Press Releases

Supporting entrepreneurship in Africa: Why mentoring is so important for social good

Global business and the people involved in it are very much alive to the fact that you can do good, AND do well. We are seeing the rise of social entrepreneurship where businesses exist with the dual purpose of making money and achieving social good. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive, and the ability to create a sustainable movement or a platform for change is being supercharged by coexisting alongside commercial aims.

We all know that the needs in this world can seem overwhelming. Yet, we are also seeing that by focusing on one cause a ‘conscious capitalist’ can have a massive impact, from providing clean drinking water and education, to health care. Corporations can give back to the local communities in which they live and serve.

Taking this thinking another step further, what Africa needs is job creation and economic growth. These two factors will ensure that there are customers with purchasing power in the system to consume the products and services of our social entrepreneurs. There is a virtuous circle here. So how do you support entrepreneurs to create jobs and growth? There are several obvious answers and one of them is money. However, the statistics (around 75%) on how many small businesses fail despite start-up capital are still staggering. Something more fundamental is required.

Let’s look at the facts. An entrepreneur is someone with a vision. And a passion to see that vision become reality. In between the vision and the passion there may be some gaps in practical knowledge. Yes, they will take risks and yes, they will keep trying until something works. But what if you could short-circuit that loop to ensure more would-be business owners and therefore employers were successful? Through mentoring, a form of social networking and informal education, you can! ashish thakkar

The issues facing entrepreneurs have been well documented: inadequate access to suitable financing options, insufficient local skills and talent, restrictive policy and regulation and lack of access to business support services. These are issues that I know well as I started my business in Uganda at the age of 15. Since then, I have driven the growth of the company from a small IT business in Uganda to the globally recognised multi-sector investment group that exists today. Alongside that group I also established a Foundation.

Mara Foundation is seeking to provide services that help to solve some of these issues, in particular access to expert advice and mentoring. One initiative, Mara Mentor, is an online community that enables entrepreneurs to connect with inspiring business leaders, join online discussions and access online training. Accessible via a website (mentor.mara.com) and app available on all leading app stores, this innovative approach allows many more entrepreneurs to access expert advice and have the opportunity to receive support as they face day to day issues in their business.

Mara Mentor has a network of entrepreneurs signed up from countries across Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa and in a range of industries including, Agriculture, IT and social enterprise. These entrepreneurs have an idea and the passion to succeed but are seeking advice on how to turn those ambitions into a reality. There are common areas where entrepreneurs are asking for support, from figuring out if their business idea is viable and developing a business plan to setting up their finances and managing people in their team. Skills that are well known for many working in corporate companies can be game-changing for entrepreneurs.

Mara Mentor is inviting new mentors to join. If you would like to become a Mara Mentor, you only need to have five years or more business experience, own a business, or work within a reputable company. From just nine minutes a week you can get involved and share your advice and wisdom. If you have time to do more there are plenty of options to do so from creating videos to hosting online forum discussions.

If you are an entrepreneur or even someone with ideas about how to make your life better come and join the conversation. Become a Mara Mentee, help others, yourself and ultimately Africa!

Ashish J. Thakkar

Launch of the UN MDG Goals 2014 Report

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals 2014 Report was launched on the 7th of July simultaneously globally. The report is an annual assessment of the progress made towards the goals globally and regionally. It was compiled by 27 UN and international agencies and produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. At the event in Lagos, Mr. Oluseyi Soremekun, the National Information Officer, UNIC presented some of the key facts from the report, stating that considerable progress was being made globally. Speaking of Nigeria, he said the country’s also making progress, although there is more progress recorded in some areas than others. Some of the facts he stated are below:

Goal 1:

-          700 million people saved from extreme poverty

-          140 million people from hunger

-          1 in 4 children still suffer under-nutrition, although chronic hunger has been eradicated

-          Target at half and close to being achieved.

Goal 2

-          Gender parity reached in gender education.as at 2012, 98 girls to every 100 boys enrolled in primary education

-          Many children are still denied the right to primary education, with 1 in 4 children in developing countries likely to drop out of school.

-          There are about 58 million children out of school, half of them from conflict-affected regions

Goal 4

-          Child mortality fell by 50%

-          6.6 million children under the age of 5 die from preventable diseases especially Pneumonia, Diarrhea and Malaria, before their 5th birthday

Goal 5

-          Maternal mortality reduced

Goal 6

-          9.5 million people receiving HIV treatment in developing treatment

-          6.6 million receiving ART since 1995

-          56 million free of TB, saving 22 million lives

-          Over 700 million bed nets delivered to Sub-Saharan Africa

Goal 7

-          Drinking water target reached

-          89% of the world’s population have access to good water, up from 74% in 1990

-          Over 2.6 billion people have access to drinking water

-          Over 2.5 billion people don’t have access to sanitation

Goal 8

-          Official development assistance reached the highest level ($138 billion)

-          17 out of 28 donors worldwide increased their commitment

In Nigeria,

Goal 4

-          Fair reach

-          Goal likely to be achieved

-          Policies supporting goal are average

Goal 5

-          Strong reach

-          Goal very likely to be achieved

-          Policies supporting goal are very strong

Goal 6

-          Fair reach

-          Goal likely to be achieved

-          Policies supporting goal are average

Goal 7

-          Poor reach

-          Goal not likely to be achieved

-          No policies supporting achievement of goal

Goal 8

-          Target met

-          Strong policies supporting goal

H.E Mr. Daouda Toure, Resident Coordinator of the UN System in Nigeria was represented by Ms. Colleen Zamba, Economic Advisor at the UNDP Nigeria. She stated that significant progress is being made in Nigeria, stating that Nigeria is a leader in the continent in the achievement of the MDGs. She acknowledged that while progress is being made, there are still areas to be improved upon and that the United Nations is working closely with the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure the attainment of the Goals. She also stated that a new set of goals incorporating some overlooked areas and some unattained goals will be introduced into the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

Capitalizing on Competencies:Partnering to Eliminate Malaria (Social Media Toolkit)

Click below to download the social media toolkit for the CAMA Annual Technical Forum.

CAMA Workshop Social Media Package Edit JC 29 June

Ghana: Sod Cut for Reconstruction of UE Regional Hospital

Ghana’s Minister for Health, Ms. Sherry Ayittey has disclosed that government is initiating plans to gradually construct teaching hospitals in all the 10 regions of Ghana. This will allow for the training and retention of adequate numbers of medical doctors in the regions.

Ms Ayittey made the disclosure at a ceremony held at the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital in the Upper East region during which she cut the sod for the reconstruction of the regional hospital. She noted that the reconstruction of the hospital into a modern one with cutting edge health equipment is to enable it provide secondary and tertiary health care services to the people of the region as well as to patients from neighbouring Burkina Faso and Togo.

The Saudi Fund for Development is the main financier of the project which is scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

The Health Minister who further revealed that government’s vision is to increase the bed capacity of each regional hospital to 240, said discussions between the Ghana Government and the Saudi Authorities for the reconstruction of the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital were sealed in 2008 at which time 12 million US Dollars was released for the commencement of phase one works. She, however, noted that only one-third of the total contract sum of 48 million US Dollars has so far been secured while the needed procedural steps are being taken for the release of the outstanding balance.

According to Ms Ayittey, the project manager has been directed to roll out a comprehensive maintenance programme that will train the Ghanaian health staff on the proper handling, usage and best maintenance methods of the new modern equipment and apparatus that will be installed at the facility. She appealed to the contractor, Berock Ventures Limited to do everything possible to complete all necessary works by the 20th January, 2015 deadline.

Upon completion, the hospital will have a modern blood bank with appropriate refrigerators, new Ear-Nose & Throat Unit, Eye Department, Neo-natal Care Unit, a specialised Accident and Emergency Unit, a Modern Dental Clinic and a state-of-the-art Intensive Care Unit among others.

Ms Ayittey promised the hospital’s staff that her ministry would source additional funding for the construction of staff accommodation units, procurement of power stations as well as put up a new morgue, workshops and a modern laundry facility for the hospital.

Mr Ashraf Hassan who spoke on behalf of the Royal Saudi Embassy said works on the project started in 2010 with the Saud Consult providing the needed technical advice and support to the contractor.

He said the reconstruction of the hospital would give it a bed capacity of 175 with supporting diagnostic facilities such as CT Scan, MRI unit and an improved pharmacy among others.

The sod cutting ceremony attracted several dignitaries including the Upper East Regional Director of Health, Dr. J. Koku Awoonor-Williams and his staff, some Municipal and District Chief Executives, health development partners, paramount chiefs, heads of decentralised departments and the land owners on whose land the hospital is situated.

Investing in Africa – Who Takes The Lead?

By Ike Chioke, Friends Africa Global Health Champion and CEO AFRINVEST West Africa

A financial windfall in the health sector can only be a reality if healthcare evolves from a social concept to a business opportunity. This ideology can be revamped with the design of policies that rapidly incorporate investment prerogatives into key segments of the healthcare industry while providing a conducive environment for investors.

 

Did you know?

The African continent has 6 out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world and is a vital player in the global resource space. Ironically, the continent has the highest disease burden in the world. To further narrow the scope, Sub-Saharan Africa makes up 11.0% of the world’s population but accounts for 24.0% of the global disease burden according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

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Grappling with rising population, Africa has significantly low health care spending, government-run facilities are far from cutting edge, skilled health workers and vital medicines are in short supply, and there are persistent geographical disparities between urban and rural settlements.

 

Advocating an Investment Perspective for Healthcare Delivery

In a bid to address these challenges in healthcare and in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 53 African countries signed the Abuja Declaration, pledging to devote 15.0% of their annual budgets to healthcare. However, while a universal fiscal coverage may be the best solution, the associated cost burden leaves the government significantly out of pocket.

 

Concurrently, private participation in African economies, i.e. Ghana, Gambia, South Africa, India etc. has improved significantly within the last decade with the emergence of health insurance schemes These schemes, however, cover a miniscule percentage of the population, e.g. India currently has a population of 1.2 billion and a scheme that covers approximately 240 million citizens (i.e. 19.0% of the population) while the state spends 4.0% of GDP on health. Nigeria has a population of 170 million, a health scheme that covers approximately 20 million citizens, i.e. 11.8% of the population, which is privately and publicly funded and allocates 6.1% of the budget to the health sector.

 

To fast track development processes, it is believed that the development of a vibrant healthcare delivery system cannot be possible without an effective workforce. Hence, private institutions are advised to partner with leading health advocacy organizations to equip healthcare workers and civil society groups with skills to deliver quality health care services. One of such partnerships can be gleaned from Afrinvest’s role in partnering with Friends Africa to train well over 60 Grassroots NGOs from 26 African countries during its Grassroots NGO Capacity Building Seminar” in Accra, Ghana.

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Healthcare Financing Gaps and Investment Opportunities

The healthcare financing system in Africa is poor, to say the least. As already established, public spending on health is insufficient, and international donor funding is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain in the current global economic climate. However, the opportunities for private sector health investment in Africa have never been better, with Sub-Saharan African countries recording an unbroken pattern of economic growth in the past few years.

 

The healthcare market is large and diverse, with a value chain comprised of equipment manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, distributors & retailers, health service providers, health financing entities, and medical education providers. The entire value chain is in need of investment and areas where growth is likely to boom include but are not limited to the following:

 

Primary care – Rising population and largely underserved areas make this a good investment option.

Hospitals – Several business models exist for this from management contracts to joint ventures with local, public, or private entities to wholly foreign ownership of new and existing facilities.

Specialist Care Facilities – There is a dearth of centers for specialized care treatment like Assisted Fertility, Orthopaedics, Burns, Cancer Care, etc.

Technology & Information Systems – Given the size of the continent and shortage of skilled health workers, telemedicine can help bridge the gap in healthcare and good information management systems are key to better clinical care coordination, hospital administration and resource management.

Looking Forward

It is estimated that Sub-Saharan Africa’s healthcare market will spike to $35.0bn by 2016. This figure is set to increase even further in the years ahead, fuelled by both domestic and international investments as well as an ever-increasing demand for healthcare.

 

The transformation of the African healthcare system into a more viable industry ought to be driven by consistent structural and socio-political reforms over a sustained period. Policy-makers would have to take a cue from other emerging and developed economies, such as India, Brazil and the U.K. on how to tackle healthcare challenges at the institutional level and at the grassroots.

 

In addition, the relationship between the public and private sectors should be enhanced through a combination of drastic reforms that create a burgeoning market for investors, while placing health care at the core of development. We are certain that a combination of these steps will leapfrog investment in health and lead to quality healthcare delivery for Africans.

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Ike Chioke is a Friends Africa Global Health Champion and CEO AFRINVEST West Africa

Friends Africa Partners with GBCHealth in Fight Against Malaria

Friends Africa and GBCHealth will jointly host a private sector forum  themed “Capitalizing on Competencies to Eliminate Malaria and Accelerate Impact on Maternal and Child Health” on Tuesday, July 2, 2014* with key speakers from Abt Associates, Access Bank, Chevron Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria and so many more!

This forum will examine how corporate workplace and community malaria programs can support national strategies in Nigeria’s push to achieve the MDGs. The forum will also highlight where and how integration of malaria with maternal and child health interventions can accelerate progress in improving health outcomes.

 

For enquiries, send an email to fojelabi@friends-africa.org

 

Minister Does Not Join Call for DR-TB Emergency

Despite activists’ pleas, Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has not joined almost 800 health workers and experts in supporting the call to declare drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) a public health emergency.

 

A member of the Treatment Action Campaign holds a ballot box at the South African TB Conference. Motsoaledi did not cast his vote to declare drug-resisitant TB a public health emergency at the conference’s close.

 

Motsoaledi failed to cast a ballot either in favour or against the civil society proposition that the country’s growing DR-TB epidemic be declared an emergency at the close of the South African TB Conference Friday, 13 June in Durban.

 

This comes after public interest group Section27 release astatement late Thursday saying that it expected Motsoaledi to support the call it issued via a memorandum on 10 June alongside the Treatment Action Campaign and Doctors Without Borders.

 

The memorandum was delivered to South African TB Conference chair Dr. Bavesh Kana and demanded that DR-TB be declared a public health emergency with adequate, ring-fenced funding, better Department of Health reporting on it as well as the use of novel approaches to manage the response.

 

More than half of the conference’s 1200 delegates including KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, television presenter Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon and South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) head Dr. Fareed Abdullah voted to support the memorandum at the meeting.

 

According to research presented at the conference last week, common TB cases may be falling.

 

DR-TB, including multidrug-resistant (MDR-TB), are rising, according to Dr Norbert Ndjeka, who heads the Department of Health’s division on HIV, TB and drug resistant TB.

 

“Last year alone we had more than 10,000 (MDR-TB) cases,” Ndjeka told Health-e News. “I would not be surprised if in 2014 we diagnosed 15000 cases or even more.”

 

MDR-TB is resistant to both of the most commonly used anti-TB drugs and takes at least four times longer to cure than common TB.

 

According to Abdullah, whether or not DR-TB is officially declared an emergency or not – the emergency is clear.

 

“Whether one use the hard-hitting of language of activists who put slogans on placards or you use the dry language of statistics, we all have no doubt that we have a crisis of mortality,”said Abdullah who added that 75 percent ofextensively drug-resistant TB patients are dead within five years – a death rate much higher than that associated with cancer.

 

Abdullah helped introduce HIV treatment into the Western Cape before it was approved for national use under former Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

 

“I want us all to be reminded of the dark decade of denialism that we had in this country with respect to antiretroviral treatment,” he said. “It behoves us all to avoid a situation like that with the current struggle we are facing with TB.”

Sam Kutesa Elected UN President

Sam K. Kutesa, Uganda’s minister for foreign affairs has been unanimously elected by acclamation as President of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Kutesa was elected at 3.00pm New York time, which was 10.00pm in Uganda on Wednesday.
As president, he will preside over the General Assembly for a one-year period, starting 16th September, 2014 for which he has chosen the theme: “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda”.
In his acceptance speech, Kutesa thanked all member states, in particular Africa, for the trust and confidence bestowed upon him and Uganda.

A statement sent by Fred Opolot, the ministry of foreign affairs spokesman said Kutesa underlined that his election reflected the international community’s recognition of Uganda’s positive role and contribution, throughout its fifty two-year membership, to the work of the United Nations.
Kutesa undertook to closely work with the United Nations in finding solutions to different global challenges confronting humanity, including: poverty and hunger; climate change and rising sea-levels; inadequate and expensive energy; armed conflicts; and emerging threats to peace and security, such as terrorism, piracy and human trafficking.
He outlined his priorities during the presidency, namely; formulation of a transformative post-2015 development agenda, climate change; revitalization of the General Assembly and reform of the Security Council.

Others are enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations; promotion of peaceful settlement of disputes and peace-building; enhancement of the Alliance of Civilisations; and advancement of gender equality and empowerment of women.
The President of the current session of the General Assembly, John W Ashe, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon thanked him on his election. They expressed their commitment to support him in discharging his responsibilities.

Read Sam Kutesa’s acceptance speech here

 

Source: Newvision

Africa: UN Officials Urge Greater Commitment, Investment, Innovation to End HIV/Aids Epidemic

Despite significant gains, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over, United Nations officials said today, calling for greater political commitment, investment and innovation to end the global scourge.

 

“Having put forward so much investment and effort by all stakeholders – and with so many lives still on the line – it is a moral imperative to seize the opportunity of getting the job done,” John Ashe, President of the General Assembly, told the 193-member body’s annual review of progress in tackling HIV/AIDS.

 

“With continued political commitment, investment and innovation, we can make great strides toward ending AIDS and take a giant step toward creating a healthier and more prosperous human family, living on a sustainable planet.”

 

In his latest report on the issue, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlines progress achieved in the 10 target areas designed to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS by the end of 2015, as set out three years ago by world leaders in the 2011 Political Declaration.

 

“The report sends a clear message,” said Mr. Ashe. “The global solidarity and joint efforts of the international community are yielding significant gains against the epidemic, and bringing about an historic opportunity to lay the foundation for ending AIDS.

 

“However, AIDS will remain a global challenge beyond 2015, and sustained commitment and efforts will be required if we are indeed to defeat this scourge,” he added.

 

He noted in particular that the number of new HIV infections is still unacceptably high, at 2.3 million in 2012. Also, more than half of people in need of anti-retroviral treatment do not have access to it – with a glaring gap in access to paediatric treatment.

 

In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that the world is making “solid headway” in meeting some of the targets and commitments from the 2011 Political Declaration, such as expanding treatment access, eliminating HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive, and mobilizing resources.

 

In addition, more countries are making specific efforts to take action, and domestic spending on HIV now accounts for more than half of global HIV resources.

 

“We have the tools, the science and the knowledge to end AIDS once and for all. But we cannot let confidence turn to complacency,” he stated.

 

“Progress remains uneven,” he said, noting that two out of three children who need treatment do not get it; death rates among adolescents are increasing; and epidemics in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are getting worse.

 

Also, progress is lagging on targets such as reducing sexual transmission by 50 per cent and halving HIV transmission among people who inject drugs. Stigma, discrimination and criminalization of people who are the most vulnerable to HIV are also getting worse in parts of the world, he added.

 

“The goal of ending AIDS remains a major challenge,” Mr. Ban said, while encouraging Member States to continue the vital debate on ensuring how this important objective is best reflected in the post-2015 development agenda.

 

“With the ongoing commitment of Member States along with the work of UNAIDS [the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS] and the entire UN system, we have the capacity to deliver a great gift to the world: ending AIDS through the shared vision of no new HIV infections, no discrimination and no AIDS-related deaths.

 

“Let us make good on that promise. Millions of lives depend on us.”

 

Source: allAfrica

Parasitic Disease May be Why More African AIDS Cases are Women

While around the world a vast majority of AIDS victims are men, Africa has long been the exception: Nearly 60 per cent are women. While there are many theories, no one has been able to prove one.

 

In a modest public health clinic behind a gas station in South Africa’s rural KwaZulu/Natal province, a team of infectious disease specialists from Norway think they may have found a new explanation.

 

It is far too soon to say whether they are right, but sceptics say the explanation is biologically plausible. And if it is proven correct, a low-cost solution has the potential to prevent thousands of infections every year.

 

The Norwegian team believes that African women are more vulnerable to HIV because of a chronic, undiagnosed parasitic disease: Genital schistosomiasis, often called schisto.

 

The disease, also known as bilharzia and snail fever, is caused by parasitic worms picked up in infested river water that can penetrate the skin of people collecting water or washing clothes. An estimated 200 million Africans have had schistosomiasis.

 

It is marked by fragile sores in the far reaches of the vaginal canal that may serve as entry points for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Dr Eyrun Kjetland, who leads the Otimati team, says it is more common than syphilis or herpes, which can also open the way for HIV.

 

The foreign bodies in the sores — the worms and eggs — also attract CD4 cells, the immune system’s sentinels, and those are the cells that HIV attacks.

 

The worms can be killed by a drug that costs as little as eight cents a pill. Dr Kjetland’s team is trying to determine whether that will heal the sores in young women.

 

Some prominent AIDS experts doubt the schistosomiasis theory, pointing out, for example, that urban women raised far from infested water also die of AIDS. However, proponents of the theory say that two decades ago, many experts were just as sceptical of the idea that circumcision protected men against HIV. It was not until 2006 that three clinical trials proved it correct.

 

“Everyone has heard of genital mutilation and obstetric fistulas. But mention this and the headlights just go dim,” said Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

 

The idea is slowly gaining ground. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations, the National Institutes of Health, and the Danish and Norwegian governments have all given some grant support. However, leaders of the two agencies that pay for the fight against global AIDS want more evidence before diverting funds from their campaigns for condoms, drugs and circumcision.

 

“We need to track all these things down and see what’s a cause and what’s just another disease you have at the same time, like cervical cancer,” said Dr Mark Dybul, executive director of one of the agencies, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

 

Dr Eric Goosby, who recently finished a five-year stint as coordinator of the other agency, the United States-founded President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) agreed that vaginal sores could help the virus enter. “But it’s complicated,” he added. “A lot of women who have HIV don’t have schisto and vice versa.”

 

Seventy million African children could be dewormed twice a year for 10 years at a cost of US$112 million (S$140 million), Dr Hotez said in an essay titled Africa’s 32 Cents Solution for HIV/AIDS (32 cents being the cost of two generic deworming pills twice a year). That is cheap compared with the US$38 billion PEPFAR is expected to spend on AIDS in that period, he said.

 

A vaccine would be even better and several are in development, including one at the Sabin Vaccine Institute, which Dr Hotez also heads.

 

However, even if one works, “it will be at least five to 10 years before the testing is finished”, he said. “We shouldn’t wait for that.”

 

Source: The New York Times

 
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