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Foreign Aid to Côte d'Ivoire
An unlikely form of foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire is on the rise: donated sports stadiums from China. However, these gifts do not come free.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Olympic-Sized Gift From China

In an act of foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire, China gifted a massive 130 million euro stadium in Ebimpé. Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara boasts an impressive 60,000 person capacity. It is the biggest stadium in Côte d’Ivoire and the ninth-largest in all of Africa. The new Olympic level venue will host the African Cup of Nations finals in 2023, a major soccer tournament.

Stadium Diplomacy

For decades, China donated massive new sports stadiums to numerous African countries in an act of goodwill and self-interest. Stadium diplomacy, the term for this new political strategy, offers China and the other country a unique deal. The receiving nation sees a boost to its economy through the revenue these stadiums generate. Additionally, China gets numerous benefits in return.

In the last 50 years, China constructed more than 100 sports stadiums all over the continent of Africa. This guaranteed itself access to natural resources, privileged trading contracts, strengthened relations, access to political leaders and supporters in the United Nations. China is now the biggest trading partner of all of Africa. Stadium diplomacy falls under the category of soft power, a type of diplomacy that uses attraction, negotiation and cooperation rather than force.

How Can Stadiums Fight Poverty?

While Côte d’Ivoire boasts one of West Africa’s most robust economies, 39.4% of its population still lives in poverty. Furthermore, the economy experienced a recent downturn since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The services and manufacturing sectors, both involved in constructing and running a stadium, are among those people expected to bring the nation’s economy back on track.

The stadium will bring an influx of people and infrastructure to the region. It will also bolster the economy, fueling the service and manufacturing sectors and provide jobs, all as a result of foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire. Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara will also help develop the nearby Anyama region, which is building its first metro line in preparation for the crowd.

Criticism of the Stadiums

However, stadium diplomacy has its critics, with many Africans desiring more direct help. While Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara praised the stadium as “one of the most beautiful things our country has accomplished in the field of sports,” other nations have expressed concern and even anger.

Gabon, a nation that lies along the western coast of Central Africa, faced a major backlash among its citizens for participating in stadium diplomacy. Engong Stadium, located in Oyem, had a quick and dramatic turnaround from construction to abandonment. The lavish complex sports has three basketball courts, a tennis court and an international standard track-and-field. However, it is now empty and unused. Locals were angry about what they saw as a misuse of resources and money. “We cannot eat your stadiums” they chanted, adorned in combat uniforms. At the same time, groups stormed the overgrown field and burned down the presidential box.

Whether Côte d’Ivoire’s new stadium will turn its economy around will become more clear in the future. However, one thing is certain: stadium diplomacy in Côte d’Ivoire offers an extremely innovative and very plausible way to alleviate regional poverty.

– Caroline Bersch
Photo: Unsplash

poverty conditions in The GambiaThe Gambia is a West African country on the Atlantic coast. In 2019, the Human Development Index ranked The Gambia as 174 out of 189 countries. Despite the progress displayed in recent years, particularly in primary education, issues such as food shortages, malnutrition and poverty have only worsened. Roughly 48% of the population live in poverty conditions in The Gambia.

The Gambia’s Economy

Peanut farming and processing remain the most significant industries in the country. The peanut crop is sold to The Gambia Groundnut Corporation. This company assigns the prices for the season in advance, pays the farmers and producers and then sells the product overseas. Once the peanuts are deshelled, they are pressed into oil at pressing mills. The leftover residue is used to make cattle cake.

As the tourism industry grows in size, the construction industry has grown in tandem. Other small industries branch off into selling and manufacturing food products, beverages, footwear, woods and textiles. But as one might expect, this dependence on agriculture limits The Gambia’s ability to make significant headway in advancing economic stability and infrastructure. The situation is worsened by the successive shocks of droughts and floods causing widespread damage, suffering and loss of life. These unyielding weather patterns and weak food production systems caused food insecurity to slowly rise over the past few years.

Housing and Employment

In general, most village houses consist of circular mud huts with thatched roofs. On rare occasions, they build several single-story concrete buildings. The location of homes in a particular community plays a large role in high levels of poverty, as well as with economic and social exclusion. The poor are more likely to live in larger polygamous family units, have more dependent children and live without electricity.

Informal jobs abound. The lack of off-farm labor opportunities in rural areas results in underemployment and outmigration, especially among women and youth. Also, The Gambia’s population is increasing at an incredibly fast rate. This speed is far outpacing the housing supply and the rate at which homes can be built. As a consequence, both villages and larger towns experience overcrowding populations. These conditions contribute to the development of slums in larger communities and poverty conditions in The Gambia.

Healthcare

Despite improvements made since The Gambia achieved independence, the overall state of national health is very poor. Inadequate sanitation directly causes most cases of illness. About one-third of people do not have access to safe drinking water. Malaria poses the most significant health threat, while other tuberculosis and various parasitic diseases are also highly prevalent health issues.

Even though The Gambia has a lower number of HIV/AIDS cases than many other African nations, it increased among younger women during the 2000s. On the other hand, the infant mortality rate in The Gambia is one of the highest in all of Africa, only made worse by the nation’s very young population. About two-thirds of all citizens of The Gambia are under 30 years old. A long-standing shortage of healthcare workers in The Gambia adversely affects the staffing of medical facilities, particularly in rural areas. To address this problem, the government established a medical school to train its doctors and implemented a series of healthcare strategies.

A Brighter Future

The Gambia’s environment, extreme reliance on agriculture and general lack of everyday necessities such as medical care places its citizens in poverty levels that are difficult to escape. But thankfully, hope exists in the many organizations that are working tirelessly to spread awareness and donate money and resources to The Gambia. One prime example is ActionAid Gambia, a nonprofit charity that focuses on achieving social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication. Founded in 1972, the organization works to promote sustainable agriculture, improve the quality of public education for all children, advocate for women to receive economic alternatives and have control of their reproductive health rights and provide support towards eradicating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Malaria. Over time and through many people’s efforts, it is possible to speed up the process of development to help decrease poverty conditions in The Gambia.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Kuli KuliKuli Kuli is a company that sells products made from the moringa tree, a superfood that is high in vitamins, antioxidants, plant proteins, anti-inflammatory properties and has twice the nutrient value of kale. The company’s products consist of energy bars, tea shots and a variety of powders and smoothie mixes.

Kuli Kuli: Identifying a Need

Lisa Curtis developed a heart for those living in extreme poverty while serving briefly as a regional youth coordinator for the United Nations. This led her to volunteer for the Peace Corps in 2010 at age 22, which sent her to work at a community clinic in rural Nigeria. While there, she was introduced to a locally-grown energy source, moringa, and was impressed by both its healing properties and nutritional punch. She quickly saw how a moringa market could address not only the malnutrition issues of the people and villages she worked with but also provide business opportunities for local farmers.

Empowering Women Farmers

Moringa has restorative powers for the human body but it turns out that it also has potential for sustainable economic growth. Kuli Kuli addresses these needs simultaneously by working with small but high-quality farmers and establishing supply chains to foster economic growth and nutritional security in West Africa. Notably, most of the farmers that the company works with are women. In 2020, the company sourced moringa from over 2,400 farmers across 13 countries, with the largest group being African women. The company generated $5.2 million for these farmers and helped to plant and preserve over 24,600,000 moringa trees.

Not only does the company help these farms to scale up their businesses but it also provides training to increase the quality of their products and local use of the plant. Moringa is invaluable for farmers. It requires little water, provides restorative properties for the soil and overall is fairly easy to grow, especially in rural regions where the soil is untainted by industrial areas. The company founder’s ambitious vision seeks to eliminate gender inequality, income inequality, global malnutrition and extreme poverty.

Creating a New Market in Moringa

Since its launch in 2014, Kuli Kuli has dominated the market on moringa products. Though moringa grows naturally in parts of Asia, Africa and South America, the company was the first to introduce the superfood to the United States’ wellness market. By 2020, the company was selling products in 11,000 stores nationwide. According to Curtis, the company has averaged 100% growth every year. Some years do even better, as demonstrated by 2017’s Series A financing, which tripled its retail business, and 2019’s $5 million Series B financing deal with Griffith Foods and Kellogg. With this most recent investment, Kuli Kuli plans to expand into moringa ingredient products. Certainly, Griffith Foods’ 30-country chain is quite a catch for the young wellness startup.

Kuli Kuli’s success demonstrates the power of developing new markets in developing countries that expand into developed ones. Not only is the company empowering rural farmers and fighting malnutrition and extreme poverty in developing countries but moringa products are fast climbing the list of top green wellness supplements in the United States. By noticing this virtually untapped international market and being quick to capitalize on it, the company found itself supplying more than half of the U.S. retail moringa market by 2020, a mere six years after its startup.

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in GhanaGhana has a population of 30.4 million people, and over 100,000 of these people are homeless on any given night. Though most of the population does have access to safe, affordable housing, not every Ghanaian does. Here are five facts about homelessness in Ghana.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Ghana

  1. Around 39% of Ghana’s urban population lives in slums. This equates to roughly 5.5 million people. Poor households and domestic violence victims are at higher risk for homelessness. In urban areas, single women with children are also at risk for homelessness. Obtaining ownership of a house can be difficult for some women because in matrilineal tribes when a man dies, there are limits for women regarding inheritance of spousal property.
  2. In urban areas, there is a shortage of housing. These shortages are caused by a lack of adequate financing, costly building materials and delays in getting permits to build. It is also challenging to gain access to urban land in order to build there. There are not enough governmental rental properties available, and those that do exist are mostly inhabited by government workers.
  3. COVID-19 has made things worse. Many homeless Ghanaians cannot comply with lockdown orders, and do not always have access to masks, gloves and hand sanitizers. Their previous jobs of carrying shoppers’ wares or helping to load passengers became obsolete during the pandemic. Some volunteers are helping to distribute food and water to the homeless, though others argue that the government should distribute raw ingredients and money instead of cooked food.
  4. Housing policies and programs are being implemented. One such project is the Tema-Ashaiman Slum Upgrading Facility (TAMSUF). This project aims to upgrade slums, develop low-cost housing and facilitate urban development projects. TAMSUF completed its first housing project in 2011, which involved constructing a building that contained 31 dwelling units and 15 commercial shops. In addition, it also involved a commercial toilet and bath facility. TAMSUF also constructed a sanitation facility containing six bathrooms, which can hold 12 people. Similarly, The Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor Fund (G-FUND) seeks to grant homeless Ghanaians access to funds in order to provide for themselves. Created in 2010, this fund provides low-income households in Ghana with credit for housing and business development. This funding also improves infrastructure.
  5. The Urban Poor Fund International is working to improve living conditions. UPFI has built over 60,000 houses and improved 3,000 dwelling units in various countries. Examples of their projects include a community-led waste management initiative and also a housing construction in Amui Dzor, Ashaiman, in Ghana. The Amui Dzor housing project has housed 36 families and provided many dwelling units, bathrooms and rental stores since its creation in 2009. One of the project’s most famous sponsors was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Many of Ghana’s homeless require help from the government and housing projects to get back on their feet. Efficient rental control laws and housing for low-income individuals are just some of the many policies that can help lower or diminish rates of homelessness in Ghana.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr

Last Mile HealthLiberia borders Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and the Atlantic Ocean. The West-African nation was established as a settlement by freed American slaves in 1820. Despite gaining independence in 1847, the country suffered from years of instability brought on by the military coup of 1980. Civil war broke out in Liberia in 1986 and endured until late 2003. With 14 years of civil war devastating both the population and the economy, Liberia, now home to nearly five million immigrant and indigenous peoples, has shifted its focus towards recovery. Many efforts acknowledge the inadequacies of healthcare in Liberia, one of them being Last Mile Health.

Founded by Liberian civil war survivors and American healthcare workers in 2007, Last Mile Health is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding healthcare in Liberia by creating a stronger, more resilient public health infrastructure within both urban and remote regions of the country. To date, Last Mile Health is responsible for a plethora of noteworthy improvements in healthcare and health outcomes in Liberia.

Healthcare in the Past

Between 1986 and 2003, 80% of healthcare clinics across Liberia closed their doors as a result of looting, destruction and the exodus of healthcare workers. Only 168 physicians remained in Liberia, predominantly in the capital city of Monrovia. Medical training systems stood on the verge of collapse. Today, nearly 1.2 million people throughout Liberia live more than an hour’s walk from the nearest healthcare facility.

Lack of access to quality healthcare in Liberia has resulted in poor health outcomes for Liberians. Alongside suffering from one of the world’s worst maternal and under-5 mortality rates, malaria, diarrhea, HIV/AIDS and other preventable and treatable illnesses are amongst the leading causes of death and disease in Liberia. A mere 39% of children under two in Liberia have received their recommended vaccinations.

Bringing Care to Patients

Last Mile Health builds community-based primary health systems within Liberia to bring healthcare to the poorest and hardest-to-reach regions. In 2012, Last Mile Health piloted a community health worker program in the Konobo District of Liberia that resulted in an unprecedented 100% coverage of the district by healthcare personnel. This pilot program has since been replicated, extending primary healthcare in Liberia to 1.2 million people.

Training Healthcare Workers

In 2017, Last Mile Health launched the Community Health Academy to strengthen the clinical skills of community health workers in Liberia. The Community Health Academy provides training to health care leaders to help them build resilient and effective public health infrastructure. As of 2019, more than 16,000 healthcare personnel from around the world have enrolled in the academy’s courses.

Improving Health Outcomes

In 2010, Last Mile Health launched Liberia’s first rural, public HIV/AIDS treatment program. The program exists in over 19 of Liberia’s public clinics.

By increasing access to and quality of healthcare in Liberia, Last Mile Health has increased the number of children receiving malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea treatment by over 40%, resulting in a significant reduction in under-5 mortality rates and improvement in child health outcomes. Maternal health outcomes have improved as more women can access skilled birth attendants and facilities for delivery and maternal care.

Increasing Average Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for Liberians continues to increase each year as healthcare in Liberia rebuilds and recovers. By linking community healthcare workers with nurses, doctors and midwives at community clinics and equipping workers with the knowledge and skills that they need, Last Mile Health continues to fulfill its mission of bringing life-saving care to people in even the most remote areas of the country.

Last Mile Health promises a future in which no patient is out of reach from quality healthcare in Liberia. In the years to come, the nonprofit organization intends to expand its reach within Liberia and across Africa.

– Alana Castle
Photo: Flickr

Drones in AfricaThe mission of Zipline, a company started in 2014 and based in San Francisco, is to “provide every human on Earth with instant access to vital medical supplies.” To accomplish this goal, the company has created a drone delivery service where drones in Africa distribute lifesaving medical supplies to remote clinics in Ghana and Rwanda. More recently Zipline has expanded to other locations across the globe, including the U.S.

Poverty in Rwanda and Ghana

Rwanda is a rural East African country that relies heavily on farming. Although the country has made improvements in recent years, the 1994 Rwandan genocide damaged the economy and forced many people into poverty, particularly women. As of 2015, 39% of the population lived below the poverty line and Rwanda was ranked 208th out of 228 countries in terms of GDP per capita. On top of this, Rwanda only has 0.13 physicians per 1,000 people, which is insufficient to meet health care needs according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ghana, located in West Africa, has fewer economic problems than neighboring countries in the region. However, debt, high costs of electricity and a lack of a stable domestic revenue continue to pose a threat to the economy. The GDP per capita was $4,700 as of 2017, with 24.2% of the population living below the poverty line. Although Ghana has a higher ratio of physicians per 1,000 people than Rwanda, with 0.18 physicians, it still falls below the WHO recommendation of at least 2.3 physicians per 1,000.

Benefits of Drone Delivery Services

On-demand delivery, such as drone delivery services, are typically only available to wealthy nations. However, Zipline evens the playing field by ensuring that those living in poorer and more remote regions also have access to the medical supplies they need. Zipline has made over 37,000 deliveries. In Rwanda, the drones provide deliveries across the country, bypassing the problems of dangerous routes, traffic and vehicle breakdowns, speeding up delivery and therefore minimizing waste. Additionally, Zipline’s drones in Africa do not use gasoline but, instead, on battery power.

Drone Delivery Services and COVID-19

Zipline’s services have been especially crucial during the COVID-19 response. Zipline has partnered with various nonprofit organizations (NGOs) and governments to complement traditional means of delivery of medical supplies on an international scale. This has helped to keep delivery drivers at home and minimize face-to-face interactions. As there are advances in treatments for COVID-19, delivery by drones in Africa has the potential to provide access to the vulnerable populations who are most at risk. At the same time, it can help vulnerable people stay at home by delivering medications directly to them or to nearby clinics, minimizing travel and reducing the chance of exposure. Zipline distribution centers have the capability to make thousands of deliveries a week across 8,000 square miles. Doctors and clinics simply use an app to order the supplies they need, receiving the supplies in 15 to 20 minutes. The drones are equipped for any weather conditions.

New means of providing medical equipment are helping to ensure that the world’s poor have access to the supplies they need. A company called Zipline has been using drones to deliver medical supplies to Africa, specifically in Rwanda and Ghana. During the COVID-19 pandemic, drones have been crucial in providing people and clinics with the medical supplies they need.

Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr

Technology in West AfricaThroughout history, new technology has always been one of the key factors in driving both the economy as a whole, as well as a specific economic sector. New inventions drive new innovations, and as a result, significant advancements are made. Now, technology is driving agriculture in West Africa as well, with both new and familiar ideas paving the way forward. Here are some of the most notable technologies and advancements pushing agricultural expansion in West African countries like Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria.

Clean Energy in Ghana

One of the keys to most modern technology involves energy: sustainable energy, of course, being among the most ideal (and often cheapest) options. Solar power is making electricity available for more and more West Africans every day. There is also a massive project in the works to create a solar power facility in Ghana. Composed of 630,000 photovoltaic modules, the Nzema Solar Power Station will bring electricity to the homes of more than 100,000 Ghanaians. With this clean energy, new technologies that push agriculture and other economic sectors forward can be powered.

Access to Smartphones

Tied closely with the push for energy is the advancement of the smartphone across West Africa. Smartphone ownership has increased to around 30-35 percent in Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria. Smartphones are an absolutely integral driving force for agriculture and technology in West Africa. With access to a smartphone and the internet, farmers can gain easier and more convenient access to information about local markets and upcoming weather forecasts, improving their ability to adapt to shifts in both the environment and the economy. Not only that, but smartphones also allow farmers to purchase insurance and get other financial services, such as banking.

Technologies Boosting Agriculture

In Nigeria, one company named Hello Tractor is making use of the increased spread of smartphones by creating an app designed for renting and sharing tractors with farmers. Farmers can use the app to communicate with nearby owners of tractors, and schedule bookings for the usage of those tractors on specific days. This reduces the barrier of entry to farming as a profession, and as a result is a massive boon to the agricultural sector. With West African companies such as Hello Tractor innovating upon smartphone technology and the Internet of Things, technology in West Africa is once again driving agriculture.

There are also other technologies which may be potentially transformative to agriculture in West Africa. The more recent advancements in 3D printing may offer another pathway to increase efficiency. In West African companies with less intricate transportation infrastructure, 3D printing offers a cheaper way to obtain farming tools by producing them yourself rather than paying expensive shipping fees. In Nigeria, there is a permanent set-up dedicated to manufacturing replacement parts for local industries in order to provide them more efficiently and at a lower cost. The market for this is expanding as well, as there are U.S firms investing in this technology in the region. The installment also offers training programs for local workers so that they can learn the skills necessary to operate such technology.

Another potential, yet controversial advancement is in the sector of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In Ghana particularly, cowpea is a crop prized for its energizing properties, eaten traditionally by farmers before working in the field. However, the crop is dying faster each year due to insects. GMOs could offer one potential path to solving this issue and stabilizing cowpea for West African farmers. Though scientists are still in widespread debate about the safety and usability of genetically modified cowpeas in particular, the technology could regardless offer another potential path to advancement for the West African agricultural sector.

Future for Technology in West Africa

Ultimately, the most important and consistent technology for the future of agriculture in West Africa is found in information technology. Smartphone presence becoming more widespread allows access to market data, weather data, financial services, and even access to rental services like those of Hello Tractor. Western Sydney University is also working on a mobile application specifically streamlined for usage by farmers, providing access to many of these services all in one app.

Overall, it is clear to see that technology is driving agriculture in West Africa. With all of these new advancements, it is reasonable to expect West Africa to continue pushing its agricultural sector forward. With solar power expansion, 3D printing, smartphone access, and rental services like Hello Tractor, the informational landscape of West Africa will be transformed significantly over the next several years.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Ghana

The West African nation of Ghana is a vibrant country filled with natural beauty and rich culture. However, like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana suffers from a high poverty rate and lack of access to adequate health care. In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service, 23 percent of the total population lives in poverty and approximately 2.4 million Ghanaians are living in “extreme poverty.” That being said, many organizations and groups — both national and global — are working to improve health care in Ghana.

Malaria in Ghana

A disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is a common concern throughout much of West Africa, including Ghana where it is the number one cause of death. In fact, according to the WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report, nearly 4.4 million confirmed malaria cases were reported in Ghana in 2018 — accounting for approximately 15 percent of the country’s total population.

All that in mind, many NGOs, as well as international government leaders, have taken up the mantle to eliminate malaria in Ghana. This includes leadership from the United States under the President’s Malaria Initiative or PMI which lays out comprehensive plans for Ghana to achieve its goal of successfully combating malaria.

With a proposed FY 2019 budget of $26 million, the PMI will ramp up its malaria control interventions including the distribution of vital commodities to the most at-risk citizens. For instance, the PMI aims to ensure that intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) is more readily accessible for Ghanaian women. Progress has been made, too, as net use of IPTp by pregnant Ghanaian women has risen from 43 percent to 50 percent since 2016. This is just one example of the many ways in which PMI is positively contributing to the reduction and elimination of malaria in Ghana.

National Health Care System

National leaders are also doing their part to positively impact health care in Ghana. In 2003, the government made a huge step toward universal health coverage for its citizens by launching the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). As of 2017, the percentage of the population enrolled in the scheme declined to 35 percent from 41 percent two years prior. However, 73 percent of those enrolled renewed their membership and “persons below the age of 18 years and the informal sector workers had significantly higher numbers of enrolment than any other member group,” according to the Global Health Research and Policy.

It is difficult to truly understand Ghana’s health issues without considering firsthand perspectives. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Enoch Darko, an emergency medicine physician who graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School, commented on some of the health issues that have plagued Ghana in recent decades. “A lot of problems that most third world countries, including Ghana, deal with are parasitic diseases such as malaria and gastroenteritis. Though health issues like diabetes and hypertension still remain in countries around the world, and even the United States, the difference is that some diseases that have been eradicated in Western countries still remain in countries like Ghana,” Darko said. “Many people in Ghana simply do not see a doctor for routine checkups like in the United States. Rather, most people will only go to see a doctor when they are feeling sick. As a result, lesser symptoms may go unchecked, thus contributing to the prevalence and spread of disease and infection. Combined with the fact that many Ghanaians in rural communities may not have sufficient money to afford treatment or medicine, this becomes a cycle for poor or sick Ghanaians.”

That said, it is hoped that with continued support from international players as well as government intervention, the country can continue to make strides in addressing health care for its citizens.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

 

Technological consumer base in West AfricaThe whole of Africa is known for being an incredibly poor continent. While improvements have been made in certain aspects of life that have provided citizens with better and easier lives in some regions, Africa is still in need of advances that work towards lessening poverty throughout this vast nation. The growing technological consumer base in West Africa, particularly the digital economy and mobile outreach, is becoming a very big deal.

When it comes to technological advances in smaller countries or regions of countries, some nations are way ahead of others. This is largely due to the fact that certain countries have more money than others to invest in these advancements. Even though money may be limited, some areas have found ways to achieve technological improvements.

The technological consumer base in West Africa has experienced a major increase in users in only a decade. Subscribers for the mobile economy of West Africa have reached 47 percent, up from 27 percent ten years ago. These advancements have created new opportunities for government, various industries, start-up businesses, and more. A conference held in April 2018 addressing West Africa’s digital revolution in the last ten years revealed two major factors that contributed to this new digital age: people and technology. People are the ones who rely on, create, and consume technology in increasing numbers while technology and technological advancements continue to broaden their impact the more they are improved upon. The conference was devoted to these two factors in an attempt to bring continued support for integrating mobile and digital technology into society in these regions and bolstering the new growing base of users.

An example of the impact of the increasing technological consumer base in West Africa occurred in 2017. To begin, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Large companies such as Google realize that what works for citizens in western culture may not work in the most heavily populated regions of the world. When 1GB of data can cost a consumer almost 10 percent of monthly income, better user options must be considered to grow the consumer base. Recognizing this, Google broadened the YouTube Go app to Nigeria. This app is data-friendly and allows viewers to save and watch videos offline. Google also created an app called Datally for Android which helps users conserve data. As an internet conglomerate, Google realizes that areas like West Africa are the future of the world’s growth. It focuses on ways to enable these areas to grow in a technological age and improve life for its citizens.

Organizations, such as the World Bank Group, have been promoting a digital economy in all parts of Africa. A digital economy will connect Africa’s citizens to various industries, services, information, and each other. In addition, it will provide people with a digital ID to validate their identity and help them connect to necessary government services. Citizens will also gain easier access to formal financial services including mobile money, such as e-commerce and online markets. West Africa’s most recent technological developments and increasing consumer base provide proof that these advancements are possible, they work in these regions, and they make life better for its citizens. This can influence other regions of Africa to continue developing a digital economy.

West Africa’s growing technological consumer base is a possible stepping stone to a better future for Africa as a continent. This growth of the digital economy in Africa that will give citizens much-needed resources, provide more economic opportunities, and create a better way of life.

– Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

African CropsGlobally, there are about 7,000 domesticated crops. But, today, just four crops–rice, wheat, soybean and maize–account for two-thirds of the consumed calories worldwide. These crops are incredibly nutrient-hungry and added to the common practice of mono-cropping, which has led to the degradation of a third of the Earth’s soil. It is estimated that the global population in 2050 will increase to 10 billion; food production will have to likewise increase by 50 percent to avoid mass hunger. Many scientists think that previously ignored African crops, aptly nicknamed “orphan crops,” are the answer to preventing the oncoming crisis.

4 Wildly Underrated African Crops

  1. Moringa Trees – Also known as the drumstick tree, Moringa trees are a fast-growing species whose leaves, roots, flowers and seeds can all be used for a variety of purposes including as a dietary supplement, water purifier and food. Eight species of it are native to Eastern African countries and it is also endemic to Southeast Asia. Although completely obscure to most Westerners, it is considered by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be one of the most economically valuable African crops. The Moringa’s tiny leaves are incredibly nutritious, being filled with antioxidants, iron, vitamin B6 and more, and are generally ground into powders or packed into capsules to serve as a natural dietary supplement. Its seed pods, which can be consumed both raw or cooked, are also exceptionally high in vitamin C: just one cup of them provides 157 percent of the daily requirement. The seed pods can also be processed into a sweet, non-drying oil.
  2. Bambara Murukku – Ranked as the third most important legume of Africa after peanuts and cowpea, the Bambara is grown mostly by subsistence farmers in semi-arid Africa, thus making it known as a poor man’s crop. Its nuts, which are rich in carbohydrates and protein, can be eaten boiled or roasted or ground into a powder to make flour for usage in bread and cakes. Additionally, Bambara groundnut does not require fertilization as it is self nitrogen-fixing, making it an ideal crop for nutrient-poor areas. Furthermore, the plant is drought-tolerant, making it an ideal crop in the face of climate change.
  3. Teff – A staple crop of Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff makes up two-thirds of those residents’ protein intake. Resembling a skinny wheat stalk, its tiny, thin grains are used for making bread and porridges and its straw is often utilized as a construction material for reinforcing mud walls. It comes in a variety of colors, with the white grains considered the most prized and the red grains fetching the lowest price. The demand for teff has been the fastest-growing of all the African crops in this article in recent years with exports rising by 7 to 10 percent annually. This has been largely due to the media hailing it as the next super grain as well as an apt gluten-free flour option. The export of injera, the Ethiopian pancake made out of teff flour, has also enjoyed an upward trend in recent years. Ethiopian companies, such as Mama Fresh, regularly fly their injera overseas to eager customers.
  4. Okra – Although it is disputed whether okra has originated from either West Africa or Southeast Asia, it is generally agreed that it is one of the most important African crops. Grown mainly for their pods and leaves, its fibers can also be used as a construction material, for handicrafts such as baskets or as a kindling fuel. The plant is incredibly adaptable and resilient and can thrive in just about any condition and climate. High in vitamins A and C, iron and calcium but low in calories, the okra has much potential in Western markets as diet food. It has, until recently, been all but unknown outside of its native land. More research and experimentation needs to be conducted on it to unlock its full potential. Currently, researchers are investigating its possibility of being used as a commercial oilseed and medicinal mucilage.

From custard apples to bread trees, there are hundreds more other under-utilized crops in both Africa and around the world. The status quo of the global diet is far too dependent on a mere handful of plants. In order to prepare for and feed the ever-growing population of this planet, people must become more open and adventurous in various culinary tastes by incorporating these orphan crops into daily meals.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr