Congo! Mobile banking and microfinance is unheard of in Congo. It's an opportunity and a challenge.
Microfinance is key to our water projects in rural Congo. We have the advantage of every one else failures and successes.
Africa has traditionally led the way in mobile banking. Due to a largely dispersed population and a limited retail bank presence, the majority of the people are ‘unbanked’ (i.e. without a bank account). Research from Gallup (2010) shows that across the entire continent, only 19 per cent of individuals have bank accounts, with the number falling to as low as one per cent in countries such as Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As traditional banking remains out of reach for the majority, mobile phones are fast becoming the best way to extend financial services to the unbanked.
Malaria is endemic throughout Congo.
Last week, I was surprised to hear that my good friend had malaria. The conversation started and ended without a second thought or a concern.
Luckily he is an adult man. And he has the means to afford the required medicine. But if the same was a poor pregnant woman, we could have been preparing for a funeral now.
It is a familiar scene in a region still rated one of the poorest, and most dangerous, in the world.
But instead of the more familiar search for food, shelter or medicine, the women here -many displaced from their homes by years of conflict - are after nets: cheap, simple, insecticide-soaked, life-saving, mosquito bed nets.
"Malaria is the main killer here in Congo, especially for pregnant women and children," says Dr Vincker Lushombo, from Save the Children, watching as each woman's details are recorded, and a net handed over with brief instructions.
"But in one badly affected area here, we distributed 10,000 nets and saw malaria rates drop by over a third."
Amid rising measles and polio cases, tens of thousands of children are being targeted for immunization in health campaigns in affected regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
At least 128,965 measles cases, with 1,573 deaths, have been recorded in the DRC in 2011, and 89 wild polio-virus type 1 cases had been reported up to 13 December, UNICEF said.
The current campaign against measles in Kinshasa is targeting at least 1.7 million children aged 6-59 months.
Diarrhoea is the biggest child killer in Africa and 88% of those deaths can be attributed to poor sanitation.
Barbara Frost of Water Aid says it is women and girls who are most affected.
"The crisis falls mainly on women and girls because it is them who carry the water and it is the women who look after children who are getting sick with diarrhoeal diseases, often through water infected with faecal material because of poor sanitation," she explains.
Carrying water and looking after sick children means women are unable to earn livelihoods and girls drop out of school when they reach puberty because of inadequate sanitation facilities at school.
Ms Frost emphasises how the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are heavily dependent on each other to succeed.
"If children do not retain food because of diarrhoea their development is arrested," she says.
"Without proper sanitation you cannot achieve universal primary education, you cannot promote gender equality and empower women, you cannot reduce child mortality."
She is adamant that if health, education and sanitation are looked at as separate issues, people will not get out of poverty because they are so profoundly interlinked.
”Access to basic education in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains poor, with up to seven million children across the vast country out of school - despite a 2010 government decision to make primary education free.”
Poverty will never be eradicated without a better education system.
When I walked into my first African slum this August, it wasn't the tin shanties or the children playing around smoldering piles of waste that surprised me. It was the towering Masaai warrior texting on his cell phone -- punching away at those tiny buttons with precision that would put American teenagers to shame.
Mobile technology has sprouted in nearly every corner of Africa. Cell phones are like digital cockroaches -- in even the harshest conditions, such as impoverished Chad or war-torn Somalia, mobile markets are growing. Between 2003 and 2008, Africa experienced the world's fastest growth in mobile subscribers.
Yet, Africa is struggling. Since the 1970s, Western aid has increasingly turned its focus toward social welfare services, alleviating short-term problems but not supplying Africans with the resources they need to function independently.
Africa doesn't just need another meal; it needs the tools to grow from within. How does the old saying go? If you teach a man to fish ...
In a dusty field in Kitui, eastern Kenya, farmers are being taught how to construct small, semi-circular barriers of earth that control the flow of water, slowing its run-off.
Strikingly, of the 90 farmers, few are men. The rest are women. It is a common sight in rural areas of Kenya and South Sudan, as most smallholder farmers are women. The men have gone to look for work in the towns and cities, leaving the women to tend to the crops.
At bore holes –deep wells –it's the same story. Women or young girls have walked for miles to come and fetch water, a time-consuming process. Not only do they have to walk long distances, they may have to wait –an hour is not uncommon –for their turn.
The role of women and adolescent girls is spelt out in a report released on Friday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies (pdf).
Its key point is that adolescent girls and women are the key to unlocking the full potential of agricultural development in poor countries and ensuring food security.
Much has been said and written about the survivors in Congo. Typically, it's survivors of the Africa's first world war in eastern Congo. But there are many other survivors to tell their stories. Here's a documentary film, 'Benda Bilili!', about survivors of the cruel, crippling, and deadly disease of polio.
Polio has left its mark throughout the world. It has long been eradicated in the developed world. However, it still makes a deadly appearance in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Congo.
Rotary International backed by the Gates Foundation and WHO is fighting daily battle.
★ 'Benda Bilili!' (PG-13, 1:25, in French and Lingala) This documentary of years in the life of Staff Benda Bilili, an intergenerational band of polio survivors and street youth, offers intimate, and rare, access to the urban misery of Kinshasa, Congo, as well as this group's can-do optimism -which, in this lucky case, pays off with international success. The filmmakers Renaud Barret and Florent De la Tullaye have an eye for revelation and entertainment. (David DeWitt)
A pledge of US$2.5 million from the UN Capital Development Fund is helping to bring safe and affordable access to financial services to the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries, where only 1% of the population has access to a bank account
When it is dry, we water our gardens and yards. In places like the Congo and other African countries, they do not grow garden during the dry season.
Girls are too busy getting water for cooking and drinking. They do not have enough time to get water for agricultural needs. So people are malnourished and malnutrition is rampant. The weak, children and older people, become vulnerable many diseases and die.
Drip Irrigation could save thousands of lives each year.
For the first time, farmers in the rural villages of Bessassi and Dunkassa in Benin are able to grow fruits and vegetables all year round. With help from the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a non-profit, solar drip irrigation has made it possible.
Prior to the introduction of the new innovative solar technology, during the dry season the land was so parched that little could grow on its arid soils, leading to widespread malnutrition in the community. This all changed with the introduction of a community solar-powered drip irrigation system, which pumps water for food crops when rainfall is scarce.