In the second grade, students learn to read through new learning techniques at USAID-supported Kakila Primary School in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo is from Alain Mukeba USAID/DRC.
In the second grade, students learn to read through new learning techniques at USAID-supported Kakila Primary School in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo is from Alain Mukeba USAID/DRC.
This plain-spoken answer—from a father who lived in a village without access to electricity—came in response to the question: What is life like without electrical power?
For most of the world, electricity allows business to flourish, students to study, and clinics to run long after the sun goes down. But for 600 million Africans, these opportunities simply don’t exist.
As a result, a sick child in Nigeria is unable to take antibiotics because the medication has to be refrigerated. A farmer in northern Ghana purchases a cell phone to connect himself with the world, but every other day he has to walk to the nearest electrified village and pay to charge the phone—a waste of time and money.
These difficulties are repeated on a large scale across the continent. Nearly half of all businesses try to cope with frequent power outages by using expensive stand-alone diesel generators that also pollute the environment. These stop-gap measures are no basis on which to build a modern economy.
In order to shape a brighter future, we cannot rely on donors alone. African countries must have transparent, accountable, and streamlined systems that attract private investors and developers. To help shape this environment, the United States, together with African governments and the international business community, is kicking off an initiative to bring more reliable, clean power to Africa. Announced by President Obama in Cape Town, Power Africa will create the conditions needed for long-term investments in energy infrastructure – generators, transmission lines and distribution systems. In ten years, we’ll bring 10,000 megawatts on line – and bring power to millions of African homes and businesses.
At its core, Power Africa represents a new model for development that is beginning to define the way we work around the world. Like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the Call to Action in Child Survival, Power Africa harnesses public-private partnerships and demands greater accountability from our partners to deliver incredible results.
On his trip to Africa, the President recognized the profound potential of this new model. “[Power Africa] is representative of my new approach when it comes to development,” President Obama explained in Tanzania. “I believe the purpose of development should be to build capacity and to help other countries actually stand on their own feet… Instead of perpetual aid, development has to fuel investment and economic growth so that assistance is no longer necessary.”
Through Power Africa, we will help create incentives and reduce risk for American investors in Africa, while working with African governments to modernize inefficient old networks and establish fair and transparent partnerships with the private sector. We will also be working with businesses themselves – American, African, and others. Investment specialists will analyze barriers to investment and then work with all parties to remove those roadblocks.
Once the first Power Africa projects succeed in bringing electrical power to African communities, the impact of those examples will encourage other ventures to follow in their footsteps. Electricity provides the countless opportunities and freedoms that define development. It will take a great deal of commitment and patience to solve this problem, but today we know it can be solved.
Follow @USAIDAfrica on Twitter to learn about our global development work in the continent!
Throughout his recent trip to Africa, President Obama returned again and again to the theme of economic opportunity and empowerment: building the capacity of people and institutions to lead their countries forward. Central to his vision is the critical role that African youth must play in the region’s social and economic transformation. The USAID-funded Youth:Work program is already at work to make this a reality.
In partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the Youth:Work project is working in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to assess the needs and aspirations of young people, the hurdles they face in seeking employment, and the opportunities that can help them improve their lives and prospects. This holistic mapping exercise, called Youth:Map, is developed through interviews with business, community, government, and youth leaders. The resulting assessments consolidate critical evidence and expand our knowledge about youth issues in Africa that will help the private sector and governments alike to make smart, targeted investments in the years ahead.
In fact, this comprehensive information gathering has already become the basis for designing and implementing innovative pilot programs to specifically address the issues raised through the studies. One consistent theme from all Youth:Map studies is that Africa’s young people do not have access to the life skills and vocational training they need to get good jobs or start their own businesses. USAID and IYF are addressing this deficit in a number of ways.
In Uganda, for example, a 6-month internship program has been launched to help young people join the labor market and contribute to the country’s broader economic development. “This is the kind of program that we need to ensure that Uganda’s youth have real opportunities to achieve their dreams and build their futures,” said Commissioner Kyateka F. Mondo of Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, at the program’s launch.
In Tanzania, orphans and vulnerable youth are gaining access to education and job training opportunities through the Tanzania Youth Scholars program, which offers educational scholarships and livelihood training.
Passport to Success®, a global life and employability skills curricula that has been translated into 18 different languages, is improving the employment prospects of young people in Senegal, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Build Your Business, an entry-level curricula for young people interested in starting their own micro-businesses, developed by IYF in collaboration with Microsoft, is being used to teach entrepreneurship and life skills to young people in Liberia and Uganda.
USAID and IYF are also joining forces to respond to another significant assessment finding – that young people feel marginalized and seek a greater voice in society. Two regional youth leadership institutes are opening in Senegal and Uganda to ensure more African youth become strong, innovative, and confident leaders in their communities.
In his speech in Johannesburg, President Obama declared that Africa’s young people “are going to determine the future” of their countries. While significant challenges lie ahead, USAID is working with IYF and many others to help build the kind of infrastructure and enabling environment needed to ensure Africa’s youth can fully realize this vision of hope.
About the International Youth Foundation
The International Youth Foundation (IYF) invests in the extraordinary potential of young people. Founded in 1990, IYF builds and maintains a worldwide community of businesses, governments, and civil-society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. IYF programs are catalysts of change that help young people obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, make healthy choices, and improve their communities. To learn more visit www.iyfnet.org
Whether on foot, camel, dhow, containership, tanker, or truck—traders have likely criss-crossed Djibouti and its waters for as long as there has been trade. Today, the Port of Djibouti, one of Africa’s busiest, lies at the nexus of major shipping routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe.
From Djibouti, most goods travel inland by trailer-truck: some 800 Ethiopian truckers arrive every day. After offloading coffee, cotton, beans and other commodities from Ethiopia, truckers wait 4 to 6 days to reload with imported electronics, spare parts, construction materials, food aid and much else.
This range of activity makes a small community, virtually unknown outside Djibouti, both important and vulnerable. It’s called PK-12 for “Point Kilometre 12″ in French, the official language. Meaning that it’s 12 km from Djibouti town, the capital and site of the port. PK-12 looks like the mother of all truckstops. Colorful vehicles lie like flattened dominoes as far as the eye can see—thousands of them.
Understandably, drivers with several days on their hands also ferry back and forth another invisible item. About 25 percent are thought to be HIV-positive. The number of HIV-positive young women and men from the community is not known, and the stigma is too strong for even the boldest to disclose their status.
As late as 2004, HIV was a taboo subject, along with condoms. Voluntary testing did not exist. A lot of young women in this small roadside settlement were not only getting pregnant out of wedlock, they were also dying. If someone got a positive diagnosis—usually by showing up at a hospital with TB or another disease—they often took their own life.
“I got involved in HIV education because I used to lie awake at night worrying about my two daughters,” says Zahra Daher. “They were very young then, but what would happen later? There’s so little opportunity here except sex work. It seemed like a death sentence.”
Zahra and I, along with three bearded imams and several peer counselors, are talking on the second floor of a little building made, fittingly, from one transport container atop another. This center for recreation and HIV education is a “SafeTStop”—one in a network of 52 in communities along the main highways of East Africa. The SafeTStops are part of the ROADS II program funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through USAID and implemented by FHI 360.
A decade ago, before the SafeTStop existed, Daher and others here were chased, stoned, and accused of infecting people simply for talking about HIV. In 2004, Daher assembled a concerned women’s association. Hussein Houmed put together a youth association. Together, they sought support and funding. By 2005, they received both from PEPFAR through USAID/Djibouti.
The clerics—initially far from enthusiastic—were invited to join the initial training. They did, and today they preach prevention at community mosques. “Our target,” says Houmed, “was to inspire people to go for voluntary counseling and testing, so if they’re positive they start taking ARVs [antri-retroviral drugs] if needed. That way they can stay healthy and are also unlikely to pass the virus on.”
Peer counselors roam the local bars and restaurants, befriending people in Arabic, Afar, Somali, or Amharic, distributing condoms, and encouraging truckers and community members alike to be tested.
“The progress is very visible,” says Daher. “Before, no one mentioned the disease. Today we see people talking about it. We see people easily asking for condoms, going for testing, then going back for the results. People who are positive approaching us for advice. And undesired pregnancies are much rarer than they were.”
Thanks to a public-private partnership between USAID, the Government of the Republic of Djibouti, FHI 360, and Dubai Ports World, which operates the port of Djibouti, the little container-hut at PK-12 will be replaced by a larger center nearby. The new SafeTStop will feature testing and treatment on the premises, so clients will have a one-stop-shop for recreation, plus HIV and other health services.
“I’m taking this opportunity to thank American taxpayers and the Ambassador,” said Houmed after our interview. “Long life to the U.S. and the Government of Djibouti, who have made this partnership possible.”
Last week at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., Administrator Shah participated in a LiveAtState virtual press conference where we talked about his trip to Africa with President Obama and several key initiatives that were the focus of the trip, including Power Africa, the Young African Leaders Initiative, Feed the Future, and the New Alliance for Food Security. A text transcript is available.
USAID is proud of the new and innovative ways we work with the continent to build a peaceful and prosperous future. Sub-Saharan Africa is making steady progress toward ending extreme poverty, fueled by robust economic growth, better governance, and service delivery in many countries.
These gains have been supported by the U.S. Government’s investments in improved agriculture, health care and democratic institutions, and our increased focus on women and a new generation of African thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, each of which are delivering transformational results. In concert with partners throughout Africa, we are working toward ending extreme poverty and providing millions with a foothold in the global economy-and helping to realize the promise of the world’s most youthful region.
Join the conversation on Twitter and learn more about USAID’s work in Africa using hashtag #USAIDAfrica.
Rajabu faced many troubles in his young life growing up in a poor family in rural Tanzania. But now he is building a better life for himself and his family. Back in 2010, Rajabu finished primary school, but could not continue his studies due to his family’s low level of income. The death of Rajabu’s father led to even greater distress, leaving his mother and siblings struggling to survive. To help support his family, Rajabu began taking small jobs in the community.
Life took a more positive direction last year, however, when Rajabu joined the Kiwanda Folk Development College in Tanga, thanks to a scholarship he received from the Tanzania Youth Scholars (TYS) project funded by USAID. TYS aims to reduce the vulnerability of the country’s youth, ages 15-24, by equipping them with job and professional skills to help them improve their employment prospects and become productive and active members of the community. Participants can choose courses that include tailoring, hotel management/food production, vehicle mechanics, carpentry, masonry and bricklaying, agriculture, driving, and computer and office services. At the College, Rajabu chose to study masonry and bricklaying – a three year course that includes full boarding.
“I never realized that the soil that is available everywhere can be made into bricks to build houses,” he said. Today, he knows how to make bricks and has starting setting and building a wall. His plans for the future? To go back to his community and sell his bricks to generate income that will help him provide much needed financial support for his family. “I am very glad to have this opportunity,” says Rajabu. “My dream was to be an entrepreneur. May it come true!”
The Post Zambia reported that Zambia and USAID are working together to improve literacy among the nation’s young. This collaboration recently launched “Reading Tools in a Box,” a collection of low-cost reading materials to improve early grade literacy. The box is said to help learners develop important reading skills.
An article in Federal Computer Week reports on a rolling contest sponsored by USAID and Humanity United. The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention contest, encourages innovative and technology-driven solutions for international aid. The latest batch of winners was announced on July 10th. The first place winner in the communication category created a “Smartphone software that keeps communication intact in the face of infrastructure damage.”
A publication in The Foreign Policy addressed the issue that two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to power. During his recent trip to Africa, President Obama made a commitment to energy as a way in which the United States could help, while also creating investment opportunities for U.S. businesses. Obama is quoted saying, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” adding that it’s the “energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business.”
Young adults huddle around laptops scattered about the room at a hotel near Nairobi. Seeing this brings to mind the words “energy” and “focus”. They hardly notice a contingent of USAID visitors looking over their shoulders. They near the end of a busy day of preparing “trial balances” and they’re taking the work seriously, as they should. As leaders in a movement in Kenya called “Yes, Youth Can”, they are legally responsible for the accounts of their Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies(SACCOs). Today they practice balancing budgets for these small credit unions they have created to help their members start small businesses.
Seventy-seven percent of employed youth in Kenya work in the informal sector, which means they are not in salaried positions. They may be selling flowers or furniture by the side of the road or, like these young people, they may be using $20-$60 dollar Coca Cola grants to start a Coke kiosk or a fishing business. If they are saving money in their accounts, they may borrow from the SACCO.
Some of these young adults have completed high school. Others have attended college, but there are few jobs for young adults, so they are taking matters into their own hands with the help of USAID and its implementing partners. Susan Mugabe is one of them. She has two children. She is very proud that she employs six people at her hair salon. Her parents helped her with a loan.
After their presentations some of the youth stay to talk about the effect they think they will have on their country. They say what they are doing is “an opportunity for youth to get a chance at saving money and getting a loan so they can start a business.” They want to take advantage of the opportunity to make Kenya a more productive country. They are also proud that recent elections were peaceful and many credit their organization for using the peacebuilding skills they’re learning to help make this happen.
Over 1 million youth in Kenya belong to Yes, Youth Can, which was started with the help of USAID. Kenyan youth made it clear that they wanted control over their own programs. They elect representatives to local bunges (parliaments) and representatives are elected from the local groups to regional and national councils.
On the other side of the country, in Kisumu, a young woman named Katherine gives an impassioned speech at a meeting of her local bunge. “It’s not that hard to save 20 shillings a day!” she says to her audience. “I want to help you utilize what you have to create what you don’t have. Think big, start small, start now!”
Duncan, the president of the group, explains how one SACCO started a motorbike taxi business. At first they got a loan from the SACCO to buy four motorbikes, now they have eighteen. Their spouses are involved in the business as well. They now have two accounts, one for development and the other for welfare, so if one of them gets hurt, they can help pay the medical bills. Next they want to offer small loans to first-time home-buyers.
As young leaders take the microphone, others sit at tables cutting recycled tin to make earrings and small boxes, which they sell at their gift shop, which also sells furniture and handmade greeting cards. They are taking action to help improve their lives and create a more prosperous country for more youth.
“Oh, most definitely. Most definitely,” Nurse Maria responded [in Portuguese]. I had asked if expectant, HIV-infected mothers in her clinic were excited about lifelong HIV treatment.
As in many clinics in Angola’s Luanda province, the sound of women, babies, and traffic surrounded us with a unique din. Leaning in closer, Nurse Maria continued, “They want to breastfeed and they want to stay healthy to care for their babies. Lifelong treatment lets them do that.”
That was on June 28. I was part of a visiting delegation reviewing Angola’s prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) portfolio for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Two days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its new 2013 consolidated guidelines for antiretroviral treatment (ART). These guidelines pave the way toward lifelong treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV, regardless of CD4 count or clinical stage.
Angola’s National Institute in the Fight against AIDS (INLS) has already drafted guidelines to reflect many of these changes. Angola’s new guidelines provide an opportunity to significantly expand access to PMTCT for the country’s pregnant women living with HIV. One in five of these women currently receive the drugs and services required to protect their babies from infection. Unfortunately, because access to HIV treatment among infants and children in Angola is minimal, infection often means that these children face either a fast (<1 year) or slow (1-5 years) death.
Knowing this all too well, Nurse Maria, with support from PEPFAR, USAID Angola and USAID’s partner, ForcaSaude, has begun preparing for the transition to universal treatment. Maria works in a clinic called, “Clinico Kilometero 12”, after the nearest distance marker along a very busy road outside of Luanda, Angola’s capitol. It is a lively place, and thousands of mothers depend on the clinic near kilometer 12 for their pre- and post-natal care.
I met one of these mothers while there. Her name was Gloria, and she let me hold her healthy, newborn baby girl. These few seconds of face-time with one of PEPFAR’s newest beneficiaries was easily the highlight of my week.
As for the new WHO guidelines, I am not going to go into too much detail about them here. Global health policy documents, even those that exist to protect babies like Gloria’s, are not exactly page-turners. I will say, however, that these new guidelines are the product of over a year of work with dozens of global partners, including USAID. They represent the first ever consolidated global HIV guidelines, incorporating all age groups, several life-preserving interventions, as well as specific, practical programmatic guidance. And for the first time, these guidelines provide an option for universal, lifelong treatment of pregnant mothers who test HIV-positive.
Approximately 5,800 new pediatric HIV infections occur in Angola each year–one in fifty of all children born with HIV worldwide. Nurse Maria and others like her, with support from PEPFAR through USAID, are striving to change that. It is a hopeful time in Angola. If you doubt this, drive approximately 12 kilometers outside downtown Luanda and see for yourself.
Approximately 16 million girls ages 15 to 19 (most of them already married) give birth each year. On July 11, World Population Day, we join the global community in raising awareness on the issue of adolescent pregnancy in the hopes of protecting and empowering millions of girls around the globe.
Adolescent pregnancy has dire health, social and economic consequences for girls, their communities, and nations. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19 in low-and middle-income countries. Stillbirths and death are 50 per cent more likely for babies born to mothers younger than 20 than for babies born to mothers in their 20s. We know that girls who become pregnant often face discrimination within their communities, drop out of school, and have more children at shorter intervals throughout their lifetime. A World Bank study (PDF) found that the lifetime opportunity cost related to adolescent pregnancy in developing countries ranges from 10 percent of annual GDP in Brazil to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.
I believe meeting the reproductive health needs for today’s young people is vital to ensure future generations are able to lead healthy and dignified lives. In developing countries overall, 22 per cent of adolescent girls (aged 15-19) who are married or in union use contraceptives, compared to 61 percent of married girls and women aged 15-49 (PDF). Lack of information, fear of side effects, and other barriers—geographic, social, and economic—prevent young people from obtaining and using family planning methods.
It’s appropriate that this World Population Day also marks a year since the historic London Summit on Family Planning, and the launch of Family Planning 2020. This global partnership supports the right of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. I am proud to be on the Reference Group of the Family Planning 2020 initiative (PDF) that aims to enable 120 million more women and girls to access family planning information and services by 2020.
As the largest bilateral donor for family planning, USAID is uniquely poised to accelerate progress and improve education and access to reproductive health services for youth. We support programs and research on adolescent health and development, and we have approaches that work to improve knowledge and change behaviors. Our programs focus on gender equality, because we know that boys and men who have access to reproductive health information and services are better able to protect their own health, support their partners, and participate in planning of their future and that of their families.
USAID is committed to protecting reproductive rights for all people and especially for the world’s adolescents and youth. Young people are the future, and we want and need their valued contributions to and participation in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their communities.