These private sector initiatives are tackling Africa’s 2 major concerns: health and education

WHILE parts of the world talk about entering the post-pandemic era, others are left straggling behind.
In particular, African Business reports that the current vaccination rate across Africa — only 8% in a population of 1.4 billion as of January 10 — may further delay the region’s return to normal.

Meanwhile, governments are working hard to reopen schools and fully respond to the need to educate African youth. Yet current circumstances are also stalling these endeavours.

Uganda was only able to resume in-person classes in January of this year, and it’s the last country to do so. Educators have also found it challenging to bridge the gap between online learning and traditional learning while bringing those who left school back to the classroom.

Fortunately, the public sector isn’t alone. Many private entities have stepped up to offer a helping hand. Coca-Cola’s Project Last Mile and Bridge International Academies are just two such organizations showing that public-private partnerships are the way forward.

At a TED Talk in 2010, philanthropist Melinda Gates posed the question: if every remote village can get an ice-cold Coke, why can’t they get vaccines as easily? This planted the seed for Project Last Mile, a collaboration between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Coca-Cola Company, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the US Agency for International Development.

For over a decade, Project Last Mile has been using Coca-Cola’s cold logistics system to deliver vaccines to remote areas of Africa.

Amid the pandemic, this mission became all the more important, and the project now tackles the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Here, it fills in on weekends in places where governments can only give out jabs on weekdays. It’s also assisting local partners in building cold logistics infrastructure based on Coca-Cola distribution data.

Today, Project Last Mile operates in Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, and Tanzania. Future expansion plans aim to help other African countries improve their vaccine refrigeration techniques.

African governments have found it challenging to deliver quality public education. This is why many countries have partnered with Bridge International Academies, the most extensive school network in the developing world.

Located in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, Bridge uses lesson plans formulated by American educators and transmitted to teachers on e-ink tablets.

A 2020 McKinsey study, Reimagining A More Equitable and Resilient K–12 Education System lauded the expansion of this technology to Liberia. Here, it imparted students with five-and-a-half years’ worth of skills in just three years’ time. Bridge was thus in a better position to transition its students to online learning during the pandemic.

Bridge’s @Home program provides parent-friendly modules for home learning and quizzes answerable via WhatsApp. It’s also partnered with multiple governments to enhance e-learning capabilities.

One such project is EKOEXCEL. Launched in 2019, it was tweaked to provide teachers in Lagos, Nigeria with both data analytics instruments to track academic performance and MP3 e-learning tools to enhance student engagement.

Ultimately, Bridge is helping staunch the education deficit being caused by COVID-19.

In fact, its pupils continue to top various national exams like the KCPE, PLE, and NCEE. Some graduates have even gone on to study in American universities.

In the end, using public-private partnerships is a solution governments can turn to when they support in times of crisis. Project Last Mile and Bridge International Academies show that such initiatives can be both effective and sustainable.

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