Extreme Poverty in Botswana
The nation of Botswana, home to approximately 2.3 million people, has undergone an amazing change over the past three decades, transforming from an impoverished nation to one of the wealthiest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. While many of its neighbors have lagged behind—in fact, the United Nations classifies sub-Saharan Africa as the poorest region in the world—Botswana reduced the percentage of its population living on less than $1.90 a day from 29.8% between 2002-2003 to 16.1% between 2015-2016. What are the secrets to success in combatting extreme poverty in Botswana that have allowed it to prosper relative to its neighboring African nations?

A Brief Look at the History of Botswana

Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 and quickly adopted a parliamentary constitutional republic. In fact, Botswana is the oldest democracy on the continent, though one party—the Botswana Democratic Party—has dominated elections since the adoption of the country’s constitution. Compared to its neighbors, Botswana began with a commitment to free enterprise, rule of law and individual liberties. Its first president, Seretse Khama, had a devotion to fighting corruption, which was critical to Botswana’s success.

To fight extreme poverty in Botswana, the country invested in four critical pillars: public institutions, education, economic diversification and women’s rights.

4 Pillars to Tackling Extreme Poverty in Botswana

  1. One of the most remarkable aspects of Botswana is its extraordinarily low levels of corruption as a result of institutional checks and balances. According to the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Botswana was the least corrupt nation in Africa, with its score twice as high as the average sub-Saharan African nation. Botswana is one of only a handful of nations that outperform parts of Western Europe, with its score outpacing Spain in 2018. This is as a result of institutional checks and balances, including the Corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 and the development of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, an agency tasked with investigating and preventing corruption. As a resource-rich state known for diamond mining, Botswana was careful to prevent government employees from benefiting from what the nation’s first president deemed public resources.
  2. Botswana invests a considerable percentage of its GDP in education; this percentage was more than 20% in 2009. Botswana’s investment in education translated to a literacy rate of 87% in 2019, compared to a regional average of 65%. High rates of education have contributed to Botswana’s increased economic diversification and strong political stability, making the nation one of the more attractive places to do business in Africa.
  3. Smart economic development has contributed to Botswana’s high living standards and low corruption levels, placing it ahead of its peers. Botswana derived much of its early economic growth from diamond extraction which, among other exports, accounts for approximately 40% of Botswana’s GDP composition by end-use. However, consistent investment in other sectors of the economy has remained a strategy for the ruling party, and the government has increasingly diversified its economy towards the service sector and tourism jobs. Investment in conservation and wildlife has grown the tourism industry to approximately 14% of Botswana’s GDP,  nearly doubling since 1999. Remarkably, Botswana’s commitment to managing its domestic ecosystems allowed it to sign one of the first “debt-for-nature” agreements with the United States, which forgave more than $8 million in debt in exchange for the continued protection of the Okavango Delta and tropical forests.
  4. In addition to the high rates of women’s education and literacy, Botswana remains committed to a strong National Family Planning Policy and healthcare service. Botswana has experienced a rapid decline in fertility, according to the CIA World Factbook, with the total fertility rate falling from over five children per woman in the 1980s to 2.42 in 2021. Easy access to contraception and above-average rural and urban access to healthcare facilities have not only contributed to a decline in fertility but emboldened women’s rights and improved standards of living.

Botswana is by no means a perfect nation. It has extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS, like many of its African peers, and its single-party government has been criticized by some international organizations for suppressing competition. However, decades of consistent improvement in education and women’s rights, increased economic diversification, high levels of economic freedom and a commitment to fighting corruption have made Botswana the most prosperous nation in sub-Saharan Africa and a model for its peers.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Flickr

Dr. Angeli Achrekar
On January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden appointed Dr. Angeli Achrekar as the new U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, which means she will be leading the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Who is Dr. Angeli Achrekar?

Dr. Achrekar is remarkably qualified for her position. She has earned her doctorate from UNC-Chapel Hill, a master’s degree from Yale and her bachelor’s degree from UCLA. In addition to her academic accomplishments, Dr. Achrekar has a career of public service under her belt, involving combating HIV/AIDS around the globe, public health development and women and girls’ health. She originally worked in India and with UNICEF. She then started working with the CDC starting in 2001, where she led the National Initiative to Improve Adolescent Health. This initiative spanned across multiple agencies and consisted of professionals from a variety of disciplines in more than 100 organizations.

Following her leadership of the National Initiative to Improve Adolescent Health, Dr. Achrekar started her work with PEPFAR to fight HIV/AIDS around the world in 2003. In working with PEPFAR, she traveled to South Africa. There, she coordinated with local governments to assess risk patterns that occur through drug use and among sex workers. Dr. Achrekar then became Senior Public Health Manager for the CDC in its Division of Global HIV/AIDS. Lastly, she started in 2011 with the U.S. State Department where she helped come up with and develop the Saving Mothers program, as well as the Giving Life program.

Developments Since Her Appointment

Since her appointment, Dr. Achrekar has already made strides in her position to fight AIDS and other diseases around the world. Notably, under her leadership, PEPFAR has been part of a joint effort with other organizations and agencies including USAID which will bring a new treatment to TB patients in Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Rather than patients needing to take a combination of drugs for treatment, the new treatment will combine two drugs so patients will be able to take fewer drugs in total. The new development is a big leap forward and Dr. Achrekar said, “The availability of a shorter, more easily tolerated, and safer regimen for TB prevention that is also affordable is critical for accelerating the fight against TB. The new development is big news as latent tuberculosis is said to affect up to a quarter of the world’s population.”

The Importance of Fighting AIDS in Relation to Global Poverty

PEPFAR’s work to fight AIDS holds much significance to the fight against global poverty because the two interconnect considerably. AIDS disproportionately affects those in poverty. Considering that the prevalence of AIDS has been commonly linked with poverty, a critical component of fighting the disease is fighting poverty. In his article “Is HIV/AIDS Epidemic Outcome of Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa?” Noel Dzimnenani Mbirimtengerenji wrote, “Unless and until poverty is reduced or alleviated, there will be little progress either with reducing transmission of the virus or an enhanced capacity to cope with its socio-economic consequences.”

Sean Kenney
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Sub-Saharan Africa Digital Divide
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized people. More than 1 billion people, constituting more than 14% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty in the region. A multitude of problems plague sub-Saharan Africa, ranging from disease to malnourishment and violence. The crux of the matter lies in its deep history of a developing nation hindered by imperialistic roots. Through the progression of time, it has become clear that there is one major obstacle in the region’s way to betterment – technology. In other words, a stark digital divide in sub-Saharan Africa exists.

Reversing the Digital Divide

As technology spreads over the developed world at a record rate, lesser developed and developing countries fall behind. Tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft only cater to major markets in the United States, China, Europe and India. As a result, the 14% of the world population in sub-Saharan Africa that can barely afford a basic cell phone, much less a smartphone, usually cannot access these technologies. Around 90% of children in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to a computer and around 80% do not enjoy a basic internet connection. Thus, the sub-Saharan Africa digital divide has emerged as a major source of its current predicament.

To make matters worse, the global COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue and revealed new technological problems. However, hope is on the horizon. New nonprofit companies and the aid of notable philanthropists around the world are hard at work to eradicate the sub-Saharan Africa digital divide. Due to this, the field of STEM is heating up as a hot prospect for economic and developmental opportunities. Here are three strategies that sub-Saharan Africa has implemented and can work to implement to industrialize and develop the region.

3 Strategies For Reversing the Digital Divide in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Making investments for a digital future. Investing money into digital-based infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa is a future-proof way of bettering the region. Specifically, the distribution of technologies like phones, computers, cell towers and adequate internet connections continues to be a major priority for organizations based in the region. A survey revealed that only one in 100 people on average have access to television in sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast, this rate becomes only one in three when the sample size focuses on cities. The results of this survey unequivocally show that industrializing the region holds many positive results. In recent years, organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Computers 4 Africa have donated more to fuel this purpose. Computer drops for schools and other university institutions have also been a major part of this concerted effort. The results are showing. Since the early 2000s, internet penetration in the region has grown by a factor of 10. This increase shows the region drawing closer to bridging the gap of the sub-Saharan Africa digital divide.
  2. Creating new jobs in the Information Technology (IT) sector. Increasing employment opportunities in the IT sector is a major way to boost sub-Saharan African economies. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Jaishree Mahalingam, current project manager for AIG and former IT professional for Toyota in Dallas, said that “in the future, IT will have far more importance…[translating to] greater social mobility for many people who are interested in STEM.” For critics who argue against the viability of a proper university education system in computer science and IT, Mahalingam goes on to state that higher degrees like a Ph.D. are not necessary for a sufficient education. Instead, “a Master’s degree [is] more than sufficient in progressing in a career.” However, Mahalingam does acknowledge that there should be a balance in the education system, encouraging its teaching outside of high school because doing so allows “greater exposure to the field.”As for finding new solutions to address the digital divide, Mahalingam recommends “greater government investment into STEM schools and digitalization through banking and other mechanisms to help expand the IT field.”
  3. Tackling the finance sector through technology. As cell phone use expands in sub-Saharan Africa, more and more individuals look to the future of the financial industry. Now, banking applications that are common in the United States must transition over to another continent. Enter FinTech: the newest player in revolutionizing African financial technology. Currently, only around one-third of the sub-Saharan African population holds bank accounts. However, the ongoing mobile revolution has led to an increased demand for an easier money transaction system. FinTech allows for easy financial exchanges across countries in the region through a mobile platform. Additionally, it is not the only one of its kind. Startup companies like 22Seven, Nomanini, Cellulant and GetBucks are all growing in Africa as easy money-transfer digital networks. Collectively, they serve more than 45 million customers in Africa and hope to greatly expand beyond that figure. Mahalingam agrees that “expanding things like access to bank accounts would greatly add to the interest of millions.”

Sub-Saharan Africa is slowly digging its way out of the digital divide it faces today. With the help of several organizations, more emphasis on economic growth through STEM and new financial-based breakthroughs, the region is constantly facing more opportunities for improvement. By catalyzing a technological revolution in sub-Saharan Africa, the world is ensuring that its inhabitants lead more enriching, productive and prosperous lives for years to come. Technology drives the future; sub-Saharan Africa is taking one large step to embrace it.

Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

Mobile Data TrafficMany poverty-stricken individuals do not have access to the internet, creating a digital divide. The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized mobile data traffic around the globe, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile broadband supports access to education, work, healthcare, goods and services. It plays an imperative role in reducing poverty. With nearly 800 million people in the region still without access to the mobile internet, it has never been more urgent to close the digital divide.

The Need for Mobile Broadband

According to Fadi Pharaon, president of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, the increasing demand for mobile broadband provides an unprecedented chance to improve economic conditions for Africa. Currently, Africa is one of the quickest growing technology markets.

In addition to younger populations requiring technology to develop practical computer skills, during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the internet is also crucial for remote learning and remote work to continue development and economic progression.

In response to the pandemic, sub-Saharan African countries that were able to implement telework adaptations had considerably greater access to the internet, as much as 28 % of the population, as opposed to countries that were not implementing telework, at 17 %.

Due to the increase of digitalization during the pandemic, these developments are expected to positively contribute to the region’s economic recovery post-pandemic. Research suggests that expanding internet access to cover an additional 10% of the region’s population has the ability to increase gross domestic product (GDP) growth by one to four percentage points.

The Mobile Broadband Demand

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) delivered over 4G or 5G is a more affordable alternative to providing broadband in areas with limited access. By 2025, FWA connections are expected to reach 160 million, accounting for 25% of global mobile data traffic.

The estimated total growth of mobile data traffic is from 0.87EB per month in 2020 to 5.6EB by 2026, an increase of 6.5 times the current figures.

To keep up with the demand, service providers are predicted to continue upgrading their networks to meet their customers’ evolving needs.

Additionally, networks expect to see an increase in customers purchasing mobile data subscriptions. Long-term evolution (LTE) was predicted to amount to 15% of subscriptions at the conclusion of 2020.

Novissi Digital Cash Transfers

The Novissi cash transfer program in Togo is an example of why mobile broadband access is important in developing countries. To support struggling people in Togo during COVID-19, instant mobile cash payments were made to their mobile phones to address urgent needs. The program provided more than half a million people with financial assistance during a crisis.

Closing the Digital Divide Reduces Poverty

Experts suggest that funding infrastructure, increasing electricity access and developing approaches to support digital businesses will aid in economic recovery and continue to close the digital divide. While sub-Saharan Africa has seen an acceleration of mobile data traffic during COVID-19, more action still needs to be taken to support its citizens post-pandemic. Providing affordable access to mobile phones, mobile broadband subscriptions and internet access will help support the recovering economy and alleviate poverty in the region.

Diana Dopheide
Photo:Flickr

Environmental Impacts on DiseaseHuman health and environmental concerns are commonly thought of and treated as unrelated issues. However, environmental degradation has an unquestionable impact on a community’s health. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) recently released a report underscoring this point. The UNEP finds environmental impacts on disease are especially apparent in Africa, where large numbers of people are directly reliant on natural resources. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 35% of the total burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by environmental hazards. For example, contaminated water and air pollution commonly cause diarrhea and respiratory issues.

Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution is one of the leading environmental impacts on disease and death in Sub-Saharan Africa. People living in extreme poverty primarily depend directly on solid fuels (i.e. biomass fuels) for their heating and cooking needs. The harmful biomass fuels such as crop waste, coal and wood cause significant air pollution, especially when burned by inefficient and poorly ventilated stoves. Biomass smoke contains thousands of health-damaging substances. These pollutants penetrate deep into the lungs and initiate the development of acute lower respiratory disease, cancer and multiple other diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Women and young children are at the highest exposure to the fumes and have the highest rates of mortality resulting from indoor air pollution. WHO estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of indoor air pollution deaths in the world, along with parts of Southeast Asia.

Improving the Environment and Fighting Disease

Shifting from solid fuels to cleaner energy technologies can have a major impact on indoor air pollution levels. For instance, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), biogas and solar power generation all produce less indoor air pollution. Governments and NGOs alike should plan to help communities make this transition. However, air pollution is just one environmental concern that needs addressing.

Simple solutions to environmental concerns include safer storage of water and dangerous chemicals; these relatively cheap improvements can be highly effective in reducing disease. Ultimately, providing low-cost storage containers to urban and rural communities will result in prominent and lasting gains in health and economic development. Additionally, improving common household appliances can reduce indoor air pollution in poor communities; for example, stoves and ventilation systems often contribute to or fail to reduce indoor air pollution. Lastly, increasing education and public awareness about the environmental impacts on disease is critical; many environment-related health issues are preventable. For instance, educations can encourage mothers to keep small children away from constant contact with fires while cooking.

In Conclusion

It is imperative to address the upstream determinants of Sub-Saharan Africa’s high morbidity and mortality rates. Clean water and air are powerful preventative medicines. Implementing simple, yet effective solutions and sustainable management of natural resources is crucial to ending poverty. By helping people to treat the environment well, governments and NGOs can reduce diseases and child mortality; additionally, their work will improve maternal health and education across sub-Saharan Africa.

Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Child Pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa 
Pneumonia is the greatest cause of death for children globally. Nearly 16% of deaths for children under 5-years-old relate to this deadly condition. Every year, 500,000 cases of child pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa occur within this age group. Many of these fatalities occur due to incorrect or delayed diagnoses. Brian Turyabagye, a Ugandan inventor, has created a solution for these inconsistencies; enter the “Mama-Ope,” a biomedical smart jacket.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a type of respiratory disease that primarily affects the lungs. Within the lungs are small sacks called alveoli, which fill with air when one is healthy. However, when a person is sick with pneumonia, pus and fluid convolute the alveoli, making it very difficult to breathe. Minor side-effects include chest pain, incessant coughing and fever.

Child Pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa

Despite the tragic death rates due to pneumonia, medical professionals often misdiagnose it as malaria. Particularly in remote areas, malaria is also common, and it shares similar symptoms to pneumonia. Many times, medical professionals do not discover the pneumonia prognosis until after a child has died. Furthermore, many communities in SSA lack the proper equipment and medicine to adequately provide treatment. Although pneumonia is the most dangerous disease amongst children, it receives very low funding. According to UNICEF, “for every global health dollar spent in 2011, only 2 cents went to pneumonia.”

Solution: Mama-Ope

The Ugandan inventor Brian Turyabagye created a biomedical smart jacket that increases the speed and accuracy of detecting pneumonia. “Mama-Ope” means ‘mother’s hope’; the device received the name to honor the 27,000 Ugandan children who die of pneumonia each year. Through the utilization of this jacket, treatment can begin before the patient is too far gone. While Turyabagye invented this jacket, Mama-Ope Medicals, of which Turyabagye is a co-founder, represents it. This organization continues to research and create digital solutions for respiratory diseases.

How Does it Work?

 The child wears the jacket and a health care worker operates the corresponding controller unit. All it takes is the simple push of a button, and within 3 minutes, the results display. The device can detect signs unique to pneumonia, such as rate of breath, the sound of lungs and temperature. This technology avoids human error and provides an accurate diagnosis three to four times faster than a medical professional. Eventually, the goal is to program the jacket to work long distance. With this added feature, the patient does not need to travel to a doctor’s office and doctors can monitor the results from a distance.

The Effects

Currently, most major hospitals in Uganda have implemented this jacket. Moreover, expectations have determined that it will help at least 50,000 pneumonia patients each year. This invention eventually won first prize at [email protected] Africa in 2017. Moreover, CNN ranked it as one of the top 12 African innovations that could change the world. Ultimately, while pneumonia is a complex disease, the Mama-Ope is an effective start for lowering rates of child pneumonia in sub-Saharan Africa.

 – Ella Kaplun
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa
Human trafficking is a global issue that affects nearly every country. Countries can experience trafficking in two different ways: either the victim can originate from that region, or the trafficking circle might function there. In Sub-Saharan Africa, victims have come from over 60 countries, some located outside of the African continent. This issue affects the human race as a whole rather than just the lives of a specific gender or ethnicity. Due to widespread corruption in Africa’s legal system, many consider human trafficking a low-risk organized crime, a belief that has resulted in trafficking becoming one of the most profitable illegal enterprises. Here is some information about human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Situation

Although most people associate human trafficking with sexual exploitation, in Sub-Saharan Africa, less than one-third of trafficking victims that the authorities have identified experienced capture with this intention. Instead, both male and female children, which make up more than half of Sub-Saharan trafficking victims, worked in forced labor. Parents typically volunteer these children, who traffickers have forced into physical labor, as a result of poverty and ignorance of the trafficker’s true intentions. Typically, parents expect that their child will return with wages that would improve the family’s economic stature, yet in many scenarios, these children receive very little pay and become indentured into slave labor in places like Mauritania.

Three different types of human trafficking occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Child trafficking, which includes farm labor and domestic work, is the most common type of human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa. It tends to occur in countries like Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Togo. They supply to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo and Nigeria. Although less likely, traffickers may transport women and young people outside the region to engage in explicit sexual behaviors. Additionally, traffickers may transport other women throughout the region to contribute to the domestic sex industry.

Trafficking has had an overwhelming global impact. According to the United Nations record, 2.5 million people are either engaging in forced labor or sexual exploration at any given time. Of that figure, 130,000 people, or 5.2%, are from Sub-Saharan countries. Thus, within those African regions, the human trafficking industry has generated an income of $1.6 billion, demonstrating that it is a massive criminal enterprise.

Solutions

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime has added two related protocols, one being the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which is the first legally binding instrument defining human trafficking. “The Protocol contains provisions on a range of issues, including criminalization, assistance to and protection for victims, the status of victims in the receiving states, repatriation of victims, preventive measures, actions to discourage the demand, exchange of information and training, and measures to strengthen the effectiveness of border controls.”

The other protocol that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime created is the United Nations Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. This specific protocol aims to prevent the smuggling of migrants as well as the exploitation that usually follows, by promoting cooperation between States parties to protect the rights of these migrants. Both of these treaties establish international models for other laws against human trafficking and those countries that sign agree to oblige by the necessary international actions.

These treaties have also inspired other initiatives, such as the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT), implemented in 2007. Even better is that almost every country located in Sub-Saharan Africa has signed this initiative except for Somalia and Zaire. UN.GIFT.HUB says that its mission is to “mobilize state and non-state actors to eradicate human trafficking by reducing both the vulnerability of potential victims and the demand for exploitation in all its forms.” The fight against human trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa is expanding and seeing countries unite together to protect one another provides hope to those who may perceive it as a hopeless situation.

– Victoria Mangelli
Photo: Flickr

Support the Keeping Girls in School
Congresswoman Jeanne Shaheen first introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act. The bill claims to “support empowerment, economic security, and educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world.” Specifically, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Relations will both work and engage in the implementation of providing opportunities for adolescent girls to obtain a secondary education. This is why support for the Keeping Girls in School Act is so crucial.

Assistance Needed

Congress will also need the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in managing and assisting international matters, such as providing global security for adolescent girls in vulnerable countries. Every five years, these federal committees will meet to monitor the progress of the bill and provide input on the upcoming protocols in improving the status of the situation.

As for quantitative costs, to support the Keeping Girls in School Act requires a large financial budget to be most effective in serving those countries at-risk. Cost estimates are about $340 billion, which is a substantial amount in providing lower-income countries access to secondary education, primarily for younger girls. However, with the economic benefits of this bill, it will prove to be a fulfilling investment.

The Problem At Hand

Every year, more than 130 million girls go unenrolled in school. The U.N. predicts that this rate will increase by up to 150 million girls by 2030. For example, in Yemen, 66% of women are illiterate. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, only 1% of girls complete secondary school.

One factor is how many girls enter into child marriages and are not able to obtain an education. In fact, in Ethiopia, 40% of girls are likely to marry under the age of 18. Similarly, in Bangladesh, at least 42% of girls marry younger than age 18 and 22% marry younger than age 15.

Many other external factors contribute to this global crisis. For example, girls with disabilities are less likely to enroll in school and only 1% of girls from the disabled community are literate.

Infections have also proven to hinder access to secondary education for girls under the age of 18. Especially through child marriage, girls are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. More than 380,000 girls, primarily from Africa, contract HIV or develop AIDS every year. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least 80% of HIV victims among adolescents are girls. A Harvard study noted that if an extra year of secondary education was available for adolescent girls, the risk of contracting HIV would decrease by 12%.

The Economic Benefits

Although it is a large investment, the benefits will far outweigh the costs. For example, if every girl attends school for 12 years, free of cost, estimates have determined that it will generate between $15 trillion to $30 trillion globally by 2030. Moreover, each year a girl attends school, the government saves approximately 5% of its educational budget. When girls have an educational background, they are more likely to obtain jobs and careers and thus, stimulate the economy.

What Now?

It is imperative to lobby support from local, congressional leaders to support the Keeping Girls in School Act, as it can help millions of girls obtain an education. Furthermore, the bill will substantially stimulate the economy in the future. A quick method to accumulate support is to email local representatives about endorsing the bill. With this template by The Borgen Project, emailing local congressional leaders will take less than one minute and benefit more than 130 million girls that do not have access to secondary education.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons