Rural Transformation, Internet Access and Other Reports

Every week, collate reports on development issues in rural Africa and its environs.

This report includes some of our top picks from recent must-read research, interviews, blogs, and in-depth articles, carefully selected to help you keep up with global issues.

Here are some of the updates you may have missed from the previous week:

IFAD To Assist Sudan’s Rural Transformation

Sudan’s economic future may rest in the hands of its smallholder farmers. Two thirds of the country’s population (36.2 million people) live in rural areas and agriculture provides essential employment for 70-80 percent of the labour force.

An announcement that Sudan and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have signed a Host Country Agreement (HCA), is an indication of the importance being placed on agricultural development and the need for the kinds of innovative investment opportunities that IFAD brings.

Gabon: A Model for Expanding Internet Access in Africa

In order to diversify its economy and shift dependence away from oil, Gabon has made significant strides in expanding Internet access and network coverage across the country. The Central African Backbone (CAB) project is a tremendous and innovative infrastructure initiative that intends to construct 901.8 km of fiber optic cable networks across Gabon.

The project spans beyond Gabon and integrates fiber optic infrastructure in surrounding countries, including the Central African Republic, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. In integrating these neighboring countries, the information technology and communications sectors are not limited to Gabon’s borders. The significance of this regional integration across Central Africa cannot be overstated. Expanding Internet access with fiber optic infrastructure is only the beginning. As Internet access becomes more prevalent, new markets and business sectors such as information technology, finance, banking and telecommunications can take root. This will expand opportunities for rural areas that were once outside the scope of urban centers and empower formerly marginalized communities.

Kenya to use Alphabet’s balloons for Rural internet

Kenya will use Alphabet Inc’s system of balloons to beam high-speed Internet access in hopes of connecting more of its rural population to the web, its ICT minister said

Known as Project Loon, the technology was developed by Alphabet’s X, the company’s innovation lab. It was used by U.S. telecom operators to provide connectivity to more than 250,000 people in Puerto Rico after a hurricane last year.

Albinos at Risk in Africa

The recent announcement that six albinos in Malawi plan to fight the violent prejudice against albinism by contesting in next year’s elections has brought renewed attention to the plight of albinos in Malawi and other African countries.  The killing of albinos is not limited to Malawi. In 2015, Tanzania arrested over 200 witchdoctors in a crackdown following a killing spree which left almost 80 albinos dead, and the government “banned witchdoctors … as part of its efforts to prevent further attacks and kidnappings targeting people with albinism.”

In the meantime, albinos across Africa have taken advantage of the opportunities presented by social media platforms such as Facebook to form “social bonds and offline friendships.” The technologically-enabled formation of social connections is especially important given how albinos — especially in rural and impoverished communities — suffer from extreme social stigmatism which has led to “severe neglect and ridicule,” including “intense name-calling.” The friendships facilitated by social media have helped members of the besieged albino community “assuage the pain and ease anxiety.”

South Africa: Cost Order Against NGO Weakens Democracy

The South African History Archive (SAHA) has launched an appeal against a judgment by the South Gauteng High Court because we believe it could weaken our democratic dispensation if not overturned. The case is between SAHA and the South African Reserve Bank.

The costs order has a chilling effect on civil society’s ability to hold government accountable. It discourages civil society and ordinary citizens from actively participating in our democracy. One of the important ways in which people in South Africa, especially poor people, access the courts and justice is through non-governmental organisations such as SAHA. The majority of South Africans are unable to access lawyers because of high fees making access to justice a commodity that only the privileged can buy. Also, many South Africans live in rural areas, so even travelling to a lawyer’s office is a financial battle. NGOs and social justice movements provide a way for poorer people to organise and take legal action. This is critical in our fight for human rights and respect for human dignity.

Busayo Sotunde is a prolific writer with special focus on Business, Entrepreneurship, Reproductive Health and other development issues in Africa. Her articles have been published by different outlets including Investing Port and She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde
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