Top Pick: Rural Africa Weekly Report

It’s the beginning of a new week and as part of our tradition, Rural Reporters collates a weekly report on development in rural Africa and its environs. The reports include are some of our top picks of recent must-read research, interviews, reports, blogs and in-depth articles to help you keep on top of global crises. Here are top updates from the previous week.

South Africa: Easier Ride for Eastern Cape Pupils

Pupils living in the rural Eastern Cape have received bicycles to help them travel to school and back, through an initiative between Volkswagen and its partners Qhubeka, World Vision South Africa and World Vision Switzerland.

It is estimated that of the 17 million children in school in South Africa, 11 million of them walk to school each day. Nearly 500 000 of these learners have to walk for more than an hour, or up to 12km each day, just to get to school.

Report: Logging Companies are Plundering Congo’s Rainforest

Democratic Republic of Congo’s biggest logging companies are systematically violating national laws to plunder Congo’s forests, undermining efforts to protect the world’s second largest rainforest, a campaign group said on Wednesday.

London-based Global Witness said in a report that none of Congo’s 87 million euros ($97 million) of timber production appeared to comply with international timber trade laws.

Over half of the Congo basin’s 500 million hectares of forest are in Congo whose forests boast the fifth greatest diversity of animals and plants in the world.

Photo Feature: Burundi’s Endless Exodus

Of the thousands who have fled in recent weeks amid protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s plan to run for a third term and a related attempted coup, more than half have arrived in neighboring Tanzania.

Many of the refugees have made the same hasty journey before. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled their homeland during the country’s 12-year civil war, only to return after the 2005 peace agreement. One woman waiting at Kagunga to catch a boat to Kigoma in Tanzania said she plied this exact route in 1993 and along with other refugees spoke warmly of their earlier years there:

Solar lamp company adopts innovative rural distribution model in Africa

In 2005 US engineering student Patrick Walsh went to work with a charity in rural India. He encountered a population that relied on kerosene lamps as a source of lighting, but one willing to pay for a better product. He later teamed up with two former classmates to start Greenlight Planet. The company designs and manufactures the Sun King brand of portable, rechargeable solar lights and solar phone chargers.

In 2009, their first year of operation, the company sold 10,000 solar lamps in India. Since then Greenlight Planet has shifted 3.5 million units across 40 countries in Asia and Africa. Its target is 4.5 million lamps by the end of this year, and more than doubling that to 10 million by end 2016.

“Africa will account for at least half of our market… if not more,” says Radhika Thakkar, vice president of global business development.

WaterAid Hails African Leaders’ Pledges on Sanitation, Defecation

WaterAid has welcomed the pledges of African leaders to eliminate inequalities and end open defecation in their countries by 2030, and to work towards giving every person access to safe sanitation and good hygiene.

Recognising that poor sanitation in Africa undermines the continent’s social and economic development and has serious health impacts on the population, including diarrhoea, African ministers responsible for sanitation and hygiene have committed to universal access by signing the Ngor Declaration on sanitation and hygiene.

Akon To Launch First Solar Academy In Africa

Akon and Akon Lighting Africa initiative have just announced the creation of a “Solar Academy” to develop skills and expertise in sustainable energy in Africa.

This professional training center of excellence is a first on the continent and targets future African entrepreneurs, engineers and technicians. It will open its doors this summer in Bamako, Mali and welcome any Africans wanting to help develop the use of solar power.

Schools and hard knocks: teaching the world’s poor

“In Makoko, you must go beyond the public schools on the outskirts, beyond the paved road into unknown and forbidding territory. If everyone tells you that there are no such schools beyond, and it’s a threatening place, why would you bother to go and look for yourself? To find the private schools, you really must get your boots dirty. Not everyone is prepared to do that.”

Tooley is now a passionate advocate for low-cost private schools in poor countries, and he serves as patron of the Association of Formidable Educational Development in Nigeria. He explains that his work involves supporting curriculum development, assessment and money-raising efforts; the schools are “funded by parental fees and sustainable at the individual level but can’t fund teacher training”.

Digital Migration to Improve TV Coverage in Rural Village

The migration towards digital broadcasting will improve television coverage in the rural village of Vyeboom in Limpopo, says Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

Residents who do not have television decoders said on Sunday they struggled to access free to air television stations due to poor signal.

“Digital migration will improve tv coverage in the Vuwani area, and Vyeboom in particular. Cabinet has approved that government will provide free set-top-boxes to the five million poor tv-owning households,” said the Minister, who was speaking during a Youth Month Imbizo under the theme, “Youth Moving South Africa Forward”.

Savings groups provide rural Africa with access to financial services

In rural sections of Africa, many people do not have access to banks. Instead, they get together as a community and lock their savings away in a metal trunk. Their system is working surprisingly well, so Alfredo Burlando, professor of economics at the University of Oregon, has been studying them for several years.

These community banks are called “savings groups,” and they serve an important function. People in small villages in Africa, far away from big cities, can’t interact with big banks in any way. This means they have no access to savings or loans and can’t accrue interest. Savings groups provide a simple form of banking to these rural villages.

AfDB Unveils Strategy for Water and Sanitation in Rural Areas

African Development Bank key stakeholders in its rural water and sanitation initiative have defined the outlines of an ambitious four-year strategy, to be aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for universal access to water and sanitation.

Programs led by the AfDB initiative provided 15 million rural people with access to improved water supply and about 13 million people with access to improved sanitation facilities in 2014.

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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