, online marketplaces and charitable organizations are doing something to help redirect some of the money that Americans spend each holiday season to those who need it most. If you’re in the market for a gift that does double-duty this year, check out the following stores and nonprofit organizations for ample meaningful gift ideas:

1. Heifer International:

Give the gift of an animal in your friend or family’s name and help provide a family in a developing country with both food and a reliable source of income. Heifer International

2. Books for Africa:

Honor a friend or family with a book donation through Books for Africa (BFA), a non-profit dedicated to increasing literacy rates and children’s access to books in Africa. For donations of $50 or more, BFA will send a hand-written thank-you note to your honoree. $50 provides 100 books for a classroom. Books for Africa

3. Oxfam America Unwrapped:

Browse an endless array of gifts online—from goats and honeybees, to books and school meal programs for kids—and give to a family or child in need on behalf of a friend or family member. In return, a free, personalized card will be sent to the ‘gift-giver,’ along with a photo of the gift and information about how specifically it makes a difference in the lives of people living in poverty. Oxfam America Unwrapped

4. JADEtribe:

100 percent natural and ethical, JADEtribe’s bags, clothing and accessories truly embody the phrase “fashion with a conscience.” Each piece is handcrafted by women in South East Asia, and proceeds from JADEtribe purchases directly improve the lives of the female artisans who contribute to the company’s extensive selection. JADEtribe

5. Global Goods Partners:

Artisans living in third-world countries have an opportunity to sell their beautiful handmade goods on this online marketplace. Purchase a gift from this site, and a high percentage of sales will go directly back to the artisan who made it. Global Goods Partners

6. Ten Thousand Villages:

A fair-trade retailer since 1946, Ten Thousand Villages has stores across the United States, and an extensive collection of jewelry, clothing, kitchen and household items, and home décor, among many other gift ideas. The store partners with artisans around the world, in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Cambodia and Peru, among dozens of other countries. Its mission: sustain livelihoods, empower women, preserve cultural arts, and build global relationships. Ten Thousand Villages for online purchases or to find a store near you.

7. The Little Market:

Lauren Conrad’s e-commerce site, which is filled with vibrant, handmade goods, was created to serve as a platform for female artisans living in third-world countries worldwide to reach a wider audience. The proceeds for items such as jewelry, clothing, bags and ceramics go directly back to the women who made them. The Little Market

8. Bead for Life:

Bead for Life was founded to empower women in Uganda by helping them start their own bead-making businesses. The Beading Program provides women in impoverished countries with a steady source of income, derived from handcrafted beaded jewelry. Invite friends and family to shop for the cause by hosting a Beading Party from your home; a customized inventory of jewelry will be sent directly to your doorstep beforehand. Or order beads online. Bead for Life

Whether you’re giving a life-changing gift of an animal to a family in need, or wrapping a selection of handmade bags, scarves and jewelry that will help support the livelihood and businesses of female artisans worldwide, choosing a gift from the above list automatically makes you an ally in the fight against global poverty. Why not send a feel-good present or two this year, when it’s guaranteed to touch the friend or family member you’re choosing to honor, and to alter the lives of the person, family or community on its receiving end?

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: The Borgen Project, Info Wars
Photo: Nugget Market

zillow
Years ago, prospective homeowners would go to local real estate agencies to look for housing. It used to be that real estate agents held exclusive knowledge of the local and national housing market and that any buyer had to go through their local agency to find and purchase a new house.

Today, companies like Zillow Inc. and Trulia Inc. streamline the process with their online platforms. They offer searchable databases of real estate data for free to any online user, and make profits on advertising and agent listings. Together, both companies dominate the online marketplace and have 68.4 million unique users as of June.

On July 28, Zillow Inc. announced it had agreed to acquire Trulia Inc. for $3.5 billion in stock transactions. The purchase comes at a time when both sites are booming with user interaction, but profit from the online platforms is not yet optimal. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff believes the acquisition of Trulia Inc. will help both companies cut costs and increase efficiency overall. As the Chicago Tribune reported, Rascoff told financial analysts that both companies “independently [have] very large rental audiences and…both [are] in the early stages of monetizing those rental audiences.”

The deal has the potential to help consumers engage with real estate data more efficiently and at a cheaper price, but the money spent on Zillow’s acquisition is substantial. If spent on advancing the interests and development of the poor, that money would have a tangibly greater social impact.

The World Food Programme (WFP,) for example, recently announced that it was unable to provide food to nearly 800,000 due to budget shortfalls. United Nations WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres urged donors to provide an additional $186 million in funding to provide food rations to nearly 800 thousand. If not, food aid would have to be cut, threatening already high levels of malnutrition and anemia among refugee populations.

If the same money that was spent acquiring Trulia Inc. went to providing food to refugees, approximately 15.1 million more refugees would benefit from food rations from the WFP. Put another way, 2.4 million refugees depend on food aid from the WFP each year. If $3.5 billion was invested, every African refugee would have his or her nutritional needs met for over six years, based on U.N. and WFP figures.

The money spent on advancing the online potential of the real estate industry is an important development to consumer interests; however, even small monetary developments can have significant impacts when invested in the poor.

– Joseph McAdams

Sources: Chicago Tribune, LA Times, World Food Programme
Photo: LA Times

lake victoria treaty
Representatives from Israel, Germany and Kenya signed a treaty that will initiate the second phase of the plan to protect Lake Victoria.

The Lake Victoria treaty was signed on July 11 in Nairobi.

“Kenya committed 600,00 Euros; Germany committed 400,000 Euros; and Israel committed 200,000 Euros for training, support, and also equipment, totaling 1.2 million Euros for the next two and a half years,” said Andrea Bahm, program director at the German Agency for International Cooperation’s Food Security and Drought Resilience Program

The first phase of the treaty was signed and implemented in 2012, and aimed to improve the environment surrounding and within Lake Victoria. As the population surrounding the lake grew, the population of fish steadily depleted every year, and the treaty was enacted to prevent total depletion of fish from Lake Victoria.

Phase I involved promoting tilapia fish farming in an effort to support the community’s economy and livelihood. Phase I also included implementing a better system to manage the water waste in the Lake so the tilapia could more readily thrive.

Phase II will involve extending the project and funding and cooperation from the three countries that signed the treaty. Through this second phase, the treaty aims to ensure that the three countries will work to “enhance sustainable ways of protecting Lake Victoria’s environment but creating alternative livelihoods for the communities living around the lake.”

Plans to create lasting means of support involve building more ponds in Kenya to expand the areas in which tilapia can be raised and later used for food.

Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: Israel Diplomatic Network, Sada Elbalad, World Bank
Photo: SafariLands