Turning tales of hardship into progress, passionate Africans innovatively use technology to improve life on the continent, fuelling future human progress and development especially on the continent’s hard-hit rural areas where access to electricity, clean water and landlines is still a luxury.
On May 25 the continent commemorates Africa Day, highlighting the challenges that continue to face our current reality while celebrating the progress we have achieved so far. Africa Day is an opportunity for citizens to reconnect and recommit themselves to support developmental initiatives that aim at changing the lives of Africa and advancing the continent.
According to the Borgen Project, 75 percent of the world’s poorest populations are located in Africa, mostly in countries like Zimbabwe, Liberia and Ethiopia. Around 414 million people live in extreme poverty across sub-Saharan Africa.
The World Bank estimates that 48.5 percent of the region’s population live on UDS 1.25 or just under R15 a day, 589 million live without access to electricity, and less than 20 percent of African women have access to education.
Poverty in Africa is predominantly rural. More than 70 percent of the continent’s poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and livelihood, according to the Rural Poverty Portal.
Such challenging issues provoked ordinary citizens to find innovative solutions to Africa’s biggest problems. Thanks to advancements in mobile technology, people without computers can still have access to the internet or electronic data especially in rural areas where electricity is a luxury.
Most families living in extreme poverty depend on rural farming for their livelihood. Traditional farming methods which are still being used due to lack of funds, advanced resources, or access to information, will be replaced by more sustainable and scalable business ideas inspired by some innovative thinkers.
In northern Kenya, the BOMA Project provides resources and training to women in rural areas, empowering them to start their own small businesses at the village. Mentors provide training in business skills and savings, and monitor the project’s progress.
In villages where electricity is almost non-existent, solar-charged tablets are used to record and analyse data. helping mentors gather data efficiently and provide needed feedback quickly. The result is more successful businesses that can eventually lift more families out of poverty.
Mobile applications, such as the iCow app created by Kenyan farmer Su Kahumbu, uses the power of mobile phones to encourage best practices for small-scale dairy farmers living in remote areas. These farmers often do not have access to vital information such as the latest milk prices. The app also helps them keep accurate record of significant details such as their cows’ gestation periods or their livestock lineage which often results in inbreeding and disease.
The fast penetration of mobile technologies and the utilization of data science are helping Africa change and improve across multiple sectors, including the agriculture-centered rural areas. Simple innovations are changing how villagers access and store their water, leading to improved sanitation and eventually better health conditions.
In other parts of Africa, villagers are using solar-technology to combat malaria where new devices that require no paraffin or electricity have been developed to trap mosquitoes before they enter the household.
Access to education in rural areas has also been boosted through technology, with projects around Africa arming rural schools with tablets and Kindles, giving students access to e-books and minimizing the cost of print textbooks.
Africa seeks refuge in technology in its fight against poverty, disease and hunger, developing its unique and innovative solutions that aim at developing and advancing the continent. Africa Day is a reminder that Africans have much to celebrate.
Author’s Bio: Amr Shady is the founder and executive chairman of TA telecom, an award-winning company that builds mobile content platforms and analytic tools. The company is now recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Amr is an active member of the esteemed global Endeavor network where he also serves on the Egypt board. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Canada’s Dalhousie University. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Business Analytics at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”