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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

Using Digital Land Registry to Fight Poverty
Land ownership rights and property titles are among the most critical yet inaccessible resources in developing countries. Property titles act as legitimate assets, allowing individuals to borrow important loans. However, corrupt recordkeeping practices in many countries make it difficult to prove land ownership. Without a legal title to property, it is impossible to access these financial tools and improve one’s economic standing. More than 90% of rural land on the African continent is unregistered. In India, legal ownership of land is a higher predictor of poverty than the literacy rate. In 2010, the value of unclaimed properties around the world, or “dead capital” was estimated to be $10 trillion. Today, that number has almost doubled. To efficiently provide legal property titles, a group entrepreneurs developed a way to provide digital land registry so people can have access to the.

Bitland

Bitland, a nonprofit founded by a group of entrepeneurs from the U.S., Denmark and Ghana, has introduced an innovative digital land registration system. It combines transaction records with GPS data and satellite photography to accurately document land borders and ownership. The organization utilizes blockchain technology to address land registry issues because of its low operational cost and high levels of transparency.

By serving as an intermediary between government officials and citizens who want to register land titles, the organization establishes transparency and ensures data integrity. The organization stores transactions simultaneously in multiple places throughout the blockchain, making them nearly impossible to alter. Prioritizing data security from the beginning stages makes it possible to automate the entire land registration process and streamline information flow to the system of records.

Since many developing regions lack stable infrastructure and access to electricity, Bitland plans to implement solar-powered centers and Wi-Fi hubs. These centers will also offer educational resources to locals wanting to increase their knowledge and involvement with the project.

Bitland in Ghana

Bitland began testing the system in Kumasi, a city in southern Ghana. Like many developing countries, Ghana faces corrupt administration in the public sector which creates significant obstacles for those registering their land. Nepotism and poor infrastructure perpetuate property disputes, often at the expense of citizens. Approximately 78% of land in Ghana is unregistered, preventing thousands of people from accessing their capital and securing finances for basic needs like housing, food and running water.

Bitland plans to expand its services further across the African continent over the next five years. A secure digital land registry system will help to democratize property ownership and unlock land capital.

Long-term Benefits

Advances in digital registry technology can help to improve the living conditions of many people in developing countries. In combination with progressive social policies, it has the potential to promote economic opportunity and well-being. Farmers and small business owners can benefit from the financial tools a comprehensive and functional land registry system unlocks. These systems can also aid in natural disaster recovery and relief, as well as solving land disputes which are typically handled solely by government entities.

Bitland is working to make its platform available to regions with nonexistent or poorly functioning land registry and title services. These efforts reinforce the United Nations’ outlined Sustainable Development Goals, which include eradicating poverty and providing inclusive employment and economic growth for all. Untapped property rights undermine the progress being made towards these goals. Through a combination of innovative digital land registry processes and community-based education programs, Bitland aims to mitigate corruption and bring transparency to land ownership.

 – Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Multinational Corporations in Developing Countries
Multinational corporations (MNCs) have a global presence, even in developing countries. There are over 80,000 companies that drive the 21st-century economy. For example, Coca-Cola sells its product in nearly every country and has established over 900 bottling facilities worldwide. MNCs have propelled the GDP of their parent countries, most notably the United States, Japan, China and Western Europe, but how do their international operations affect developing countries?

It is difficult to say whether multinational corporations in developing countries are decidedly ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ One must consider many perspectives before making that judgment. However, researchers have identified a variety of positive and negative impacts applicable to most MNCs.

Individual Wellbeing

Multinational corporations in developing countries employ millions of people, but the quality of these jobs is often low. When Coca-Cola instituted a bottling facility in El Salvador, its supply chain hired sugar cane harvesters. El Salvador needed this hiring surge, as its poverty rate is 25.70%. However, an Oxfam study discovered that many workers receive less than the minimum wage. Additionally, harvesters face physical risks (burns, lacerations, exhaustion). This is because their work entails cutting cane stalks with a machete in chemically treated agricultural fields.

Perhaps the most notorious examples of worker exploitation in developing countries are sweatshops. These facilities in MNC supply chains provide employment with long hours, low wages and unsafe working conditions. An estimated 250 million children work in sweatshops worldwide, working over 16 hours a day to provide products for the clothing and toy consumer base.

Some experts argue that sweatshops are helpful to local populations because they provide job opportunities that would otherwise not be there. This defense, the “Non Worseness claim,” essentially states that sweatshops are better than nothing and that even if there were regulations on improved wages and working conditions, the jobs would be outsourced to a place where those restrictions do not exist. Defenders of MNC sweatshops often cite this controversial idea.

Economics

At first glance, it may be easy to claim that MNCs are unequivocally good for developing countries’ economies. After all, they provide jobs that were not present before, even if they are dangerous and pay low wages. Additionally, MNCs bring in capital flow to developing countries by building factories, which require construction workers and surrounding infrastructure, thereby stimulating economic development in host countries.

However, beyond the short-term benefits, the economic value of multinational corporations in developing countries becomes rather hazy. Most of the profit produced by an MNC subsidiary in a developing country goes to the company’s parent country. In the case of El Salvador, most profits generated by cane harvesters return to Coca-Cola’s executives in the U.S.

When multinational countries flood the economic landscape of developing countries, small businesses and local entrepreneurs find it difficult to compete. Thus, host countries develop a kind of dependency where they cannot break off from the MNCs’ influence in fear of rising unemployment. They also cannot compete with MNCs because of their established production methods.

Solutions

The Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian nonprofits have called for supply chain transparency in MNCs, particularly clothing and footwear industries, to publicize and improve working conditions in sweatshops across the globe. These corporations would have to provide specifics about factories manufacturing their products beyond the general tag: “Made in China.”

Additionally, the social inequities surrounding MNCs appear to be a result of their intentions. Paying low wages, building factories with unsafe working conditions, and outsourcing production relate to a key goal of MNCs: the corporate mantra, “maximize shareholder value.”

But MNCs do not need to operate according to this objective. At the very least, maximizing profits is not the only objective that they can strive for. Many MNCs, such as Ben and Jerry’s and Patagonia, have altered their practices to become benefit corporations. This role includes adding the goal of benefiting the public good to their company mission. Through this method, MNCs have a chance to reverse social injustices by redirecting their profits into improving the social, environmental and economic processes in developing countries.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

cryptocurrency in AfricaCryptocurrency in Africa has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, as many people become more interested in the possible economic benefits that can come from the new technology. Cryptocurrency is entirely digital money that uses a decentralized system. As a result, there is not one entity with complete authority over the process. The whole system works over the internet allowing transactions to happen anywhere in the world with no government regulation. Bitcoin, created in 2009, is the leading cryptocurrency company in Africa. There are a variety of users, from individuals to small businesses, that use the technology for investments, banking and payment transfers across borders.

Why Cryptocurrency is So Popular in Africa

In April 2019, Google Trends data showed that Nigeria had the world’s most searches for Bitcoin. Also in 2019, South Africa has the highest volume of cryptocurrency ownership compared to internet users. It was found that 10.7% of internet users in South Africa owned Bitcoin compared to the worldwide average of 5.5%.

In 2020, despite the global economic uncertainties, COVID-19 brought by businesses closing and people not working, Bitcoin trading has continued to increase in Africa. In May 2020, Nigeria had the highest trading volume in one week at $7.2 million, its third-best P2P trading week. Kenya was second with another record week by trading $1.6 million. South Africa came in third exchanging $1.1 million in a week.

Cryptocurrency in Africa mainly gained wide popularity because of high inflation rates across the continent. In 2018, South Sudan saw rates of 83.5% compared to the previous year. Other countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe, who printed $100 trillion notes worth only $40 in 2015, also experienced double-digit inflation rates. These hyperinflation rates had many citizens doubting the economic services of their central banks and governments.

Benefits of Cryptocurrency

In an effort to protect their money from the economic turmoil in their country, Africans started transitioning to Bitcoin. Since companies like Bitcoin have no single domain, the money inside the company is not affected by a single country’s inflation rate, which allows the citizens of African countries to protect their money from a failing economy. As a result, trust for these cryptocurrency companies builds.

Cryptocurrency in African also gives its people the ability to make cross-border payments. Some African countries have a history of fraud which had caused problems with international money transfers. In Nigeria, PayPal banned citizens from receiving money from other nations because of the country’s problems with fraud. However, cryptocurrency allows these citizens to transfer and receive money from anywhere around the world without the high fees that other money transfer companies usually have.

Cryptocurrency companies are blockchain technology that stores public records in a decentralized system. This also makes it impossible to alter transactions and assets. Many African countries use this new technology, through companies like Bitcoin, to elevate their status. They also use this technology to continue pushing their economy up to a level playing field with other nations. In 2019, Kenya and Nigeria announced plans to work more closely with these companies. These countries hope that by regulating cryptocurrency companies and their technology, the governments can begin bringing its people out of immense poverty and start becoming a greater global power.

– George Hashemi 
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Madagascar

Madagascar is the fifth-largest island in the world and boasts an array of natural resources. Despite this, poverty in Madagascar ranks among the highest in the world. Due to an upturn in the economy, things may be looking up, but there is still much work to be done before conditions truly improve. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Madagascar.

10 Facts About Poverty in Madagascar

  1. The majority of people in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Currently, 75% of the population of Madagascar lives on less than $1.90 per day. This means that three-fourths of the 25.6 million inhabitants of Madagascar live beneath the international poverty line as defined by the World Bank.
  2. Children are among the hardest hit by poverty in Madagascar. More than 80% of those under 18 in Madagascar live in extreme poverty. Additionally, UNICEF declares that chronic malnutrition affects almost half of children under five, with stunted growth being a major concern.
  3. Extreme poverty pushes children in Madagascar into child labor. Approximately 5.7 million children, about half of the population under 18, participate in labor of some kind. Many of these children work instead of attending school. One in four child laborers perform work that is potentially damaging to their health.
  4. The island nation’s unique and isolated geography is also a contributing factor to poverty. For the country’s rural poor, who largely subsist on farming and fishing, climate change has been particularly detrimental. Water levels continue to rise, and Madagascar’s location makes it very susceptible to cyclones. These factors lead to drought and food insecurity in the already poor nation.
  5. Though 80% of Madagascar’s residents live in rural areas, the country is not currently able to sustain itself. Madagascar has to import 15% of essentials like rice and milk. Slash and burn farming techniques and over-farming has led to deforestation on a large scale. Only 10% of Madagascar’s original rainforest is still intact.
  6. Madagascar’s poor infrastructure also negatively affects its economy. Of the more than 30,000 miles of roads in the country, only about 11% are paved. Many of these roads become impossible to pass during the nation’s rainy season. Furthermore, railroads are not in much better shape; there are two unconnected lines in poor condition.
  7. Despite the aforementioned woes, Madagascar has seen rapid economic growth in the past few years. 2018 saw a growth of 5.1%, bringing with it a two percent increase in per capita income. Sectors such as exports, transportation and finance drive this economic growth. However, poverty continues to decrease at a slow rate: only about three percent since 2012. This slow rate most likely results from the majority of population working in agriculture, an industry that has not quite caught up with modern trends.
  8. Water scarcity and sanitation is a significant problem in Madagascar. Only about half of Madagascar’s population has access to clean water. In places with limited access to water, women and girls often bear the brunt of the work of having to collect it. This time-consuming and physically difficult work hinders their ability to attend school and earn income. In Southern Madagascar, 90% of houses lack basic sanitation needs. Open defecation is common, leading to the prevalence of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea.
  9. WaterAid is an organization that seeks to give everyone across the globe access to clean water, toilets and proper hygiene, including those in Madagascar. The organization launched its water, sanitation and hygiene plan (WASH) in Madagascar, and coordinated with local authorities to improve conditions across the nation. The National Action Plan, launched in 2017, hopes to reduce growth stunting in children under five by nearly 10%, and also aims to increase access to drinking water and proper sanitation, to 65% and 30% of households, respectively.
  10. SEED Madagascar is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works specifically in the Anosy region of Southeast Madagascar. The organization creates projects related to education, community health, environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods. All of SEED’s programs are suggested by the people of Madagascar themselves. Ideally one day, they will independently create and implement projects. In one such project, a 20,000 liter rainwater harvesting system placed on the roof of a primary school in Ambandrika provided clean water for 144 school children and 750 members of the wider community. Additional benefits of SEED’s work include allowing more time to create marketable goods as well as more time to care for children.

Poverty in Madagascar is widespread, and the situation will not improve if it is ignored. Economic growth and organizations like SEED Madagascar and WaterAid are taking important steps, but the issue must continue to be addressed.

– Joshua Roberts
Photo: Flickr

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