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diarrheal disease in sub-saharan africaEvery year, millions of children under the age of 5 die. Of those children, almost 40% come from Africa. The chance of death for a child living in Africa is seven times higher than that of a child in Europe. This marks the need for improved medical care and foreign aid, especially because many of these deaths are caused by diarrheal diseases. Diarrheal diseases are the second highest cause of death around the world, with over 1.5 million deaths each year. While any country’s children can be susceptible to this illness, developing countries have a marked disadvantage. Many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is prevalent, don’t have access to proper sanitation, clean water or viable medical care. Here are five facts about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

5 Facts About Diarrheal Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Mortality varies greatly by region. There is a higher prevalence of diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, but especially in impoverished nations. Additionally, within sub-Saharan Africa, certain countries have much higher mortality rates than others due to these diseases. More than half of the global deaths that occurred in 2015 due to diarrheal diseases came from just 55 African provinces or states out of the total 782 that exist.
  2. The problem is partially economic. Diarrheal diseases don’t only impact the health of these countries’ citizens, but they also take a massive toll on the economy. An estimated 12% of governmental budgets go toward treating these diseases in some countries. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that almost 10% of these nations’ total GDP goes toward the treatment of these health issues. Individual members of each country also feel the monetary blow of obtaining treatment. In many of these countries, the salary of the average citizen is around $1.00 a day. One Kenyan mother named Evalyne was unable to save her son from a diarrheal disease because she couldn’t afford the $0.25 needed for oral rehydration therapy.
  3. There are more victims of these diseases than just children. A lot of the information about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa focuses on children under the age of five. However, people over the age of 70 are also very susceptible to diarrheal diseases. The demographics of these two groups are unique. Most children die from diarrheal diseases in Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger. Nevertheless, most elderly people die from diarrheal disease in Kenya, the Central African Republic and India. The differences don’t end there. Most children who contract a diarrheal disease are plagued by the rotavirus, but the elderly have proven to be most prone to another virus named shigella.
  4. The diseases are treatable and even preventable with the right precautions. There are many precautions that can be taken to avoid catching diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most important preventative actions is to do everything possible to consume clean water. Around the world, 40% of the population doesn’t have easy access to adequate sanitation. Many children and adults don’t have soap to wash their hands with after using the bathroom, and oftentimes, the water they use is contaminated. Washing one’s hands and working to improve local water supplies can drastically improve one’s chances against diarrheal diseases. Treating citizens with supplements like zinc and vitamin A can also lessen the severity of diarrheal episodes. Other than supplements and better water, oral rehydration therapy is a great way to treat the illness. Families can use oral rehydration at home by combining salt, sugar and clean water to prevent crippling dehydration. Another potential solution is a rotavirus vaccine.
  5. Education and competition can change the future. In some countries, access to clean water and proper sanitation seems impossible. However, providing communities with the resources and knowledge of how to improve sanitation and lower the risk of diseases has demonstrated that change is possible. In Cameroon, the World Wildlife Fund partnered with Johnson and Johnson to provide training and resources to the members of various communities. This helped them build more sanitary bathrooms and create new and viable water sources. One reason that these programs were so successful is that they created competitions among villages. This became a friendly way of motivating each other toward success.

Diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa continue to plague areas without clean water or access to healthcare. However, as time goes on, more and more programs and organizations aid in the control of these illnesses. For example, since 2018, ROTAVAC, a rotavirus vaccine, was prequalified by the World Health Organization for use in Ghana. This qualification is specifically focused on providing vaccines to those in countries without easy access to vaccination. Ghana is now the second country in Africa to place ROTAVAC as part of its program to immunize citizens against diarrheal disease. Doing this raises awareness across regions about a future where disease prevention is all the more possible.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

10 billion treesWith Pakistan being one of the countries that environmental challenges most affect in the world, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to be more proactive in combating the problem at the September 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. Nearly one year later, it is fair to say that he is on track to fulfill this promise. His 2018 10 Billion Trees Tsunami Initiative aims to plant 10 billion new trees by 2023.

10 Billion Trees and Tiger Force Day

On Aug. 9th, 2020, Khan launched Tiger Force Day, the largest tree plantation drive in the country’s history. The goal of Tiger Force Day was to bring together Pakistanis to plant 3.5 million trees throughout the country as part of Khan’s 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative. According to Khan, this will save six districts in the country from transforming into inhabitable deserts by 2050 as a result of climate change in Pakistan. These districts include Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpur Khas, Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad. The 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative will also inhibit the spread of poverty. Planting trees can help increase honey and wheat production, mitigate floods, protect wildlife and plants from extreme weather. This would create 63,000 jobs during a critical time in which the global COVID-19 pandemic threatens 19 million jobs within the country.

Over 1 million volunteers participated in Tiger Force Day. This includes ordinary citizens like men, women and youth; members of Parliament and chief ministers; singers Ali Zafar and Ali Aftab Saeed and foreign diplomats like Chinese Ambassador Yao Jin and Yemen Ambassador Mohammed Motahar Alashabi. Throughout the day, these volunteers shared photographs of themselves planting trees as well as recording how many trees they planted at their location on the Corona Task Force application. This led the government to conclude that the country hit its goal of planting 3.5 million trees throughout the country on Tiger Force Day, making this achievement a major stepping stone in the 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative.

Plant for Pakistan Day

The incredible success of Tiger Force Day led Khan to declare August 18th as Plant for Pakistan Day. On this day, the government will encourage all citizens of Pakistan, including the armed forces, to harvest plants throughout the country. The World Health Organization will also give Pakistan $188 million for the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami and Recharge Pakistan initiatives, which aim to better utilize floodwater to recharge aquifers that had been used up as a result of unchecked water pumping and drilling. To ensure this money is readily available when needed, it will be kept in the National Disaster Risk Management Fund.

Moving Forward

Details about Tiger Force Day illustrate the incredible progress Khan has made, especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic, in bringing ordinary citizens, celebrities and national and foreign political officials together to fight against environmental difficulties in Pakistan through his 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative. This will inevitably inhibit the spread of poverty in Pakistan and inspire other countries to take a similar course of action, which will undoubtedly change the world for the better.

Rida Memon
Photo: Flickr

ride-hailing industryAccording to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the ride-hailing industry is “an ideal industry in which to examine the opportunities and barriers that women face in the sharing economy.” Using data from Uber and consultations with global experts on gender, transportation and the future of work, IFC and Accenture decided to research the impact of gender parity on the global ride-hailing economy. Their final report analyzes data from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom to bring forth recommendations for ride-hailing stakeholders and companies across the sharing economy.

Women and the Ride-Hailing Industry

Among other findings, the IFC discovered that it is relatively easy for women to enter the ride-hailing industry compared to other sectors, and that working in the ride-hailing industry allows women to start new businesses and maintain those they currently have. Additionally, women who use ride-hailing services say that services like Uber help them accomplish household tasks such as grocery shopping, visiting relatives and dealing with healthcare needs. Women surveyed felt that using ride-share services increased their sense of independence and mobility.

Women in the Workforce

However positive these indications may seem, ride-share services must overcome certain barriers if they are to fully incorporate women into their workforce. For instance, to attract more women to both drive and use their services, ride-hailing providers must work to increase personal security. Women often cite security threats as one of their main concerns regarding the ride-hailing industry.

Additionally, gaps in digital and financial inclusion disproportionately affect women globally. This means it is more difficult for women to acquire resources needed to access the industry. These could include a smartphone or a car. Nonetheless, it was found that 40% of women would prefer a women driver when traveling alone or at night. The IFC reports that recruiting more women to become drivers in the ride-hailing industry could create a cycle that attracts more women riders. Thus, it would be in the interest of the ride-hailing industry to work to attract more women drivers. This is true not only to promote gender parity in the economy, but also to boost their own sales.

The Gender Pay Gap

A Washington Post article on Uber’s gender pay gap outlines similar barriers to women joining the ride-hailing industry. The article finds that Uber’s lopsided pay results from men’s more aggressive driving and greater experience in the industry. In addition, they also have a higher willingness to drive in unsafe, more lucrative locations. Uber drivers are paid based on time and distance. Therefore, they earn more making frequent, shorter trips, rather than fewer, longer ones. Assuming that aggressive and speedy drivers tend to be men, male drivers are positioned earn more than women. Changing payment structures in the ride-hailing industry might be necessary to reduce the discrepancy in gender pay for drivers.

Reducing the gender gap leads to national economic growth. That means it is in the interest of both private sectors and entire countries to incorporate women into their workforce. The World Bank promotes economic empowerment through the elimination of gender gaps in paid employment. Through diverse initiatives, they help ensure that economic growth is shared among men and women. The ride-hailing industry is just one example of how women’s employment benefits the entire economic circuit — from buyers and sellers to a country’s overall GDP.

Giulia Silver
Photo: o.aolcdn.com

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire, otherwise known as the Ivory Coast, is a country nestled in the western panhandle of the African continent. Though the country has been war-torn since 2010, Côte d’Ivoire is becoming a vital part of the world economy. Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire affects more than 46% of the population; however, the country is working to provide more jobs, funding and resources for its citizens. Here are five innovations in poverty eradication in Côte d’Ivoire.

Working with World Organizations

The government of Côte d’Ivoire is working with world organizations to help Ivorian citizens. With aid from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Côte d’Ivoire is supporting economic growth and the eradication of poverty through Results-Based Management (RBM) and the implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS).

Within the PRS document established in 2009, government officials outlined multiple poverty eradication goals. Among these goals are greater accessibility to food and healthcare as well as increased job opportunities for men and women.

Another notable organization working alongside the government to eradicate poverty in Côte d’Ivoire is the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDGF). This organization seeks to help vulnerable populations, such as women and children, achieve financial stability through training, counseling and education. Specifically, SDGF provides education for women who have dropped out of school or who are looking to generate their own income.

New Strategies for Ending Hunger

Among the innovations in poverty eradication in Côte d’Ivoire is adopting new strategies for ending hunger. In 2016, the Côte d’Ivoire government, with help from the World Food Programme (WFP), created a National Development Plan (NDP) to facilitate the country’s transition to becoming a middle-income economy by 2020. With help from WFP, the Ivorian government aims to increase access to food banks and work more closely with other organizations to end malnutrition.

Previously, in 2009, the Ivorian government worked with the IMF and World Bank to establish strategies for ending hunger throughout the country. To achieve this goal, Côte d’Ivoire vowed to modernize storage techniques of fresh produce, make food more widely accessible, increase the production of rice and update health standards for food supply.

Other Avenues for Helping Citizens

In Côte d’Ivoire, the mining sector is undervalued. While the mining industry previously focused on gold, there is an increased interest in nickel, iron and manganese. By expanding geographical data of the land, the mining industry could see vast profit and job increases.

Further, enhancing transportation — public and private — could help citizens escape poverty in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as better integrate the country into the international economy. Allocating more funds to road infrastructure, road maintenance and other modes of transport can facilitate domestic trading. Additionally, it could help individual citizens have better access to basic services and economic opportunities.

Becoming an Active Partner in the Global Market

The 2018-2022 Country Strategy Paper (CSP) suggests that to maintain favorable economic growth, Côte d’Ivoire should attract global investments, employ economic reforms and create more agriculture-industrial chains of supply. With support from the CSP and the World Bank, Côte d’Ivoire will receive loans to reach their economic development goals.

Côte d’Ivoire is further strengthening their economy through investments in the mining and electricity sectors, and by simplifying the start-up process and tax-paying procedure for small businesses.

Mending Gender Disparities Associated with Poverty

While gender inequalities still exist in Côte d’Ivoire, the government is working to make employment and educational opportunities more equal. More than 50% of women in Côte d’Ivoire are uneducated, and 73.7% of women are illiterate. In comparison, only 36% of men receive no education, and 46.7% of men are illiterate. To combat these disparities, funding is set aside for activities that specifically empower women. Further, more women are chosen to participate in important projects, thanks to the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA).

With more concentrated funding in education and the job market, impoverished women can establish themselves in society and regain economic stability. According to the World Bank, it is in the country’s best interest financially to incorporate more women in the job market.

Conclusion

These innovations in poverty eradication in Côte d’Ivoire show the government’s focus on addressing this issue. It is imperative that the country continue to receive funding to incorporate itself into the international economy. By sticking to these strategies and working with world organizations, the government will hopefully be able to eradicate poverty in Côte d’Ivoire.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

corruption in healthcare
The healthcare sector in several countries around the world is commonly referred to as being among the most corrupt sectors. A 2013 Transparency International Study reported that more than 50% of citizens viewed their country’s health sector as corrupt in 42 out of 109 countries surveyed. The World Bank has regarded corruption in healthcare as a major barrier to achieving social and economic development.

Corruption and Poverty

Informal payments are a very specific form of corruption prevalent in weak health care systems around the world. Informal payments refer to under-the-table payments to receive services that are otherwise free or which are requested in addition to officially sanctioned required payments.  They are prevalent in the healthcare sector of many countries globally. For example, in Azerbaijan, informal payments account for 73.9% of all medical spending. This form of corruption often arises due to inadequate healthcare management, including inadequate public spending, resource deprivation, governance and human resource constraints and scarcity of providers.

Informal payments negatively affect healthcare at the individual and governmental levels. Due to the secrecy that often shrouds the transaction of informal payments, these payments are often made in cash and do not contribute to the collection of taxes. This translates into less money available to be reinvested in the healthcare system.

Further, informal payments are often regressive in nature, meaning that low-income individuals often tend to pay a larger proportion of their income respective to high-income individuals.  One study in sub-Saharan Africa identified informal payments as being highly prevalent among the poorest segments of society.

Informal payments represent severe barriers to accessing care for those living in poverty. In some cases, informal payments can push low-income individuals to borrow money often with high-interest rates. This indebtedness can lead to financial ruin for low-income families and can potentially push them into the poverty trap.  More concerning is the potentially deadly impact of patients to delay or forego medical care due to the inability to cover the expected informal payments.  Further, the informal nature of these payments makes exemptions to protect those in poverty increasingly difficult to enforce.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis can lead to further barriers to accessing care and may bring an increase in the prevalence of informal payments. Overwhelmed, weak health care systems around the world with resource and provider scarcity may push those seeking treatment to use informal payments as a means of accessing better care and at other times may be required to make up for inadequate funding. It is known that informal payments are tied to these scarcities. These factors are increasingly relevant in COVID-19 responses around the world.

There is a high risk of the prevalence of informal payments increasing in reaction to the pandemic. For those who cannot afford the cost of informal payments, the catastrophic virus may cause families to take on a high-rate of debt, pushing low-income families further into poverty. If individuals choose to forego testing or treatment for the virus due to a lack of financial ability to cover informal payments it could impact the response to fighting COVID-19 by accelerating the spread of the disease.  With the number of people living in extreme poverty projected to rise by 71 million due to the economic shocks brought on by the pandemic, there is an urgent need to address the issue of informal payments and broader corruption in the healthcare sector.

How to Take Action

According to the Carnegie Endowment, the spread of coronavirus, with corruption acting as a catalyst, poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and foreign policy objectives. There are a number of ways the U.S. can address the problem of corruption and the prevalence of informal payments around the world through the U.S. Global Coronavirus Response. The Countering Russian and Other Overseas Kleptocracy (CROOK) Act aims to address corruption through rapid action. The act has been introduced in the Senate after passing the House of Foreign Affairs Committee and shares bipartisan support. USAID in partnership with the State Department is addressing the corruption-coronavirus nexus by supporting transparent emergency procurement mechanisms and providing support to anti-corruption law enforcement.

Due to the discrete nature of informal payments and the provider-patient relationship, the U.S. influence is limited in combating informal payments. In low-income countries with weak healthcare systems, the most effective means of mitigating the impact of informal payments on those impacted by COVID-19 is prevention. The United States can help curb the spread of COVID-19 around the world by providing adequate funding for global health security in the next emergency supplemental COVID-19 response.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

types of foreign aid
U.S. foreign assistance is defined as “aid given by the United States to other countries to support global peace, security, and development efforts, and provide humanitarian relief during times of crisis.” In 2019, the United States disbursed a total of $29 billion in foreign aid across all sectors to over 200 countries or geographical areas, amounting to 1% of its total budget. Within each category are many specific sectors, such as agriculture and food security, environment and climate change, gender equality, education, global health and many others. These sectors may overlap, and improvements in one area often lead to improvements in other areas as well, as many of these issues interconnect. Below are five types of foreign aid.

5 Types of Foreign Aid

  1. Military Aid: Military aid is any type of aid given to strengthen security measures within a country. An estimated 33% of total U.S. foreign aid is dedicated to the military sector. In 2018, $33.1 billion went toward military aid. The country that receives the largest amount of military aid from the U.S. is Afghanistan, which received about $5 billion in military aid alone. The country also received $953 million for developmental and other purposes, according to USAID. Contributing to the financial security of other countries may reduce conflict between nations and improve global security as a result. Military aid allows for nations to build relationships with allies, improve democracy, establish foreign military bases or potentially support counterterrorism efforts in other countries.
  2. Economic Aid: Economic aid is a general category that describes transfers that support the economies of recipient countries. The donor can either be an independent country or a large international organization. Aid of this type can be in the form of loans, grants or credits. The most common type of economic aid is Official Development Assistance (ODA), in which money goes toward the development of the recipient’s economy. The U.S. dedicated 0.16% of its total Gross National Income (GNI) to ODA in 2018, according to the OECD.
  3. Humanitarian Aid: The primary purpose of humanitarian aid is to improve the social wellbeing and the living situations for people in the recipient country. This can take place in response to a natural disaster, in which emergency supplies like first aid, water, food and clothing go to a country in need. Organizations may also send services such as healthcare volunteers to help with recovery efforts. In 2018, the U.S. disbursed $6.9 billion in emergency response assistance to foreign countries. For example, the U.S. dedicated about $700 million to Syria during the COVID-19 pandemic, to assist with emergency food, water, sanitation and medical care for vulnerable populations.
  4. Bilateral Aid: The most simple definition of bilateral aid is when a single country gives aid to another. This is a common occurrence within many countries, in which a developed country may transfer resources to a developing country. The donor country may introduce restrictions in terms of how the other country uses this assistance, such as by designating it to a specific sector. A donor country may offer funding through an international organization, but as long as “decisions regarding fund disposal are on balance taken at the donor’s discretion,” then it is still considered to be bilateral.
  5. Multilateral Aid: International organizations disperse multilateral aid, rather than a single country. These organizations, such as the World Bank, the United Nations and around 200 other groups, receive their funding from multiple nations and governments. They disburse that money to countries so they can use it for improvements in a variety of sectors.

Other types of foreign aid include “multi-bi” or “non-core” aid, which donor countries give to international organizations to disperse for a specific reason or to a specific area. Despite having separate categories and sectors, different types of foreign aid can influence one another, and no one type is most important.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Flickr

Medical Care in MexicoMexico, a country with a rich and expressive culture, is populated with over 129 million people. However, amongst the 129 million people, there are people who do not have health coverage. Although medical care in Mexico has made advances to improve its system over the years, access to medical care remains a concern for the people of Mexico who cannot afford the costs to see a doctor.

IMSS in Mexico

Mexico has private practices, hospitals and physicians working in the healthcare system. The medical employees are trained. They also have experience working in the U.S. and Europe. Mexico’s national healthcare system includes The Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, or the IMSS system. It translates to the Mexican Institute of Social Security.

The IMSS system is a part of the national Social Security and focuses on helping employees and employers. Reportedly, applying to be a part of the IMSS system costs about $40 a month. People with pre-existing medical conditions are less likely to be accepted when applying.

Seguro Popular in Mexico

Seguro Popular is the second option people have to get assistance and coverage with medical care in Mexico. It targets people who did not qualify for the IMSS system or cannot afford the costs. Unemployed and ill individuals are already a focus for being part of the program. Fees to participate in Seguro Popular vary depending on household income.

According to the World Bank, in 2002, only half of the Mexican population benefited from health insurance. With Seguro Popular’s efforts to help those underprivileged, the insurance sought to help up to 55.6 million people by 2013. By 2013, 22.8 million people were also able to receive a screening for diabetes and high blood pressure. Millions of people who were unable to receive assistance before the establishment of Seguro Popular are able to now. The percentage of poor people that received help from Seguro Popular grew from 42.3% in 2008 to 72.32% in 2012. Although Seguro Popular has helped many people in need with medical assistance, there remains an issue of access for unemployed people below the poverty line.

Medical Costs and Poverty in Mexico

On average, access to prescription drugs is 30% to 60% less than the U.S charges; however, the prices remain challenging to afford for poor individuals.

Above 40% of people living in Mexico are living under the poverty line. Dozens of poor people live with less than $2 a day, and those who are extremely poor are living at $1 a day. Millions of children in Mexico are poor. Over 20 million children and teens being poor and five million are extremely poor.

Some people cannot apply for programs such as IMSS and Seguro Popular because of their inability to access the internet or afford transportation costs to get to medical facilities. Although there are over 80 million people who have access to the internet in Mexico, there are still millions of others without access.

 

As the country advances technologically and medically, more people will continue to access medical care in Mexico whether it be through a public or private practice. However, the poor and extremely poor remain groups who cannot be forgotten about.

Amanda Cruz
Photo: Wikipedia

food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Economic Development in Developing Island Nations
Island nations such as Fiji and Tonga are isolated paradises largely cut off from global markets. As tourism increases through the year however, these countries’ economies thrive. While ecotourism in developing island nations increases employment rates and the development of other important sectors, it has to be done with the land and its people in mind.

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism in developing island nations is an economic development tool that involves bringing local communities and travelers together in an environmentally friendly way. The main benefits include the preservation of native lands, increases in local employment rates and increased funds for continued conservation. If not kept in check however, ecotourism has the potential to exploit an island’s natural resources and populations, so it must be implemented in the most sustainable way possible. Once nations see improvements in their tourism industry, they can easily become vulnerable to large corporations wanting to create new—and potentially damaging—markets there.

Why Tourism is Important to Developing Island Nations

The World Bank has identified 11 Pacific Islands (PIC 11) that will benefit immensely from increased tourism. These islands are: Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Palau, Marshall Islands (RMI), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Tuvalu. These countries received over 1.3 million visitors in 2014 and are renowned for their beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures and incredible natural resources. Of this group, countries with the highest tourism rates also have the highest employment rates. The industry employs 15% of the population in Tonga, 18% in Samoa, 50% in Palau.

The Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with many of its nations’ economies heavily or completely reliant on tourism industries. The World Bank has started initiatives within the region to establish “blue economies” that take both economic development and environmental effects into consideration. Since 2010, the region’s GDP has increased alongside the growth of island tourism. Unfortunately, these changes have come with an increase in plastic marine debris and the destruction of coral reefs. The main focus of these “blue economies” is to establish a balance between the ocean and the economy so everyone benefits.

Ecotourism Efforts to Support

There are many organizations working to make ecotourism in developing island nations a reality. Ecotourism Belize hires local workers in the Toledo District as guides for tours through the Belizean jungle. They also have a group of bird specialists and traditional healers hired. All employees are of Mayan descent so they are able to give honest representation of ancient Mayan culture and convey how it has been passed down through generations. All of Ecotourism Belize’s profits fund conservation efforts within the Maya Golden Landscape.

In 2017, Palau became the first country to require an “Eco-Pledge” by visitors upon entering. Over the past several years it has seen tourist rates grow seven times larger than the region’s native population. Home to beautiful natural ecosystems, Palau knew it had to mitigate the rise in the destruction of its land due to increased tourism. The country’s government found this destruction was due to a lack of education. By introducing visitors to a localized way of thinking about the environment, the government has taken an important first step towards successful ecotourism.

Keeping Things Balanced

Ecotourism in developing island nations has the potential to help eradicate poverty in these regions. Done correctly, it allows locals to hold onto their culture while protecting their resources and ecosystems at the same time.

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

African Continental Free Trade Agreement Increases Economic Growth

Uniting 54 countries in the African Union, The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will create the largest free trade area in the world since the World Trade Organization formed in 1994. The implementation of the treaty was originally supposed to occur on July 1, 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Over 1.3 billion people with a cumulative GDP of $3.4 trillion will come together to further economic expansion. This effort will push Africa into a competitive spot in the global economy. The treaty outlines a reduction of tariff restrictions and of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) as well as a trade facilitation agreement (TFA). The AfCFTA will make vast improvements in catching intra-African trade up with the numbers of the rest of the world. 

Currently, continental exports across Africa clock in at about 19% of total exports, comparatively lower to intra-Asian and intra-Europe exports which make up around 60% of their total exports. AfCFTA looks to encourage a higher level of intra-African trade by cutting all tariffs between countries in the zone by 2035, expected to increase intracontinental exports by more than 81%, as stated by the World Trade Organization in its 2020 report.  According to CNBC, this could mean a $2.8 billion per year rise in net income in the area.

Overall, the UN Economic Commission for Africa expects African trade to increase from 15% to 25% by 2040, translating to a GDP growth of over $2 trillion. Expectations also determine that intra-African trade will encourage globalization and technology advances. Africa’s adoption of e-commerce and other electronic advantages into its economy will further those goals.

Poverty Reduction Effects

AfCFTA projects that an additional 30 million people will emerge out of extreme poverty, reducing the headcount ratio without the deal from 10.9% to 9.3% with it. The World Trade Organization also expects that 67.9 million will rise out of moderate poverty by 2035. The largest change in income will be for unskilled workers and women. Still, most social groups will see a 10% increase in income.

A key factor in poverty reduction is the growth of industries, which creates new jobs. Energy-intensive manufacturing will grow as African trade and other markets develop. Total exports related to the manufacturing industry should rise by 110% in intra-African trade and by 46% worldwide. The production of the manufacturing industry will see a $56 billion increase. As a result, a number of countries are looking to provide larger foreign direct investments to the continent. 

Growth in the agricultural sector will work alongside manufacturing to pull people out of poverty. The AfCFTA will cause the industry to see a loss of $8 billion. However, agricultural employment will see a rise in 60% of the countries involved in the deal. Expectations determine that agricultural exports (only second to manufacturing) will grow 49% in intracontinental trade and 10% in worldwide trade.

Overall income will also grow as a result of the AfCFTA. A higher quality of life will close the gender gap and the gap between skilled and unskilled workers. The full implementation of AfCFTA could cause a 7% growth in real income ($450 billion) by 2035. Still, it is important to note that this growth will not occur equally over all the countries involved.

Mitigation of COVID-19 Economic Effects

Due to COVID-19, the implementation of the AfCFTA terms is on hold indefinitely. Officials expect to start again Jan 1, 2021 but are unable to continue negotiations at this time. Poor internet connections and language barriers amongst different officials also pose challenges. Nevertheless, the AfCFTA will act as a stimulus plan for countries in the region that lack economic or fiscal means to distribute a large relief package.

While economic growth has been steadily increasing at about 2.4% in 2019, the World Bank expects it to drop from anywhere between -2.1% to -5.1% in 2020. This means a loss of between $37 billion to $79 billion during 2020. The economic drops could cause less food security as food prices rise in many areas.

The losses come from a combination of sources. Shutdowns reduced exports and imports, and many African countries are reluctant to open borders. The shutdowns caused welfare losses of up to 14%. In addition, reduced tourism and commodity prices have taken their toll.

Connecting Countries

The AfCFTA will look to open up borders between African countries in order to encourage free trade once again. As a larger market, African countries can obtain necessary medical instruments and food resources at a cheaper price. The agreement will double or triple exports in Cameroon, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia. The countries will see the largest benefits, although almost all of the other countries will see growth.

The introduction of AfCFTA will shift the global marketplace significantly. China has been the center of manufacturing in recent years, but there may be a shift to Africa, as China’s investment in the signing of the AfCFTA has shown. Major powers, such as the U.S., European Union and India, have shown an increased interest in African foreign development as they see the rise in this cohesive market. Although COVID has taken its hit on the world, the AfCFTA might encourage a quick bounce back, lifting millions out of poverty and increasing jobs for many.

– Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Flickr