African Union
Intergovernmental cooperation provides a multi-faceted approach for tackling regional and global issues. African multilateral institutions allow governments to work together on developing, unifying and improving livelihoods throughout the continent.

There are a variety of roles that these institutions can play: from increasing trade, improving infrastructure, peacekeeping, promoting good governance, developing technology, providing health and education. Intergovernmental cooperation can also serve a cultural role.

The challenges that Africa is facing at the moment are unique to the culture and political history of the continent.  African multilateral institutions can provide more endogenous solutions – ones that arise from within Africa by Africans.

The African Union (AU) is perhaps the biggest and most ambitious multilateral institutions in Africa. Founded in 2002 out of the previous Organization for African Unity, the AU aims to politically and socio-economically integrate Africa. The AU also promotes peace and stability and norms of good governance. Within the AU, The pan-African Parliament functions as a forum that allows delegates from each country to present key issues and bring back advice for heads of state.

There are several subdivisions and committees the AU oversees that focus on reducing poverty and sustainable development. For example, the New Economic Partnerships for African Development (NEPAD) uses funding from Western nations to improve economic and government institutions.

The African Union is also instrumental in promoting democratic processes. They utilize a unique volunteer Peer Review Mechanism, in which states that choose to participate agree to have their political processes evaluated by experts. The AU also send observers to cover all elections in African countries.

With the creation of the Peace and Security Council in 2004, the AU plays an increasingly important role in African security. Contrary to its predecessor, the African Union is able to intervene during conflicts. This can occur through authorizing peacekeeping missions or in cases of genocide and crimes against humanity through deploying military forces.

The AU intervention after the civil war in Sudan broke out was one the most rapid and influential responses from the international community and helped create peace through a self-determination referendum after South Sudan seceded. In Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire, the AU successfully resolved post-election violence. In Somalia, the sizeable AU peacekeeping mission used a comprehensive strategy to decrease the effects of the terrorist group Al-Shabaab and stabilize the country.

As the largest economic organization on the continent, the African Economic Community is another influential African multilateral institution. It consists of all African countries that have formed eight smaller blocs based on geographical proximity: Economic Community of West African States, East African Community, Economic Community of Central African States, Southern African Development Community, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Community of Sahel-Saharan States, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and Arab Maghreb Union.

These regional organizations help integrate Africa’s economy and facilitate trade. The East African Community, for example, is the most integrated of these trade blocs, with free trade and plans for a common currency. The Economic Community of West African States does not only serve as a trade bloc but also engages in peacekeeping activities and has a formal judicial arm that aims to prevent human rights violations.

Together, these African multilateral institutions tackle the difficult challenges in development that the continent faces, from various angles and with multiple approaches.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

Electricity in Africa
General Electric, or GE, has been a household brand and extraordinarily successful energy company since the early 20th century in the United States; however, few Americans know about the huge impact that GE has had in Africa.

While GE has operated in Africa for over a century, in 2011 the company began investing heavily in African power. The company currently operates in Angola, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Among those, South Africa has the most robust power grid, with 80 percent of its rural homes having access to electricity.

For most other parts of Africa, access to electricity is far less abundant. In a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2013 an estimated 635 million or two-thirds of the population in Africa lived without electricity. All but 1 million of these individuals were located in the sub-Saharan region.

The almost universal lack of energy in Africa is a very costly problem. The IEA estimates that it would require over $300 billion in investments to achieve universal access by 2030.

Despite the seemingly dire status of infrastructure for electricity in Africa, GE has committed many significant resources across the continent in the past few years. GE employs 2,600 people in Africa, reports $4 billion in revenues and sponsors a volunteer program in various African countries.

The energy company also plans to expand to countries whose economies are struggling like Ethiopia and Mozambique. Just a quarter of the population of Ethiopia and only a fifth of the population of Mozambique had access to electricity in 2012 according to World Bank data.

A recent GE project will add a 300 megawatt system to Ghana this year, bringing an additional 20 percent of electrical capacity to the country’s entire grid.

Global CEO of GE, Steve Bolze commented on the company’s progress in Africa, saying “Africa for now is a $4 billion business for GE. It’s a big business. It’s going double digit. Our power business is close to 35 percent of that.” Additionally, the company plans to invest $2 billion in Africa in the next two years, and double its African workforce.

John English

Photo: Flickr

Investment in AfricaRecently, international investors have turned their sights to Africa, whose expanding consumer class and abundant natural resources make it the next prime location for development and innovation. According to the Africa Attractiveness Survey, investment in Africa totaled $128 billion dollars in 2014, up 136 percent from the previous year. Investment reached $174 million per project, an increase from $67.8 million in 2013. This vast increase is largely spurred by several megadeals on the continent rather than many smaller ones. Although this “big money” form of investment may crowd out smaller investors, it paves the way for future funding from all types of businesses.

According to Charles Brewer, managing director for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa, an update in the way investors perceive the continent has been the source of increased funding. Economic growth, coupled with an improved business environment and strengthened infrastructure, has caused foreign investment to hit a historic high. Sufficient infrastructure is key to successful development because it lowers the expense of logistics. In the past, supply chain costs were nine times greater in Africa than in other continents. Deals, such as DHL Express’s, not only expands the frontier for international corporations but also lends to growth within Africa as well. Brewer predicts millions more in investment dollars from his company alone in 2015.

“With increased Foreign Development Investment and macroeconomic growth, I believe that Africa will become an economic powerhouse in the future. The region is abound with untapped opportunities and has much scope for growth,” says Brewer.

With more and more people benefiting from international aid and earning money, the consumer base in Africa has grown rapidly. This provides immense opportunities for companies to move into these countries and provide previously undeveloped services. Brewer lists 18 countries where his company has planned major projects. Such economic development will also provide more jobs to African workers and increase spending across the economy, leading to even more economic growth and future foreign investment. Companies such as DHL Express will help reinforce the business environment and create opportunities for African businesses all over the world. In this way, Africa is not a market to be cornered by the rest of the world; the world is a market soon to be cornered by Africa.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IT News Africa

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Innovation SummitOn Aug. 19, 2015, health care and technology executives will gather at the Protea Fire & Ice Hotel in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. The agenda of this meeting is to discuss the upcoming African Innovator Round Tables: Health Care Innovation Summit.

The summit will address the theme, “Transforming Health Care with Technology.” Africa is lagging behind poor countries in South East Asia in all indicators of health. When measured a few decades ago, Africa was ahead of these Asian countries.

The change in health care is a necessity for Africa. On average, Africans live 14 years less than the average world citizen and 21 years less than the average European citizen.

All of Africa is not blighted by the lack of health care. There are some sporadic success stories. These success stories are made possible by multilateral institutions, governments, private firms or non-governmental organizations.

Although there are some success stories, all of Africa needs more assistance. Lack of skills, access to facilities and medication, and chronic disease care continue to place high demands on the existing health care resources in Africa.

Economic instability pushes governments to reconsider health care budgets and the adoption of new technology. While health care budgets are being decreased, there is a growing expectation of safety, access and enhanced patient experiences.

These high demands cannot continue to be met unless there are some changes. “In order to address these challenges, African governments and health care providers must turn to technology innovation especially in the areas of mobility, clinical decision support, patient management systems and data analysis and business intelligence for health care resource planning,” according to the African Innovator Magazine.

Moreover, “At the Healthcare Innovation Summit, delegates will have the opportunity to take part in in-depth round table discussions, which will cover technological issues that affect the development of health care in Africa, as well as hear from a number of top-flight local and international speakers.”

The summit is hoping to attract guests such as innovation officers in health care facilities, chief information officers in the health care industry, chief medical officers, technology service providers, academics, advocacy groups and health care press.

Topics discussed will include:
– Unleashing the potential of applications and wireless devices in health care
– Investing in data integration and software integration
– Addressing the challenges of fragmented information in health care
– Embracing new technology
– Finding the next biggest opportunity for health care in Africa

Conference Information

Date: Aug. 19, 2015
Delegate Fee: 950 Euros
Group Discounts:
-3 or more delegates – 5 percent discount per delegate
-5 or more delegates – 10 percent discount per delegate

The Healthcare Innovation Summit registration fee includes entry into all round table sessions, networking sessions, all conference documents, delegate bags, corporate gifts, USB sticks, light lunch and refreshments.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: African Innovator, IT News Africa
Photo: IT News Africa

Poverty in Kenya
The stereotype still remains that Africa as a whole is vastly impoverished and desolate. While certainly some pockets of the continent continue to suffer, poverty in Kenya is showing great improvement.

10. Kenya has one of the highest rates of population growth.
Kenya’s population has nearly tripled in the last 35 years, from 16.3 million in 1980 to 47 million today. And not surprisingly …

9. Children make up nearly half of the population.
Of those living in Kenya, 42 percent are children under 15. This has major implications for the country’s infrastructure, and leaders are realizing it is past time to support these children.

8. Life expectancy is increasing.
According to The World Bank, life expectancy was 53 years old in 2000 but has increased every year since. Now, life expectancy is at 62 and is predicted to continue to rise. The majority of these improvements are from public health initiatives, particularly surrounding HIV/AIDS prevention after the disease was officially declared a natural disaster by the government in 2001.

7. There are not many physicians in Kenya.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is only one doctor and 12 nurses or midwives per 10,000 people in Kenya. This shortage of medical professionals is a severe problem for the nation, although major public health interventions have helped to reduce the mortality rate, such as those taken with HIV/AIDS as well as many waterborne illnesses.

6. The poorest inhabitants live in rural areas.
With limited access to the few physicians and nurses who do inhabit the country, rural areas suffer the greatest. Comprised mostly of farmers and other agricultural workers, those living in rural areas often go without healthcare, clean water and sanitation, as well as many other social services which primarily are located in the cities and business regions. Poverty in Kenya is a widespread problem but is concentrated in rural areas.

5. The nation is not economically diverse.
The vast majority of all work lies in the agricultural sector, thus when droughts and other natural disasters occur, farmers are out of luck.

4. Kenya is on the path to economic growth.
With the realization of a lack of diversification, there have been improvements in the infrastructure of the Kenyan government and increased attention to the urban and business regions of the country, as well as increases in manufacturing.

3. Kenya has one of the highest literacy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The youth literacy rate in Kenya is at about 85 percent as of this year, which is greater than its neighboring nations. For example, the youth literacy rate is 79 percent in Uganda, 61 percent in Sudan and 45 percent in Ethiopia.

2. School enrollment is 90 percent.
Correlated to a high literacy rate, school enrollment is quite high in Kenya. This is also reflected in the countries surrounding Kenya with lower literacy rates such as Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda.

1. There is hope.
Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) is a school for girls in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. Founded by Kennedy Odede, a native of Kibera, SHOFCO believes “the fight against urban poverty begins with a girl” and has enacted comprehensive education and healthcare systems to ensure free, quality primary education as well as free healthcare and social services for the girls. They are also the largest employer in Kibera, employing teachers as well as social services such as psychologists, doctors and even soccer coaches. Organizations such as SHOFCO exist throughout Kenya that are dedicated to promoting gender equality, education and basic human needs to a population that certainly needs it. With determined individuals such as those who work at SHOFCO, poverty in Kenya will decrease and put the country on a trajectory towards success.

– Liz Vestal

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank, Answers Africa, Our Africa, SHOFCO
Photo: Flickr,

Scientists' Crucial Role in Poverty Reduction in South Africa
The President of the Academy of Science in South Africa, Daya Reddy, claims that scientists play a key role in global poverty reduction. The problem is that the number of scientists in Africa is significantly less than anywhere else in the world. In other parts of the world, for every 1 million people, there are 1,000 scientists. In Africa, this number is 80. The second problem is what Reddy calls “the brain drain,” where one-third of Africa’s scientists leave the continent to practice their research.

Because of this, Africa’s success in poverty reduction is significantly lower than elsewhere. While worldwide poverty has been reduced by 50 percent, in Africa it has only been reduced by 8 percent.

Scientists hold the key to unlocking great mysteries, which is why Reddy teamed up with the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the South African Research and Innovation Management Association at the Research and Innovation for Global Challenge conference in May to encourage students to pursue their interests in science. In his speech, he highlights the importance of interdisciplinary studies, encouraging a “healthy collaboration”.

Reddy encourages scientists to use their knowledge of research and apply it to the world at large. “Complex problems require broad transdisciplinary approaches for their solution,” said Reddy, explaining later that this is the business of bringing together scientists with the movers and shakers of the world—the decision-makers and policy-creators, the educators and the innovators.

Scientific advancements can help in many ways, from improving the daily lives of individuals to large-scale changes. From medicine to sanitation, to agriculture and transportation, science is a unifying factor with the potential to make big changes in the world.

Great advancements have already been made, thanks to interdisciplinary work. Since the Millennium Development Goals established in 2000, now 90 percent of children globally are going to primary school, more girls are getting an education than ever before, and the odds of a child dying before the age of 5 has been cut in half. Worldwide, poverty has improved since the goals were established.

Reddy spoke at a conference in May to inspire students to pursue science. He encouraged the next generation to collaborate and create an interdisciplinary culture in order to end global poverty.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: African Business Review, United Nations Development Programme University World News
Photo: Flickr

International Women Development Champion AwardThe International Women Development Champion Award honors exemplary women who have dedicated their lives and have committed their efforts to the economic development of Africa and African women. On 24th March, the President of UN Women National Committee Canada, Almas Jiwani, was awarded the International Women Development Champion Award in Paris. She is the first Canadian and the first UN Woman representative to receive this award. The initiatives she took in trying to connect the gaps between the corporate world and the humanitarian world made her a new face for humanitarianism. She has put tremendous efforts into establishing change through excellence and dedication to philanthropy.

Almas Jiwani expressed how this award promotes equality, “We must continue investing in African women and increase their involvement in the political structures in place and in everyday life.” Furo Giami, the Executive Director of the Center for Economic and Leadership Development said that it’s an honor to present Almas Jiwani with this award to recognize her efforts and achievements at contributing to the end of global poverty and “all forms of vices militating the development of African women.”

Some of the women who have received this award in the past include President Joyce Banda of Malawi, Vice President Joice Mujuru of Zimbabwe, Business Leader Wendy Luhabe of South Africa, Ida Odinga (wife of the Prime Minister of Kenya), Rt. Hon. Anne Makinda (the Speaker of Parliament in Tanzania) and others.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Market Wire

Top Priorities for Africa in 2013The Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings released a report of top priorities for Africa.  The AGI “brings together African scholars to provide policymakers with high-quality research, expertise, and innovative solutions that promote Africa’s economic development.”  The Foresight Africa report shows promising opportunities in Africa.  It outlines the top priorities for Africa in 2013.

Moving from “economic stagnation to above 5 percent GDP growth on average,” Africa is prospering.  Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and African governments are embracing this growth by lowering transaction costs.  Africa’s economic growth is creating a new middle class.  This middle class means new markets for goods and services.  The Foresight Africa report notes that it is a prime time for investors.

Some African countries are mirroring Asian models and engaging their diasporas for economic and social development.  South Africa, for example, is using TalentCorp’s model.  TalentCorp is a partnership between the government, the private sector and the overseas diaspora.  The model aims to bring highly skilled Malaysians living abroad back to their home country.

Countries everywhere recognize the potential in harnessing Africa’s diaspora.  In 2011, the United States Congress proposed the African Investment and Diaspora Act.  The bill was designed to support African development.  Ghana and Kenya are on the cutting-edge and have already “established units within their respective governments to oversee diaspora affairs.”  AGI’s Foresight Africa report points to these examples as models for other countries.

Check out the full report for more information.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Brookings
Photo: Daily Maverick

UN Highlights Technological Innovation and African Development
An often overlooked factor that underpins the sustainability of development in a nation is the ability to be innovative in the fields of science and technology. Recently, at a United Nations meeting in Tanzania, senior UN officials repeatedly stressed the importance of technological innovation and African development as key in moving past the 2015 millennium development goals and well into the future.

Of the many beneficial consequences of a robust science and technology sector, none is felt more than the long term effects they have on overall growth and job creation. Innovative Green Farming has produced thousands of new startups across much of the developed world, so too have the various technological enterprises built by well funded post-graduate researchers at various universities and laboratories. By harnessing the entrepreneurial power of science-based sectors, technological innovation and African development can work in tandem towards a sustainable economic future. In regards to the need for more innovation in Africa, President of ECOSOC Nestor Osorio remarked that “Innovation is the essence of our modern society. Without harnessing its power, we will not be able to create healthy, educated or inclusive societies. Greater efforts are needed to build partnerships among government, private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations and the international community, to promote and spread innovation for sustainable development in Africa.”

By utilizing the minds of the African populace, technological innovation and African development can be used to not only pull much of the people out of chronic poverty but also solve the food security and logistical challenges of the continent. By bringing to light the amazing potential of economic prosperity and a greater quality of life through the science and technological sectors, Africa can dramatically reduce poverty levels and standards of living well into the future.

Brian Turner

Source: UN News
Photo: Guardian