What Happens When Customary Marriage Goes Wrong and Other Reports

Every week, Rural Reporters collate reports on development in rural Africa and its environs. The reports include some of our top picks from recent must-read research, interviews, reports, blogs and in-depth articles which have been carefully selected to help you keep up with global issues. Here are some of the updates you may have missed from the previous week:

Designing a hospital like a village could solve one of Africa’s biggest health problems

There’s a courtyard with a space for gardening, cooking in a shared kitchen, and laundry done under the shade of a roof that collects rainwater. The Maternity Waiting Village at the Kasungu district hospital in central Malawi emulates the communal spaces of traditional villages. The goal of the design is to attract expectant mothers from remote areas to the facility before giving birth.

The design and development of the village, which was completed last October, was done by MASS Design Group, with Gates Foundation, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Malawi’s health ministry.

“Our approach is, let’s leave the big open ward of 45 people and reduce [it] to smaller rooms and have intimate outdoor spaces,” Christian Benimana, a Rwandan architect with MASS Design who led the project, told Quartz at the Design Indaba conference on Feb. 19th. “They can live close to how they are living in their own homes in their villages where they spend most of the time in the courtyards with their friends,” he said.

Ethiopia’s Free Rural Ambulance Service ‘Halves’ Pregnancy-related Deaths

A free national ambulance service offered to rural Ethiopians has reduced the number of pregnancy-related deaths in the country by a half.

Writing in the Journal of Global Health, researchers from Umeå University in Sweden say the “cost-effective” service could serve as a model for other Sub-Saharan African nations.

“Despite major international concerns around maternal health and efforts to bring up institutional delivery rates, little attention has been given to the need for logistical solutions that bring African women to delivery centers fast,” says Peter Byass, epidemiologist at Umeå University and co-author of the article.

What Happens When Customary Marriage Goes Wrong?

Tando Mabunu-Mandela and Mandla Mandela have been embroiled in a bitter divorce since 2009. They were married in community of property in 2004. Mabunu-Mandela claims she is entitled to half of Mandla’s assets which might include R3m left to Mandla Mandela by Madiba.

This high-profile case raises important questions about what is considered marital property in customary marriages and how marital property can be shared on divorce. Elena Moore and Chuma Himonga report on the results of research on this topic conducted in association with the National Movement of Rural Women.

Africa has the world’s deadliest roads: Why this could actually be a design problem—and how every trip cheats death

Mzuzu is a nice town in northern Malawi, full of the usual: dust clouds, blustering hawkers, charming smiles and over-exuberant servings at food kiosks. Not long ago, I took a road trip from Nairobi to Blantyre, going all the way by public transport through Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi, on a combination of large 60-seater buses, minivans, bicycles, motorcycles and small re-purposed saloon cars. Now that I think about it, I probably risked my life at least 10 times.

Mzuzu’s hustle and bustle is like many other towns I passed through on my country tour. But it’s not just the town centres that are similar, what is more surprising are the roads. The roads seem to have been designed, planned and built by the same person. The width is the same, the strategy to deal with hills and valleys the same, as is the orientation of major highways to towns along the way. Even the workmanship seems to be the same.

In fact, the only difference between what one experiences while driving from Nakuru to Kericho in Kenya’s Rift Valley; and between Iringa and Morogoro in Tanzania is that the crazy bus driver will curse in a different language as he swerves to avoid a cow ,and swerves back to his lane to avoid an oncoming truck.

But there’s another, more deadly similarity. Roads are dangerous in much of Africa. Kenya loses at least 3,000 people every year due to road accidents; in Tanzania it’s more than 3,600. Nigeria’s numbers are up to 15,000 every year. In 2013, according to data from the African Development Bank (AfDB), road traffic accidents constituted 25% of all injury-related deaths in Africa.

What difference will Obama’s plan to bring power to Africa make?

In February US President Barack Obama signed an agreement to bring electricity to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020. Neil Ford asks, even if this is possible, how many will still be left in the dark?

Perhaps the most remarkable things about the Electrify Africa Act of 2015 are that it commits the US to increased foreign aid at a time of economic uncertainty and cuts through sharp political divisions

Even if it (the power Africa initiative) succeeds in its aim of bringing electricity to 50 million Africans by 2020, more than 10 times that number will still be without power.

So the Power Africa initiative is not a magic bullet, but it has at least highlighted Africa’s power supply problems.

WFP says 16 million face hunger in southern Africa, emergency looms

Almost 16 million people face hunger in Southern Africa because of a drought exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern and that number could climb to almost 50 million, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.

“El Nino is progressing toward a potential regional emergency requiring a coordinated response,” WFP said in a report on the unfolding situation.

In January WFP said 14 million people in the region faced hunger.

The ‘Uber for emergencies’ saving pregnant women’s lives in Africa

Sanane and her unborn baby were in danger. But a new mobile phone program meant taxis were available to expectant mothers for free emergency hire. Sanane called one of these “ambulance taxis” and, within minutes, was on the way to the hospital, accompanied by her husband, the nurse, and a neighbour from her town. The “ambulance taxi” initiative is the latest from the Vodafone Foundation, which is using mobile technology to help improve access to healthcare, education and disaster relief in developing countries.

The Digital Technology Cloud Hangs Over Every African Farm

The African continent is already in the forefront of the mobile revolution. There are now nearly 700 million mobile phone accounts — more than in the US and Europe combined.

Africa has also become the world leader in mobile banking: 12 per cent of adults in sub-Saharan African have a mobile money account, compared with only 2 per cent of adults globally. We are leapfrogging development — skipping a whole phase of technology and putting Africa in the lead.

Or so it seems. But mobile phones and even mobile money accounts do not amount to digital financial inclusion. Millions still live without access to formal financial services and the potential of digital technologies to equip smallholder farmers with knowledge, data and market opportunities has yet to be realised. Digital technology offers an historic opportunity to scaling success across Africa’s farming households and rural communities.




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 Ventures-Africa.com. She has a penchant for reading and sustainable development. Follow Busayo on Twitter @BusayomiSotunde

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