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5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa
As of 2019, 11 percent of the world’s internet subscribers are from Africa and only 39 percent of Africans use the internet. However, Africa is quickly closing the digital gap with the developed world. Here are five facts about the technology renaissance in Africa, as digital technology rapidly expands across the continent.

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa

  1. Africa is Ripe to Enter the Tech Economy: Africa has multiple advantages over other regions in developing a technology-based economy. The continent has the youngest population in the world with an average age of 19.5, meaning that there is a large population of young people looking for a chance to break into the technology industry. Because of the continent’s late entry into the global tech economy, African tech companies can learn from the early mistakes of tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Further, Africa is entering the digital market at an ideal moment – by entering the industry late, African techies can immediately take advantage of globalized internet technology, bypassing outdated infrastructures such as landlines and branch banking and directly adopting mobile phones or mobile money.
  2. Technology is Revolutionizing Other Sectors: Technology is not just good for the technology industry – as many countries have discovered, one can apply tech to a multitude of industries. Technology is revolutionizing education in Africa through digital books and online classes with global universities such as Harvard and MIT. An app called iCow helps farmers manage their cattle populations. Africans can attend church services online, solving problems of limited religious resources in smaller communities. Additionally, mobile phones and increased connectivity have already been critical in responding to crises like Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria.  New technology has already had a profound effect on both commercial and social industries.
  3. Tech Education is Booming: Recognizing the critical need for technology-based education, multiple universities in Africa now offer software engineering, computer science and other tech programs that compete with established universities such as Yale or Stanford. Further, technology accelerators are rapidly growing. French telecommunications company Orange opened its first African digital center in Tunis, Tunisia in April 2019, which will support startups and educate young entrepreneurs. Nairobi, Kenya-based Andela is the top computer engineering accelerator in Africa, connecting its students with tech jobs around the world.
  4. Africa is Building its Own Tech Economy: The technology renaissance in Africa means that the continent will eventually have its own independent tech market. For example, in October 2019 President Paul Kagame of Rwanda inaugurated Africa’s first smartphone factory. The factory does not produce iPhones – instead, it produces the Mara, a mobile phone that the pan-African Mara Group developed. The Mara is unique in that it is the first phone a company entirely assembles in Africa. Other African companies entering the smartphone market include Onyx Connect from South Africa and AfriOne from Nigeria.
  5. Growing Tech Industries Raise GDP: The increase in access to technology is critical to increasing African countries’ economies. The World Bank reports that a mere 10 percent increase in internet penetration represents a 1.38 percent increase in GDP for a developing country. The growth of African technology also attracts international business – IBM, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all begun investment projects in Africa based on the continent’s technological growth. Though getting widespread technology access across dispersed communities is a challenge, African governments are coming together and developing plans to move the technology renaissance in Africa forward.

Though African countries are still developing, the continent is becoming a major player in the global technology economy. From international investment to country-specific development, a technology renaissance in Africa is truly underway. The next decade will only see more development and innovations from the “Silicon Savannah.”

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Malawi

Landlocked in southeastern Africa, Malawi is the fourth poorest country in the world. In 2017, over 70 percent of its 17 million residents lived on less than $1.90 a day.  The largest formal sector employing Malawians is the tea industry.

In 2015, a union of Malawian tea producers, the largest international tea buyers, NGOs and other relevant organizations and donors joined the Malawi Tea 2020 partnership. This program’s main purpose is to develop a booming, environmentally sustainable tea industry that can transform increased profitability into improved living conditions in Malawi by 2020. A living wage for workers, a motivated workforce with better opportunities for women and a profitable smallholder sector are cornerstones of this platform.

Already half-way through the program, here are five ways that Malawi Tea 2020 has made progress on improving living conditions in Malawi.

5 Ways Malawi Tea 2020 is Improving Living Conditions in Malawi

  1. Wage Growth: Tea producers have increased workers’ wages several times since Malawi Tea 2020’s inception. While accounting for the high rate of inflation, it stands that the gap between real wages and living wages is narrowing.
  2. Increased Protections and Opportunities for Women: The Tea Association of Malawi (TAML) formed the first-ever Gender Equality, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy in 2017. They established Gender and Women’s Welfare Centers in each estate, creating systems to address sexual assault and prevent harassment through education. They also began female leadership training. 268 out of 300 targeted women attended weekly leadership training in 2018 creating more opportunities for Malawian women to advance professionally.
  3. More Profitable Smallholder Sector: In the 2018 growing season, 1,734 farmers (78 percent female) attended Farmer Field Schools (FFS) to learn more about good agricultural practices. From last season’s FFS graduates, 99 percent say they saw an increase in crop yield versus prior seasons. A total of 6,189 farmers, or 34 percent of all tea farmers in Malawi, have benefitted from FFS. Similarly, 2,655 farmers participated in Malawi Tea 2020’s Farmer Business School training (FBS) in 2018 to learn better business skills.  Since 2015, 3,300 smallholder farmers have increased their incomes by increasing their yield with better farming and business techniques.
  4. Improved Worker Benefits: Managers have removed barriers to unionization resulting in more unions representing worker wishes. The first collective bargaining agreement in Malawi’s tea industry was signed creating a degree of wage negotiation and an 11 percent increase in wages. Also, the Housing and Sanitation Policy was developed to address problematic living conditions in Malawi. From 2016-2017, TAML demolished almost all poor-condition Category D houses, constructed 51 new houses, and renovated 16 houses.
  5. Improved Nutrition for Workers and Families: Through a meal fortification program, over 40,000 tea workers received fortified mid-day meals daily as well as fresh vegetables once a week leading to higher quality nutrition.

There is still a lot of work left to complete to secure quality working and living conditions in Malawi, but programs like Malawi Tea 2020 are consistently making progress and laying the groundwork towards accomplishing these goals.

Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

top ten facts about living conditions in kiribati
The country of Kiribati, located in the equatorial Pacific, is made up of 33 atolls or ring-shaped islands. The islands are separated into three groups: the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands and the Line Islands. Of the islands, 21 are inhabited, but most of the population is settled in the Gilbert Islands where the capital, Tarawa, is located. The Outer Islands consist of six islands on the outskirts of Tarawa and the Phoenix Islands. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Kiribati including causes and improvements.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Kiribati

  1. According to an assessment in 2014, it is estimated that 22 percent of people live below the poverty line. As people have begun to live a more urban lifestyle, the cost of living has increased, but there are few employment opportunities. The GDP per capita in 2018 was only $1732.30, equivalent to 14 percent of the world’s average.
  2. On average, only four out of 10 adults are employed in Kiribati. Formal employment is rare outside of the public service sector, with 75 percent of the labor force employed for services. Instead many adults often work in unpaid subsistence work, like subsistence agriculture. Some men become seamen, however, only around 4,000 jobs are available to people on the island making it an unsustainable career option.
  3. A shocking 70 percent of women have reported domestic violence by their partner and this gendered violence is considered normalized behavior in Kiribati. Female-led households are uncommon except in the poorest sectors of the country. Women are unable to leave their abusive partners due to limited economic opportunities for them. The gap is widest in middle-income homes with only 47 percent of women employed in the labor force despite 77 percent of men being employed.
  4. Education is free and compulsory for students aged 6 to 14, however, many children do not attend for the entirety. Between 2010 and 2013, the rate of students reaching Class 5 of primary school declined from 90.7 percent to 72.6 percent. Although these schools are free, families must cover costs for travel, uniforms and textbooks. So only one-third of all children finish secondary school and in general, the workforce of Kiribati is low skilled.
  5. Many people who live on the Outer Islands live a traditional lifestyle and rely on agriculture, fishing, cutting copra and selling crafts for financial compensation. However, the growing need for cash and the degradation of land makes these traditional means significantly less profitable. As a result, the average income for people on the island is $5 a day or the cost of a single pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the United States.
  6. Due to poor eating habits and high poverty levels, Kiribati has a mortality rate of 54.6 out of 1,000 live births for children under 5 years old. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition and the prevalence of communicable diseases, like tuberculosis, are the main causes of youth mortality. According to UNICEF, 34 percent of children suffer from stunting, a consequence of poor nutrition. Additionally, in a study from 2000-13, Kiribati had the highest tuberculosis case notification rate of all Pacific islands at 398 cases per 100,000.
  7. With an average height of six feet above sea level, high tides flood the islands of Kiribati for days on end. Especially during La Niña, Kiribati is susceptible to days of endless flooding that contaminates wells and drinking water. Flooding, followed by periods of drought, causes extreme water shortages affecting daily life and agriculture. In January 2019, there were reports of storm surges, strong winds and heavy rain on the main island of Tarawa. Floodwaters were slow to recede in some villages as a result of improper drainage throughout the country.
  8. In 2013, the Australian and Kiribati governments and the World Bank Group developed an economic plan to strengthen public financial management and the monitoring of public debt. Since then, the government was able to develop a financial strategy to improve the country’s 43 million dollar debt. Between 2015-17, the economy grew at an average annual pace of five and one-quarter percent, an improvement from 2000-14 when the economy only grew at an average annual pace of one and a half percent.
  9. Between 2017 and 2018, the Australian government provided an estimated 27.7 million dollars in official development assistance to Kiribati. Approximately 3.6 million dollars funded the government of Kiribati’s National Tuberculosis Program. The Australian government also helped 412 Kiribati workers gain temporary employment under its labor mobility programs.
  10. Starting in 2011, the government of Kiribati implemented a nine-year education improvement program to support the Ministry of Education, improve the quality of basic education and support reforms in the classroom. By 2014, 591 teachers had been assessed and/or trained under the program, around 1,500 primary school students were learning in rehabilitated classrooms and 32,238 textbooks and learning materials were printed and distributed.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Kiribati intend to show a holistic representation of the impoverished conditions people endure daily. Lack of education, economic instability and few job opportunities make Kiribati a severely underdeveloped country.

Supporting legislation in the United States, like the Keep Girls in School Act, can help improve the lives of females in Kiribati and other underdeveloped countries by providing females with an education.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

East African FederationA proposed federation between Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda seeks to establish a single currency, political unity, modern infrastructure, improved trade relations and ensured peace. In the 1960s, when many of the above countries won their independence, a political federation was first proposed. Today, all six countries are members of the East African Community (EAC), which started in 1999 as a less ambitious form of unity. The East African Federation remains mostly an idea; however, leaders in all six countries are now working together to see the idea come to fruition.

Where it Stands

The countries began drafting a unified constitution in 2018, which would render each member’s individual constitution subordinate to that of the East African Federation. They have set the deadline for its completion to 2021. The EAC has already neared completion of a monetary union, likely being something akin to the European Union’s euro. The euro has allowed for the free movement of capital, stimulating trade activity between member states. Additionally, all six countries are planning to hold a referendum with their own citizens in order to gauge support.

Ambitions

The countries’ leaders say that a federation will lead to economic development and greater African sovereignty. The advantages of the East African Federation include linkages of infrastructure, which will allow four of the landlocked members to have access to the trading ports of Kenya and Tanzania. Further, the East African Federation, due to its enormity, will have more influence in international diplomacy, and its governmental institutions will become more robust through information sharing.

Limitations

When integration efforts were attempted in the past, they became derailed by individual national interests and existing tensions. While the East African Federation attempts to overcome these tensions, some doubt its ability to do so. Critics point to trade disputes between Rwanda and Uganda and military rivalries between Tanzania and Rwanda as prominent examples for why unity will remain unaccomplished.

The Promise

East Africa’s economy is the fastest-growing on the continent; GDP increased by 5.7 percent in 2018 and is forecasted to hit 5.9 percent in 2019. According to the World Bank’s most recent data, the average poverty rate for the 6 countries is 49.6 percent. Kenya has the lowest rate with 36.8 percent, and Burundi has the highest with 71.8 percent. The East African Federation promises to improve cooperation methods and increase economic potential, yielding greater growth, quicker development and lasting stability for the region.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in GuadeloupeSoutheast of Puerto Rico and north of Dominica lie the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe. France is a parent of this archipelago, providing systems to manage the islands’ legislation, health and education.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Guadeloupe

  1. Guadeloupe’s government runs under the French Constitution and executes authority with the French legal system. With France as the head of state, this country has no military of its own, rather it relies on their overseas French parliament to defend their borders. Ironically, the most recent conflict was the riots of 2009 which revealed the French government’s inability to deflate the cost of living on the island.
  2. The construction of new housing and low-cost residence funded by tax plans created the availability of living spaces. This is a good start to addressing the issues of living costs challenged in 2009. However, in 2011, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies of France (INSEE) reported that 19 percent of households in Guadeloupe are still living in poverty.
  3. With an unemployment rate of 26.9 percent, the Regional Council of Guadeloupe decided to improve the job market through its Regional Scheme for Economic Development (SRDE). Their plan is to optimize access to employment through work placement programs. Satisfying Guadeloupe’s population with opportunities for wealth will feed into the country’s economy.
  4. As arable land decreases, so does Guadeloupe’s agriculture. This affects the industry which inputs 6 percent of the region’s GDP and employs 12 percent of its workers. The production can’t feed the population alone. In fact, the country imports 90 percent of its food for consumption.
  5. The urbanization rate is at an alarming 98 percent. This means, by 2030, 1,500 hectares (approximately 3,700 acres) will be needed for the construction of 19,000 units to house 50,000 dwellers. The unbalanced spread of the population creates congested urban centers.
  6. The annual expenditure on health care and medical products per habitant is 1,800 euros (approximately $2,000). Funding comes from partnerships and programs for EU members, so Guadeloupe doesn’t receive aid from international organizations such as the World Bank and U.N. entities. As a security system, laboratories, like Guadeloupe’s Pasteur Institute in Pointe-à-Pitre, report threatening cases of diseases like dengue which had a fatality ratio of 0.06 percent during the 2012-2013 outbreak. Public health authorities watch and respond to potential threats as a means to establish early warning systems.
  7. The country also follows the French education system with primary schooling from age six to 11 followed by a four-year middle school. At 15 years of age, students may take a leaving examination and begin working. Those seeking to attend a university continue into secondary school with an additional three years.
  8. The country’s history brought together a diverse ethnic culture. It is a mixture of European, Indian, African and Caribbean. As such, the people celebrate Carnival. Beyond this traditional music and dance jubilation, the Creole culture is displayed through the celebration of literature. In fact, Guadeloupe hosts the International Congress for Caribbean Writers, showcasing such work.
  9. Though French is the official language, Creole is also taught in schools to keep the country’s heritage alive. History lives in the buildings as well. Colonial sugar, banana and coffee plantations still remain. Their slave houses, also known, in Creole, as “cases,” hold presence and display the country’s roots.
  10. Travelers can visit this island via French, U.S., Canadian, British and Dutch airlines connecting to Pole Caraïbes International Airport or the other small airports on the surrounding islands. A ferry provides passage between Guadeloupe’s associated islands. The bus system services main routes but becomes scarce on Sundays in secondary routes.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Guadeloupe depict more than French colonial power. The archipelago distinguished itself from simply taking on the French way of life. The islands have a culture of their own which is the catalyst in their tourist economy.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Pixabay

Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania
Mauritania is a rather large country in western Africa that has abundant natural resources like iron, oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, water and arable land are not at the top of the list. Nearly two-thirds of the nation is desert. Despite the lack of water, nearly half of the nations 3.8 million people make a living from livestock and cereal grain farming. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is essential to put this land to its best use and help the rapidly urbanizing population economically.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

According to the FAO, the amount of food produced domestically in Mauritania each year only meets one-third of the country’s food needs, leaving the other 70 percent to be imported from other countries. The FAO has been working to increase crop output by promoting and supporting agriculture farming in Mauritania. One such program is the Integrated Production and Pest Managment Program (the IPPM) in Africa.

This program covers nine other countries in West Africa. Since its inception in 2001 as part of the United Nations new millennium programs, the program has reached over 180,000 farmers, 6,800 in Mauritania. In Mauritania, the IPPM program focuses on simple farming techniques to increase both the quantity and quality of the crop yield each year.

These techniques include teaching farmers how to chose the best seeds to plant along with the optimum distance to plant the seeds from one another. The program also educates farmers about the best use of fertilizers and pesticides. Overuse of these chemicals can pollute the already small water supply and harm the crops. The program also teaches good marketing practices to help with crop sales.

Programs Working With Government Support

It is not only outside actors that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. The government has been helping as well. A report by the Guardian from 2012 explains the government’s new approach since 2011. The plan includes new irrigation techniques, the promotion of new crops, such as rice, and the training of college students in sustainable agriculture techniques through subsidies.

Data from the World Bank in 2013, showed that the program was slowly succeeding; however, too little water was still the biggest issue. The World Bank and the government of Mauritania are still working towards those goals by building off of the natural resources available. According to the CIA, a majority of the economy and foreign investment in Mauritania involves oil and minerals.

A Work In Progress

Data is not easy to find on the success of these programs after 2016. What can be noted, though, is that programs run by the FAO and other international organizations are still fighting for sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. They have been able to sustain using money from mining and oil that is coming in each year.

While these are certainly not the cleanest ways for a government to make money, it is a reliable way for the foreseeable future. The government has already proven that it is willing to spend this money on its people. Hopefully, the government will continue to invest in its people and sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a sovereign state in the southeastern region of Europe, found on the Balkan Peninsula and borders Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. This nation has been through a multitude of financial struggles, yet there has been continued growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country is now on the path to stable economic development.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Rates continue to improve substantially. For example, the unemployment rate among adults decreased from 25.4 percent in 2016 to about 20.5 percent in the first six months of 2017. This is a meaningful advancement for the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is also a candidate nation, which signifies that it could potentially be a partner within the European Union. This is a great opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina as it could accelerate the country’s economic and political systems even more quickly.

In addition to this hopeful alliance, the World Bank assists Bosnia and Herzegovina by both funding initiatives and formulating a new growth model.

Projects for Growth

Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina begins with foreign aid from international organizations, particularly the World Bank, which will implement advanced infrastructural and economic structures within the country.

There are now 11 active projects within Bosnia and Herzegovina that will hasten reforms, and the World Bank will lend an overall $521.63 million to the nation.

Better Than Before

“Better than Before — Rebuilding Bosnia and Herzegovina” is one of the many projects that are currently active. The country witnessed devastating floods that impacted 25 percent of the population. Since the economy is agriculturally-based, they lost approximately 15 percent of the country’s GDP. This initiative salvaged 248 infrastructure facilities and helped 580,000 individuals.

“Banking Sector Strengthening Project” improves “banking regulation, supervision and resolution capacity and by enhancing the governance of the Entity development banks.” This will better banking among every sector since they plan to replace obsolete banking styles with improved strategies that will promote economic development.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina Employment Support Program” will increase private sector opportunities and jobs for citizens. It will allow better interaction and discourse for employers, employees, public policy makers, etc. It will also allow the government to expand active labor market programs.

There are eight more projects that will accelerate growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina. They address public health programs, transportation systems and energy efficiency.

New Model for Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina

Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina also starts with a new economic strategy. The new framework consists of structural reforms within the public and private sector.

The World Bank will:

  • Encourage public policies that better public efficacy
  • Create and implement initiatives that hasten private sector advancement
  • Implement new strategies to counteract natural disasters/emergency crises

The World Bank will guide and fund this new growth model for Bosnia and Herzegovina and will continually advise the financing so economic growth occurs more rapidly.

Conclusion

The World Bank’s robust presence within Bosnia and Herzegovina is vital to its development as a sovereign state. This nation represents countries’ ability and capacity to progress and change economically.

Its history is sad and unfortunate, yet thankfully, Bosnia and Herzegovina is recovering and growing. The country has earned the right to be an E.U. candidate country.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Kosovo
The Kosovo War in the late 1990’s destroyed much of country’s agricultural sector and infrastructure, and a large portion of the working population was crippled by war consequences. Currently, Kosovo’s total population is about two million. The scars of the war can still be seen in its high poverty rate and human development index (HDI) score compared to its neighbors. Here is the list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Kosovo.

  1. Kosovo’s GDP per capita or Gross Domestic Product (the number that gives an estimation of individual-based economic health) tripled from 2000 to 2017 and is currently at $3,902. However, Kosovo is still the third-poorest country in Europe.
  2. In 2015, approximately 17 percent of the population was living below the poverty line of $2.11 a day, and about five percent of the population was living below the extreme poverty line of $1.51 a day.
  3. UNICEF, based on 2006-2007 data, found that families in Kosovo with children were less likely to be poor than families without children. However, this research also concluded that children aged 0-19 were more likely to be at risk of poverty than the general population.
  4. Kosovo is rich in lignite (a type of coal) and many other natural resources, but the population’s energy needs exceed the production of the country’s two power plants. Less than 0.8 kW (kilowatts) is generated per person, which is under half of that in Slovenia and under a quarter of that in Austria.
  5. From December 2014 to February 2015, the number of migrants seeking asylum from Kosovo to the EU had grown by 40 percent.
  6. Economic growth in Kosovo is projected at between two to four percent for the period from 2018 to 2020. It has held a steady rate of growth since the 2008 global recession.
  7. Nearly two decades after the Kosovo War, ethnic tensions began to ramp up again. Local politicians are taking advantage of fear from potential conflicts and are using nationalist slogans for their political campaigns.
  8. Foreign aid and remittances from countries such as the United States, France, and others reached more than 700 million dollars in 2017, reducing poverty and trade deficits in Kosovo, according to the country’s Central Bank.
  9. Self-employment is widely recognized as one of the solutions to poverty in Kosovo, but conducted surveys show that the low investment capital and limited access to loans keep most of the people away from starting a business.
  10. Kosovo’s transportation infrastructure is very weak, with undeveloped networks of railways and motorways. It lags behind the EU average as well as other Balkan states, such as Macedonia and Albania.

Silver lining

Despite many domestic challenges Kosovo faces regarding the economy and its infrastructure, the country is back on track in economic growth and self-sustainability. Country’s quality of life has steadily improved, while poverty has decreased over the last two decades and this can be attributed to international aid and domestic policy reform.

If Kosovo can continue to maintain its growth rate and effectively integrate foreign aid and advising into both its public and private sectors, in addition to addressing its social issues, the country can expect a brighter future for its citizens in the upcoming decades.

Alex Qi

Photo: Flickr

Revolution of DignityIn November 2013, student protests in Ukraine turned into a full-fledged revolution against government corruption that has since been dubbed the Revolution of Dignity. Now, with a new government in place, the country is attempting to align itself with its European neighbors and become a stable democracy. With multiple roadblocks in the way, such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine will need to rely on its allies in order to achieve its goals.  

How the Revolution of Dignity Began

Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity started out as a series of student protests to pressure the prime minister to sign an association agreement with the European Union. However, as the protests raged on, they became a catalyst for the rest of the country to express its discontent with larger issues with the government like the regime’s power grabs and rampant corruption.  

Despite these issues, protests only became a revolution when violence broke out between the government and protesters on Nov. 29, 2013. After this point, the goal became to overthrow the government and establish a more democratic state, one free of corruption and acting in the people’s best interests. In 2014, the people in overthrowing the government, reinstating the previous constitution and holding new elections in May.

While the revolution was successful, it was not without consequence. The destabilization in the country helped lead to the annexation of the southeastern Crimea region by the Russian Federation. On top of that, while the previous regime was friendly to the Russian government, the new one looked for a more independent governance supported by the E.U. and other western allies. With tough challenges ahead, Ukraine needed to look to allies for help.

What Allies Are Doing to Help

Since the protests initially started to pressure the Ukrainian president to sign an agreement with the E.U., it comes as no surprise that the E.U. is a key ally in helping Ukraine handle its political turmoil. One of the first things the newly elected government did was pass the Ukraine-European Union Associated Agreement and join the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These moves strengthen the nation’s economic, political and cultural ties with Europe through mutually beneficial relationships.  

While the U.S. is not as geographically close to Ukraine as the E.U., it has a vested interest in keeping the region stable and independent. Currently, over $204 million is planned in foreign aid for Ukraine. Among this, 33 percent is for peace and security, 32 percent goes toward human rights, democracy and governance, 29 percent is for economic development, and six percent goes toward health. With this aid, the U.S. hopes to keep Ukraine free of Russian influence and welcome them into the western world.

Through USAID, foreign aid is being used to help out local communities of Ukrainians.  In 2017, the organization helped 50 communities effectively manage resources and become sustainable without the central government. This not only fights corruption but also helps improve the everyday lives of Ukrainians who face instability in the face of recent changes.   

Continuing Progress in Ukraine

The aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and the struggle with Russia has left many Ukrainians in a state of upheaval. With an uncertain future and violence a real possibility, it is key that allies help the country through this traumatic point in its history. The humanitarian impact of political uncertainty is often understated in the media, but it is real. While there are larger political reasons for Ukraine’s allies to help it, the aid these allies give to the Ukrainian people has an impact on the ground that can help save many lives.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr