Looking Beyond Off-Grid Energy to a Holistic Approach to Off-Grid Societies

By Ciku Kimeria

Reflections on The World Economic Forum on Africa

Under the theme “Achieving Inclusive Growth Through Responsive and Responsible Leadership”, a thousand global leaders from the private and public sector who are helping to shape the continent’s future gathered in Durban this past week for The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa. Discussions ranged from ending famine, to addressing the problems of apartheid in South Africa, and highlighting innovations that are transforming people’s lives across the continent. One such innovation that took center stage was off-grid and decentralized energy solutions.

This year, Dalberg hosted two events on “off-grid societies”. These events, part of an ongoing series celebrating 10 years of Dalberg on the continent, were a chance to shape discussions on solutions for off-grid societies.

“Off-grid” – as the term is commonly used – refers to the over a quarter of the world’s population who are unable to access to energy through traditional infrastructure. In sub-Saharan Africa, 65% of the population has no access to electricity. While access to reliable electricity is crucial to unlocking economic opportunities, it is vital that we holistically consider the lack of infrastructure that limits these communities from reaching their full potential. Dalberg is helping define a new concept on “off-grid societies” that looks beyond energy access, and instead focuses on societies that do not have access to 20th century infrastructure, such as roads, bank branches, hospitals, and schools.

Finding solutions to reach these unconnected populations is extremely important if we are to achieve truly inclusive growth. Current efforts to create infrastructure to reach off-grid societies continue to lag behind population growth. For example, even with increasing investments in renewable energy, the International Energy Agency estimates that the creation of mini-grids can at best supply electricity for about 40% of the world’s un-electrified population. Creating effective solutions for off-grid societies often require us to devise new business models and leapfrog technologies that require formal infrastructure, such as phone networks or roads, to function.

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Arming Suicide Helplines to Better Combat India’s Mental Health Crisis

By Kapil Kanungo, Kishan Shah, Kashish Saluja, and Gaurav Gupta 

In 2014, nearly 131,000 people committed suicide in India. This number continues to grow each year, with India accounting for about 30% of all suicide deaths in the world. For young people aged 10-24 suicide is the single leading cause of death. With 60,000 deaths in the 15-24 age group, more young people in India die from self-harm, than from road accidents or tuberculosis. Compare this to China, where self-harm takes 11,000 young lives every year.

By decriminalising suicide and establishing the right to quality mental health care, the Mental Health Bill 2016 is a welcome step for those facing mental health issues and for those trying to provide help. According to Amrit Kumar from Thanal, a crisis and suicide helpline based in Calicut, “Stigma associated with suicides, coupled with its initial criminalisation discourages many people to reach out for help, but with the new law, there is hope that more people will contact the helplines.” While the new law is a first step in reducing stigma, and emphasising mental health care, in parallel there needs to be greater investment in India’s mental health infrastructure to make accessible and quality care a reality. As both a system for first response and last resort, suicide helplines are a critical part of this overall infrastructure.

Our study on global best practices in suicide prevention helplines has shown several positive cost-effective developments that have enhanced their functioning. In particular, there are four key enablers that, when adopted, could have a transformative effect on suicide helplines.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

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Making the Digital Economy More Inclusive

By Diptesh Soni 

Across the world, there is an inescapable sense that the machines are coming, and they’re going to take our jobs. This fear is not new. From the cotton gin, to the tractor, to the assembly line and beyond, jobs have faced and will continue to face threats from technological advances.

But throughout these disruptions, large-scale unemployment has typically been avoided: either machines could not do many of the innately human things people could do, or technology so drastically brought down costs that new markets were unlocked, in turn requiring more workers to serve new customers. Today, both these factors are playing out across sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa commands a meagre 1.5% share of the world’s total manufacturing output, and the low number of jobs available in manufacturing is, in part, leading to the growth of service-based employment. Technology is rapidly reducing the cost of serving consumers across industries as diverse as financial services, transportation, and hospitality – and is allowing products and services that were traditionally only accessed by the privileged few to reach a wide pool of new customers.

Greater internet and mobile penetration, the development of online market places, and changes in user and consumer behaviour are creating technology-enabled business models across the continent. It is precisely at this juncture that technology can be used to create job opportunities for Africa’s burgeoning youth population.

Read the full article on African Business Magazine.

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Building Resilient Health Systems Before the Next Crisis: Lessons from Ebola and Zika

By Julia Rohrer and Felipe Amaya Salazar

In the summer of 2014, the media exploded with headlines about a destructive and previously little-known disease: Ebola. Now, nearly a year after the last reported case, and with a new vaccine showing promise, the global health community seems to be breathing a sigh of relief that the epidemic is behind us.

Similarly, in May 2015 a Zika outbreak escalated quickly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In November 2016 the WHO reclassified this Zika outbreak from a public health emergency to a long term infectious disease threat. While the move was intended to heighten, rather than downgrade attention to the disease, some fear that it will decelerate international response to the virus, which continues to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Ebola and Zika may be fading from the headlines, but the gaps they revealed in the global health community’s ability to deal with crises must remain top of mind. The threat of infectious disease is more pressing than ever, with forces like climate change, urbanization, and poverty compounding both the frequency of epidemics and their impact on health systems. In this landscape, the reactive posture we’ve seen with Ebola and Zika cannot be the norm. We need to act now to build health system resilience: creating health systems that are equipped to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and adapt in the face of a broad range of shocks and stresses. The failures and successes of the Ebola and Zika responses reveal key lessons that can inform efforts to build resilience before the next crisis hits.

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Announcing the Results of the Cassava Innovation Challenge

NRI selected for an award of up to $500,000 to develop solution for increasing cassava shelf life, with the potential to enhance food security and increasing income for millions of farmers.

The Rockefeller Foundation, Dalberg, and IITA today announced the results of the Cassava Innovation Challenge, launched last year to uncover novel solutions for increasing cassava shelf life in Nigeria and the world. The organizers are awarding the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), based at the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, in partnership with Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria, with a grant of up to $500,000, along with technical assistance, to test and market a polythene bag with a built-in curing technology that will keep cassava fresh for at least eight days past harvest. The announcement was made at the first All Africa Post-Harvest Congress in Nairobi.

Cassava is critical for food security in Africa. It is the main source of nutrition for an estimated half of the continent’s population, or 500 million people. Yet this root crop has a very short shelf life, and if unprocessed it will spoil within 24-72 hours after harvesting – less if it is damaged during harvesting or transport. Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer, accounting for more than 20% of global production – more than 50 million tons annually, grown by nearly 30 million farmers, most of them with less than an acre of land.

Approximately 40% of this cassava is lost due to spoilage, a tremendous problem that limits farmer incomes and rural economic development, and one that stretches far beyond Nigeria’s borders as food spoilage and wastage affects the global economy and impacts greenhouse gas emissions.

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Leaders in Data for Development Join Dalberg

Dalberg Data Insights to help bridge the data gaps in global development

A lack of robust data is often a critical barrier to crafting evidence-based policy, directing resources effectively and designing programs to tackle important development challenges. The newly launched Dalberg Data Insights brings together two experienced organizations – Data-for-Good of Real Impact Analytics and the Dalberg Group – to help address this data gap and leverage data for social good.

Dalberg Data Insights combines the analytical power of the team behind Data-for-Good of Real Impact Analytics with the vast global development experience of Dalberg – a group of impact-driven businesses. By unlocking rich data sources from private companies such as mobile phone operators and creating specialized analytics, Dalberg Data Insights allows organizations to better target, implement, and evaluate their programs and initiatives. Dalberg Data Insights will expand the team’s work combining state-of-the-art analytics and an outstanding track record in collaborating with large donor organizations.


Prioritizing infrastructure investments by identifying which congested areas require expansion or additional traffic signaling

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A Simple, Painless Way Governments Can Help the Poor and the Environment

By Scott Strand and Felipe Amaya Salazar

Around 85 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) still cook with wood, charcoal and other solid fuels. These traditional cooking techniques have dire effects on users’ health, environment and productivity.

Traditional cookstoves are causing a quiet epidemic among the global poor. Household air pollution from cookstoves is the fourth-leading risk factor for disease globally, killing more people than malaria and tuberculosis. This epidemic falls heavily on women and children, traditionally those bound to household work and exposed to cookstove smoke day-in and day-out. Poor women also shoulder the literal burden of gathering wood fuel for cookstoves, devoting on average 1.3 hours a day to the task. Residential fuel burning is also a noted contributor to climate change, taking responsibility for 25 percent of global black carbon emissions, about 84 percent of which is from households in developing countries.

Haiti, Guatemala and Nicaragua have the highest solid fuel usage in the Latin American region with 93 percent, 64 percent and 54 percent of their respective populations still relying on them. Even though LAC has made progress – only 3 percent of people who use solid fuels to cook are in LAC – more needs to be done.

Why do people continue to use these harmful cooking methods? In short, because better cookstoves are priced out of reach.

Read the full article on Next Billion.

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Los Impuestos y Tarifas a Estufas Limpias Vulneran a los Más Pobres

Por Felipe Amaya Salazar

Existen alrededor de 85 millones de personas en América Latina y el Caribe (ALC) que todavía cocinan con madera, carbón y otros tipos de combustibles sólidos. Estos métodos tradicionales de cocina tienen efectos negativos en la salud de sus usuarios, el medio ambiente y la productividad.

Pero ¿por qué las personas continúan cocinando con estos métodos sabiendo que son dañinos? La respuesta corta es que las estufas limpias son muy caras para las personas más pobres.

Haití, Guatemala y Nicaragua tienen la proporción de usuarios más alta de combustibles sólidos en ALC, con el 93%, 64% y 54% de sus respectivas poblaciones todavía dependendiendo en ellas. A pesar que ALC ha logrado avances en reducir la cantidad de usuarios – sólo el 3% de la personas que usan combustibles sólidos para cocinar están en ALC – todavía hay campo para mejorar.

En la región, hay una alta correlación entre el uso de combustibles sólidos y los niveles de ingreso promedio, como lo ilustra la gráfica 1. Los combustibles sólidos, tales como la madera o el estiércol animal, son de fácil acceso ya que se encuentran en la naturaleza, haciéndolos baratos o hasta gratis. Para lograr que las estufas limpias remplacen a los combustibles sólidos, sus precios se deben calibrar para que sean asequibles a las personas con bajos ingresos. Avances en los mercados locales o innovaciones tecnológicas pueden ayudar a reducir sus precios; sin embargo, reducir impuestos y tarifas a estufas limpias es un primer paso más fácil y rápido, en esta dirección.

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A Group of Visionaries Turn a Dream into Reality

By Francine Ndong

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements of the Women’s Investment Club Senegal over the past year, and look forward to expanding the initiative across Francophone West Africa.

Who would have thought that a simple lunch meeting between businesswomen would lead to the launch of the Women’s Investment Club and boost the francophone West African financial sector?

When they met in March 2015, the founding members of Senegal’s Women’s Investment Club did not anticipate the impact this pioneering initiative for women would later have. wic2

Initial discussions revolved around a crucial question: “What have we being doing to support women entrepreneurs in Africa?” For a long time, the same response prevailed, “We help people who call on us individually, whether it’s for funds, advice, expertise…”

In time, though, these leading businesswomen wanted to do more: “So how can we ensure that we combine our efforts to create more meaningful impact?”

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Reimagining the Global Health Convening: What’s Next?

Fundamental shifts are changing global health as we know it, requiring diverse and disruptive groups of people from across sectors to collaborate on solutions. How can a “reimagined” convening most effectively bring these groups together to drive financing and innovation in global health?

A new report titled “Reimagining the Global Health Convening: What’s Next?” inspired by Johnson & Johnson and authored by the Global Development Incubator and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, features the perspectives of over 30 leading thinkers across sectors – from a sustainable finance leader at J.P. Morgan to a social entrepreneur increasing access to medical oxygen in Kenya – on this question.

2016 in particular saw major changes in the global health convening space, as one critical convening – the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) – wound down, and other new models of convening were tested, including the Financing & Innovation in Global Health (FIGH) forum, supported by Johnson & Johnson and other leading partners.

Together, the void left by CGI and our learnings from FIGH give the global health community the opportunity to step back and consider thoughtfully how to build a better convening. In reflecting on this opportunity, report interviewees shared a common sense of urgency around the need to set catalytic, transformative change in motion. Among other themes, they shared:

  • The best convenings avoid becoming echo chambers – a truly diverse group of perspectives in one place can go a long way
  • Neglected health challenges benefit enormously from the “stage and spotlight” convenings can offer, especially if events can facilitate connections to new resources
  • Openness around failures and lessons learned is critical to a productive convening – safe spaces should be interspersed with opportunities for visibility

It is the report authors’ hope that future convenings can incorporate these and other interview perspectives to more effectively activate participants for change. What do you think a reimagined global health convening should look like? Share your thoughts on Twitter using #FutureConvening.

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