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Education in Kenya​Flying Kites, an organization co-founded by Leila de Bruyne, seeks to improve education in Kenya by focusing on the needs of individual students. The emphasis on individual students stems from de Bruyne’s experience teaching in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004, when she identified weak points in the educational system. These include the reality that long-term, highly trained teachers, as well as a focus on the individual child, not just the academic student, were lacking. Since then, the organization has reached 134 teachers and 4,591 students at seven schools across Kenya. Their belief that “education is a path out of poverty” supports their goals to create solutions to widespread poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

Poverty, Hunger and Education in Kenya

​The World Poverty Clock estimates that 11 million Kenyans are living below the poverty line, which is defined as less than $1.90 per day. To provide additional financial support for their families, many Kenyan children forgo education. Of those who do attend school, many are eventually forced to drop out due to financial instability. Only around 40% of children make it through primary school and are enrolled in secondary school.

Gender discrimination is another factor affecting school attendance. A Menstrual Health report found that “one in ten 15-year-old girls are having sex to get money to pay for sanitary ware,” and dropping out of school due to pregnancies or lack of sanitary supplies is common.

Nutrition also impacts attendance. Many students don’t have access to food at home, let alone enough to bring to school for lunch. The Borgen Project spoke with Katie Quinn, the U.S. Director of Operations for Flying Kites, who said, “In Kenya, one in four children suffer from stunting due to chronic undernutrition. Stunting is associated with an underdeveloped brain, causing long-lasting harmful consequences including diminished mental ability and learning capacity.”

With 90% of Kenyan teachers citing hunger as the primary obstacle to student learning, Flying Kites understands that “without access to food at school, hungry students cannot learn.” The organization has since implemented a program that works with families, teachers and schools to provide meals to students across the country in order to encourage health and education in Kenya.

Primary Goals

According to Quinn, Flying Kites aims “to ensure that more vulnerable students in rural Kenya come to school, stay in school, and thrive in school.” It isn’t enough to have students simply attend school. Instead, by upskilling teachers and investing in girls, Flying Kites creates an atmosphere in which they can excel.

  1. Upskilling Teachers: ​The Teacher Training Center and Academy seeks to provide teachers with the support and the skills necessary to increase learning among students. Its programs include year-round ICT training and a digital learning curriculum to encourage the use of technology as a learning tool. The Center and Academy work throughout a network of schools assembled alongside Kenya’s Ministry of Education to spread the wealth of highly trained, capable teachers across schools and communities.
  2. Investing in Girls: ​Girls United is a Flying Kites program designed to support girls and train female teachers to be “advocates for gender equality and agents of change.” G.I.R.L.S. (Guidance, Information, Resources, Leadership and Skill-building) focuses on the whole individual, her needs and her rights within the community. The program supports vulnerable girls, especially those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides them with essential resources such as sanitary pads, allowing them opportunities to discuss important information within their communities and teaching them basic life skills.

Challenges and Successes

The COVID-19 pandemic “illuminated the technology divide” limiting educational opportunities in Kenya and elsewhere. Faced with virtual education and school closures, Flying Kites realized that technology was crucial to equitable student learning outcomes. To mitigate this divide, the organization implemented the KitKit program, a digital and tablet-based early learning solution to bring more students into virtual classrooms.

Yet, in-person education is Flying Kites’ primary goal. In particular, girls mentioned feeling unsafe at home and struggling with being out of school during the pandemic. Additionally, students who were provided with meals at school weren’t receiving the same nourishment at home. Today, Flying Kites is bringing students back for in-person classes after many were forced to return to work to help supplement their families’ incomes during the pandemic.

Transforming “18 schools into food distribution centers to support 6,449 students and their families,” turning a school bus into a library and mobilizing a network of teachers to launch a Remote Learning Program: These are Flying Kites’ major pandemic successes. But their most major success, Quinn says proudly, is getting students back in school and improving education in Kenya.

Partners and Next Steps

​Flying Kites recognizes that there is more to be done to ensure that education is a path out of poverty. The organization partners with several organizations to help spread the word and seek student-centric solutions. Quinn cites two in particular:

  1. ZanaAfrica Foundation: ​This ZanaAfrica Foundation is an “innovative rights-based menstrual and sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education curriculum” that supports women and girls. Flying Kites joined the foundation amid COVID-19 closures to ensure the health and safety of its female students. Together, they provide resources to women and girls, educate them and train teachers on the SRHR aspects of the curriculum.
  2. Ujamaa (No Means No Worldwide): Ujamaa provides workshops to address sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) in Kenya and across the globe. Flying Kites hopes to continue providing workshops to students, especially those in grades 5-8 since the pandemic resulted in numerous incidents of SGBV.

Looking Ahead

​Flying Kites aspires to promote change with the knowledge that “systemic change requires a holistic, grassroots approach.” By building from the ground up, training teachers, supporting partner organizations and, above all, ensuring the safety and success of the students, Flying Kites works to ensures that education is a path out of poverty by implementing individualized solutions.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Rural-urban migrationWhen thinking of rural-urban migration, experts tend to focus on the positive aspects for migrants. New economic opportunities, access to public services and greater social tolerance define the experience of newly-urban migrants in the conversation around rural-urban migration. When discussing flaws, the conversation gravitates toward the slum conditions and informal labor in large developing-world cities. However, the developing world’s rapid amount of rural to urban migration leaves many villages with less human capital and resources. What does this rural-urban migration mean for the rural developing world?

Urban Transition

Rural-urban migration has swept the developing world since the late 20th century. This transformation, known as “urban transition,” brings the economies of countries from rural-driven to urban-driven. Seeing this trend, many countries have supported larger development projects in urban areas, looking to get ahead of the curb. While an admirable strategy, it leaves out the rural populations who tend to be more isolated. This creates a vicious cycle, where people move where the government invests, and the government invests where people move.

This lack of investment creates a problem for rural areas. Unable to increase productivity and suffering from a lack of investment, impoverished rural areas are stuck in a loop, using the same basic techniques for subsistence farming utilized in the 20th century. Rural families have many children, hoping some will move to the city to send back money and some will work on their local subsistence farm. By sending the educated children to the city, families create a gap in living standards, with those with opportunity leaving while those without stay behind.

Migration in Trade for Remittances

However, this rural-urban migration also brings benefits to the rural areas. Many families send their young adult children into the cities, investing in their future in the city. Remittances, money sent back by those moving to urban areas, keep rural finances diverse and pay for many essential services for rural people. Without this income source, rural families would be completely dependent on the whims of nature, with no sense of security that a separate income gives. Studies show that these remittances increase life expectancy and happiness, two factors increased with security.

How to Help Rural Areas

One of the rural areas’ biggest difficulties is low productivity which hinders economic growth. Many Africans living in rural areas are subsistence farmers, meeting their own food needs but creating little surplus which drives economic growth. For this reason, young people commonly move to higher productivity urban areas. To prime rural areas for development, scholars have identified several factors which developing-world governments should attack. For instance, poor rural infrastructure, illiteracy and low social interaction all hinder rural growth, which drives rural-urban migration.

By attacking these problems, governments can increase rural development, attack poverty at its heart and protect rural communities in the long run. Severe “brain drain,” where educated people move to more productive areas, especially impacts rural communities. Lowering populations will lead to less monetary and representative allotments, decreasing the voice of rural residents. Additionally, men make up the majority of rural-urban migrants, leaving women in a vulnerable position both in caring for children and running subsistence farms.

Rural development projects which take into account community leaders at all levels of planning and execution can greatly increase their effectiveness. Improving the governance of these projects, especially reducing corruption, is essential in assuring rural development. The integration of system-wide rural development projects serves as an opportunity to increase rural development. Currently, thousands of NGOs operate rurally around Africa, with many separate governmental programs overlapping. By increasing cooperation, systematic development of rural areas can occur rather than a patchwork of unrelated development projects.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Water SecurityThere are 326 million trillion gallons of water on planet earth. However, only 1% of that is clean and accessible. This means there is enough water for everyone on the planet and more. Nonetheless, 1 in 5 children still do not have basic water security.

Lack of Water Security Hurts the Poor Most

Globally, 80 countries harbor children living in regions considered to have low water security. The poorest children are the most likely to live in these regions. Of the top ten most affected countries, nine are in the poorest continent on earth: Africa. A staggering 58% of children in Eastern and Southern Africa face a difficult path to get water on a daily basis. In some regions, families have to travel for up to 30 minutes to get water at all. Consequently, the lack of water security increases the risk of dehydration and takes time away from families who could be working. The risk for water deprivation is also increased, which is lethal. Furthermore, impoverished children face another issue related to poor water security.

An Infectious Problem

In regions with poor water security, bacteria and viruses often contaminate the water. Water contamination leads to diarrheal illness, taking more children’s lives than many of the most common causes for death. It is the second leading cause of death for children worldwide. The illness causes the person affected to lose so much fluid that they die from dehydration. In total diarrheal infections take the lives of 525,000 children each year.

The Water Packet

Water security is a concerning problem that industry giant P&G has been tackling one liter at a time. In 2004, P&G initiated its Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, a revolutionary initiative based around a simple yet effective invention called a purifier of water packet. Created by company scientists, it has the ability to transform 10 liters of dirty water into crystal clear drinking water in thirty minutes. First, the four-gram packet is placed in dirty water and then the whole container is stirred thoroughly. During the stirring, any particles in the water group together into thick clusters. Then the stirring ceases and the particles are allowed time to settle at the bottom. Throughout the whole process, the packet disinfects the water from contaminants. Lastly, the water is run through a cloth which catches the remaining particles and all that is left is drinkable water.

Brittaney Stapleton, Volunteer Relations Coordinator at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical garden informed The Borgen Project about her time at a P&G event where she was shown a demonstration of the packet. She said that during the event the attendees were taken to a beautiful piece of land with a murky brown reservoir of water. “I wouldn’t have touched that water with a ten-foot pole,” she remembered. “So they opened the packet and I don’t remember exactly how long they had to do it but they just stirred with a big stick and after a period of time, the water was crystal clear. There was no debris. It was crystal clear and it looked like something you would see in a Brita filter. Just clear.”

Looking Towards the Future

Throughout the lifetime of the program, a total of 18 billion liters of water have been purified, with P&G planning on purifying billions more in the future.

Brittaney added that they geared the demonstration towards showing people how easy it is to change lives. “It made you feel that much better to know even if you could only give a little bit it’s making a huge impactful difference. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a millionaire, you can be just middle of the road and you can still help.”

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Flickr

gmos in AfricaScientists created the first genetically modified organism or GMO in 1973, and the FDA approved a GMO product for the first time in 1982. GMOs are crops that have undergone genetic alternation for a specific purpose, such as weather, pest or weed resistance. Such traits can produce larger quantities of crops and make them resilient in different climates.

However, GMOs raise concern for many people, countries and organizations. While they are commonplace in the U.S., Europe largely avoids GMOs. Proponents of GMOs claim that they can help end global hunger, but opponents claim that they will damage both the planet and human health.

In Africa, GMOs are beginning to become a part of modern agriculture, but as of now, only in small ways. As of 2019, just five of Africa’s 47 countries allowed GMO crops to be grown: South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria. Larger GMO initiatives in Africa could help feed the continent, but resistance to GMOs is large enough that Africa is beginning to use them only slowly and cautiously.

Pros of GMOs in Africa

Pests called stem borers are responsible for a loss of 400,000 tons of maize in Kenya yearly, or about 14% of total maize. Genetically modified maize called Bt maize can make maize crops more resilient to stem borers. Researcher Hugo de Groote says Bt maize will help small farmers in particular because pests affect them the most.

“The major surprise was that, contrary to the usual claims, Bt maize is very likely to benefit poor farmers and small seed companies,” De Groote reported to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

As of 2020, Kenya is near accepting domestic production of Bt maize. The country is also seriously considering allowing GMO imports, which would aid the nearly 1.5 million Kenyans facing acute hunger. However, experts say that in order for Kenyans to benefit from GMO crops long term, they need to start growing them on their own soil.

Many African countries struggle with drought, crop diseases and pests that cause low crop yields. Some GMOs exist to help with these problems, and they could become a part of Africa’s agricultural future. For example, following in Nigeria’s footsteps, Ghana is considering approving the commercialization of some pest-resistant GMO crops including Bt cotton.

Cons of GMOs in Africa

Hesitation to adopt GMOs in Africa stems from concerns for food safety, ethics, environmental risks, loss of biodiversity and lack of regulations. Furthermore, Africa exports a large number of agricultural goods to European nations, and many European consumers prefer to avoid GMOs. Because of this, the majority of African trading partners stick to traditional crop varieties.

GMOs are still a relatively new concept. They may create a risk of long-term environmental damage such as infertile land, biodiversity loss and new GMO-resistant pests. Furthermore, there is some evidence that GMOs can cause cancer and allergies. The American Cancer Society has not found convincing evidence of GMO-caused cancer, but it cautions that more research is necessary.

There are reasons both to support and to suspect GMOs in Africa and across the globe. More research will continue to unveil their benefits and consequences in Africa.

Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Global Startup Awards Recognize Top Technology InnovatorsThe Global Startup Awards (GSA) Africa is an initiative spotlighting the top technology innovators across the continent. African citizens from all 55 states will participate in the world’s largest independent startup competition for the first time.

GSA Africa is rapidly growing its community by bringing local tech innovators together from all regions within the continent. This includes Southern, Northern, Eastern, Central and Western Africa. The expansion is possible due to the accelerating progress of Africa’s tech ecosystem. According to Partech’s Africa Tech Venture Capital Report, activity grew by approximately half in 2020 despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Contributing to the Tech Startup Ecosystem

Africa is experiencing monumental changes in the tech industry. More startup companies are being recognized for innovative methods. Startups have been finding solutions in food security, food production and farming methods that will strengthen industries throughout Africa. Caitlin Nash is the co-founder of the Global Innovation Initiation Group which hosts the GSA. She aims to showcase Africa’s innovative community on a global stage. Additionally, she shares the benefits of global exposure. Startups have an opportunity to gain access to a global network and collaborate across borders.

The GSA will reward participants in all aspects of the startup. This includes the startup itself, the people behind the startups and the organizations that support the creators. The GSA’s mission is to feed, industrialize and integrate Africa. This ties into the goal of improving the lives of people living in Africa. With rapid technological developments happening across the world, many countries are more capable of taking those opportunities to keep up. However, this leaves most developing countries behind in these innovations. Thus, these awards shed light on the importance of technological development in those nations.

According to the U.N.’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021, frontier technologies represent a $350 billion market that can potentially grow to $3.2 trillion in 2025. However, developing areas like sub-Saharan Africa are unprepared to adopt and adapt to these technological changes. The GSA will bring forward the innovations needed to help developing countries in Africa and around the world stabilize resources and improve the lives of citizens.

The Contest Categories

The Global Startup Awards will present 12 categories for the 2021 contest. Women in Tech represents tech startups owned and founded by women. AgriTech will award solutions in food security, production, farming methods and nutrition. In addition, HealthTech recognizes startups initiating medical innovations in BioTech, HealthTech, wellness and telemedicine (virtual care for patients) to improve the quality of life. CommerceTech will award the startup that works on using technology to enable commerce in Africa. This will range from mobile commerce to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Another category is IndustrialTech. This category provides Africa’s industrialization with solutions for safety, mining, manufacturing, production, logistics, mobility and supply chain management. ESG Tech, or environment, social and governance tech, will award startups aiming to improve environmental, social impact and social government solutions. These solutions include areas like renewable energy, sustainability, recycling, water and sanitation. Startup of the Year will award the startup that is making the biggest impact on the economy and the world.

The Best Newcomer category will recognize a startup less than two years old that is already making a big impact within the tech industry. Moreover, Founder of the Year will award a startup founder or co-founder making progress with their leadership skills. It will highlight a role model for the next generation of founders. VC of the Year will recognize those achieving financial success while investing in innovative companies that can positively impact the economy and the world.

Finally, Best Accelerator and Incubator Program will recognize programs that help empower entrepreneurs to grow their craft by providing tools and resources to thrive. The Best Co-Working Space category will award a co-working space that provides services, support and resources to create an environment that fosters innovation.

Moving Forward

The Global Startup Awards will find, recognize and connect new innovators around the world. These startups have the potential to better the lives of people living in developing countries, and the GSA will help bring these companies to life.

– Nia Owens
Photo: Flickr

SunCulture Expansion For many farmers in Africa, unpredictable weather patterns and growing seasons often lead to insufficient harvests and food insecurity. Yet, nearly 80% of people in Africa rely on agriculture as their main source of food. According to the United Nations, global food production must increase by 60% by the year 2050 in order to sustain the world’s growing population. Despite environmental limitations, more sustainable and efficient farming must occur. SunCulture, a Kenya-based solar-powered generator and irrigation system manufacturer, promotes food production, ensuring that farmers in Africa have the means to produce enough food. With the latest SunCulture expansion, the company hopes to help more farmers in Africa and also add new products to its repertoire.

SunCulture Promotes Food Production

Africa has 65% of the world’s uncultivated, arable land, according to the African Development Bank. However, due to limited resources to sustainably grow and harvest food, food scarcity is prevalent in farming communities in Africa. To combat this scarcity, SunCulture has provided families with sustainable tools to increase food production, such as generators and irrigation systems. Since much of Africa’s freshwater exists as groundwater, irrigation systems help pump water up to the surface to water crops during droughts. At the same time, solar-powered generators provide power in farming villages lacking electricity. With these tools available for purchase, SunCulture promises that families can sustain themselves and their communities without fear of food insecurity or scarcity. The pay-as-you-grow financing option allows farmers to pay in small monthly installments, making products accessible and affordable.

Since SunCulture’s creation in 2013, it has changed the lives of thousands of farmers across East Africa. The company estimates that farmers using its products have seen up to five times increase in crop yields and have gained up to 10 times increased income from selling their crops. By allowing farmers the opportunity to grow enough food to sell the excess, local commerce has bolstered the economies of these communities. This had led to more people being able to purchase SunCulture’s irrigation systems and grow even more crops. Although SunCulture currently promotes food production exclusively in the eastern parts of Africa, new business expansions have allowed them to help farmers across the continent.

SunCulture Expansion

In December 2020, SunCulture announced a US$14 million expansion that would allow farmers across the African continent access to the company’s products. Backed by numerous organizations such as Energy Access Ventures (EAV) and USAID’s Kenya Investment Mechanism (KIM) program, the expansion would also allow SunCulture to provide better support to farmers in Africa such as more efficient irrigation systems and less costly generators. While EAV has been one of SunCulture’s main investors since its inception, KIM offers new opportunities both in helping companies find a market to sell their products and getting the resources necessary to make their products. Through its work with KIM, SunCulture is confident in its ability to bring sustainable irrigation to the millions of farming families in Africa.

While this SunCulture expansion may take time to cover all of Africa, it will immediately impact farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire. Farmers in these countries will be able to either purchase their first irrigation system from SunCulture or buy more systems to better sustain their crops and increase yields.

Addressing Food Security and Reducing Poverty

As more people in Africa rely on agriculture both for food and income, SunCulture’s products have been able to increase agricultural outcomes. With the expansion, SunCulture hopes to aid more families and communities in Africa to reduce food insecurity and better their livelihoods, alleviating poverty overall.

Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

the AfCFTATrading within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) finally took effect on January 1, 2021. The AfCFTA is the world’s largest trading area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization with 54 of the 55 countries of the African Union (AU). The AfCFTA was established by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement signed in March 2018 by 44 AU countries. Over time, other AU countries signed on as the official start of trading under the provisions of the agreement approached. The AfCTFA is projected to create opportunities and boost the African economy. By facilitating this intra-African trade area, the international community expects sustainable growth and increased economic development.

The Implementation and Benefits of the AfCFTA

  1. Creating a Single Market. The main objective is to create a single market for goods and services to increase trading among African nations. The AfCFTA is tasked to implement protocols to eliminate trade barriers and cooperate with member states on investment and competition policies, intellectual property rights, settlement of disputes and other trade-liberating strategies.
  1. Expected Economic Boost and Trade Diversity. UNECA estimates that AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade by 52.3% once import duties and non-tariff barriers are eliminated. The AfCFTA will cover a GDP of $2.5 trillion of the market. The trade initiative will also diversify intra-African trade as it would encourage more industrial goods as opposed to extractive goods and natural resources. Historically, more than 75% of African exports outside of the continent consisted of extractive commodities whereas only 40% of intra-African trade were extractive.
  1. Collaborative Structure and Enforcement. All decisions of the AfCFTA institutions are reached by a simple majority vote. There are several key AfCFTA institutions. The AU Assembly provides oversight, guidance and interpretations of the Agreement. The Council of Ministers is designated by state parties and report to the Assembly. The Council makes the decisions that pertain to the Agreement. The Committee of Senior Trade Officials implements the decisions of the Council and monitors the development of the provisions of the AfCFTA. The Secretariat is established as an autonomous institution whose roles and responsibilities are determined by the Council.
  1. Eliminating Tariffs. State parties will progressively eliminate import duties and apply preferential tariffs to imports from other state parties. If state parties are a part of regional trade arrangements that have preferential tariffs already in place, state parties must maintain and improve on them.
  1. Settling Trade Disputes. Multilateral trading systems can bring about disputes when a state party implements a trade policy that another state party considers a breach of the Agreement. The AfCFTA has the Dispute Settlement Mechanism in place for such occasions which offers mediated consultations between disputing parties. The mechanism is only available to state parties, not private enterprises.
  1. Protecting Women Traders. According to UNECA and the African Trade Policy Centre, women are estimated to account for around 70% of informal cross-border traders. Informal trading can make women vulnerable to harassment and violence. With the reduced tariffs, it will be more affordable for women to trade through formal channels where women traders will not have to put themselves in dangerous situations.
  1. Growing Small and Medium-Sized Businesses. The elimination of import duties also opens up trading activities to small businesses in the regional markets. Small and medium-sized businesses make up 80% of the region’s businesses. Increased trading also facilitates small business products to be traded as inputs for larger enterprises in the region.
  1. Encouraging Industrialization. The AfCFTA fosters competitive manufacturing. With a successful implementation of this new trade initiative, there is potential for Africa’s manufacturing sector to double in size from $500 billion in 2015 to $1 trillion in 2025, creating 14 million stable jobs.
  1. Contributing to Sustainable Growth. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes goals that the AfCFTA contributes to. For example, Goal 8 of the Agenda is decent work and economic growth and Goal 9 is the promotion of industry. The AfCFTA initiative also contributes to Goal 17 of the Agenda as it reduces the continent’s reliance on external resources, encouraging independent financing and development.

AfCFTA: A Trade Milestone for Reducing Poverty in Africa

The establishment of the AfCFTA marks a key milestone for Africa’s continental trade system. The size of the trade area presents promising economic development and sustainable growth that reaches all market sectors and participants. Additionally, the timing of the initiative launch is expected to contribute to the alleviation of the pandemic’s economic damages.

Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr

Formative SupervisionWith a population of about 30 million, many Angolans do not have access to adequate healthcare. The limited access to quality healthcare is due to decreased funding due to the Angolan Government’s budget restrictions. The lack of funding affects the quality of public healthcare which people can receive at no cost. The public healthcare sector in Angola does not have enough healthcare providers with proper training and resources. The lack of resources in healthcare reflects in the low ratio of about one health center per 25,000 people and more than 50% of people are without access to healthcare services. In recent years, USAID’s Health for All project, using the Health Network Quality Improvement System (HNQIS), has implemented formative supervision in Angola. Implementing formative supervision in Angola has shown to improve the quality of healthcare by increasing the number of healthcare providers with proper training.

USAID’s Health for All Project

USAID’s Health for All program is a five-year project that began in 2017. It works with the Angolan Government to help improve the quality and access to healthcare in the country. The project’s focus is on addressing the issues of malaria and reproductive health since those are two of the main health concerns affecting the people of Angola. With the current funding being at $63 million, the program has been able to train 1,489 health professionals on how to diagnose and treat malaria and created reproductive health services in 42 health facilities.

The program’s use of formative supervision in Angola has helped in educating and providing healthcare workers with the necessary tools to effectively care for patients. The Health Network Quality Improvement System is the main tool that USAID uses to help improve the quality of healthcare because the system is used to evaluate the performance of individual healthcare providers. By tracking the performance of the healthcare providers in Angola, USAID can more easily determine which areas of the healthcare system need improvement. Under the Health for All program, USAID has been using formative supervision with healthcare providers who specifically tend to cases of malaria and reproductive health.

The Benefits of Formative Supervision

From October 2019 to March 2020, the Health for All project recorded improvements in the quality of healthcare through the use of formative supervision in 276 out of 360 Angolan health facilities with prenatal services. In addition to tracking the performance in maternal and reproductive health, the supervision has also helped in finding the areas in which the management of malaria has been lacking. There are now about 1,026 health providers that have been properly trained in managing malaria cases as a result of the project. This has in turn indirectly improved the quality of care regarding maternity since malaria causes 25% of maternal deaths in Angola.

Besides increasing the amount of funding that goes toward healthcare, the Health for All project has used such funding to be more interactive with healthcare facilities through the use of formative supervision in Angola. Formative supervision has shown to drastically improve the quality of care in the areas of malaria and reproductive health as supervision allows trained health officials to identify and fix integral issues pertaining to healthcare in Angola.

Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Improving Energy in AfricaOne in 10 people in the world (800 million) have no access to electricity and the access of an additional 2.8 billion people is considered insufficient and unreliable. In regions with insufficient access to electricity, the standard of living is poor, particularly with regard to adequate healthcare and education. Africa is such a region. Half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives without electricity. Improving energy in Africa is essential for economic growth and prosperity across the continent.

The Consequences of Inadequate Energy Access

Energy is vital to reduce the cost of business activities and for creating economic opportunities and jobs. More than 640 million Africans lack access to electricity. When the sun sets for these individuals, workable hours in the day end. Insufficient access to energy can also restrict the economy more indirectly, by way of increased risk of deaths related to wood-burning stoves, restricted hospital and emergency services and compromised access to education.

Along with appropriate infrastructure, household health and productivity are essential for boosting economies. The persistent use of wood-burning stoves is evidence of lacking infrastructure that presents a burden to health and productivity. This dated method has drawbacks that include indoor pollution, deforestation and unpaid time spent collecting biomass fuel. In 2017, an estimated 600,000 Africans died due to indoor pollution.

Fulfilling household responsibilities requires more time and must be done within restricted hours when electricity is unavailable. These responsibilities often fall on women and children and prevent their participation in the formal economy or pursuit of education that could encourage later participation. African economies suffer because of these barriers to participation. Industrialization is key to economic growth in Africa. To industrialize the continent, energy in Africa needs to be sustainable and easily accessible to all.

Improving Energy in Africa

Africa already has significant capacity for improvements in energy. Much of this potential lies in renewable energy sources. For example, one-fifth of Africa’s current energy is produced using hydropower. Hydropower, however, is only being utilized to one-tenth of its potential. Along with hydropower energy, solar, biomass, wind and geothermal energy all show promise for further development.

There are several existing avenues for further development of energy in Africa. As a shift toward renewable energy is gaining momentum across the globe, largely due to its environmental advantages, the resulting new and affordable technologies may provide the needed boost to further industrialization in Africa. Ensuring that renewable energy innovations reach Africa and are suited to build on current capabilities is essential for economic growth throughout the continent.

The 2020 African Economic Conference (AEC)

The African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Programme jointly hosted the 2020 African Economic Conference (AEC) from Dec. 8 to 10. The conference facilitated presentations and discussions among leading academics, early-career researchers, policymakers and decision-makers. The central theme of the conference was how to ensure continued sustainable development in Africa amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific topics included the role of governments and private institutions in regulating and developing African economies, adjusting goals and methods to conditions brought on by COVID-19 and preparing Africa for future resilience in crisis. The conference has been held since 2006 and helps to maximally inform efforts toward development in Africa, consider the challenges unique to local economies and emphasizes the importance of sustainable and renewable energy.

The New Deal on Energy in Africa

The AfDB Group is leading the New Deal on Energy in Africa to help develop energy in Africa and achieve universal electricity access for Africans by 2025. Its strategy is to build awareness of barriers to economic development, secure innovative funding for energy developments and strengthen energy policy and regulation. According to the AfDB, without stable energy in Africa, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved. The emphasized ideal for energy in Africa is renewable; nevertheless, efficient and less expensive methods of energy production can quickly work to stimulate the economy. Gas will be an important transition fuel as efforts are made to establish cleaner, maintainable methods.

Electricity Access for Economic Growth

Improving energy in Africa means that the continent needs reliable power grids and universal access to electricity to further economic stability. The path to sustainable energy in Africa is evolving thanks to new momentum derived from the global and continental potential for renewable energy development. Keeping energy progress in mind throughout pandemic response efforts is a goal of international organizations as they work together with Africa toward economic growth across the continent.

Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

Cure BionicsCure Bionics, a startup company based in Tunisia, is finalizing its design for a prosthetic hand using 3D-printed components. Priced at $2,000, the model will cost significantly less than the bionic limbs typically imported from Europe. Cure Bionics could transform the lives of many Tunisians in need of prosthetic limbs to improve their quality of life.

Disabilities in Tunisia

Although not much data is available for limb differences in Africa, the 2002-2004 World Health Survey declared that 16.3 of Tunisia’s population possessed some sort of disability.

Although the country has passed groundbreaking legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, prejudice still hinders Tunisians with disabilities from fully participating in social settings. Moreover, people with disabilities often find voting difficult due to a lack of appropriate accommodations and many struggle to find good employment. Past research indicated that nearly 60% of Tunisians with disabilities did not earn any individual income, and the 40% who did work, earned 40% less than people without disabilities.

Social, political and economic exclusion means, broadly speaking, that Tunisians with disabilities are more acutely impacted by multidimensional poverty than Tunisians without disabilities. In turn, this has led to disparities in education, health and employment. The social exclusion of people with disabilities has a considerable cost in terms of quality of life with a life expectancy reduction of approximately 18 years.

Cure Bionics

Cure Bionics hopes to improve the lives of disabled people in Tunisia by making high-tech bionic limbs more accessible and affordable for the people who need them.

When the company’s founder, Mohamed Dhaouafi, was studying engineering at university, he began to research prosthetics after learning that one of his peers had a relative who was born without upper limbs and could not afford prosthetics. Dhaouafi quickly discovered that this is not uncommon: Of the approximately 30 million people in developing countries who have amputated limbs, only 1.5 million can obtain prosthetics.

After graduating from university, Dhaouafi continued to work on the prosthetic device he had begun designing in school. Today, Cure Bionics’ 3D-printed bionic hands have rotating wrists, a mechanical thumb and fingers that bend at the joints in response to the electronic impulses. The bionic hand can be adjusted to accommodate a child’s physical growth. It can also be solar-powered for use in regions without a reliable electricity supply. Since young people with limb differences require multiple prostheses as they age, Cure Bionics’ cost-effective approach could help to ensure that more children benefit from prosthetic limbs earlier in life.

Moreover, Dhaouafi hopes to offer a virtual-reality headset for physical therapy sessions. Geared especially toward children, the headset will allow recipients of bionic limbs to become familiar with their prosthetics and to practice moving and flexing their fingers in the fun and exciting context of a video game.

Looking to the Future

While Cure Bionics continues to finalize and test its bionic hand before making it available for purchase in Tunisia, Dhaouafi has already set himself another goal. He wants to offer high-tech, low-cost prosthetic limbs to people with limb differences throughout Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Selected by the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program in 2019, Dhaouafi is helping to increase access to bionic prosthetics for people who could not otherwise have afforded the expense. In this way, he is also helping Tunisians with limb disabilities to overcome the formidable challenges of exclusion and escape multidimensional poverty,  improving their quality of life overall.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr