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Technology in West AfricaThroughout history, new technology has always been one of the key factors in driving both the economy as a whole, as well as a specific economic sector. New inventions drive new innovations, and as a result, significant advancements are made. Now, technology is driving agriculture in West Africa as well, with both new and familiar ideas paving the way forward. Here are some of the most notable technologies and advancements pushing agricultural expansion in West African countries like Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria.

Clean Energy in Ghana

One of the keys to most modern technology involves energy: sustainable energy, of course, being among the most ideal (and often cheapest) options. Solar power is making electricity available for more and more West Africans every day. There is also a massive project in the works to create a solar power facility in Ghana. Composed of 630,000 photovoltaic modules, the Nzema Solar Power Station will bring electricity to the homes of more than 100,000 Ghanaians. With this clean energy, new technologies that push agriculture and other economic sectors forward can be powered.

Access to Smartphones

Tied closely with the push for energy is the advancement of the smartphone across West Africa. Smartphone ownership has increased to around 30-35 percent in Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria. Smartphones are an absolutely integral driving force for agriculture and technology in West Africa. With access to a smartphone and the internet, farmers can gain easier and more convenient access to information about local markets and upcoming weather forecasts, improving their ability to adapt to shifts in both the environment and the economy. Not only that, but smartphones also allow farmers to purchase insurance and get other financial services, such as banking.

Technologies Boosting Agriculture

In Nigeria, one company named Hello Tractor is making use of the increased spread of smartphones by creating an app designed for renting and sharing tractors with farmers. Farmers can use the app to communicate with nearby owners of tractors, and schedule bookings for the usage of those tractors on specific days. This reduces the barrier of entry to farming as a profession, and as a result is a massive boon to the agricultural sector. With West African companies such as Hello Tractor innovating upon smartphone technology and the Internet of Things, technology in West Africa is once again driving agriculture.

There are also other technologies which may be potentially transformative to agriculture in West Africa. The more recent advancements in 3D printing may offer another pathway to increase efficiency. In West African companies with less intricate transportation infrastructure, 3D printing offers a cheaper way to obtain farming tools by producing them yourself rather than paying expensive shipping fees. In Nigeria, there is a permanent set-up dedicated to manufacturing replacement parts for local industries in order to provide them more efficiently and at a lower cost. The market for this is expanding as well, as there are U.S firms investing in this technology in the region. The installment also offers training programs for local workers so that they can learn the skills necessary to operate such technology.

Another potential, yet controversial advancement is in the sector of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In Ghana particularly, cowpea is a crop prized for its energizing properties, eaten traditionally by farmers before working in the field. However, the crop is dying faster each year due to insects. GMOs could offer one potential path to solving this issue and stabilizing cowpea for West African farmers. Though scientists are still in widespread debate about the safety and usability of genetically modified cowpeas in particular, the technology could regardless offer another potential path to advancement for the West African agricultural sector.

Future for Technology in West Africa

Ultimately, the most important and consistent technology for the future of agriculture in West Africa is found in information technology. Smartphone presence becoming more widespread allows access to market data, weather data, financial services, and even access to rental services like those of Hello Tractor. Western Sydney University is also working on a mobile application specifically streamlined for usage by farmers, providing access to many of these services all in one app.

Overall, it is clear to see that technology is driving agriculture in West Africa. With all of these new advancements, it is reasonable to expect West Africa to continue pushing its agricultural sector forward. With solar power expansion, 3D printing, smartphone access, and rental services like Hello Tractor, the informational landscape of West Africa will be transformed significantly over the next several years.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Ghana

The West African nation of Ghana is a vibrant country filled with natural beauty and rich culture. However, like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana suffers from a high poverty rate and lack of access to adequate health care. In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service, 23 percent of the total population lives in poverty and approximately 2.4 million Ghanaians are living in “extreme poverty.” That being said, many organizations and groups — both national and global — are working to improve health care in Ghana.

Malaria in Ghana

A disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is a common concern throughout much of West Africa, including Ghana where it is the number one cause of death. In fact, according to the WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report, nearly 4.4 million confirmed malaria cases were reported in Ghana in 2018 — accounting for approximately 15 percent of the country’s total population.

All that in mind, many NGOs, as well as international government leaders, have taken up the mantle to eliminate malaria in Ghana. This includes leadership from the United States under the President’s Malaria Initiative or PMI which lays out comprehensive plans for Ghana to achieve its goal of successfully combating malaria.

With a proposed FY 2019 budget of $26 million, the PMI will ramp up its malaria control interventions including the distribution of vital commodities to the most at-risk citizens. For instance, the PMI aims to ensure that intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) is more readily accessible for Ghanaian women. Progress has been made, too, as net use of IPTp by pregnant Ghanaian women has risen from 43 percent to 50 percent since 2016. This is just one example of the many ways in which PMI is positively contributing to the reduction and elimination of malaria in Ghana.

National Health Care System

National leaders are also doing their part to positively impact health care in Ghana. In 2003, the government made a huge step toward universal health coverage for its citizens by launching the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). As of 2017, the percentage of the population enrolled in the scheme declined to 35 percent from 41 percent two years prior. However, 73 percent of those enrolled renewed their membership and “persons below the age of 18 years and the informal sector workers had significantly higher numbers of enrolment than any other member group,” according to the Global Health Research and Policy.

It is difficult to truly understand Ghana’s health issues without considering firsthand perspectives. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Enoch Darko, an emergency medicine physician who graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School, commented on some of the health issues that have plagued Ghana in recent decades. “A lot of problems that most third world countries, including Ghana, deal with are parasitic diseases such as malaria and gastroenteritis. Though health issues like diabetes and hypertension still remain in countries around the world, and even the United States, the difference is that some diseases that have been eradicated in Western countries still remain in countries like Ghana,” Darko said. “Many people in Ghana simply do not see a doctor for routine checkups like in the United States. Rather, most people will only go to see a doctor when they are feeling sick. As a result, lesser symptoms may go unchecked, thus contributing to the prevalence and spread of disease and infection. Combined with the fact that many Ghanaians in rural communities may not have sufficient money to afford treatment or medicine, this becomes a cycle for poor or sick Ghanaians.”

That said, it is hoped that with continued support from international players as well as government intervention, the country can continue to make strides in addressing health care for its citizens.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

 

Agriculture in AfricaAfrica boasts one of the biggest farming industries in the world. Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of the continent’s paid employment and 30 percent of its overall GDP. However, due to a lack of market information, modern farming technologies and financial stability in smallholder farming, the continent suffers from low farming productivity. With so much of Africa’s development being dependent on agriculture and farming, low productivity rates pose an array of problems for the continent’s pursuit of advancement. These five tech start-ups are tackling these issues and transforming agriculture in Africa.

5 Tech Start-Ups Transforming Agriculture in Africa

  1. ZenvusZenvus is a Nigerian tech start-up centered around precision farming and is rapidly transforming agriculture in Africa. Farmers in Africa often don’t have access to information that could help improve their harvesting yields, and Zenvus is looking to change that with an innovative solution that uses propriety technology to collect data like soil nutrients and moisture, PH values and vegetative health. The information is collected and sent to a cloud server through GSM, satellite, or wifi networks, at which point the farmers receive advice from the program. This data arms them with the best information in seeking the proper fertilizer for their crops, optimizing their irrigation systems while encouraging data-driven farming for small-scale farmers. Zenvus also provides specialized cameras to track the growth of crops, as well as features like zCaptial that provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity raise capital by providing collected data from the program’s precision farming sensors to give banks an overall sense of profitability in farms registered with the service.
  2. M-FarmM-Farm is a tech service app based in Kenya that provides small-scale farmers with information on retail prices of products, prospective buyers in local markets and up-to-date information on agricultural trends. Information is gathered daily by independent collectors using geocodes and is then sent to subscribers phones via SMS messages. Collectors use geocoding to ensure that all pricing and market-related data is being collected from traders that are located in the users’ actual markets. The app, which now serves 7,000 users and tracks 42 different kinds of crops in five major markets throughout Kenya, aims to help small-scale farmers connect directly with suppliers, and even provides considerable discounts on fertilizers and seeds.
  3. EsokoEsoko is another striking example of a tech start-up transforming agriculture in Africa where, historically, many farmers had a limited understanding of market pricing and agricultural trade. Market middlemen often took advantage of this and persuaded unknowing farmers to sell products well below market price. In 2005, Esoko aimed to change that by providing farmers with real-time information on market prices, weather forecasts and agricultural techniques through SMS messaging. The start-up currently serves one million users across 19 African countries, gained $1.25 million in equity from two major venture capital companies, with a study finding that farmers who used the app were able to increase profits by 11 percent.
  4. Apollo Agriculture – Founded in Nairobi in 2014, this tech start-up has raised $1.6 million in the pursuit of helping small-scale farmers get maximum profits for their products and diminish credit risk. The start-up does this through machine learning, remote sensing and the utilization of mobile phone technologies. Apollo Agriculture not only assesses credit risk for farmers, but it also uses satellite data to provide personalized packages specific to farmer behavior, location, crop yields and even soil and vegetation health.
  5. Kilimo SalamaKilimo Salama (Safe Agriculture) founded in 2010, is a Kenyan tech start-up that provides small-scale farmers a more informed approach to weather index/micro-insurance for their land. The start-up uses an app to send users SMS messages regarding weather patterns and up-to-date climate data. This ensures that users can more readily prepare for weather that might be detrimental to their crops. The app also includes a feature that allows users to receive confirmation of insurance payouts through SMS messaging. Users also receive educational messages with tips and techniques on how to increase productivity, food security and crop protection.

Africa suffers from low farm productivity due to an array of issues like financial instability, limited access to modern farming technologies and lack of information. However, countless tech start-ups across the continent are actively combating these issues with innovative tech solutions for transforming agriculture in Africa.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Countries That Escaped From PovertyEradicating poverty from a country can be a difficult and daunting task, but it is not impossible. Some countries are able to develop solutions that bring their economy and their people out of disastrous living conditions. Here is a list of five countries that escaped from poverty and created a better future for their citizens.

5 Countries that Escaped From Poverty

  1. Ghana: In 1990, this small West African nation had a GDP per capita of $1,900 with a poverty rate of 52 percent. By 2018, their GDP had reached an all-time high of $4,211.85 and their poverty rate was cut to 21 percent. Their extreme poverty rate also dropped from 35.6 percent to 18.2 percent within the same time. How were they able to do this? The country focused on educating its citizens to be a well-educated workforce. This allowed them to industrialize and put people in charge that had the knowledge and resources to succeed. Agriculture was the main area of employment back in 1990, but with a diversification of the economy, they were able to boost other sectors to create more jobs. This included the manufacturing and exportation of technological goods and mining that helped them become one of the top producers in gold in the world.
  2. Norway: Having the highest standards of living in the world is not an easy feat. The GDP per capita of Norway as of 2018 is sitting at $8,1807.20, the highest in the country’s history. But they haven’t always had this success. Norway was once one of the poorest nations in the world. During the turn of the 20th century, the Northern European nation’s economy was reliant on agriculture and fishing industries. When these began to fail, hundreds of thousands of Norwegians began to leave the country to escape from poverty for economic opportunity elsewhere. It wasn’t until after World War II that Norway’s economy began to trend upward. The United States provided aid to the country that was ravaged by the fighting and they used the aid help kick start their battered economy. Once oil was discovered off their shores in the North Sea in the 1970s, their economy flourished and they have been consistently trending upwards ever since.
  3. Singapore: The small city-state of Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia in 1965. It was a rough start for the people and their economy. The country’s GDP per capita stood at $516 and more than 70 percent of the people lived in the slums with half of the population unable to read or write. Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister at the time and he installed reforms that were very successful for the people of Singapore and their economy. He began by revamping the education system and creating a workforce that was highly skilled and well trained. To bring in foreign investment, Singapore developed an attractive tax system that is one of the lowest in Asia. This would bring in shipping and manufacturing businesses to their shores. With the influx of money and a rise in the economy, they were able to improve the infrastructure and housing of the country that gave a boost to the standard of living. The country’s escape from poverty has been a success, as Singapore’s current GDP per capita is $57,714.30 as of 2017.
  4. Bolivia: Once regarded as one of the poorest nations in South America, landlocked Bolivia is now a rapidly growing economy. The country’s poverty rate plummeted from 59 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in 2015, while at the same time extreme poverty dropped from 38 percent to 18 percent. The recent success of Bolivia can be contributed to the policies of the current leader Evo Morales installed to fight poverty. He implemented price controls over the products being sold in Bolivia such as food and gasoline so the poor could properly afford these items. While this didn’t create jobs, it did increase spending and allowed the economy to grow. Morales also created a pension of $258 to go towards those aged 60 and up to allow the elderly to escape from poverty.
  5. South Korea: After years of Japanese occupation and the end of the Korean War, South Korea’s economy was suffering in the 1950s. South Korea was not an industrialized nation and the main focus of its economy was agriculture. In 1960, South Korea’s GDP per capita was $79, which changed once General Park Chung-hee took charge of the country. Chung-hee implemented a five-year plan in 1962 that industrialized South Korea, creating jobs for the people. Companies like Hyundai, Samsung and LG would receive economic incentives, such as tax breaks, to help grow their businesses. South Korea also took advantage of U.S. economic assistance in exchange for letting the United States military keep troops in the country. Today, South Korea is a thriving economy, and as of 2017, enjoys a GDP per capita of just under $30,000. In addition, the country now accounts for $56 billion of U.S. exports, indicating a strong return on the $5.6 billion of aid invested decades ago.

Being able to rid a country from the grips of poverty involves a certain level of risk and ingenuity. Whether it’s by using the resources in their country, receiving foreign aid from other countries or changing their economic system, these countries that escaped from poverty show it is possible.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

wave power
Rising standards of living and increased populations mean one thing; developing countries will need to greatly increase their capacity to produce energy. Electrical grids are inefficient in most impoverished nations. This creates an opportunity for countries and local communities to adopt renewable sources to meet growing electricity demands.

Interest is increasing in renewable energy and the positive impact it can have on developing nations. The excitement surrounding renewables emphasizes the growing efficiency and effectiveness of solar, wind and, to a lesser extent, hydroelectric power. There is another renewable energy option—wave power—which offers a consistent source of power with relatively high efficiency.

Over 40 percent of the World’s population lives on a coastline. Widespread coastal access translates to a vast reserve of untapped energy. New technology can harness this energy. On a local scale, wave power could support micro-grids that generate and distribute electricity for small communities. Additionally, developing countries stand to benefit, as ocean-produced hydro-energy is remarkably cost-effective.

Small-Scale Energy

Historically, wave and tidal power appeared too fickle to approach as an energy source.  However, as wave technology progressed in recent years, the prospect of extracting energy from ocean waves became increasingly enticing. Unlike solar panels and wind turbines, which may shut down from too much cloud cover or a lack of wind, wave power generators consistently generate electricity at a higher average availability.

Companies have begun to engineer wave generators that can be installed on shorelines to further improve affordability and efficiency in energy production. This convenience factor means that once the generator is installed, it can be largely left alone to generate electricity at a more consistent rate than wind and solar power.

Additionally, many poor rural communities still wait for access to large government power grids. In these cases, smaller micro-grids provide the opportunity for communities to distribute power to local households. These micro-grids could act as the most cost-effective solution to small-scale energy delivery to 70 percent of unconnected houses. Wave power stations hold the potential to provide consistent energy to newly constructed micro-grids.

Wave Power and Poverty

However, the wide-spread implementation of wave power is not quite here yet. Even still, companies are rapidly developing technologies that can be installed and maintained close to shore. These companies are building prototypes all over the world. One company, in particular, Yam Pro Energy, installed a large wave power generator on the coastline near Accra, Ghana.

Yam Pro Energy’s wave power generator will generate up to 180 megawatts of power and serve over 10,000 households.

This station will operate around the clock and can generate a thousand times more kinetic energy than local winds. The power station can fill 65 percent of local yearly energy demands, whereas wind turbines and solar panels could only generate between 22 to 24 percent annually.

Looking Forward

The potential benefits of wave power are immense. With the increasing durability of energy stations, the positive impact of a wave power generator on an impoverished community could be enduring. The case of Ghana illustrates how effective wave power can be. The renewable energy source offers a small part of the solution to the cycle of poverty in many countries.

Peter Trousdale
Photo: Flickr

Drones Bringing Vaccinations

Over the past few decades, Ghana has been able to drastically improve its vaccination rates through education and communication with communities. Right now, vaccination rates for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough are at 98 percent in Ghana, compared to 94 percent in the U.S. The child mortality rate in Ghana has dropped by 30 percent and is now at 5 percent.

Additionally, measles, which used to be one of the predominant causes of child mortality in Ghana, has now been nearly eradicated. This is due in part to the double-roll out in 2012, which was the first time any African country introduced two vaccines at the same time, the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. It proved to be wildly successful, reinforcing Ghana as a model for neighboring countries.

Despite these improvements, one of the main roadblocks to increasing the coverage and effectiveness of vaccines in Ghana is accessibility. One promising solution to this roadblock is drones bringing vaccinations to Ghana.

Drones Bringing Vaccinations to Ghana

Planning to reach the remaining unvaccinated Ghanaians, the Ghanaian government recently launched the start of its partnership with Zipline, a company utilizing drones to deliver medical supplies to underserved regions. The technology increases the accessibility of essential medical supplies without having to wait for the costly infrastructure development of better roads and train access. Zipline is currently able to provide 13 million people vital medicine incredibly quickly. At the four distribution centers located throughout Ghana, doctors can place an order via text for any necessary medications and reliably expect a delivery within 30 minutes.

In addition, one of the primary challenges in increasing vaccination coverage is access to electricity for refrigeration. Zipline’s quick and reliable delivery system solves this issue as supplies are received still cold. This innovative battery powered medical delivery system is able to deliver goods pilotless, thus reducing emissions costs and medicine transport costs. This makes it an incredibly cost-effective mode of transport, aiding initiatives to offer free vaccinations to children in Ghana.

With dozens of hospitals relying on Zipline for emergency medicinal deliveries, access to life-saving medical supplies has already increased dramatically in hard to reach areas. In Rwanda, where Zipline has served for the past 3 years, maternal mortality rates are dropping drastically due to emergency drone deliveries of rare blood types.

Just a few decades ago, Ghanaians were in a statistically alarming situation. The introduction of Zipline is bringing medical supplies to Ghanaians who still lack access. With plans to eventually provide access to vital medical supplies all around the world, Zipline appears to be revolutionizing the world of medicinal accessibility for the world’s underdeveloped regions. As Zipline is a relatively new company, it’s too soon to have data determining long term impacts. However, given the rapid changes Zipline has brought to Ghana and Rwanda’s medical access already, it’s feasible to imagine a future where drones bringing vaccinations is commonplace.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in GhanaTechnological advancement, especially regarding mobile phone development and access, has revolutionized the way Ghanaian people are learning, both in and out of African school systems. As mobile phone access becomes more readily available throughout Ghana, app developers are revolutionizing distance education and mobile e-learning programs. According to a report published by the GSM Association, the countries of Sub-Saharan Arica experienced a 58 percent increase in the number of mobile health services available to the public that make access to health information and training programs far more accessible

With e-learning programs on the rise, Ghanaian adults now have access to college-level courses, skill development training sessions, and even medical school examination prep courses. Increased dissemination of m-learning – mobile phone learning – programs and software may serve to promote literacy and education in areas of Africa where academic infrastructure is lacking. Additionally, African colleges can utilize these learning programs to augment pre-existing programs so as to better prepare Ghanaian college graduates for employment or further education.

Stakeholders and app developers have made great strides in establishing a public health approach that utilizes online education to counter the public’s access to certain aspects of healthcare.

One particular e-learning platform, skoool HE, seeks to promote greater access to midwifery education in an effort to reduce the maternal mortality ratio, which lies at approximately 350 deaths per 100,000 women. The application, funded and developed by Ghana’s Ministry of Health, delivers an interactive learning platform wherein students are taught emergency preparedness and neonatal delivery procedures on a case-by-case basis. As a large proportion of practicing midwives approach the mandatory retiring age of 60, the Ghanaian government is utilizing educational technology to establish a new workforce to fill the impending gap.

Stakeholders involved in the sustainability of skoool HE are facilitating the development of additional learning modules and are coordinating with local communities that use the technology in an effort to augment the educational infrastructure in Ghana.

Another application supplementing healthcare education in Africa, MedAfrica, essentially mirrors the fundamental components of Web MD. This application is available to the general public free of cost and provides information regarding diagnoses, symptoms, and treatment options for multiple diseases and infections.

As Ghanaian e-learning programs continue to increase public access to college courses, healthcare information, and skill development training to adults and children, scientists are now interested in improving educational infrastructure in Ghana that promote faculty curriculum training and development.

Matthew Boyer

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to GhanaThe need for proper nutrition and health professionals has driven the success of humanitarian aid to Ghana. Within ten years, Ghana witnessed a decrease in its poverty rate from 52 percent to 28 percent in 2016.

Nutrition

As of 2016, 1.2 million Ghanaians still experienced food insecurity and chronic undernutrition. Furthermore, there is a high prevalence of stunting, recording 37 percent of children in the Northern Province alone. There are also many reported cases of wasting, particularly in the Upper West area of Ghana.

To combat these issues, Ghana joined the national Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement in 2011 to improve nutrition among its population. With USAID’s support and donations, Ghanaians focused on improving the country’s nutritional funding and the way in which rations are measured and prioritized.

Furthermore, USAID’s Feed the Future targets the northern, impoverished regions of the country. It hopes to make the food value chains affordable, strengthen vulnerable communities and improve the nutritional state of women and children.

In 2014, USAID applied three Feed the Future chain projects to lead the success of humanitarian aid to Ghana:

  1. The Systems for Health project reduces the levels of stunting, wasting and anemia in women and children in five of Ghana’s more vulnerable sectors.
  2. The Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) project targets poverty and malnutrition in vulnerable households.
  3. The Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project is concerned with alleviating stunting and anemia in children under five.

Data between 2008 and 2011 indicates progress among all Ghanaian children under the age of five. The total prevalence of stunting decreased from 28 percent to 23 percent, while wasting dropped a total of 3 percent. The occurrence of anemia among children dropped more significantly from 78 percent to 57 percent. With USAID’s new programs, these numbers are predicted to decline even more drastically.

Health Professionals

UNICEF fights to break the Ghanaian norm for mothers to give birth at home, without a health professional. According to a study done in 2012, only 57 percent of births were attended by a midwife or health clinic professional.

A Ghanaian birth attendant named Kasua Musah works alongside UNICEF and the Ghana Health Service to break tradition and advocate for in-clinic deliveries.

Together, they utilize the community radio, along with street theatre and home visits to promote safe birth. The combination of these methods reached out to around 360 communities, including four of the more destitute regions.

As a result, they altered tradition within the Central Region and increased the number of patients in the maternity ward sector of the region’s largest hospital. Even further, the radio empowered those who had negative experiences with the clinic staff, enforcing improvement and new training methods.

Further training was provided for midwives, ensuring the betterment of at-home births. Overall, Ghana improved the patient-to-nurse relationship.

Lowering the child and female mortality rates through improved birthing processes, but also through augmenting nutritional programs, is what propelled the success of humanitarian aid to Ghana.

– Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Free EducationPresident of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has shown full support for the Government’s Free Senior High School (SHS) program, which launched on September 12, 2017. The initial implementation of this policy was held at West Africa Senior High School (WASS) to officially integrate free senior high school education.

The Ghanaian government’s decision to implement this program was based on the desire to educate at a faster rate to encourage national development and progress.

“By free SHS, we mean that in addition to tuition, which is already free, there will be no admission fees, no library fees, no science center fees, no computer laboratory fees, no examination fees, no utility fees. There will be free textbooks, free boarding and free meals and day students will get a meal at school for free,” said President Akufo-Addo.

The program covers topics including agricultural, vocational and technical studies at the high school level, which will prepare students to be successful members of the community.

With free education opportunities, more children throughout Ghana will be able to attend school, especially girls who struggle with increasing teen pregnancy and teen marriage rates.

Students interested in the free SHS program need to apply, and the most eligible candidates are granted access. Girls, for aforementioned reasons, are prioritized in the decision process in an attempt to increase the number of educated Ghanaian females.

All applicants are fairly reviewed for the free education program, and so far over 420,000 young Ghanaians have applied. Out of these, 267,327 applicants have been accepted and placed in schools. When students are denied initial acceptance into the free SHS program at the school of their choice, they are placed on a waiting list and provided a selection of schools with vacancies.

The free education program has been fully supported by the Ghanaian government, and the opening ceremony at WASS was attended by the President, Vice President of the Republic, Minister for Education, Minister of State for Education and several officials from the Ministry of Education.

The work done by the Ghanaian government to provide free SHS opportunities will open the door for several young students who would otherwise remain uneducated with slim to no future career prospects.

“The coming into effect of the free SHS policy is vital for the transformation of the Ghanaian economy,” President Akufo-Addo said.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Ghana's Prison Music ProgramIn celebration of his 40 years in the music business, gospel singer Yaw Sarpong has brought the Prison Project to life. The Prison Project’s main purpose is to teach Ghanaian prisoners how to express themselves through gospel music.

The Prison Project is a collaboration between the Yaw Foundation and Ghana Prisons Service, which intends to build music centers throughout Ghana’s prison system, beginning with Ankaful Maximum Security Prison. According to Joy Online, the Yaw Foundation is dedicated to transforming the lives of the prisoners with music. The Ghana Prisons Service wants to use this program to certify prisoners in music and other skills.

Ghana’s prison music program not will not only focus on music education; the Prison Project’s project and fundraising coordinator Esther Tettekuor Quayson states that the program will focus on other outreach programs as well. She also discusses how an education in music can lead to a desire for education in other areas – which is clearly a benefit to both prisoners and society as a whole.

Beyond education, the creators of Ghana’s prison music program hope to instill in Ghanaian prisoners leadership qualities. Quayson discusses in Ghana Web how she envisions prisoners becoming new leaders within the country.

What about the personal benefits of Ghana’s prison music program to the prisoners? According to Quayson, music gives them the opportunity to express the issues that they are dealing with. It also builds up their confidence and drive to succeed in their lives after they leave prison. Thus, the program is designed to assist with the prisoners’ ability to successfully re-enter society. Quayson states in Ghana Web that “There is therefore the need to provide solutions and programmes that will help society understand the plights of our prisoners and ex-convicts and take up their roles in shaping their lives to fit into society.”

Ghana’s prison music program is already off to a strong start. The Prison Project currently has an advisory board and a passionate group of young people willing to work with the program. Yaw Sarpong’s church is also planning a soccer game and a concert in support of the project. The Prison Project illustrates a commitment to rehabilitating prisoners in ways that will benefit the prisoners themselves and their society.

Cortney Rowe