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Poverty in AngolaA whole 54% of Angola’s population of 30 million are multidimensionally poor or suffering from multiple deprivations in four categories: health, education, quality of life and employment. Angolan children under the age of 10 experience even more pronounced poverty and 90% of rural Angolan populations are multidimensionally poor. The overall poverty rate is 41% and the rural poverty rate at 57% is nearly double that of urban areas. Poverty in Angola is a significant issue especially within the context of the rural-urban divide.

The Rural-Urban Divide

In rural areas, Angolans are less likely to be employed and those who do work are mostly in subsistence agriculture. They also have fewer assets and cannot afford “luxuries” like attending school. Additionally, people in rural areas are more likely to be sick or to die early than those in urban settings.

In urban areas, 44% of households are employed and the majority of the rest are involved in informal economic roles like craftsmen, street vendors or informal shop owners. Despite access to employment, labor conditions are poor and incomes fluctuate. This means that people in rural areas are overall more destitute but they actually have a more predictable situation and at least have access to enough basic food and water to survive, while those in urban settings can experience periods of serious shortages.

Overall, poverty in Angola is multifaceted. In rural areas, it is materially severe but there are stronger safety nets in the form of access to land and agriculture. Urban poverty is less materially severe, with better access to employment and social goods, but people are more vulnerable to sudden shocks. The issue is not that only rural Angolans suffer from poverty but that the country at large is suffering and in need of a comprehensive plan to address all the different aspects of poverty in Angola.

World Vision International

World Vision has operated in Angola since 1989 to aid sustainable development in vulnerable areas, focusing on child protection, land ownership and health services. Overall, it has increased access to clean water for more than 50,000 Angolans and improved the health status of more than 1.5 million Angolan children and 25,000 Angolan mothers in rural areas, through increased access to health care and health education. World Vision helps approximately one million Angolans each year through its efforts at improving access to water and sanitation, strengthening civil society and social protection systems, improving educational access and aiding economic development through land ownership.

UNICEF

Larger NGOs like UNICEF have also addressed poverty in Angola. It has identified millions of people in need, especially children, and has looked to gather $15.8 million in funding to provide humanitarian assistance in the face of recent food insecurity, drought, malnutrition, economic insecurity, education issues and health crises in Angola. The organization’s goals for 2020 included screening almost 400,000 children for malnutrition, providing 150,000 children polio vaccines and providing access to primary education to 25,000 affected children. UNICEF is utilizing partnerships with Angolan government ministries, civil departments and national and international NGOs to accomplish these main goals and others, including hygiene education, increasing overall healthcare aid as well as protecting women and children.

The Road Ahead

Poverty has struck millions of people in Angola and it affects rural and urban Angolans in different ways. Despite the complexity of poverty in Angola, organizations like UNICEF and World Vision have stepped up to alleviate the pressure on Angolan families and children. While the crisis is far from solved, efforts like these provide hope for people in Angola in the face of global and regional disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged drought and low crop yields.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

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

Digital Gender GapAs the world becomes more technologically advanced and digitally connected, access to technology remains an issue, especially in developing countries. More so, the digital gap between women and men continues to expand, with 300 million fewer women than men using mobile internet, creating a 20% gap. The lack of access to digital devices for these women means being denied essential services including employment opportunities, financial resources, educational resources and medical information. There are several global initiatives trying to bridge the digital gender gap between women and men.

Safaricom

In Kenya, women are 39% less likely than men to have access to mobile internet despite women making up 51% of the Kenyan population. Safaricom, a mobile network in Kenya, therefore created a partnership with Google to offer an affordable smartphone, the Neon Kicka with Android GO, compromising 500 megabytes of free data for the first month. The mobile network believes that empowering a woman empowers an entire community and focuses on the following three barriers: affordability, relevance and digital skills. The company ensured that the price point was the lowest it could be and featured important content including access to health information and educational content to highlight the smartphone’s daily relevance for women. Safaricom recognizes that many women are not familiar with Gmail accounts and therefore developed a guide covering the basics of smartphone use.

Novissi

Togo, a country in West Africa currently run by its first female prime minister, launched a digital cash transfer program called Novissi. Its goal is to provide aid to informal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, covering residents of three urban areas under lockdown. Many underserved women tend to be excluded from COVID-19 relief digital cash transfer programs launched by governments since they either do not have access to digital bank accounts or are uninformed. Through Novissi, women receive a monthly sum of $20, whereas men receive $17, to support the cost of food, communication services, power and water. The three additional dollars allocated to women account for the fact that women are more likely to be informal workers and take care of a family’s nutritional needs.

Wave Money

In Myanmar, Wave Money has become the number one mobile financial service, with 89% of the country benefiting from its agents. Since Wave Money deals with 85% of rural areas in the country, money enters and leaves from nearly every state and facilitates familiarity with the service. The financial service created a partnership with GSMA Connected Women to allow greater access to financial services for women. Through this partnership, women are encouraged to run Wave Money shops in Myanmar, providing them with extra income even if they live in very remote areas of the country.

Telesom Simple KYC Account

It can be challenging for women to acquire the identity documents necessary to open accounts with service providers. In Somaliland, Telesom created a simplified know-your-customer (KYC) account, allowing women that do not possess an ID to sign up for mobile money services. The service solely requires a name, date of birth, image and contact details, favoring accessibility and reducing the digital gap between women and men.

Equal Access International Partnership with Local Radio Station

In Nigeria, women and girls are denied access to technology due to the fear of moral decline that accompanies the widespread culture. Equal Access International recognizes the need to address societal norms for women and amplify women and girls’ voices. In an effort to do so, Equal Access International partnered with a local radio station in order to create a show that tackled cultural taboos and promoted women and girls using digital technologies. The episodes last 30 minutes and cover weekly themes including common misconceptions about the internet, internet safety and moral arguments regarding women and the internet.

Closing the Digital Gender Gap

Despite a digital gender gap that exists between women and men, organizations around the world are making an effort to foster a sense of inclusion and empowerment for women and girls to become familiar and encouraged to take on the digital world that is constantly emerging.

Sarah Frances
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