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aid-hurts-africaDoes aid hurt Africa? When considering foreign aid in developing countries, the perspective of those receiving the aid is very often overlooked. The focus tends to be on those developed countries that give aid: why they should give aid, how they should give aid, and where it is most needed. This focus entirely disregards the attitudes and concerns of those receiving aid, government leaders and citizens alike. Discovering more on this perspective could in fact be key to assisting these nations in the most effective way possible.

According to Thompson Ayodele and other experts, Africans are for the most part skeptical about many of the initiatives put forward by western donors and international organizations. This skepticism is founded in the fact that many multibillion-dollar initiatives put in place by the United Nations have “fizzled” and left the African continent with small percentages of economic growth. In 2005, after $500 billion in foreign aid from 1960-1997 had been funneled into Africa, the budgets of some countries like Ghana and Uganda had been more than 50% aid-dependent.

It is interesting to note, however, that now in 2013, Ghana is among those countries that have met targets of the Millennium Development Goal before the 2015 deadline. The country as a whole has cut the number of hungry people by half as well as reduced to half the number of undernourished people between 1990-92 and 2010-2012. The GDP per capita has nearly doubled since 2005.

Still, there are other problems to consider other than the economic goals being achieved. David Karanja, a former Kenyan member of parliament, for example, has said that “Foreign aid has done more harm to Africa than we care to admit. It has led to a situation where Africa has failed to set its own pace and direction of development free of external interference.” The truth is that the majority of those giving aid or lobbying for aid have no experience with the reality of life in Africa or how this aid is really being put to use. Those who possess such experience should be brought to the forefront of the discussion.

A big problem that foreign assistance often encounters is corruption and the lack of transparency from governments, organizations, and corporations. This is why a commitment to transparency must be made in order to work around those who would funnel aid money away from where it is sorely needed. The important thing to take away from this differing perspective is the focus on making aid as effective as possible by creating strategies to circumvent corruption and commit to transparency in trade, taxation, and government processes. In order to assist in the most efficient way, it is imperative that we take into account the real needs and desires of those we are attempting to aid, rather than competing to see who can donate the most to the cause.

President Alpha Conde of Guinea weighs in on the topic commenting that they “do not want to live in dependence on the generosity of others when our resources can make us prosperous and strong.”

Impact of Foreign Aid on Africa and the World

  • In 1990, nearly half of the population in developing regions lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate dropped to 14% in 2015.
  • The total number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half from 1.9 billion to 836 million.
  • The number of underfed people has been almost cut in half from 23.3% to 12.9%
  • Primary school enrollment has risen to 91% from 83%.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa achieved a 20% increase in primary school enrollment from 2000 to 2015.
  • The number of primary school-aged children who were out of school dropped from 100 million to 57 million over the past 15 years.
  • The literacy rate of those between 15 and 24 years old has risen from 83% to 91%.
  • The proportion of girls in school in Southern Asia has risen from 74 girls for every 100 boys to 103 girls for every 100 boys
  • Women now make up 41% of paid non-agricultural employments, an increase from 35%
  • The under-five mortality rate dropped from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births and the number of under-five deaths dropped from 12.7 million to almost 6 million despite the boom in global population
  • The number of globally reported measles cases declined by 67% since 2000 and measles vaccinations helped prevent nearly 15.6 million deaths
  • Maternal mortality declined by almost half
  • New infections of HIV decreased by approximately 40% since 2000
  • The use of Antiretroviral therapy by AIDS patients increased from 800,000 in 2003 to 13.6 million which has averted 7.6 million deaths between 1995 and 2003
  • Over 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted since 2000
  • The tuberculosis mortality rate fell by 45% saving an estimated 37 million lives
  • Official development assistance from developed countries increased by 66% in real terms since 2000 and 5 countries (Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and the UK) exceeded the 0.7% Gross National Income UN assistance target
  • Internet usage is up from 6% in 2000 to 43% in 2015 connecting 3.2 billion people worldwide

– Sarah Rybak
Source: Ghana Business News, Nation of Kenya, CATO, United Nations
Photo: The Wall Street Journal

Can Cell Phones Save the World?

It can send texts and it can make calls, but can it save the world?

It might seem far stretched, but considering that poverty is often instigated by isolation and the accompanying lack of access to markets, emergency health services, education and governmental representation, it makes sense that economists are starting to pinpoint cell phones as a potential “weapon against global poverty.”

Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs claims that “the cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development,” positing that providing developing countries with cell phones and widespread mobile network coverage can be instrumental in lifting regions out of poverty.

In the last 8 years, the United Nations Millenium Villages Project has aimed to improve 14 rural villages across 10 African countries by providing the framework for mobile connections. They have found that countries’ GDPs increased in a way that mirrors the nearly 400% increase in cell phone use in Africa over the last 5 years.

Kenya may be the poster child for the mobile movement with its tremendous GDP growth and innovative M-Pesa or “mobile-money” concept that has the country on an economic upswing. Researchers found that “70” was the magic number: 70% of the Kenyan population owned a cell phone while 70% of the population also reported no access to a bank. Hence, the concept of mobile-money was born.

Beginning in 2007 as a way to send people microloans, M-Pesa’s mobile-money became the main way to send money instantly from urban to rural areas. Mobile-money allows people to digitally transfer cash and utilize other banking services via mobile phones, thus facilitating trade and boosting business in a way that is vital for the country to thrive.

This mobile-money concept is great for Kenya’s large informal economy sector by releasing the flow of money that is often stagnant in developing countries with unstable infrastructures.

What’s more, cell phones are now the least expensive they have ever been, thanks to Safaricom, a Kenyan telecom provider that set up business models for selling services to the poor and thus made cell phone use more affordable. Thanks to the low cost of setting up mobile towers and the decreasing cost of cell phones, Kenya now may have more widespread cell phone coverage than many regions of Europe.

Some may argue that the best part about the cell phone solution is that businesses, rather than the government, drive the movement’s momentum. Having businesses like Safaricom at the center of the progress curbs the chance of corruption and unequal access that usually accompanies governmental initiatives, particularly in developing countries.

Other countries around the world are starting to take interest in the transformative power of the cell phone. From its success in Kenya, Safaricom is now bringing its mobile banking model to areas like Bangladesh, Uganda, and Gambia with the hope of expanding more in the future.

– Alexandra Bruschi
Source: CNN, Quartz
Photo: CNN

How Will Uganda’s Gold Rush Affect Its Poorest Region?
The foothills of the Moroto Mountains in northeastern Uganda are marked by hundreds of holes dug by eager villagers in search of gold. Close by, mining machinery installed by the private mining company, Jan Mangle Company Ltd., crank noisily in search of the same.

The relatively recent discovery of gold in the Karamoja region holds the potential to change the fate of the region’s pastoral communities. But whether this change will be negative or positive remains to be seen. The poorest region of Uganda, Karamoja, has been damaged by decades of violent conflict, and many in the region feel they have been neglected by the central government.

In 1980, a fifth of the Karamojong population, including 60% of infants, perished in a widespread famine that resulted in the fall of dictator Idi Amin. Conflict ensued once Karamoja’s clans looted the Moroto armory and used the weapons to ransack cattle from villages in neighboring Kenya and what is now South Sudan.

Cattle are considered among most Karamojong people to be a person’s main representation of wealth. For this reason, many of those unfortunate enough to have their cattle stolen from them during the years of conflict were prompted to begin digging and panning for gold.

Today, the region is relatively free from conflict and has returned to a state of peace and security. This is mostly due to the controversial government disarmament programs in which villages were surrounded and searched for hidden weapons by troops in the Ugandan People’s Defense Force.

The return to security has opened the door for many corporations to poke their noses into Uganda’s mineral-rich lands. In Karamoja, the foreign presence of Jan Mangle Limited has prompted mistrust among locals. It is popularly assumed that the benefits will flow toward the wealthy, leaving the poor even poorer.

“We don’t know where the gold is going to,” said one young villager. “We hear the land is sold to investors and we are afraid we will not see any benefits from the gold. They have not told us anything.”

The government of Uganda has a strong history of forcibly displacing indigenous people in order to buy up land to sell to corporations. An example is the eviction of 392 families to make way for a German coffee company in 2001 or the nearly 20,000 people evicted in 2012 to clear land for a British forestry company. In various regions of northern and central Ugandan, hundreds of families are being paid peanuts for their land that is then sold to corporations such as the AUC Mining Company and Jan Mangle Company Ltd.

Years of manipulation and neglect from the central government have lead Karamojong residents to believe the worst, and it is nearly impossible to get information on government contracts from private corporations.

But government officials such as Moroto District Commissioner Nahaman Ojwe insist that the indigenous of Karamaja will actually see two benefits from the mineral extraction. First, current landowners will receive royalties from the mining companies. Second, the wealth collected from the gold by the central government could be redistributed to the indigenous of the region.

Whether these benefits will actually be felt by the people of Karamoja will be revealed in the coming years. But for now, the villagers keep digging while the machines keep drilling in Uganda’s poorest region.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: The GuardianThe Daily MonitorThe Observer
Photo: Foundation of Life

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Eco-art, also known as contemporary environmental art, is art that is concerned with local and global environmental situations. It strives to strengthen human relationships with the natural world by expressing the development of new, creative ways for humans to co-exist with nature.

In the context of Ugandan artist Ruganzu Bruno’s newly-constructed amusement park, eco-art takes on two purposes. The 30-year-old artist and community organizer found a way to handle Kampala’s Kireka neighborhood’s acute waste management problem while engaging and empowering children through the act of play. Using a variety of recycled materials collected by the community, Bruno and his team constructed this amusement park for the children living in Kampala’s congested slums. Completed last September, the eco-park contains a myriad of exciting structures that include recycled swings and life-size board games made from plastic bottles.

However, according to Bruno, the value in the amusement park comes not only from the park itself but also from the lessons it will continue to teach the people of Kireka for generations to come. In what Bruno hopes to be an important step toward sustainability, the children and parents were taught how to make repairs to the park during its construction. Bruno, who was orphaned as a child, places particular importance upon the positive impact on children’s education that the new project promises to keep bringing.

“The attention of children in class is improved; the number of children who are dropping out [is falling] because now they have something to keep them busy there,” Bruno says, adding that the project is helping students to express themselves.

Four years ago, when Bruno was still a student at the Kyambogo University Fine Arts School, the personal goals for his work evolved from mere self-expression to wanting to make a positive impact on his community. He teamed up with a few of his fellow eco-artists to create “The Hand That Speaks,” a gigantic structure made of recycled materials in the shape of a hand. This was the first of its kind in Kampala. It was intended to serve as a reminder of how human hands can impact the environment in negative and positive ways; the same hand that throws garbage on the ground can also collect it.

The next year, in 2010, Bruno founded Eco Art Uganda, a collective of artists dedicated to the promotion of environmental awareness within their communities. They focus on transforming any waste they find – from broken electronics to scrap metal – into functional art that inspires changes in attitudes toward the environment. In April of last year, Bruno was awarded the world’s first City 2.0 Award at the TEDx summit in Doha, Qatar for the eco-park project. Currently, he is using the $10,000 prize money to fund a loan program designed to help local eco-artists in Kireka. In a continuing effort to serve his community’s needs, the young artist’s goal is to recreate “as many as 100” new eco-parks in Uganda.

Bruno’s community work is just one example of how eco-art is helping to engage communities all over the world while also keeping them clean and litter-free. The functional form of art is a promising step toward alleviating two of the world’s biggest problems; the disenchantment of the developing world’s youth and the litter that surrounds them.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: CNN
Photo: Ruganzu Bruno

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim have concluded a historic 3-day trip to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. While there, the leaders promoted peace, security and economic development in the countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda. These leaders pledged that their organizations would help and encourage these countries to achieve stability and economic development. These talks came after a historic agreement was reached in the DRC that ended the conflict in the region that had been going on for decades.

President Kim praised the three countries on their leadership emphasizing the opportunity for the leaders of the Great Lakes region to utilize the UN’s and World Bank’s commitment to ending poverty and building prosperity. President Kim further showed the World Bank Group’s commitment on their first stop in DRC pledging $1 billion to further improve health, education, nutrition, job training and other essential services in the DRC and Great Lakes region.

In Rwanda, the leaders visited the memorial of the 800,000 killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. While in Rwanda, they also laid the foundation stone for a new center to help women and girls victimized by violence. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni welcomed and thanked the leaders for their help in securing peace in Uganda. In the past 5 years, Uganda has seen immense growth and a 14% drop in the poverty rate.

This visit shows a new cooperation between the UN and the World Bank Group as well as a new support for African leaders from the international community. President Kim and Secretary-General Ban are hopeful for the future of this region.

President Kim summed up their hopes saying, “We hope that Africa’s Great Lakes become a global symbol for what is possible when countries work together to lift themselves out of conflict and succeed in boosting economic growth and shared prosperity.”

– Catherine Ulrich
Source: World Bank
Photo: Australian Climate Madness

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If you’ve ever received a handmade sweater on Christmas from Grandma, you know how much octogenarians love to crochet.

Well, believe it or not, crocheting can be more than just entertainment for the elderly (or the crafty Pinterest fiend). Thanks to Krochet Kids International, now grandma’s favorite past time is improving the lives of women in northern Uganda and Peru by offering them hope and opportunities for self-empowerment.

That’s right, crocheting.

Krochet Kids International began as three high school friends, Kohl, Travis and Stewart, in Spokane, Washington, who enjoyed crocheting. In Kohl’s words “though it was not a normal hobby for high school guys, we reveled in the novelty of it”. A local paper nicknamed them the Krochet Kids and the name stuck.

In college Stewart spent a summer in Uganda where he encountered whole communities of people who’d been living in government camps for 20 years after the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) ravaged much of the northern half of the country.  Opportunities to make a living or improve their lives were nonexistent and most were trapped in dependence on the government camps and aid. After Stewarts returned, the three realized the difference they could make by teaching women in Uganda their beloved hobby. With this skill and the products they would create, they could lift themselves out of poverty and provide for their families.

To date, over 150 women in Uganda and Peru are Krochet Kids and are receiving ongoing support, education, and mentorship. Apiyo Kevin is one such woman. When asked what her favorite thing about crocheting is she replied, “crocheting has greatly helped me to forget my husband’s death. Besides, it has provided me with an employment opportunity that has drastically improved my income.”

Each of Krochet Kids’ colorful beanies and scarves has a small tag bearing the name, scrawled in blue ink, of the Ugandan woman who made it.

Fore these women, crocheting isn’t simply a hobby. It provides them with the self-confidence that comes with learning a new skill, an opportunity to heal, and most importantly, an income.

Because three high school friends decided they wanted to make a difference in the world around them, women in Uganda and Peru and consequently those who depend on them, are beginning to lead better, more fulfilled lives.

– Erin Ponsonby

Source: Krochet Kids
Photo: Granny Funk

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May 1, 2013 was the kick-off of the two-day Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai.  Africa, a continent on the move, has been showing promising signs of economic growth and development.  The Africa Global Business Forum is just one more step in the right direction for a continent on the move.

The Africa Global Business Forum, as announced by the UAE Prime Minister, is set to become an annual event.  The forum brings together leaders from Africa and the UAE to promote business investment, development, and collaboration between the nations of Africa and Dubai.  More than 3,500 delegates are in attendance.  The Prime Minister of Uganda gave the keynote address and stressed the importance of the forum as a signal of the interest in African business and investment opportunities.  He also discussed the importance of the private and public sectors working together as has been done in Dubai.

Dubai serves as a center of 150 different shipping lines and could be a very key logistics hub for Africa to export goods.  The young population and growing middle class in Africa are indicators of the potential for increased growth within Africa. Consumer spending is set to hit US $1.4 trillion by 2020. The forum will seek to strengthen alliances between Africa and outside investors with the goal of reducing poverty in Africa and increasing economic growth and self-sufficiency.

Other topics of note at the forum are looking at boosting Africa’s trade through the role of free trade areas and private equity.  Already major telecom companies are looking to invest in Africa and the prospects for future growth and development are exciting.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: CPI Financial

Emily Oster
Emily Oster, a University of Chicago economist, uses the dismal science to rethink conventional wisdom, from her Harvard doctoral thesis that took on famed economist Amartya Sen to her recent work debunking assumptions on HIV prevalence in Africa.

Emily Oster re-examines the stats on AIDS in Africa from an economic perspective and reaches a stunning conclusion: Everything we know about the spread of HIV on the continent is wrong.

She brought up an opinion that more exports means more AIDS and that effect is really big, by testing new data and information about prevalence over time. The data that Emily Oster offers suggests that if you double export volume, it will lead to a quadrupling of the new HIV infection. And this has important implications both for forecasting and for policy. From a forecasting perspective, if we know where trade is likely to change, we can actually think about which areas are likely to be heavily infected with HIV and we can go and try to deploy pre-emptive preventive measures there. Likewise, as we are developing policies to try to encourage exports, if we know there is this externality, we can think about what the right kinds of policies are.
But it also tells us that even though poverty is linked to AIDS in the sense that Africa is poor and they have a lot of AIDS, it is not necessarily the case that impoving poverty in the very short run is going to lead a decline in HIV prevalence.

And she also questioned the HIV prevention case in Uganda, the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa with successful prevention. It is true that there was a decline in prevalence in Uganda in 1990s and they had an education campaign for it. But there was actually something else that happened in Uganda in that period. Their exports went down a lot in the early 1990s and actually that decline lines up really closely to HIV infections at that time, according to Emily Oster.

– Caiqing Jin (Kelly)

Source:Ted Talk
Photo:Flickr

Landesa Helps People Gain Property Rights

Landesa is a rural development institute devoted to securing land for the world’s poor.  The company “partners with developing country governments to design and implement laws, policies, and programs.”  These various partnerships work to provide opportunities for economic growth and social justice.

Landesa’s ultimate goal is to live in a world free of poverty.  There are many facets of poverty.  The institute focuses on property rights.  According to Landesa, “Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset.”  Poverty cycles persist because people lack legal rights to land they use.

The company was the world’s first non-governmental organization designed specifically for land rights disputes.  Then known as the Rural Development Institute (RDI), the institute was the first to focus exclusively on the world’s poor.

Roy Prosterman founded the company out of a deep passion for global development.  Prosterman is a law professor at the University of Washington and a renown land-rights advocate.  He began his lifelong devotion to property rights after stumbling upon a troublesome article.  In 1966, he read a law review article “that promoted land confiscation as a tool for land reform in Latin America.”  Prosterman recognized the policy’s ills immediately.   He quickly authored his own articles on how land acquisitions must involve full compensation.

These articles led him to the floor of Congress and eventually the fields of Vietnam.  Prosterman helped provide land rights to one million Vietnamese farmers during the later part of the Vietnam War.  The New York Times claimed that his land reform law was “probably the most ambitious and progressive non-Communist land reform of the 20th century.”

Prosterman traveled the world to deliver pro-poor land laws and programs.  His most notable work was in Latin America, the Philippines, and Pakistan before founding the institute.  Today, Landesa focuses mostly on China, India, and Uganda.

He aims to “elevate the world’s poorest people without instigating violence.”  The company negotiates land deals with the government and landowners who received market rates.  Landesa helps people gain property rights, so people can focus on health and education efforts instead.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Seattle Times

$70 Million Proposal for Food Security in UgandaIn an ambitious bid to invest in the roads, rice production, and village infrastructure necessary for future food security in Uganda, Parliament has requested over 70 million dollars from several African, Middle Eastern, and U.S. development banks. This money would go on to fund the Millennium Villages Project and the Masaka-Bukakata road project which will allow for better transportation of goods and supplies further bolstering commerce and economic opportunities.

Broken up into four separate requests which include $44 million from the IDB (Islamic Development Bank), $12 million from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA), and $15 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development, the loans were laid out by the Minister for Finance to Parliament on February 12. Prior to moving forward with the loan requests, Members of Parliament expressed their desire for an official report on the performance of the current loans. Furthermore, the performance report must be presented to Parliament by Christmas as a prerequisite for any additional financing towards food security in Uganda.

If passed, these loans have the potential to increase both rice production and transportation and contribute greatly to overall development and food security in Uganda. Financial investments such as these are always good news, and serve as another step forward in the progressive march towards global food security.

– Brian Turner

Source: New Vision
Photo: AllAfrica