naida-sub-saharan-urbanization-increases-gender-equalityWith Africa facing near-unprecedented population growth, urban cities have sparked across the continent. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, has become the world’s fastest urbanizing region. Compared to rural areas, cities experience greater economic growth and job opportunities. Most importantly, sub-Saharan urbanization increases gender equality.

Gender Divide

Africa’s gender disparities run deep. While African women work 50% longer hours than men, men make disproportionately more money than women. Furthermore, 70% of women are financially excluded. These financial gaps systematically subordinate women, moving the continent further from equality. The lack of female employment also disrupts economic growth and future development. Moreover, according to Global Partnership, gender-based violence affects women yearly and at high frequencies.

These issues, though, have not received attention for decades. Only now does sub-Saharan urbanization increase gender equality and present a promising solution.

Education Opportunities

In sub-Saharan Africa, urbanized areas have heavily invested in education and schools. Between 1970 and 2022, as urbanization increased, education synchronously also increased. Secondary school completion nearly doubled, and graduation rates grew.

Urban education, compared to rural education in Africa, is a considerable advancement. Schools in rural communities have a significant distance between them. In South Africa, transport distances are a structural barrier to rural education and are why only 18% of students attend school. Meanwhile, the quality of education is significantly inferior in rural areas — lacking curricula and structure. Overall, urbanization in Africa tightens both the quality and accessibility of education.

The impact of education is multifold. According to an empirical study in Africa, when women receive higher levels of education, they have higher-paying job opportunities. Furthermore, girls’ health education has led to decreased infections from HIV/AIDS and lower infant deaths.

Sub-Saharan African countries which have urbanized have empowered women’s education. Gabon, a highly urbanized country, has free and compulsory education. Gabon also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. This case study shows that as Gabon urbanized, education programs became more accessible and widespread. On the other hand, in Gabon’s rural areas, however, there is a culture of sexual abuse and a lack of teachers in schools.

Meanwhile, Guinea, a country with low urbanization rates, suffered from extreme gender divisions and disadvantaged women. The World Bank attributes this to a lack of female school enrollment. Overall, future sub-Saharan urbanization could increase gender equality.

Employment Opportunities and Diversity

Sub-Saharan urban areas typically offer women more job opportunities and economic independence. For instance, a rising tide of female entrepreneurs has dominated African urban areas. Women who migrated from rural to urban areas also saw increases in both income and empowerment.

Urban areas also exhibit a wider array of labor employment. Urban heterogeneity in Africa increases labor flexibility. Thus, urban women can become “market traders, miners, mechanics, managers and even Government Ministers” — unavailable careers in rural areas, according to Oxfam.

Due to urbanization, women can access similar economic professions to men. In rural communities, a career in agriculture was the dominant, if not the only, option.

Eroding Stereotypes

When more women had employment in urban areas, this decreased stigmatization of female stereotypes. One significant example of this is how, in recent years, many women were elected and placed in top-decision-making political positions. This helps normalize women in places of power and contests the still reigning African patriarchy.

With the third highest urban African population, the Congo implemented reforms to reduce barriers to female economic opportunities. By providing greater economic prosperity, urbanization erodes many stereotypes about women and facilitates political reform.

Areas for Reform

Though sub-Saharan urbanization increases gender equality in many dimensions, there are still many problems to address. Around 62% of people live in sub-Saharan African slums. Such slums have scarce education and unsanitary health quality, which disproportionately impact women.

Governments and urbanizing countries should focus on passing economic reforms that eradicate these slums. Meanwhile, powerful countries should invest in urbanizing Africa to ensure that, eventually, people can leave the slums. On the education front, sub-Saharan governments should focus specifically on girls-only schools to decrease violence from male students and further empower women.

As sub-Saharan Africa continues to urbanize, its female population could finally have a long-deserved sense of equality. After all, bridging the gender gap starts with education and economic opportunity — two of the largest facets of urbanization.

– Ashwin Telang
Photo: Flickr

Combating poverty in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe region of sub-Saharan Africa encompasses an aggregate of nations with diverse geographies, histories and cultures. Furthermore, the countries composing sub-Saharan Africa have diverse needs. From unaffordable health care to regional conflict, the issues besetting sub-Saharan Africa have left many of its inhabitants in poverty. Fortunately, philanthropic organizations have stepped up to the plate to remedy the many challenges affecting sub-Saharan Africa. Three organizations, in particular, have shown that there is not a universal methodology for combating poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

According to the World Bank, in 2017, two-thirds of the “global extreme poor population” lived in sub-Saharan Africa. While poverty is actually slowly declining in the region, a rapid rise in population growth is stalling a reduction in the number of impoverished people in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, there are differences among sub-Saharan Africa’s constituent countries. According to the World Bank’s 2018 data, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 73% of people lived on less than $1.90 per day, the international poverty line. Additionally, the World Bank predicted that 27% of Ethiopians lived below the international poverty line in 2019. Finally, a 2020 U.N. report indicates that 18.9% of South Africans live on less than $1.90 a day.

Agrarian Communities “Grow Together” with Nanmo

Nanmo is an Arabic word meaning “growing together.” This word is the spirit of the partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Qatar Fund for Development’s $200 million investment in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nanmo’s goal is to provide adaptive ways for rural farmers, especially women, to respond to climate-related difficulties. Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, told the Gulf Times that a “Majority of the poorest living in sub-Saharan Africa are the rural folk. They depend on agriculture…in parts of the world that are seeing much greater temperature fluctuation with frequent floods or frequent droughts.” The collaborative organization gives agrarian communities innovative technologies that can bolster their pathway to food security.

Suzman said that Nanmo was not confined to one country. However, a pilot program in Nigeria and Ethiopia showed an auspicious sign for the future of Nanmo in combating poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Efficiency for Access: Ameliorating Poverty through Clean Energy Solutions

In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people lack a connection to their country’s energy grid. Efficiency for Access, a coalition coordinated by CLASP and Energy Saving Trust, is working to bring life-changing, clean-energy appliances to vulnerable communities.

Bridging the gap between those on and off the energy grid could lead to improved agricultural productivity and thus poverty alleviation. Mike Maina from CLASP told FairPlanet that “In sub-Saharan Africa, 60% to 70% of the population is involved in agricultural livelihoods with the least mechanization in the world. This is a region where using renewable energy can have a big impact, especially on low-income populations.”

In addition to agricultural appliances like solar water pumps, Efficiency for Access also supplies products such as solar-powered refrigerators, electric pressure cookers and fans. As CLASP conveyed to FairPlanet, its theory is to provide people with a livelihood and not just a light bulb.

Zoetis Provides Veterinary Care to Farmers’ Livestock

Despite sub-Saharan Africa’s sizable livestock population, it has the “lowest productivity per animal” of any region. According to Poultry World, Zoetis, an animal health company, is improving the health of livestock through its A.L.P.H.A. initiative. Inaugurated in 2017, this program provides accessible veterinary services to farmers across the region.

Throughout its five years in operation, Zoetis has worked with 128 million animals and educated 26,000 individuals, according to Poultry World. By supplying inoculations and medical training to communities in sub-Saharan Africa, the African Livestock Health and Productivity Advancement program has been a boon for food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

Zoetis’s activity in the region has enabled African communities to produce safer food while reducing the economic burden of raising livestock. Thus, the A.L.P.H.A. initiative has been successfully combating poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

A Glimpse into the Region’s Future

These three organizations are just some of the numerous charitable entities working on combating poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. While these organizations exemplify a propitious future for the region, it still requires more work.

Governments and NGOs alike need to work in harmony to ensure that the region’s sundry needs are met. However, these three organizations demonstrate that there is no “one size fits all” approach to combating poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the need for more concerted and adaptable action on behalf of the world’s poor, these three organizations provide a bright glimpse into the future for sub-Saharan Africa.

– Alexander Portner
Photo: Flickr

Enuma improves proficiency levels A 2017 report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reveals that around “617 million children and adolescents worldwide are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.” This means that 56% “of all children won’t be able to read or handle mathematics with proficiency by the time they are of age to complete primary education” and 6% of adolescents will not “achieve minimum proficiency levels when they should be completing lower secondary school.” These statistics indicate an educational crisis that could put an entire generation at risk and endanger global development goals. Enuma improves education programs and aims to increase minimum proficiency levels in disadvantaged areas throughout the world.

School-Aged Children in Sub-Saharan Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 200 million children are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading. In this region, about “88% of all children and adolescents will not be able to read proficiently by the time they are of age to complete primary and lower secondary education.” This deficiency disproportionately impacts girls as 90% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa will not “meet minimum proficiency levels in reading by the time they are of age to complete primary education.”

Of the 387 million primary-age children who cannot read proficiently, around 65% are enrolled in school. Nearly 137 million adolescents of lower secondary age who are in classrooms are still not proficient in reading. The UNESCO report indicates that poor quality education is a major cause of the problem.

The Power of Quality Education

Another UNESCO report reveals that close to 60 million people could rise out of poverty if every adult had two additional years of quality education. If all adults finished high school, 420 million people could rise out of poverty, thereby reducing the percentage of indigent people by more than 50% globally and by around 66% in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These statistics highlight the power of education as a tool for global poverty reduction as education provides a gateway to skilled and higher-paying jobs.

Enuma’s Kitkit School Program

Enuma improves education by working to address the issue of children’s low proficiency in math and reading. Co-founded in 2012 by CEO Sooinn Lee and Chief Engineer Gunho Lee, Enuma empowers school children, particularly those with special needs, to be independent learners. Through educational research, the organization takes a unique approach to software design for learning. Enuma’s Kitkit School program supports universal access and quality learning for all children, regardless of their location, while prioritizing those who lack the opportunity to improve proficiency levels in math and reading.

Based on an open-sourced code, Kitkit School researchers revise the program constantly to improve its learning efficacy, ensuring that the software is responsive to needs in new languages and contexts. Students can access Kitkit School anywhere, meaning every child can take advantage of Enuma’s educational opportunities. The program’s design engages and empowers early learners and eliminates barriers to learning success.

Kitkit School Program Impact

Along with Imagine Worldwide and the International Rescue Committee, Enuma is “bringing Kitkit School for Rohingya Learners to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.” Fleeing Myanmar, more than 900,000 Rohingya have found refuge in Cox’s Bazar. More than 50% of the refugees are children or teenagers, most of whom have never attended school.

Looking to Tanzania, where about 23% of school-aged children aged 7 to 13 are not attending school, Kitkit School improved learning outcomes both at home and in school. In Kenya’s Kalobeyei Settlement of the Kakuma Refugee Settlement, “Xavier Project partnered with Enuma to improve access to quality education for 240 refugee and host community children,” increasing test scores and proficiency levels in math and reading.

In addition, Enuma improves education by forming partnerships, one of which is with Good Neighbors Rwanda to provide remote learning software to children at Kagina Primary School in Kagina, Rwanda. This effort has improved the children’s basic math skills and literacy.

Strategic Partners for Literacy Programs

Starting with Indonesia in 2021, Enuma is finding strategic partners to develop and distribute its software in regions such as Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. Enuma plans to release its literacy module free to the public while enabling its partners to run literacy programs around the globe.

Enuma’s Kitkit School software co-won the Global Learning XPRIZE in 2019 for its ability to support children’s independent learning in low-resource locations. Helping children in East Africa, South Asia and Korea, the Kitkit School program became the 2020 winner of the United Nations’ STI Forum Call for Innovations that advance the Sustainable Development Goals.

Given the clear link between poverty and lack of education, Enuma’s learning programs represent a move in the right direction for children around the world.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Global Startup Awards Recognize Top Technology InnovatorsThe Global Startup Awards (GSA) Africa is an initiative spotlighting the top technology innovators across the continent. African citizens from all 55 states will participate in the world’s largest independent startup competition for the first time.

GSA Africa is rapidly growing its community by bringing local tech innovators together from all regions within the continent. This includes Southern, Northern, Eastern, Central and Western Africa. The expansion is possible due to the accelerating progress of Africa’s tech ecosystem. According to Partech’s Africa Tech Venture Capital Report, activity grew by approximately half in 2020 despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Contributing to the Tech Startup Ecosystem

Africa is experiencing monumental changes in the tech industry. More startup companies are being recognized for innovative methods. Startups have been finding solutions in food security, food production and farming methods that will strengthen industries throughout Africa. Caitlin Nash is the co-founder of the Global Innovation Initiation Group which hosts the GSA. She aims to showcase Africa’s innovative community on a global stage. Additionally, she shares the benefits of global exposure. Startups have an opportunity to gain access to a global network and collaborate across borders.

The GSA will reward participants in all aspects of the startup. This includes the startup itself, the people behind the startups and the organizations that support the creators. The GSA’s mission is to feed, industrialize and integrate Africa. This ties into the goal of improving the lives of people living in Africa. With rapid technological developments happening across the world, many countries are more capable of taking those opportunities to keep up. However, this leaves most developing countries behind in these innovations. Thus, these awards shed light on the importance of technological development in those nations.

According to the U.N.’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021, frontier technologies represent a $350 billion market that can potentially grow to $3.2 trillion in 2025. However, developing areas like sub-Saharan Africa are unprepared to adopt and adapt to these technological changes. The GSA will bring forward the innovations needed to help developing countries in Africa and around the world stabilize resources and improve the lives of citizens.

The Contest Categories

The Global Startup Awards will present 12 categories for the 2021 contest. Women in Tech represents tech startups owned and founded by women. AgriTech will award solutions in food security, production, farming methods and nutrition. In addition, HealthTech recognizes startups initiating medical innovations in BioTech, HealthTech, wellness and telemedicine (virtual care for patients) to improve the quality of life. CommerceTech will award the startup that works on using technology to enable commerce in Africa. This will range from mobile commerce to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Another category is IndustrialTech. This category provides Africa’s industrialization with solutions for safety, mining, manufacturing, production, logistics, mobility and supply chain management. ESG Tech, or environment, social and governance tech, will award startups aiming to improve environmental, social impact and social government solutions. These solutions include areas like renewable energy, sustainability, recycling, water and sanitation. Startup of the Year will award the startup that is making the biggest impact on the economy and the world.

The Best Newcomer category will recognize a startup less than two years old that is already making a big impact within the tech industry. Moreover, Founder of the Year will award a startup founder or co-founder making progress with their leadership skills. It will highlight a role model for the next generation of founders. VC of the Year will recognize those achieving financial success while investing in innovative companies that can positively impact the economy and the world.

Finally, Best Accelerator and Incubator Program will recognize programs that help empower entrepreneurs to grow their craft by providing tools and resources to thrive. The Best Co-Working Space category will award a co-working space that provides services, support and resources to create an environment that fosters innovation.

Moving Forward

The Global Startup Awards will find, recognize and connect new innovators around the world. These startups have the potential to better the lives of people living in developing countries, and the GSA will help bring these companies to life.

– Nia Owens
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Data TrafficMany poverty-stricken individuals do not have access to the internet, creating a digital divide. The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized mobile data traffic around the globe, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile broadband supports access to education, work, healthcare, goods and services. It plays an imperative role in reducing poverty. With nearly 800 million people in the region still without access to the mobile internet, it has never been more urgent to close the digital divide.

The Need for Mobile Broadband

According to Fadi Pharaon, president of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, the increasing demand for mobile broadband provides an unprecedented chance to improve economic conditions for Africa. Currently, Africa is one of the quickest growing technology markets.

In addition to younger populations requiring technology to develop practical computer skills, during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the internet is also crucial for remote learning and remote work to continue development and economic progression.

In response to the pandemic, sub-Saharan African countries that were able to implement telework adaptations had considerably greater access to the internet, as much as 28 % of the population, as opposed to countries that were not implementing telework, at 17 %.

Due to the increase of digitalization during the pandemic, these developments are expected to positively contribute to the region’s economic recovery post-pandemic. Research suggests that expanding internet access to cover an additional 10% of the region’s population has the ability to increase gross domestic product (GDP) growth by one to four percentage points.

The Mobile Broadband Demand

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) delivered over 4G or 5G is a more affordable alternative to providing broadband in areas with limited access. By 2025, FWA connections are expected to reach 160 million, accounting for 25% of global mobile data traffic.

The estimated total growth of mobile data traffic is from 0.87EB per month in 2020 to 5.6EB by 2026, an increase of 6.5 times the current figures.

To keep up with the demand, service providers are predicted to continue upgrading their networks to meet their customers’ evolving needs.

Additionally, networks expect to see an increase in customers purchasing mobile data subscriptions. Long-term evolution (LTE) was predicted to amount to 15% of subscriptions at the conclusion of 2020.

Novissi Digital Cash Transfers

The Novissi cash transfer program in Togo is an example of why mobile broadband access is important in developing countries. To support struggling people in Togo during COVID-19, instant mobile cash payments were made to their mobile phones to address urgent needs. The program provided more than half a million people with financial assistance during a crisis.

Closing the Digital Divide Reduces Poverty

Experts suggest that funding infrastructure, increasing electricity access and developing approaches to support digital businesses will aid in economic recovery and continue to close the digital divide. While sub-Saharan Africa has seen an acceleration of mobile data traffic during COVID-19, more action still needs to be taken to support its citizens post-pandemic. Providing affordable access to mobile phones, mobile broadband subscriptions and internet access will help support the recovering economy and alleviate poverty in the region.

Diana Dopheide

How Airtel Helped Millions of Africans Get ConnectedPrior to the arrival of Airtel Africa, implementing and maintaining a large-scale telecommunications company in sub-Saharan Africa seemed unthinkable. But, in 2009, when Airtel set up shop in Africa, the cellphone, once a luxury available only to the upper-class, became a simple and affordable tool for the average person. With more than 100 million subscribers in 2019, Airtel Africa represents a game-changing shift in the accessibility of mobile connections in Africa while providing employment to 1.6 million people across the continent. When its first major operation in sub-Saharan Africa began in 2008 with the acquisition and transformation of smaller telecommunications companies within the continent, the face of the average African cellphone user began to shift dramatically.

Airtel Africa: Providing Affordable Mobile Access

While it is difficult to measure the number of unique users of mobile phones, as of 2019, sub-Saharan Africa noted 747 million SIM connections, accounting for 75% of the population. The increased accessibility of cellphone access in this region is largely credited to Airtel Africa’s groundbreakingly affordable prices, with a basic handset, SIM card and prepaid credit voucher available for just $20.

A portion of Airtel Africa’s impact is also attributed to the company’s radical construction of cellphone towers across sub-Saharan Africa. Airtel Africa has targeted the capitals of all 14 countries in which it operates, with 4G live in each city and plans to expand to rural areas as well. The company’s largest investment is in Nigeria, with the construction of 30,000 towers across the nation. From 2008 to 2018, rates of Nigerian cellphone subscriptions rose from 2 million to 172 million.

One of the most significant causes of increasing mobile connections in Africa is visible in Kenya where rates of cellphone ownership rose from just 1% in 2002 to 39% in 2014. The effects of increased mobile connections in Kenya are exemplified by the development of its online economy through developments such as Kenya Internet Exchange Point, an international axis for the country’s mobile technology. Today, urban Kenya serves as a hub for novel advancements in information technology that serves populations across the globe.

Additionally, thanks to increased rates of cellphone usage, mobile banking in Kenya has become more widely available than ever before. The accessibility of online banking allows those abroad to easily send remittances to underserved populations in rural areas without the hefty fees that once came with international money transfers. This cash flow allows rural populations to lead better quality lives while bolstering the local economy and filling the gap between developed and developing nations.

Mobile Access Improving Education

Evidently, cellphones in sub-Saharan Africa have also come to fill an important role in the world of education. In one 2015 field study, researchers found that students and teachers alike utilized smartphones as multipurpose tools for education.

At the student level, 37.5% of surveyed students in Ghana, 36.9% in Malawi and 60.9% in South Africa reported receiving funding for their education, including uniforms, books and lunches through their smartphones. Aside from being a source of mobile money, school children also used smartphones for their calculator applications, internet search abilities and as a light source in areas with little to no electricity. In other words, smartphones fill crucial gaps for students with limited access to educational resources in and outside the classroom.

Likewise, in all three countries surveyed, teachers reported using their smartphones to access more detailed information in the classroom. As one teacher in Ghana reports, “I try to get current issues for illustration in class.” In short, the mobile connection in Africa represents radical economic growth that allows those stuck in poverty to become upwardly mobile and create better lives for themselves and their communities. By working to allow the average, often underserved person, to easily access a cellphone connection, Airtel Africa has created a new world of possibilities for the future of development in Africa.

Jane Dangel
Photo: Flickr

Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Healthcare Apps in Sub-Saharan Africa
Although sub-Saharan Africa accounts for nearly 11% of the world’s population, it carries approximately 24% of the global disease burden. The region spends less than 1% on global health expenditure and lacks a strong infrastructure to address its citizens’ healthcare necessities.

Advancements in technology may be the solution to this crisis. The mobile industry in sub-Saharan Africa is growing rapidly. In 2012, only 32% of the population had access to a mobile subscription. By 2018, the mobile industry saw a 12% increase in mobile penetration rates. As a result, innovative healthcare apps are being released on the market, allowing individuals to access medical services remotely. This article will focus on three innovative healthcare apps in sub-Saharan Africa that can be accessed through a mobile device.

Hello Doctor: Providing Remote Medical Assistance

Hello Doctor is a mobile healthcare app that was developed in South Africa. It is currently one of the most popular mobile healthcare apps on the market and is available in 10 different countries. The app allows patients to have healthcare that is accessible, affordable and personalized.

The app requires a subscription of $3 per month. It allows a subscriber to “carry a doctor in their pocket.” After filing a request, subscribers are connected with a doctor via text message or phone call. All requests are responded to within an hour. All doctors accessed through the application are registered medical professionals.

The app also has a symptom checker in which patients can note their concerns and are provided with a list of potential diagnoses. It is also updated daily with new content to provide fundamental healthcare advice to patients. This app is most beneficial to citizens who may not be able to easily travel to their nearest healthcare clinic.

Pelebox: Delivering Essential Medication

Communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDs remain a growing problem in sub-Saharan Africa. These chronic diseases must be treated with medication that is picked up from the clinic. However, the limited number of clinics, a shortage of healthcare professionals and a high patient volume create excessive wait times for patients.

Pelebox, a South African app, manages smart lockers that dispense refills of prescriptions to patients. Instead of waiting hours to be seen in the clinic, patients can retrieve their prescriptions within a matter of seconds. Pelebox’s goal is to reduce the burden on hospital staff so that they can focus their attention on patients in critical care.

Here is how the app works. The patient is enrolled in the clinic’s collection program, the prescription is issued and the medication is placed into the locker. Clients will receive a one-time-pin via text message from the system. Patients enter their phone number and PIN at the self-service interface and retrieve their prescriptions from the cubicle. The cubicle is accessible at any time. Through its innovative approach in delivering essential medication, Pelebox has reached approximately 3,000 patients. The company is also planning to set up an additional 30 units in the next five years to continue to expand its reach.

MedAfrica: An All-in-One Healthcare App

MedAfrica, a product of Shimba Mobile, is one of the most popular healthcare apps in sub-Saharan Africa. It was first launched in Kenya in November 2011. By March 2012, it had approximately 70,000 users and was released into several other countries.

The app was created to make healthcare more accessible, affordable and safer. The app is free to use and works on any operating system. It is an all-in-one healthcare app that has various features. It provides users with a directory of qualified doctors and hospitals that are nearby. It also has a symptom checker available to its users so they can decide whether they’d like to pursue further medical advice or treatment. After the diagnosis, they can easily connect with the proper specialist. Users also receive first-aid advice and health updates from local hospitals.

Advancements in Healthcare Through Apps

An underfunded infrastructure, shortage of medical professionals and high patient volumes make for a fragile healthcare system. The surge of healthcare apps in sub-Saharan Africa is a great start to combating these issues. The innovative technologies that are being released for consumer use may be the key to granting much-needed healthcare access to individuals who need it the most.

Jasmine Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Crops That Are Fighting PovertyAcross the world, agriculture remains one of the primary sources of income for those living in poverty. A 2019 report by The World Bank reported that 80% of those living in extreme poverty reside in rural regions, and a large majority of these individuals rely upon agriculture for their livelihood. The World Bank also notes that developing agriculture is one of the most effective ways to alleviate poverty, reduce food insecurity and enhance the general well-being of those living in a community. Potatoes in China, cassava in sub-Saharan Africa, rice in Sierra Leone, pearl millet in India and bananas in Costa Rica are five examples of crops that are fighting poverty.

5 Crops That Are Fighting Poverty

  1. Potatoes in China: In 2019, China was the world’s number one potato-producing country. With a rural population of 45.23%, the nation greatly relies upon agriculture to provide food as well as income to its citizens. In Ulanqub, otherwise known as the “potato city” of China, potato farming is one of the primary means for farmers to rise out of poverty. Due to the fact that viruses have the potential to destroy up to 80% of potato crops, potato engineers in Ulanqub have developed seeds that are more impervious to viruses. These engineers place a sterile potato stem into a solution filled with nutrients to create “virus-free breeder seeds.” The seeds are then planted and produce potatoes of higher quality, ensuring that farmers are able to generate sufficient income and climb out of poverty.
  2. Cassava in sub-Saharan Africa: Cassava is a principal source of calories for 40% of Africans. This crop has traditionally been important during times of famine and low rainfall because it is drought-resistant, requires easily-accessible tools and is easily harvestable by one family. The organization NextGen utilizes genomic technology to isolate beneficial cassava traits that increase plant viability, root quality and yield quantity. By analyzing crop DNA and statistically predicting performance, NextGen is creating cassava crops that are fighting poverty.
  3. Rice in Sierra Leone: Agriculture accounts for 57% of Sierra Leone’s GDP, with rice reigning as the primary staple crop. However, in 2011, the nation was a net rice importer due to struggles with planting efficiency. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was developed to increase rice crop yield and decrease the labor necessary for upkeep. This method requires the use of organic fertilizers, tighter regulations for watering quantities, greater spacing between seeds to decrease plant competition and rotary hoes for weeding. As of 2014, 10,865 individuals had implemented this strategy in Sierra Leone. SRI has enabled rice to become one of the crops that is fighting poverty by increasing crop production from two to six tons per hectare.
  4. Pearl Millet in India: In India, agriculture employs 59% of the nation’s workforce, with 82% of farmers operating small farms that are highly susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. As temperatures rise to a scorching 114℉, crops that are able to survive extreme heat are becoming necessary. Wild pearl millet, a relative of domestic pearl millet, is one crop that can withstand such temperatures. Researchers in India are breeding wild pearl millet seeds with domestic pearl millet in order to enhance resistance to heat and the common “blast” disease. With breeding innovations, pearl millet is one of the crops that are fighting poverty.
  5. Bananas in Costa Rica: One out of every 10 bananas produced in 2015 hailed from Costa Rica, the globe’s third-largest banana producer. This industry generated $ 1.1 billion in 2017 and provides jobs for 100,000 Costa Ricans. However, approximately 90% of banana crops across the nation are at risk of nutrient deprivation from a pest known as nematode, which has the potential to obliterate entire plantations. An article by CropLife International reported that a sustainable pesticide has been created by plant scientists in order to mitigate poverty-inducing crop loss and provide environmentally-conscious methods for banana farmers to ward off pests.

Developing crop viability and agricultural technology is important for poverty alleviation as agriculture possesses twice the likelihood of creating financial growth than other economic sectors. Innovations in crop production that decrease the likelihood of failure from drought, disease and changing weather patterns are important for the well-being of rural communities across the globe. Potatoes, cassava, rice, pearl millet and bananas are just five examples of crops that are fighting poverty, but improvements in different facets of agriculture have the potential to enhance the livelihoods of those who provide the world’s food.

Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

South African PovertyThe battle against poverty has always been a difficult one, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented many new challenges. Actions currently being taken to combat South African poverty and COVID-19 have proven that, with new options and renewed commitments, there is still much that can be done to alleviate poverty. Impoverished people around the world need aid now more than ever.

An Ongoing Struggle

Historically, South Africa has struggled to aid its most economically vulnerable citizens. According to the most recent government analysis, almost half of the adult population is living under the poverty line—an alarming figure. It seems apparent that this South African poverty crisis would be seen on nearly every level of society. Sadly, this widespread poverty has had a notable impact on which necessary resources are available to people. While electricity infrastructure is fairly widespread, between 28% and 30% of poor households lack access to water and sanitation services. As is relatively common in cases of inequality, the most vulnerable frequently lack access to basic necessities, making their struggles far more urgent.

COVID-19 Developments

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is poised to exacerbate South African poverty. The World Bank has predicted that while the pandemic will increase poverty worldwide, the hardest-hit region will be Sub-Saharan Africa. Although South Africa has been relatively spared from the worst of COVID-19 on a health level, the poverty-inducing effects of the pandemic are daunting—it is projected that some 23 million South Africans will be pushed into poverty in 2020. Beyond the immediate tragedy, this decline will present new challenges. In order to protect them, governments will need to find new ways to offer meaningful support throughout the crisis.

Innovation Brings Hope

Fortunately, the government of South Africa has begun to take steps to properly aid its impoverished citizens during this time. They have rolled out a new, easily accessible digital tool called HealthCheck in order to provide self-assessment resources. Members of the public can download the program, which will ask them a few simple questions and then provide a COVID-19 risk prediction along with a pertinent guideline and suggested actions.

While HealthCheck is designed to be available to the entirety of the South African populace, it aids low-income South Africans in particular. Although only a third of the population uses smartphones, feature phones enjoy more widespread use, so a lack of hardware is not necessarily an issue. For many impoverished people in South Africa—and across the world—receiving the proper healthcare needed to determine a risk of infection may be difficult or outright impossible.

Partnerships Increase Access

To further alleviate this issue, the South African government has coordinated with network operators MTN, Vodacom and Telekom, to have facilitate free access to the USSD line. This way, South Africans who could not typically afford cellular or wi-fi services can make use of the HealthCheck tool. As a matter of fact, they have—authorities have reported that so far, over one million members of the public have used HealthCheck.

The digital tool has been utilized in conjunction with NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.  The NGO has worked to fill the gap in fighting South African poverty by creating impromptu field hospitals in otherwise-ignored townships. In Khayelitsha, it has opened up 70 additional beds in a basketball arena in order to serve as many people as possible in the area. This was part of a broader government plan to have over 1,400 extra beds ready as needed. Providing aid such as this is an important part of the battle against poverty.

Just a Start

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the growth of the continental African economy, and threatens its growing middle class. Across the entire continent, nearly eight million people are predicted to fall into poverty, in many cases due to the lack of a social safety net. By providing essential resources, NGOs like Doctors Without Borders are working to limit the economic burden that falls on the South African populace.

While it’s just a start in terms of supporting the impoverished population, these initiatives have clearly provided accessible ways for low-income citizens to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. There are still many hurdles to overcome in the fight against South African poverty, but these recent initiatives have shown that we can still work to effectively aid the poor.

Aidan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr