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Myanmar’s EconomySmall businesses are the “backbone” of Myanmar’s economy. Not only do they create jobs, but they provide higher levels of fulfillment, support and cultivate communities and neighborhoods. Overall, small businesses improve Myanmar’s standard of living. The World Bank reports that Myanmar’s economic growth baseline will drop to 0.5 from 6.8 due to COVID-19. The pandemic could reverse Myanmar’s significant progress in poverty eradication. Even so, there are businesses that are still operating and contributing to Myanmar’s economy’s recovery.

Meet U Min Htin

U Min Htin is an education service provider in Myanmar. Before the pandemic, the education market flourished. Now demand is slowing as citizens focus on surviving the pandemic rather than honing professional skills. Like most institutions worldwide, U Min had to transition services online. Although the business is not doing as well, as usual, he counts his blessings. The service is still available, and he has not gone bankrupt. The need for education services will rise again. As Myanmar’s economy recovers, the demand for educated professionals will naturally increase.

Meet Javier Phua and Melissa Koh

They are the owners of Easy Speciality Coffee. Their business suffered considerably at the start of the pandemic. Most of their customers are from outside Myanmar, and border restrictions forced them to return and remain home. However, Easy Specialty Coffee is recovering strong. Incredible menu changes as well as food delivery services have helped their business stay alive. They have begun providing relief to those struggling from COVID-19 through their new Coffee for Food initiative. All proceeds from selling coffee beans go to this initiative. They also offer free coffee to frontline medical workers.

Meet Daw Moe Moe Kyaw

She is a sugar trader in Myanmar. The pandemic has significantly slowed operation and increased costs. New restrictions prohibiting Myanmar truck drivers from entering China now forces her to switch drivers at the border. Now it takes double the time and capital to move her products. Also, communication with her Chinese partners is continuously interfered with as China hardens regulations on chat services. Also, foreign bank transactions take five times as long to get approved, affecting cash flow. Despite these drawbacks, Daw’s sales are still increasing. Sugar is one of those commodities that will likely maintain its high demand.

Meet Myint

Myint makes and sells multipurpose cloth bags in nearby villages and markets. The local government restrictions on social gatherings are slowing sales. However, she has been able to stay afloat thanks to a grant she received from the United Nations Women’s Rahkine Program. Rather than close her business, Myint is transitioning her business online. She is also seeking other ways that will allow her to sell in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.

A New Economic Pillar

E-commerce is a potential saving grace for Myanmar’s economy. Myanmar has seen a significant increase in online sales since COVID-19. The government’s new economic relief plan now prioritizes the protection and support of e-commerce. Online businesses are now considered a pillar of Myanmar’s economy. Although e-commerce looks hopeful, supply chain disruptions, expense increases and demand declines are still real problems that will not go away.

In Conclusion

The Myanmar Times reports that almost a third of businesses have closed temporarily due to COVID-19. Naturally, small businesses are limited in cash flow and have slim profit margins. The effects of this pandemic stress the strain even more. However, these businesses and many others provide hope for a fully recovered Myanmar economy. With their ability to adopt new business models, change operating procedures and provide relief to their neighbors, all businesses worldwide should take notes.

LaCherish Thompson
Photo: Unsplash

Improve Education in BangladeshIn a speech given at a Boston high school in 1990, Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” For many of the world’s impoverished, education is not an option. Today, more than 72 million children of primary education age are not in school and nearly 759 million adults are illiterate. While many maintain the capacity to survive without an education, the knowledge and awareness garnered through school allows the impoverished to improve their living conditions and rise out of poverty. USAID and the World Bank are working to improve education in Bangladesh as a means of addressing poverty.

The State of Education in Bangladesh

In the last 10 years, there has been progress when it comes to improving education in Bangladesh. According to USAID, nearly 98% of children of primary school age are enrolled in school. In 2016, 50.9% of all enrolled students were girls, meaning total gender parity. Both of these statistics are major accomplishments but there is much more to be done to improve education in Bangladesh.

While enrollment is high, the quality of education that the children are receiving remains quite low. Reading fluency is the barometer that is used to measure a school system’s quality, and in Bangladesh, most students are unable to pass basic fluency assessments. To put exact numbers to this, USAID conducted an assessment and determined that “44% of students finish first-grade unable to read their first word and 27 % of third-grade students cannot read with comprehension.”

This lack of literacy not only puts these students at a great disadvantage but stunts prospects of economic growth for Bangladesh. Education plays a significant role in sustaining and developing countries and economies which is why USAID and the World Bank have invested in improving Bangladesh’s education system.

The World Bank’s Education Efforts

On January 18, 2021, Bangladesh signed an agreement with the World Bank, financing $6.5 million to help more than 39,000 kids receive primary school education. The package also allocates funds to vocational training schools for approximately 8,500 dropouts. Mercy Tembon, the World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, says that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the education of children from lower-income households. The additional financing will help slum children and vulnerable youth to build the foundations necessary to improve their lives and increase their opportunities. The World Bank has given Bangladesh the means necessary to improve the quality of their education system and thus support the greater economy.

USAID’s Educational Assistance

USAID has taken a more hands-on approach in improving the quality of education. It works directly with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to improve early grade reading for children to ensure that all children learn to read in their first years of schooling. USAID’s education programs in Bangladesh have:

  • Expanded access to schooling to almost 30,000 out-of-school children
  • Increased the reading fluency of third graders by 18%
  • Increased the first-word reading fluency of first graders by 36%
  • Trained nearly 17,000 new teachers on how to teach early grade reading
  • Issued more than two million reading materials to primary schools

Education as a Key to Poverty Reduction

Every young mind deserves the opportunity for education and with the help of the World Bank and USAID, Bangladesh has the means to offer that. Efforts to improve education in Bangladesh will uplift an entire nation. The state of education in the world is progressing and thus bringing about poverty reduction success.

Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

2020 Afghanistan Conference
On November 23, 2020, and November 24, 2020, the governments of Afghanistan and Finland and the United Nations hosted the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva. The Conference is a quadrennial summit that serves as a chance for the international community to renew its long-term assistance commitments to Afghanistan. Seventy countries and 30 international organizations participated in this COVID-19-conscious summit at the UN Palais des Nations. The groups discussed the ways in which Afghanistan can develop economically, politically and socially. Talks went on in light of a worldwide pandemic and a year of new clashes as well as historic peace talks.

Changes in Funding for Afghanistan

The 2020 Afghanistan Conference serves as a “pivotal moment for aid-dependent Afghanistan.” The changes in funding that Afghanistan will receive in the coming years were a prioritized issue. From 2017 through 2020, Afghanistan received a yearly $3.8 billion from its donors. On the other hand, more recently, estimates determined a 17% drop in funds as Afghanistan has received $3.3 billion for 2021 from donors. Many expected the considerable drops in funding, however. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy will contract at least 5.5% by the end of 2020. This is a COVID-19-related crunch that the entire world is feeling. “Donor fatigue” is a concurrent effect as the pandemic stretches the global aid system thin. Donor-reliant nations such as Afghanistan are taking a hit. As the United States Institute for Peace considers funding “a critical ingredient” for stability in Afghanistan, an incoming drop in funds may have detrimental impacts both economically and politically.

Peace Talks in Afghanistan

2020 was also a year for monumental peace talks in Afghanistan, but not a year without violence. In February 2020, a monumental peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban had resulted in a considerable withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan; forces will have reduced from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January 2021. But violence continues, and in October alone, 35,000 civilians experienced displacement in Helmand Province, and another 16,000 underwent displacement in Kandahar. With the U.S. clearly on the withdrawal, the Afghan government now leads negotiations with the Taliban, who were not invited to the 2020 Afghanistan Conference but made a statement with the hopes that the international community would deliver aid “collected in the name of the people.”

Roles of Afghan Women in the Nation’s Civil Society

Another primary concern at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, specifically among Afghan-based groups working for peace and development, was the future roles that Afghan women may play in the nation’s civil society. The Kabul-based group Equality for Peace and Democracy made an address. It exalted the impact that gender-based equality has in a society striving for a place on the world stage. The aid group CARE, which noted that women and girls have experienced exclusion “from meaningful participation” in Afghan society, hopes that donors will make more economic and political opportunities for women in Afghanistan a requirement for financial assistance.

Naturally, the epidemic, declines in donorship, historic developments in regional peace and potential upheaval of civil society all presented humanitarian worries for Afghanistan’s immediate future. As the nation enters the second wave of COVID-19, food prices will continue to rise globally. In addition, a third of Afghanistan’s population is predicted to face “crisis or emergency levels of hunger” through March 2021. The more mountainous regions of Afghanistan, which typically face bitter winters, will have even more vulnerable food security. The 2020 Afghanistan Conference, however, was a productive way to bring these issues to light and an opportunity for the international community to learn about these problems and pledge to help treat them.

Stirling MacDougall
Photo: Flickr

Informal Employment
Informal economies are a global phenomenon that often goes unmentioned by popular media. From street vendors to unregistered employees in sweatshops, informal workers make up a large portion of a country’s labor. Informal employment refers to workers who engage in labor that is not taxed or registered by the government. Informal economies are popular because of the opportunity to access wealth. While many see informality as a chance for upward mobility, there are many downfalls to this sector which are clearly visible in the case of Argentina.

Argentina has one of the largest economies in Latin America as it has vast natural resources in energy and agriculture. As of 2020, their GDP stood at 450 billion U.S. dollars and the country had significant advantages in the fields of manufacturing and tech industries. While Argentina’s numbers stand strong compared to other countries in the Americas, a closer look into their labor shows a different picture of their economy. In 2018, informal employment was 48.1% of total employment in Argentina. While many in Argentina find that informal employment is the only option for financial survival, this sector brings about serious issues for both individual workers and the larger economy.

Poverty and Informal Employment

The push factors to join the informal economy of Argentina differ based on one’s purpose in this sector. For employers, cheap wages are a major reason to seek unregistered workers. Informality markets itself as a money-saving business model. For workers, informality does not present itself as an option but as a means for financial survival. Argentina’s market does not offer many jobs in the formal economy, leading employees to grab at whatever positions are available.

The link between informality and poverty is hard to explore. Questions remain over whether informality causes higher levels of poverty or if poverty leads to higher levels of informal employment. The World Bank team in Argentina has developed a two-year program to analyze the causes and consequences of informality in Argentina. In their study, it was found that informal work appears to be the most common type of employment among workers in poor households, but the degree and direction of causation are more difficult to determine. Whether poverty causes informality or informality causes poverty is uncertain. The program is finding that prior to Argentina’s economic crisis, the increase in poverty rates appeared to be driven by an increase in poverty among informal households. Such statistics confirm at least a correlative link between the two issues. This serves as evidence for why issues with informality should be at the forefront of anti-poverty efforts.

Dangers of Informal Employment

Informal economies pose several consequences for the welfare of workers and the larger market economy of a country. On the side of workers, informal employment is an opportunity that comes with many risks. The biggest obstacle with informal economies is the recognition of worker’s rights. Given that these workers are not registered, organizations do not have the responsibility to uphold necessary protections. In Argentina, the Confederation of Popular Economy Workers estimates that only approximately 20,000 workers, or about 0.3%, have acquired labor rights so far.  This 0.3% comes from a total of 7.2 million informal workers, thus showing that many of these persons lack access to health insurance, pension, and protection against labor accidents. Consequently, informal workers often find themselves at the margins of society as their work fails to secure a stable income.

Informality also poses a threat to the overall economy of a country. In a personal interview with Dr. Jeronimo Montero Bressan, a full-time researcher for the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina, he explained the ways in which the informal sector affects the rest of the country. Informal employment is a subsidy to the private sector. Most informal employment falls in the hands of private companies that produce subcontracting chains. This way informal workers can work under formal companies.

For Dr. Montero Bressan, while many come to have a romantic view of informality, the reality presents a chain of exploitation and an overall risk for the livelihood of the rest of the country. Dr. Montero Bressan has attested that because informal workers receive little money, wages will likely diminish throughout the entire economy, thus serving to motivate this type of employment. He has also said, “So, you tell people you won’t hire them because you could get the same labor for half what you pay them.” Informal economies do not just have an effect within a certain sector but come to influence the economy of the entire country. Without stronger regulation, everyone will stand at a loss as the value of labor falls with companies being able to ignore worker’s rights.

What is the response?

As Argentina sees stable numbers in the informal economies, efforts to reform this sector continue to fall short. According to Dr. Montero Bressan, the government of Argentina has done little to improve the rights of informal workers. In recent years, fines for specific sectors were blanketed, preventing companies from being fined when they leave workers unregistered. From his perspective, Argentina has weak labor laws that can provide little security. Dr. Montero Bressan has stated that if one were to be fired from an informal job, the employer could be taken to trial, however, the only likely result would be compensation. Such compensation gives laborers some value for their work, however, one-time compensation will not fix the problem of informality. Employees will find themselves back in poverty and seeking informal employment once the compensation runs out.

Informal employment generates consequences from the very beginning as worker’s rights are denied. For Argentina, the informal sector poses an extensive problem for both informal workers and the larger economy as informality decreases wages in the country. The informal sector has a strong connection with poverty as this means of labor is generally common in poor households. This sector, however, is not sustainable and the government of Argentina must respond by providing protection for workers and holding companies accountable for failing to register their employees.

– Ana Paola Asturias

Photo: Flickr

Female entrepreneurs in AfghanistanIt is no secret that women’s rights in Afghanistan have been suffering due to decades of war and Taliban rule in the country. Afghan women have been denied employment, education, healthcare and basic freedoms for years and were punished violently by the Taliban for attempting to find work or go to school. Years after Taliban rule, women are picking up the pieces of a broken society that drove them and many other Afghans into severe poverty. Organizations such as the Women’s Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project (WEERDP) and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), both funded and backed by the World Bank, set up savings and loan associations in different communities to allow Afghan women to start their own business. Female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan have the potential to help the economy and poverty within the country.

Women’s Empowerment Projects of the World Bank

International Aid to Afghanistan is essential for empowering its women and bringing communities out of poverty. The World Bank has a variety of programs dedicated to poverty eradication. It implemented the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project to support Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). VLSAs operate as a community bank that gives out micro-loans to women to create employment opportunities to sustain economic growth. Examples of businesses that have been started are hair salons, tailor shops and bakeries.

While the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program closed down in 2018, it was replaced by the WEERDP and continues to be backed by the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) to ensure steady funding.

VSLA’s are funded by the World Bank and the IDA to ensure sustainable financial institutions are available in Afghanistan, with the hope that they will partner with larger commercial banks in the future.

Benefits of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

There are roughly 275,684 Afghan women beneficiaries of the WEERDP.  Many of them have had access to financial services for the first time with the program. Many others have taken loans, learned how to repay them and have begun saving for the future. These are valuable life skills for women who were not able to enter the workforce or gain an education in the past.

With the increase of women-run businesses in Afghanistan’s rural communities, VSLA’s can begin to partner with larger banks to begin serving bigger loans to women after seeing the success of the businesses that started with micro-loans. The support of financial institutions is important to give women the confidence to become entrepreneurs, especially in a country where the percentage of women in the workforce has been statistically low. Skills like leadership, management and problem-solving are derived from starting a business and they can be spread throughout communities to strengthen the role of women in the economy.

Skills can even be passed down through generations. Building a structure with programs like the WEERDP is vital for long-term economic growth and success because it can open doors for creativity and innovation for an economy that would benefit.

The Future of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Increasing the number of women entrepreneurs with savvy financial skills can benefit the communities of Afghanistan in many ways. Successful women can begin to venture out into local politics and healthcare fields to build on their skills while sharing their talents with the community. Women have important input on what types of businesses are needed for their community and can reduce poverty in specialized ways.

Afghan women make up roughly half of the nation’s population, so their representation is needed to drive economic and societal progress. Having women be visible in the business sector can allow for gender equality to improve in Afghanistan over time, improving the development of the nation as a whole.

– Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

Aid Poverty in MozambiqueThe country of Mozambique, located in southern Africa, has 46.1% of its population living below the poverty line. Children living in rural areas are among the most impacted as poverty in Mozambique hits rural areas the hardest. Economic growth has occurred in the country over the last decade but rural poverty persists due to meager transport infrastructure ultimately segregating rural regions. However, a new initiative is underway to help aid poverty in Mozambique.

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project

Funded by the World Bank, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project is an ongoing initiative that is enhancing road access in selected rural regions of Mozambique to support the well-being of local communities. For Mozambique and its segregated rural regions, added transport infrastructure that the Integrated Feeder Roads Project provides will connect these poverty-stricken rural regions to greater Mozambique. As a result, poverty in Mozambique is set to improve through imports, exports and overall improved levels of accessibility to and from rural regions.

Cyclones Strike

In 2019, the powerful Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth ravaged their way through the Southern Hemisphere and Mozambique was one of many countries deeply affected. Cyclone Idai was deemed to be one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit southern Africa over the last 20 years. Only six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique, marking the first time that two strong tropical cyclones struck the country in the same season. The aftermath of both cyclones was devastating, and in the destruction, the already minimal roads connecting rural regions were further damaged and relief efforts from humanitarians became nearly impossible. Poverty in Mozambique worsened after these cyclones and so did the transportive means of aiding it.

The World Bank Helps Aid Poverty in Mozambique

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project was initially approved by the World Bank in 2018 as Mozambique’s transport infrastructure has long been insufficient to sustain steady economies in rural areas and support local communities. Following the cyclones and the damage they left behind, the World Bank approved an IDA grant of $110 million to further aid reconstruction efforts given the severe aftermath of Idai and Kenneth. Overall, the World Bank is financing the Integrated Feeder Roads Project with an estimated total of $185 million.

COVID-19 in Mozambique

As if Mozambique had not endured enough, COVID-19 has been yet another unfortunate obstacle thrown at the country in its rebuilding process after the cyclones. Negatively impacting poverty, Mozambique’s economy has further declined as a result of COVID-19 due to travel restrictions and precautions affecting the flow of goods and services. Transport infrastructure built from the Integrated Feeder Roads Project will aid relief efforts and boost the economy even though COVID-19 is impacting poverty relief efforts.

The Future of Mozambique

In the face of much adversity, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project offers plenty of hope for poverty relief success in Mozambique. Added transport infrastructure will connect rural regions to greater Mozambique, and in a time of heavy need, these opened connections will help rural communities and affected individuals who desperately need it. Overall, foreign aid will help aid poverty in Mozambique.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

improve girls' educationAll around the globe, young girls are forced to end their educational careers early as gender inequality is still quite common. Lack of schooling for young girls limits female participation in the workplace and reinforces patriarchal societies. As of 2018, worldwide totals of illiterate girls from the ages of 5 to 25 outnumbered illiterate boys in the same age group by 12 million. Yet,  global female participation in schooling has grown by 16% since 1995. The momentum gained in the past 25 years looks to continue as three important organizations have released plans to improve girls’ education in 2020 and beyond.

The World Bank

As a global economic institution, the World Bank joined the fight to preserve girls’ education years ago. In fact, the bank launched a seven-year plan in 2016 that focuses on improving all women’s rights, going beyond just education. However, the World Bank identified educational opportunities as a key way to break the cycle of injustice and has subsequently created separate funding solely based on female schooling.

In May 2020, a total of $1.49 billion had already been allocated to improving education for women of all ages, both primary and secondary. This will not only help girls learn to read and write but will also lead to women entering the workplace in countries where men are the ones to hold jobs.

The United Nations (UN)

Many know the U.N. as the global agency where countries discuss peace deals and trade contracts. While this is true, the U.N. also has sectors dedicated to human rights advocacy. An entire branch, known as the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), works with developing countries to devise plans that enhance educational opportunities for girls. Being under the umbrella of the United Nations adds a level of legitimacy that some nonprofits who want to improve girls’ education are unable to achieve. The UNGEI has a wide range of contributors and currently consists of 24 global and regional partners, four regional partnerships and nearly 50 associated country partnerships. Recently, the United Nations released the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and worked with the UNGEI to add equal educational opportunity for girls as a part of this vision. Girls around the world, especially those living in developing countries, are at the center of this vision, which can lead to powerful change.

Girls Education Challenge (GEC)

Back in 2012, the government of the United Kingdom made global equal education a primary focus. The government joined forces with U.K. Aid to tackle this issue. Together, the two created a groundbreaking 12-year commitment called the Girls Education Challenge (GEC). The first phase of the GEC, which was a huge success, ended in 2017. For the second phase, which will continue until 2024, the U.K. is looking to expand its impact to encompass over 40 projects in nearly 20 nations. With hundreds of millions of dollars now raised for the GEC, its own research suggests that over 800,000 young girls are learning in schools and on the path to finish their education. With four years remaining in the GEC, the United Kingdom’s impact on girls’ education will continue to bring equal opportunities well into the 2020s.

Education, Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction

The World Bank, the U.N. and the U.K. are trying to create fair schooling policies but are also breaking down social barriers in the developing world. Global society is trending in the right direction for gender equality and much more work is left to be done. The work being done to improve girls’ education can and will be a catalyst for change.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Aid to SenegalSenegal’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in Africa, with a growth rate of above 6% from 2014 to 2018. The country is home to 15.4 million people and is one of the most stable countries in the region. The service industry heavily burgeoned this growth, which made up about 60% of the country’s total GDP. The shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major slowdown in growth, falling to an estimated 1.3% in 2020. Although the country has instituted a comprehensive stimulus plan, Senegal’s economy is still facing a slow and painful recovery, which could be disastrous for the country’s long-term future. Aid to Senegal is essential for the country’s recovery.

Incoming Aid to Senegal

In a press release on November 11, 2020, Germany and the European Union (EU) announced the approval of relief funding for Senegal — 112 million euros in EU funding and 100 million euros in funding from Germany itself. The EU has a broader history of aid to Senegal, with more than a billion euros of aid sent from 2014 to 2020. Germany also has a history of friendship with Senegal, as the two entered into a reform partnership in 2019. The amount of aid rendered illustrates the strong commitment of both the EU and Germany to Senegal’s economy. The money will go toward Senegal’s COVID-19 stimulus program and will enable the government to continue relief efforts for its population.

German development minister, Gerd Müller, was strongly in favor of aid to Senegal and described many problems currently ailing Senegal’s economy. Nearly half of the country is unemployed and the shrinking economy will especially impact small and medium businesses, which make up 90% of all Senegalese jobs. Müller says, “We must not forget that the consequences of COVID-19 are far more dramatic in developing countries.”

Impact of Aid to Senegal

Müller is optimistic that the aid will enable the protection of jobs and the production of medical equipment necessary to fight COVID-19. The Senegalese government also started a program for businesses to receive cash loans for support.

Although Senegal’s economy is robust, it is still dependent on foreign aid to finance these measures. Aside from the aid coming from the EU and Germany, the World Bank approved $100 million worth of aid back in June 2020, demonstrating a need for further funding to prevent larger setbacks in Senegal’s economy.

An Admirable COVID-19 Reponse

The way that Senegal handled the COVID-19 pandemic itself has received praise throughout the world. It ranks second only to New Zealand on Foreign Policy’s Global COVID-19 Response Index, which measures the response of national leaders to the pandemic. The country took broad health safety measures at the beginning of the crisis, which had an unfortunate impact on Senegal’s economy. International aid to Senegal plays a large role in the country’s recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

– Bradley Cisternino
Photo: Flickr

Energy in EgyptThe poverty rate in Egypt rose to 32.5%, or 32 million people, in 2018. Energy use is rising in Egypt by 6.5% per year, but a disproportionate reliance on finite gas and other conventional energy resources has placed the future of Egyptian energy sustainability and environmental goals at risk. Under the Egypt Vision 2030 initiative, the country has recognized an important need to reduce carbon emissions. This, along with the country’s abundance of sunlight and wind, means that Egypt could very well move toward dependence on renewable energies. This is increasingly important as the growing demand for electricity has exposed the lack of access in Egypt, especially in rural areas. Lack of access to electricity is an issue that the world’s poor face and renewable energy in Egypt could be key to alleviating poverty in the country.

Shifting to Renewable Energy

The Egyptian Government began its shift toward energy security through increased renewable energy in 2014, when it partnered with the World Bank to institute energy sector reforms and attract $2 billion worth of investment for renewable energy sources. Before that, the government had large, inefficient fuel subsidies that outweighed expenditures on social protection, health and education and did not even target the Egyptian poor. This time period also saw frequent power shortages, which contributed to overall social unrest.

By committing to generating 20% of electricity through renewable energy sources by 2022, the Egyptian government showed a comprehensive commitment to energy sector reform. This has helped to create a welcoming political and economic environment for private sector investment, strengthening the shift toward renewable energy in Egypt, which creates the spillover effect of helping the country’s poor, whom energy shortages are likely to more severely affect.

The Benban Solar Park

The result has been several large deals with international banks to finance projects like the Benban Solar Park, which will be the largest solar project in the world once completed. The government received over $650 million in funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to construct the 13 solar power plants that are part of the project. This new initiative will provide power to more than 350,000 Egyptians and generate more than 6,000 for building greater renewable energy in Egypt.

Other Benefits of Energy Reform

The partnerships with the World Bank and the IFC have other benefits, like freeing government spending to go toward social initiatives. By instituting energy reforms, the Egyptian Government was able to double spending on social protection for the poorest 20% of the population. So, while projects like the Benban Solar Park will themselves contribute to a cleaner, more efficient energy security that will benefit those living in poverty, the means by which these projects are funded also enable the government to focus more of its spending on alleviating poverty.

Energy Reform and Poverty in Egypt

The Egyptian Government has partnered with international institutions like the World Bank to reform its energy sector. Past overdependence on gas and oil along with inefficient fuel subsidies placed Egypt’s future energy security at risk while exacerbating problems the nation’s poor faced daily. The country has shown a commitment to clean energy initiatives, which benefit Egyptians living in poverty in two main ways. First, they increase access to power and electricity. Many of those living in rural communities do not have consistent access to electricity, so this reform directly benefits them. Additionally, it benefits the impoverished indirectly by freeing up government spending for increased expenditure on social protection programs. Thus, the future of renewable energy in Egypt is bright and it has the potential to alleviate the struggles of millions of Egyptians.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it is inherently tied to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however the most influential is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is considered to be the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole. Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move onto higher education or secure high paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The importance of literacy within the fight against poverty is underscored by the World Bank. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of “Learning Poverty” aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator as to whether or not global educational goals are being met. In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount in the rate of sustainable development in poor countries. Moreover, poverty would be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries were able to read. As educational goals are met and literacy is increased, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty as it was reported in 2016 that 24% of Ethiopia’s population is considered impoverished. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because just under half of its population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates put on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system. and literacy in Ethiopia.

READ II

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or dropout due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach a targeted 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

Unlock Literacy

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy is committed to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material that is applicable to the children being educated. As a result, it has aided in the creation of over one million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million has been provided to train 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. This has been accomplished by giving schools the necessary educational resources that have been designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr