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Sahara Group Unveils “Look To The Book Initiative” To Boost Reading Culture

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In commemoration of the World Book Day on Thursday 7th March 2019, Sahara Group is set to introduce the “Look to the Book” initiative to boost the reading culture amongst youths across Africa. In a world dominated by various smart devices and a fast declining appetite for reading, Sahara Group seeks to make books appealing through sundry collaborations with Sahara Foundation and its partners.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (UIS), about 617 million children and adolescents globally are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. This signals “a learning crisis” according to the UIS, which could threaten progress towards achieving the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the single largest number of 202 million children and adolescents who are not learning these fundamental subjects.  According to the data – two thirds of the kids who are not learning are in school. The data suggests the new numbers are rooted in three common problems. First, lack of access, with children who are out of school having little or no chance to reach a minimum level of proficiency. Second, a failure to retain every child in school and keep them on track, and third, the issue of the quality of education being delivered in the classroom.

Over the years, Sahara Group has invested in the building and renovation of libraries across Africa while organizing school reading programmes anchored by volunteer staff as well as regional and global organisations. Speaking on the initiative, Manager of Sahara Foundation, Mr. Oluseyi Ojurongbe said “The World Book Day is marked in more than 100 countries and it is a UNESCO initiative that aims to celebrate the value of books and reading, especially among young people today. We will be driving the “Look to the Book” initiative by encouraging Sahara staff to volunteer towards book reading activities across our host communities and donate towards ensuring more access to books for less privileged children. The initiative will also seek to connect such communities with established publishers and charities with focus of enhancing access to books. This will help reduce the book penetration gap across Africa.’’

Library at Pugu Secondary School, Tanzania upgraded by Sahara Foundation
Library at Pugu Secondary School, Tanzania upgraded by Sahara Foundation

Sahara Group’s Head of Corporate Communications Bethel Obioma said: “At Sahara Group we believe that books have the potential to shape and transform lives and ultimately, empower the minds that will be making crucial decisions across the globe. We are confident the initiative will inspire a new wave of innovation and inspiration among African youths.”

Some of the library projects recently implemented by Sahara Foundation include: Pugu Secondary school Library Tanzania and UMC Primary school Library Ibadan- Nigeria.

Sahara staff volunteers at the Read to Me Project
Sahara staff volunteers at the Read to Me Project

This year Sahara Foundation will be renovating libraries in some of our host communities and providing reading materials to children in communities where books are scarce. The goal of this intervention is to encourage children and adults to look to the book as a source of inspiration and the wings they need to soar into the future they desire.

NGOs - SDGs

Nestlé launches RE Pilot Project to empower informal waste reclaimers in Tembisa, Gauteng

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In celebration of National Recycling Week and Let’s Do It World Clean-up Day 2021, Nestlé East & Southern Africa Region joined forces with Kudoti, a waste tech start-up, to launch its ‘RE-Imagine Tomorrow’ pilot project in Tembisa to demonstrate how the circular economy is a viable solution for tackling the waste problem.

By working with Kudoti and Destination Green, the implementation partner and buy back centre, Nestlé will enable 100 waste reclaimers to use technology to track the amount of waste collected and find buyers through Kudoti’s technology platform and network. The waste collectors will be empowered and trained on how to make an income and will receive a monthly stipend through a subsidy by Nestlé.  Training will include business and finance education to equip the waste reclaimers to further boost their incomes along with the provision of physical resources such as protective gear.  One of the other elements contributed by Nestlé will be the purchase of a forklift to further assist the operation in the long run.

The ‘RE-Imagine Tomorrow’ pilot project will be a phased intervention for the community of Mqantsa, Tembisa. The beginning of the phase is about awakening a focused increase of waste collection through the informal waste reclaimers. Engage will include educating the community on rethinking their relationship with waste and reducing their own waste footprint.  Finally, the sustain phase will bring to life repurposing by creating beauty out of waste for the benefit of the community through public furniture created from the waste collected. The circular economy model aims to use waste streams as secondary resources and recover waste for reuse and recycling. This approach is expected to achieve efficient economic growth while minimising negative environmental impact.

Saint-Francis Tohlang, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director at Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR),adds . “Informal waste reclaimers play an important role in the management of waste. It is important that we appreciate their role as heroes and find ways in which we can empower them further as we strive for a waste free future. This pilot project is part of our broader RE sustainability initiative which focuses on the pillars of rethink reduce and repurpose. Through working with a tech start-up, waste collectors, recyclers and the community, we believe we are engaging key stakeholders in the waste management cycle to be able to RE-imagine tomorrow. We hope that through this pilot project our partners and the community of Tembisa will see that there are opportunities that can be found in what we see as waste.”

The RE initiative encourages society to RETHINK, REDUCE and REPURPOSE. The RETHINK pillar is about encouraging broader society to rethink its relationship with the environment. Nestlé will educate the public about ways to change their behaviour to serve the environment through responsible practices such as recycling. The REDUCE pillar highlights Nestlé’s commitment towards reducing its environmental impact to zero carbon emissions by 2030. Lastly, the REPURPOSE pillar focuses on upcycling and reusing materials which are crucial to driving a circular economy.

“Through this initiative, we hope to drive a paradigm shift by formulating and implementing solutions that will safeguard the environment. We hope that initiatives such as RE will encourage people not only in Tembisa, but across the country, to play their part and RETHINK, REDUCE and REPURPOSE,” concluded Tohlang.

Members of the community and over 20 waste reclaimers, along with Nestlé, Kudoti, Destination Green and members of the media took part in a clean-up in Mqantsa, Tembisa on the day to strengthen its collective contribution to a waste-free future for the community.

 

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NGOs - SDGs

Innovative partnerships needed to tackle climate related disasters

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Drought Image (Supplied)

The devastating crisis in Madagascar sounds a stark warning of the need to take urgent action for Africa according to Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, Director General of the African Risk Capacity Group.

“Drought may well be the next pandemic after COVID-19 and there’s no vaccine to cure it.” If the words of Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction don’t compel us to take immediate action, Africa will continue to bear the scars of barren wastelands caused by climate change-induced drought. Southern Africa, East Africa, the Horn of Africa and now Madagascar are just the start. The short-term solution to building resilience requires a multi-faceted approach involving both private and public sectors, says Diong.

“Our affiliate, ARC Ltd, which recently received a BBB+ Insurer Financial Strength rating from Fitch, works with governments, NGOs and funders to provide customised parametric insurance. This  empowers African governments and NGOs to respond swiftly to natural disasters on the continent, but there’s a lot of work that needs to go into building distribution networks to ensure that we can reach as many people as possible. We need to build a coalition of the private and public sector,” Diong adds.

While governments are key in dealing with resilience to climate change, it’s the ability of the private sector to take action that will make all the difference, he says.

“Partnerships should extend beyond governments. The private sector is an essential partner for leveraging funding and experience demonstrates that private-sector entities are capable of rapidly taking up opportunities when and if these make sense from a business angle.”

There are several examples where a collaborative approach is already working well. Diong cites ARC Group’s partnerships with organisations such as the Start Network and World Food Programme (WFP), and funders such as the German Development Bank, UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and African Development Bank which are working to provide that resilience for African countries.

Shifting the disaster risk architecture

Emily Jones, as Climate and Disaster Risk Financing Advisor for WFP, highlights the challenges of convincing authorities to be more proactive than reactive when preventing human suffering and hardship when events like drought occur.

“Unfortunately, no one person or organisation can make the necessary shift alone. Change starts with building resilience and insurance plays a significant role in that, particularly in climate change,” says Jones.

Governments pay a premium every year and receive their agreed-upon pay-out if and when a predicted disaster occurs. “This money can then be used to help those people affected, with the remainder of the pay-out going towards covering other consequences that might not have been expected, such as conflict or a loss of progress in terms of important local development projects,” she says.

“Humanitarians are working on highlighting the need to predict crises and act before they manifest in an effort to avoid human suffering. After all, why wait if you don’t have to?”

Jones speaks about how most authorities in African countries perceive insurance as a gamble when it should rather be seen as a risk management tool. Unfortunately, many simply don’t have the necessary tools available to plan, which is where ARC comes in.

“It’s amazing that ARC Limited is offering this type of insurance. However, insurance is really only cost-effective for catastrophic events that happen infrequently – perhaps once every 10 years – and if the governments that they’re selling the insurance to don’t have other solutions, they’re going to be taking out insurance that’s less than optimal,” Jones explains.

“So, something that WFP, ARC, and the African Development Bank wants to work on in the coming years is a risk-layering approach. This would involve introducing other tools for coping with those medium-scale events so that we can optimise ARC and hopefully offer better products, as well as ensure improved buy-in, a greater understanding of the products’ importance, and a track record of success,” she adds.

Responding swiftly to natural disasters

Since ARC Limited was established in 2014, the company has paid out $65-million in drought-relief efforts to seven different countries.

“In particular, the collaboration between the African Development Bank and ARC shows how coming together makes a major difference. In 2020, the ARC drought-relief pay-outs to Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Côte d’Ivoire totalled $6-million,” says Diong.

Madagascar received a payment of over $2,1-million, which was allocated to food assistance for 15,000 households, nutritional support to 2,000 children and 1,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women, and water supplies to over 84,000 households.

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Reaching the most vulnerable, however, is difficult, adds Malvern Chirume, Chief Underwriting Officer ARC Limited.  “One of the big challenges is access to the final customer, bearing in mind that most of our beneficiaries of the programmes are small- to medium-scale farmers and therefore it’s not cost-effective to access them one at a time.” 

With climate change, we can expect extreme weather events to hit harder and more frequently in coming years. In a 1.5 degree warmer world, there is no doubt that drought will be a more regular event.

The GAR Special Report on Drought 2021 launched earlier this year is a call to action: we must act now if we are to meet the goals of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and create a safer, more resilient, risk-proofed future for all.

“Drought is not something that hits us suddenly, nor something that we can quarantine our way out of. Drought manifests over months, years, sometimes decades, and the results are felt just as long. Drought exhibits and exacerbates the social and economic inequalities that are deep-rooted within our systems and hits the most vulnerable the hardest,” says Chirume.

“While we may not be able to prevent it, we can certainly be prepared to deal with its impact by building resilience and providing swift support to those who are left vulnerable.”

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Corporate Citizenship

Fawry, AWEF, Unilever and LEAD Foundation celebrate the continued success of the “Heya Fawry” initiative

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In line with its mission to empower Egyptian women, the leading digital transformation and e-payment network Fawry has just announced the expansion of the Heya Fawry initiative to increase poor and disadvantaged women’s access to life-enhancing digital financial services and greater economic opportunities.

Now on its third consecutive year, Heya Fawry’s expansion was made possible thanks to cross-sector collaboration between Fawry, Unilever, Lead Foundation and funding support from the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) via the Arab Women’s Entreprise Fund Program (AWEF). The initiative aims to help women gain access to greater job opportunities by becoming Heya Fawry agents, while providing life-enhancing financial services to predominantly unbanked female customers. Ultimately, Heya Fawry creates new revenue streams for low-income women who can now further contribute to their household’s income well-being while participating to the Egyptian economy.

“We are pleased with the great continued success that Heya Fawry has achieved, as well as its contribution to improve the conditions of low-income and disadvantaged women in Egypt.” We also stand with the Egyptian government to accelerate digital transformation and promote financial inclusion said Ahmed Fahmy, Head of Partnerships at Fawry.

“While AWEF may have served as a catalyst to promote women’s economic empowerment and inclusion, it was only due to the commitment, vision and dedication of its partners that the “Heya Fawry” initiative has reached this level of success,” said Yomna Mustafa, Country Director at AWEF.

Islam Abdel-Raouf, Alexandria regional sales and Emerging Channels Sector Manager at Unilever, said that “Unilever is proud to participate in this distinguished initiative for the third year in a row. Unilever provides products to Heya Fawry agents, but we also work on developing their marketing & management capabilities, to ensure sustainable incomes.

As part of the second phase of the initiative, Heya Fawry was joined by Lead Foundation, a preeminent Egyptian Microfinance Institution, which designed a dedicated Heya Fawry Microfinance Program and avails microloans to selected beneficiaries, via digital means “Believing in our mission to provide poor & low-income entrepreneurs, with sustainable access to quality microfinance services that address their needs, Lead Foundation saw in Heya Fawry a great opportunity that will suit the needs of ambitious female micro entrepreneurs who work from home or manage a shop.” added Sandy Salama, Marketing and Communications Manager at Lead Foundation.

The first phase of the initiative built upon synergies between four “Core Partners”, Fawry, AWEF, AXA Insurance who offered medical and life insurance services free of charge for 3 years, as well as Unilever, who trained Heya Fawry agents to become successful retailers of well-known home care, beauty and food brands.

To date, the initiative successfully provided more than 300 job opportunities for female agents who allowed thousands of unbanked consumers, predominantly female, to conduct approximately 300 thousand e-payment transactions (of a total value worth EGP 10 million). The initiative offered support to Egyptian women in the poorest areas in Cairo, Giza, Assiut, Fayoum and Minya, by financing the initial capital needed to become an Fawry agent and raising their capabilities as micro-entrepreneurs. The initiative not only seeks to enhance women’s digital and financial skills but also their ability to successfully manage projects, secure profits and expand their networks.

Ultimately, this initiative is in line with Egypt’s strategy and 2030 vision to aid small investors and traders and boost the plan of digital transformation and financial inclusion. Going forward, Heya Fawry partners also announced their plan to expand the scope of work available in order to include more women under the next Heya Fawry iteration.

 

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