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South African Youth Poverty
The South African mobile communications company, Vodacom Group Limited, is launching a new app that targets the rising South African youth poverty. As South African smartphone use is on the rise among young adults, the new app directly connects individuals in need of jobs with those hiring to reduce youth poverty quickly. Also, the goal is to, hopefully, over time, decrease the adult South African poverty rates.

South African Youth Poverty

As of 2020, six out of 10 children in South Africa live in “multidimensional poverty.” That figure translates to 62.1% of South African youth who live in poverty. Multidimensional poverty considers factors beyond economic disadvantages and includes other factors, such as food insecurity, poor health and lack of education.

When considering the elements of multidimensional poverty, most experts place their hopes of decreasing poverty or unemployment rates on improving education for South Africans. However, there is more to do when individuals who have what qualifies as a “good education” remain unemployed and incapable of escaping poverty.

South African youth make up 35.7% of the country’s overall population and their unemployment rate soars above the general South African unemployment national average, which is 34.5%. The youngest graduating group, 15-24-year-olds, has had an unsteady unemployment rate, but it reached 63.9% in the first quarter of 2022.

The second-youngest group, those aged 25-34, has an unemployment rate of 42.1%, according to Statistics South Africa. Vodacom hopes to target these numbers at their source and get those graduating jobs as soon as possible before poverty becomes an insurmountable force.

Vodacom’s Impacts on South African Youth Poverty

Get-A-Gig is not Vodacom’s first attempt to decrease poverty in South Africa, especially among the South African youth. The company has expressed its dedication to assisting with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in South Africa. There are several goals, but Vodacom has announced its desire to focus on the SDGs of improving education and helping South Africans find reliable work and income. To improve and expand access to education in South Africa, Vodacom created a school management application that helps students stay on track in their lessons and track academic growth. Furthermore, Vodacom has invested more than R7.9 million in schools to improve resources and empower teachers.

The youth employment program in the hiring and recruiting phases by Vodacom offers a position to recent college graduates, regardless of age, that comes with full benefits and salaries. The youth employment program provides two years of required training before transitioning to a full-time employee role at Vodacom. This program will launch in February 2023. However, in the meantime, Get-A-Gig will help South African youth seeking a job to find one outside of Vodacom.

How Does Get-A-Gig Work?

The new app targets South African youth via phone usage. Smartphones are standard in South Africa, with 41% of South Africans between 18-34 having smartphones. Meanwhile, other age groups fall further behind in smartphone ownership, for example, only 27% of those 35 and older have their own smartphones. Smartphones are a daily household object with the number of young adults utilizing cell phones growing yearly. The daily usage of smartphones in South Africa is also on the rise, especially among younger South Africans. This is the age group Vodacom is trying to reach with Get-A-Gig.

Vodacom launched the app through one of the company’s easily accessible platforms, NXT LVL. The app helps individuals search for jobs and connect them with business owners. The users can then begin a quick application and hiring process to minimize the time someone is out of a job. The app is free and available through the, My Vodacom App and VodaPay, which are also free.

At the announcement of the app’s launch, the Chief Officer of Consumer Business at Vodacom, Jorge Mendes, immediately clarified the app’s intention to target unemployment and poverty in South African youth, “As we innovate and bring new propositions to the market, we are mindful of the challenges that consumers at large face. The revamp of the NXT LVL platform and the launch of Get-A-Gig are some of the initiatives we introduced, aiming to make a meaningful difference in the lives of young South Africans,” IT News Africa reported.

The continuation of targeting poverty and unemployment in South Africa indicates Vodacom’s dedication to assisting South African youth. Get-A-Gig’s usage will mean South African youth can easily find jobs and that there will be fewer barriers keeping South Africans living above the poverty line. South African poverty and unemployment remain an issue. Still, it is the assistance of companies like Vodacom, that make it possible to see a future without these plaguing issues.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of CongoCOVID-19 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has devastating effects, infecting over 27,000 individuals by March 2021 and putting intense pressure on the healthcare system. The DRC has already been dealing with cholera, ebola and a measles epidemic in 2019, leaving the healthcare system particularly vulnerable.

The COVID-19 Situation in the DRC

While this nation has faced many struggles since the rapid spread of the virus in the summer of 2020, big data provides hope for a more organized and effective response to COVID-19 in the DRC. The DRC has not had a census since 1984 and since then, the nation has split its 11 provinces into 26, leading to an even more disjointed understanding of the DRC’s population. Big data via mobile companies could allow for updated population estimates and health infrastructure data leading to a better COVID-19 response.
UNICEF has improved mass media communication in the DRC and trained nearly 100 media professionals on warning signs of COVID-19 to allow professionals to inform the public on COVID-19 better. Since these efforts, 25 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo were reached by mass media to prevent the spread of the disease.

How Technology Can Help Slow the Spread

Ongoing advancements in big data and the availability of technology worldwide have allowed many countries to make better forecasts for the spread of COVID-19. These advancements allowed the DRC’s government to make more information-based policy decisions.
Oxford University’s Big Data Institute has studied the benefits of using mobile apps to provide data on a nation’s citizens that would allow for a more efficient and succinct response to COVID-19. Nearly half of COVID-19 transmissions happen before symptoms arise, which means mobile apps that notify individuals who may have been exposed provide a quick and widespread response to stopping the spread.

Mobile Big Data and the DRC’s Fight Against COVID-19

In May 2020, mobile operators in the Democratic Republic of Congo, namely Africell, Organe and Vodacom, agreed to collaborate to use their big data analytics to provide information for the government’s response to COVID-19. This agreement led to a nationwide dashboard that allows health authorities to track mobility among the population and across different health districts to trace the spread of the virus.

Since the introduction of COVID-19 in the DRC, the virus has spread quickly from the central, populated districts to other provinces. Utilizing big mobile data to track this spread will allow better informed policy choices from the government. Analysis of this data has also led to updated information on the stock levels and needs of health care facilities in the DRC.
An example of the utilization of this big data is when the DRC’s government took confinement measures and prevented travel to the province of Gombe. Big mobile data companies in the DRC have provided the government with call detail records (CDRs) that have shown a 70% drop in travelers to Gombe after implementing the rules, showing high adherence to government recommendations.

Future Measures to Use Technology to Stop the Spread

Big mobile providers are working with the Ministry of Health to predict hotspots for COVID-19 in the DRC in the future using data that tracks population mobility. Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, big data analytics provide hope for more efficient government policies and a strengthened relationship between healthcare facilities and the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

– Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Flickr

girlsinsouthafrica
From June 24 through July 5 2019, Vodacom initiated its Code Like a Girl program in South Africa. In South Africa 70 girls were provided with the opportunity to take classes in engineering, math and coding. While one purpose of the communications company’s program was to narrow the gender gap, it means more for the country as a whole; it means the chance for sustainable jobs and prepares South Africa for the industrial revolution affecting all developing countries.

Early Stages of Code Like a Girl

Vodacom is a company based mainly in South Africa and nearby countries that is focused on mobile communications. It manages phones and data much like other companies, such as Verizon and Sprint, but on a more local scale. Even back in 2018, the company made plans to offer science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to girls in different provinces and hopefully spark an interest in these courses.

The inspiration for this plan derived from a lack of female participation in STEM courses because only 35 percent of girls pursued any kind of career in these fields. Women are also underrepresented in STEM careers, as most of them are male-dominated.

Steven Barnwell, an executive manager for Vodacom, commented that while this career gap is beginning to close globally, “in many countries, including South Africa, the gap is widening in STEM careers.” Girls in South Africa with the backing of Vodacom’s coding program might be encouraged to pursue these daunting careers, now equipped with the know-how to prosper.

Initiating the Initiative

Phoenix, a township in South Africa, documented the course of the Code Like a Girl initiative in its local news. Managing executive Chris Lazarus detailed the process and how the girls chosen benefitted.

Firstly, 70 girls in the province of KwaZulu Natal, ages 14 through 18, had been selected to learn code. They were also advised to study communications as well as science and technology subjects. Participating in both STEM subjects and Vodacom’s initiative would foster problem solving and creative thinking.

Throughout the one-week course, the girls in South Africa learned the language of the computer and how to operate programs for developers such as GitHub and JavaScript. Finally, at the end of the week, each girl presented a website she developed by herself.

Lazarus proposed that providing coding skills allows girls to thrive in the transition to a technologically developed nation, saying “we aim to have young girls excel in the fourth industrial revolution. Through our project, we want a future free of the gender inequality, more so when it comes to jobs of the future.”

Looking at the Other Benefits

Currently, South Africa boasts one of the highest information, communications and technology (ICT) markets in Africa. ICT products and service cultivates in the markets. IT jobs, therefore, are currently sought after as the economy begins to focus on its thriving industry. Girls in South Africa pursuing coding now have the opportunity to jump into the influx of jobs, securing a sustaining and well-paying future.

While the economy prospers, 30.4 million citizens still remain in poverty. Nearly half of South Africa’s black females live below the poverty threshold, and many schools remain under-resourced. However, with Code Like a Girl spreading across provinces, girls living in poverty are presented with a unique opportunity and education when the program reaches their school. A gap then not only lessens between gender, but economic class as well.

South Africa is also on the brink of a digital revolution. Communities still remain in the process of transitioning to cellphones and schools are adopting technology in their classrooms, requiring both teachers and students to adapt. Girls inspired by Vodacom’s program may find themselves with an edge, already accustomed to the confusing languages of technology while the rest of society is still getting used to it.

Matimba Mbungela, Vodacom’s Chief Officer of Human Resources, commented to ITWeb Africa in regards to the students’ situation, saying, “it [is] necessary for us as the country’s leading digital telco to take it upon ourselves and launch this initiative to prepare young females, so they can adapt skills of the future and contribute in taking our economy forward.”

Inspired by ‘Code Like a Girl,’ girls in South Africa will find a unique position in society amidst the ever-changing world of technology.

– Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

zonal_champions
Despite advances in advertising in recent years, word of mouth is still considered by many marketing experts to be the best form of advertisement. As businesses look to increase their presence in South Africa, word of mouth publicity could be the key to appealing to otherwise unreachable demographics.

Zonal champions, as they are called by marketing agency Creative Counsel, are human advertisements. They are members of local communities who are employed to represent a brand and promote appropriate products during their everyday conversations. The potential consumers are able to freely question zonal champions about the products, allowing for all curiosities to be satisfied before a purchase is made.

Nontando Vena, a zonal champion for South African mobile phone company Vodacom, says she doesn’t have conventional work hours. Instead, she promotes the brand “24/7, 365,” and members of her community occasionally refer to her as “Miss Vodacom.”

The merits of zonal champions are numerous for both the customers and the providers. For businesses, zonal champions are able to reach rural parts of Africa that traditional advertisements are unable to. Upwards of 550 million people are without electricity in Africa, which represents a massive untapped market for businesses to sell products. A zonal champion only needs two to four days to be properly trained, and they can continuously reach rural customers on a daily basis.

South African consumers are more welcoming of zonal champions than they would be of commercials and billboards. Consumers are more trusting of a friend or family member than they are of an advertisement, and this is especially true in South Africa. Zonal champions are able to give a familiar face to otherwise detached companies, which let consumers feel more comfortable with new brand names.

Economically, zonal champions are also beneficial to the many rural consumers who are forced to be judicious with their income. While the income of South Africans has risen by upwards of 170% in the past decade, the average annual income is still about $6,258. As a result, South African consumers are extremely hesitant to invest in products they are unfamiliar with. By answering questions and recommending products, zonal champions are able to engage local citizens and let them know if the product being offered will meet their needs.

In addition to the benefits for businesses and consumers, the zonal champions themselves are able to benefit from this unique form of employment. Unemployment in South Africa remains very high, with up to 24% of citizens without work. Many of these people have no access to education, and therefore are considered “unemployable.” There are no prerequisites to become a zonal champion, and the work itself primarily involves being present in a community. This allows a new opportunity for these “unemployable” citizens to find work and curb the harsh unemployment rate in the process.

Africa’s economy is among the fastest growing in the world now, and international businesses are starting to take notice. President Obama’s recent trip to Africa highlights the continent’s growing relevance in the global economy, and zonal champions will surely play a large role in growing markets in these once impoverished parts of the country. With the numerous advancements in technology and advertising in recent years, zonal champions prove that old fashioned conversation is still as relevant as ever.

– Timothy Monbleau
Sources: Linkedin, How We Made It In Africa, CNN, Creative Counsel, BBC, Google Currency Conversion, World Bank, Vodacom
Photo: Riger Jabber

 

Mobile Banking With M-Pesa
Here in the U.S., cell phone apps such as ‘Venmo’ that allow simple and quick money transfers have revolutionized the way we exchange money. However, with mobile banking as well as Venmo-like apps, they require all users to actually have a bank account. While speed and efficiency are a huge pro about these apps, they, as they are, wouldn’t necessarily be as successful a venture in the developing world.

M-Pesa (meaning mobile ‘money’ in Swahili) has grown to be the most successful mobile financial service in the developing world. Started in 2007, the company’s main goal wasn’t necessarily convenience but had the more objective of creating an app that people without bank accounts can use. Bank accounts usually must maintain a minimum balance or have other requirements many people living in developing areas just cannot meet.

M-Pesa users only need two out of three things: a mobile phone and an ID card or passport. With these in hand, they can do numerous things just from their phone: deposit and withdraw money, transfer between different accounts (even to those without an M-Pesa account), manage their transactions, pay their bills, and even purchase mobile minutes. With about 1 in 5 sub-Saharan Africans actually having a bank account, M-Pesa opens up an entire world for people to exchange money freely without being tied down to a bank.

The company manages an individual’s account through their phone number. As part of Safaricom’s and vodacom’s networks (service operators in Kenya and Tanzania: think Verizon or AT&T), only those who receive their service through these companies can take advantage of the system. Once money is transferred, users can cash out at various retail outlets or stores that normally sell cellphone minutes.

M-Pesa was initially created to help the transfer of funds for people receiving microfinanced loans because it helped keep rates down, as it cut out the direct contact with money. Now, it operates in 5 countries including Afghanistan, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and India. It reaches 15 million users in Kenya alone. 

– Deena Dulgerian

Sources: Co.Exist, Wikipedia
Photo: Hapa Kenya