4 Businesses Helping Africa’s Children During The Pandemic

Coronavirus has hit Africa a little differently to Europe or the United States. Infection levels have not been as high (thankfully) and death rates have (thankfully) been lower also, possibly because the demographic of Africa is younger. However, that’s not to say the children of Africa haven’t suffered. Schools have been closed, lockdown orders disrupt children’s socialisation and food insecurity has been increased. As the numbers of vaccinations in Africa increase and the continent starts to (hopefully) get out the other side of the pandemic, here is a look at some of the businesses who’ve helped contribute to get Africa’s children through these challenging times.

Eco-Warriors

Launched in 2019 by developers Panda & Wolf, who’ve previously given us the innovative Discover Mauritius platform, Eco-Warriors is Africa’s first mobile game to be granted UNESCO patronage. Children play a series of levels, completing eco-friendly quests such as planting coral, or sorting recycling, meeting and finding out about native animals along the way. The kicker that helps both the children and the community is the Eco-Warriors comic book. Kids can get the comic book monthly by collecting 5kg of recyclable household waste – glass, plastics and cans are the most common items. From there, Panda & Wolf compile a report of waste tracking and carbon emissions to manufacturers in the relevant region. Manufacturers can use that info to (hopefully) look at how to reduce their packaging waste, with the benefit being that it’ll also help them reduce their carbon taxes. That, along with the UNESCO backing has made many local corporations very interested in the project.

The game is now played by over 250,000 children and has expanded from Mauritius into Reunion, Rodrigues and Madagascar. Panda & Wolf have eyes on South Africa for their next market, as they believe the increase in carbon tax in 2019 has taken its toll on businesses – combined with the pandemic effects also, it’s not hard to see that many firms will want to reduce their emissions taxes wherever possible. For the children, the late 2019 launch, just before the pandemic hit has been fortuitously timed. While school is disrupted Eco-Warriors has given them a chance to keep learning, with sustainable living being one of the most important lessons we have today.

The Lunchbox Fund

The Lunchbox Fund’s aims are simple: to provide a nutritious lunch at school, to children who would otherwise go without, across 9 provinces in South Africa. The benefits are two-fold as they encourage children to attend school, and to help them maximise their time there. Poor nutrition leads to poor concentration levels which leads to almost half of South African schoolchildren dropping out of school before they reach grade 12. The Lunchbox Fund estimates the unemployment rate for South Africans who haven’t completed high school as between 40% – 70%.

Coronavirus posed a particular problem to The Lunchbox Fund – if children are not at school, it’s logistically more difficult to get meals to them. Still, while schools were closed during the pandemic, they served almost 23 million meals to nearly 900,000 children. Now that they’ve pivoted back to serving food in schools, they can scale back up, allowing them to deliver sustaining meals at impressively efficient cost. The meals cost R2.81 for one serving of breakfast, and R3.60 for lunch.

The Lunchbox Fund work in the areas where they’re most needed just now, primarily Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, with a strong presence in Mpumulanga and Gauteng, too. Their ultimate aim is to have the project cover the entirety of South Africa. Famously, their chief patron is Archbishop Tutu. On their advisory boards both in SA and abroad, they have the likes of author Salman Rushdie, retailer Hanneli Rupert and actor Joaquin Phoenix advocating for the organisation. With profiles like that, surely they’ll reach their end goal soon.

Bridge International Academies

Operating in Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia and Uganda (as well as in Andhra Pradesh state in India), BIA Schools has been creating solutions for pandemic remote learning where technology at home may be limited. For example, the Bridge@Homepackage includes free WhatsApp quizzes and tests, which need no more than a mobile phone with 2G data to access and complete. Bridge International Academies teach the national curriculum of each country they operate in, with a focus on preparing children to succeed in their relevant national exams. 2020 saw 71% of girls in Northern Uganda Bridge schools achieve Division 1 and 2 grades in the Ugandan PLE, compared to 40% nationally. In 2021, Bridge students in Nigeria (Lagos, Osun, Edo and Borno states) outperformed the national merit rate for the Nigerian national common entrance exam by 37%. – the third consecutive year of Bridge International Academies’ students gaining exceptional scores, according to Education Innovations.

Remote learning works for Bridge as they use their in-school model of direct learning, where educators download and teach the curriculum from e-readers, and read from a tablet. The efficiency of the program means that teachers can be onboarded quicker, and become experts in their curriculum rapidly. Instead of having children learn by rote, lessons are structured with problems being broken down into manageable steps, allowing teachers to pinpoint exactly where a pupil is making a mistake. Remote assignments are similarly bite-size, taking children 10-15 minutes to complete. These enable teachers to be able to quickly identify where a child is grasping or not grasping the task at hand, enabling them to support or correct instantly, even when not inside the classroom.

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Alive and Kicking

UK headquartered social enterprise Alive And Kicking has been, well, alive and kicking since 2004. They make vibrantly designed sports balls, including footballs, volleyballs and netballs, hand-stitched at their facilities in Kenya, Ghana and Zambia. Currently, they’re the only sports ball manufacturer in Africa.

High-quality products command premium prices in European markets with an Alive And Kicking football selling in Great Britain from £30 to £100. These funds are then used to pay staff in the factories, to donate balls to schools, children’s homes and disadvantaged community groups who typically wouldn’t be able to buy the balls themselves. Alive And Kicking also employ coaches and outreach workers to teach the children not only about football, but about welfare and health issues. Between 2004 and 2019 they’ve created more than 1,000 jobs in sub-Saharan Africa, paying wages that are able to support a family of 6 and putting in excess of £5m into their local economies. They estimate 75% of their employees use their wages to gain access for their dependents, and many of their workers are young people themselves – for 90% of Alive And Kicking hires, it’s their first experience of formal work.

While the pandemic has unfortunately curtailed their manufacturing operations according to local regulations, they have not been resting on their laurels, developing new training drills and a mental health curriculum that can be used by coaches. And over 200,000 donated footballs will keep children healthy and happy through the pandemic and beyond.

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