After years of headlines about Africa’s poverty, its emerging middle class, estimated to be at about 300 million of the continent’s 1 billion people, is now grabbing attention as a driver of growth and democracy. It is probably the fastest-growing consumer class in the world and a large number of African countries are achieving relative stability in politics and economic policy, allowing the middle class to emerge and prosper.
However, it is till the least developed region in the world and someone described as middle class in Africa is unlikely to have the same financial security as someone from Europe or Asia. The continent was in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently when Save The Children reports revealed that The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s toughest place to raise children. Indeed, the 10 bottom-ranked countries were all from sub-Saharan Africa, with one woman in 30 dying from pregnancy-related causes on average and one child in seven dying before his or her fifth birthday. These numbers are too high and innovative solutions are being used to try and combat this.
Of the world’s 6 billion phones it is estimated that 5 billion are in developing countries and this offers a huge opportunity for areas such as mobile healthcare. Data from mobile phones can help in the fight against diseases like malaria through monitoring the movement of a country’s people to enable SMS warnings of hotspot areas and to advise people to wear bed nets in high-risk areas.
In addition, reports from regional powerhouse South Africa have demonstrated how Mobile phone technology can be used to communicate with mothers who often have to cope with extremely challenging conditions. According to UNICEF, 4,300 mothers die in South Africa every year due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The recently launched programme is known simply as MAMA, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, and is fighting to reduce maternal deaths. An expectant mother may receive 2 – 3 messages a week to offer advice as well as warning signs to look out for and is available in several different languages. The MAMA service demonstrates how mobile technology can assist in healthcare and go some way in radically improving the lives of expectant mothers in the developing world. It has already launched in Bangladesh, and will soon launch in India.
- In South Africa, Using Mobile Technology to Improve Maternal Health Access (pbs.org)
- Opportunities in Africa’s Pharmaceutical Landscape (globalriskinsights.com)