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Angola to Hold First Diamond Auction



Angola is planning to hold its first diamond auction this week, inviting around 35 companies to bid for seven stones as the world’s fifth largest producer moves to make the sector more lucrative for producers and the state.

The stones, selected for their rare quality and size, were produced by the Lulo project operated by Australia-listed Lucapa in the northeastern province of Lunda Norte.

“It’s our conviction that the final result of this auction will show to our society and the wider world our total commitment to transparency and innovation in the commercialization of diamonds in Angola,” Minister of Mineral Resources Diamantino Azevedo said on Monday.

The auction on Thursday will use a sealed system by which interested parties submit their offers electronically without knowing what others have bid. This model is proven to garner the highest price, Azevedo said.

The new system, part of wider reforms in the commercialization of diamonds in Angola, has been welcomed by producers who long complained they were not getting fair value for their stones.

Producers were previously obliged to sell through an opaque government marketing system to buyers selected by the Angolan state, a process they said resulted in prices well below international levels.

Angola has vowed to increase diamond production and per carat value, aiming to become a top 3 producer by 2021, as part of an attempt to diversify its economy away from a dependence on oil. -Reuters

-Stephen Eisenhammer

Current Affairs

Is Covid-19 Africa’s Gender Pandemic?



Women in Kenya are being encouraged that it’s safe to seek medical services even during Covid-19; picture from Concern Worldwide

From New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, Covid-19 has been shining a light on women and paving the way for new thinking in global leadership. But, in Africa, has it been so? A look through the gender lens of the pandemic.

In March, shortly after Liberia confirmed its first case of Covid-19, Cornelia Kruah-Togba got to work. The 30-year-old women’s rights advocate was alarmed by the devastation the Ebola outbreak wreaked in her hometown, Monrovia, back in 2014. This time around, she was determined not to leave anything to chance.

“During Ebola, [public] doubt led to a lot of people dying so we had to make sure that our people were getting involved in this fight early on. We set up a coronavirus ‘taskforce’, identifying major intersections where most people gathered and set up hand-washing stations, in addition to executing a counter-conspiracy campaign. There has been a lot to do to help people realize that this is a genuine threat and that they should act accordingly.”

Kruah-Togba’s fast action and considered strategy have had an impact. New cases in the Liberian capital have been on a downward trend since July. Her initiative, even at community-level, is no different from those celebrated in Taiwan, Germany and South Korea. In each of these countries, women leaders have been credited with containing and even, in the case of Jacinda Ardern’s Premiership in New Zealand, completely eradicating Covid-19.

While we have to be careful not to generalize that these outcomes have purely been a result of having women at the helm, they remain legacies of their leadership.

In stark contrast, similar examples have been slow to emerge in Africa. Many, like Kruah-Togba, are working in localized contexts, far from the glare of mainstream media.

But what about women in public view? Why are they missing in our stories of the pandemic?

Madjiguene Sock is a Partner at Dalberg Advisors in Senegal and has been advising African governments and public health institutions during Covid-19

We have a lot of work to do [in order] to make leadership and decision-making in the ‘war room’ more gendered.”

Women are on a number of the continent’s policy-making tables, says Madjiguene Sock, Partner at Dalberg Advisors, a global consultancy firm in Dakar, Senegal. Working in an advisory capacity with a number of public health organizations around the continent, she has observed that, while women may be in positions of power, they are often forced to take a back-seat during crises like Covid-19.

“The face of the emergency response institutions in the countries [that I’ve worked in] have been 100% male. However, women continue to be very present, for example, in the Ministry of Health… but in terms of the response, where it’s more military-like, men tend to be in [leadership] positions.

“We have a lot of work to do [in order] to make leadership and decision-making in the ‘war room’ more gendered,” she notes.

Indeed, it is quite paradoxical that African women have a concerted role in peacetime yet are sidelined in emergencies. However, the recent Ebola crisis has inspired action.

“We started paying attention to gender because of Ebola. The Minister of Health in Senegal, at the time, was a woman and so were many others in the region. But [back then], gender was not the question. [With Covid-19], we have been thinking about setting up EOCs [Emergency Operation Centers] with gender in mind. Something interesting is that the decisions being made in terms of setting up these EOCs have been made by women. But once we set up these platforms, we revert back to masculine leadership,” says Sock.

Gendered responses to the pandemic, and similar crises, are far greater than representation. They also impact outcomes.

In April, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, urged the world’s governments and policy-makers to prioritize women and girls in Covid-19 policies. This is because they represent a majority of the pandemic’s victims, not in terms of mortality, but economically and socially, simply by virtue of their gender.

A month after Guterres’ injunction, female politicians from seven African countries gathered in an African Union teleconference to discuss ways to enhance their leadership in the Covid-19 response.

The meeting was chaired by Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, and Kenya’s Raychelle Awuor Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, supported by UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J Mohammed from Nigeria.

They all agreed that, given the adverse impact on women, the deficits in gendered leadership, and the rise of women on the frontlines of the pandemic, a profound paradigm shift on the continent was needed. The meeting underscored the fact that business cannot, and should not, continue as usual.

However, commitment alone is not enough. The conditions that make inclusion possible are quite complex. Based in Nairobi, public health practitioner, Lolem Ngong, an American with enduring Cameroonian roots, is Chief of Staff at Amref Health Africa, an NGO committed to improving healthcare systems across the continent. In her view, leadership within the sector varies widely, especially through the gender lens.

“I think women in public health crave to see other women around the table, they want to make sure that the voice of frontline workers [who are mostly women] are represented and that they’re working to create a better life for the communities that they serve. This spirit drives leadership [in the sector]. It’s not to say that men [in public health] don’t do this but I think the experience of men is quite different. They have either been in authoritative positions or seen other men in similar positions and this drives a certain style of leadership,” posits Ngong.

However, even within public health, there isn’t a prescriptive feminine, ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of leadership.

For Ngong, her own role during this pandemic has been particularly varied given the evolving situation.

“Building on the work of dedicated colleagues at Amref, my role has mostly revolved around trying to streamline processes, strategy and advising on issues. During this pandemic we all work unusual hours, it could be 6AM to 11PM… it’s intense, but it’s part of our commitment and it’s leadership. As a leader in this pandemic, I have found that I’ve really had to draw on a lot of my skills and introspect,” she says.

Beyond differing approaches, there is also a major blind-spot in gender responses to Covid-19, and similar crises, in Africa.

“We can throw out numbers when talking about [female] representation [in Africa] across the board. But the truth is, within public health, we just don’t have the data. This points to why our policies are so gender-blind. What do you use to inform policy? You need data!”

“Covid-19 has undone almost a year’s worth of work. In parts of northern Kenya, families are taking advantage of the prolonged period that kids have been at home to perform FGM in the cover of darkness.”

The lack of gender-specific data points to why even growing female representation, even at the higher level, is still having lacklustre results for women on the ground, particularly during this pandemic.

Nevertheless, there have been coordinated efforts from women, in other sectors of society, to safeguard those affected by these policies.

Amina Abdulla is Country Director at Concern Worldwide, a global NGO operating in Kenya. Since the start of the pandemic, she’s noticed that progress made on women’s rights issues, such as eradicating child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), has been eroding.

“Covid-19 has undone almost a year’s worth of work. In parts of northern Kenya, families are taking advantage of the prolonged period that kids have been at home to perform FGM in the cover of darkness. [With curfew], there is limited activity from 7PM onwards [so] that is when they [choose to] perform this on their girls,” she says.

Culturally, within these communities, once a girl undergoes this form of mutilation, she is considered ready for marriage.

Therefore, increasing incidents of FGM heavily correlates to reciprocal trends in child marriage. Once a girl is married off, she often loses her right to education. Given the economic uncertainty set off by the pandemic, this has been seen as a means to an end for many households.

“Families would be looking for a suitor for these girls because it’s one less mouth to feed and it’s also a way for income or assets to come to the [home]. But this also means there’s one girl less in school, one more child mother, and all the risks that come with it. The cycle of poverty continues with this single act.”

Other gender issues that have been prevalent during the pandemic have to do with domestic violence, job loss, forced sex work as well as declining access to maternal health facilities which has led to more fatalities.

To support women and girls, Abdulla’s organization has partnered with the European Union (EU) to provide vulnerable households, in informal settlements across Kenya, with cash transfers for several months so they can build resilience against Covid-19, along with a host of other interventions.

“We opted for cash because it gives [them] choices. It allows them the agency to make decisions on how to spend that money and provide for themselves within their preferences. We’re [also] working with the Ministry of Health to help build back confidence in the community that it’s safe for mothers and children to seek medical services,” she explains.

Back in Liberia, which has had a recent legacy of strong female leadership, young women like Kruah-Togba, have also stepped in to support those affected by prevailing Covid-19 policy mandates.

Suma Massaley directs volunteers as they prepare for a Covid-19 food drive in Monrovia

Suma Massaley and Benita Urey are two of them.

For 24-year-old Massaley, supporting the elderly was critical. With a bulk of Monrovia’s population living below the poverty line and a considerable majority dependent on the informal sector for an income, the elderly became a high-risk group not only in their susceptibility to Covid-19 but also due to the fact that they had no welfare state to rely on. Through social media, she managed to raise $12,885 to support them.

“I was concerned for elderly folks who are dependent on their children, [many of whom] lost their jobs because of the lockdown or whose businesses had to come to a halt. When we raised our first $2,000, I posted on social media asking Liberians to recommend communities that needed the most help. We are giving each household a bag of rice, a gallon of oil [and] a package of toiletries,” she says.

She says that mentorship from Liberian women in public service including Nobel Laureate and peace activist, Leymah Gbowee, who is credited for having a hand in ending the Civil War in 2003, was pivotal in her project.

“If I didn’t have strong women to look up to, I wouldn’t have dared to take on such a challenge. When I first thought of the idea, I called Leymah and told her [about it]. She was really supportive and mentored me through it all.”

Urey also took on an unexpected role in community leadership with her project ‘Package for Hope’, distributing food parcels to the country’s rural communities.

“Many Liberians live on the money they’ve made during the day, so [when] the State of Emergency was put in place, a majority of them found it extremely hard to make the income they were used to,” she explains.

Through online fundraisers, Urey was able to raise $1,000 and 20 bags of rice within an hour. Eventually, she managed to collect over $3,500 in donations. Living in Monrovia, she felt that the funds would be better served in remote communities, far from the capital. Urey, too, has been inspired by the women she has seen in political leadership and is now paying it forward.

“Although we had a female President for 12 years in Liberia, women joining politics is still something many Liberians don’t want to see. However, women continue to make a huge impact… I always like to take the path that best fits me and [this has led to other] promising young Liberian girls reaching out to me [asking me] to teach them,” she says.

From their example, we can conclude that, at least in Liberia, women have been at the forefront of national Covid-19 response albeit unofficially. However what about the women who are looking to make an impact in future crises?

“Although we had a female President for 12 years in Liberia, women joining politics is still something many Liberians don’t want to see.”

Oyindamola Adefisayo, from Nigeria, is a PhD candidate at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City.

She’s seen the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic in the American metropolis and has studied the country’s responses to it, but she has also had her eye on movements back home where she hopes to return after her studies.

However, she is realistic about her options.

“Outside of the few women who have been able to break through ranks and serve politically, I honestly do not see a clear career path for leadership roles in policy outside of taking the NGO route. While there are some astounding women working to make changes in science and public health in Africa, there are simply not enough who are visible to [those of] us who want to follow this career path,” she admits.

Taking the broader view, Sock, in Senegal, argues that while African women in leadership may not be visible, they are effective.

“Policy takes time and I find women are more patient. When the Ebola crisis was no longer an emergency, I saw more women stick with it, [even though] it was no longer in front of the cameras. Already with Covid-19, women [leaders] are engaging with scenarios post-crisis on how to continue strengthening emergency response systems, for example. Women have the ability to think more broadly for their communities. We need to see more of this not only in emergency responses but also in public health leadership,” she insists.

However, in Kenya, Ngong is more positive in her assessment.

“I really think the outlook is bright for women in leadership. I’ve had young women between the ages of 19 to 21 [recently] contact me on becoming their mentor. That, to me, is really inspiring. It could be due to Covid-19 that public health is [becoming] really popular. I think we’ll definitely be seeing shifts in the next five years because of this,” she predicts.

Nonetheless, Adefisayo feels more can be done for the young women looking to join and, hopefully, lead the sector.

“I am inspired by the number of women [that] I see making a great effort in changing the narrative around public health and science policy. However, this effort often seems stifled, more by the lack of interest and commitment to making the necessary changes by government.

“Creating visibility for women involved by building networks could be a feasible way of inspiring the next generation and teaching [them] the lessons [already] learned,” she argues.

While Covid-19 has reignited a silent debate on the role of African women in public health policy, its greatest lessons may lie in what is missing, insists Ngong.

“We have to have data systems! As we start talking about vaccine trials and preparedness for access, my biggest worry is what data we’re going to use in African countries. In terms of gender, we’ll need data to understand which groups we’re going to prioritize.”

As the debate blares on, the conclusion to be made is that women are the beating, but unsung, heart of the continent’s public health systems.

Ensuring that they are not only acknowledged but that their voices are heard during this pandemic, and in those to come, is a kindness long overdue.

– By Marie Shabaya

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Current Affairs

Facebook Reports Slower Q2 Advertising Growth While Google Reveals A Rare Revenue Decline




The headwinds of Covid-19’s economic impact in the second quarter were strong enough to slow down even the ad-funded tech giants.

In its second-quarter results released on July 30, Facebook reported $18.7 billion in revenue, an increase of 11% despite the slowdown of advertising spend as marketers navigate the ongoing crisis. The results included $18.3 billion in ad revenue, a 10% year-over-year increase. Revenue from other operations totaled $366 million, up 40% from second-quarter 2019.

While Facebook maintained growth during the second quarter, its advertising rival Google did not. Around the same time that Facebook released its results, Google’s parent company Alphabet reported a rare decline in revenue, falling 2% year-over-year to $38.3 billion. Revenue from Google Search and other areas totaled $21.3 billion, down from $23.6 billion in second-quarter 2019. However, ad revenue on YouTube increased 6% to $3.8 billion, which the company said was driven by direct-response advertising.

In a statement, Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Alphabet and Google, said revenues were “driven by gradual improvement in our ads business and strong growth in Google Cloud and Other Revenues.”

“We continue to navigate through a difficult global economic environment,” she said.

Both Facebook and Google have been known for their steady and massive quarterly growth despite concerns from advertisers, consumers and regulators around issues such as data privacy and content moderation. In 2019, Facebook reported revenue growth of 28% in the second quarter, 28% in the third quarter, and 25% in the fourth quarter. Revenue then grew just 17% in the first quarter of 2020 during the final three months before the pandemic prompted many advertisers to either pause or slow spending on various digital and traditional platforms.

Google’s growth story has been somewhat similar. Year-over-year revenue grew 17% in the first quarter of 2019, 19% in the second quarter, 20% in the third quarter, 17% in the fourth quarter before slowing to 13% in the first quarter of 2020.

On an earnings call today with analysts, Porat said advertising revenue “gradually improved” through the quarter with a “modest” improvement already in July.

“We do believe it’s premature to say we’re out of the woods, given the fragile nature of the economic environment,” she said.

The results come at a time of turmoil for the ad industry during the pandemic. In late June, marketing research firm eMarketer said it expected U.S. digital ad investment to increase just 1.7% this year—or $2.2 billion—compared to the previous growth estimate of 17%, or $22 billion. However, the slowed spending should be no surprise. In fact, during the early weeks of the crisis back in March, a survey of 400 media buyers found that 74% thought the pandemic would have a larger impact on ad spend than the 2008 financial crisis.

Facebook and Alphabet—along with other tech giants like Amazon and Apple—also have been under increased scrutiny by lawmakers. On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai along with the CEOs of Apple and Amazon spent the entire afternoon testifying to members of Congress. While the hearing was meant to focus on issues of antitrust, the four executives also touched on other issues ranging including data privacy, content moderation, and political influence.

While ad revenues were slower over the past three months, engagement was not. According to Facebook, engage on Facebook’s properties in terms of daily active users (DAUs) and monthly active users (MAUs) also increased in the second quarter, with DAUs increasing 12% year-over-year to 1.79 billion and MAUs increasing 12% to 2.7 billion. Across its “family” of apps—which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp—DAUs totaled an average of 2.47 billion for June 2020, an increase of 15% over the same period last year. The family monthly average was 3.14 billion in June—up 14% year-over-year.

According to a Facebook statement about its results, the growth in usage reflects “increased engagement as people around the world sheltered in place and used our products to connect with the people and organizations they care about.” However, the company said it’s recently seen “signs of normalization” as lockdown measures around the world have eased. Meanwhile, total ad impressions in the second quarter increased 40% although the average ad price decreased.

“Our business has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, like all companies, we are facing a period of unprecedented uncertainty in our business outlook,” Facebook said in a statement about its quarterly results. “We expect our business performance will be impacted by issues beyond our control, including the duration and efficacy of shelter-in-place orders, the effectiveness of economic stimuli around the world, and the fluctuations of currencies relative to the U.S. dollar.”

In July, Facebook has also dealt with a boycott over its practices and policies around moderating hate speech on the platform. The boycott—organized by civil rights groups including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League—has been joined by hundreds of larger and smaller advertisers. Addressing the boycott on an earnings call with analysts, Zuckerberg said the company has agreed to an audit by the Media Ratings Council, and added that he’s “often troubled by the calls to go after internet advertising, especially during a time of such economic turmoil like we face today with Covid.”

“Some still seem to wrongly assume that our business is dependent on a few large advertisers, and while we value every single one of the businesses that use our platforms, the biggest part of our business is serving small businesses,” he said. “Our advertising is one of the most effective tools that businesses have to find customers to growth their businesses and create jobs.”

When an analyst on the call later asked how the boycott might be resolved, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company is still talking with civil rights groups and advertising trade organizations such as the Global Alliance for Responsible Media. She added that Facebook is “going to keep working hard at this, not because of advertiser pressure but because it’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s an interesting situation we find ourselves in because I think often times when companies are boycotted, it’s because they don’t agree with what the boycotters want,” she said. “And that’s not true at all here. We completely agree that we don’t want hate on our platforms and we stand firmly against it. We don’t benefit from hate speech. We never have. Users don’t want to see it, advertisers don’t want to be associated with it.”

By Marty Swant, Forbes Staff

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With proper investment in youth, Kenya’s potential for progress is unlimited



By- Ruth Kagia and Siddharth Chatterjee

Africa’s demographic boom has been hailed as its biggest promise for transforming the continent’s economic and social outcomes, but only if the right investments are made to prepare its youthful population for tomorrow’s world.

Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed. Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”. 

President Kenyatta once said that “The crisis of mass youth unemployment is a threat to the stability and prosperity of Africa, and it can amount to a fundamental and existential threat”.

Investing in young people especially so that they are prepared for the world of work is the main mission of Generation Unlimited (GenU), a global multi-sector partnership established to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people aged 10 to 24.

On 05 August 2020, Kenya will launch the Generation Unlimited initiative. This initiative will bring together key actors from the public and private sector as well as development partners to help put into a higher gear this defining agenda of our time to ensure that we have prepared our children for a prosperous future by giving them the education, training and job opportunities that fully harnesses their potential. With a median age of 18, Kenya’s youthful population represents a real potential to reap a demographic dividend and accelerate its economic progress.

Kenya has one of the youngest populations in the world. With the right investment in their talents, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit, young people present an extraordinary opportunity for transformation, growth, and change.

Three quarters Kenya’s population is under the age of 35. Across Africa there are 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, a demographic that is expected to double by 2045.

One of the greatest challenges facing governments and policymakers in Africa is how to provide opportunities for the continent’s youth, in order to provide them with decent lives and allow them to contribute to the economic development of their countries. As things stand, around 70% of Africa’s young people live below the poverty line.

In Kenya, the pillars for achieving GenU objectives are in place, with various initiatives for instance to strengthen education system through the recently-launched competency based curriculum and government promotion of programmes to enhance technical and digital skills.

The fruits of such initiatives can be seen through numerous youthful innovations from Kenya that continue to receive international attention.  For instance, inspired by his great urge to communicate with his 6-year-old niece who was born deaf, Roy Allela, a 25-year-old Kenyan invented Sign-10, a pair of smart gloves with flex sensors to aid his cousin’s communication with the other members of the family.

The flex sensors stitched to each finger aid in quantifying the letters formed from the curve of each finger of the glove’s wearer. The gloves are then connected through Bluetooth to a mobile phone application that vocalizes the hand movements.   This innovation won him the Trailblazer Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Gen U’s solution is to forge innovative collaborations with young people themselves. Since launching in 2018, the movement has brought onboard leaders from governments, foundations, and the private sector around the world. Its launch in Kenya underscores its government’s commitment to engage young people in pursuit of the Big 4 Development Agenda as well as Vision 2030.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is a global leader for the Generation Unlimited initiative. In Kenya, Gen U’s activities are coordinated by the Office of the President and the United Nations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Kenyatta was on Monday unanimously endorsed by world leaders to champion a new UN intervention on youth education, training and employment.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres were unanimously endorsed by world leaders to champion a new UN intervention on youth education, training, and employment at the UN General Assembly in 2018. [Photo/PSCU]

Shifts in today’s global economy demand that young people acquire skills aligned with dynamic labour needs, but local education systems have been slow to adapt. In many countries in Africa, school enrolment is up, but learning outcomes for young people remain poor. Most leave school without the skills the contemporary job market needs, and are ill-prepared for a world in which low-skilled jobs are increasingly automated.

A million young people join the workforce every year in Kenya, applying for jobs in a formal sector that can only absorb one in five of them. Some, however, find work at least intermittently in Kenya’s vibrant informal sector, which accounts for more than 80% of the country’s economy according to the World Bank.

Rather than focusing on opportunities in the formal sector, partners in the Gen U movement will look at strategies for supporting the informal sector with better infrastructure and an improved business environment. In doing so, it is hoped that it will be transformed into a recognised and legitimate sector.

Such initiatives have the full support of the recently launched Kenya Youth Development Policy, which seeks to underscore issues affecting young people. Technology will play a central role, and sector-based strategies will be central to the government’s approach.

The Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy, for example, will enable Kenya’s youth to access information technology for various value-addition ventures in Africa’s agribusiness sector set to be worth $1 trillion by 2030.

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen countries face changes in entire social and economic systems. Key industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, public services, retail, transportation, food supply, tourism, media and entertainment have been hard hit by the pandemic. The pandemic is an inflection point that is giving the old system a nudge. The post-COVID-19 world will be founded on a tech-savvy workforce that will inevitably comprise young people.

Calling on urgent action for young people, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on governments to “do far more to tap their talents as we tackle the pandemic and chart a recovery that leads to a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable future for all”.

In the run-up to the end of the SDGs era, we must ramp up the current level of investment in young people’s economic and social potential. As the vision of Generation Unlimited states, if the largest generation of young people in history is prepared for the transition to work, the potential for global progress is unlimited.

As President Kenyatta has noted, “the current generation of young people has the potential of expanding Africa’s productive workforce, promoting entrepreneurship and becoming genuine instruments of change to reverse the devastation caused by climate change.” 

Ruth Kagia is the Deputy Chief of Staff to President Kenyatta. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Mrs Kagia and Mr Chatterjee co-chair the Generation Unlimited Steering Committee in Kenya.

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