tuberculosis in ZambiaThe South African country of Zambia has a population of around 17 million. Over the last 30 years, it has experienced a rise in tuberculosis cases, an infectious bacterial disease in the lungs. Estimates show the mortality of the disease as approximately 30 deaths due to tuberculosis per 100,000 people. Below are seven important facts about tuberculosis in Zambia.

7 Facts About Tuberculosis in Zambia

  1. Co-infection: HIV patients have a high risk of contracting tuberculosis. In Zambia, 59% of tuberculosis patients have also tested positive for HIV. Though there are healthcare systems for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis among patients with HIV, overpopulation, poverty, cultural beliefs and sanitation conditions can make a diagnosis of both HIV and tuberculosis a challenge.
  2. Limited Access to Treatment: There is a greater prevalence of tuberculosis mortality in rural areas of Zambia. The commute to a clinic is often greater than a two-hour walk for a person living in a rural home, which puts a strain on those with the disease and on the family or friends who need to take time off of work to travel with their loved one.
  3. Economic Burden: Tuberculosis is extremely costly for individuals and for Zambia as a nation. Medications and other services like x-rays can be expensive for individual families. Furthermore, the overall loss of a workforce can impact the greater economy. This can be seen in mining communities, where tuberculosis is especially prevalent. Because the mining industry plays an important role in Zambia’s economy, there have been negative economic impacts in losing a percentage of the workforce due to tuberculosis. A 2016 study on tuberculosis in Zambian mines advocates for greater regulatory legislation for mining conditions and better health systems to create a healthier population and a more stable economy.
  4. Improving the Cure Rate: Tuberculosis is a serious disease and can be fatal. The Ministry of Health finds that 62,000 Zambians contract tuberculosis and 16,000 people die each year from the disease. Though there are still many fatalities, there has been great progress in treating the disease. Today, around 88% of people treated are cured, exceeding the WHO recommended cure rate of 85%, and the pooled cure rate of between 55% and 73% for Africa.
  5. Better Management: World Tuberculosis Day, observed each year on March 24, commemorates the discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis in 1882. During the 2019 World Tuberculosis Day, the Ministry of Health Announced the new guidelines for “Management of Latent Tuberculosis Infection.” This was the launch of greater efforts towards the elimination of tuberculosis and emphasizes early detection.
  6. Improved Surveillance: Though tuberculosis is a severe health issue, there have been limited health surveys to find an accurate prevalence of the disease. In 2013, the Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) through the Ministry of Health (MoH) and USAID conducted a survey on the tuberculosis rate in Zambian regions. The surveys showed a higher prevalence of tuberculosis than estimated. They also revealed improved techniques for tuberculosis detection. For example, the use of digital systems and the integration of HIV testing in tuberculosis surveys (HIV is common comorbidity) can help estimate the rate of incidence and help improve the efficiency of tuberculosis healthcare.
  7. More Accurate Diagnoses: Founded in 2006, the Center For Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) has provided many services for combating tuberculosis in Zambia including research on diagnostic techniques. CIDRZ tested some novel techniques of tuberculosis diagnosis such as LED fluorescence microscopes and computer-assisted digital x-ray interpretation technology. CIDRZ helps mobilize these techniques and train community members in the identification of tuberculosis.

These facts show that the health crisis of tuberculosis in Zambia exposes a dire need for increased accessibility of healthcare and better methods of diagnosis and treatment. The recent efforts in management and care of tuberculosis show promise of effective tuberculosis management and an overall healthier population.

– Jennifer Long
Photo: Flickr

child marriage in ZambiaIn Zambia, about two in every five girls are forced into marriage. Currently, the country is renewing its efforts to eradicate child marriage. In 2017, the President of Zambia along with presidents from Uganda and Malawi held an event where they declared they would prioritize ending child marriages by 2030. The President of Zambia stated, “Girls who marry young are often denied their rights. Ending child marriage by 2030 will require a range of actions, including making sure girls have access to quality education, legal reforms and changing traditional harmful practices.”

Already, rates of child marriage in Zambia have drastically decreased. Zambia’s Demographic and Health Surveys in 2002 found that the child marriage rate was 42%. In 2014, however, the child marriage rate had dropped down to 31%. Despite these numbers, Zambia still has a lot of work to do to save these young girls.

Common Reasons for Child Marriage

There are many factors contributing to child marriage. Here are three of the more common reasons for child marriage in Zambia.

  1. Poverty: Some families see child marriage as a way to reduce the financial burden of having young girls. Often, families in poverty will marry off their young daughter(s) to receive a payment of dowry. This dowry gives them great financial relief. In addition, they are saving money because they no longer have to provide for their daughter(s).
  2. Vulnerability: While all children are susceptible to being vulnerable to child marriage, orphans and stepchildren are even more vulnerable, specifically once they hit puberty. Some families feel that their job of taking care of them is done at that time, so they marry them off young. Stepchildren and orphans are also more widely mistreated than biological children. They may feel getting married is an escape from an otherwise unbearable situation.
  3. Protecting a Girl’s Sexuality: Parents may believe that if they marry their girls off young, they can protect them from engaging in “inappropriate behaviors,” like having multiple sexual partners. This way the girl only has sexual intercourse with her husband, and her family’s honor remains preserved. Some also consider child marriage as a protection for the girl against HIV or unwanted pregnancy.

The After-Effects

  • Increases Poverty: Child brides tend to drop out of school. As a result, any opportunities they may have had at getting a good job and helping their families out of poverty disappear.
  • Health Risks: Child brides are more likely to suffer from depression or PTSD due to abuse from their spouses or the fast-paced way they are forced to grow up. Also, child marriage in Zambia is often correlated with pregnancy, which can lead to higher death rates for the mother or child because the mother is not developmentally mature enough to carry a baby.
  • Risk of Violence: Child brides are more likely to deal with domestic violence including physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The Good News

Despite these practices still occurring, the citizens and government of Zambia have begun taking steps to eradicate child marriages by 2030. Plan International is a humanitarian organization that works to advance children’s equality and rights. The organization’s Regional Director for both Eastern and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer, says change begins with education. He states, “It is essential that we promote education and encourage dialogue if we want to change social norms . . . Governments must ensure schools are accessible, inclusive and safe […] to enable more girls to attend and stay on in school.” This education helps not only young girls but also their families.

Senior Headman, Davison Shafuluma, in the Mumbwa district, holds meetings where he teaches parents and other family members that child marriage hurts more than it helps. He shares with them the effects a young girl can suffer through by marrying and carrying a child at too young an age. He also explains that they, as a family, can say ‘no’ to anyone who propositions marriage.

Beyond education, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage helped establish 550 Safe Spaces in Zambia. In these Safe Spaces, young girls learn that they are equal to their male counterparts. The young girls learn that school, homework and their futures should be their focus and priority.

International Work to Eradicate Child Marriage

Aside from better education, “Zambia also co-sponsored, along with Canada, the first U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on child, early and forced marriage in 2013.” In 2014, eight Ministers from Zambia also committed to addressing child marriage and continuing the conversation. The country has also legislated a minimum age requirement for marriage beginning at the age of 18.

Although many more improvements are still necessary, Zambia is making much progress to diminish child marriage. The conversations in Zambia and across the world are finally giving these young, vulnerable girls a voice.

Stacey Krzych 
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About The Sanitation In Zambia Zambia is a country with a population of more than 16.5 million. It neighbors Zimbabwe, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi in the Southern-Central region of Africa. In 2011, Zambia achieved middle-income country status, reflecting the country’s substantial economic growth of an average of 7.4% per year from 2004-2014. However, as of 2015, more than half of Zambians earn less than the international poverty line and only 26% of the population has access to safely managed sanitation services. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Zambia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Zambia 

  1. According to the World Bank, the Water Sector Performance Improvement Project advanced the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC) in the Lusaka, Kafue, Chongwe and Luangwa districts of Zambia. The project reduced interruptions to clean water supplies from 5,000 to 333 from 2007-2013 and increased the water collection ratio from 70% to 90%. The Water Sector Performance Improvement Project was crucial to improving Zambia’s public health resources by developing clean water resources and advancing the area’s sewerage systems.
  2. In 2003, a community-driven water and sanitation project delivered nine boreholes and 40 Ventilated Improved Pit-Latrines (VIPs) to the rural Chibizyi area of Zambia. The Zambia Social Investment Fund (ZAMSIF) aided this and benefited over 4,000 members of the community. Before the project, the people of the Chibizyi region walked vast distances in search of water, usually collecting water from polluted streams.
  3. After receiving better access to clean water, the Chibizyi community of Zambia then formed water, sanitation and health education committees in each village. The committees formed construction sites to build sufficient sanitation facilities to keep the water clean. Additionally, ZAMSIF used the Ventilated Improved Pit-Latrines (VIPs) sites as stations for distributing information on HIV/AIDS and malaria control.
  4. From 2011-2015, the Schools Promoting Learning Advancement through Sanitation & Hygiene (SPLASH) initiative implemented its program in 495 Zambian schools. Before SPLASH, Zambian schools faced limited drinking water and sanitation facilities, causing harsh learning environments for the students. SPLASH installed 662 handwashing facilities and 386 female washrooms in the schools. This allowed 133 schools to achieve a WASH-Friendly status and attract more students.
  5. In 2012, the National Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing developed national guidelines for Community-Led Total Sanitation in Zambia. These guidelines reached over 2.5 million people across the country by 2015. Officials implemented the guidelines through Zambia’s District Health Information System 2 (DHIS2) digital software, which enabled real-time monitoring and feedback via computers. Communities following these guidelines and switching from open defecation to toilet use received verification as Open Defecation Free (ODF).
  6. The Water and Development Alliance (WADA), along with its partners United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Coca-Cola, are working to improve sanitation globally. Since 2005, they have improved avenues in more than 30 countries, giving more than 580,000 people access to clean water. WADA aids Zambia in improving water and sanitation access by implementing latrines and handwashing stations across the country.
  7. The Partnership for Integrated Social Marketing (PRISM), a marketing program for health services and products, instigated a distribution project in 2014. PRISM administered over 13,000,000 bottles of chlorine at Zambian hospitals. Zambians were then able to use the chlorine to disinfect and clean 9.27 billion liters of drinking water in all 10 provinces of Zambia.
  8. Only 18 percent of women in Zambia are able to obtain modern, feminine hygiene products. In response, Maboshe Memoria Centre in Mongu, Zambia, began producing sanitary napkin kits in 2019, modeled after the Days for Girls sanitary kits. The sanitary napkin kits are washable pads that can last up to three years. Previously, many Zambian girls skipped school during their menstrual cycle due to inadequate supplies. These kits enabled them to attend school during their menses and obtain hygienic and long-lasting products.
  9. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has aided in enabling 44% of Zambia’s population to achieve improved sanitation. UNICEF allowed Zambian villages to receive acceptable latrines and in 2015, around 75% of Zambia’s villages became Open Defecation Free (ODF). By 2020, UNICEF expects every Zambian to have an adequate latrine–ones that have handwashing facilities, offer privacy and dispose of matter effectively.
  10. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is currently aiding Zambia by investing in plans that encourage sustainable outlets for safe drinking water. The Global Water Strategy and USAID Agency Specific Plan aim to provide 1.7 million Zambians with sustainable water and sanitation resources by 2020. They plan to invest in significant infrastructure improvements that will strengthen water supply, sanitation and drainage in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.

Zambia has made substantial progress in sanitation since the early 2000s. It has developed plans to decontaminate drinking water and replace poor sanitation facilities. However, as Global Waters has indicated, there is still a considerable need for improved sanitation guidelines across the country to ensure every citizen has access to clean water. These 10 facts about the sanitation in Zambia shed light on these issues.

– Kacie Frederick
Photo: Flickr

Health care system in Zambia
Zambia’s healthcare system is decentralized, therefore it is broken up into three different levels: hospitals, health centers and health posts. Hospitals are separated into primary (district), secondary (provincial) and tertiary (central). It offers universal healthcare for its citizens, yet the health care system in Zambia remains one of the most inadequate in the world.

Universal Health Care

Zambia is working on implementing universal health care coverage for its citizens to diminish the burden of accessing life-saving treatments. At the moment, Zambia’s government-run health facilities offer basic healthcare packages at the primary (district)level free-of-charge. Their services are under the National Health Care Package (NHCP). With this being said, due to “capacity constraints” and limited funding, the services sometimes do not reach those who need it most. Luckily, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Zambia and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have come together in order to help restore the health care system in Zambia. They are investigating ways to effectively set priorities so that processes in health facilities can run faster and smoother.

Private vs Public Healthcare

Even though there are a good number of public and private health facilities, a lot of the public hospitals are chronically underfunded. Another major problem in the public healthcare sector is that there is inequality in the order that doctors meet with patients. As mentioned above, the public sector is divided into three divisions, level one hospitals are in charge of provision of services and level two and three hospitals are referral or specialized hospitals.

District Health Offices (DHOs) are staffed by community health assistants (CHAs). Over the course of their one-year training, they are prepared to improve the management of malaria, child and maternal health and common preventable health conditions. DHOs spend 80 percent of their time on disease prevention and health promotion and another 20 percent “at the health post.”

There are good private hospitals in Zambia’s big cities, for example, Lusaka. They offer their services to everyone with the majority of people that participate in the private sector being foreigners or affluent Zambians. Over 50 percent of formal health services in rural Zambia are private clinics or hospitals. They also account for 30 percent of all health care in the nation. Even though they offer higher quality services at a faster rate, when a serious medical emergency presents itself, the majority of the time people will be evacuated to South Africa since they are able to provide better medical services.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies are not always stocked with the medications or drugs that most people need when they are sick. Even though they are available in most major cities and towns in Zambia, they do not operate on a 24/7 schedule. Their typical work week is Monday to Saturday. When people are in need of a pharmacy, it is recommended to go to one that is attached to a hospital or a clinic for immediate assistance.

Diseases

Zambia’s top five killer diseases are HIV/AIDS, neonatal disorders, lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. Zambia also sits in the malaria belt, so it is recommended to have a mosquito net to prevent mosquito bites. Other diseases like cholera and dysentery are common during rainy seasons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been helping Zambia since 2000 after establishing an office in the nation. The CDC “funds and assists international and local organizations” like the Ministry of Health to “provide health services at the national and community level.” In addition, the CDC has performed more than 173,000 medical male circumcisions and has prevented 98 percent of HIV exposed infants from getting HIV in 2018.

– Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Zambia's Growing Energy Sector
Zambia is improving livelihoods, especially for those residing in rural areas without electricity access, through investing in its growing green energy sector. About 70 percent of the population—more than eight million Zambians—lack electricity and could benefit from clean, affordable and reliable power. Electricity access in rural regions is less than 10 percent. Zambia is changing that statistic by focusing on providing affordable and widespread green energy to the nation. Zambia is currently one of the top 10 producers in hydroelectric power, but it is currently focused on diversifying into underappreciated areas within Zambia’s growing energy sector.

Green Energy Developments

The Power Africa: Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ) emerged in 2016. Sweden funded the BGFZ and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) manages it. The aim is to provide affordable and clean sustainable energy to Zambia. The program works with the government to provide power for rural areas. As of 2019, more than 100,000 households, reaching 500,000 Zambians, received power as part of the program.

The program’s goal is to reach 1.6 million Zambians by 2021. BGFZ and its partners have created more than 1,100 jobs, about 2.3 MW of energy and affected more than 1,400 businesses. According to a study on the BGFZ program’s impact on the population, more than 25 percent have opened new income streams thanks to electricity access. Also, 87 percent of people in the survey stated that they spend less on lighting and power. Participants in the study mentioned that not having to use candles also alleviates potential fire hazards and helps them feel more at ease with children at home.

Enel Green Power, a renewable energy business, will build Zambia’s first power plant as part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program. It will be a 34 MW solar PV plant in Ngonye and is part of Zambia’s goal of diversifying its energy sector and providing power to the entire population. Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) carries out the project. Enel owns about 80 percent of the project and the IDC owns 20 percent.

“With the connection to the grid of Ngonye in Zambia, we are reconfirming our commitment to helping the country leverage on its vast wealth of renewable resources, which poses a great opportunity for growth,” said Antonio Cammisecra, Head of Enel Green Power. The facility should generate 70 GWh once complete.

Widespread Impact of Power

Electricity provides much more than a simple electric light in a room. It enables schools to use the technology they could not utilize without power. Computers, calculators and lights to illuminate a chalkboard are all benefits that appear simple but are important in educating and developing a country. Educating a country is yet another way of reducing poverty, yet that is hard to achieve without electricity, whether from green sources or traditional sources.

Health care is another area that Zambia’s growing energy sector impacts. Equipment, such as x-ray machines, requires some sort of power and providing electricity to almost 70 percent would affect more than 8 million Zambians. An important and basic aspect of developing a country is electricity access, as an economy cannot thrive without a widespread and reliable power source. Zambia understands that developing the energy sector, particularly green technology, is the first step to not only sustainable energy and economic development, but also the health of its people.

Outlook

Zambia’s growing energy sector is improving thanks to involvement from businesses, the government and the World Bank. One of Zambia’s largest food suppliers is constructing an approximately $42 million 50 MW solar farm, demonstrating that major businesses are also transitioning into affordable and sustainable energy sources. Zambia’s impact on providing electricity to its people has only begun in recent years, yet its progress shows promise in helping to develop the economy through increasing electricity access.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Honnald Foundation

In today’s fast-paced and technological world, it is easy to take everyday things for granted. Millions of people have lights, electric stoves and numerous electronic devices at their fingertips. However, there are an estimated 1.1 billion people across the globe who do not have access to basic electricity. These areas often lack development from big companies that would create job opportunities. Thus, it is no surprise that many areas that suffer from “energy poverty” are among the same areas that hold the highest rates of international poverty. Rock climber Alex Honnold identified the intersection between electricity and poverty and decided to take action. In 2012, Honnold created his own nonprofit organization called the Honnold Foundation.

Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold is known for his role in the documentary “Free Solo.” The adventure climber rocketed to fame when he became the first climber to ascend Yosemite’s 3,000 foot El Capitan wall without the assistance of any ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment. He has gained a large international following from his successful climbs of the biggest cliffs in the world. But, Honnold is equally well known for the strong work ethic and humble attitude he carries with him.

As Honnold began to gain attention for his impressive climbing skills, he had many opportunities to join climbing trips to various remote places around the world that were sponsored by different brands. In preparation for his travels, Honnold would often read books about each of his destinations to learn more about the area. He soon began to develop an understanding of climate change issues, social justice efforts and environmental problems. Honnold also witnessed them first-hand in many of his expeditions. On an eye-opening trip to Chad in 2010, Honnold recalled driving through entire villages without access to power.

Developing the Honnold Foundation

Honnold continued to educate himself on these issues. In 2012, Honnold and his longtime climbing partner Maury Birdwell dreamed up the Honnold Foundation. Its vision is to fight poverty, improve lives and reduce environmental impact via solar projects around the world. Poverty and global warming were the two most concerning issues that came up repeatedly in Honnold’s research and experiences. Honnold and Birdwell found that both issues could be resolved by the promotion of solar energy.

They developed the idea on the way home from a climbing trip. With Yosemite as their office, the founders of the Honnold Foundation tweaked and honed their ideas into a cohesive and forward-thinking organization. Honnold believes that access to electricity is essential to improving people’s lives. Since its inception, Honnold has consistently given a third of his income to the Honnold Foundation each year.

Honnold Foundation’s Focus

The Honnold Foundation is a nonprofit public charity that provides funding for solar power initiatives that tackle global energy inequality through environmentally sound means. In recent years, the organization has honed in on four main nonprofit organizations: SolarAid, GRID Alternatives, The Solar Energy Foundation and Northern Navajo Solar Entrepreneurs. Each organization focuses on a unique element of solar expansion and share the unifying mission of transitioning people to solar energy.

There have been several projects to date. One project furthers the efforts of SolarAid to replace polluting and dangerous kerosene lamps in Malawi and Zambia with solar ones. Another is advancing pay-as-you-go financing for solar energy systems in Ethiopia through the Solar Energy Foundation. It installs affordable solar power through GRID Alternatives to off-grid low-income communities. Furthermore, it promotes solar education in community hubs and supports long-term entrepreneurship programs to increase solar energy in Navajo communities.

Solar power is cheap, reliable, safe and variable in its applications. When asked about the great work he is doing with solar energy through his foundation, Honnold often brings the attention back to what this energy is doing for the people in these communities. Many organizations exist to support the basic necessities of food, shelter and water, which are all essential components. Without electricity, there can be no sewing machines or rice mills. Job opportunities are scarce.

Solar electricity gives people access to education, better living conditions and economic advantages. Solar power helps reduce environmental impact worldwide, but especially in regions that have never had electricity in any form. It can’t be expected for those living in poverty to care about sustaining the environment when their own basic needs aren’t being met. The Honnold Foundation aims to shed light on both the planet and poverty.

GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS Prevention in Zambia

Antiretroviral therapy in Zambia has been one of the most effective HIV/AIDS prevention strategies in recent years. Thanks to the efforts of the CDC and the Zambian government, the spread of HIV/AIDS has decreased steadily by 13 percent since 2010.

HIV/AIDS Prevention in Zambia – Strategies

  • Education and Awareness: The effective response and resource allocation from the Zambian government through early HIV testing had a profound effect on the stigma surrounding the virus, encouraging more people to get tested. To that end, the government implemented the GIPA policy, emphasizing equality in medicine free from discrimination. In addition, the National Health Services Act is a government policy aimed at strengthening the structural power of Zambia’s medical field to increase its influence on rural communities. Aside from spearheading research, the act more clearly defines Zambia’s medical infrastructure with a power structure to allocate resources as effectively as possible. Integrating these government programs into the heart of Zambia’s most impoverished communities decreases the chances of an outbreak.
  • Antiretroviral Therapy: As mentioned above, the CDC is also active in Zambia, focusing on early antiretroviral therapy in highly affected areas like the Copperbelt and the western provinces. Within these parameters, 89 percent of those who began treatment immediately are less likely to spread the virus. Outreach programs to reach the more impoverished and marginalized groups have also been successful, with antiretroviral therapy increasing among children from 23 percent in 2009 to 79 percent as of 2019. The government has also promoted the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily course of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) taken by HIV-negative people which reduces the risk of contracting the virus.
  • Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission: Through the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission) plan, Zambia has made great strides aimed at preventing the spread of the virus from mother to offspring by providing lifelong antiretroviral therapy in Zambia. According to the CDC, through early education and effective policy implementation, the health protection agency has prevented 98 percent of HIV-exposed babies from contracting the virus.

Final Thoughts

The lack of access to basic health care and a comprehensive understanding of how HIV spreads, especially in rural communities, produces a hostile environment where exposure risk increases. Furthermore, high poverty and unemployment levels create a shaky foundation where socio-economic growth is key to eliminating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zambia. However, increased government spending has sprouted new testing facilities in rural areas, providing quality service where “…the Government is scaling up social protection by increasing allocations to the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) and Food Security Pack (FSP) program[s] and other poverty mitigation measures.”

The key to a structural change in Zambia’s HIV epidemic lies partially in assisting Zambia’s fairly large impoverished community. In addition, antiretroviral therapy in Zambia continues to be a focal point of the government’s long-term plan to eliminate the virus with increased spending on antiretroviral therapy and sex education in a bid to secure more prosperous futures for its citizens.

Adam Townsend
Photo: Pixabay

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is the largest free-trade agreement in the world with a 1.2 billion-person market and a combined GDP of 2.5 trillion dollars. It was signed in March of 2018 by 44 African heads of state, and following the initial signing, 5 more countries joined in July for a total of 49. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement’s primary focus is to increase intra-African trade by promoting free movement of goods and tariff-free trade. In fact, for the countries that joined, tariffs are expected to decrease by 90 percent within 5 years.

According to an article by The Economist, roughly 82 percent of African goods are exported to other countries. Due to high transport costs, poor infrastructure (e.g. in West Africa, less than one-fifth of the roads are paved) and time-consuming border procedures, it is more costly to trade within Africa than to export to foreign countries.

With the new free-trade agreement, a more competitive market will emerge that will reduce costs for consumers. Additionally, producers will have access to a larger number of potential buyers, as well as more investment opportunities from foreign countries. Strengthening intercontinental trade has the potential to protect the countries in Africa from the impact of exogenous trade shocks.

Maximizing the Impacts of AfCFTA

In order to reap the highest benefits from the new intra-continental free trade agreement, it is imperative to make adjustments to Africa’s trade structure. However, trade facilitation is not an easy task. It involves coordination between countries, transparency in policies and easing the movement of goods. Currently, intra-African trade accounts for only 16 percent of Africa’s total exports, while the bulk of its exports are to Europe (38 percent), China (19 percent), and the U.S. (15 percent). With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that intra-African trade will see a 52 percent increase by 2022.

Infrastructure Development

Reducing non-tariff barriers, like transport time for goods, is an essential component of solidifying the new free-trade agreement. According to the International Monetary Fund, the average cost of importing a container in Africa is about $2,492, which is significantly more expensive than the cost of exporting to another continent. This helps to explain Africa’s high incentive to export the majority of its goods.

In order to aid with the implementation of infrastructure projects, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has facilitated two main systems of information. The African Infrastructure Database (AID) concerns itself mainly with data management and stores information about ongoing infrastructure development projects including the location as well as relevant financial and economic information. The Virtual PIDA Information Centre contains regional and continental infrastructure projects and promotes investment opportunities.

Clearly, higher access to information regarding infrastructure projects can help countries organize themselves around infrastructure development efficiently. This will help to reduce the intra-African costs of trade by fostering more easily navigable and cheaper transport routes between countries.

Economic Integration

It is crucial to consider that the informal trade sector contributes to a large amount of overall trade in Africa. The Africa Economic Brief is a document published by Jean-Guy Afrika and Gerald Ajumbo that discusses the specifics of informal trade in Africa. It states that the informal cross border trade sector (ICBT) represents 30-40 percent of total intra-African trade. In West and Central Africa, women make up almost 60 percent of informal traders, and 70 percent in Southern Africa.

Problems that affect the formal sector, like infrastructure and trade, have a disproportionate effect on the informal sector—especially for marginalized groups such as women and youth. It is unclear how the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will affect these groups as trade is adjusted; however, an increased focus on local trade and easier trade routes will likely facilitate trade for everyone involved. Since informal trade struggles with the same main issues as formal trade, making trade more accessible in the formal sector can create positive spillovers.

The informal trade sector is an important one to protect. Big businesses often avoid trading with rural areas due to high transportation costs, so instead these areas rely on informal trade for food, clothing and other commodities. Furthermore, ICBT provides a vital source of income to individuals who are often low-income or low-skilled. According to the Africa Economic Brief, studies estimate the average value of informal cross border trade to be 17.6 billion dollars per year in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In order to provide support for informal traders in Eastern and Southern Africa, the United Nations is funding a project to help decrease gender-specific obstacles in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. A focus on female empowerment will help maintain and improve the informal trade sector and contribute to poverty reduction.

With support from various organizations, countries in Africa are taking defining steps to reduce taxes, transport times, and an increase in market competition. Signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement opens Africa up to free trade and, if facilitated effectively, it will have enormous positive implications for Africa’s economy.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr

UNICEF Soccer AidFor over a decade, UNICEF has hosted its annual Soccer Aid, a charity soccer match featuring both professional and celebrity players to raise money for keeping kids around the world happy, healthy and safe. This year, the match was held in London on June 16, and raised a record-breaking £6,774,764 ($8,577,528.70 USD) in one night alone and £1,000,000 more than last year. The UK public, ITV and STV users all contributed, and the UK government matched each donation up to £3,000,000 to defend play for every child.

Helping Sierra Leone and Zambia

The money raised from the match will support the work of UNICEF to ensure that over 80,000 children in Sierra Leone and Zambia can have a childhood of play. The funding will help to provide lifesaving food, vaccinations, clean water, support for caring for mothers and babies and protect children from violence, exploitation, and abuse.

Sierra Leone’s under-five mortality rate is in the 2nd percentile, having one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. The many causes of death in children are preventable. Most deaths are due to nutritional deficiencies, pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases, anemia, malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. Some of the attributable factors include limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, poor feeding and hygienic practices, and limited access to quality health services.

Zambia is a country with many adolescents. 53 percent of the population is under 18 years old, and many of these children–45.4 percent–are affected by extreme poverty. Almost 65 percent of children in rural Zambia are affected by three or more deprivations: access to nutrition, education, health, water sanitation, adequate housing, and physical and emotional abuse. While the infant mortality rate improved by 37 percent between 2007 and 2014, it is still in the 25th percentile. However, with the help of UNICEF Soccer Aid, these conditions can be improved.

UNICEF’s Impact

UNICEF has worked in 190 countries and territories over 70 years to fight for the lives of children around the world. Through their projects, including child protection and inclusion, child survival, education, emergency relief, gender discrimination, innovation, supply and logistics, and research and analysis, the organization saves the lives of nearly 3,000,000 each year.

UNICEF believes in the power of play and the joy of a carefree childhood. However, millions of children around the world are unable to be included in this objective due to disease, conflict, hunger and poverty.
Through play, children are able to learn how to interact with their peers and learn abstract concepts. Just 15 minutes of play can spark thousands of connections in a baby’s brain, and playing before they enter school has an impact on how they will perform.

Since its first match in 2006, UNICEF Soccer Aid has raised more than £35,000,000 and through projects funded by Soccer Aid and the UK government, they have improved the lives of 2,000,000 children and 903,000 pregnant women.

Over the last 13 years, UNICEF Soccer Aid has been able to change the lives of children by helping them reach their full potential. By bringing people together to watch a match and encourage donations, they are able to change lives in many in parts of the world.

– Alexia Carvajalino
Photo: Unsplash

Education for Girls in Zambia
Due to extreme poverty in Zambia, many Zambian girls and women miss out on the opportunity to receive an education. With 64 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Unfortunately, this leads to serious repercussions for the youth in the country. In fact, the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality found that Zambia comes in at number 13 out of the 15 countries in terms of literacy and numeracy. In rural areas, 27 percent of females have no education, primarily due to poverty, pregnancy and early marriages.

The Impact of Marriage

The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative found that female literacy measures at 67 percent, while male literacy measures at 82 percent. This disparity holds females back in terms of economic advancement and independence from their male counterparts. The legal age for marriage in this country is 16. However, 46.3 percent of all girls marry before the age of 18. Further, evidence shows that early marriages play a big role in contributing to female dropout rates; therefore, initiatives encouraging women to delay marriage will likely decrease drop out rates.

Gender Equality in School

In Oct. 2018, Christine Kalamwina, the Zambia Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, recognized that girls’ education was imperative in ensuring gender equality and economic female progress. In response to this, the government in Zambia enacted a new law. This law made it mandatory for schools to have an equal number of males and females enrolled. The reasoning behind these efforts was to assist in closing the education gender gap. Additionally, many girls drop out of school due to menstruation. The Zambian government is now distributing free sanitary towels in rural areas to allow women more opportunities.

CAMFED and GEWEL

Fortunately, there are many organizations working towards improving education for girls in Zambia. The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is one of the organizations that works with the local government in order to promote gender equality and child protection. It has already provided secondary scholarships for 38,168 girls in Zambia alone.

The International Development Association (IDA) has also made a crucial impact. The IDA is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. The Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Project (GEWEL) is a program attempting to decrease the rate of child marriage. Its focus is on expanding access to secondary school for young girls, and more specifically, young girls from poor families through the Keep Girls in School bursary. Forced to drop out due to financial issues, the KGS assists by providing funds to continue girls’ education. There is also a program for working-age women, the Supporting Women’s Livelihood program, which offers training, startup funds, additional savings and mentor programs. Through the GEWEL project, 20,000 women received assistance in 2017, and in 2018, the project had a goal to help over 50,000 women.

– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Wikimedia Commons