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Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa

‘Without Access we are Looking at Famine’ in South Sudan

Last week Nancy Lindborg, our assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, wrote about her recent trip to South Sudan where she witnessed how rapidly escalating violence is sending shockwaves through the world’s newest nation.

The people of South Sudan face a spiral of conflict, displacement, and hunger that this fragile, young country can ill afford. More than one million people have been forced to leave their homes and the numbers keep growing. Almost 70,000 people are sheltering in crowded UN compounds around the country that sprung up overnight and were not built to house tens of thousands of civilians. Many of these people can literally see their homes over the compound walls but remain too terrified to return, fearing they will be targeted by government or opposition forces and killed.

Lindborg called on the international community to take urgent action.

With the rainy season already upon us, there is little time to move life-saving assistance to those most in need. Even in the best of times, South Sudan presents a complex logistical challenge. Now, we need to use all possible avenues for reaching people: rivers, roads, air, and moving across borders.

Yesterday she and Khalid Medani of McGill University spoke about the escalating violence and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan on PBS Newshour. Lindborg voiced the U.S. Government’s extreme concern over the recent attacks on the U.N. compound in Bor and on civilians in Bentiu; and called on South Sudan’s leaders and all parties to the conflict to let international aid reach the country’s displaced, vulnerable and malnourished.

“If we are not able to reach the hard to reach areas through better access that is now being blocked by both sides, we are looking at famine.” Lindborg said.

Watch the full interview:

South Sudan on the Brink of Famine Demands Urgent Action

Camp Tanping in Bor, South Sudan, after March rain. 21,000 people are sheltered at the camp following the outbreak of violence

Camp Tanping in Bor, South Sudan, after March rain. 21,000 people are sheltered at the camp following the outbreak of violence

On the first of April, I walked with great sadness through the United Nations compound in Juba, capital of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, now in free fall after a hopeful beginning three years ago. The compound is sheltering more than 21,000 displaced people who fled to safety after a spasm of violence in mid-December killed untold thousands.

I talked with 23- year-old Mary who told me how she had hid with her husband—a civil servant in the new government—and their three children as they watched neighbors being killed on the street before running to the compound for safety. I spoke with Elizabeth, a tall young woman who had taught school before she came to the camp. Together we noticed a few toddlers playing perilously close to a large pool of standing, fetid water from the first rains, a harbinger of the flooding now here.

The people of South Sudan face a spiral of conflict, displacement, and hunger that this fragile, young country can ill afford. More than one million people have been forced to leave their homes and the numbers keep growing. Almost 70,000 people are sheltering in crowded UN compounds around the country that sprung up over night and were not built to house tens of thousands of civilians. Many of these people can literally see their homes over the compound walls but remain too terrified to return, fearing they will be targeted by government or opposition forces and killed.

More than 800,000 people are displaced and dispersed in hard to reach areas, and a quarter of a million more have fled South Sudan for refuge in neighboring countries. Because of the conflict, markets are disrupted, planting season is in danger of being missed, and massive displacement is a burden for host communities. The ability of more than a million people to cope is being greatly eroded. Without fast and sustained aid, there is looming potential for one million people to teeter into famine over the next year—and children under five are already falling quickly into severe malnutrition.

AA/DCHA Nancy Lindborg plays with children at a UN camp in South Sudan. Over 67,800 people are seeking refuge in UN camps in the country.

Nancy Lindborg plays with children at a UN camp in South Sudan. Over 67,800 people are seeking refuge in UN camps in the country.


Since the outbreak of violence in December, USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team has been working with UN and NGO partners to direct a full-throttle U.S. response to enable food, water, sanitation, and health assistance to reach the most vulnerable. While in Juba, I announced an additional $83 million in humanitarian assistance to support these urgently needed relief efforts for South Sudanese displaced within South Sudan and for those who have fled to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan, bringing U.S. humanitarian assistance to $411 million over the last two years.

With the rainy season already upon us, there is little time to move life-saving assistance to those most in need. Even in the best of times, South Sudan presents a complex logistical challenge. Now, we need to use all possible avenues for reaching people: rivers, roads, air, and moving across borders.

Instead, leadership of both the government and the opposition have thus far refused to stop fighting and are unable to reach agreement since the violence erupted in December. Aid workers and cargoes are routinely delayed at checkpoints and where borders are open, caravans of trucks carrying relief supplies are stopped by fighting. Permission to use the Nile, the most efficient way to reach many of the suffering South Sudanese, has been denied until recently, costing precious time to save lives.

The United States has long supported South Sudan’s journey to independence. We remain committed to the people of South Sudan, who fought hard for their vision of a peaceful future. Just this week, we joined leaders from the United Nations and the European Union to issue a Call for Action on South Sudan urging an immediate end to fighting and unfettered access for UN and humanitarian organizations to reach people in need across the country. The leadership on both sides of the conflict must do everything in their power to enable immediate and unconditional access for UN and humanitarian organizations to ensure that this urgently needed assistance reaches those in need across all areas of South Sudan. They must act now to lead their country toward peace.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post on April 9, 2014

 

Experts and Practitioners Discuss Global Trends in Civil Society

2012 CSO Sustainability Index coverUSAID relies on local civil society organizations (CSOs) to play important roles in the development and humanitarian efforts that we support worldwide.  However, current trends of governments placing restrictions on CSOs are requiring donors to find new and better ways to support civil society in difficult circumstances.

Following the release of the latest USAID Civil Society Organization Sustainability Index (CSOSI) reports for the Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Europe and Eurasia (E&E) regions, USAID organized and hosted a panel discussion entitled, “Closing Civil Society Space: Implications for Civil Society Sustainability,”  for practitioners, experts and CSO leaders to discuss the report findings.

Without exception, a free and active civil society remains vital to a nation-state’s health.   According to the findings of the CSOSI, however, civil society and CSOs in many countries around the world faces burdensome financial and legal restrictions carrying out their work.

In light of the growing trend of similar restrictive CSO/NGO laws appearing in countries around the world, the CSOSI tool “is more important than ever in helping us to understand the challenges and constraints CSOs face,” explained USAID’s E&E Bureau Assistant Administrator Paige Alexander who moderated the discussion.

Douglas Rutzen, the President and CEO of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) said that we are on the cusp of a “tipping point,” where civil society constraints become a social epidemic.  Referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Mr. Rutzen noted the importance of the “messenger” and that constraints are being adopted and transmitted by well-connected, influential countries, such as Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Venezuela. He then noted the “stickiness factor,” commenting that these governments have been adept at casting constraints in rhetorically appealing terms, such as sovereignty, counter-terrorism, and aid effectiveness.  Mr. Rutzen concluded on an optimistic note, stating that it is possible to reverse the tipping point.  Indeed, he referenced numerous examples where the tireless efforts of local civil society, supported by long-term USAID assistance, have had significant, positive impact on civic space around the world.

Claire Ehmann of USAID’s Bureau for Democracy Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, Center of Excellence on Democracy, Rights and Governance, provided an overview of the CSOSI methodology and highlighted global patterns in sustainability .  For example, financial viability continues to be the weakest area of CSO sustainability in both the Africa and E&E regions while advocacy is one of the strongest.

CSO leaders in Egypt, Ukraine and Ethiopia weighed in with the realities on the ground.  According to Egypt’s Mohamed Zaree of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, just getting CSOs registered remains practically impossible in his country.    Funding is also a significant problem in Egypt, where NGOs are prohibited from accepting foreign funding, on national security grounds.

In Ukraine, where CSO-led protests were occurring in real time, challenges lay in the relationship between citizens and the government.  In her presentation, Lyubov Palyvoda of the CCC Creative Center asserted that in comparison to CSOs’ strengths to advocate on behalf of citizens, service delivery lags far behind.

In Ethiopia, the trend is reversed, with the great majority of CSOs working in service delivery.  There, CSOs are burdened by the restrictions placed on the sourcing and utilization of funds.  Debebe Haillegebriel, an independent legal service professional with CSO experience, explained that stipulations in the CSO regulations further constrain organizations from effectively carrying out their work.

The Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA), a financial supporter of the CSOSI in four countries, remains committed to improving the enabling environment and promoting the sustainability of CSOs globally.  In his presentation, the CEO of AKF USA, Dr. Mirza Jahani, elaborated upon the Foundation’s commitment to developing the financial viability of CSOs in participating countries.  Through ‘community philanthropy’, public institutions can recognize and develop material resources locally to engage and change their countries for the long term.  Building trust within CSOs and between citizens and the public sector is the second area of AKF’s work related to the CSOSI.   For that, AKF USA supports an accreditation process, starting in Kenya and Pakistan. In those cases technological innovation such as e-platforms can help promote community responsiveness and resource-building.

The Legends of East Africa Come to an Anthropologie Store near You

In late February, U.S. based retailer Anthropologie launched the “Legend and Song Collection” to celebrate the craft and artisans of East Africa. This new collection offers traditional African textiles and beading combined with the unmistakable Anthropologie style. Bright colors and intricate patterns adorn dresses, skirts, jewelry, and accessories for this limited time collection.

While sold only in U.S.  Anthropologie stores for the time being, the full collection was manufactured entirely in East Africa. With the help of our East Africa Trade Hub, the “legends and song” of Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda have made their way onto the shelves of Anthropologie.

Here at USAID, we work to boost trade with and within Africa, particularly in the East African region. Through President Obama’s Trade Africa initiative and our East Africa Trade hub, we work with public and private sector partners to implement information and communication technology solutions, trade facilitation tools, and devise regional strategies to improve the transparency and accessibility of markets.

In early 2013, we met with key decision makers at Anthropologie about sourcing options in East Africa and invited their teams to visit us here in Kenya. They had never explored the region for their stores, so we knew we had to find the right conditions in order for this idea to come to fruition. We set up customized exploratory visits to match Anthropologie’s design specifications and the styles and capacity of local East African companies. Our colleagues introduced the Anthropologie team to several designers, before they decided on six African companies: Sammy Handmade of EthiopiaMille CollinesGahaya Links and Indego Africa of Rwanda; and Doreen Mashika and URU Diamonds of Tanzania.

“With the Trade Hub’s guidance we were able to seamlessly access the market in this region. It is exciting for us as a company and we look forward to the future possibilities,” said Karen Wilkins, Director of Technical Design for Anthropologie/Urban Inc. Karen and her team of technical design specialists worked closely with the designers to make sure the specifications and designs were technically accurate.

Over the past four years through our Origin Africa campaign, the East Africa Trade Hub has provided technical support and guidance to the many small designers and manufacturers in the region. The campaign helps change perceptions about Africa by allowing international buyers to see just how integral design and creativity are to Africa’s future. Through the work of producers, designers, small businesses, exporters, buyers and retailers, Origin Africa supports African trade in textiles/apparel, cut flowers, footwear, specialty foods, home decor, and fashion accessories. Since 2009, the East Africa Trade Hub has directly facilitated over $160 million in exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

“Many of the companies in the Anthropologie collection have been beneficiaries of Trade Hub support for several years,” says Finn Holm-Olsen,  AGOA Trade Advisor for USAID’s East Africa Trade Hub.  “On a broader scale, our Origin Africa initiative has been at the forefront of changing perceptions about Africa.  So it is exciting to see, through this special collection, such a wide range of uniquely African products on offer to U.S. consumers.”

Anthropologie’s trust in and promotion of local African companies is a testament to the rising prominence of designers and manufacturers in East Africa. These designers now have the capacity and tools necessary to find success in the US market.

Visit the collection online. Products will be featured in select Anthropologie locations this spring.

Learning from Past Elections to Improve Current Elections

Rapid Assessment Review cover

Together, PPL and DCHA staff compiled a Rapid Assessment Review of Kenya’s 2013 elections.

International support for elections has emphasized various dimensions during the past several decades.   In an effort to promote free and genuine electoral processes, assistance has included technical support for election commissions, provision of electoral commodities, international and domestic election monitoring, political party capacity building and many other modes. The March 2013 Kenyan elections, whose anniversary we mark this month, brought to the fore a new approach: the international community’s multi-faceted support for an election process combined with a proactive violence prevention campaign. The fact that Kenyan institutions ultimately managed the process in a manner that minimized violence, in stark contrast to the horrific post-elections experience in 2007, and where all parties accepted the results despite a close result and Supreme Court appeal, makes this election worthy of study.

The USAID/Kenya mission, which dedicated considerable time and creative effort to supporting the Kenyan election process over several years, sought to memorialize its efforts in a manner that could be shared with other USAID missions facing similar circumstances.  Hence, the Mission requested that I and two DCHA colleagues conduct a Rapid Assessment Review (RAR) of USAID’s experience, beginning with the period immediately following the 2007 election violence and continuing through the post-election period in 2013.  We chose a RAR rather than a more immediate After Action Review and or the more rigorous evaluation performed in accordance with USAID’s 2011 Evaluation Policy, to quickly, but fully, capture important lessons about election support in dynamic, politically complex settings, where diverse interventions are required to achieve desired outcomes.

The RAR emphasizes that USAID was not the principal actor that contributed to the largely successful outcome. Most important, a wide range of Kenyans –election officials,  party activists and civil society organizers – were the individuals committed to the reform process initiated in response to the previous post-election violence.  USAID’s role in the Kenyan elections was embedded in a broader U.S. government effort, which featured the active involvement of several U.S. Ambassadors, a team from the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) and, in the lead-up to election day, a proactive inter-agency effort, both at post and in Washington.

Among the RAR’s 11 recommendations are the following:  “Promote elections that are peaceful and credible, and avoid operating as if these objectives are inherently in conflict” and “Start early – An election is a process, not an event.”   Having just returned from a visit to Nigeria, I know that these and other lessons included in the RAR will resonate with Nigerian officials as they prepare for February 2015 elections in a country with even more linguistic, ethnic and geographic divisions than Kenya, and which has also had experiences with poorly administered elections leading to increased tensions and violence.

USAID is not alone in seeking to learn from the Kenya experience.  In addition to the RAR, you can learn more about the Kenya elections process through the State Department’s “Final Evaluation on CSO ‘s Kenya Engagement,” the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs’s ”OCHA Lessons Learned of the Kenya Election Process Humanitarian Preparedness Process and the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect’s “R2P in Practice: Ethnic Violence, Elections and Atrocity Prevention in Kenya.  And just last week, the U.S. Institute for Peace organized a symposium on “Kenya, One Year Later: Lessons Learned for Preventing Mass Violence.”

A “Whole” Lot of Success for Ghanaian Pineapples

If you live in the Southeast region of the United States, next time you walk into a Whole Foods Market and pick out the perfect pineapple, your purchase could support a Ghanaian-based small business.

Ghanaian pineapples on display at a Whole Foods Market. Credit: Michael Griffin, Sardis Enterprises

Ghanaian pineapples on display at a Whole Foods Market. Credit: Michael Griffin, Sardis Enterprises

Beginning in January, a number of Whole Foods Markets in the United States began stocking Ashanti pineapple grown on the central coast of Ghana. A unique partnership between Sardis Enterprises L.T.D, a Ghana-based small business; the African Diaspora Marketplace, a program of the United States Agency for International Development; and Western Union made the export of this delicious tropical fruit to Whole Foods Market possible.

Recognizing the opportunity, Sardis Enterprises is now pursuing a certification process to acquire a national account with Whole Foods Market and expand its distribution chain to the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Southeast and eventually all regions of the United States. The farmers and cooperatives that sell to Sardis differentiate themselves by using natural fertilizing methods and not using chemicals before, during, or after harvest. The company is currently certifying its suppliers’ farms and cooperatives as organic. “African Diaspora Marketplace gave us the support we needed to lay the groundwork for our company’s current growth trajectory and we are very excited for the opportunity to link Ghanaian farmers with Whole Foods’ network in the U.S.” said Michael Griffin, CEO of Sardis Enterprises.

But the success doesn’t end with Sardis. This partnership is just 1 of 17 awardees of the Second African Diaspora Marketplace, an initiative that encourages sustainable economic growth and employment by supporting U.S.-based African Diaspora and other entrepreneurs through grant funding and technical assistance. These entrepreneurs are individuals with demonstrable connections to or experience in Africa, and who have innovative and high-impact start-ups or established businesses on the continent. The African Diaspora Marketplace selects the most promising small and medium sized businesses across Africa and provides them with capital and managerial support to help grow.

The success of Sardis and other awardees demonstrates the value in supporting promising start-ups in Africa. The company has big plans for the future. They are building the Ashanti Pineapples brand and pursuing partnerships to develop their distribution channels in large export markets such as the US. “Our aim is to build a strong brand for the Ashanti line of produce and thereby help farmers in our cooperatives access valuable export opportunities that can help increase their income and have an overall positive impact on their livelihoods”, said Griffin.

Investing in Africa’s Future

Note: this article was adapted from a version originally published in “Ventures Africa.”

With 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa maintains the youngest population in the world. The current trend indicates that this population will double by 2050, according to an African Economic Outlook report, which aggregates data from several multilateral organizations including the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Gaining professional skills helps the West African business community engage in more trade and encourages economic growth for the region. (Photo Credit West Africa Trade Hub)

Gaining professional skills helps the West African business community engage in more trade and encourages economic growth for the region. (Photo Credit West Africa Trade Hub)

Sub-Saharan Africa’s workforce is also becoming larger and better educated, indicating that there is an overwhelming potential for economic growth and development. But even with this progress, youth unemployment and underemployment still remains a major constraint.

Youth in Africa are full of innovative ideas that seek to address a variety of societal challenges. With upwards of 10 million young people entering into the job markets each year on the continent, vastly outnumbering the jobs available in both public and private sectors, many of these youth have turned to entrepreneurship. Yet the fact remains that without an established credit history, significant assets, or business experience required by traditional investment models, young entrepreneurs are constrained by access to affordable capital to start or expand a business.

Investing in young people requires a unique set of skills, and an appetite for a different kind of portfolio. Some youth may require long term patient capital with a long tenor, as well as mentoring and training to manage risk. Others may require seed funding, or funding to develop a new technology, which requires shorter term financing. With web-based enterprise on the rise, investment in youth has become as easy as a funds transfer or mobile payment, and runs the same risk as any impact or venture capital investment. While many investments can be captured within traditional investment classes (such as debt, equity, venture capital), it’s clear that young people in Africa and other emerging markets present a tremendous market opportunity.

The United States Government recognizes the need to invest in young people on the continent, and the Obama Administration has already undertaken a tremendous effort to invest in Africa’s future. The President’s Young African Leaders Initiative, more commonly known as YALI-, empowers and bolsters young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, and ongoing support.  Starting in June 2014, the YALI Washington Fellowship will bring 500 young Africans (between the ages of 25 to 35) to the United States to participate in a comprehensive six week “Institute” in one of three areas: public management, civic leadership, or business and entrepreneurship.

All of these sessions will culminate in a YALI Summit, to be hosted in July 2014 in Washington, DC. Not only will the Washington Fellows have the opportunity to interact with President Obama and senior staff, but they will be able to meet with private sector leaders, and interact with one another, allowing for a truly diverse mix of representatives from all countries, regions, and sectors.

Upon completion of the program in the United States, the investment in young leaders will continue upon their return to the continent, where USAID and the State Department in partnership with the private sector, host governments, and civil society, will offer growth opportunities in four key areas: networking, professional development, access to seed capital for entrepreneurs, and opportunities to give back to their communities. This will significantly increase opportunities for employment and accelerate professional development for leaders. The United States African Development Foundation is also supporting this program with a $5 million entrepreneurship grants program that will include competitively awarded grants for the Fellows with innovative business ideas.

For example, Fellows who have completed the business and entrepreneurship institutes will have built technical and leadership capacity in areas such as strategy, supply chain management, business ethics, social entreprenership, microfinance, management, and risk analysis. Though these skills are invaluable, paired with YALI’s provision of small grants, networks, coaching, and mentoring, the Fellows will be well equipped to build a viable enterprise.

The Washington Fellowship received thousands of applications for just 500 slots, demonstrating that young people are all too aware, and appreciate having an opportunity to substantively engage with senior leaders.

Though applications are closed for this year, its not too late to engage! The State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs  will continue to interact with a growing email list of over 38,000 self-identified young African leaders interested in the United States, known as the Young African Leaders Network (YALN). YALN is open for registration, and will transmit updates on future opportunities available for young Africans to engage the U.S. Government.

For a truly sustainable impact, governments can’t go it alone. As investors across Africa seek to diversify their portfolios, they may increasingly look to young people for high growth opportunities. A commitment to Africa’s future can be best demonstrated by investing in its young people, who will continue to be engaged in shaping their own futures.

Small Changes Make a Big Difference in Madagascar

On a hill amidst unkempt grass and wild vegetation in the outskirts of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, stands a shabby-looking wooden hut, surrounded by banana trees and other makeshift shelters.  A few feet below, a middle-aged woman is attending to a few customers that come to buy a few items at her food stand. Her name is Honorine, and the hut is her home. Her life has substantially improved thanks to a USAID-funded food security program.

Christopher La Fargue, FFP Officer, buys fruit at Honorine’s shop. Photo: Bruno Rasamoel

Christopher La Fargue, FFP Officer, buys fruit at Honorine’s shop. Photo: Bruno Rasamoel

ASA or Ankohonana Sahirana Arenina (promotion of vulnerable families) is one of the five social protection centers partnering with CRS in Antananarivo to provide technical assistance and training, as well as food rations, to poor families in this teeming city.  Annually, the center identifies about 40 extremely vulnerable households –mostly headed by women—and provides them with training in an income-generating activity that will help them earn a decent living. The beneficiaries come to the center for a 10-month training, and receive a monthly food ration of corn-soy blend, fortified cooking oil, and rice. On completion of their training, the beneficiaries are given some equipment to help start the business of their choice.

Julienne is one beneficiary of the project, who received training and equipment from the center. She started pig farming in 2010, and she has ever since increased her livestock by 300 percent. Using the sales proceeds, she has embarked on brickmaking and is now building a house for her family.

Germaine used to do the laundry for a living, which would barely help her make ends meet. Joining the center helped her save some money, which she used to buy a sewing machine and start a sewing business. She then diversified into chicken farming and earned enough money to send her children to school. The farming is doing very well, and Germaine is now turning her mud house into a brick home.

Bodo, another beneficiary, is the widowed mother of five children. She felt ostracized earlier because she was poor, and her neighbors and relatives would look down on her. Her life improved soon after joining ASA as she could earn and even save money thanks to chicken farming. She was able to buy new clothes for her and her family, and the neighbors are now more considerate and respectful. Our life has changed thanks to the center and USAID’s support, she said.

With the help of the center, Honorine started a small food stand selling homemade soup, doughnuts, noodles, fruit, and other vegetables. Although she still lives in a wooden hut near a garbage dump, her life has improved. With the money that she saved, she bought two pigs that are kept in the countryside, and she is confident her life will continue to improve, as she has seen with her fellow ASA peers.

Ms. Sarah, the ASA project coordinator spoke highly of the project that helped many vulnerable families improve their living condition. Eight hundred and forty families in Antananarivo have benefited from the project since its start in 2009, and 2,549 people among the five social protection centers throughout the country. Although the food security program ends in June of this year, and the distribution of food rations ceased last September, her center will continue to provide training to the most vulnerable in the city, and she is seeking to expand the ASA activity with other donor support.

GE Turns on Power in Power Africa

Whether it’s kick starting local off-grid energy projects in Kenya and Nigeria, or  larger scale initiatives across the region, GE’s involvement in the Power Africa initiative is very much underway.

Mibawa Suppliers was awarded a $100,000 grant from Shari Berenbach, President and CEO of the USADF. Mibawa’s ‘rent to own’ solar scheme provides Kenyan villagers with cheaper, safer, and more regular power supply. Credit: Rudy Gharib/USAID

Mibawa Suppliers was awarded a $100,000 grant from Shari Berenbach, President and CEO of the USADF. Mibawa’s ‘rent to own’ solar scheme provides Kenyan villagers with cheaper, safer, and more regular power supply. / Rudy Gharib, USAID

Michael Wanyonyi, CEO of Mibawa Suppliers is among the first $100,000 award winners in the new GE/USADF Off-Grid Energy Challenge, launched as part of Power Africa earlier this year. GE partnered with the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), a US government agency, supporting African-originated solutions that generate jobs, improve incomes, and raise standards of living. With the Challenge, more than twenty, $100,000 grants will be awarded over the next three years to African organizations with off-grid solutions that help power economic activity.

In rural Kenya, Wanyoni’s model provides Kenyan villagers with cheaper, safer, and more regular power supply. “We hope to go from 5,000 units now to 10,000 units by the end of next year,” says Wanyonyi, CEO of Mibawa Suppliers about his ‘rent to own’ solar scheme.

With Mibawa Suppliers’ IndiGo system, families make a small initial outlay of KS1,200 (around $14), for equipment and installation of a solar system with two lights and cell phone charging capability. Customers then pay a weekly charge of KS140 (around $1.6) through a scratch card until they own the system in full. The $100,000 Off-Grid Challenge award will help fund further growth of the scheme with a proposed doubling of units in the next 12 months.

Most customers previously spent up to $4 a week on kerosene, but could not shift to cheaper solar because of the set-up costs. As Wanyonyi says; “There are cost benefits but it is also a cleaner energy, better for health. It is helping local businesses and the performance of children in school with better light for study.”

Green Village Energy Group (GVE Group) is also  receiving an award for their  18kw solar powered off grid project generating electricity for 140 homes at Egbeke, in Rivers state, Nigeria, an extension to an existing successful 6kw project.

“This award has been absolutely wonderful”, GVE Group Chief Executive, Ifeanyi Orajaka said. “It has given us the opportunity to commercialise the project concept and take it to the next stage.”

The other four Off-Grid Challenge award winners in this first award round include proposals to construct solar powered water points in rural Northern Kenya, to put into place a bio-gas digester in Nairobi, to set up a standalone cold storage facility to allow farmers in north central Nigeria to store their produce and to study the feasibility of a renewable hydro-electric power system.

Work has also started on making this vision of Power Africa a reality with the launch of the ‘Ghana 1000MW Project’ with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to build a 1000 megawatts of power plant signed with the Ghana government.

Caption: Power Africa Coordinator, Andy Herscowitz, learns about the IndiGo’s energy kit. Each box contains a mini-generator, two lamps, a solar panel, and charging cables. Credit: Rudy Gharib/USAID

Power Africa Coordinator, Andy Herscowitz, learns about the IndiGo’s energy kit. Each box contains a mini-generator, two lamps, a solar panel, and charging cables. / Rudy Gharib/USAID

“We are looking to put together something that is really innovative, the creation of a gas to power solution that can be a model for the region”, says GE Managing Director for Western Africa, Leslie Nelson.

GE is involved in two major wind projects in Kenya as part of the Government’s objective to increase Kenya’s power capacity by an additional 5000MW over the next few years. GE will supply Wind Turbines to the 60MW Kinangop Wind Park project which reached Financial Close in November 2013. GE is also developing the 100MW Kipeto Wind Farm and is arranging for the project to be financed through Power Africa in a deal valued at US$300M.

In Tanzania, GE has partnered with Jacobsen, a Norwegian EPC, to build the 150MW Kinyerezi (I) power plant for Tanesco, the Tanzanian power utility. GE will supply 4 Aeroderivative gas turbines. Construction has commenced on the plant.

GE Africa President and CEO, Jay Ireland feels 2014 will be another milestone year for GE in Africa and Power Africa. “I think one important aspect”, says Ireland, “is how we are tapping into local expertise. We can bring in the technology, but local people on the ground have the most valuable insights on what works best for Africa and how we can meet the power needs of the continent.”

Business Students Tackle Childhood Pneumonia in Uganda

A collaboration between USAID’s Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact (CII) in the Global Health Bureau and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University led to teams of business students from around the world competing on ways to reduce child deaths from pneumonia in Uganda.

The 11th annual Kellogg Biotech and Healthcare Case Competition brought together eleven teams representing nine business schools from the US, Canada, UK, and Mexico on January 25th in Chicago. This year’s winning team was from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and the runner-up from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The winning team from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.

The winning team from the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. Credit: Jason Brown

Thirty-two teams applied to participate from twelve different schools around the world. The teams invited to compete had impressive credentials; many of the participants worked at global healthcare companies and several had medical degrees.

Judges of the event were pharmaceutical executives who evaluated the teams’ business-minded supply and demand solutions. Pneumonia is the largest killer of children in the developing world and can lead to death if not correctly and quickly diagnosed and treated appropriately.

“This is business education at its finest,” observed Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Kellogg and one of the directors of the case competition. “In this competition we have teams of students working to address a major global health issue. In the process, they are learning an enormous about global health, team dynamics and the power of business concepts.”

The case was developed over the course of several months by students and professors at Kellogg in close collaboration with CII. Students performed research and interviews throughout Uganda.

Professor Calkins and Kara Palamountain, Director of the Global Health Initiative at Kellogg, then wrote the case outlining the many barriers to increasing the use of antibiotics in a country with limited resources. At the end of the case students are asked to propose solutions from several options within a given budget to maximize lives saved.

“This case forced students to think both analytically and creatively. The challenges are significant; it isn’t a case with a simple answer,” said Calkins.

CII actively looks to support the already strong work across USAID’s Global Health Bureau by engaging a range of new thinkers and perspectives, many from the private sector. This event demonstrated the value of seeking out these new perspectives; many of the teams proposed promising, well-structured, and feasible solutions based on frameworks and analysis from their business school curricula. Some of the teams will be invited to present their proposals to the Pneumonia Working Group based at UNICEF to inform ongoing global scale-up efforts.

Kellogg Professor Tim Calkins discusses the case following the competition

Kellogg Professor Tim Calkins discusses the case following the competition

Exposing business students to the challenges and opportunities in these developing markets now will likely benefit them in their future healthcare careers. Many countries in Africa and South East Asia are among the fastest growing pharmaceutical markets in the world. Calkins noted, “I was delighted to use a pharmaceutical related case from Africa, since this is where some of the greatest needs and opportunities will be found in the healthcare world.”

In addition to this competition, the case will be a permanent teaching tool in a global health course at Kellogg.

Schools represented include:

  • Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota
  • Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University (Canada)
  • Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
  • IPADE Business School (Mexico)
  • Judge Business School, University of Cambridge (UK)
  • Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
  • Rutgers Business School
  • Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
  • University of Chicago Booth School of Business
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