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new technologies in South SudanTechnology increasingly offers more and more solutions to help reduce poverty across the globe. Considering South Sudan’s unpredictable climate and scarce resources, new technologies in South Sudan can provide a gateway of opportunities and security to the locals. This can be through new farming methods and equipment, schooling, banking and monetary management.

The Problems in South Sudan

South Sudan’s current climate is posing many challenges to its poverty-stricken population. The World Bank describes poverty as ‘ubiquitous’ across South Sudan, with it estimating that two-thirds of the population requires humanitarian assistance.

Estimates stated that floods are affecting up to 1 million people every year because the floods have forced many to evacuate their homes. This has had an impact on education with floods affecting 100 schools. As a result, more than 60,000 students have reduced access to education.

In the short term, people in South Sudan have had limited access to nutrition and health care. This has contributed to the fact that 60% of the population is facing malnutrition.

It is not just flooding that impacts South Sudan. Excessive drought, temperature changes and unpredictable rainfall have all damaged day-to-day life in South Sudan. Droughts have resulted in food insecurities leading to a loss of livestock and crops.

This is severely impacting the economy in South Sudan considering that 95% of the population work in sectors that rely on the climate. This includes agriculture, fishing and forestry resources.

In the 2020-2021 period the South Sudanese economy reduced by 5.4% due to lower exports of oil and agricultural output. This is having a large impact on the living conditions of individuals in South Sudan.

The Conflict in South Sudan

As a result of the unpredictable climate in South Sudan, many have had to migrate. In fact, up to 4 million people as of 2022 remain displaced due to climate-induced dangers – 1.6 million internally and 2.3 million in neighboring countries.

Migration has led to enhanced homelessness across South Sudan. This has reduced living standards and increased disease. A lack of infrastructure has led to more exposure to malnutrition, mosquitos and climate-induced diseases such as malaria and cholera.

Serious conflicts over resources in South Sudan between groups, especially in areas of extreme drought, has led to livestock raiding and exacerbated the displacement of people into concentrated areas making resource scarcity even more serious.

Furthermore, the large weaponry market that has spread throughout the territory to the failure of the South Sudanese government, fuelling the problem and resulting in wider political instability in South Sudan. Resource conflicts have increasingly become a method to gain political support and power.

UNHCR’s Efforts

To solve the issues of conflict and lack of institutional and infrastructural support in South Sudan, the resource and climate problems require mitigation and resolution. Technology could be a solution, but South Sudan has limited new technologies presently.

First, and foremost, technology can make farming more efficient and sustainable. For example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is trying to develop sustainable and resilient infrastructure such as dikes and drainage systems to try and appease the problems in South Sudan. Moreover, UNHCR has provided flood-tolerant seeds and training for locals. To help with droughts, it has introduced new irrigation systems and set up tree nurseries to regrow forests. In Maban, five tree nurseries underwent establishment in four refugee camps. These activities are introducing new skills and opportunities for the locals, that are more resistant and malleable to the changing climatic conditions. Other technologies include high-efficiency cooking stoves, reusing agricultural waste and using solar energy to extract water from boreholes.

How the US is Helping

Next, greater investment into education and human capital development is vital for presenting more opportunities for the locals to be able to use new tech. The U.S. has provided more than $117 million to South Sudan on top of humanitarian aid. This is helping the government to invest more money into their infrastructure, allowing more to access education.

The U.N. has also been providing increased support across Africa. It is important that this continues as, alone, South Sudan does not have the fiscal capacity to create a stable socioeconomic climate.

A further key area for South Sudan is taking full advantage of technology to provide education to rural areas that otherwise do not have access. This seems to have had little traction so far but could prove to be a very advantageous development.

Lastly, introducing these new technologies and skills in South Sudan will help to address the migration problem, reducing the levels of migration and allowing the population to become more dispersed again. This will hopefully help to reduce conflict in South Sudan as well.

Looking Ahead

Behind this shift to new technologies in South Sudan in the long run, support through charity and initiatives will help to smooth the transition. For example, to help with conflicts UNHCR has started several peace initiatives in Eastern Equatoria to reduce further conflict between herders and farmers, and to incentivize the use of new technology in pastoralists’ original locations, rather than internally migrating.

As a result, it becomes clear that South Sudan can reduce conflict across the country if it introduces more sustainable technology to help with the unpredictable climate. This requires the support of other countries and the cooperation of the South Sudanese government if this is to successfully reduce poverty.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Flickr

Young Jordanians Who Confront Food Insecurity via InnovationJordan has been experiencing food insecurity challenges due to multiple factors, such as water scarcity and slow economic growth. As a result, many Jordanians struggle to afford food for themselves. Food insecurity is a pervading problem in Jordan because 63% of its population is under 30 years old, a generational issue. However, young Jordanians have discovered new ways to cleverly tackle food insecurity in their country without successful government policies. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and The World Food Programme (WFP) have recently established the Youth in Food Security Innovation Programme, which gathers young Jordanians who confront food insecurity via innovation.

Food insecurity has become the central issue amongst citizens in the developing world primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia war and economic decline. This made tackling food insecurity in developing countries more challenging especially given the vulnerability of the governments. Therefore, citizens living in the developing world are compelled to find effective alternative methods to feed themselves, their families and their fellow citizens. The innovations in tackling food insecurity presented by these young Jordanians highlight new ways to reduce hunger quickly. The key is to discover the latest methods and adopt them as official development policy.

The Current Food Insecurity Situation in Jordan

The food insecurity situation in Jordan worsened because of the COVID-19 pandemic as it “has affected sustainable development efforts.” On February 28, A U.N. policy brief on Jordan’s food security strategy stated that 53% “of Jordanians are vulnerable to food insecurity” while 3% of Jordan’s households are struggling with food insecurity. Jordan is also facing water scarcity which can heavily impact its agriculture since it absorbs more than 50% of water in order “to produce 45%” of Jordan’s agriculture. The country relies on young Jordanians who confront food insecurity via innovation to solve the hunger issue.

Aya Kreik: The Soil as a Sustainable Source of Food

One of the young Jordanians confronting food insecurity via innovation is Aya Kreik, an architecture student living in Jordan’s capital city, Amman. Aya is part of a team that “succeeded in converting farm waste into organic fertilizers rich in nutrients.” This innovative method revived the soil and compelled farmers to stop using chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, the soil would “retain water in a large proportion,” reducing water irrigation in a water-scarce country. This method that Aya and her team created produces more organic food for Jordanians, which helps tackle food insecurity while promoting environmental sustainability.

Alaa and Nourhan: Plants that Self-Feed

Alaa (Banking and Finance student) and Nourhan (Business Intelligence student) are also young Jordanians who confront food insecurity via innovation. The students teamed up to build a start-up enterprise that specializes in producing “self-watering and self-feeding plants.” This is done by transforming “moisture in the air into pure water” via a type of hydrogel that is made up “of self-absorbing polymers.” This method allows for the availability of more water that produces more food at a time when Jordanians are struggling to find water and food.

Conclusion

Jordan, as with many other Middle Eastern countries, is experiencing severe food shortages and high prices for food items due to COVID-19 and the Ukraine-Russia war. However, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, Jordanians have proven that tough challenges can be easily overcome via innovation and creativity. The innovative methods the young Jordanians have presented to the world are helping Jordan solve its food insecurity problem by producing healthy organic food that contributes to environmental sustainability. The creative methods show the world that solving development issues and policies in the developing world requires intelligent solutions. In other words, the world may be closer to ending hunger than before.

Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Diia appThe Ukrainian government released the Diia app in 2020 to help the government reach all citizens and ensure access to a wide array of governmental services. Now, amid the war that began in February 2022, displaced citizens are using the Diia app to access monetary assistance, digital versions of official documents and other modes of aid.

The Functionalities of the Diia APP

Ukraine’s official site, ukraine.ua, states that one of Diia’s goals is “to make 100% public services available online.” The available services include access to digital documents, such as one’s driver’s license or passport, that have the same legal strength as a physical copy. Furthermore, the app also allows Ukrainians to make payments to the government or register new businesses quickly.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change reported 13 million Diia users in Ukraine by the close of 2021, which was partially influenced by the introduction of COVID-19 aid and vaccine certification through the app. As the population in Ukraine in 2020 stood at about 44.13 million, around 29.5% of the Ukrainian population used the Diia app in 2021.

Post-War Digital Connections

However, the Diia app became significantly more important following the February 2022 Russian invasion. The United Nations Refugee Agency recorded more than 6.3 million Ukrainian refugees across Europe as of August 10, 2022. As early as May 2022, the United Nations estimated that more than 8 million Ukrainians faced internal displacement within Ukraine itself. Despite this, the app can still track the locations of registered Ukrainians no matter where they are and provide limited cash aid as well as the services mentioned above.

The government also introduced a simplified identification process that allows Ukrainians access to certain neighboring countries such as Moldova and Poland. Furthermore, it adopted the aid system used for COVID-19 to send “the equivalent of the monthly minimum wage” to anyone working in war-affected regions. Thus, the government is providing financial assistance to those both in and outside of Ukraine to support citizens and keep them out of poverty.

Finally, the app allows Ukrainians to keep track of the events taking place in their home country from firsthand sources. In an interview with the news site Emerging Europe, Ukrainian Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov stated that the app gives constant information on the state of the war and allows citizens to directly support the military with funding. This is important because the Diia app bypasses language barriers and disinformation to directly inform its citizens regardless of where they are.

The Future of Digitalization

Although not intended for a wartime scenario, Diia is making a massive difference to keep displaced Ukrainians financially secure and aware of current events. Not only does this help keep citizens afloat and out of poverty but it also helps keep their spirits up by informing them about the events occurring in their home country.

Diia’s widespread post-war availability proves the advantages of reaching out to those unable to easily access government services due to location, physical handicaps or poverty. Digital systems that aid those struggling in society can often be adjusted and reused in times of crisis to aid the general public and keep them from falling into poverty themselves.

– Henry Bauer
Photo: Flickr

Programming Industry in BelarusThe growth of the programming industry in Belarus, dubbed as the IT sector, took the country’s economy by storm. It helped the country reduce its “brain drain,” a phenomenon defined by the emigration of professionals from their home country to a nation that provides better pay and opportunities. Belarus’ IT sector exports grew from $218 million in 2010 to over $700 million in 2015. This amazing turnaround raises some key questions. Namely, why did the programming industry in Belarus blossom, and how has it benefited the country?

Origin of the Programming Industry

The growth of the programming industry is built on the Soviet Union’s strong educational focus on science and technology. Under the Soviet Union in the late 20th century, schools often focused on teaching students science and technology because they lack ideological barriers. These fields needed no censoring to fit the ideas promoted by the Soviet Union. This prioritization remains, and students in Belarus tend to choose technical specializations over those in the social sciences. For example, nearly 4,000 young Belarusians graduate each year with IT-related degrees. The size of the local tech talent can be explained by state policies supporting the IT industry’s growth.

The combination of direct subsidies and tax cuts allows 1,000 tech companies to have their offices in Belarus. Of these, the 50 largest employ between 100 and 7,000 employees each. In 2005, the Belarus government sponsored the construction of the High Tech Park, a tax and legal regime designed to develop the IT sector. Since then, it’s become an incubator for various tech companies due to its preferential tax regime and the resulting lower operational costs that companies incur. The government’s investment in the sector and fiscal benefits helped it grow tremendously in the past decade.

Benefits of the IT sector

While the IT sector only represented a 1% share in the gross value added to the economy in 2014, its benefits span beyond the industry itself. With Belarus’ 2015 average salary stagnating at $350 per month, the IT sector’s average salary of $1,600 attracted many people to the industry. This incentivized many individuals to remain in Belarus rather than moving abroad. As a result, the IT sector reduces brain drain as educated professionals stay in the country and help grow its industry.

Furthermore, the increased salaries not only enabled workers in the IT sector to better support their own families but also increased investment in research and development and Belarus’ education system. Of the 460 organizations orchestrating research and development activities, 74 resulted in university laboratories. Tech companies began providing direct investment in the Belarusian education system, accounting for 10.4% of total research and development staff in the country. Their contribution ensures that there is an ample supply of computer science graduates.

An Exciting Future

The growth of the Belarusian programming industry in the last decade brought about significant economic growth. This dramatically increased the population’s opportunities for pursuing computer science and unlocked the possibility of a larger salary. Now, IT workers better support their families and make a greater contribution to the economy by staying in Belarus. With the education system’s continued investment in turning out graduates with science and technology degrees, the booming programming industry in Belarus promises amazing results.

– Max Sidorovitch
Photo: Flickr

Vietnam rice farming appFarming is becoming more valuable to Vietnam’s development as a nation. Vietnam has a rapidly growing economy and is highly reliant on its agricultural sector. The value of Vietnam’s agriculture, fishing and forestry markets accounted for almost 15% of the country’s GDP in 2020. However, there are a few roadblocks standing in the way of Vietnamese agricultural success. A Vietnam rice farming app is helping farmers to overcome these obstacles.

Rice and Salt Water

Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest rice producers. These rice farmers depend on certain environmental conditions to take place in order to produce their influential yield. If natural variables are out of alignment, an entire season’s crop can go to waste. Without a successful crop, the livelihood of farmers is put at risk and they can easily slip into poverty. Thankfully, a Vietnam rice farming app was designed to keep rice farmers aware of precisely how their paddies are doing.

The smartphone app is helpful for farmers all across Vietnam, including in the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is a vast expanse in the southern part of Vietnam where the majority of the country’s farming and fishing occurs. The pronounced wet and dry seasons affect the delta greatly since it’s a very low-lying area. During the wet season, there is plenty of fresh rainwater that fills the rivers. In the dry season, rivers are not filled with rainwater, so seawater laden with salt flows into them. A high saltwater content in rice fields can make the roots of the rice inefficient at absorbing water and can kill the plant. Regulating the salt content is a crucial aspect of being a rice paddy farmer. The Vietnam rice farming app aims to help local farmers monitor salt levels among its various other features to protect farms.

Impact of the App

Technology is offering a simple solution to the problem. The Vietnamese government, in conjunction with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), launched a mobile app that provides farmers with information about the state of water in their rice paddies. This Vietnam rice farming app reports data collected by various sensors placed on farms across the Mekong Delta to each app user.

This Vietnam rice farming app gets information to the farmers quickly, which helps the farmers to make the necessary changes before it’s too late. Farmers can easily check the app for updates on the water quality in their rice paddies, such as the water’s salinity, pH, alkalinity and tidal water levels. This information helps farmers to prevent their crops from going to waste. For example, when the app reports salinity being too high, farmers know they must pump fresh water into the fields.

Before this mobile app, farmers were only getting one out of the usual three harvests annually. During a salinity wave, 300,000 hectares of rice fields were lost. But due to the implementation of the sensors and tracking abilities, the next salinity wave brought only 21,000 hectares of damage. This Vietnam rice farming app is protecting farmers from the costly reality of a ruined crop.

Of Poverty and Rice

The Vietnam rice farming app has a broad impact. About half of Vietnam’s 47 million labor force workers engage in agriculture and a poor harvest could prove detrimental to many Vietnamese people. Many in Vietnam don’t have savings and live a subsistence lifestyle, which can make any financial blow very serious. This is particularly true for the nearly 70% of the country lives in rural areas where poverty is especially concerning. The rate of rural poverty is around three times the urban poverty rate. By reducing the variables and uncertainty in the farming process with an app, Vietnamese farmers can feel empowered and less threatened about falling into extreme poverty. Utilizing this technology in agricultural practices can help save the rice paddies and protect against poverty in Vietnam.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in SpainThe world of health technology has been growing exponentially in the last decade and continues to grow, especially with the novel coronavirus still affecting the world. One of the most prominent locations for health technology is in Spain. The industry has a large quantity of health tech company startups in Spain; high-quality companies are making new drug discoveries for treatments and creating virtual therapies that can help those in impoverished areas receive the medical care they need. Here are the top five health tech companies making strides in Spain.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in Spain

  1. Elma Care is an app that combines comprehensive health insurance with remote medical consultations. This great new resource emerged in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Elma Care is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because the app keeps all of a patient’s medical information in one place, allows consultation with primary care physicians remotely and offers tools like preventative medicine plans to help people access healthcare with more ease and efficiency. All of this is possible from the comfort and safety of the home, allowing for social distancing during the current global pandemic.
  2. Devicare is a specialty biotech company that focuses on chronic diseases. The company, founded in Barcelona, Spain, strives to develop solutions for the treatment process of chronic diseases. The company also offers a mentoring service with a team of experts and nursing staff. Often, chronic diseases involve a multitude of doctor visits and, in many cases, few answers. However, Devicare offers a cheaper and easier way of treating chronic diseases.
  3. Savana Medica provides a platform in which the clinical data for patients from healthcare organizations can be managed. EHRead, a form of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technology, can obtain valuable health information that aids medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because this technology fosters quick and efficient access to records, which can help doctors understand a patient’s history of disease and illness.
  4. Genomcore is a company that has created an interface that stores a patient’s genetic information. Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, the platform that Genomcore provides for patient information can be efficiently shared with medical professionals when necessary. Genomcore helps foster more personalized treatment for patients and consequently the possibility of faster recovery from illness.
  5. Mediktor was founded in 2011 but has made a new name for itself due to increased use during the pandemic. Mediktor is an app that gives symptom assessments to patients via their own personal devices before even seeing a medical professional. In March 2020, the company released the COVID-19 symptom checker. With Mediktor, people were able to determine, with great accuracy, whether or not they needed to see a medical professional in relation to COVID-19 symptoms.

The top five health tech companies in Spain are instrumental to the world of healthcare today. While many people have restricted access to needed medical attention, these new technologies can change that.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

accessibility in IndiaAs of 2020, 50% of people in India had access to the internet, a figure growing most quickly in rural regions. In 2019, there were 264 million internet users in rural India compared to the 310 million internet users in urban India. The rapid growth of internet adoption outside of Indian cities can be accredited in part to the initiatives of the Digital India campaign, including efforts to integrate the country’s cloud infrastructure, promote open data platforms, fill connectivity gaps and offer affordable data plans. Overall, internet penetration rates across the country have more than doubled over the last five years. Through the use of technology and the internet, platforms have been created to increase resource, service and opportunity accessibility in India.

The Digital Revolution Increases Accessibility

In a country where 80% of the impoverished live in rural areas, widespread internet availability is vital. More than just a source of entertainment, the internet increases accessibility of products and services that otherwise might not be affordable or available. Recognizing the potential for digital technologies to cut across geographic and economic barriers, numerous private and public organizations have developed platforms designed to increase accessibility in India. Whether connecting buyers to faraway sellers or simply helping individuals locate public toilets, these innovative tech platforms champion access and promote inclusion in India.

Google Toilet Locator

In 2012, more Indian households had a cellphone than a toilet. A lack of access to toilets leads to rampant open defecation with consequences ranging from water pollution to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera. In a country where technology has grown faster than public services, the government turned to tech for assistance in its campaign to eradicate open defecation and improve waste management. In December 2016, India’s Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) partnered with Google to introduce a Google Maps toilet finder tool as part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission. As the government works to construct millions of toilets around the country, the Google Toilet Locator helps Indians to more easily find them. The app even allows users to leave ratings and reviews for public restrooms.

Tractors-as-a-Service

In September 2018, Aeris Communications partnered with Hello Tractor to launch “Tractors-as-a-Service” in India, The service provides on-demand tractor rentals to Indian farmers. In India, agriculture is an essential source of export earnings, employment and food. Tractors play a crucial role in increasing agricultural productivity but less than 30% of farmers utilize such expensive, high-capacity equipment. Hello Tractor’s software, which can be accessed through mobile and web applications, offers a “pay-as-you-use” model based on time in the field and area covered. The app enables small farmers to reap the benefits of commercial model tractors at lower costs while increasing the profits of tractor owners by allowing them to rent out their machines during idle times.

IndiaMART

IndiaMART is India’s largest online business-to-business marketplace, connecting buyers with suppliers of products and services ranging from pharmaceuticals to industrial machinery to wholesale foods. IndiaMART offers more than 67 million products and services to more than 100 million buyers. Importantly, the platform gives small and medium-sized enterprises in India a place to promote their business. There are about 60 million small and medium-sized businesses in India but only around 10 million of them have any web presence, according to the most recent data. IndiaMART allows these companies to expand their market reach and sell through the platform for a subscription fee.

A thriving e-commerce economy allows for goods and services to reach a consumer base that is less affluent and lives outside of traditional urban markets, thereby increasing market accessibility and enhancing the welfare of rural and lower-income populations.

Unified Payments Interface

In the financial sector, the National Payments Corporation of India developed the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), an instant real-time payment system regulated by the Reserve Bank of India. The platform allows users to access multiple bank accounts from even the most remote locations, routing funds and making payments under one seamless application. Digital finance platforms such as UPI are crucial in promoting financial inclusion and empowering individuals with tools such as loans and savings accounts.

Both private and public digital platforms have been deployed to increase accessibility in India and reach those who may otherwise be excluded from resources, services and opportunities.

Margot Seidel
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
Photo:Flickr

Lab-Grown MeatIn the effort to reduce poverty around the world, scientific innovations and technological solutions are welcomed. Developments in technological capabilities provide new potential approaches to reducing poverty. One such development that has received increased attention is the emergence of lab-grown meat as an alternative source of food for populations in developing countries. Lab-grown meat has only emerged as a potential solution quite recently, and even at this young stage of development, there are many who argue both for and against its potential effectiveness and applicability in the effort to reduce poverty.

Lab-Grown Meat

Lab-grown meat, known alternatively as cultured meat, is an alternative application of stem cell technology typically used in medicine. Stem cells are extracted from an animal and converted to muscle cells. The cells are then cultured on a scaffold with nutrients and essential vitamins. From this point, they grow and can eventually be shaped into any desired form, such as sausages, hamburgers, steaks or mince. Lab-grown meat is being considered as a potential solution to food insecurity in impoverished countries as it takes much less time to grow, uses fewer of the planet’s resources and no animals need to be farmed or slaughtered.

The Arguments Against Cultured Meat

Those against the implementation of cultured meat as a tool in the struggle against world poverty point firstly to the impracticality of current production. The world’s first cultured burger, cooked on live TV in 2013, cost $330,000 to produce and more of its kind might not be commercially available for decades.

In addition to the practicality issue, critics also argue that providing meat grown in foreign labs to developing countries is not ultimately constructive. It creates a dependence on exports for food when most developing countries have the capabilities to produce their own food.

Most African and Asian countries used to be self-sufficient with regard to food production but this has changed over the last 30 years. Subsidized western-grown crops have been pushed on developing countries and barriers to markets have been lowered, allowing U.S. and European firms to export crops to developing countries.

Poverty Reduction Applicability

Kanayo Nwanze former president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), presented an argument in 2013 which has maintained support today. The argument is that the decline of agriculture in developing countries has been an effect of underinvestment as a result of structural adjustment programs pushed by the World Bank. The World Bank has funded numerous investment programs in recent years that aim to provide developing nations with western food as a means of poverty alleviation. Some argue that this is not a sustainable solution and will only lead developing nations to be dependent in the future. Instead of investing in big science, those looking to reduce global poverty should focus on supporting rural regions and small farmers.

Eat Just: Cultured Meat

Despite the existing criticism of cultured meat, supporters of this developing technology have reason to be optimistic. In December 2020, U.S. startup, Eat Just, became the first in the world to gain government approval to sell its product to the public. This approval came from the government of Singapore, which means cultured chicken will soon be available at an unnamed restaurant in Singapore. This is a landmark development for the cultured meat business. Following this gain of approval, more governments around the world may follow suit. According to Eat Just, cultured chicken nuggets will be available at “price parity for premium chicken you’d enjoy at a restaurant.”

The Potential of Lab-Grown Meat

The debate around the effectiveness of cultured meat as a tool in poverty reduction is justified and indeed necessary. Only after serious consideration and scrutiny does any new idea earn approval and the right to be implemented. Though right now it may seem that there are more arguments against its implementation than for, this is largely due to the novelty surrounding the idea. The technology and industry with regards to lab-grown meat as a whole are still in the early stages of development. The idea of lab-grown meat as a potential solution to hunger and poverty is being followed eagerly by supporters and skeptically by critics. Only time will tell whether this novel idea succeeds or falls short.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

Video Games in AfricaThe global video game industry is valued at $140 billion and Africa is primed to take a piece of the action. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of African gamers rose from 23 million to a staggering 500 million, opening up a lucrative opportunity for the African gaming industry to become a major player. Video games in Africa have the potential to transform poverty in the continent.

Video Gaming Industry in Africa

Every year, the African gaming industry grows by more than 8%, with new gaming companies opening frequently. The Festival of Electronics and Video Games of Abidjan (FEJA), is a video gaming event in Africa with the main aim of creating jobs in the industry. The event’s organizers see the three-day event as an opportunity to exemplify the immense potential the industry has in Africa.

Although there are already innovative African gaming companies such as Work’d and Paradise Game, video games in Africa are often overlooked. However, Paradise Game founder and CEO, Sidick Bakayoko, predicts that by 2025, West Africa alone will have room to create over one million jobs in the gaming sector and the continent as a whole could create five million jobs.

Urgent Evoke Video Game

A game designer named Jane McGonigal has developed a game specifically promoted to African gamers called “Urgent Evoke”. The game exists both online and in the real world. To progress in the game, players must complete real-life activism such as reaching out to government leaders, researching environmental solutions, contributing time to alleviate poverty and other acts of contribution. Players must document these actions and submit them to advance in the game.

McGonigal’s goal with “Urgent Evoke” is to empower Africans to become active problem-solvers and tackle poverty and other issues in their communities. In addition to promoting and requiring activism, the game awards prizes to winners, including mentorships, scholarships, internships and startup money to foster entrepreneurship.

Video Games and Perception

Game developers like McGonigal and Bakayoko aim to use video games in Africa to change the way Africans view themselves and their continent as well as change how the world views Africa. The continent is often seen as a dangerous place filled with hunger and war. By creating games set in Africa led by positive African characters, developers can change perceptions and help Africans see themselves through a more confident, leadership lens.

These games have the power to reduce prejudice toward poverty and help people understand impoverished nations and join the fight to help them. Many hold the false belief that poverty is something self-inflicted or personally controllable. Cultivation theory states that the media that people absorb affects the way they perceive the world.

Video games in Africa have the influence to create a more accepting and representative industry. Games such as “Urgent Evoke” change perceptions, allowing African gamers to be their own heroes both online and in the real world.

Potential for Poverty Reduction in Africa

The growing industry of video games in Africa has created a plethora of jobs but there is a lack of skilled labor. Unfortunately, many Africans have not realized the immense potential that video games in Africa have for the continent.

Most parents do not see video games as a lucrative skill-building task. For the video game industry in Africa to truly flourish, the younger generation must have access to coding and tech education.

This is not yet at the forefront of mainstream education, but the continent, especially South Africa, is abundant with resources to educate Africans in the gaming industry. Even without money for a proper university, coding boot camps or proximity to a city, Africans can take online coding courses to get their foot into the tech industry and contribute to Africa’s immense gaming growth.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Unsplash