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Solar energy buses in South AfricaLately, pollution throughout the world has risen due to the effects of climate change, fossil fuels and the emittance of a handful of harmful chemicals in order for different countries to keep running. Ever since the late 1990s, renewable energy use on the African continent has been dropping, moving from a high of 74% in 1994 to 70% in 2015. Even in more prominent countries like Ghana, the 2015 rate was at a relatively small 41%. Some countries barely creep over 1%.

In the days of a global pandemic and climate change creeping up on the world, the need to utilize more natural forms of energy to power the world has become preeminent. And in South Africa, major steps are being taken, starting with their public transportation using clean energy buses.

Where Golden Arrow Comes In

In July 2021, Golden Arrow, one of the major organizations that provide public transportation for people in Cape Town, South Africa, has put out two fully electric buses to help transport individuals without using types of energy that are harmful to the air and to the world as a whole. According to IT News Africa, Golden Arrow began its renewable energy project back in 2016, and this project is in collaboration with the bus company, the city of Cape Town and New Southern Energy, a construction company based in South Africa that helps make solar energy products.

These clean energy buses in South Africa are expected to be run from Retreat all the way to Cape Town, which will be very convenient for people in the area due to the collapse of train services in the metro ran by MetroRail.

Due to this collapse of services, caused by poor conditions, looting and attacks from civilians, many people that worked for MetroRail have lost their jobs in an area where unemployment is already at an all-time high. The French Agency of Development (AFD), highlights that young people represent more than half of the unemployed population in Africa, or 60% to be exact. However, Golden Arrow has increased its services recently around the time these buses were introduced, so for some people in search of a job, bus operations might alleviate unemployment.

Launching the Effort

The program of launching these vehicles, according to IT News Africa, did not involve the vehicles themselves; it started from the ground up. Golden Arrow installed a small solar-powered system in one of its main vehicle depots in Epping, a small town within Cape Town. Then, in the next two phases of the program, it expanded its solar power capabilities by installing 2,500 panels at its Multimech stop. Then, with the success of these solar systems, it was time to test it out on the buses.

Two types of tests were done with the clean energy buses in South Africa, according to Techinafrica. One bus was completely empty, and the other had sandbags filled in the bus that simulated the weights of different passengers — 44 of them to be exact. For a few months, the team at Golden Arrow has been running those tests, becoming excited with the progress being made as Gideon Neethling, an engineer for Golden Arrow, stated, “Testing these vehicles has been a joy for everyone who is part of the project. Each time we carry out a new test or reach a new milestone, the level of excitement increases further.”

Considering the Future

According to Oxfam, an estimated 633 million people in Africa are living without access to electricity, and almost 800 million people are cooking food with old cookstoves, which is deemed not safe. With renewable energy use on a decline in Africa, these clean energy buses in South Africa stand to positively benefit the country and the continent as a whole. Golden Arrow can transport its 250,000 passengers every day, employ some of them to launch these solar-powered buses and then continue to add more buses to its network. Thanks to Golden Arrow, Africa is better poised to fight harmful energy, add new jobs and fight poverty within the continent.

– Matt Orth
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in Mauritania
Mauritania in coastal west Africa is among the most impoverished countries in the world, with 31% of its 4 million people, or around 1.2 million people, living beneath the poverty line as of 2014. Consequently, child poverty in Mauritania is likely to be one of the gravest situations in the world, even though reliable data regarding child poverty is scarce due to the fact that 56% of births in Mauritania do not have legal documentation.

The Background

Despite the abundance of natural resources present in the lands and waters of Mauritania, decades of political and social instability coupled with corruption, oppression and a centuries-long history of ethnicity-based enslavement have created conditions that continually exacerbate child poverty and poverty in general. Other factors such as frequent droughts in and around the Sahara Desert in Northeastern Mauritania also deprive people of food and income to feed themselves or their children. Accordingly, one reliable indicator of the severity of child poverty in Mauritania is the fact that an estimated 19.2% of children under the age of 5 were underweight in 2018.

Child Poverty and Slavery in Mauritania

Poverty and slavery in Mauritania interconnect. Though Mauritania abolished slavery in 1981 and criminalized it in 2007, the persistence of the oppressive ethnic caste system continues to deprive the Haratine population, an ethnic minority in Mauritania, of receiving the social and economic freedoms that the rest of the country receives. As a result, 20% of Mauritania’s total population––and half of all Haratines–– remain enslaved, either explicitly through the threat of punishment or de facto due to socioeconomic discrimination and indentured servitude in 2018.

People inherited and often still inherit slave status in Mauritanian society. As a result, many children are born into slavery to serve the slave masters of their parents or the masters sell them to other families where they often suffer neglect and injury. This continuing cultural practice of hereditary slavery perpetuates a self-sustaining cycle of poverty in the Haratine population of Mauritania. This is one of the ways by which child poverty in Mauritania manifests itself––and by which the practice of slavery continues to maintain itself.

Education

As slaves, children do not receive an education that could provide them with valuable knowledge and skills to improve their living situation. As a result, the threat of living in near-certain poverty if they were to leave their master’s household traps children with their masters. With few viable alternatives to make enough money to live, “former [child] slaves (commonly descendants of slaves) continue to endure slave-like practices, including working for their former masters in exchange for food, money, and lodging” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

In 2014, estimates determined that 18.2% of children in Mauritania, ages 5 to 14 years old, were working and not receiving an education. An additional 10.8% of children in the same age group were reportedly splitting their time between work and school. Furthermore, UNICEF estimates that the primary school completion rate in Mauritania is 63% indicating that more than one-third of children in Mauritania do not receive a sufficient education.

Solutions

One promising solution that focuses on reinvesting in childhood development in order to break the poverty cycle is providing direct transfer payments to people––primarily mothers–– in impoverished villages on the condition that they attend classes on hygiene, nutrition and early childhood development. This program is jointly funded by the Mauritanian government, the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development and the French Agency for Development. Households receiving the payments have seen their families’ and their village’s living conditions improve as they take more care to prevent disease and malnutrition. One of the main objectives of the program is “to invest in the next generation and break the poverty cycle by tackling intergenerational poverty.”

Though Mauritania is currently one of the most impoverished nations in the world, its young population and abundance of natural resources should help the country achieve long-term prosperity.

– Willy Carlsen
Photo: Flickr