Tigui CamaraTigui Camara, a former model, is one of the youngest mining executives in Africa and the only woman in Guinea with her own mining company. Given that mining in West Africa is predominately run by middle-aged men, the magnitude of Camara’s success is remarkable.

Camara’s career began on the runway when she was only 14 years old — and soon after escalated into the business world. While living in Morocco, Camara was able to graduate high school early and earn a college degree in business management. Several years later, Camara moved to the U.S. and was hired by a modeling agency in New York.

During her time in the modeling field, Camara made friends with jewelers who had companies in Africa and was inspired to take action. Camara remembers thinking, “If he could do it, I could do it. He is not even from Africa or Guinea, but he has been successful at doing this. Being a native, why can’t I also be successful?”

Camara began saving in order to open her own mining company and she is now the Chairman and CEO of Camara Gold and Mining Network and the CEO of Tigui Mining Group. Her companies acquire and develop mining assets with a focus on gold, diamond and associated minerals.

However, Camara faced setbacks when she hired a business partner who was embezzling the company’s funds for the first year. She also set up her business during a time of political turmoil in Guinea. The country had just undergone a political revolt and 2009 was marked by violent protests and civil unrest.

To make matters worse, Guinea was hit by the Ebola crisis, which began in December 2013 and continued for around two years. It shut down the economy and businesses were hit hard. As a result, Camara stopped all activity until it was safe to return to work.

Finally in recent months, Camara has been able to stabilize the business with proper funding and investors. She claims, “While infrastructure and electricity shortages have created a challenging business environment in the mineral-rich nation, the government is taking steps to improve its industries and encourage foreign investment.”

This provides the U.S. a unique opportunity to purchase gold, diamond and other mineral materials from a deserving business leader. Tigui Camara had to overcome many obstacles in order to get where she is today. Her background in the fashion industry hindered her ability to succeed as an entrepreneur at first but now she has a well-established name and is respected in the mining industry in West Africa.

Megan Hadley

Sources: How We Made it in Africa, Tigui Mining Group, Black Enterprise

immunization_services
The first stage is underway in Gavi’s plans to rebuild immunization services wrecked by the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. These revived programs will ensure that hundreds of thousands of children who missed out, or are at risk of missing out, will now receive their vaccinations.

Because the Ebola outbreak destroyed the immunization services, Gavi will have a coordinated approach to ensure that these countries are stronger and more resilient to infectious diseases. Gavi is doubling their long-term support for their health systems until 2020.

Rumors in African countries have negatively impacted immunization services. These rumors have falsely claimed that childhood vaccines, such as those protecting against measles and pneumonia, are linked to Ebola. This has caused parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated. These rumors have caused a major setback for immunization services, leaving hundreds of thousands of children at risk.

Ebola has taken the lives of many healthcare workers in these three countries, and even forced some workers to abandon their posts as the crisis took hold. As the countries try to return to normal life, there is a lack of healthcare workers to provide vaccinations.

With this plan in place, Gavi will provide funds for civil society organizations to work with communities to hold meetings and brief village chiefs and religious leaders about the importance of immunizing children. Gavi is also focused on ensuring that there are enough trained healthcare providers to administer the vaccines to the children.

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, states, “As the initial Ebola epidemic recedes, we now face a race against time to prevent outbreaks of other dangerous diseases, by ensuring that children receive the vaccines the need to protect them. Rebuilding trust amongst parents and carers is critical, as is ensuring that they are provided with the services they need to protect their children.”

The package from Gavi will total $12.5 million and work to trace children who missed out on immunization and ensure they are enrolled in catch-up programs. There will be a nationwide drive to recruit new vaccinators and provide them with training.

A measles immunization campaign will also be held. It is estimated that because of the Ebola outbreak, as many as one million children were not vaccinated against measles.

But Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is not alone in rebuilding immunization programs. Since the beginning of 2015, UNICEF and WHO has supported the countries to undertake immunization campaigns to tackle outbreaks of childhood diseases, such as measles and meningitis.

With the support from Gavi, the training of healthcare workers will ensure that childhood immunization will continue after the Ebola crisis. By reestablishing trust in the parents, children will once again be protected against preventable diseases.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: Gavi Alliance 1, Gavi Alliance 2
Photo: Gavi Alliance

energy_poverty
West Africa has the highest levels of energy poverty in the world. The shortage of electricity has been a big barrier to the economic development and people’s wellbeing in Africa.

Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian-born business leader and philanthropist, makes the call for ending energy poverty in Africa and takes action to alleviate it.

Ranking 26th on the Forbes Lists of Africa’s 50 Richest in 2014, Tony Elumelu is one of Africa’s most revered business leaders. As the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (Transcorp), Elumelu fortune’s is estimated at $1 billion.

Approaching the latter period of his business career, Elumelu makes more effort on philanthropy. After retiring from UBA in July 2010, he founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation, intending to foster Africa’s economy by enhancing the competitiveness of the African private sector.

At the same time, Tony Elumelu has also been a significant member of many non-profit organizations, such as World Economic Forum’s Regional Agenda Council on Africa, the Nigeria Leadership Initiative and the Infant Jesus Academy in Delta State, Nigeria.

On 30 June 2015, Elumelu participated in African Energy Leaders Group (AELG) Summit. It was launched by Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan with top-level political and business leaders, intended to make concrete plans for sustainable energy access in Africa.

According to Ivorian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, in order to expedite the implementation of sustainable projects, the West African sub-group of the AELG intends to gather public and private sectors to mobilize finance. As a co-founder of AELG, Elumelu pledged to donate $150,000 over the next three years for its secretarial work.

Elumelu previously contributed to the fight against energy poverty before the Summit. In 2013, Tony Elumelu pledged to contribute $2.5 billion in President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative to support Africa’s power sector.

During the same year, Transcorp, where Elumelu served as Chairman, acquired the 600 MW Ughelli plant in Delta State. It is one of Nigeria’s largest gas-powered generating plants and will generate 1,000 MW by the end of 2015.

The discussion between Transcorp and General Electric has been ongoing, and Transcorp is likely to add another 1,000 MW soon after they reach the first quota.

“Providing access to electricity for schools, hospitals, businesses and industries is the single most impactful intervention that can be made to transform the continent,” said Elumelu during the Summit. “It has tremendous implications for job creation, health, food security, education, technological advancement and overall economic development.”

Shengyu Wang

Sources: Forbes, Sustainable Energy for All
Photo: Forbes

Cashews-Côte-d’Ivoire

In central and northern Côte d’Ivoire, cashew nut farming has drastically improved the lives of small scale farmers.

Since the 1960s, cashew farming has replaced other popular West African cash-crops like cocoa beans, rubber and cotton since cashews generate a much larger profit. Local farmers say that their farms are where “money grows on trees,” according to How We Made It in Africa.

“These farmers don’t grow cocoa like elsewhere in the country. Cashew nut is the only cash crop they can rely on all-year-round. So, it is understandable that they would refer to their orchards in this way,” explained Ga Kone of the Conseil du Coton et de l’Anacarde, the Council of Cotton and Cashew (CCA), in an interview with Africa Renewal.

In 2014, Côte d’Ivoire was responsible for the production of 550,000 tons of raw cashews, or 22% of the total global production of cashews. At the end of the 2015 harvesting season, experts expect that Côte d’Ivoire will produce 600,000 tons.

CCA, the cashew farmer’s marketing board made up of government representatives, farmers and bankers, estimates that Côte d’Ivoire’s annual production has grown at a rate of 11% per year. A combination of factors have enabled Côte d’Ivoire’s recent success. The hardiness of the trees and the increase in global demand for cashews are two main reasons.

Cashews were initially introduced to Côte d’Ivoire and West Africa in the early 1960s to prevent desertification and soil erosion. The evergreen tropical trees can grow up to 12 meters high and are able to survive in harsh weather and soil conditions. Environmentalists often recommend cashew trees for reforestation programs, and the trees were planted to create protected forest areas.

When Côte d’Ivoire first began to produce cashews, the country only generated around 300 tons of cashews annually, and production remained at this rate for around 30 years. In 2002, production reached 100,000 tons.

“The growth is more than impressive. It’s astounding. We’ve never seen a country grow its production in the way Côte d’Ivoire has over the past decade,” said Jim Fitzpatrick, a cashew expert, to Reuters last year.

Despite the country’s cashew-driven economic boom, Côte d’Ivoire still has room for even greater improvement and the potential to generate much more income. The processing of raw cashews enables farmers to sell the cashews for a significantly higher price. Côte d’Ivoire currently only processes 40,000 tons of cashews locally, while it has the potential to process 65,000 tons.

African countries produce 45% of the total global production of cashews, or 1.2 million tons each year. Only 10% of this production is processed locally, says the African Cashew Initiative, which is funded by the German government, private companies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If Côte d’Ivoire begins to process its cashews, there is the potential to increase profit by $127 million—if it processes 100,000 tons by 2020.

Currently, the processing that does occur is rudimentary; it usually is simply sorting whole nuts and broken nuts and then placing them into separate sacks for export.

If this West African nation begins to process all of its cashew nuts and then export them, the economic potential is immense. A study by CCA found that for every 100,000 tons of processing the country implements, 12,300 factory jobs and 10,000 other jobs will be created.

Many regions of Côte d’Ivoire remain entrenched in harsh poverty. In the Zanzan District in the northeastern region of the country, the poverty level is among the highest in the country. Six out of 10 people live below the poverty line—they cannot afford a daily kilogram of rice while 75% do not have access to sanitary drinking water.

Côte d’Ivoire has experienced incredible economic stimulation with its recent cashew boom—by committing to process its cashews locally, the country has the potential to alleviate regions still entrenched in poverty.

– Margaret Anderson

Sources: How We Made It in Africa, Reuters, African Cashew Alliance
Photo: African Business Magazine

ebola_impacts_poverty
Poverty is defined by a lack of possessing shelter, food, water, money, sanitation, and health care. Without some of these basic rights, Ebola is a powerful enemy of the poor.

Ebola, a rare and deadly disease contracted through bodily fluids, still continues to effect parts of West Africa. In March of 2014, Ebola ravished Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, which resulted in 15,065 cases and 11,207 deaths.

So far, the outbreak shows no sign of slowing. The upcoming October election in Guinea has become increasingly concerning, especially because contraction is easier in overcrowded city environments.

Furthermore, Ebola impacts more than just patients; it impacts their families and the lives of others. With the outbreak in West Africa, food prices increased and food supplies dwindled. Sickness resulted in less work and less pay.

So how can the spread of Ebola be reduced? While medical quarantine has been used during the outbreak, many experts say that attacking poverty is the only true solution.

This being said, sanitation and hygiene are key. This includes clean and safe water. When a patient first contracts Ebola, scientists have discovered that replacing the liquids lost can successfully treat the disease. However, without a substantial supply of water for the number of patients, Ebola quickly weakens its victims.

Also necessary are protective and sanitary shelter, as well as greater accessibility to quality health care, even for those with struggling incomes.

Experts have also recently discovered that the disease can remain in semen up to five months after a successful recovery from Ebola. This suggests that education about safe sex and abstinence, as well as access to condoms, is crucial to the decline of patients with Ebola.

As of late, Ebola treatment research may offer hope to reducing the spread of the disease.

In April 2015, members of the Sierra Leone college of health services, sanitation, and centers for disease control teamed up to create a vaccine trial. This study, called the Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola (STRIVE). The study will assess safety and effectiveness of the RVSV-ZEBOV vaccine. For more information on the details and successes of this study, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/strive/qa.html.

For even more good news, on June 24, 2015, researchers reported in MBio that generic heart disease medications might also have the potential to improve the immune systems of patients with Ebola. After a trial in Sierra Leone last fall, researchers were pleased to see improvements in the patients.

While these medications would not prevent or cure the disease, “it could allow individual patients to survive long enough to develop an immune response that eliminates the virus. These agents could be used in combination with anti-virals if they are available,” says David S. Fedson, MD.

Scientists plan to move forward with their research by performing more studies in West Africa. For more details, visit: http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2015/06/generic-heart-disease-medications-offer-promise-for-ebola-treatment.aspx.

While these scientific discoveries offer hope, it is important that all people have access to vaccinations. Only then will able-bodied people be equipped to fight off poverty.

– Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: ABC News, CDC 1, CDC 2, Huffington Post, Infection Control Today, Scientific American, WSWS,
Photo: Inhabitat

Remember-Ebola
The buzz surrounding Ebola started to die down after an update declaring a ten-month low of a reported nine cases, and as transcontinental infection was scarce. Although newer and flashier news stories have taken over, and Ebola started to disappear from the public eye, Ebola may be making a harsh comeback in coming months. With the onset of the rainy season in West Africa, new challenges arise in controlling the Ebola outbreak.

Since the ten-month low, transmission intensity and geographical span have increased despite rigorous efforts to control the disease. The main challenges have been identifying sources and community engagement, where there is still widespread resistance to the efforts. Officials are not largely concerned with the rainy season bringing increased transmission rates and more reported cases, but are concerned with the complications in their efforts at combating the disease.

The rainy season in West Africa brings with it higher prevalence of diseases, such as Malaria, that induce similar symptoms to Ebola. As more people exhibit these symptoms, more people need to be treated as though they may have the Ebola virus, meaning that more people will need to be tested for it. The rain also creates concern over infrastructure and travel, which could hinder efforts in the fight against Ebola.

Many experts in the field had hoped for and urged efforts to get the Ebola outbreaks under control before the rainy season began, and it seemed feasible to do so. The recent increases in transmission come as a disappointment and as a source of well-founded worry. While the public may have shifted gears and moved on from Ebola, health-care workers are shifting gears to be even more vigilant and intense to find those last strains of transmission. The World Health Organization has faced new challenges in the fight against Ebola, and will prevail through the challenges that the rainy season brings.

Even more fear arises from the fact that after reports of low transmission, and as the countries largely affected by the outbreak started to regain normalcy, many international actors backed out of the area. With new causes for concern and a need for increased testing coming with the rainy season, the foreign aid and international health workers are needed again, and soon.

Ebola infections are still more concentrated and more under control than at the start of the outbreak in December 2013, and with the new rainy season perhaps the increased testing will finally bring the last of the transmission chains to light.

– Emma Dowd

Sources: Sierra Leone Times, CIDRAP, UN
Photo: Mirror

West Africa Ebola
West Africa is experiencing the first decrease in Ebola cases in three weeks, recording 128 new cases between Feb. 8 and Feb. 15, according to the World Health Organization. However, dwindling funds, a long rainy season and improper burials are making it difficult to control the disease.

The current Ebola epidemic began a year ago in Guinea, and spread throughout West Africa. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are the worst-affected countries, but are also seeing steady decreases in Ebola case numbers since the beginning of the year.

Guinea recorded 52 new Ebola cases in the week of Feb. 8. In August and September 2014, Liberia experienced over 300 new Ebola cases per week; during the week of Feb. 8, Liberia recorded only two new confirmed cases. Sierra Leone now holds the highest infection rate, experiencing up to 248 new Ebola cases per week; however, in January, the numbers declined to 118. During the week of Feb. 8, Sierra Leone confirmed 74 new cases, 54 of which were in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown.

The life-threatening disease has caused other problems throughout West Africa. Farming and food production has slowed, numerous roads have been closed, bans have been put on travel and families have been displaced or torn apart.

Experts blame ignorance and fear for contributing to the disease’s rapid spread in West Africa in the worst outbreak on record. There have also been violent attacks on healthcare facilities and workers despite large-scale education campaigns.

However, the decline in cases are already bringing positive effects. President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone announced in January that the country was lifting the travel restrictions it had implemented in an effort to contain the virus.

West Africa’s year-long Ebola outbreak has now killed over 9,365 people from among 23,218 cases recorded, mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

One challenge has risen from seemingly good news: funding. Officials say that international financial support has also decreased with the number of Ebola cases. Officials say that $1.5 billion is needed to combat the disease for the next six months, and so far only $482 million has been pledged.

Alaina Grote

Sources: New York Times, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Photo: Flickr

education_in_togo
Along Africa’s west coast is a strip of land called Togo. From 1991 to 2007, Togo experienced a socio-political crisis due to the education system’s lack of progress. The situation became increasingly violent when its veteran leader Gnassingbe Eyadema died in 2005 after 38 years in power. Since then, Togo has been seeking financial help to develop better public services, primarily the education system.

In order to improve Togo’s education, the country has set a list of primary objectives. These include, recruiting and training teachers, improving classrooms and other education facilities, providing free books and abolishing all fees for preschool and primary school. According to Education in Crisis, the number of students taking part in education has increased by 40,000 during the last decade.

Schools are state-owned, and are either Christian or Islamic. Schools take six years to complete. While the number of students has increased, about 10 percent of children are not enrolled in schools.

Secondary schools take an additional six years to complete. There are very few facilities, and most of them are near the Capital City of Lomé. The curriculum used in these schools are closely linked to what France uses.

UNICEF helped Togo a lot with an action plan on how to help the education system regain its strength. In 2007, thanks to UNICEF, 67 schools received  2,000 table-benches and 380 sets of tables and chairs for the classrooms. Also in that same year, 10,400 students from 40 different schools were given new school books.

Objectives moving forward for Togo are to maintain focus on education and make sure that the children have equal and easy access to free education. Also, Togo and UNICEF want to raise the rate of schooling from 75.7 percent to 90 percent by 2015 to meet the Millennium Development Goals of Education.

 Brooke Smith

Sources: Classbase, Education in Crisis BBC, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

media coverage
In the current struggle against Ebola, the American public seems to care more about the threat to themselves than those already affected. In an era of decreased attention and increased media coverage the plight of the impoverished is often overlooked by the impatience of western readership.

On July 12, 1968, TIME Magazine published a head-turning cover story on starving children in the Biafran civil war. The pleading eyes of two children stared the world in the face, challenging every reader to pause and consider their predicament.

And consider it they did: individuals, foreign governments and charity organizations flooded West Africa with millions of dollars in relief funds.

The 2014 parallel to the Biafran War is Ebola. The virus’s meteoric rise to the forefront of every news program is challenging the way Americans intake news. The self-centered tone that clouds American media has turned the crisis into a threat to the American public.

But is it really an immediate terror? At the end of the day most would choose to watch a news segment and then change the channel, leaving Ebola to those in hazmat suits.

Curiosity in African crises rises and falls with the course of events such as the Rwandan genocide or Sudanese civil war. Interest swells as death tolls rise and accordingly subsides as the conflict calms.

In the case of Biafra, children’s hunger was the subject of years of aid and public interest. In the nearly 50 years since Biafra, the western public has continued this predictable pattern of temporary fascination with the impoverished. But this pattern is changing quickly. Where we once followed crises for years, we now spend only weeks.

Four months ago, the international terrorist group Boko Haram abducted almost 300 girls from primary schools in Northern Nigeria. Yet since the initial release of the Internet campaign #bringbackourgirls, the world has turned away from the issue in favor of more exciting news. More than 200 girls remain missing and Boko Haram is still at large. Similarly, the #stopkony2012 movement that went viral seemingly overnight received an underwhelming response from the American public when it came time to take action.

With the media coverage of the Ebola epidemic continuing to focus on American safety, how will those in the midst of the outbreak receive the help they so desperately need?

Rourke Healey

Sources: Old Life Magazines, New York Times, Web TV
Photo: Afrocentric Confessions

Rope isolated on white background
On April 29, the United Nations Security Council renewed the UN mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO, until April 2015. The Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, expressed support for human rights monitoring to be added to the resolution renewing the mission. However, Morocco has long rejected the idea of a human rights monitoring mechanism in the North African region and for this resolution, Morocco got what they wanted.

The UN has been involved in the Western Sahara since 1991 when MINURSO was instituted, and Morocco has remained in control of much of the region since Spain ended its occupation. The resolution that renewed the mission included support for contributions to fund “confidence-building measures agreed upon between the parties” including visits between separated family members. Over 20,000 Western Saharan refugees have taken part in family visits through UN coordination since MINURSO’s beginning.

The resolution calls for the Polisario and Morocco to remain vigilant and wary of human rights in coordinating with the international community and the UN. Before its passing, Ban Ki-Moon commended both parties for their willingness to participate with UN human rights bodies. The Secretary General concluded, “The end goal nevertheless remains a sustained, independent and impartial human rights monitoring mechanism, covering both the Territory and the camps.”

The Secretary General, earlier in April, renewed his appeals for “sustained human rights monitoring in Western Sahara and warned against unfair exploitation of the region’s natural resources.” His concern with establishing stronger human rights monitoring mechanisms is in light of previous reports of human rights abuses and poverty in the country.

However, after a phone conversation with Morocco’s king, the word “mechanism” was removed from this sentence of the final report due to Morocco’s concern with a monitoring program that implied a foreign presence. King Mohammed stressed to the Secretary General Morocco’s willingness to uphold human rights, but within Morocco’s sovereignty and without the control of outside forces and occupations.

The U.S. was one of the first to promote increasing human rights monitoring, but backed down after Morocco expressed opposition. Hence, the U.S.-initiated resolution became largely Morocco-drafted before it was passed, excluding Ban Ki-Moon’s appeal.

As a compromise, however, Morocco allowed a few UN rights investigators to visit the area, and this year, the U.S. did not renew the proposal that they had for the previous resolution.

Whereas Morocco’s UN Ambassador, Omar Hilale, expressed concern over appeals of human rights mechanisms regarding the success of MINURSO, the Polisario’s UN Representative, Ahmed Boukhari, expressed regret that MINURSO is the “only UN Peacekeeping Mission established since 1978 that has no mandate to monitor and report on the human rights situation on the ground.”

This argument over human rights monitoring is significant because it marks a continuation of the conflict between Morocco, who wants Western Sahara to be an autonomous part of Morocco, and the Polisario, who is backed by countries such as Algeria. The conflict has affected the Western Saharan people and refugees in Algeria poorly and contributed to poverty.

Western Sahara has also expressed concern over the exploitation of natural resources. The region is rich in phosphates, which are used in fertilizer, and Polisario has complained in the past about Western firms, in conjunction with Morocco, searching for natural resources.

Hence, the lack of a strong human rights mechanism worries the Western Saharan people about Moroccan control and natural resources extraction. Time will tell if this decision regarding the UN Resolution will affect Western Saharan’s poor, but citizens are concerned that it undoubtedly will.

– Cambria Arvizo

Sources: Morocco World News, Reuters, United Nations
Photo: Creative Time Reports