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Countries Failing to Educate Girls Lose Trillions

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, says a new World Bank report.

The report was released in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of  Malala Fund, based out of Birmingham, England, which works to provide safe, quality secondary education and opportunities for girls.

When the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, writes Yousafzai, “…they banned many things, such as owning a television and playing music. They enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.”

Yousafzai’s father was a teacher who ran the girls’ school in her town, so she continued attending school. At the age of 15, on her way home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

She survived – and now, at 21, Yousafzai is furthering her education, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

She is a world-renowned activist, campaigning for education, equality and peace for all children everywhere. The United Nations has declared July 12 to be Malala Day.

The World Bank report, “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” documents that fewer than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three girls completes lower secondary school.

Globally 89 percent of girls complete primary education, but only 77 percent complete lower secondary education, usually nine years of schooling.

The report finds that on average, women who have a secondary education are more likely to work, and they earn almost twice as much as women with no education.

Other positive effects of secondary school education for girls include: near-elimination of child marriage before the age of 18, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.

“When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health and stability,” said Yousafzai.

“If leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start with serious investments in girls’ secondary education,” she said. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls.”

Tech giant Apple® is doing just that. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, Apple launched a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ educational opportunities.

Apple’s academies are preparing thousands of future developers to code the advancements of the future. Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that the company expects to bring the program to countries around the world.

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilizing thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” said Cook, announcing the new partnership.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” said Cook.

As part of its new expansion into Latin America, Malala Fund, too, has offered grants to local advocates in Brazil.

The advocates join Malala Fund’s network and will implement projects across the country designed to empower girls, teachers and policymakers through skills development, school enrollment efforts and education advocacy.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” said Yousafzai in Rio. “Whether she wants to be a developer, a pilot, a dancer or a politician, education is the best path to a brighter future. By tapping into Apple’s network of student developers, Malala Fund will gain access to new tools to support our mission of free, safe, quality education.”

Many of the potential impacts of education on development outcomes apply to both boys and girls. But the World Bank report finds that not educating girls is especially costly because of the relationships between education, child marriage, and early childbearing, and the risks that they entail for young mothers and their children.

“We cannot keep letting gender inequality get in the way of global progress,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria.

“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions. It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone,” Georgieva said.

Today, some 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17, the majority of whom are adolescents, are still not in school.

To remedy these missed opportunities, investments in education – both access and quality – are crucial. This is  especially true in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 40 percent of girls complete lower secondary school, says the World Bank report.

Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce.

The World Bank reports that universal secondary education for girls could increase their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empower them to make decisions about their own health care. It could reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, improve their sense of psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of under-five mortality and malnutrition among their children.

Educating girls and promoting gender equality is part of a broader and holistic effort at the World Bank, which includes financing and analytical work to remove financial barriers that keep girls out of school, prevent child marriage, improve access to reproductive health services, and strengthen skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women.

Since 2016, the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.

The World Bank report was published with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Global Partnership for Education, and Malala Fund.

Featured Images: Girls from the tiny village of Karche Khar near Kargil, India. From left: Maqsuma is in class 5 at the army school; Fatima is in class 4 at the local school.


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Maximpact Offers Language Help for Refugees

Syrian boys in Raqqa, June 2013 (Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Syrian boys in Raqqa, June 2013 (Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 26, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News – “I want to help” is “Ana bady asa’ed” in Arabic, the language of much of Syria. This simple translation illustrates the steep learning curve Syrian refugees face trying to re-start their lives in an English-speaking country, such as Canada, the United States or the United Kingdom, which together have taken nearly 100,000 Syrians fleeing the conflict.

Of course, the learning curve is just as steep for Syrians resettling in Germany, Sweden or Austria, the European countries that have taken the greatest number of refugees from this war-wracked country.

Nearly 13 million Syrians are displaced after seven years of conflict, a total that amounts to about six-in-10 of Syria’s pre-conflict population, according to the Pew Research Center. No nation in recent decades has had such a large percentage of its population displaced.

About one million displaced Syrians have moved to Europe as asylum seekers or refugees since the conflict began, according to data from Eurostat, Europe’s statistical agency, and data on refugee resettlement from the UN High Commission for Refugees.

The humanitarian impact of the Syria crisis remains deep and far-reaching:

  • 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance
  • 6.3 million people are food insecure
  • 5.6 million people have fled the country
  • 1 in 3 schools are damaged or destroyed

Delegates to a major EU and United Nations donor conference in Brussels April 24-25 pledged some US$4.4 billion in 2018 to meet the deepening needs of displaced Syrians, as well as the main refugee hosting countries in the region – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

By the close of the conference on Wednesday, a further US$3.4 billion had been pledged for humanitarian and development programmes in 2019 and 2020.

The conference was held at the ministerial level, and brought together 57 countries, 10 regional organizations and 19 UN agencies. More than 200 NGOs met in Brussels on Tuesday to provide operational recommendations to the ministerial part of the conference held the following day.

NGOs emphasized the vital importance of education for the future of young Syrian refugees. Two key issues emerged across the hosting countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey: low school attendance among refugee populations, linked to protection issues, and poor quality education.

A lack of adequate adaptation processes was highlighted, particularly in Lebanon, with refugee children attending schools where they do not speak the language of tuition, preventing them from learning effectively and increasing drop-out rates.

In his address to the conference, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that a quarter of the world’s refugees are Syrians, and that a quarter of all Syrians are themselves refugees.

Despite generous support from hosts, up to 80 percent of refugees from Syria are living below the poverty line in some countries, and 35 percent of child refugees are out of school.

The pledging event opened with a video of six-year-old Syrian refugee Farah, who lives in Zaatri refugee camp in Jordan. She loves learning languages and science, dreams of becoming a teacher and a poet.

But learning a foreign language remains a high barrier for resettling refugees.

Now, Maximpact is stepping up to help.

Based in Europe, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, Maximpact is a unique platform offering comprehensive development and support services to the circular, impact and sustainability sectors.

Employers, donors, NGOs or government organizations who want to change Syrian refugees’ lives for the better and facilitate the integration process can do so through Maximpact’s Language and Vocational Training for Employment.

Within three to four months, refugees will have general and working language skills, technical vocational skills and potential placements after graduating in fields such as: nursing, caregiving, hospitality, fruit picking and packaging, and waste management.

The languages covered are English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and others upon request.

All trainings are demand-oriented and build specific skills tailored to prospective employers’ needs. By bridging refugees’ and employers’ needs, Maximpact aims to improve job prospects for refugees in their host countries.

Dr. Linda Morrice, an education professor at the UK’s University of Sussex, said, “Refugees who are starting a new life in Britain want to work and see this as a key pathway to integrating. This government needs to improve the current resettlement system in order to ensure refugees resettling in Britain now, like those from Syria, have the best opportunity and support to gain employment which meet their skills.”

“We must shift the focus from talking about ‘meeting numbers and targets’ to ensuring that we have fast-track learning routes in place, especially English language learning,” Morrice said.

The Maximpact project will provide an opportunity for Syrian and other refugees to expand or adapt their skill sets, increase their confidence, and offer productive services to the communities where they are now living.

Contact Caroline Kennedy at carolinek@maximpact.com to find out more about the Maximpact refugee training program.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is negotiating a new global compact on refugees with its Member States.

As the number of people forced to flee their homes continues to climb, the new compact aims to transform the way the international community responds to refugee crises, by providing more predictable and equitable support for the countries and communities which host them.

“With unprecedented levels of forced displacement, we need a new deal on how we manage refugee situations globally,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk.

“The compact embodies a new approach where the major host countries – typically among the poorest in the world – get the robust and sustained support they need, and refugees can contribute to their own futures and the communities where they live,” he said.

UNHCR was given the task of developing a global compact on refugees by the UN General Assembly in the historic New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, of September 19, 2016, in which 193 governments pledged to forge a fairer global system.

The draft refugee compact is being discussed in a series of formal consultations with UN Member States at the Palais des Nations in Geneva between February and July 2018. NGOs and other stakeholders have observer status.

The expected outcome is a non-binding document, reflecting consensus among UN Member States. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will present a proposed draft compact in his 2018 report to the UN General Assembly at the end of 2018.

Featured Image: Two Syrian girls, aged 12, study at a temporary school in northern Lebanon, set up by UNICEF and the Lebanese NGO Beyond Association with the help of UK aid. (Photo courtesy DFID, UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr


“Together for Youth, With Youth”

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, December 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – To ensure a sustainable future, the European Union and the African Union are solidifying their decade-old financial and structural cooperation in order to support young people and women.

At the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan last week, leaders from 55 African Union and 28 European Union Member States gathered to coordinate with young people and with each other with the primary message, “Together for Youth, With Youth.”

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on Earth will be African.”

“But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments,” said President Juncker. “This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.”

Ahead of the Summit, young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at a Youth Summit on October 9-11 in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative.

The Youth Plug-In Initiative brings together 18 Europeans and 18 Africans to act as youth ambassadors for the 5th AU EU Summit. The youth ambassadors presented their ideas to improve the futures of Africans and Europeans alike to global leaders at the Summit.

A summary of the youth ambassadors’ views on six key topics – education, job creation, governance, peace and security, environment and climate change, as well as culture and the arts – is presented in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

On the topic of education, the youth ambassadors had two new ideas to present.

The AU-EU Rural Education Action Program (REAP) is a proposed, multipurpose and incentive-based pilot intercontinental program to facilitate access to and the completion of primary and secondary education for children, particularly in rural areas.

REAP focuses on integrating schools in remote and hard-to-reach zones to attract and retain students, especially girls, in schools. It maps hard-to-reach areas and develops “toolkits” that include equipment and training.

The AU-EU Network of Digital Hubs for Primary and Secondary Education envisions an initiative, implemented through a public-private intercontinental partnership with major IT companies, aimed at promoting digital skills and digital connectivity at the earliest stages of education, to unleash the potential of digital technology in the community through youth education, training and support programs.

On the topic of Environment and Climate Change, the youth ambassadors from Europe and Africa agree. They state, “Every day, we move closer to the environmental apocalypse to the detriment of all of us, particularly marginalized groups. Youth inclusion is key to ensure environmental preservation and address climate change; it is up to our generation to change the course.”

“As is stated in the Abidjan Youth Declaration, youth-led initiatives must be supported to counterbalance existing tendencies and interests that work against the environment. African and European youth share the same concerns about biodiversity, desertification, coastal erosion, and unsustainable resource management. As the first generation to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental disruption, we must urgently work together on common challenges. It is crucial that we find inclusive, fair and sustainable ways to govern natural resources both locally and globally,” the youth ambassadors state in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

The youth ambassadors presented two new ideas to improve human response to environmental issues.

First, they suggest mobilizing youth to monitor infrastructure development projects, while guaranteeing the efficacy of impact assessments, through a new AU-EU Youth Initiative on Sustainable Infrastructural Development they’re calling GREEN ID.

Second, they would introduce a youth-led project which expands across the EU and the AU the use of transparent mobile direct-payment methods to ecosystem services for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management initiatives and risk compensation.

Also in advance of the Abidjan Summit, the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on November 27, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.

After taking all this input into consideration, the 83 European and African Heads of State and Government set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future.

They committed to focusing their work on four strategic priorities:

  • Mobilizing investments for African structural and sustainable transformation, European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed, the EU’s new External Investment Plan, a €4.1 billion (US$4.8 billion) initiative to draw in €44 billion (US$51.9 billion) of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people.

The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform is intended to allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.

  • Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development

Support for inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programs between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+, the European Union funding program for education, training, youth and sport.

  • Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance

Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents, pledging to strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations.

Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest financial contributor.

  • Managing mobility and migration

European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration.

They stressed the need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to create solutions for refugees.

Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the deadly crossing in each of the past three years.

Fleeing war and poverty, the refugees and migrants – most from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan – are smuggled into Libya by a network of criminal gangs on the promise of reaching Europe.

Hundreds of African refugees, many of them young people and women, are being bought and sold in “slave markets” across Libya every week, Al Jazeera reported last week, with many of them held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers.

To jointly address the situation of migrants and refugees who fall victim to criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.

Efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.

On this basis, the European Commission and African Union Commission pledged to put forward concrete projects and programs within three months.


Featured image: Three young boys in El Sereif, North Darfur, Sudan. Today, more than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID) Creative commons license via Flickr.

Transforming Africa

TanzaniaChildren

Children in Tanzania wait for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo by Derek Hansen) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 By Sunny Lewis

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Sunday in Baden Baden, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a record US$57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three years.

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President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim of the United States (Photo by Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Kim said the fresh infusion of funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development across Sub-Saharan Africa .

This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” he said.

With this commitment,” he said, “we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

Kim then left to visit Rwanda in the central Sub-Saharan region and Tanzania in the east to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.

With a population of just over one billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa is defined as those African countries situated south of the Sahara Desert.

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong,” the World Bank stated three years ago, in March 2014. “Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at six percent.

But income inequality is extreme in the Sub-Saharan region. Some of these countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, are rich in oil or mineral wealth, but many others are desperately poor.

First Priorities: Food and Water

Earlier this month, the World Bank president issued a warning on the “devastating levels of food insecurity” in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience,” Kim said. “Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine,” Kim said March 8. “We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water.

Much of the newly announced financing, $45 billion, will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

The IDA financing for Africa is targeted to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects across the continent.

A $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of renewable energy generating capacity.

Next: Building Resilience

In support of countries’ own development priorities, the scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality.

The new financing for Sub-Saharan Africa will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

IFC will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

In addition, there will be $4 billion in financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), its non-concessional public sector arm.

IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power.

Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, Kim says significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises.

This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window, especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks.

The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

The priorities for private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness.

Powering Africa, Both On and Off the Grid

In the western sub-Saharan African country of Côte d’Ivoire last week, former UN Secretary-General

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan issued a new report, “Lights Power Action: Electrifying Africa” that calls for investment in quickly solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Speaking March 13 at African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Annan said, “Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s transformation.”

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not have access to ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity,‘” said Annan, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The core message of “Lights Power Action” emphasizes that grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, but they are slow and expensive.

Through the report, Annan is urging governments to increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind” said Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel that wrote the report.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 percent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Annan told the audience in Abidjan, “As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures corruption,” he warned.

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement,” said Annan. “All continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.”

It’s not just energy mismanagement, Annan explained. “Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to deliver on its transformative potential,” he said.

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, need to “champion the energy for all agenda,” Annan urged.

The private sector, African and non-African,” said the former secretary-general, “should be encouraged to enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

He is not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil fuels and switch to renewables. The cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively high in the short term, especially for countries that use their sizable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.

The report advocates that African governments harness every available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Said Annan, “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

As widespread adoption of mobile phone technology has already helped Africa leapfrog over conventional technology and improve financial and social inclusion, Annan predicts that “innovation will bring millions of Africans into the energy loop,” setting the stage for improved quality of life.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power grid,” he said in Abidjan.

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit,” declared Annan. “Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.


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Honors to Women and Girls Who Feed the World

  • AbedQatar

By Sunny Lewis

DES MOINES, Iowa, October 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chair of BRAC, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, was honored earlier this month as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate for improving the world’s supply.

And for building one of the world’s largest and most effective anti-poverty organizations.

Sir Fazle is first to acknowledge that the success of BRAC is built on empowering women and girls.

“We have focused attention on women so far because we felt that women could actually play a much bigger role than they have in the past,” Sir Fazle said in his Laureate Address in Des Moines October 16.

“If there is no food in the household and there are children hungry, what is the mother going to do? We deliberately focused our attention on women as change agents in our societies,” he said.

Empowering and educating women and girls has been central to BRAC’s success in confronting hunger and malnutrition and releasing millions of people from poverty in Bangladesh and 10 other countries.

The global reach of BRAC is unique, with more than 110,000 employees around the world, and a further 150,000 BRAC-trained entrepreneurs providing low-cost seeds, medicines and training to their rural neighbors.

“It is difficult to express in words how honored and deeply touched I am by this recognition,” Sir Fazle said upon receiving the award.

“The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty who overcome enormous challenges each day of their lives,” he reminded the audience.

“Through our work across the world we have learnt that countries and cultures vary, but the realities, struggles, aspirations and dreams of poor and marginalized people are remarkably similar.”

AbedGirl

Sir Fazle, who was knighted by the British Crown in 2009, has grown BRAC from a 1972 wish to help Bangladesh recover from a deadly tropical cyclone and war of independence, until today it employs over 100,000 people, 70 percent of them women.

BRAC now operates 18 financially and socially profitable enterprises, across the health, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, education, green energy, printing and retail sectors.

BRAC enterprises that reduce hunger and poverty are seed production and distribution, feed mills, poultry and fish hatcheries, milk collection centers and processing factories, tea plantations and packaging factories.

These enterprises generate income that is used to subsidize primary schools and basic healthcare.

In these ways, BRAC has been a leader in empowering women and girls through microfinance, education, healthcare, and encouraging their active participation in directing village life.

BRAC has just increased its commitment to girls’ education in low-income countries with a five-year pledge to reach 2.7 million more girls through primary and pre-primary schools, teacher training, adolescent empowerment programs and scholarships.

World Food Prize President Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, appreciates the emphasis BRAC give to women and girls.

“At a time when the world confronts the great challenge of feeding over nine billion people, Sir Fazle Abed and BRAC, the organization he founded and leads, have created the pre-eminent model being followed around the globe on how to educate girls, empower women and lift whole generations out of poverty,” said Quinn.

The World Food Prize award ceremony and Laureate Address are part of the annual Borlaug Dialogue, a food security conference named for Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to feed the world.

ClintonChelsea

Chelsea Clinton, vice president of the Clinton Foundation, was one of the keynote speakers during this year’s Borlaug Dialogue, held in downtown Des Moines. Her focus was the empowerment of girls and women.

“Women are a crucial, vital and necessary part of solving the challenge of alleviating hunger,” said Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

About 800 million people “aren’t getting the nutritious food they need. And we’re not on track to feed the nine billion people we expect to have on our planet by 2050,” she said.

“We’re squandering our potential,” Clinton said, when we send signals to young girls that their looks are more valuable than their brains.

Through BRAC, Sir Fazle has been a leader in empowering women and girls not through their looks, but through microfinance, education, healthcare, and encouraging their active participation in village life and community cohesion.

“We have always used an approach to development that puts power in the hands of the poor themselves, especially women and girls,” he said. “Educated girls turn into empowered women, and as we have seen in my native Bangladesh and elsewhere, the empowerment of women leads to massive improvements in quality of life for everyone, especially the poor.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

 Featured image: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed speaks at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative, New York City (Photo by Taylor Davidson / Clinton Global Initiative via Flickr)
Slide-show images: A) At the World Food Prize Award ceremony Oct. 16, 2015, from left, Mrs. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi (2012-2014), Sir Fazle Hasan Abed holds the World Food Prize, John Ruan III, World Food Prize Chairman. (Photo courtesy The World Food Prize) B) His efforts are respected in the Arab world. Here, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed receives the first-ever WISE Prize for Education given by the Qatar Foundation, a windfall of $500,000. From left: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalife Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar; Sir Fazle, Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, Chairman of the World Innovation Summit for Education, WISE. Doha, Qatar, Nov. 1, 2011. (Photo courtesy WISE Qatar)
Image 01: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed reads with a girl in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy World Food Prize)
Image 02: Chelsea Clinton speaks at the C2MTL Montreal, May 28, 2015, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Photo by Mila Araujo@Milaspage via Flickr)

What’s Keeping Impact Investors Away from Education?

 

Malawi SchoolBy Marta Maretich, Chief Editor, @mmmaretich

This is the second installment of a 3-part series on impact investing in the education sector. Read Part I: Why the Education Sector Urgently Needs Impact Capital and Part III: Opportunities for Impact Investment in Education

Impact investors have hardly engaged with the education sector. Why is this?

As we established in Part I of this series, there’s a growing global demand for education — in other words, a huge potential market that could be catalyzed by an influx of impact capital.  Add to this the fact that education is pretty much universally recognized as an effective means to break the cycle of poverty and improve lives — it may be the most powerful single tool we have — and the low level of impact involvement in the sector begins to seem surprising.

Yet that’s the reality: of $2.5 trillion is spent on education worldwide, impact capital accounts for just $3 million. In a recent survey of impact investors, only 3 percent of assets under management were in the education sector as compared to 21 percent in microfinance and 11 percent in energy. Only water and sanitation came in lower, at just 1 percent.

Small deals, few deals

A closer look at deals gives insight into what’s happened to date. According to a recent report from D. Capital and Open Society Foundations (OSF), impact investors have hardly entered the education market and when they do, deal sizes are small with direct investments typically ranging between the $.5 million and $5 million. Investment though intermediaries looks slightly more robust, with technology venture capital funds raising the stakes to $10 million, but it’s still a mere drop in the ocean.

Impact’s role in financing the education sector hasn’t only been small in size, it’s been limited in scope, largely focusing on school infrastructure programs and, to a lesser extent, people (for example teacher training schemes). Impact investors have largely ignored the potential for investment in the wider educational ecosystem and have only very limited involvement in areas such as developing new services, tools and technology. Impact investment has been sharply divided, too, between market-rate investors who target middle and upper class populations and those with an impact-first attitude who target populations at the base of the socio-economic pyramid.

What’s keeping impact investors away?

Several factors help explain this picture. First, impact is still a relatively new sector whose development has been largely uncoordinated and sometimes patchy: in other words, just because a sector is worthy of more impact capital, doesn’t mean it’s received it yet.

Impact investing is beginning to develop a track record in areas like agriculture, clean technology and finance but this is largely thanks to the determination of a few leading proponents like Acción, Root Capital and Acumen, who targeted their investments in specific areas. By contrast, few impact investors have made education their sole priority and few have developed well-defined deal sourcing strategies for education even though quite a few (21 out of the ImpactAssets 50 funds, for example) claim education as one area of focus among several others. This suggests that education is often a sideline for impact investors, with small-scale education investments tacked on to ones in more popular sectors such as finance.

Partly, this may be due to the perception that education investments have little potential to produce returns (an assumption new developments in the sector will challenge). Another reason could be that education, unlike other sectors, has traditionally been the sole preserve of governments and, to a lesser extent, international aid agencies. Until now, non-state investors have claimed a relatively small slice of the education pie with private commercial funding accounting for only $500 billion of the $2.5 trillion spending total. The state monopoly on education has created little incentive for innovation or entrepreneurial activity, with the result that there haven’t been enough education deals out there to engage the growing impact sector.

Such market issues may be contributing to the shortage of investable deals and limiting levels of investment now, but the picture looks set to change. Squeezed public budgets and a new spirit of openness on the part of the development aid community are generating more interest in market-based solutions to the education crisis. This raises the possibility of increased entrepreneurial activity in the education sector with impact investment playing a more important role in its financial profile, especially in the form of collaborative investing arrangement with governments, philanthropic bodies and other private investors. The question now is, what exactly should that role be?

Learning to do more

With opportunities at various points in the market, there’s evidence that impact capital can help education in a number of important ways. “Where government is absent,” write the authors of the D. Capital/OSF report, “impact capital can help fill a basic gap that the state cannot. Where the government provides basic services, there is also ample room to supplement public services through congruent education for at-risk children, vocational training or adult literacy services.”

Beyond this, impact investors can do their part to strengthen the sector by:

•    supporting early-stage experimentation and innovation in education
•    innovating new kinds of financial approaches that support education and the ecosystem around it
•    working in collaboration with governments and nonprofits to back socially motivated education programs with impact capital
•    investing alongside venture capitalists and venture philanthropists in scalable education businesses
•    catalyzing co-investment from other sources, such as mainstream banks, private investors and aid agencies
•    scaling approaches that show promise, adapting them and rolling them out in other contexts and other regions

This is Part II of a three-part series on impact investing in the education sector. Read Part I: Why the Education Sector Urgently Needs Impact Capital. Read Part III: Opportunities for Impact Investment in Education.

Impact Investing in Education infographic

Education Infographic maximpact_com