Copper face masksThe COVID-19 pandemic has heavily impacted a lot of countries, specifically in areas like the Americas, Brazil, India and Africa. Africa has especially experienced a surge of positive cases and is struggling in terms of COVID-19 prevention. According to the Milken Institute, while places like North America and Europe are 43.64% and 49.57% fully vaccinated respectively as of September 9, 2021, only 3.28% of Africa’s population are fully vaccinated from the novel coronavirus. Out of more than eight million cases reported in Africa, about 2.84 million cases come from South Africa alone.

Moreover, due to the deadly virus, GDP growth throughout Africa is expected to slow. But, even with these grim consequences, help is on the way from a brilliant company based in South Africa, Copper Fresh. During the pandemic, healthcare experts encourage people to do three things: wash their hands, socially distance when possible and wear a face mask to prevent the spread of the virus. However, Copper Fresh is not developing just ordinary face masks but rather copper face masks.

Copper Fresh

Copper Fresh, a company found in Johannesburg, South Africa, is developing pink copper face masks that will help slow the spread of disease and safeguard people’s health. But, with these specific face masks, it is not just about a color change from blue to pink, it is about the mask material. These masks are made out of copper — the reason why the masks have a light red or darker pink color to them — and because of this, the mask can sanitize itself and kill COVID-19 on its surface.

Benefits of Copper

According to IT News Africa, copper is known to kill a variety of diseases “like MRSA, E.coli, Influenza A as well as norovirus. Moreover, according to the University of Cambridge, “copper and alloys that contain up to 58% copper are effective in killing microbes on furniture and equipment in hospital wards.” While the mask is not fully made out of copper, it has the capability to fend off multiple diseases including COVID-19. Dean Lazarus, a co-founder of the company, explains how these copper face masks beat a normal blue medical mask. “[Copper Fresh] mask kills viruses and bacteria. Whereas your traditional blue mask doesn’t. So, if you take your mask off and then put it back on again, you are still carrying the virus with you,” states Lazarus.

According to Business Insider, Copper Fresh partners with Israel-based MedCu Technologies, a company that makes “fabric infused with copper oxide for paramedics to dress wounds at accident scenes.” This fabric is made by mixing together cloth and copper oxide, which is done by placing copper oxide into the fabric at a “microscopic level on a conveyer belt system.” This new fabric then ships to Johannesburg, where Copper Fresh produces the masks.

Hope Amid COVID-19

Due to the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19, the chances of households moving into poverty are greatly increasing. The risk of falling into transient poverty is increasing by 17% while long-term poverty is increasing by 4%. The chance of escaping poverty has decreased by more than 5%, according to the Milken Institute.

Now, thanks to Copper Fresh and its innovative new face masks, Africa is one step closer to lessening the number of new COVID-19 cases and helping people rise out of poverty. Not many people would think a mask that has an “N95 filter between two sheets of the copper material” would be so beneficial, but Copper Fresh is ambitiously proving this possible. With almost 50,000 masks made per day selling at R25 each, or just less than $2, plenty of Africans can benefit from this revolutionary technology. Copper Fresh masks symbolize more than just protection — they inspire hope.

– Matt Orth
Photo: Unsplash

South Africa Introduces Solar-Powered BusesEvery year, the talk of rising carbon emissions and how to combat rising carbon emissions surfaces. Many organizations have proposed various solutions; however, alternative solutions to fossil fuels are never viable due to the financial impact on consumers. Combating carbon emissions will require everyone, from the average consumer to companies, to make small changes in order to make the world a better place. Golden Arrow, a South African bus company based in Cape Town, is working to make a difference by introducing solar-powered buses, which make transport affordable while helping the environment.

South Africa and Bus Transportation

Currently, nearly 21.1% of all South African households rely on buses for transportation. Additionally, nearly one million South Africans use the bus to get to and from work. However, there are numerous problems plaguing the bus transportation system in South Africa currently.

Right now, rural South Africans do not get access to bus transportation because buses do not cover certain routes. As such, these groups are required to walk long distances to reach their destinations. In contrast, bus transportation in South Africa is generally considered safer than other modes of transportation such as trains and minibus taxis. This may mean that consumers will often compromise on areas such as reliability and efficiency as bus transportation will often take very long periods of time to go to and from a destination.

Additionally, many of the buses are worn down and poorly maintained. In addition, fuel costs are very high to maintain for public busing. Access to affordable fuel or alternatives to fossil fuels must be necessary in order for bus transportation in South Africa to be reliable. Typically, fuel for buses often costs 10% to even 40% of total operating costs.

The Procedure of Launching the Electric Buses

In July 2021, Golden Arrow launched two solar panel-powered buses that will be fully functional. Golden Arrow designed the buses to carry passengers like any other fossil fuel-powered bus.

As part of its three-step plan, Golden Arrow installed a small-scale solar power system at their depot to power the bus. The second and third parts of the program involved expanding the solar power system by adding another 2,500 solar panels on another Golden Arrow depot. Next, the uYilo e-mobility program funded the electric bus testing. The trial runs showed that the buses could run for 300 kilometers without recharging. This would potentially help many rural passengers gain access to the public bus transportation system. It ran two buses, one with no passengers and another with sandbags equivalent to the weight of 44 people.

However, the experiment itself was a great success, showing there is much to learn about solar-powered buses. This includes electricity usage under different conditions, charge time between trips, maintenance needs and battery degradation.

Golden Arrow’s History in Cape Town

Golden Arrow transports 250,000 passengers every day. These two electric buses will help transport many lower-income constituents, as the Metro in the local Cape Town area stopped functioning. This will help many people get to and from their jobs and will also be environmentally friendly.

Overall, Golden Arrow’s solar-powered buses program has found a balance between making environmentally friendly transportation options that have positive impacts on the environment while making it affordable for the average everyday worker in Cape Town.

– Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

Artists Striving to End Poverty
Broadway musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell created Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP), a charity organization. She and a group of Juilliard students created an organization that will engage underserved children in performing and visual arts in order to break the cycle of poverty. ASTEP connects artists with youth who lack the opportunities to receive a fine arts education. Artists Striving to End Poverty serves youth affected by immigration status, gun violence, HIV/AIDS and systemic poverty.

South Africa Program

Recently, ASTEP partnered with artsINSIDEOUT, an organization that consists of artists who travel to areas that the AIDS epidemic has hit hard. Through this work, they have been able to reach mothers and children that the AIDS epidemic has affected.

Artists Striving to End Poverty and artsINSIDEOUT support Nkosi’s Haven. Nkosi’s Haven is an organization located in Johannesburg that supports women and children living with HIV/AIDS. Nkosi’s Haven received its name from Nkosi Johnson, an AIDS activist who became separated from her mother due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She then lived in poverty due to a lack of financial support. Johnson made it her life’s mission to never let another family experience what she experienced. ASTEP Teaching Artists inspire children and mothers to unleash their creative sides. This two-week camp helped families affected by the AIDS pandemic to communicate their feelings with each other, building a strong and safe community of people with shared experiences.

India Program

Artists Striving to End Poverty has two major programs in India. The first program is the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, which hosts a two-week arts camp for the students who live at the school. Shanti Bhavan believes that lower caste children in India can rise out of poverty if they receive a proper education early on in life. Shanti Bhavan is working to build a foundation based on the interests of the students that go there and ASTEP has helped Shanti Bhavan implement fine arts education. ASTEP believes that the power of the arts can help enhance education and personal development.

ASTEP has also partnered with Teach for India. Teach for India is an organization that employs the brightest of India’s students to teach in the low-income areas of the country. ASTEP Teaching Artists partnered with Teach for India to create Maya the Musical as a way for low-income children in India to gain the opportunity to participate in musical activities. The Maya Musical helps children discover their true values and potential and the storyline helps them find courage and compassion. ASTEP hopes that the Maya Musical will be able to reach Teach for India’s 32,000 children as well as many more outside the program.

Going Forward

Although Artists Striving to End Poverty is still a very young organization, its commitment is enduring. Based in New York, the organization hopes to expand its platform in order to reach children both in the United States and around the world. ASTEP is looking for teachers to contribute to its cause, with the determination to use the fine arts to help break the cycle of childhood poverty.

– Saanvi Mevada
Photo: Flickr

Solar energy buses in South AfricaLately, pollution throughout the world has risen due to the effects of climate change, fossil fuels and the emittance of a handful of harmful chemicals in order for different countries to keep running. Ever since the late 1990s, renewable energy use on the African continent has been dropping, moving from a high of 74% in 1994 to 70% in 2015. Even in more prominent countries like Ghana, the 2015 rate was at a relatively small 41%. Some countries barely creep over 1%.

In the days of a global pandemic and climate change creeping up on the world, the need to utilize more natural forms of energy to power the world has become preeminent. And in South Africa, major steps are being taken, starting with their public transportation using clean energy buses.

Where Golden Arrow Comes In

In July 2021, Golden Arrow, one of the major organizations that provide public transportation for people in Cape Town, South Africa, has put out two fully electric buses to help transport individuals without using types of energy that are harmful to the air and to the world as a whole. According to IT News Africa, Golden Arrow began its renewable energy project back in 2016, and this project is in collaboration with the bus company, the city of Cape Town and New Southern Energy, a construction company based in South Africa that helps make solar energy products.

These clean energy buses in South Africa are expected to be run from Retreat all the way to Cape Town, which will be very convenient for people in the area due to the collapse of train services in the metro ran by MetroRail.

Due to this collapse of services, caused by poor conditions, looting and attacks from civilians, many people that worked for MetroRail have lost their jobs in an area where unemployment is already at an all-time high. The French Agency of Development (AFD), highlights that young people represent more than half of the unemployed population in Africa, or 60% to be exact. However, Golden Arrow has increased its services recently around the time these buses were introduced, so for some people in search of a job, bus operations might alleviate unemployment.

Launching the Effort

The program of launching these vehicles, according to IT News Africa, did not involve the vehicles themselves; it started from the ground up. Golden Arrow installed a small solar-powered system in one of its main vehicle depots in Epping, a small town within Cape Town. Then, in the next two phases of the program, it expanded its solar power capabilities by installing 2,500 panels at its Multimech stop. Then, with the success of these solar systems, it was time to test it out on the buses.

Two types of tests were done with the clean energy buses in South Africa, according to Techinafrica. One bus was completely empty, and the other had sandbags filled in the bus that simulated the weights of different passengers — 44 of them to be exact. For a few months, the team at Golden Arrow has been running those tests, becoming excited with the progress being made as Gideon Neethling, an engineer for Golden Arrow, stated, “Testing these vehicles has been a joy for everyone who is part of the project. Each time we carry out a new test or reach a new milestone, the level of excitement increases further.”

Considering the Future

According to Oxfam, an estimated 633 million people in Africa are living without access to electricity, and almost 800 million people are cooking food with old cookstoves, which is deemed not safe. With renewable energy use on a decline in Africa, these clean energy buses in South Africa stand to positively benefit the country and the continent as a whole. Golden Arrow can transport its 250,000 passengers every day, employ some of them to launch these solar-powered buses and then continue to add more buses to its network. Thanks to Golden Arrow, Africa is better poised to fight harmful energy, add new jobs and fight poverty within the continent.

– Matt Orth
Photo: Unsplash

theater accessibilityThe theater is an art form that cultures all across the world partake in. In addition to being enjoyable for many people, exposure to the theater is beneficial. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania on impoverished residents of New York City found that residents had better long-term outcomes in areas such as “education, security and health” with greater accessibility to cultural resources. Additionally, theater helps people develop emotionally by cultivating empathy, a humanitarian characteristic essential for molding a generation willing to help others living in poverty. A common aspect of poverty is the lack of opportunities available to people. Improving theater accessibility for impoverished people is one way to provide people in poverty with more opportunities.

3 Organizations Improving Theater Accessibility

  1. The Freedom Theatre. This organization is based in the Jenin refugee camp, a camp in the West Bank with a high poverty rate. The Freedom Theater provides Jenin residents with opportunities to engage in theater and workshops through programs in schools. The theater works with children of varying ages. For example, the daycare program allows children younger than 5 to learn and develop creatively. Modeled off Care and Learning, a project that helped children in the Jenin camp work through trauma by participating in the arts, The Freedom Theatre continues this mission by working with young people to help them develop coping skills. The Freedom Theatre’s work greatly improved theater accessibility in an area that previously had few theatrical opportunities for its residents. Thanks to the European Union funding the project, The Freedom Theatre can continue its work.
  2. Khmer Community Development (KCD). The KCD organization is in the Prek Chrey Commune, a community in Cambodia near the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. KCD commits itself to improving peace and understanding in Prek Chrey. Ethnic tension between different groups in the community is an issue that Prek Chrey continues to struggle with, but KCD is addressing it with theater. Using Forum Theater, an art form developed by Augusto Boal in the 1960s, KCD encourages discussion and exploration of social issues by having actors perform a short play that addresses a social issue. Thereafter, the performance is restarted to allow the audience to intervene with ideas to shape the play and develop “a peaceful solution to the issue.” Since it started, KCD’s Forum Theater is particularly popular among youth in the Prek Chrey Commune.
  3. New Africa Theater Association (NATA). Based in Cape Town, South Africa, NATA works to provide opportunities to underserved young people in the Cape Town area. In South Africa, many people between the ages of 18-24 are unemployed. These young people are also often not receiving an education. With this age group having access to theater, the youth develop valuable skills to secure employment. More than 87% of NATA alumni are employed, in school or are continuing to work with NATA. After acquiring its own building, NATA moved to a location where it is more easily accessible to people in Cape Town and surrounding rural areas.

Thanks to the efforts of these three organizations, theater accessibility is improving for disadvantaged people. Importantly, the arts contribute to social well-being while providing valuable opportunities to help vulnerable people rise out of poverty.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in South AfricaLocated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa is home to about 58 million people. Although access to clean water has increased since the 1990s, South African government officials announced in 2018 that drastic conservation measures were essential to avoid shutting off Cape Town’s municipal water supply. Known as “Day Zero,” April 12 marked the day South Africa almost experienced the most significant water failure in history. Since the third anniversary of Day Zero recently passed, a closer look at the situation provides more insight into access to clean water in South Africa, with a specific focus on Cape Town.

5 Facts About Access to Clean Water in South Africa

  1. Limited access to clean water and basic sanitation. More than three million South Africans lack “access to a basic water supply” and more than 14 million South Africans lack “access to safe sanitation.” To address these concerns, the South African government is working to conserve wetlands and inform the public on the importance of water conservation for the future.
  2. Conserving water is key. To conserve water, Cape Town residents each survive on about 27 gallons per day. Residents adhere to water restrictions by using greywater to flush toilets and only using water for essential purposes. In comparison, a U.S. citizen typically uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day.
  3. The South African government’s plan to avoid future water deficits. In the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, the South African government lists strategies to avoid future water deficits, including “reducing water demand, protecting ecological infrastructure and managing effective water services.” The government is also working to pass legislation to help minimize the gap between water supply and demand. This is important because researchers predict this gap will reach 17% by 2030 if current levels of demand continue.
  4. The Constitution of South Africa guarantees access to water. The Constitution of South Africa states that everyone has the right to clean water and basic sanitation. Therefore, former South African President Thabo Mbeki established the Free Basic Water policy in 2000, directing city officials to provide low-income families with a sufficient amount of water at no extra cost. This policy ensures citizens living in poverty have access to clean water in South Africa.
  5. A call to action to avoid future droughts. Stanford University researchers conclude that “human-caused climate change” made Day Zero “five to six times more likely.” In other words, greenhouse gas emissions may impact the likelihood of water crises in years to come. For this reason, the South African government is promoting a culture of conservation to avoid future droughts and ensure citizens have continued access to clean water.

The Road Ahead

According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director Audrey Azoulay, “the fate of humans and water is inextricably linked.” Our reliance on clean water for survival is coupled with the need to actively maintain water supplies for drinking and sanitation purposes. Therefore, water must be conserved and protected to ensure another Day Zero water crisis does not occur in the future.

Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

Sexual Assault in South AfricaOver 50 care centers in South Africa provide support and resources for survivors of sexual crimes. They serve as “one-stop facilities” for those seeking help. Their mission is “to reduce secondary victimization, improve conviction rates and reduce the time between when a crime is committed and when the perpetrator is finally convicted.” These centers have had success but the overall number of sexual assaults in South Africa, which in reality are most likely significantly higher, are staggering.

Sexual Assault in South Africa

Sexual assault in South Africa is shockingly high. Estimates determined that a sexual offense occurs every 10 minutes. Between April 2019 and March 2020, police statistics reported 53,295 sexual offenses but it is likely that most crimes are not reported. The Medical Health Council estimates that victims only report one in nine attacks. Violence toward women seems to be a normalized part of society as data from 2000 shows similar results. Some claim women in South Africa might experience rape every 17 seconds. Others say every 26 seconds but regardless of exact numbers, it is clear sexual violence toward women is a massive problem for the country.

Police are defensive about sexual assault in South Africa. They say the rate of sexual offenses decreased in the province of Gauteng, but the Institute for Security Studies has pointed out a flaw in their logic. If one considers updated population statistics, the rate of sexual assault increases by 1.5%. As a result, one can determine that 127 people out of 100,000 people were victims of sexual assault.

Rape is an extremely underreported crime. A study in Gauteng in 2010 showed that one-quarter of women who underwent questioning experienced rape in 2009. However, “only one in 13 women raped by a non-partner reported the matter to the police, while only one in 25 of the women raped by their partners reported this to the police.” Therefore, as previously mentioned, statistics about sexual assault in South Africa only show a small amount.

Why Are Numbers So High?

A few factors can show why sexual assault in South Africa is so high. These include how the country struggled to move on from apartheid along with high unemployment, high poverty and unequal land distribution. Both the government and pro-democracy groups used violence to further goals, and after 50 years, society saw violence as normal. The government “used violence to keep control over the ‘non-white’ population, whilst the pro-democracy campaign encouraged violence as a means to further their goals.” The police used violence against women which led to many women fearing or mistrusting the police. This mindset continues to this day.

Police Conviction Records

Convictions for instances of sexual assault in South Africa are low. Around 14% of perpetrators receive sentences for sexual assault with that number going down to 3% when it is against adult women. Around one in 400 rapes in South Africa end in a conviction. Reports say some police take bribes so charges will go away and in Southern Johannesburg, around one in 20 pieces of evidence goes missing. The reasons why most women do not report sexual abuse are clear, as are the reasons why the real number is high. The chances of conviction are very low. While numbers and data often are skewed and naturally change over time, the overall amount of evidence suggests clear problems in the police force when it comes to responding to sexual assault.

Care Centers

Thuthuzela Care Centers have really helped people and since 2006, 51 centers have emerged. The centers are helping survivors and trying to improve conviction rates. Most are near or even attached to hospitals as sometimes medical assistance is necessary. For years, the centers made progress, and now, many centers get around 60-80 patients a month. During holidays, the number is up to around 100-120. The United Nations and the government are currently working to improve the centers even more.

Care centers operate using a five-step process:

  1. A survivor reports a rape case to a center or police station.
  2. The staff at the centers help the survivor obtain medical attention.
  3. The care centers organize counseling for the survivor.
  4. The staff at the centers help the survivor open a police case, which can occur at any time.
  5. The staff arranges ongoing counseling and court preparation for the survivor.

The care centers provide many services to help survivors. However, long-term solutions should also emerge so the actual root of the problem can reach a resolution. However, care centers are still a significant step in the right direction.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Law in South Africa
The poorest citizens of South Africa are amidst a turning point in their history. In July 2021, stress from socioeconomic and pandemic-related challenges boiled to civil unrest after the July 2021 arrest of former president Jacob Zuma. The relationship between circumstances of poverty and conflict drives a volatile history of fragility and rule of law in South Africa and presents challenges to overcoming poverty in the nation.

The Link Between Conflict and Poverty

Poverty and conflict are inseparable resultants of each other: where there is poverty, the fragility and rule of law of a governing body are prone to violence. When more citizens are subject to poor living conditions, the likelihood of conflict is increased. A 2011 report on conflict and poverty describes poverty as a “causal arrow… to the conflict.” This means fragility and rule of law in South Africa are reliant on the improvement of poverty-related conditions. This is due to political promises that call for the end of poverty in the nation. Recent violence suggests that citizens living in poverty believe promises fall short of action. South African unrest in 2021 is anecdotal evidence of the connection poverty and conflict have with each other.

South African Frustration

A 2014 report describes South African citizens taking part in violence as “clamoring for the redemption of the promises made to them.” This description explains the circumstance by which fragility and rule of law in South Africa are affected. Unrest in South Africa explains that poverty plays a major role in exacerbating conflict and makes it clear South Africa has a fragile economy. Those taking part in the widespread unrest were not exercising a meticulously planned attack on the South African government. Rather, those who were looting were filling the absence of governmental aid in the first place. For example, the nation is dealing with a third COVID-19 wave along with rising unemployment. Frustrations in poverty response allowed for unrest to grow in the nation. Jacob Zuma’s arrest was a tipping point in the conflict already consuming lives in South Africa.

Addressing Poverty in South Africa

Poverty reduction efforts in South Africa are mixed. Frustration pointed toward the government reveals widespread poverty. The South African economy has slowed its growth in the past decade. Additionally, the nation has a wide economic disparity between citizens. This disparity is affecting fragility and rule of law in South Africa substantially. In a 2012 report, the Brookings Institution described the nation as “the most consistently unequal country in the world.” Development in the nation has left out a large portion of those living in poverty which means some forgo financial stability.

Regardless of South Africa’s scenario, a key in reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law. The 2011 World Development Report argues that “strengthening legitimate institutions and governance to provide citizen security, justice and jobs is crucial to break cycles of violence.” This is the goal of current institutions within South Africa. In 2015, the African National Committee, the ruling party of South Africa, adopted The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an addition to its 2012 National Development Plan. The combined goals aim for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequality by 2030.

COVID-19 Complications

Progress in sustainable development has not substantially reduced poverty. Rather, the World Bank estimated that poverty increased by 9% due to COVID-19. An increase in unemployment from coronavirus lockdowns highlights the current challenges in reaching the same goals.

Pandemic-related challenges to reducing poverty point to the boiling of governmental control. An increase in household instability during COVID-19 affected fragility and rule of law in South Africa. This explains the recent conflict in the region. Reducing poverty means improving fragility and rule of law in South Africa.

Addressing poverty and economic disparity in South Africa means answering the roots of conflict. Frustrations with the South African government lie within the ability for individuals to have access to human necessities. Foreign assistance and continual support for South Africa’s SDGs can aid efforts to reduce conflict that induces poverty in South Africa.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

Financial Inclusivity in africaWith more than half of the world’s registered mobile money accounts in Africa, the market for financial technology startups is steadily increasing on the continent. By streamlining, simplifying and speeding up trade and transfers, digital payment platforms are helping expand access to financial services and avoid high transaction costs typically charged by banks. As smartphone penetration grows in Africa, tech startups are gaining more customers and receiving more funding, enough to reach “unicorn status” — a title that describes a company valued at more than $1 billion, according to venture capitalists and private equity firms. As of 2019, smartphone penetration in South Africa stands at 91%. Due to the rise in smartphone users and broadband, mobile banking in Africa is quickly becoming more prevalent, increasing financial inclusivity in Africa.

3 Tech Startup Unicorns Promoting Mobile Money

  1. Interswitch. Founded in 2002 by Mitchell Elegbe, “Interswitch is a digital payment platform in Nigeria” that reached unicorn status in 2019. The company owns Verve, Nigeria’s most used payment card, and accounts for 18 million out of the 25 million cards in circulation in the country. The tech startup also owns Quickteller, an online payment platform. In October 2020, Quickteller launched the search for a “QTrybe community,” a group of 50 students from tertiary institutions to represent the company on campuses around Nigeria.
  2. Flutterwave. African payment company Flutterwave received its unicorn status in March 2021 after raising $170 million in funding. Established in 2016 “as a Nigerian and U.S.-based payments company,” Flutterwave “helps businesses build customizable payments applications” through application programming interfaces, a software intermediary that allows two applications to “talk” to each other. Despite the pandemic negatively affecting many growing businesses, Flutterwave’s CEO, Olugbenga Agboola, reports that the “company grew more than 100% in revenue within the past year” due to “an increase in activity in COVID-beneficiary sectors.” These are business sectors that have been thriving due to the pandemic, such as “streaming, gaming, e-commerce and remittance.” Flutterwave is present in 20 African countries and has processed more than 140 million transactions valued at more than $9 billion.
  3. Chipper Cash. Founded in 2018 by Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled, Chipper Cash is a money transfer startup that facilitates cross-border payments across Africa. In 2021, just three years after it was established, the company confirmed that it raised $100 million, taking its valuation to more than $1 billion, therefore, reaching unicorn status. The company “offers mobile-based, no fee,” peer-to-peer payments. Aside from operating in seven African countries, Chipper Cash has now expanded to the United Kingdom, its very first international market outside of the continent.

Financial Inclusivity and Poverty Reduction

Overall, the emergence and success of these tech startups redefine mobile money and increase financial inclusivity in Africa. By digitizing the process, expanding services and reach as well as lowering costs, financial inclusivity is achieved. Even the most impoverished and marginalized populations are able to participate in the economy through mobile money platforms. According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, “the potential market for banks in sub-Saharan Africa is $500 billion.” For impoverished people who cannot acquire bank accounts, mobile money solutions break down barriers to financial inclusivity in Africa, empowering people to rise out of poverty.

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Flickr

riots in South AfricaSouth Africa’s poverty rates have long been high, and the pandemic exacerbated the situation for the country’s lowest-income people. Furthermore, weeks of riots in South Africa have left buildings burning, food scarce and many people in Durban and the surrounding cities starving.

Reasons for the Riots

On July 8, South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma started serving a sentence of 15 months in prison for contempt of court, an offense that entails disrespectful or insulting behavior toward a court of law or law officials. Zuma’s imprisonment angered supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. As a result, violence and unrest began to spread within the province.

Rioters blocked major highways and burned about 20 trucks, resulting in the closing of two major roads that link the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay to the industrial hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Furthermore, looters ransacked shopping malls, taking food, electronics, clothes and liquor. The attacks spread through KwaZulu-Natal to the Gauteng province, the country’s largest city of Johannesburg and the seat of the country’s executive branch, Pretoria. In Durban and Pietermaritzburg, rioters also burned warehouses and factories, collapsing many of their roofs. A week into the riots, 25,000 army troops were deployed, ending the violence, but plenty of damage had already been done.

The Manipulation of the Poor

Thousands of businesses have closed due to fear of ambush by rioters. In addition, because of many looters taking clothes, food, medical supplies and even flat-screen TVs, more than 200 malls have been forced to shut down.

With many businesses closing down in the Durban area, food, clothes and other supplies are rarities. For people living in poverty in Durban and the surrounding towns, food was always scarce, but now it is even more so than usual. Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political analyst, said the communities have left people in poverty to fend for themselves in a system that keeps them in poverty, causing them to start lashing out.

While the riots initially protested the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, their continuation reflected general grievances over the inequality and poverty that have rocked the country. Amid people in poverty’s anger about decades of mistreatment and discrimination, criminals used the chaos for their own benefit.

July’s riots hit people with unstocked pantries and massive debt the hardest. President Cyril Ramaphosa sent troops to aid police in quelling the riots, but people in poverty remained in need of immediate relief.

Muslims for Humanity

Many Muslim organizations in South Africa have come together to bring relief to people impacted by the riots. South African Muslim businesses and NGOs such as Muslims for Humanity and Natal Memon Jamaat Foundation (NMJ) have come together to distribute bread and milk to communities impacted by violence and looting in the Durban area.

Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr