[Video] The Village of the Future: World Economic Forum on Africa Panel

Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent in the world, yet the vast majority still live in rural areas and will for the foreseeable future. The last decade transformed the African village — what do the next 10 years hold?

Dalberg Group Executive Director James Mwangi discusses how to bring innovation, 21st-century thinking, and the fourth industrial revolution to the village of the future in this 2016 World Economic Forum on Africa panel. James moderates the discussion on moving from a consumer to producer mindset, fostering distributed manufacturing, and building on the strength of village communities.

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Why Emergency Operations Centers are Crucial in Crisis Response

By Aurelien Chu and Mareme Gaye

The West Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016 showed the weakness of national emergency management systems, and the danger of depending on international humanitarian and health actors to compensate for national gaps. Over 11,000 people died, primarily in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the economic impact in those three countries is estimated to be $359 million. Very limited public health capacity and resources in all three countries worsened the outbreak – Liberia has only 1 doctor per 100,000 inhabitants, and Sierra Leone has barely twice that amount. In addition, the initial international response was slow and ineffective; men and women at the front-line of the response reported feeling “abandoned and isolated in their daily struggle”.

The post-crisis response offers an opportunity to reassess emergency management practices, and to re-envision stronger and more resilient national, regional and continental systems. Dalberg has been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to support several countries to develop Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) – national agencies responsible for preparing for public health crises and coordinating national responses. EOCs establish “real-time” biosurveillance laboratory networks, train multi-sectoral rapid response teams, and maintain staff capable of activating a coordinated emergency response within 120 minutes of a public health emergency.

Slide1Nigeria’s effective and large-scale response to Ebola shows the distinct advantage of EOCs. When Ebola appeared in Nigeria in July 2014, the country established an EOC, utilizing staff and systems from the country’s polio eradication campaign and partner organizations. Nigeria’s EOC coordinated contact tracing and testing of thousands of people, and isolated anyone with multiple Ebola related symptoms. As a result of this rapid, coordinated national response, the impact of Ebola in Nigeria was limited, with only 19 confirmed cases, and 8 deaths.

Following this success, and other successes in Senegal, governments, donors and private foundations are investing heavily in building better national and regional emergency management systems. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and African Union (AU) are collaborating to establish a continent-wide EOC in Addis Ababa, with regional sub-centers. In addition, other countries are working to establish national EOCs – Kenya launched its EOC last week.

In our experience, the success of an EOC is dependent on a strong organizational model, high functioning governance that allows for rapid decision making and deployment of resources, successful collaboration with other state and non-state actors, and adequate financing. These cross-cutting requirements are not unique to epidemics, and Senegal’s EOC (which Dalberg supported), already deals with other emergencies. Senegal’s EOC is responsible for the management of all major health-related incidents, including infectious disease risks, technological risks (e.g., industrial accidents), natural disasters (e.g., droughts), and social risks (e.g., public unrest and terrorism).

As EOCs continue to be at the heart of the Global Health Security Agenda, Dalberg and BMGF are hosting a side-event at the World Humanitarian Summit, to discuss how to transition from public health EOCs, to all-hazards EOCs, with a broader mandate and new institutional models.

For more information, attend our WHS event on Emergency Operations Centers, or read our primer.

For more information on Dalberg’s EOC work, contact Madji Sock: Madji.Sock@Dalberg.com

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The Planet’s Health is Essential to Prevent Infectious Disease

By Sonila Cook, Oren Ahoobim, Jeff Berger, Emma Hodge, Bhavana Chilukuri


The Zika virus, now detected in 42 countries, is only the latest in a series of diseases establishing a new normal for pandemics. Sars ravaged South China in 2003Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) shocked the Middle East in 2012, and Ebola devastated west Africa in 2014. We have seen avian influenza emerge in new geographies alongside mosquito-borne viruses, such as Chikungunya. Over the past 50 years, more than 300 infectious pathogens have either newly developed or reemerged in places where they had never been seen before.

These trends raise questions: Why are infectious diseases occurring with such frequency? Why are pandemics the new normal?

Continue reading at The Guardian.

Photo credit: Flickr

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How do the poor see life? Rajen Makhijani’s TEDxNTU

Dalberg Associate Partner Rajen Makhijani explores how social class influences a person’s opinions of him or herself and perception of life.

He details why choices that might appear to be irrational — choosing to buy a cup of tea over health insurance, for example — are anything but.

screengrab Rajen

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The Impact of Private Investment in Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

9201200927_1bc94f5724_zThe state of education is improving throughout sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): enrollment rates have risen significantly at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. However, these improvements are not occurring fast enough. With more than 30 million primary and 90 million secondary school children currently outside of the system, with limited gains over the last 25 years in literacy rates across the continent, and with a rapidly increasing youth population and an enormous funding gap of over US $1 trillion, there is an urgent need to focus on SSA’s education systems. Not doing so will see the region falling enormously short of its economic promise and will create or perpetuate massive social inequities.

Governments are squeezed from all ends due to rising populations and increased demand for education. Now is an opportune time for private investors to enter the market, and there are early signs of this happening. Private capital, including impact investments, is flowing throughout SSA to innovative low-cost education business models, high-impact technology products, and financial systems with the intention to bridge the access to education gap across the continent. The private investment market is still nascent, and more effort is needed to identify and promote education investment opportunities through SSA.

D. Capital has produced a new report detailing the opportunity in private investment in education. The most promising impact investment opportunities will support the growth and integration of the entire education system across students, education providers, employers, governments, and private investors. These include public-private partnerships, tailored student financing solutions, and venture capital funds.

Click here to read the full report>>

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Cassava Needs a Longer Shelf Life — And You Can Help

cassavaBy Amira Bliss and Nneka Eze

Anyone reading this has their own story to tell about food waste. One of the first lessons we are taught – wherever in the world we call home – is “don’t waste food.” And while we all have some sense of our own responsibility for solving this global problem, bigger challenges loom large. Chew on this: Cassava is a staple crop on three continents, including across sub-Saharan Africa. Yet nearly half of it spoils before it can be eaten or processed. We need bold new ideas, or more novel ways of applying the ones we already have, if we are to change this scenario. And change it we must.

That’s why on May 12, The Rockefeller Foundation (as part of its YieldWise Initiative), Dalberg and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) launched the Rockefeller Foundation Cassava Innovation Challenge, to stimulate game-changing ideas to tackle one of the primary drivers of cassava loss – short shelf life – in Nigeria. In recent years, innovation challenges focusing on some of the world’s most pressing issues have successfully introduced new ideas from around the world to address them.  Through The Rockefeller Foundation’s Cassava Innovation Challenge, the boldest and most promising ideas will be awarded up to $1 million in grants, and receive technical support from industry experts  to implement those ideas. The challenge seeks innovations that break through the problem of high spoilage rates once and for all.  We believe the solution could come from anywhere and we encourage anyone with an interest in food security who thinks they might be on to something to send us their idea.

The impact of such a global rally could be significant. In Nigeria alone, 30 million farmers grow cassava. For small scale farmers – who dominate cassava production – improved shelf-life would not only mean more stable or reliable income, but wider access to markets given a longer distance the cassava can travel. Cutting the wastage in cassava alone could result in a significant increase in food security and improved nutrition throughout the region. Further, unlocking the potential of industrial cassava will lead to growth in parallel industries where locally processed cassava flour, starches, and ethanol could serve as low-cost inputs in bread, snacks, and even animal feed.

Attempting to reduce the staggering amounts of food loss in cassava is ambitious. Indeed research institutes have spent decades working on preservation and post-harvest technologies, but they mostly focused on increasing yield from the crop by reducing pests and combatting diseases that turned the crop brown and inedible, and increasing nutrition. The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Nigeria, has successfully introduced drought-tolerant cassava varieties and technology to increase yields. Yet  the problem of high spoilage rates and limited shelf life still remains.

Which is exactly why we are excited to have launched this Challenge, in pursuit of ideas and solutions that could revolutionize both the cassava industry, the lives of smallholder farmers, and food security in Nigeria and beyond. For more information and the official rules, please visit www.rockefellerfoundation.org/cassavachallenge.   

Amira Bliss is an Associate Director for Innovation at The Rockefeller Foundation. Nneka Eze is an Associate Partner and Lagos Office Direct at Dalberg; she co-leads Dalberg’s Agriculture & Food Security Practice.

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Financing Cataract Solutions for the Developing World: Introducing the World’s First Development Impact Bond in the Eye Health Sector

By Olivia Iloetonma and Barbara Kong

Winesi March has never seen his 18-month old grandson – he has only ever heard him cry. Prior to going blind from cataracts, Winesi was the breadwinner: his maize farm fed his family and kept his children in school. But as his cataracts developed, he had to rely on his wife and children for tasks as simple as bathing. He stopped growing his maize. He could no longer see the path to his farm.

Winesi’s blindness and its impact on his household is part of a widespread and growing problem across developing countries. Four out of five blind people are needlessly blind, most of them live in developing countries, and the reason for their blindness is more often than not due to cataracts.


A broken financing model

Cataracts, the partial occlusion of the eye lens, affect both men and women, especially above 50. Untreated cataracts lead to blindness for millions of people in developing countries due to high cost of quality care and low cataract surgery capacity. Funding for eye health services makes up just a sliver of local and international health funding—in Cameroon, it is only a fraction of the 2% GDP spending on health. In Central Africa alone, our estimates show that 75,000 people suffer from cataract blindness and another 3 million are at risk, but there are only 122 active ophthalmologists in the region. Cataract surgery should be a relatively straightforward and cost-effective procedure, but public health systems are underfunded and service providers are constrained by scarce, competitive, and expensive financing.

The bottom line is, the financing model for eye health in developing countries is broken. And as a result, those who can least afford to are losing their sight.

Opening the eye health space to private investors

Innovators have found a way to ease this quintessential development problem. The Aravind Eye Hospital in India has pioneered and revolutionized an innovative and cost-effective approach to tackling cataracts in the developing world—a social enterprise model that delivers high-quality cataract surgeries for $40 each, half the cost of an annual Amazon Prime membership. Aravind hospitals gross over $10 million annually through 300,000 cataract surgeries, half of which are free or subsidized. This model proves that it is possible to provide sustainable, affordable quality cataract surgery at high volumes, with fees from those who can pay subsidizing treatment costs for those who cannot.

So what if we could replicate this model in Central Africa? Unfortunately hospitals looking to do so face a financing wall. A sub-specialty eye hospital in Cameroon that could perform 6,000 surgeries per year and build local capacity would cost about $13 million to build, equip, and staff before serving a single patient. The drip-drop of public finance is not going to cut it. Private investors find the prospect too risky. From the hospital’s point of view, a debt investment would compromise financial sustainability and ability to scale while keeping costs low.

What we need is an entirely new financing model that brings private funders into the eye care space by sharing the risk across public and private partners. A third-party promise to pay for performance could be the key making this possible.

Continue reading

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Nigeria Needs Urgent Steps to Deal with its Unemployment Crisis

First published in Business Day.

By Nneka Eze

Nigeria is facing a youth unemployment crisis. This problem affects the daily lives and long-term futures of 5 to 12 million youth who are currently unable to find work to sustain their households – that’s nearly a quarter of Nigeria’s entire population.

These youth are entering the labour market unprepared with inadequate skills that the market requires, and limited access to the tools they need to create their own jobs. The majority of these youth are from rural areas but beyond geographic disparities, female youth are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to employment and economic opportunities given social norms where females are expected to shoulder domestic responsibilities.


Photo Credit: Flickr, World Bank Photo Collection

Addressing youth unemployment should be a national priority. Here we look beyond macroeconomic indicators that reflect jobless GDP growth and propose six solutions that center on the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, which we believe can drive inclusive growth and raise living standards.

1. Support small and medium enterprises and protect informal workers. Simply put, there are not enough jobs – particularly formal-sector jobs – in Nigeria. Nearly 85 percent of those employed work in the informal sector, which includes small and medium businesses ranging from petty trading and personal services to informal construction, transport, money lending, manufacturing, and repairs. SMEs have potential to drive economic transformation in Nigeria and around the world, but their job creation potential is grossly unrealized. Given the primacy of Nigeria’s informal sector, job creation should emphasize entrepreneurship to provide opportunities for youth. For this to happen, the government should support SMEs with the resources they need to overcome infrastructural, trade policy, and legislation challenges. The growth of the informal sector itself is partially due to government failure – including lack of infrastructure and lack of access to finance – but it’s the government that now needs to step in to provide cushions to protect workers against income shocks and variability, and to sustain long-term employment.

Continue reading

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The Delicate Balance Between Increasing Economic Opportunities in Northern Nigeria While also Addressing Security

First published in Business Day.

By Nneka Eze

Whether due to dominance of the media or current economic power, the “average” Nigerian is not thinking about the huge economic potential or the breadbasket (agricultural production zones) of Nigeria when they think of Northern Nigeria. On their minds is likely the religious extremism that has been on the rise in the recent past and contributed to the development of one of the region’s bloodiest militant groups in the region – Boko Haram. While it is true that Boko Haram has wreaked havoc on the North, it’s also true that the militant group is one of several difficulties that Northerners have faced for decades. As the current administration continues on its mission to crush Boko Haram and end its season of tyranny, solutions must sought that also address socioeconomic and geographic issues in the North to prevent the resurgence of such groups that thrive in times of desperation and exclusion.

People displaced by Boko Haram in the city of Yola. (Photo Credit: Flickr, European Commission DG ECHO)

People displaced by Boko Haram in the city of Yola. (Photo Credit: Flickr, European Commission DG ECHO)

It is undisputable that the economic landscape in Northern Nigeria has been severely affected by Boko Haram. The activities of this Islamist militant group have led to mass migration of Nigerian citizens to areas not affected by the violence. This has in turn resulted in children abandoning school, adults losing jobs, disruption of trade and an overall drop in foreign direct investment (FDI) flows, affecting livelihoods.Boko Haram’s emergence four years ago is estimated to have led to a 21% drop in FDI between 2011 and 2012.The negative effects have largely been dictated by geography and have been felt most acutely among the country’s Northern states. Three states in particular – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – have borne the brunt of the insurgency leading to a state of emergency being declared in 2013 and running till November 2014.

An estimated 3,000 people were killed in 2015 as a result of the insurgency and a further 3 million internally displaced to date. Boko Haram and ISIL are jointly responsible for 51% of all claimed global fatalities in the previous year (2014) – with the total figure of those killed through terrorism in 2014 coming to 32,658 with 7,512 in Nigeria alone (23% of all deaths caused by terrorism in that year.) The region’s problems however began long before the emergence of Boko Haram.

Despite occupying the majority of the country’s landmass, Northern Nigeria has consistently ranked lower than the country average on human development indicators. The Northern part of Nigeria consists of 19 states, which geographically occupy 719,435 square kilometers or 79% of Nigeria’s landmass and constitute 53.6% of Nigeria’s population. Long-standing under investment by government and insecurity in the region has resulted in significant slow-down of both educational and commercial activities. Similarly, the Northern states face the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country, the lowest school enrolment rates for children, the highest youth unemployment rates, highest levels of poverty and highest inter-ethic and inter-religious conflict, notably the Boko Haram terrorism. Continue reading

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If Human Rights Arguments Won’t Get the Nigerian Gender Equality Bill to Pass, Perhaps Economics Will

First published in Business Day.

By Nneka Eze and Tania Beard

It came as a surprise to many a few weeks ago when a gender equality bill was voted down by the Nigerian Senate (which comprises 7 women and 102 men). The bill, which sought to guarantee equal rights in education, marriage and inheritance, was rejected for not being ‘part of our culture and tradition’ and ‘unNigerian’. The components outlined in the bill are fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – articles 2, 7 and 8 and embedded in the Nigerian constitution. The need for further outlining the rights of women and gender equality should be a pressing issue for Nigeria. Approximately 30% of women experienced physical or sexual violence in 2013. Furthermore, child labour and child abuse were highest among women (61.8% and 75.7% respectively of all children forced into labour or abused).

Photo Credit: Flickr, UN Women

Photo Credit: Flickr, UN Women

This bill comes at a critical low point in our country’s economy. There is a major economic crisis compounded by rock bottom oil prices (petroleum exports account for 90% of Nigeria’s export revenue). The Naira has plummeted by 118% against the dollar in the past 12 months. We are facing consumer price inflation driven by foreign exchange restrictions and high and fluctuating parallel market foreign exchange rate. Beyond the oil-dollar situation, over 70% of Africa’s largest population live in poverty. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high of at least 50%. It is at this critical standpoint that Nigeria voted against a bill – a move that threatens to leave half its population – 80 million people out of vital sectors of the society and economy.

If gender equality as a human right is indeed considered ‘unNigerian’, the economic argument for gender equality may be more effective as a first step in the broader rights based struggle. Continue reading

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