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Rising Life Expectancy in AfricaBetween the years of 1770 and 1925, Africa’s life expectancy stayed the same while life expectancies were rising in the rest of the world. Since 1925, however, Africa has also has seen a steady rise in its life expectancy. While the average life expectancy stayed at 26.4 years of age for over a century, it has since risen by over 30 years, with an average life expectancy of 60 years of age in 2015. In the 21st century alone, life expectancy at birth has risen by 42 percent, according to the World Bank.

Declining Infant Mortality Rate and Antiretrovirals

Several factors can explain the rising life expectancy in Africa. One main element driving this is the fall in the infant mortality rate and rise in child survival. Fewer infants have died shortly after their births and more children to live past their fifth birthdays due to increased health care and more efficient and healthy, delivery processes. Additionally, a wide variety of generic drugs have become more accessible and more affordable for low-income families in Africa.

Another factor, also regarding health and wellness, that has contributed to the rising life expectancy in Africa is the increased accessibility to antiretrovirals for treating HIV. During the 1990s, life expectancy in Africa significantly declined as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since then, continuous research and funding have been funneled into providing efficient treatments and drugs for HIV/AIDS, ideally at an inexpensive rate. As of 2017, 66 percent of adults and 59 percent of children in Africa who are living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment and the increase of this treatment directly correlates to the increase in life expectancy.

Rising Incomes

The rising income per capita could also be a factor to explain the rising life expectancy in Africa. According to the World Bank, the GDP per capita in sub-Saharan Africa in 2000 was less than $600; as of 2017, that number has more than doubled and stands at more than $1,500. Of course, food supply in a given country plays a huge role in the projected life expectancy and with more income, there comes greater food security. As mentioned, higher income can lead to greater health services and increased access to housing and clean water also factors into increased life expectancy.

While the continent of Africa has increased its life expectancy rate since 1925, there are some impending factors that could pose a threat to its successes. Africans between the ages of 50 and 69 are at risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and obesity. These risk factors could lead to increased deaths related to diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.

Since the start of the 21st century, Africa has seen a significant rise in income, allowing the government to spend more on health care and providing vaccines to people who need them. Overall governance in Africa has appeared to have improved over the past couple of decades, according to William Jackson, a senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics. He argues that the rising life expectancy in Africa over the past century, but more specifically the past 20 years, is a huge achievement for the continent, despite potential setbacks in years to come.

– Charlotte Kriftcher
Photo: Flickr

Free Trade in Africa
Free trade is currently a hot topic in Africa. Several countries have already signed a trade agreement that opens the continent to free internal trade and now the European Union is looking to connect with Africa and form an alliance between Europe and Africa. While these talks certainly seem like a good idea, the question of whether they ultimately help Africa’s poor remains unanswered.

A Move Toward Intra-African Trade Improvement

Early in 2018, many African leaders came together in Kigali, Rwanda, to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with the goal of executing the agreement before January 2019. The deal would allow free movement of capital and business travelers. Ideally, it would give a chance for manufacturing sectors growth in many countries and lead to economic diversification.

AfCFTA will potentially cover the market of more than a billion people in African and will be one of the largest free trade areas ever established in the world. Its goal is to create one continental market for goods and services. AfCFTA should also “enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through the exploitation of opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.” The Economic Commission for Africa has calculated that this deal would increase intra-Africa trade by more than 50 percent through the elimination of trade barriers.

What Does External Free Trade in Africa Look Like Right Now?

Currently, Africa and Europe are committed to the Cotonou Agreement that, unless amended, expires in 2020. Signed at the turn of the millennium, this agreement covers the partnership between the E.U. and many developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The Next Chapter for EU and Free Trade in Africa

European Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker stated that Africa does not need charity. He said that this continent needs true and fair partnerships. And Europe needs this partnership just as much. His recent State of the Union address called his colleagues to see Africa as Europe’s “twin.” He argued that the perspective of this continent as the one needing Europe’s help or charity was not only insulting but rather false.

Europe is beginning the process of replacing the Cotonou Agreement, focusing on Africa with the goal of a free trade agreement between E.U. and all Africa countries. A report from the European Commission argues for an Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs. The report summarizes that this alliance is more than a financial plan and it represents a radical shift in the way these two continents work as partners toward a logic focused on Africa’s economic potential and the mobilization of the private sector.  This Alliance has 10 main actions in focus:

  1. Boosting strategic investments via blending and guarantees
  2. Supporting the opportunities for manufacturing and processing at the national and regional level
  3. Establishing sectoral groups of African and European public, private and financial operators and academia, under the Commissioner lead, to provide expertise, advice and recommendations
  4. Supporting education and skills development at the continental level
  5. Supporting skills development at the national level to match skills to strategic development choices for each country
  6. Strengthening the dialogue, cooperation and support on the investment and business climate
  7. Supporting the Africa Continental Free Trade Area
  8. Strengthening intra-African and E.U.-African trade in the long-term perspective of a continent-to-continent free trade agreement
  9. Supporting connectivity both intra-African and between the E.U. and Africa
  10. Mobilizing a substantial package of financial resources

This Alliance is estimated to create 10 million jobs over the next five years and hopes to strengthen the private sector as well. AfCFTA is crucial in achieving these goals. African Union’s High Representative Carlos Lopes said that AfCFTA should be the main instrument for a free trade agreement with the E.U. Currently, more than a third of Africa’s trade occurs with the European Union. Lowering costs and improving efficiencies would benefit everyone involved.

Poverty and Free Trade in Africa

Free trade agreements have many advantages and can lead to better lives of Africa’s poor population. However, they can also go in the opposite direction and take away jobs leaving unskilled workers with few options to support themselves and their families.

Free trade tends to increase a country’s economic growth, attracts foreign investors and leads to a transfer of expertise and technologies. It also leads to greater outsourcing, destruction of native cultures and can hurt local industries and firms.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is especially cautious when it comes to opening borders for trade. He has delayed (and may ultimately avoid) agreeing to AfCFTA because he fears that competition from other African nations will destroy local industries. The World Trade Organization meanwhile argues that free trade helps reduce poverty. In fact, their research found that trade liberalization is generally a strongly positive contributor to poverty alleviation since it allows people to exploit their productive potential, assists economic growth, curtails arbitrary policy interventions and helps to insulate against shocks.

The open trade comes with certain consequences, but many countries and many people have benefitted greatly from opening their borders to the free flow of goods and services. If Africa can ratify its internal trade agreement and then form a new alliance with the European Union, it could mean better jobs for the citizens of the continent and poverty reduction.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

Youth Entrepreneurs in Africa
The world is full of innovative thinkers and passionate experimenters. To ensure that these minds are able to make a lasting impact on the world, there needs to be certain types of support to exponentially increase the success rate of the idea. One such support avenue is to encourage youth entrepreneurs in Africa to utilize their skill sets and ideas to benefit not only their communities but also the globe.

The Youth for Africa and SDGs (YAS!) Portal Platform

Recently, the United Nations Development Program launched a Pan-African Entrepreneurship Portal-Platform with the help of Accenture in East, West, and Southern Africa to create an online support community for youth entrepreneurs in Africa.

The Youth for Africa and SDGs (YAS!) Portal Platform was designed and implemented with the intention to cultivate an online network that would promote mentorship between youth entrepreneurs in Africa and established professionals, funding for members and projects, sharing of information that would lead to future developments, and networking between individuals with similar interests and goals.

“YAS! will better serve the private sector with innovation, supplier diversification and talent on the African continent and in parallel accelerate the growth of the entrepreneurship eco-system,” said Sandiso Sibisi, Accenture Africa’s Open Innovation Lead.

Youth for Africa and SDGs’ Four Pillars of Support

The Youth for Africa and SDGs focus on its four pillars of support: Learn, Ecosystem Map, Challenges, and Opportunities.

  1. Learning would help youth entrepreneurs in Africa start strongly with their entrepreneurship. The YAS! Portal-Platform would provide its members with key concepts important in having a successful enterprise development as well as news about other African leaders.
  2. An ecosystem map allows for users to provide or accept funding for certain entrepreneurships and have access to a network of other professionals and young African entrepreneurs. This map would connect the entrepreneurship stakeholders with service providers, corporations.
  3. There are certain challenges that young African entrepreneurs can focus on to receive recognition of a financial award. These challenges are related to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations. This specific pillar is critical for the purpose of this organization as ending poverty and creating a better future for the futures of young African entrepreneurs drives this platform.
  1. Lastly, the opportunities that come with the platform is indispensable for youth entrepreneurs in Africa. These young individuals are able to learn more about the global entrepreneurship and connect with leading entrepreneurs, potential investors, and opportunistic corporates.

“YAS! is a much needed Pan African digital mechanism for youth entrepreneurs to access opportunities and contribute to the positive transformation of the continent through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Tomas Sales, the United Nations Development Programme Advisor for Private Sector.

YAS! and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals are important in any plan for the future because those 17 goals are designed to apply universally to all peoples.

As the Millennium Development Goals are the predecessors to the SDGs, it can be stated without a doubt that these goals are working towards a better world for all. In the case of YAS!, the most important goals are to end poverty, protect the environment and allow people to have the freedom of choice in their futures.

A New and Improved World

A YAS! Informational Leaflet asserts that it focuses on Sustainable Development Goals because they “present a universal call to action by the United Nations for all stakeholders to join efforts to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”

This digital platform serves to be a place for young entrepreneur minds to flourish and grow while serving as an advocate for achieving the U.N.’s SDGs.

It will allow people to connect with each other as well as work together in achieving something more than just an idea or a project. With YAS!, the entire future can change as these young minds are given the opportunity to work for bettering the world and their lives.

– Jenny S. Park
Photo: Flickr

Mandela
Nelson Mandela is known internationally for his great activism for equal rights for all. Mandela was a South African political leader, beginning his career as a lawyer determined to free his fellow black Africans.

July of 2018 marked his centennial, and though he may no longer be alive, his legacy continues on. His anti-apartheid revolution improved levels of poverty in Africa, and his words of inspiration will forever impact others: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation

Today, many people still celebrate Nelson Mandela’s work through the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Barack Obama recently gave a speech in celebration of Mandela, encouraging philanthropists everywhere to honor his work. Celebrities like Oprah, Jay-Z, Usher, Ed Sheeran and others are coming together to put on a concert for the Mandela 100 Fest in South Africa.

For those interested in celebrating Mandela, there are several ways to get involved. Action occurs at three levels:

  • Having the humanitarian mindset to care for supporting poverty in Africa
  • Being willing to communicate that concern and the need for aid
  • Finally jumping into action to provide the hands-on work.

Here are the most impactful ways to follow in Nelson Mandela’s legacy and help alleviate poverty in Africa.

6 Ways to Alleviate Poverty in Africa

  1. Believe in Humanity. Before one can bring about change and support for equality and basic human rights for all, the mindset has to exist. It is crucial to truly believe that all humans are deserving of the same dignity and respect. No cultural group is less human than another. Find commonality in humanity and advocate for justice in all corners of the Earth.
  2. Support Democracy. Democracy is the form of government that is ruled by elected officials in which members of the political boundary or state have been given the power to elect. Democracy means that everyone has a voice; thus, less oppression is allowed to take place. Though Africa as a continent is moving toward democracy, some countries remain oppressed, especially those in extreme poverty in rural areas. By supporting democracy in Africa, corruption and widespread violence can be eliminated.
  3. Empowerment. Being oppressed means that your voice isn’t being heard and that you are part of a marginalized, automatically disadvantaged group. The situation often seems hopeless when you are treated as insignificant. Any support for poverty in Africa is helpful, but when individuals feel empowered, minds expand and spirits rise. Be a part of lifting people up to feel empowered to seek out basic human rights — health, education, equality and social justice.
  4. Educate Yourself. With so many ways to access current events, it is fairly simple to stay current on global news. In developed nations, internet access is readily available to almost all persons. Take it upon yourself to seek out the facts and stay informed. Read the newspapers, subscribe to newsletters through your email or on your smartphone, or even search the internet for international happenings. It is important to be aware of credible sources versus not, so that you don’t fall victim to unnecessary hysteria. Another part of being informed about foreign affairs is to know who your public officials are as well as what policies exist for poverty in Africa — both pending in status and already in place.
  5. Dialogue. Don’t underestimate the power of communication. Poverty is a gruesome reality in Africa and many other underdeveloped nations. In a busy day-to-day life, there are many social interactions with people in social and professional circles. Many of these people will be aware of what is going on, and many will not. If people are having the conversations about poverty in Africa, its ramifications and how the U.S. as a leading global country can help, then the more likely it is for social action to ensue.
  6. Volunteer Your Time. Individuals in America and other developed nations can help alleviate poverty in foreign lands without having to travel or donate money. You can make a difference by taking action. Simple acts like calling your representative or sending an email can help bring attention to foreign aid. If time allows, meet with that representative to discuss the importance of supporting poverty in Africa. Contribute to an organization by organizing or volunteering for a fundraiser.

Leave a Mark

Nelson Mandela advocated for citizens of Africa to have the right to education, health, hunger, gender equality, literacy, peace and poverty while also supporting many charities. He has left his mark by not only his influence on political change but also his passionate and relentless motivation of people around the globe.

– Heather Benton

Photo: Flickr

Slums of Nairobi
Interestingly, 21 out of 25 of the world’s poorest countries are located in Africa. As a result, many families in these nations are forced to live in slums, which are residential areas characterized by insubstantial shelters and unsanitary conditions.

One of the major slums in Africa is the Mukuru Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Dermot Higgins, a director of the charitable organization, Childaid, spoke to The Borgen Project about his organization and how they are changing lives in this slum, among others.

Poverty in Africa

As home to the world’s poorest nations, poverty in Africa is widespread.

  • Amount Spent Per Day: 47 percent of the African population lived on less than $1.90 per day in 2012.
  • Malnutrition: The Save the Children foundation estimates that two in five African children have stunted growth due to malnutrition.
  • Expected Population Growth: Business Insider approximated that more than half of the population growth that will occur between now and 2050 will take place in Africa, likely resulting in increased poverty and hunger.

The Mukuru Slum

Higgins explained that Childaid is helping to fight poverty in Africa by supporting projects in many different areas, but their main efforts are focused in the Mukuru Slum. According to the Ruben Centre, another organization based in Mukuru, the community was established about 35 years ago by people who worked in the factories nearby. It now holds over 600,000 inhabitants.

  • Physical Conditions: The physical conditions of the slum are rough. Higgins described the environment: “Most families survive in tiny one roomed corrugated iron shacks which measure 3 x 3 meters and have no toilets, electricity or running water. There are few communal toilets and water taps and open sewers run past many of the shacks.”
  • Safety and Health Concerns: Other hardships faced by the slum’s inhabitants are safety and health concerns, Higgins noted. “Diseases are rife in the slums and security is a major concern especially after dark when it is not safe to go out.” The Ruben Center listed malaria, typhoid, dysentery, tuberculosis and AIDS as some of the most common diseases in the slum.
  • Education: The Ruben Center noted that 44 percent of children in the slum drop out of school to work. Even the children that are fortunate enough to attend school have subpar education due to limited funds and materials.

How Childaid Helps

According to their website, “Childaid is a charity that supports child orientated projects which will help them get out of the harsh and brutal conditions of slum life. We strive to improve the welfare of disadvantaged children through education, health and residential care projects.”

  • Building Schools and Sponsoring Students: To improve the quality of education, Childaid is helping by building better schools. “The Kwa Njena primary school, rebuilt and developed by Childaid,” Higgins noted, “is like an oasis in the slum for over 2,000 children who receive education in a safe environment.” The organization also prevents students from dropping out by sponsoring them; Higgins spoke of one of their former students: “One of the past pupils of the schools, who was sponsored by a Childaid volunteer in secondary school and university, recently wrote to thank us. He was qualifying as a pharmacist and planning to buy a house and bring his parents out of the slum.”
  • Providing Food: Childaid is helping to eliminate malnutrition by feeding students in school. Higgins spoke of the charity’s accomplishments: “As a result of Childaid’s work, over 2,000 children are getting educated and fed every day.”
  • Funding and Supporting Institutions: According to Higgins, Childaid is helping by raising money to fund institutions, such as a maternity ward, orphanage, HIV program and skills training center.

Childaid strives to not only help those in Mukuru, but to fight general poverty in Africa. The organization’s impact has been considerable given its new schools, support of other institutions and positive influence on a population of poor children across the continent. Higgins concluded, “It’s very satisfying to see the children getting food, education, love and security in school.”

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

Farming in Africa
Africa faces the challenges of a growing population as well as low farm productivity. Weather changes, shorter fallow periods, deforestation, worsening farmland and the loss of young people in farming communities that move to urban areas further hinders the ability of African farms to increase farm yields.

Fortunately, many tools like drones and soil sensors are becoming more and more accessible and affordable within the continent. Especially with the African population growing at such a high rate (it’s projected to reach 2 billion people by 2050), farming in Africa needs to make use of new technologies to improve in order to prevent mass hunger in its own countries as well as in the world. Here are some examples that demonstrate how technology in Africa improves farming:

Precision Farming

Zenvus, a precision farming startup in Nigeria, helps farmers determine appropriate fertilizers to apply to their soil as well as to optimally water their farms. The company acquires such information by measuring and analyzing soil data such as nutrients, temperature and vegetative health. The group improves farm productivity and reduces input waste for small-scale farmers.

UjuziKilimo, a big data analytics startup in Kenya, also uses precision farming to adjust irrigation needs for individual plants. While these precision farming examples demonstrate that technology in Africa indeed improves farming, Africa still requires major changes in their infrastructure in order to technologically connect the entire continent and make a large-scale soil map.

More Affordable and Effective Irrigation Methods

Sunculture sells solar-powered drip irrigation kits in Africa that make watering crops more affordable. Other efforts have also been made to increase the use of groundwater through the distribution of low-cost treadle pumps and drip-irrigation kits in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and other countries.

One example is portable water pumps occurs via the nonprofit organization, Kick Start. Their pumps are sold in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali from $35 to $95, and the product has been able to take 667,000 people out of poverty! For now, however, surface water is the main source of irrigation for most of Africa, so more surface water storage systems are required to optimize the numerous parts of Africa’s use of river water.

Unfortunately, some obstacles to the development of surface water storage (in some places) would be the cost of construction and possible environmental effects. The Hippo water roller, a drum that hauls large amounts of water by being rolled on the ground, helps numerous people in Africa that lack local water facilities and result in walking long distances to reach their water sources.

Improved Soil Management

Western Kenya is the perfect example of a densely populated area in Africa with low and declining soil fertility and continued threat to land resources. While also facing poverty and food security issues, such areas desperately need to conserve their natural resources, slow population growth rates and fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

One solution delivered by the World Agroforestry Centre was a low-cost integrated soil package that used organic manure to supplement phosphorus dressings as well as existing organic resources like biomass transfer to provide nitrogen to crops. A set of other technologies like high-quality crop seeds replenished phosphorus and nitrogen in the soil.

With the help of these technologies, farmers in Kenya increased their maize production by 2 to 3 times their typical yields!

Financial Solutions

FarmDrive connects smallholder farmers to credit and helps financial institutions increase their agricultural loan portfolios in Kenya. M-Farm in Kenya and AgroSpaces in Cameroon assist farmers to earn more by providing pricing data to prevent asymmetric price transmission.

Better Crop Storage Techniques

In 2015, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), supported by agronomist experts from The Rockefeller Foundation, trained 2,000 farmers on various methods to reduce post-harvest loss. This made a significant impact because before the training, over 50 percent of the farmers AGRA trained either made no use of storage at all or only utilized sacks to store grain.

Some did use plastic containers, custom-made mud-walled structures, baskets and other traditional methods. However, these methods lead to 30 to 40 percent loss of their grain harvests. In comparison, AGRA’s simple storage technologies such as hermetic cocoons and bags, metal silos and polypropylene storage bags successfully kept harvested maize in good condition for six months.

Without rotten produce or pests after 12 months of storage in Tanzania, maize could be sold over longer periods of time. This enabled farmers to make more sales and thus accumulate more income and provide for improved nutrition for families and communities. So, to sustainably feed the entire growing population in Africa, such storage technologies need to be distributed and made locally.

Agricultural development is essential to eradicating poverty and to bringing food security to developing nations, so it is crucial that technology in Africa improves farming.

– Connie Loo

Photo: Flickr

facts about poverty in Africa

Many people are aware that Africa suffers from widespread poverty, but many do not know what that poverty consists of or why it exists. Understanding the facts and seeing the statistics can result in change. Here are 15 facts about poverty in Africa.

Facts and Stats about Africa Poverty

  1. Africa is by far the poorest continent on the planet. 28 of the world’s poorest countries are African.
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the second largest population of hungry people. The largest is in Asia.
  3. Half of the African population lives in poverty. These people do not have access to basic human needs, such as nutrition, clean water, shelter and more. 47 percent of the African population is living on $1.90 or less a day.
  4. Two in five African adults are illiterate. While the continent’s number of schools are increasing, the quality of learning and general attendance is still down due to local violence and gender oppression.
  5. It is projected that the global poor will become more concentrated in Africa. With the population rising at such a high rate on the continent, and having such a large number of poverty-stricken countries, it becomes very difficult to prevent increasing poverty.
  6. One in four people in the sub-Saharan region are malnourished. This is the highest amount of hungry people in the world.
  7. The causes for African hunger are poverty, conflict, the environment and overpopulation. These causes create issues such as disease, floods, genocide and many other resulting crises that result in a lack of food and health within many communities.
  8. Corruption on the continent makes it very difficult to conquer the poverty numbers. With governments confiscating donations from abroad, local militias slaughtering villagers and cultural leaders denying women the right and safety to attend school, poverty perpetuates.
  9. While worldwide poverty is declining — it has been divided in half in the last 30 years — in Africa the progress has been much slower. This is largely due to the rising population and the young age of its government systems, stemming from a history of colonization.
  10. Most of the perpetuation of poverty involves social issues. It is less a matter of wealth, as it is with how the wealth is distributed and shared.
  11. The African governments have not existed for very long. Even in 1950, only four of the 55 African countries had independent governments. Studies state that a government requires several decades at least to stabilize.
  12. The economic gap is huge and still growing. The class system contains huge gaps between the rich and poor, with little mobility due to gender inequality and corruption.
  13. Those living in regions affected by violence are 50 percent more likely to become impoverished. This makes them twice as likely to be affected by hunger. Much of Africa is war-torn and experiencing conflict.
  14. The average woman living in sub-Saharan Africa will give birth to 5.2 kids in her lifetime. While Africa is globally the poorest continent, it is also home to the highest birth rate. With a growing population, this is causing unemployment, disease and hunger.
  15. While the decline of the number of poor in Africa is slower than the global rate, it has recently decreased. It fell from 56 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2012.

Knowing the facts about poverty in Africa can illustrate not only the work that needs to be done but also the progress that has been implemented. Africa is a struggling continent, and these facts about poverty in Africa point to a complex problem of young governments, few resources and a growing population. There is plenty of work still to be done.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

poverty in Africa
From U.S. leaders speaking about African countries that do not exist, to people thinking Africa is a single country, misconceptions about the continent and its circumstances are far too common and dangerous to people in need. This past year illustrated this point clearly: most in the public eye do not know what is actually going on there, and when they do, they fail to describe it correctly.

But as the financial conditions in Africa change, so should the concepts and terms used to describe it. Clearing this air is fundamental for the comprehension and, possibly, alleviation of poverty in Africa.

There is no single story, country, color or solution to poverty in Africa.

Africa is not homogeneous; this misconception largely comes from gross oversimplifications by colonists or other invaders (past and present). The inability to accurately describe the large region’s complexities coupled with a historic, persistent desire to control the various narratives there is where wrongful assumptions are made. Thinking it is one country inhabited by people who all look the same or that all African populations are the descendants of slaves is extremely problematic when it comes to helping those in need.

The Sahara Desert makes up a third of the continent, but its exotic wildlife and rare tribes have become more of an icon for the entire landmass’s culture than the other 66 percent of the actual continent. The same can be said of Africa’s immense rainforest, which covers even less of the continent.

The islands on the coast vary by the hundreds: Comoros and Réunion in the east, Ascension and St. Helena south of those, Cape Verde in the southwest and the Canary Islands in the northwest, to name a few. All of these are domains of Africa and their economic diversity goes unrecognized in relation to the continent’s popularized image.

Each country faces different problems brought on by varying systemic, societal and historical issues. Assuming there is a single plan that can “fix” all of Africa is not just naive but severely condescending.

Africa is not poor, just severely exploited (still).

Seychelles, an African archipelago of 115 islands that boasts only 1 percent unemployment, was ranked as the richest nation in Africa last year. A growing population of wealthy people are living and moving to places like Mauritius, an island just east of Madagascar. Africa’s islands are home to many of the world’s wealthiest people, not just Africa’s. On the mainland, South Africa, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Egypt are among the richest countries on the continent.

Some of the poverty in Africa is not by accident, but by design. An estimated $203 billion leaves the continent each year and around $41 billion was made off of sub-Saharan Africa alone last year. The sheer inequality is startling because the amount loaned to African countries ($162 billion) is less than the amount leaving, but nothing is being repaid.

According to a recent report, some of it is attributed to “trade misinvoicing”, where African nations receive an influx of foreign aid but subsequently lose three times that amount from “multinational companies deliberately misreporting the value of their imports or exports to reduce tax.” This means that many resource-rich African countries receiving aid are being manipulated by corporations, disenfranchising populations for denationalized profits.

This continues a history of economic exploitation that African countries have endured for centuries.

Not all tribes in Africa are poor. Or small. Or even “tribes”.

The common conception of African tribes is of black and brown people living in straw huts, hunting for food and thriving off the land. Even though Africa is home to around 3,000 tribes, many encompass populations of countries by the millions and do not live like that at all.

In Nigeria, 20 to 35 percent (approximately 45 million people) of the population identifies with the Yoruba tribe; many have white-collar jobs and live in a city. Many other tribes such as the Pedi, Igbo, Suri, Fulani and especially the Zulu, have become prominent in both size and wealth too, living in cities as taxpaying, working citizens. This raises the question: what is a tribe?

This notable misconception concerns the terminology itself. The term “tribe” insinuates a community of indigenous people, which they are, but it also comes with more negative connotations than the term “ethnic group” which, by definition, is what such populations can also be called. The name “language groups” applies even more because many speakers of various “tribal” languages are only that, speakers of a language, not “members” of a “tribe”.

For example, while it is common to speak about the displacement of various ethnic groups, the displacement of tribes in Africa is lesser known or communicated internationally. The term “ethnic group” tends to conjure empathy, while “tribe” tends to establish a sense of otherness. The ethnic diversity of such a well-populated continent needs a strikingly more complex lexicon to even begin to accurately depict populations that are far from the definition of “tribes”.

Breaking down such misconceptions helps diversify aid by simply being more culturally sensitive and aware. Addressing ineffective communication about poverty in Africa starts with using more accurate and inclusive language. Using precise vocabulary to paint a clear, distinct picture of the complex problems is how more successful solutions are established.

– Toni Paz

Photo: Flickr

Electrification to Reduce Poverty in AfricaLack of infrastructure in Africa has continued to perpetuate its impoverished state. Poverty in Africa is caused by dozens of factors which contribute to intergenerational poverty, but a key issue is access to electricity. Although access to electricity has advanced, there are still many more improvements to be made.

In Africa, access to electricity has been a serious challenge. Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. In total, there are over 600 million Africans without connection to an electrical network. Reports from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Africa Outlook state that on average, electricity consumption per capita is not even enough to power a 50-watt light bulb continuously.

Even with electricity, reliability is low. Twenty-five of the 54 countries in Africa report frequent power crises including outages, irregular supply and high electricity costs. This creates numerous problems and constraints for individuals and businesses.

Investments in Africa’s electrification offer many benefits beyond the important direct job creation in energy infrastructure. Evidence suggests that household electrification also increases job opportunities due to its ability to allow people more working time, and enables the growth of rural micro-entrepreneurship. Improvements appear to be underway, with a variety of recent initiatives aimed at investment in electrification.

Africa’s demand for electricity is also growing. With a current growth rate of 6 percent per year, it will likely exceed GDP growth until 2040. This has sparked private investment and stimulated more diversified project financing. As a result, sub-Saharan Africa has seen power generation increase by 21 percent, with Chinese contractors accounting for 30 percent of this growth, to reach 115 gigawatts between 2010 and 2015.

Investment interest in Africa’s electrification has continued to increase since 2011. Of the 38 sectors reported in the Financial Times fDi Markets database, which monitors investment projects, capital investment and job creation, the alternative/renewable energy sector was the third most attractive for companies who invested in Africa in 2015 and 2016.

One major investment highlight was the $21 billion for new projects, many of which focus on renewable sources of energy. Investment trends in the renewable energy sector continue to be especially impressive, further combating poverty in Africa. Ethiopia has been seen as a leader in clean energy infrastructure, having generated the bulk of its energy needs from hydropower and other investments in geothermal, solar and wind. Its recent creation of the Ashegoda wind farm has the capacity of generating 120MW.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the development of the Grand Inga Dam has the potential to generate 40,000MW of electricity. Both of these provide Africans with not only more access to electricity but also ways make it more affordable.

Improving access to electricity is essential to decreasing poverty in Africa. It provides households and businesses with a tool for successful operation. There have been great strides in solving this problem in Africa, yet much work still needs to be done. Estimates from the World Bank concluded that 93 percent of Africa’s economically viable hydropower potential remains unexploited.

Persistent challenges need to be addressed by the government. A Greenpeace South Africa report found that two main challenges are changing misconceptions about renewable energy’s capabilities and developing the political will to invest in clean energy infrastructure. There is no doubt that through the electrification of Africa, many new opportunities for its countries will be brought to light.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr

AfricaThe causes of poverty in Africa cannot be narrowed down to one single source. As a developing country, Africa has a lengthy history of external, internal and man-made forces at work to bring about the circumstances this continent suffers from today.

In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 220 million people, half the population, live in poverty. Worsened by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, cultural conflict and ethnic cleansing, Africa faces many challenges that directly correlate with its impoverished status.

Poor Governance

Poor governance, one of the major causes of poverty in Africa, involves various malpractices by the state and its workers. This malpractice has led many African leaders to push away the needs of the people. Having created the “personal rule paradigm,” where they treat their offices as a form of property and personal gain, these leaders openly appoint underqualified personnel in key positions at state-owned institutions and government departments. This type of governance affects the poorest people and leaves them vulnerable, as they are denied basic necessities such as healthcare, food and shelter.

Corruption

Corruption has been and still is a major issue in the development of and fight against poverty in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). SSA is considered to be among the most corrupt places in the world. According to a survey conducted by World Anti-Corruption, corruption in Africa is “due to the fact that many people in Africa believe that family relations are more important than country identity. Therefore, those in power use bias and bribery for the gain of their relatives at the expense of their country.”

Corruption costs SSA roughly $150 billion a year in lost revenue. While some countries in Africa, such as Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda, have made some progress in the fight against corruption, there are still many lagging very far behind. A lack of effort to solve this issue only worsens the causes of poverty in Africa today.

Poor Education

Lack of education is also a serious issue that contributes to the causes of poverty in Africa. This absence is especially felt in sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates of educational exclusion. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of about six and 11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and 14. Almost 60 percent of youth between the ages of about 15 and 17 are not in school.

Education for girls has become a major focus of support groups like UNICEF, UNESCO and the UIS. With poor access to school, lack of sanitary facilities and social norms like female genital mutilation and child marriage, the right to women’s education is even less of a priority in impoverished communities.

However, education, especially girls’ education, has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for promoting economic growth. According to UNICEF, “studies have shown that educated mothers tend to have healthier, better-nourished babies and that their own children are more likely to attend school; thus helping break the vicious cycle of poverty.”

Healthcare

Poor healthcare is a major cause of poverty in Africa because the poor cannot afford to purchase what is needed for good health, including sufficient quantities of quality food and healthcare itself. With a lack of education on preventing infectious diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as the costs of consultations, tests and medicine, people living in poverty are at a severe disadvantage that only perpetuates the poverty cycle.

With a strong fight against many forces still ahead of this nation, Africa must weed out the corruption and poor government, and promote strong education and efficient healthcare for all, in order to take a big leap forward in its development as a continent.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr