civil society response to HIV in South AfricaAccording to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), South Africa has the largest population of people infected with HIV globally. One of the first countries afflicted with the epidemic in the 1980s, South Africa holds one eighth of the world’s AIDS population. One in nine South Africans and one in four adults are infected. The civil society response to HIV in South Africa has been crucial in addressing the virus and encouraging the government to take action as well.

Government Inaction

South Africa’s HIV statistics are staggering, even in comparison to other countries with large numbers of infected people, like Brazil and India. The problem of HIV in South Africa results from the government’s inadequate response to the epidemic until 2008. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the nation’s health minister from 1999 to 2008, refused to promote efficacious treatments such as antiretroviral therapy (ART). He called the antiviral treatments, widely endorsed by the global scientific community, “poison.” Tshabalala-Msimang instead promoted unscientific and largely ineffective treatments such as vitamins, beetroot and garlic. None of these have been shown to protect the health of people who are fighting the effects of the virus.

The year 2002 marked a turning point for the civil society response to HIV in South Africa. AIDS activists and others pushed back against a government policy that attempted to stifle access to effective treatments. In a historic judgment that initiated the fall of Tshabalala-Msimang, the South African courts ruled in favor of the activists. The ruling forced the government to take a more proactive role in fighting the epidemic. Later in 2006, the South African government established a national policy addressing HIV/AIDS following court processes instigated by AIDS activists. This policy broadened the distribution of life-saving drugs such as ART, addressed the shortage of healthcare workers and improved the treatment of HIV in pregnant women.

HIV/AIDS Activism

The South African government’s policies of misinformation and its ill-advised public health approaches to the epidemic worked to downplay the virus as a pressing threat. Because of Tshabalala-Msimang’s respectability and position of power, his rhetoric only fueled AIDS deniers. Still, South African scientists, medical professionals and activists banded together to challenge the government’s deadly inaction with the civil society response to HIV in South Africa.

From the onset of the epidemic, NGOs, CBOs, faith-based groups and activist groups took action to promote the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. This civil society response to HIV in South Africa effectively addressed the acute inadequacy of the government’s response. These groups understood the importance of comprehensive responses to HIV even before international agencies drew connections between the various moving parts associated with the virus. For example, they emphasized the importance of condoms, bringing a wide range of issues into the public eye. Additionally, the groups stressed information, education and communication (IEC) initiatives to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Foundation South Africa

A large part of the civil society response to HIV in South Africa, AIDS Foundation South Africa (AFSA) was the first registered AIDS NGO in South Africa, and it is currently one of the largest. The organization recognizes the complexity of the virus and the need to address it in a comprehensive way. AFSA focuses on a combination of treatment, prevention, child protection, food security, education and access to basic services. Additionally, AFSA recognizes that different communities have different needs when it comes to AIDS treatment and prevention. As such, the organization serves as a liaison for smaller organizations that might require research, funding, strategies and general aid.

In 2012, for example, AFSA conducted a program in KwaZulu-Natal to engage in work that supported various community programs. These programs included AIDS education and testing, childhood development, community care programs and food security endeavors. The organization is currently on track to meet its 2020 goal of 90% of all people living with HIV to know their status. It also aims to have 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV receiving ART and 90% of people receiving ART having viral suppression, a sign of the treatment’s efficacy.

New Administration

The importance the civil society response to HIV in South Africa is especially clear with the resignation of President Mbeki as well as Tshabalala-Msimang. Elected in 2009 by a large majority, President Jacob Zuma ran on a campaign that acknowledged the urgency of stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Once elected, Zuma appointed Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi as minister of health. Motsoaledi turned the government’s focus to HIV response.

During Zuma’s term, which ended in 2018, South Africa launched a massive national HIV counseling and testing campaign (HCT), and Zuma himself publicized his HIV test. This campaign also included large-scale medical male circumcision (MMC), which mitigates the spread of the virus in many cases. By the end of 2010, more than half of adults and a third of children eligible for ART were receiving the treatment. Furthermore, the average price of HIV drugs decreased by more than 40% between 2010 and 2014.

Moving Forward

South African society has made monumental strides in addressing HIV/AIDS. However, stigma against several groups particularly afflicted by the disease stands in the way of a truly holistic response. For example, transgender women in South Africa are two times as likely to have HIV than men who have sex with men, but they are routinely excluded from studies and comprehensive care. Additionally, HIV among sex workers is as high as 71.8% in Johannesburg. Because sex work is criminalized in South Africa, AIDS treatment and potentially life-saving health information are less accessible. To more fully address HIV/AIDS, South Africa will have to turn to these issues next.

Kate Ciolkowski-Winters
Photo: Flickr

health in south africaSince 2007, Eskom, the primary electrical provider in South Africa, has implemented a power-sharing technique across the country. This technique, referred to as load shedding, works to distribute power across the country by staging scheduled power outages in some municipalities for multiple hours a day. The power outages switch across different municipalities on a schedule to compensate for Eskom’s inability to provide sufficient power to the entire country at once without the collapse of the national grid. It is not known specifically why Eskom is unable to provide total power to the country, but the most commonly understood reasons for why load shedding was introduced involve the company’s failure to maintain power stations, update electrical infrastructure and uphold quality administration. Health in South Africa is adversely affected by these load shed power outages, particularly for those living in poverty.

There is considerable controversy surrounding the effects of load shedding, particularly on the topic of health in South Africa. Healthcare in South Africa is under-funded by the government, which is reflected in the inequality of access to care for those without jobs. This lack of healthcare support is especially detrimental due to the quadruple burden of disease in the country, referring to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, non-communicable diseases and injury in South Africa. Together with the daily fundamentals of preventative and reactionary health procedures, each burden of disease is independently impacted by power outages in the country. Here are five ways that health in South Africa is impacted by the country’s load shedding system.

5 Ways that Load Shedding Impacts Health in South Africa

  1. Refrigeration: High rates of HIV and tuberculosis in South Africa call for the refrigeration of medications, which is impacted when load shedding occurs across the country. South Africa’s incidences of both HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are among the highest in the world, with over 20% of the adult population living with HIV/AIDS and over 450,000 people developing tuberculosis every year. Many anti-retroviral medications used to treat these diseases require specific temperature-controlled storage to remain effective. Without proper access to refrigeration, medications can spoil, leading to further expenses for patients, along with potentially fatal health repercussions.
  2. Traffic: Traffic lights losing power as a result of load shedding often results in automobile collisions, which contribute heavily to the incidence of injury in South Africa. In 2000, injury was responsible for around 12% of all deaths in South Africa. The most common causes of injury in the country are interpersonal violence and traffic incidents. With a safer driving environment implemented across the country through a reliable traffic light system, traffic accidents would be more preventable. Fortunately, the country has discussed implementing crossing guards and traffic directors at intersections in need of guidance during load shedding to prevent collisions and improve health in South Africa.
  3. Food safety: Hygiene within households surrounding food storage, processing and consumption is obstructed by extended periods without power in South Africa. Nearly 80% of South Africans use electricity to sterilize food, and improper food preparation could lead to serious health implications for this population. In addition to sterilization through proper food processing, the loss of refrigeration for perishable products like dairy and fresh vegetables enables bacterial growth in food. Consuming bacteria from poorly kept foods could lead to health complications such as diarrhea and dehydration.
  4. Hospital admissions: Load shedding poses many risks to both pediatric and adult health. As reported through a case study of load shedding and its impacts on one pediatric hospital admission rate, load shedding periods consistently result in a 10% increase in hospital admissions. Superficial health, then, is impacted by a loss of electricity due to load shedding.
  5. Public hospitals: Public hospitals are impacted by load shedding due to inconsistent support for reliable electricity. Public hospitals are reliant on government funding in order to maintain back-up power generators that provide stable electricity to physicians and patients. According to a recent study on the impacts of load shedding on hospitals, one electrical generator could cost a monthly maintenance fee of nearly $50,000. If the high expense for generator maintenance is not tended to at public hospitals around the country, many who seek public care could be impacted. Only 20% of the South African population is not dependent on public healthcare, meaning that a great majority of South Africans are at a higher risk of health complications in the event of electrical failure at a public hospital.

With proper support through government funding, the infrastructure for generating ample electricity could be improved and maintained in South Africa, which would not require load shedding. Preventative health measures would become possible with improved access to electrical resources, and reactionary medicine in hospitals would also become more reliable and effective without a dependency on unstable generator electricity. Not only would increased funding for electrical infrastructure contribute to equal access across the country, but it would also support the overall status of health in South Africa.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty EradicationA new job-search platform in South Africa seeks to put an end to youth unemployment. Entrepreneurs Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha founded an online company called Giraffe in 2015 to help reduce the staggering youth unemployment rate. Securing jobs for young South Africans is key to alleviating life-long poverty, as well as improving education and access to resources. The startup uses a specialized algorithm to match job-seekers to employers, making it one of the many innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

Solving Unemployment in South Africa

Around 40% of South Africans are unemployed, and the youth unemployment rate is even higher at nearly 50%. The government has made efforts to dismantle poverty and inequality since the end of apartheid in 1994 by building over two million new houses, improving access to clean water and distributing social grants to millions of people in poverty. The economy grew by roughly 3.5% yearly from 1998 to 2008, producing millions of new jobs. The financial crisis of 2008 halted some of this progress, but all efforts for improvement will neutralize if half of the country’s young people grow up outside of the job market.

With the long-term effects of youth unemployment in mind, Shivdasani and Anwarsha set out to curb the trend. In 2015, they introduced Giraffe to South Africa’s smallest province Gauteng, home of the country’s largest city Johannesburg. A year later, with 100,000 job-seekers signed up, they brought Giraffe to the greater metro areas of Cape Town and Durban. Today, over 1 million people have joined the platform as well as thousands of businesses, both small and large, looking for the right match.

The App That is Not Just for Smartphones

As one of the innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa, Giraffe’s success is a direct result of its ease of use and technological innovation. Anyone with a cellphone that has an internet browser, not necessarily a smartphone, can use the service. Job-seekers must first visit Giraffe’s website from whatever device they have available, and then fill out a form that takes about eight or nine minutes. The company then creates a CV for the user and uploads it to their database. Employers have a short sign-up process as well.

From there, Giraffe’s algorithm does all of the work, matching the right candidates to the right jobs. The algorithm will even set up the interview at an agreed-upon time. Most recruitment agencies require an agent to contact both parties and review qualifications by hand. Giraffe works faster and keeps costs extremely low for businesses by employing technology instead, charging up to 30 times less than other recruitment agencies. The platform is free for job-seekers.

The Future of Giraffe and UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

In July 2020, Giraffe became a recipient of funding from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund, along with 10 other start-ups around the world that are focused on eradicating inequality of opportunity for young people. In recognition of the importance of education and skill-level on employability, Giraffe intends to use the money to build a job-seeker content portal, drawing from Giraffe’s labor market data and highlighting the most in-demand skills. The new feature will help educate and upskill young people to improve their career prospects and will hold Giraffe to a higher standard as one of the newest innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

In addition to the funding, Giraffe now has access to UNICEF’s team of innovators and networks, and plans are in place to make both the matching algorithm and content portal open source for other global organizations to use.

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr

Decreasing Poverty in South Africa
Bolt, a ridesharing app formerly known as Taxify, is creating jobs for people living in poverty in South Africa. The mobile app recently created a category of rides called Bolt Go, which offers rides exclusively by hatchback cars at a 20% discount. Hatchback cars are cheaper, more fuel-efficient and have lower maintenance costs than Bolt’s usual sedans, making it a cheaper option for rideshare drivers. As a result, Bolt Go may play a role in decreasing poverty in South Africa.

Bolt Go

Bolt Go’s trips will be cheaper, but will still offer the same quality of service that users have come to depend on. Bolt Go rides will include trip protection in case of accidents. Additionally, hatchback cars will need to be in good condition, have a low starting mileage and pass a 45-point safety inspection.

The desire to allow South African drivers to earn an income, even if they cannot afford a “typical” ridesharing car, fueled Bolt’s decision to offer this new service. In addition, hatchbacks’ low price points allow Bolt to offer cheaper rides. After drivers invest in a hatchback or use an existing one, Bolt helps the drivers connect to passengers, and allows them to make money based on their own hours.

Will Ridesharing Be Successful at Decreasing Poverty in South Africa?

Poverty in South Africa is still a prevalent issue, even in a post-apartheid state. A 2015 study found that nearly 56% of the South African population is below the poverty line, living on about 992 rand ($75) a month. While poverty has been slowly declining since the end of apartheid, the numbers are still bleak: about 25% of South Africans live in extreme poverty, down only 3% since 2006.

Bolt Go is thus a solution that can help to empower impoverished people to rise above the poverty line. For many people, ridesharing can serve as a second source of income, in which drivers can work any hours they are able to. Paired with the fact that Bolt is creating opportunities for drivers to use cheaper cars, it seems likely that many living in poverty will now have access to a new source of income.

The Resistance

Some driver organizations, such as the South African E-Hailing Organization, are concerned that this program may hurt rideshare drivers in the long-run. The South African E-Hailing Organization’s biggest critique is the 20% discounted fare, which it believes will quickly become the preferred option of all riders. With these lower fares come lower paychecks for drivers, who already struggle to break even. These organizations claim that Bolt is taking advantage of the failing economy and the fact that many poor citizens are desperate for a job.

While the Bolt Go program is currently rolling out in a few select counties, it is not clear whether the program will be a success in substantially decreasing poverty in South Africa. Though some view the new service as potentially exploitative, the Bolt company has made its priorities clear. In a statement released by the company, a staff member at Bolt said that the company’s “focus is on the thousands of South African drivers who rely on Bolt to connect them with passengers and earn a steady income – and enabling them to continue to earn that income to care for their families and loved ones.”

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

covid-19 in south africaWhen COVID-19 came to the world stage in early 2020, many scientists worried about Africa’s response to the novel coronavirus. They were worried that African countries would not have the resources to combat the global pandemic. Given the continent’s past struggles to contain diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, concerns that Africa would be an epicenter for COVID-19 were well within reason. Fortunately, a comprehensive response has quelled these concerns, and COVID-19 may actually bring positive change to South Africa.

Swift Response

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, showed the world that not all African countries fit the stereotypes of squalor and poverty that many believed. His response to COVID-19 in South Africa has received praise and influenced the responses of nearby leaders. It seemed like he learned from his predecessors, and his swift and strict lockdown of the country prevented COVID-19 in South Africa from getting out of control. Even though COVID-19 shut down the country, responses to the disease have had a net positive effect on South Africa, initiating safety nets, public health initiatives and economic reforms. Here are 6 ways that COVID-19 has influenced positive change in South Africa and forced to country to look to the future.

How COVID-19 has Positively Changed South Africa

  1. Less Gang Violence: Gang violence has plagued South Africa for years, and Cape Town has seen some of the worst of it. In 2018, it was one of the most violent cities in the world, with 66 homicides per 100,000 people. But when COVID-19 hit South Africa in March 2020, gangs called for a national ceasefire and homicides fell more than 70%. South Africa’s lockdown also interrupted the drug supply chains, and many gang-afflicted communities in South Africa are feeling the reprieve.
  2. Fewer Alcohol-Related Deaths: South Africans have the highest rate of drinking out of any African country. This has lead to the country’s high rate of alcohol-related deaths. Part of the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa was also a ban on alcohol. Since the law passed, the country has seen fewer drinking-related deaths. One hospital’s trauma cases dropped by two-thirds after the ban took effect. The country saw a stunning 81% decrease in road fatalities over Easter weekend in 2020 compared to 2019. The alcohol ban hasn’t just decreased death rates, but it has also opened the country’s eyes to the drastic alcohol problem it faces.
  3. Better Welfare Services: The economic ramifications that came with shutting the country down led South Africa’s government to provide a $26 billion welfare and business support package. This was no small stimulus package. It was equivalent to about 10% of the nation’s GDP, and the plan is only predicted to grow as the pandemic continues. Businesses weren’t the only ones getting bailed out. Additional funds were set aside for child caregivers, and 6 million people were able to collect monthly unemployment benefits.
  4. Stronger Calls for Public Hygiene: COVID-19 in South Africa has also brought to light the need for stronger public health initiatives. The lockdown exposed the discrepancy between the number of people thought to have access to clean water and the number of people who can actually obtain it. A worldwide consensus that a strong healthcare system and robust public hygiene are essential to fighting coronavirus has developed. The consensus has put pressure on South Africa’s leadership to expand public health initiatives.
  5. Economic Reform: South Africa is still transitioning its economy from the legacy of apartheid. However, COVID-19 affected low-income families who work in manufacturing, tourism, service and transport more than any other group in the country. The economic devastation has been felt unequally across the country, further reinforcing the need for a new economic plan. A specific investigating unit has already been given permission to look into corruption. Further, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has planned widespread, structural reforms for state-owned enterprises. Essentially, South Africa missed its opportunity to transform its economy immediately after apartheid, but COVID-19 in South Africa has paved way for “New Deal” style economic reforms.
  6. Learning from the Past: The difference in South Africa’s response to COVID-19 when compared to its response to HIV (or really, the lack thereof) is a clear indicator that South Africa has learned from their past mistakes in crisis response. While South Africa is one of the most afflicted countries to date in Africa, healthcare professionals and activists in South Africa have commended the country’s quick response. As of early June, the country had conducted 635,000 COVID-19 tests, which was greater than many countries around the world. The country has even deployed thousands of health care workers to go door-to-door to do testing and screening.

While the pandemic in South Africa is not over by any means, it seems that the disease will not leave the country unchanged. Instead, COVID-19 has initiated positive change in South Africa and will leave in its wake a safer, more equitable society. South Africa will not only be more equipped to deal with diseases in the future, but will also treat its citizens fairly even absent a global pandemic.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

South African PovertyThe battle against poverty has always been a difficult one, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented many new challenges. Actions currently being taken to combat South African poverty and COVID-19 have proven that, with new options and renewed commitments, there is still much that can be done to alleviate poverty. Impoverished people around the world need aid now more than ever.

An Ongoing Struggle

Historically, South Africa has struggled to aid its most economically vulnerable citizens. According to the most recent government analysis, almost half of the adult population is living under the poverty line—an alarming figure. It seems apparent that this South African poverty crisis would be seen on nearly every level of society. Sadly, this widespread poverty has had a notable impact on which necessary resources are available to people. While electricity infrastructure is fairly widespread, between 28% and 30% of poor households lack access to water and sanitation services. As is relatively common in cases of inequality, the most vulnerable frequently lack access to basic necessities, making their struggles far more urgent.

COVID-19 Developments

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is poised to exacerbate South African poverty. The World Bank has predicted that while the pandemic will increase poverty worldwide, the hardest-hit region will be Sub-Saharan Africa. Although South Africa has been relatively spared from the worst of COVID-19 on a health level, the poverty-inducing effects of the pandemic are daunting—it is projected that some 23 million South Africans will be pushed into poverty in 2020. Beyond the immediate tragedy, this decline will present new challenges. In order to protect them, governments will need to find new ways to offer meaningful support throughout the crisis.

Innovation Brings Hope

Fortunately, the government of South Africa has begun to take steps to properly aid its impoverished citizens during this time. They have rolled out a new, easily accessible digital tool called HealthCheck in order to provide self-assessment resources. Members of the public can download the program, which will ask them a few simple questions and then provide a COVID-19 risk prediction along with a pertinent guideline and suggested actions.

While HealthCheck is designed to be available to the entirety of the South African populace, it aids low-income South Africans in particular. Although only a third of the population uses smartphones, feature phones enjoy more widespread use, so a lack of hardware is not necessarily an issue. For many impoverished people in South Africa—and across the world—receiving the proper healthcare needed to determine a risk of infection may be difficult or outright impossible.

Partnerships Increase Access

To further alleviate this issue, the South African government has coordinated with network operators MTN, Vodacom and Telekom, to have facilitate free access to the USSD line. This way, South Africans who could not typically afford cellular or wi-fi services can make use of the HealthCheck tool. As a matter of fact, they have—authorities have reported that so far, over one million members of the public have used HealthCheck.

The digital tool has been utilized in conjunction with NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.  The NGO has worked to fill the gap in fighting South African poverty by creating impromptu field hospitals in otherwise-ignored townships. In Khayelitsha, it has opened up 70 additional beds in a basketball arena in order to serve as many people as possible in the area. This was part of a broader government plan to have over 1,400 extra beds ready as needed. Providing aid such as this is an important part of the battle against poverty.

Just a Start

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the growth of the continental African economy, and threatens its growing middle class. Across the entire continent, nearly eight million people are predicted to fall into poverty, in many cases due to the lack of a social safety net. By providing essential resources, NGOs like Doctors Without Borders are working to limit the economic burden that falls on the South African populace.

While it’s just a start in terms of supporting the impoverished population, these initiatives have clearly provided accessible ways for low-income citizens to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. There are still many hurdles to overcome in the fight against South African poverty, but these recent initiatives have shown that we can still work to effectively aid the poor.

Aidan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr

Township BusinessesAlthough South Africa’s apartheid system ended in 1994, the effects of its segregationist policies against non-white citizens can still be seen today. Townships, settlements created by the government to segregate black South Africans from whites, are one of the most visible and lasting scars of the apartheid system. South Africa’s Population Registration Act in 1950 and Group Areas Act defined “non-white” racial groups as black South Africans, Coloreds and Indian South Africans, and forced their eviction from areas designated “white only” to three formally established townships. Today, more than 76 larger townships, each containing township businesses, border several South African cities.

According to the World Bank, townships today contain about half of South Africa’s urban population and 38% of its working-age citizens but as much as 60% of its unemployed. The communities were intentionally developed on the periphery of larger cities. These locations were chosen to separate them from the economic bustle of city centers. This socioeconomic isolation resulted in the development of what is considered an “informal” economic sector containing nearly 6 million businesses across the country.

Businesses in the Informal Economy

These township businesses, according to a 2018 report by the First National Bank, operate in the six primary sectors of grocery stores and stores stocking fast-selling consumer goods, taverns, hair salons, educational centers, micro-manufacturing and motor and cellular repair services. The majority of these enterprises are cash businesses that can make up to millions of rand in revenue. This is particularly true for those that operate in retail. For example, Ram Thapa’s is a South African beauty store and fast-food vendor that has an annual turnover of about 19 million rand ($1.36 million).

Despite a large amount of cash in circulation, the businesses in South Africa’s townships have been historically ignored by the country’s formal economic institutions, such as banks and corporations. These businesses operated untaxed and unregulated. However, the recent recognition of untapped business opportunities in townships and the benefits of collaboration between “informal” and “formal” businesses is marking a turning point in the relationship between these economic sectors in South Africa.

Hardships Within Townships

The recent movement to connect South Africa’s formal and informal economic sectors is closely linked with several issues townships face. These issues regard lack of credit, crime and poverty. The high unemployment and poverty rates in townships could be improved through the growth of township economies and informal institutions. Using poverty lines developed by Statistics South Africa, a 2012 report by T.J. Sekhampu from North-West University in South Africa found that 77% of households in townships were below the upper-bound poverty line. In addition, 50% are below the lower-bound poverty line. With the growth of township businesses through partnerships with formal economic institutions, these startling rates could decrease.

Additionally, a lack of access to credit has discouraged investments in township businesses that are necessary for growth. It has ultimately hindered the development of township economies. Government initiatives are focused on developing physical infrastructure and encouraging regulation. This would create the base for a safer, investment-friendly business environment without the constant threat of crime.

Financial Partnerships

The World Bank estimates that of the 5.78 million informal businesses in townships, which range in size from micro to medium, less than half have a bank account. However, formal institutions are taking steps to offer these businesses financial legitimacy and inclusion, starting with the cities they border. In 2018, FirstRand Ltd.’s First National Bank partnered with startup financial-tech company Selpal. It uses software and tablets to connect local stores with suppliers. The goal of this partnership is to use zero-fee offerings, as opposed to the traditionally high fees needed to set up business accounts, to attract owners of businesses located in townships.

Ultimately, this partnership signifies a push to connect informal businesses with external suppliers and formal economic institutions that will fuel economic growth for both parties. Economic advancements in townships foster lower crime rates, especially with the lesser amounts of cash business owners will have on-hand. In addition, they help to lower poverty rates by encouraging the growth of businesses that will require more employees.

I Am Emerge

However, Selpal and First National Bank are not the only firms providing township businesses with opportunities for increased economic inclusion and legitimacy. I Am Emerge, an agency specializing in connecting township markets to big business and vise versa, created “Vuelka”, an award-winning app that facilitates bulk purchases of goods sold by businesses in townships. Informal business owners order goods in bulk with cashless purchases.  This further enforces the necessity of Selpal and First National Bank’s goal to increase the number of owners with business accounts.

With continued efforts from organizations such as these, the economic limitations of informal township businesses can begin to lessen. They can pave the way for further equality across South Africa.

Isabel Serrano
Photo: Flickr

Africa’s Untapped Nuclear EnergyAfrica’s demand for energy increases every year as its population continues to grow at an enormous rate. As more people are connected to the energy grid every year, the supply of energy must keep pace with the growing demand. To meet the demand, many African nations have invested in nuclear energy to provide clean and nearly limitless energy. Currently, only South Africa has a nuclear reactor, but more nations are planning on taking advantage of Africa’s untapped nuclear energy potential.

Supply and Demand

Africa’s population is rapidly growing, and more Africans are connected to electrical grids every year. As the continent industrializes, energy consumption will continue to grow. Africa’s population is projected to double by the year 2050 and will consequently spur a substantial rise in energy demand. Access to electricity is a requisite for a stable life and economic growth. As such, impoverished Africans face an uphill battle against the vicious cycle of poverty if they do not have access to electricity. Electricity allows people to be more productive at night, and many tech jobs require access to the internet.

To meet the growing energy demand, many African nations are considering turning to nuclear power. Currently, only South Africa has constructed a nuclear power plant to meet the energy demand. South Africa’s power plant in Cape Town provides safe, renewable and clean energy for the people of South Africa. The success of the Cape Town nuclear power plant has led nearly 30 African nations to consider nuclear power. Additionally, South Africa plans to increase its nuclear capacity by 2,500 megawatts by the year 2024. The success of South Africa’s nuclear power plant demonstrates Africa’s untapped nuclear energy that can meet the increasing energy demand. Africa’s quickly growing population requires a diverse array of clean energy sources.

Clean and Reliable

Nuclear energy is a viable solution to Africa’s energy shortage because it is entirely renewable and relatively clean. Africans require access to electricity to escape poverty, and other energy sources are not as consistently reliable. For example, solar panels provide electricity for many people who live off the grid, but they cannot meet large African cities’ energy demand. In accordance with the global trend favoring urbanization, sub-Saharan Africa has one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world. Urban cities require great sums of electricity and require a constant stream of energy that is not disrupted by the weather.

With Africa’s population expected to double by 2050, it is crucial that people have access to electricity that is not dependent on variable conditions. Many nations use hydropower from dams, yet hydropower is vulnerable to drought. Both sunlight and wind energy are subjected to inconsistent weather, whereas nuclear power is consistent and plentiful throughout the year. These characteristics have compelled many nations to consider utilizing Africa’s untapped nuclear energy.

Great Potential

One of the most crucial requisites for escaping poverty is access to consistent electricity. With the world’s economy rapidly modernizing, well-paying jobs now require electricity and internet access. As such, people cannot escape poverty if they do not have access to electricity. Nuclear power is a viable solution to Africa’s energy shortage, and its benefits have compelled many nations to invest in Africa’s untapped nuclear potential.

– Noah Kleinert
Photo: Flickr

 Cape Town Water Crisis
Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital, has a population of about four million, which is nearly 8% of the entire South African population. South Africa has been successful in cultivating a democratic country, but it has a persistent inequity issue. In 2015, the bottom 60% of the country only held 7% of South Africa’s net wealth. Although more than 55% of South Africans live below the poverty line, 93% of black South Africans live in poverty. Cape Town, although not exempt from issues of inequity, is a thriving metropolis to South Africa. When the Cape Town water crisis rose to a peak in 2017, it became imperative for the city to make some serious changes before they ran out of water completely. Here is how Cape Town recovered from its devastating water shortage and a look at where the city is today.

How the Crisis Began

Cape Town has long been praised for its award-winning water management achievements and efficient use of the city’s six largest reservoirs, which can hold up to 230 billion gallons of water. The city was well aware of the impending climate changes and took measures to decrease overall water consumption.

Despite their efforts, Cape Town neglected to factor in the steady decreases in annual rainfall. This oversight was minor at the time and the city’s reservoirs were full in 2014. However, a sudden three-year-long drought drained the reservoirs to only 26% capacity by 2017. The city declared they would shut municipal water taps off when they reached 13.5% capacity.

City Measures

The term “Day Zero” became the name for the day that water taps would be shut off city-wide, essentially the day Cape Town would officially run out of water. With Day Zero looming and reservoirs draining, the city and its residents sprung into action to avoid the ultimate Cape Town water crisis.

At the beginning of 2017, the average city resident used 600 liters per day. City officials lowered that daily limit to 50 liters per day. To put that number into perspective, the average Californian used 321 liters of water per day during the 2016 drought. If a household went above that 50 liter limit, it faced hefty fines and a meter installation to shut off the water automatically once it exceeded the daily limit. The city also implemented severe quotas for agricultural and commercial institutions.

Residents Doing Their Part

The Cape Town water crisis could not have been averted if not for innovative action from the residents themselves. People began to recycle shower and washing machine water as well as limit toilet flushes to once a day. Farmers diverted their water supply away from their own farms for the city to use. Swimming pools and lawns were no longer essentials and residents no longer used water for such amenities. Social media played a key role as well by being a platform to share advice with a large audience. Local restaurants and bars started competitions to see who could refrain from washing their clothes the longest. The combination of these efforts is what saved the 4 million people from ever having to experience Day Zero.

The Role of Poverty

Although the Cape Town water crisis affected the entire city, it hit some residents much harder than others. South Africa is already a country known for its inequity issues, and the water crisis exacerbated that fact. Wealthy residents found ways to get around the restrictions by hiring companies to dig $6,000 wells for them, buying large amounts of drinkable water at inflated prices, and even installing filtration systems to make groundwater drinkable. Poor residents, on the other hand, were at the mercy of the city and had to sacrifice buying food to be able to buy water.

Where is Cape Town Today?

Cape Town finally experienced an average rainy season in January 2018, allowing the city to postpone the arrival of Day Zero indefinitely. After the immediate crisis had been averted, the city began planning for ocean water desalination and groundwater extraction as backup water sources. These are more long-term solutions, but they present issues of their own such as the affordability of such intense installations and the impact on local ecosystems.

Limits on water usage have been loosened slightly; however, they still exist and are strictly enforced. This continues to negatively impact the city’s poorest residents. Perhaps the most helpful action taken since the crisis has been the weekly reports on dam capacities. As of July 2020, all the dams are holding steady at around 80% capacity.

Although the Cape Town water crisis never fully culminated in a citywide water shutoff, the impact of the event still resonates with the poor. Moving forward, efforts need to be made to ensure equal water access for all residents.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Flickr


Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce or use insulin well, resulting in a high blood sugar level. When the body fails to make insulin at all, this results in Type 1 diabetes. With Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce or use insulin effectively. Both types come with side effects that are detrimental to a person’s life. On the African continent, South Africa has the second largest population of people with diabetes. Here are five facts that you should know about diabetes in South Africa:

5 Facts About Diabetes in South Africa

  1. Diabetes is a leading cause of death in South Africa. With non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes on the rise globally, South Africa is no exception. In 2016, diabetes and other NCDs caused 16% of the total deaths in the country. Among the South African population, there is a major lack of awareness of the disease and access to proper healthcare. Because the prevalence of diabetes in South African adults is 12.8%, it is crucial that other countries continue to support the funding and research of diabetes in South Africa.
  2. There are many adverse side effects for those living with diabetes. Diabetics must consistently track their blood sugar levels to ensure they don’t go into a diabetic coma. Additionally, diabetics are two times likelier to experience cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks or strokes. Diabetes can cause an individual’s kidneys to stop working. In most healthcare facilities in South Africa, they lack the procedures necessary to help a diabetic undergoing kidney failure, like renal replacement therapy by dialysis or through transplant. Another symptom of diabetes is neuropathy – or nerve damage – in the feet, which can lead to infection or potential amputation. In healthcare centers in South Africa, there is little equipment available for testing nerve damage in the feet and symptoms like this can often slip under the radar. Through an increase in funding from other countries, individuals suffering from diabetes in South Africa can have access to more equipment and medication necessary for dealing with diabetes.
  3. Socioeconomic disparities and other factors contribute to the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa. In South Africa, proper healthcare is inaccessible in poorer communities. The deficiency of experienced health professionals and respectable clinics makes it hard for citizens to undergo testing or treat the disease if they have it. More than one million citizens in South Africa do not know if they are diabetic. With more accurate and accessible testing, a greater population can begin treatment for the disease. It is crucial that the government receive funding to build diagnostic centers and train medical staff.
  4. Diabetes in South Africa is preventable and treatable in many ways. The most effective way to decrease the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is to prematurely educate citizens and encourage healthy decision making. South Africa is currently working towards this goal. One recent preventative measure taken by the South African government is the implementation of a sugar tax. By charging more for sugary drinks and foods, the government is fighting obesity and helping citizens make more conscious decisions. In July 2019, South Africa briefly launched a Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP). The DPP aims to integrate intervention treatments into a culturally relevant context through household questionnaires and group gatherings for at-risk individuals. In the conclusion of this program, the DPP will focus on using the information they gathered to create a curriculum that can educate communities about diabetes.
  5. Many countries and organizations help by funding testing centers and medical treatment in South African cities. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) works with several organizations in the South African region to help combat the severity of the disease through advocacy, funding and training. The three organizations that are a part of IDF are: Diabetes South Africa (DSA), Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA), and Youth with Diabetes (YWD).  DSA is a nonprofit that centers around mobilizing volunteers to demand better treatment for those with diabetes, and also focuses on educating citizens and lobbying the government for better facilities and cheaper healthcare. Further, SEMDSA researches the genetic sources and causes of diabetes. This organization also promotes high standards of treatment and encourages the widespread availability of medicine.

Ultimately, it is crucial that the issue of diabetes in South Africa is at the forefront of the political agenda. With funding and research from other sources, the South African government can begin to tackle this massive health crisis.

– Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr