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Foreign Aid in MozambiqueThe provision of foreign aid from the United States serves as a multifaceted solution and preventative measure to many issues that ultimately impact the United States. In assisting with the development of under-resourced countries and those afflicted by natural disasters and conflict, the country’s interest in strengthening U.S. eminence in the global political ecosystem is served, as is the initiative to foster and stabilize democracies that are essential in maintaining global peace. Mozambique is one such country that receives aid from the United States. Nearly half of the population lives in poverty and while having managed to combat that statistic with an annual decrease of 1%, the country continues to see rising levels of inequality. USAID’s 2019 assistance investment in Mozambique totaled $288 million. Foreign aid in Mozambique is being used in several key developmental areas.

Developing Education

A significant portion of U.S. foreign aid has been invested in providing basic education. This foreign aid in Mozambique has been applied in conjunction with the country’s national budgetary allocation of 15% for basic education. This initiative has led to improved access to education with the abolishment of enrollment fees, an investment in free textbooks, direct funding to schools and the construction of classrooms. With access to education improving, Mozambique now moves to focus on developing the quality of education it provides and extending the initiative of improving access to those who are in the early learning stage. Only 5% of children between the ages of 3 and 5 have access to such services. Moving forward, educational initiatives aim to focus on the improvement of teacher training, the retention of students (as only 8% continue onto secondary level) and optimizing the management and monitoring of education nationally.

Addressing Humanitarian Needs

A large part of foreign aid in Mozambique has been committed to battling humanitarian crises. Cabo Delgado is the northernmost province of the country and is experiencing an insurgency that is decimating its infrastructure and food security. As a result, there is an ongoing displacement of the population. In November 2020 alone, more than 14,300 displaced people arrived in the provincial capital Pemba. The World Food Programme estimates the cost of feeding internally displaced people in northern Mozambique to be at approximately $4.7 million per month, aside from the housing costs and the complexity of managing the crisis amid a global pandemic. This allocation of the country’s foreign aid will be vital in maintaining the wellbeing of people during the conflict and restoring the country’s infrastructure once the insurgency has subdued.

Improving the Health Sector

The bulk of foreign aid in Mozambique goes toward the many challenges the country faces with regard to health issues such as funding family planning, battling tuberculosis, maternal and child health as well as water and sanitation. More than $120 million goes toward this initiative but the most pressing of the issues is mitigating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2014, Mozambique ranked eighth globally for HIV cases. With the support, antiretroviral therapy and testing has expanded, which is evidenced by more than a 40% drop in new cases since 2004. Additionally, with a sharp increase in the treatment of pregnant women who carry the virus, one study recorded a 73% drop in cases among newborns between 2011 and 2014. The executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, has claimed that the epidemic could be completely eradicated by 2030 if such a rate of progress continues.

The developmental progress in Mozambique is reflective of the substantial impact that foreign aid has on developing countries. As U.S. foreign aid to developing countries continues, the hope is for other well-positioned countries to follow suit.

– Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

AlNourWomen’s agency and equal rights can help to significantly reduce poverty. When evaluating the development of a country, the role of women should not be overlooked. When women are empowered through literacy and education, they become more productive members of society that contribute to global poverty reduction. AlNour is a Moroccan business that allows women in Morocco to be part of the labor force, especially disabled women.

Cultural Norms Limit Women

Oftentimes women do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to receive education, engage in the labor force or own property. This is partly because of cultural norms that limit women to domestic responsibilities. By reducing unpaid domestic work, women become empowered and capable of obtaining income security and sustainable livelihoods, which significantly diminishes poverty levels.

Gender Inequality in Morocco

Gender inequality and the lack of women in the labor force in Morocco are related and ongoing issues. The nation, which is located in northwestern Africa, ranked 137 out of 149 countries according to the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report and ranked 141 out of 149 countries for women’s economic participation and opportunity. Although there were reforms in 2011 to increase the participation of women in the labor force in Morocco, and specifically within the government, women largely remain underrepresented in elected positions.

The economy would benefit from an increase in women’s participation. The IMF examined the relationship between gender inequality and growth and found that policies that better integrate women into the economy would greatly improve growth. As of 2019, if as many women worked as men worked, “income per capita could be almost 50% higher than it is now.”

The participation of women in the labor force in Morocco increases economic development and therefore reduces global poverty. But, how can women become more active citizens in society? The answer can be found by examining an organization called AlNour, which serves as an important example of how to best empower women.

AlNour: A Women’s Empowerment Organization

AlNour is a textile and embroidery business that provides an outlet for women to participate in the labor force in Morocco, thereby contributing to the economic development of the country as a whole. AlNour, which means “the light” in Arabic, began in 2013 after Patricia Kahane, originally from Austria, began the enterprise as a means of offering disabled Moroccan women sources of income through textile production and embroidery. The business employs disabled female workers who face a double disadvantage in Morocco due to their disabilities and gender.

The organization not only provides women with work but also offers training programs for languages, professional and artisan skills. The company has a van that allows women to easily and safely travel to and from work and also has a child care center for working mothers. Furthermore, the company offers free breakfast and lunch daily. The business has partnered with local shops to distribute its products and it also has a website, which features a range of items from home accessories to clothing.

AlNour serves as a rich example of how an organization can alter the lives of many and even impact an entire country. By developing sustainable solutions that not only invest in education but also emotional and financial support, women can break free from traditional roles and gender stereotypes, while simultaneously promoting financial inclusivity and bettering the nation entirely.

Gender Equality Progress in Morocco

There is light and hope for women in Morocco, as significant progress has been made. For example, the revision of the family code to expand the rights of women in marriage, guardianship, child custody and access to divorce is a monumental stride. The creation of a 14-week paid maternity leave clause was also introduced. Additionally, “the first and most advanced gender budgeting initiative in the Middle East and Central Asia region was launched in Morocco in 2002.”

While policies and laws that support gender equality such as the gender budget initiative are undoubtedly important, creating sustainable organizations like AlNour is an equally essential step in order to create a system that allows women to personally and professionally prosper from the ground level upward, consequently helping the economic development of Morocco as a whole.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

BACE API:Charlette N’Guessan, a 26-year-old Ivorian and CEO of the BACE Group based in Ghana, is the first woman to win the United Kingdom’s Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. N’Guessan and her team earned £25,000 ($32,000) with the 2020 award for their BACE API digital verification software.

BACE API Facial Recognition Software

BACE API verifies identities remotely and instantaneously using artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition by matching the live photo of the user to the image on their official documents. This use of live images and video rather than still images is unique to BACE API and improves the success rate in matching faces and verifying that the images are of real people rather than preexisting photos. Judges for the Africa Prize stated that facial recognition software in Africa is becoming increasingly important and BACE API is just the beginning.

Issues in Identity Verification for Africans

Most facial recognition tools on the market use white faces in their dataset, which leads to higher rates of misidentification of black faces. BACE API, however, was designed with the express intention of improving the design of facial recognition software in Africa. The algorithm of BACE API is designed to draw from a more diverse data set to address racial bias and bolster its accuracy.

Moreover, N’Guessan stated that she created the BACE API tool to address high rates of identity fraud and cybercrime in Ghanian banks. Financial institutions in Ghana spend approximately $400 million per year identifying their users. Not only is BACE API more functionally accurate but it is also convenient as no special hardware is needed and the software can be combined with existing identification apps. So far, the software is being used in two financial institutions for identity verification and one event platform to manage attendee registration.

Identity Verification and Poverty

Facial recognition software in Africa has recently become an important tool to address poverty. There are approximately 1.1 billion people worldwide who lack an official ID, 500 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and 40% of whom are under the age of 18. Women are disproportionately more likely to lack identity documents compared to men. The population of people without an official ID are unable to access basic socio-economic and legal rights, including healthcare, education, voting and legal protection in court. Moreover, people without identity documents are barred from entering the formal economy, for example, starting a business or gaining official employment. The widespread lack of official identification is largely due to the difficulties, inconveniences and expense of registering for an ID, including the common requirement for multiple forms of ID for different functions.

Digital technology, however, is leading the charge to address unequal access to ID’s and basic services, and BACE API is a unique solution to this issue by serving as a one-stop-shop for remote identification. After verifying their identity through the program, users gain access to necessary financial services, education and voting rights.

BACE API’s Benefits During COVID-19

During COVID-19, BACE API is a viable alternative to the in-person verification processes used by most such as fingerprints or personal appearances. Companies and organizations can now remotely authenticate and onboard people without ever meeting them.

Moreover, the demand for healthcare and welfare programs has skyrocketed in the wake of the widespread economic downturn. With BACE API, governments are relieved of the burden of identity verification and can operate more efficiently to provide essential services to people struggling during COVID-19.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Flickr

Africa’s Music IndustryIn April of 2020, the world’s most popular music streaming platform and one of the world’s biggest independent recording companies inked a new global licensing deal that will allocate more resources to new and existing entertainment markets in Africa. Spotify Music and Warner Music Group are working together to create new opportunities for artists to achieve international success in various countries, but Warner Music group is focusing on elevating the music streaming sector in Africa by investing in Africori, “a leading digital music platform for African artists and record labels.” Investing in Africa’s music industry could potentially contribute to lifting the continent out of poverty.

Warner Music Group Elevates Africa

Spotify has been available in Africa since 2018 in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia. While the company has hinted at future expansion in more African countries, its current licensing deal with Warner Music Group is working to elevate its global initiatives for Warner Group artists to grow the music industry worldwide.

Warner Music Group’s investment in Africori will make this possible by promoting existing African artists abroad, being able to sign global licensing deals with new artists and tap into a market that can provide opportunities for rising African stars. The main reason for investment will be to make African artists global by marketing their music to a global audience and giving newly signed artists the resources they need to grow their brand over time.

What is Africori?

Africori is an African digital music platform that is involved in almost every method of artist promotion. Its services include marketing, publishing, artist development, video distribution and booking artists around the globe. It was launched in 2009 “in response to the lack of opportunities available for African artists,” who now aim to make Africa a global source of inspiration. Africori already distributes to more than 200 domestic and international platforms because of their unique understanding of the African market.

This investment will transform Africa’s music industry by filling hundreds of job opportunities that are needed to manage global artists.

Investing in Africa’s creative minds has the potential for a big return for Warner Music Group as Africa’s music and entertainment sector is on course to reach 177.2 billion African rands of revenue in 2022, which equals $11.5 billion.

5 Reasons to Invest in Africa’s Creative Minds

With the investment deal being highly publicized, this move can inspire other U.S. or international entertainment groups to invest more in Africa’s music industry and entertainment sector.

  1. Music is a driving factor to economic success. Besides the artists themselves bringing in a high amount of revenue, a booming entertainment sector can create a multitude of jobs from publicists, directors, dancers, managers, set designers and more. Africa’s music sector is currently on the rise compared to many countries that already have established major entertainment deals.

  2.  Artist success leads to other business ventures. This could mean brand deals and sponsoring artists with products. Artists can partner up with African product companies, clothing companies, social media and more, to simultaneously promote themselves and other businesses.

  3. African artists are cultural magnets and trendsetters. Brian Nadra, an African musician labeled “an artist to watch in 2020” was called “an ambassador of East-African pop culture” in a region where there have not been many successful male singers. African artists are already being noticed globally which opens the door for new artists to achieve that same title.

  4. Africa’s music streaming platforms are on the rise. Currently, smartphone usage in Africa is estimated to grow exponentially in the next few years. Widespread smartphone usage will increase revenue per stream, platform subscriptions and music video views.

  5. Alleviating poverty in Africa. Growing the music scene in underdeveloped African countries can give people hope and an opportunity to pull them out of poverty. Many artists do not reach their goals because they lack the proper team or funding to continue to do so. Receiving funding to improve development gives communities a chance to prosper.

Africa’s creative minds have proven to be an untapped source of talent and inspiration. Africa’s music industry has the potential to grow itself and many other areas of the business to support artists for years to come. Warner Music Group’s decision to invest in Africori is just the beginning of supporting Africa’s ability to prosper.

– Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

Prosper Africa helpsTwo direct consequences of the alleviation of poverty in a region are economic growth and bolstered purchasing power. For countries that invest in the development of a region, there is the potential that a two-way economic relationship begins once that region’s population gains the necessary financial strength to buy more expensive consumer goods. The relationship between the United States and Africa reflects this trend, especially with the start of the Prosper Africa initiative. Prosper Africa helps end global poverty, starting with Africa.

Africa’s Economic Potential

Despite having struggled with chronic poverty issues, Africa is home to six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. With one billion potential consumers, Africa has the potential to become an economic powerhouse that can provide any international trading partner with a valuable destination for exports and a significant source of imports.

Seeing this opportunity, in 2018, the United States federal government launched the Prosper Africa initiative, which developed out of increasing requests by U.S. companies to have easier access to African markets.

With the oversight of the U.S. State Department and International Trade Administration, Prosper Africa offers U.S. and African businesses a wide-ranging set of economic tools such as access to financing, loan guarantees, insurance and business strategy advising. The program facilitates deals between U.S. and African businesses to foster a stronger two-way economic relationship between the United States and Africa.

Prosper Africa Shows Promising Signs of Success

According to a 2019 analysis by the Congressional Research Service, Prosper Africa has been implemented across the continent. Each U.S. embassy in Africa has created a team designated to fostering ties between U.S. and African businesses. Furthermore, the U.S. Development Finance Corporation has also launched an online point of access to the array of business tools that the initiative offers.

These efforts have had noticeable results across the continent. Since June 2019, Prosper Africa has facilitated more than 280 deals valued at roughly $22 billion in more 30 African countries, including Cameroon, Namibia, Sudan and Madagascar. These deals have been struck in sectors as diverse as healthcare, aerospace and financial services.

Prosper Africa helps countries in that it has also led to government reforms aimed at fostering a more transparent and efficient business environments in 10 African countries. These reforms ensure that small and medium-sized African businesses can access financial services and that governments can effectively implement necessary regulatory frameworks to govern business environments.

Ending Global Poverty is Beneficial for All

Prosper Africa helps Africa and the entire world because the fight against global poverty does not solely consist of one-way foreign aid investments. These investments have the potential to be the beginning of a healthy economic relationship between a developed nation and emerging economies. Once the United States takes the lead on an issue, the rest of the world follows. From addressing drug trafficking to addressing terrorism, the United States has shaped the focus of the international community on countless issues. Through Prosper Africa, the United States has the potential to lead the way once more and uplift the lives of billions in Africa.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Applications Aiding Mental Health in AfricaAccording to the International Review of Psychiatry, nearly 70% of African countries spend less than 1% of their health funds on psychiatric aid and substantially overlook the mental, neurological and addiction disorders affecting the population. However, the rapid development of smartphone technology and mobile applications—generally known as apps—has gradually provided aid to the African population’s mental health.

Since traditional one-to-one basis mental health care methods are not always available in developing countries, the World Health Organization states that mobile health technologies are beneficial resources for underserved individuals without access to mental health resources in developing countries such as Africa. With such a large variety of apps, varying from patient self-assessment to virtual sessions with healthcare specialists, support is offered to those who have access to any mobile devices. Here are three mobile applications aiding mental health in Africa.

3 Mobile Applications Aiding Mental Health in Africa

  1. The mental health Global Action Programme Intervention Guide app (mhGAP): As created by the World Health Organization, the service delivery tool known as mhGAP comprises numerous features that support those with mental, neurological and substance abuse (MNS) in low- and middle-income countries. The interactive, user-friendly app identifies multiple clinical care options catered to patients’ conditions varying from depression, psychosis, suicide and more. Additionally, the app encourages cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a problem-solving therapy used to alter patients’ distorted thinking to further modify behavior through self-direction and assessment.
  2. WhatsApp—An Instant Messaging app: WhatsApp, an instant short messaging service (SMS) used by approximately half of mobile phone users in Kenya and over a million users in South Africa, allows users to virtually receive quality assurance and comprehensive information through text messages, photos, video and other multimedia. According to the South African Journal of Psychology, mobile messaging services have become just as, if not more, popular than telephone calls. It is also stated that SMS services are comparatively inexpensive resources that can potentially improve adherence to therapy and can drastically enhance relations between patients and doctors. WhatsApp and other SMS apps alike are possible solutions to strengthen the therapeutic alliance, yet further research is to be conducted to confirm such findings.
  3. MEGA mobile app—Mental health services for children and adolescents: The MEGA project, an effort co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, has developed a mental health assessment app designed for primary healthcare (PHC) specialists serving children and adolescents affected by mental disorders in countries such as South Africa and Zambia. MEGA states that areas with a concentration of poor and ethnic minorities are highly vulnerable to poor environmental conditions, especially adolescents who are affected both directly and indirectly. Therefore, non-communicable disease prevention and treatment are highly encouraged by the MEGA project. The app has the potential to benefit PHC workers with the provision of adequate tools to screen mental health problems, such as depression, in adolescents.

These three mobile apps, and many others alike, are convenient forms of technology that have the potential to improve mental health conditions in Africa and other regions around the world. The implementation of mobile applications into psychiatric practice can provide patients with the utmost care by utilizing thorough assessment, open communication and careful supervision, which can ultimately save lives.

Isabella Socias
Photo: Flickr 

How Airtel Helped Millions of Africans Get ConnectedPrior to Airtel’s arrival, implementing and maintaining a large scale telecommunications company in Sub-Saharan Africa seemed unthinkable. But in 2009, when Airtel set up shop in Africa, the cell phone, once a luxury available only to the upper-class, became a simple and affordable tool for the average person. With 99 million subscribers, the company represents a game-changing shift in the accessibility of mobile connections in Africa, as well as providing employment to 1.6 million people across the continent. When its first major operation in Sub-Saharan Africa began in 2008 with the acquisition and transformation of smaller telecommunications companies within the continent, the face of the average African cellphone user began to shift dramatically.

Airtel: Providing Affordable Mobile Access

While it is difficult to measure the number of unique users of mobile phones, as of 2019, there were 747 million SIM connections in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 75% of the population. The increased accessibility of cell phone access in this region is largely credited to Airtel’s groundbreakingly affordable prices, with a basic handset, SIM card and prepaid credit voucher available for just $20.

A portion of Airtel’s impact is also attributed to the company’s radical construction of cell phone towers across sub-Saharan Africa. Airtel has targeted the capitals of all 14 countries in which they operate, with 4G live in each city, and plans to expand to rural areas as well. The company’s largest investment has been Nigeria, with the construction of 30,000 towers across the nation. From 2008 to 2018, rates of Nigerian cell phone subscriptions rose from two million to 172 million.

One of the most significant causes of the rise of mobile connection in Africa can be found in Kenya, where rates of cell phone ownership rose from just 1% in 2002 to 39% in 2014. The effects of increased mobile connections in Kenya are exemplified by the development of its online economy through developments such as Kenya Internet Exchange Point, an international axis for the country’s mobile technology. Today, urban Kenya serves as a hub for novel advancements in information technology that serves populations across the globe.

Additionally, thanks to increased rates of cell phone usage, mobile banking in Kenya has become more widely available than ever before. The accessibility of online banking allows those abroad to easily send remittances to underserved populations in rural areas, without the hefty fees that once came with international money transfer. This cash flow allows rural populations to lead improved lives, bolster the local economy and help fill the gap between developed and developing nations.

Mobile Access Improving Education

Evidently, cell phones in Sub-Saharan Africa have also come to fill an important role in the world of education. In one 2015 field study, smartphones were found to be utilized by students and teachers alike as multipurpose tools for education.

At the student level, 37.5% of surveyed students in Ghana, 36.9% in Malawi and 60.9% in South Africa reported receiving funding for their education, including uniforms, books and lunches through their smartphones. Aside from a source of mobile money, school children also used smartphones for their calculator applications, internet search abilities and as a light source in areas with little to no electricity. In other words, smartphones fill crucial gaps for students with limited access to educational resources in and outside the classroom.

Likewise, in all three countries surveyed, teachers reported using their smartphones to access more detailed information in the classroom. As one teacher in Ghana reports, “I try to get current issues for illustration in class.” In short, the mobile connection in Africa represents radical economic growth that allows those stuck in poverty to become upwardly mobile and create better lives for themselves and their communities. By working to allow the average, often underserved person, to easily access a cell phone connection, Airtel has created a new world of possibilities for the future of development in Africa.

Jane Dangel
Photo: Flickr

Children in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso, a small, landlocked country in Western Africa, is one of the least developed countries in the world. About 45% of the over 20 million who live in the nation face poverty. Nearly 2.2 million people live in dire need of aid, with children half of those in need. This crisis has only worsened due to the ongoing conflicts in the Sahel region of Western Africa, which have displaced millions of Burkinabé people and put them at a higher risk of poverty.

Children in Burkina Faso, who make up 45% of the population, face more challenges than nearly any other group of children on Earth — many of them have low access to nutrition, education, and healthcare, and are often subjected to child labor and marriage.

Hunger and Malnutrition

While Burkina Faso has always struggled with hunger, with 25% of children stunted from malnutrition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The number of people in need of food aid has tripled to 3.2 million, and many of those suffering from malnutrition are children. Doctors and nurses in Burkina Faso are reporting extremely high numbers of malnourished children entering their healthcare facilities each day. Prior to the pandemic, Burkinabé children experienced hunger as a result of displacement from the conflicts in Africa’s Sahel region.

Education

While attending primary school is compulsory for children in Burkina Faso between the ages of seven and fourteen, this rule is not enforced, and about 36% of children do not attend. Additionally, 67% of girls over the age of fifteen do not know how to read or write. The high levels of poverty in the country lead to low levels of education. Furthermore, the conflicts in the area have only made it harder for children to access and attend their schools. Attackers have raided the schools, injuring teachers and putting Burkinabé children at risk.

Healthcare

Burkina Faso has the tenth-highest under-five mortality rate in the world, with 87.5 out of every 1,000 children in 2019 dying before their fifth birthday. About 54 infants die for every 1,000 live births . That majority of these deaths are from communicable diseases and malaria, which the nation has struggled to prevent and control. While the number of healthcare workers in the area has increased in the past few decades, particularly between 2006 and 2010, it has not been quite enough to combat the need of the ever-growing population, and many children in the area are left without healthcare access.

Child Marriage

Over half of Burkinabé children are married before their eighteenth birthday, and the country has the fifth highest rate of child marriage in the world. One in ten girls under nineteen have already given birth to at least one child. Girls with limited access to education have a higher chance of marrying as children. The same holds true for girls who live in impoverished households. Both of these trends remain common in Burkina Faso. The apparent social value ascribed to girls in the region is considered lower than their male counterparts. As a result, young girls who enter child marriages often do not have a choice in their future husbands.

Child Labor

42% of children in Burkina Faso are engaged in child labor rather than attending school. Though the government adopted a “National Strategy to End the Worst Forms of Child Labor” and raised the legal minimum working age to sixteen, these high rates of child labor have not decreased significantly over the past few years. These children work as cotton harvesters, miners of gold and granite, domestic workers, and in some rare cases, sex workers. Child labor puts children at risk of serious injury, and, in some extreme cases, even death.

While children in Burkina Faso face all of these challenges, work is being done to help them live safe, healthy and educated lives. Save the Children, UNICEF, Action Against Hunger and Girls Not Brides are just a handful of the organizations working in Burkina Faso to ensure that these children receive the care they need and deserve. Childhood in this region is, in fact, difficult. Yet, all is not lost as these groups work to improve the lives of children across Burkina Faso.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

EMPOWERING WOMEN IN AGRICULTUREThe agricultural sector is a critical facet of Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) economy. As of 2015, women make up around 40% of the SSA’s agricultural labor force. Although their contribution is critical, due to discriminatory laws and social norms, a large gender gap within this sector continues to persist. However, many have come to realize the potential that lies behind empowering and educating female agriculture workers in Africa. By decreasing the gender gap and expanding females’ access to land and resources, these women have the potential to increase agricultural output in developing countries by between 2.5 and 4%. Organizations are prioritizing empowering women in agriculture in order to reduce poverty.

The Gender Gap

Regardless of their active role in agriculture, women own fewer assets, have less access to necessary agricultural yields and receive less education and training in these areas compared to men in Sub-Saharan Africa. The main cause of this persistent gap is established traditional gender roles. Gender roles continue to negatively impact women across Africa. Women often face more difficulties in owning land, establishing credit and gaining access to proper resources. When given the proper tools, these women could have a substantial positive effect on both the economy and SSA’s agricultural output.

The Benefits of Gender Parity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Closing the gender gap is imperative to making progress in SSA’s economy and increasing agricultural output. By empowering female agricultural workers and increasing their access to finances, land rights, resources and training, there could be a significant positive effect for the whole of Africa. Ruth Meinzen-Dick explains that in Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. She explains further that because women are more likely than men to invest resources into meeting their children’s educational and nutritional needs, investing in women is crucial.

Making Women a Priority

Although the benefits of female empowerment are clear to see, in order to make these benefits a reality, it is imperative that programs and policies target three main factors: land rights, equal access to agricultural resources and finances and equal power in decision-making. Furthermore, as more women become educated and empowered, these investments and knowledge will not only be passed on to their children but throughout the community. As explained by Slyvia Tetteh, “When mothers are educated, they keep their education in their home and use it to educate their children. If you educate a woman, you educate her home and to some extent, the community.”

Women Who Farm Africa

Across the world, efforts are being made to educate and empower female agricultural workers in Africa. Policies and programs are all pushing to further female agricultural workers’ rights and power. A clear example of this is Women Who Farm Africa. This alliance was created in order to provide resources for women farmers to learn about agriculture through empowerment. By involving them in decision-making and access to finances, women farmers can increase their income, develop a stable rural livelihood and contribute to ensuring food security.

The Promise of Female Farmers

It is clear to see why female empowerment and closing the gender gap should take priority across Africa. Doing so would not only increase the lives and quality of living for these women but would also positively impact the agricultural output and the general state of Africa’s economy. Furthermore, this could also create more stability for the children growing up in rural communities. With the knowledge that mothers gain, this knowledge can then be passed down to their children and the rise in income can be invested in the children’s future. If properly prioritized and applied, empowering women in agriculture could break intergenerational cycles of poverty, reduce hunger and malnutrition rates and improve Africa’s economy as a whole.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Education and poverty crisis in SudanOver three million children in Sudan do not attend school. The severe gap in the education system continues the cycle of poverty in the country. Chronic underdevelopment and conflict are two of the most significant reasons children in Sudan are out of school. Girls face additional hurdles such as cultural pressures and traditional views that prevent them from receiving an education. While 76% of primary age children attend school, in secondary, the number drops drastically to 28%. The Sudanese government and organizations such as UNICEF have stepped in to resolve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan.

The Education Crisis in Sudan

In South and East Darfur, there are 7,315 employed teachers, 3,692 of which are unqualified. In essence, half of the teachers that are employed in South and East Darfur are unqualified. Furthermore, many teachers in Sudan were  found to be “untrained, under supervised and unequally distributed between rural and urban areas.” Not only do schools often have teachers who are unqualified but the curriculum lacks active learning and teaching materials are either outdated or nonexistent.

The Relationship Between Education and Poverty

In their haste to escape poverty, people drop out of school in search of employment so that they can provide for themselves and their families. While a higher education often proves fruitful in finding a good-paying job, those in poverty do not have time to wait. Without an education, people living in poverty lack literacy and numeracy skills which are needed to advance in the working world. This cycle is repeated generation after generation, inextricably linking education and poverty.

Families living in this cycle of poverty often make the choice for their children, otherwise, they will not be able to provide food, water or shelter. And while some schools may be free of cost, the added costs of uniforms, books and supplies must be taken into consideration.

While poverty may have a negative effect on education, education has an increasingly positive effect on poverty. Proper education will increase one’s skill set and open the door to a world of new employment opportunities and increase the potential for higher income. With each additional year of schooling, earnings increase by about 10%. And for every dollar invested in an additional year of schooling “earnings increase by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle-income countries.” UNESCO found that if all adults had two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, nearly 60 million people could escape poverty and 420 million could be lifted out of poverty, respectively.

Improving Education in the Region

The Federal Ministry of Education will implement nine strategies to improve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan. Based on these strategies, the following has been projected for the years 2018-2023: pre-school coverage will increase by 19%, basic education by 16% and secondary education by 7%.

Sudan will invest in enrollment programs and work to retain those already enrolled. The government will expand opportunities for education at every level to ensure that students do not drop out due to a lack of space. And in collaboration with global partners, the Federal Ministry of Education will work toward quality education that is accessible to all.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

By 2021, UNICEF intends to provide more children with the opportunity to have a quality education starting at a young age, in a learning environment that is inclusive and safe.

The organization will work with communities, parents, teachers and children to promote a socially cohesive atmosphere that even the most vulnerable of children can access. The Learning and Development Programme and the Ministries of Education will advocate for evidence-based surveys, field reports, community discussions and evaluations to mold policy reform in favor of inclusion. UNICEF and its partners will ensure the safety of schools by providing water, health and sanitation facilities. Additionally, children will be taught the proper behaviors surrounding health, nutrition and child protection. Schools will receive the support needed to ensure schools are free of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

The undeniable education and poverty crisis in Sudan has prevented most people from achieving a proper education and reaching their true earning potential. While most agree that education is important, many Sudanese people find that it is a luxury outweighed by life’s bare necessities. With the five-year plan developed by the Federal Ministry of Education and the help of organizations like UNICEF, the toxic cycle between education and poverty will come to an end.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr