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

The Consequences of Inadequate Energy Access

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

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

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

Improving Energy in Africa

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

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

The 2020 African Economic Conference (AEC)

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

The New Deal on Energy in Africa

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

Electricity Access for Economic Growth

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

Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

Vanuatu's Graduation Vanuatu is a southwestern Pacific Ocean country made up of about 80 islands with a small population of around 300,000. Vanuatu has recently graduated from the list of least developed countries (LDC) despite setbacks due to ongoing natural disasters and other factors. Vanuatu’s graduation from LDC status took place on December 4, 2020. It was first recognized as an LDC in 1985.

What is the Least Developed Country List?

Less developed countries are countries that struggle with maintaining sustainable development, causing them to be low-income countries. In 1971, The United Nations created a category list of the least developed countries in the world. The United Nations reviews and checks the list every three years based on the country’s economic vulnerability, income per capita and human assets. There are currently about 46 countries on the least developed country list. Angola is another country that will be scheduled for its graduation in 2021. Vanuatu has recently joined the five other countries that were able to graduate since the creation of the least developed country list.

Although less developed countries are economically vulnerable, they receive special international aid to help with creating sustainable development. These countries also have specific trade with other nations that are not accessible to more developed nations. This is why less-developed nations are sometimes referred to as “emerging markets.” The majority of the support that countries in the least developed countries list receive is either directly from or set up by the U.N. Committee for Development Policy.

The Success Behind Vanuatu’s Graduation

Vanuatu graduates form the least developed country list despite major setbacks due to climate change, natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to other countries that graduated, most of Vanuatu’s success is as a result of the international aid which enabled the country’s stable economic growth. In addition to the aid, Vanuatu has also had success in its strong agriculture sector. The increased diversification in agricultural crops and stocks has helped with the per capita income and human assets criteria for the least developed countries list.

When it comes to the economic vulnerability criteria, Vanuatu is still at risk despite graduating. The risk of economic vulnerability stems from the prevalent natural disasters. Even though the country has shown consistent economic growth, the external shocks from natural disasters are out of the country’s control as it faces about two to three disasters a year. However, there is still a great chance that Vanuatu will have continued success in maintaining sustainable development.

Maintaining Sustainable Development

The most well-known source of maintaining sustainable development for less developed countries is through international aid. Even though Vanuatu has graduated from the least developed country list, the country still is able to receive aid and continue its trading relationships with countries it was given priority to when classified as a less developed nation. For instance, Vanuatu had still received $10 million in emergency aid from the World Bank organization. The funding was for the impact that both COVID-19 and a tropical cyclone had on Vanuatu earlier in 2020.

Significant Success for Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s graduation from the least developed country list is a significant achievement that demonstrates the country’s ability to maintain consistency in its economic growth, while also overcoming challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. Although the graduation signifies major growth, there is still more economic stability that is needed before the country can significantly reduce its economic vulnerability.

– Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation ProgramOf the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the first one sets an ambitious target. To end poverty in all its forms, everywhere and to leave no one behind. One such organization embracing this challenge is Bangladesh’s BRAC. BRAC is one of the world’s largest nongovernmental development organizations founded in Bangladesh that has done a tremendous amount of work fighting extreme poverty in Bangladesh. BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program has seen success globally.

Poverty Progress in Bangladesh

Nestled between India and Myanmar in South Asia, Bangladesh has made enormous strides in combating extreme poverty in a relatively short amount of time. In a little over a decade, 25 million people were lifted out of poverty. Between 2010 and 2016, eight million people were lifted out of poverty in Bangladesh.

Although poverty rates were seeing a steady decrease, those living in extreme poverty in Bangladesh still lacked basic safety nets and support from NGO services.

BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) Program

In 2002, BRAC introduced the innovative Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) program in an attempt to apply innovative approaches to solve extreme poverty in Bangladesh and across the globe.

The UPG program aims to provide long-term holistic support for those in extreme poverty to lift themselves out of poverty and graduate to a more resilient and sustainable life. This is done by addressing the social, economic and health needs of poor families while empowering them to learn new skills and better financial management.

BRAC believes that while traditional government interventions such as food aid and cash transfers are impactful and have a role to play, these benefits, unfortunately, remain out of reach for many in extreme poverty and are certainly not a long-term solution.

BRAC’s UPG program sets to build skill sets and assets to ensure families are equipped to become food secure, independent and achieve economical sustainability.

The Success of UPG Programs Globally

The program has found success inside and outside Bangladesh and has received praise and acknowledgment in some of the world’s most impoverished regions.

Take for example the country of South Sudan. From 2013 to 2015 BRAC piloted a project involving 240 women. The program provided support for the women to receive food stipends, asset transfers and various skills training that included financial and basic savings skills.

Shortly after the women received training and support, the South Sudanese Civil War escalated, ravaging the country and causing inflation and food shortages.

Despite these shocks, 97% of the 240 women were still able to increase their consumption thanks to the resources, assets and skills they obtained during the program. Also, their children were 53% less likely to be underweight and malnourished, compared to those who had not been in the program.

More Success in Afghanistan and Other Countries

Another example comes from Afghanistan, where a widowed woman in the Bamiyan province received a flock of sheep and training from BRAC. Since then, she has been able to generate enough income to feed her family, send her grandchildren to school,  sell additional products and save for the future.

From 2007 to 2014, a large-scale UPG program across Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan and Peru saw a 4.9% increase in household consumption, 13.6% increase in asset values and a 95.7% increase in savings pooled across all countries.

The success of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program can be clearly seen from the results. It is an innovative program that aims to end all poverty and leave no one behind and is successfully on its way to doing so.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

prosper africaAfrican markets claim six out of 10 of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Africa’s middle-class is likely to have an annual household consumption of $2 trillion before 2030, and by 2050, the U.N. predicts that Africa will be home to one-quarter of the world’s population. Prosper Africa is an initiative that strengthens U.S. investment in Africa.

US-Africa Ties

Nations such as Germany and China are competing for investments in Africa in preparation for its burgeoning role in the global economy. In the past 20 years, the United States has also attempted a number of initiatives to expand U.S.-Africa economic ties. Unfortunately, results have been modest because the focus has been on Africa as a foreign aid recipient rather than a strong future trading partner. However, Prosper Africa’s latest initiative, set to launch in 2021, offers hope for a more engaged economic partnership between the U.S. and Africa.

Prosper Africa

Prosper Africa was launched in December 2018 to “vastly accelerate” U.S.-Africa trade and investment through the coordination of 17 U.S. agencies and departments. This mutually beneficial endeavor not only opens market opportunities and grows Africa’s economic sustainability, but also protects the United States’ interests in the competition against other nations’ involvement in Africa.

Far from being a foreign aid program, Prosper Africa’s official website acts as a one-stop-shop for U.S. and African businesses and investors. It offers toolkits for African businesses and investors seeking to export or invest in the United States and vice versa for U.S. businesses and investors seeking to become involved in Africa. According to the website, Prosper Africa represents “a new way of doing business” through its portfolio of support services. To date, the initiative has serviced more than 280 deals valued at more than $22 billion. In keeping with its expanding ambitions, Prosper Africa’s budget request for the 2021 fiscal year rose from FY2020’s $50 million to $75 million.

Prosper Africa: 2021 Plans

On Nov. 17, 2020, USAID announced a new Prosper Africa trade and investment program for 2021. Valued at $500 million over five years, its goal is to expand Prosper Africa’s services. The four project objectives are increased trade, increased investment, improved business environment and providing support for USAID and Prosper Africa. A strong emphasis will be placed on private investment. By 2026, the program is expected to raise billions of dollars and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in both Africa and the United States.

It is still uncertain exactly what this program will look like. The program’s blueprints from Feb. 2020 describe its implementation approach fairly loosely. It aims to be flexible in shaping private sector demands concerning the facilitation and brokering of deals. Most of its transactions will take place directly through the firms and actors involved.

In addition to Prosper Africa’s website toolkits, local offices and trade hubs will provide further customizable services to align with the needs of different sectors. Some examples of services include investor matchmaking, transaction facilitation, targeted reforms and export support. Resource allocation will be determined by impact potential. Opportunities within the private sector will comprise the majority of activities and projects may be funded by grants or subcontracts. Throughout its services, Prosper Africa encourages African states to support economic transparency and rule of law.

Prosper Africa’s Chances of Success

Because Prosper Africa is effectively a harmonization of 17 U.S. agencies and departments, success largely comes down to effective cooperation. However, the initiative’s goals vary in difficulty. For example, Prosper Africa has already made impressive strides in streamlining its toolkits and providing specific U.S. services to aid transactions. However, more long-range goals, such as procedural reform and transparency, sector expansion, the rule of law and improving business environments may prove more challenging to achieve. However, from an economic standpoint, it is certainly encouraging to see Prosper Africa approach U.S.-Africa relations as an equal, viable trade partnership rather than merely an aid recipient.

Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Tony Elumelu FoundationThe ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting nations around the world, including the nations of Africa. Many African nations responded to the pandemic with strict lockdowns and social distancing initiatives, often stronger than that of European nations. However, the people of Africa face a much more severe economic impact. Although poverty reduction measures have been met with success across the continent, roughly 500 million Africans still live in extreme poverty. The sub-Saharan areas of Africa have the highest rates of poverty in the world, estimated at 55% in 2014. Foreign direct investment is down by 40% and 49 million more Africans could fall into extreme poverty in the world’s first global poverty increase since 1988. The Tony Elumelu Foundation hopes to reduce poverty in Africa through entrepreneurship.

The Tony Elumelu Foundation

A nonprofit operating since 2010, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) fights global poverty in Africa through the funding of entrepreneurs and small enterprises, These are the very types of businesses that the pandemic impacted most, both across the world and in Africa. With an endowment of $100 million, the organization has already had significant success propagating what it terms “Africapitalism,” which is the use of the private sector for economic growth and development.

The EU Partnership

In December 2020, the European Union (EU) announced a formal partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation. The plan comes as part of two broader EU strategies: the EU External Investment Plan and the EU Gender Action Plan. It involves technical training and financial support for 2,500 female African entrepreneurs in 2021 across all 54 African countries through 20 million euros in increased capital. Speaking on the partnership, Tony Elumelu, the founder of the TEF, expressed delight in being able to partner with the EU and said the partnership will create great opportunities for African women who have “endured systemic obstacles to starting, growing and sustaining their businesses.” The Commissioner for EU International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, stated that empowering female entrepreneurs is an integral part of creating sustainable jobs and growth.

How Entrepreneurship Helps

In Central Africa, approximately 71% of jobs are in the informal sector. These jobs are particularly vulnerable to lockdowns. The strict measures put in place as responses to COVID-19 have left many of these people jobless. Entrepreneurship creates more stable jobs and allows a country to be more self-sufficient and can be just as effective as foreign or philanthropic aid in fighting poverty.

Even after the effects of the pandemic subside, Africa still has much to do to eradicate poverty. Fostering entrepreneurship is an innovative approach to this economic problem, one that the Tony Elumelu Foundation has seen significant results with, with more than 9,000 entrepreneurs mentored before the partnership with the EU. The full impact of these endeavors remains to be seen but the potential exists for African entrepreneurs to have a major impact on poverty in Africa. The TEF’s partnership with the EU will only intensify these positive impacts.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways Haiti Uses Its Foreign AidAccording to The World Bank, Haiti currently ranks as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Of its 11 million residents, more than half live in poverty and an estimated 2.5 million of that demographic live in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.12 USD a day. The Human Development Index metric assesses the development of a country based on the upward mobility of its residents. On this scale, Haiti ranks 169 of the 189 countries which have been analyzed.

In addition, Haiti has a history that demonstrates its vulnerability to natural disasters. In 2010, the country was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 and displaced 1.5 million Haitians. Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, struck the island in 2015. The disaster claimed the lives of hundreds, displaced thousands and created a humanitarian crisis for over a million residents. The provision of foreign aid in Haiti has tremendously restored much of the damage incurred from these disasters. It has also been crucial in creating momentum in the nation’s development. The following are the five primary sectors in which Haiti has invested the $172.5M it has received in foreign aid from the United States.

Political Infrastructure and Democracy

Given its history of political instability, one of Haiti’s primary focuses is developing its democratic system and providing the means to facilitate the exchange of ideas between its government and constituents. To this end, programs have been instituted to improve the rule of law and the preservation of human rights, as well as investments in infrastructure, which provide mediums for constituents to interact with their political ecosystem. This comes in the form of developing media platforms and the formation of advocacy and interest groups. The country is currently in the midst of political gridlock, so the investments being made toward its democratic development are essential for Haiti’s development.

Economic Development

Like many developing countries, Haiti depends heavily on agriculture for economic output. To this end, the agriculture sector receives much of the aid allocated to economic development. Even with half of the Haitian workforce being employed in the agricultural sector, there is still a shortage of output. As nearly 60% of the country’s food supply has to be imported, there is still much room for development in this sector. Moreover, much of the remaining budgetary allocation that goes toward economic development is invested in infrastructure. This is absolutely essential in facilitating economic activity. This comes in the form of electric power lines and networks, gas stations, airports, railways, and more.

Administrative Costs

Every program instituted to carry out the functions necessary to assist in these developments requires manpower and infrastructure. Thus, it is paramount that a sizable percentage of Haiti’s foreign aid goes to this sector. This is the price of business in a developing country. Any given program or project requires personnel who need to be trained, housed and compensated. Furthermore, the housing programs require funding to compensate the contractors who build them and the cost of executing varying tasks. This expenditure can often be overlooked, but it is vital to development. Aside from the funding necessary to establish these programs, those who oversee these expenditures and evaluate the performance of the instituted programs receive aid compensation.

Humanitarian Efforts

The two natural disasters of the last decade have caused major developmental setbacks and internally displaced persons. Therefore, much of the foreign aid in Haiti goes into natural disaster readiness and the expenses involved in supporting those who have lost everything. It is through foreign aid that Haiti was able to house the 1.5M displaced individuals temporarily in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and again with the 188,000 displaced after hurricane Matthew in 2015. In 2020, this aid has helped Haiti battle not only with the health imperatives implicated by COVID-19, but in managing the increasing costs of its food imports. As a result of the pandemic, the global market put a premium on international trade, further straining Haiti’s budget.

Health Issues

Haiti puts the majority of its foreign aid towards health issues. These can include reproductive health, safe water supply, maternal and child health and now mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This investment of foreign aid has led to notable improvements in the state of these issues. An increase from 5% to 20% occurred in women being discharged with a long term contraceptive in place.

Additionally, access to potable water has increased from 43% to 59% in 2016 and there is an ongoing installation of proper sanitation facilities throughout the country. There has also been an increased effort to educate residents on the dangers of poor sanitation. The most pressing health issue that Haiti currently faces is the battle against HIV/AIDS; thus it demands the greatest allocation of aid invested in this sector. Roughly 160,000 Haitian residents live with this disease, and its spread is on the rise. However, through investments made in testing and treatment throughout the country, the progression of the rise in deaths and infections is slowing. Since 2010, deaths have decreased by 45% and the number of new cases per annum has changed from 8,800 to 7,300.

Haiti is a country where political turmoil, a struggling economy, food insecurity and considerable setbacks on all these fronts. Moreover, the results of natural disasters cause achieving a developed status to be difficult. However, foreign aid has played an essential role in Haiti’s recovery and in assisting in creating development momentum.

Christian Montemayor
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

Women's Economic EmpowermentA whole two billion impoverished people worldwide, particularly women, are financially and economically excluded. Females are the poorest in the world and women earn on average only 60 to 75% of what men earn. Investing in women’s economic empowerment plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and establishing equality between men and women.

Gender Equality for Global Economic Advancement

The 2017 National Security Strategy states that societies that empower women in their civic and economic lives are more prosperous and peaceful. Studies show that gender equality contributes to advancing economies and sustainable development as well as overall poverty reduction.

CARE defines women’s economic empowerment as the process by which women increase their right to economic resources and power to make decisions that benefit themselves, their families and their communities. It is the transformative process that helps females move from limited economic power to possessing skills, resources and opportunities to compete equitably in markets and control economic gains. Women’s economic empowerment involves transforming the historically-limiting laws, policies, practices and norms through change and advocacy.

Women remain disproportionately affected by discrimination and exploitation. Women often end up in low-wage jobs and fill very few senior positions. Without secure employment, women lose access to economic assets such as land and loans, which limits opportunities to participate in economic and social policies.  Furthermore, many women are responsible for the majority of housework, which leaves little time to pursue employment or other economic opportunities. On average, women devote between one and three hours more a day to housework than men and two to 10 times the amount of time a day to child, elderly and sick care.

Additionally, laws in many countries determine what jobs women can do or give men the right to prevent their wives from accepting jobs.

Call to Action on Women’s Economic Empowerment

In October 2020, U.S. officials and 31 U.N. Member States virtually signed the Call to Action on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which encourages countries to address legal restrictions regarding women’s economic participation. Predictions are that if an equal number of men and women participate in the global economy, the gross domestic product (GDP) could increase by $12 trillion by 2025.

Improved financial security means women can afford healthcare, purchase essentials for their children and play a leadership role in their communities. Typically, women who decide where, when and how to spend their money see improvements in their social and economic status. Financially independent women also increase the level of resources devoted to their children.

Girl Power and the Future

There is strong evidence showing positive links between women’s economic empowerment and health outcomes for women and their families. This includes benefits in nutrition, better family planning and decreased maternal and child mortality. Other studies have found that increasing the share of income for women may provide greater investment in children’s education and result in reductions in gender-based violence. Overall, women’s economic empowerment benefits not just women but the entire world.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

GR for GRowth initiative in GreeceUnemployment in Greece has remained a concern among Greeks since the financial crisis that devastated the economy. During the financial crisis, the Greek economy experienced a 25% decline. While the economy has attempted to recover, the economy continues to experience the impact of the financial crisis, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to reduce the economy by another 8.2%. In July 2020, the unemployment rate in Greece reached 16.8%. While many Greeks fight to withstand the struggling economy, Microsoft is creating solutions through its GR for GRowth initiative in Greece. The Greek government anticipates that this initiative will rebalance the economy during the pandemic, shifting its heavy reliance from tourism to further developments in energy, tech and defense sectors.

GR for GRowth Initiative and the Economy

In October 2020, Microsoft announced an initiative in Greece that will create opportunities in technology. Microsoft’s ongoing investment is expected to reach approximately $1.17 billion. This will be the largest investment Microsoft has made over 28 years when it first began operations in Greece. The GR for GRowth initiative in Greece will build data centers in the country and develop resources in the economy that will promote growth opportunities that support the people of Greece, government and businesses. The leverage Greece will acquire through this initiative will attract other large corporations that will promote future investments in the Greek economy.

Currently, Microsoft operates data centers in 26 countries, including seven in the European Union. With this initiative, Microsoft will build new data centers that will create a Microsoft Cloud within the country that will provide Greece with a competitive edge as one of the world’s largest cloud infrastructures with access to effective and efficient cloud services. It is anticipated that by 2025, Microsoft will run all data centers on renewable energy sources.

Potential Impact of GR for GRowth

The GR for GRowth initiative in Greece will enhance cloud computing for local companies, startups and institutions. The services delivered through Microsoft Cloud will allow for more efficient networking, computing, intelligent business applications, cybersecurity, data residency and compliance standards. Microsoft has already implemented processes to increase user satisfaction and has collaborated with businesses in Greece for the development of cloud services. Alpha Bank, Eurobank, National Bank of Greece, OTE Group, Piraeus Bank and Public Power Corporation are anticipating the expansion of cloud services in Greece.

While the data center is Microsoft’s largest investment in Greece in 28 years, Microsoft has been paramount in building partnerships with over 3,000 businesses and customers throughout the years. The GR for GRowth initiative will stimulate innovation and growth within the Greek economy. Microsoft President, Brad Smith, believes this investment will positively influence the optimism about the future of Greece, government decisionmaking and economic recovery.

GR for GRowth and the Workforce

While unemployment has plagued the Greek economy, through this initiative, Microsoft will offer training opportunities that will equip more than 100,0000 people with skills in digital technologies by 2025. Over the next five years, Microsoft plans to invest in enhancing digital competencies across the public sector, among business and IT professionals, educators and students. The program will consist of online and in-person courses and workshops. Microsoft’s program objectives will focus on upskilling customers and partners, collaborating with public sector government entities and the expansion of the ReGeneration program that provides services to youth, unemployed and underserved communities.

According to the prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the GR for GRowth initiative in Greece gives hope to the people of Greece for rebuilding its workforce. While the economy in Greece continues to struggle, this initiative hopes to solve economic battles and create a sustainable and prosperous economy.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Energy Projects in MozambiqueOn September 9, 2020, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) approved two energy projects in Mozambique. The recent decision resulted in a loan of $200 million to Centra Térmica de Temane for a power plant and $1.5 billion in risk assurance to support the commercialization of Mozambique’s natural gas reserves. The purpose of these projects is to create access to energy and an opportunity for economic growth fueled by Mozambique’s natural gas reserves. The DFC energy projects in Mozambique constitute a substantial investment by the U.S. that will make good on the Prosper Africa pledge which aims to increase U.S. investment in Africa.

Keeping its Promise to Africa

The Prosper Africa initiative serves to create business opportunities in Africa and increase two-way trade and investment with the intent to benefit companies, investors and workers in the U.S. and Africa. Dennis Hearne, U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique, spoke highly of the two projects stating, “These projects will have a significant development impact in Mozambique, improve lives and create a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the country to build a more prosperous future for all Mozambicans.”

Jumpstarting Economic Growth

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of less than $500. It is the job of the DFC to prioritize projects in areas that are low income. DFC investment for energy projects in Mozambique could create a lot of private capital in the country and jumpstart economic growth.

The DFC will provide up to $1.5 billion in political risk insurance to advance the development, construction and operation of an onshore liquefaction plant that will commercialize Mozambique’s natural gas reserves in the Rovuma Basin. This project could turn the country into a major energy exporter and increase the GDP by an average of $15 billion per year, creating long-term economic growth. The development will envelop the entire country, boosting sectors aside from oil and gas.

Diversifying Power Resources

Those in Mozambique who are lucky enough to have electricity rely almost entirely on one colonial-era dam called Cahora Bassa. The dam provides more than 2,000 megawatts out of the approximate 2,800 megawatts installed capacity. Due to extreme weather conditions, the Zambezi River, which powers the dam, flows irregularly, “putting the country’s entire power system at great risk.” The DFC’s proposed power plant will be powered by Mozambique’s natural gas reserves, providing a different source of electricity that is also reliable.

Creating a Power Infrastructure

Only 29% of Mozambicans have electricity in their homes, making it an energy-poor country. Companies with a grid connection still rely on diesel 17% of the time and biomass (wood and charcoal) accounts for 60% of the country’s primary energy use.

In order to develop, construct and operate a 420-megawatt power plant with a 25-kilometer interconnection line and 560-kilometer transmission line, the DFC will loan Central Térmica de Temane up to $200 million. Not only will the power plant diversify the country’s power resources but will also reduce the cost of electricity. Furthermore, it will allow Mozambique to use its own natural gas supply to increase power generation and support the government’s plans to develop the national electricity system.

Balancing Exports and Domestic Use of Natural Gas

Mozambique’s natural gas reserves are abundant and will provide the country with an incredible income. However, Mozambique is uninterested in exporting all of its natural gas to Europe and Asia. The DFC will help Mozambique attain the generation infrastructure that will allow the country to use natural gas to power its homes and businesses and it will support large-scale liquified natural gas export facilities in order to bring revenue into Mozambique.

The completion of the DFC energy projects in Mozambique will take Mozambique from one of the poorest countries with regard to revenue and energy to a major energy exporter with long-term economic growth. These projects will help the economy grow, provide the country with a diverse power infrastructure and balance its natural gas usage. These investments will also fulfill the Prosper Africa pledge in which the U.S. vowed to increase investment in Africa. Overall, U.S.-Africa relations will benefit, and more importantly, a prosperous future will lie ahead for the people of Mozambique.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr