“The Licensing and Rollout” of Ebola Vaccine Was Accelerated

(p. 4) To combat Ebola in Congo, one of the world’s poorest nations, health workers are taking a multifaceted approach.

They have worked to win over communities that were sometimes uncooperative — even hostile.

They have drawn on technological innovations, notably a transparent enclosure known as the cube that allows medical workers to reach in and treat patients suffering from the contagious disease through plastic sleeves.

And they have used vaccines, developed relatively recently, which have made it possible to limit the spread of the epidemic.

. . .

The “cube” was . . . a big trust builder.

With transparent walls and integrated plastic sleeves and gloves, the air-conditioned chambers allowed medical teams to tend to Ebola patients without having to put on cumbersome protective gear. The cubes also allowed patients and their family members to see each other without risk of infection.

People were afraid of the treatment centers, where so many had died. But the cubes won trust for the health care workers, said Augustin Augier, chief executive of the Alliance for International Medical Action, the nonprofit aid group that developed the chambers.

“We asked the community to come and visit so they could see what was actually happening,” Mr. Augier said.

At least 500 patients were fully treated in the cubes, which could be set up in 90 minutes and reused up to 10 times, Mr. Augier, said.

But the key factor in curbing the spread of Ebola was the introduction of powerful vaccines and lifesaving antiviral drugs.

In early November 2018, the W.H.O. accelerated the licensing and rollout of the injectable Ebola vaccine Ervebo, made by the American pharmaceutical company Merck. Preliminary study results showed a 97.5 percent efficacy rate, prompting Congo, along with Burundi, Ghana and Zambia, to license the vaccine for wider distribution.

Nearly 300,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Congo, said Dr. Moeti of the W.H.O.

For the full story, see:

Abdi Latif Dahir. “Congo, Fresh From 2-Year Ebola Battle, Eyes New Virus.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, April 12, 2020): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 11, 2020, and has the title “Congo Was Close to Defeating Ebola. Then One More Case Emerged.”)

Millennials Blame Capitalism for “the Crushing Burden of College Debt”?

(p. A22) “Millennials don’t remember the Cold War,” said Maurice Isserman, a history professor at Hamilton College who has studied democratic socialism. “They don’t react in the same way to the word ‘socialist’ and associate it with totalitarian communism.”

Instead, young voters have experienced a structural shift in the economy, including the 2008 financial crisis and the crushing burden of college debt, that has given them a more critical view of capitalism, he said.

For the full story, see:

Patricia Mazzei and Sydney Ember. “Sanders’s Views on Cuba Split Young and Old Voters.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): A22.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 28, 2020, and has the title “Sanders Is Stirring Cold War Angst. Young Voters Say, So What?.”)

Government Ban on Motorbikes and Rickshaws Spreads Coronavirus in Nigeria

(p. A10) “I feel scared,” said Karo Otitifore, an elementary schoolteacher waiting at a bus stop in Yaba, the Lagos suburb where the Italian patient was being treated. “I try to sit tight, squeeze my whole body so that I won’t have to have too much body contact with people.”

. . .

He waited at a crowded bus stop for a bus crammed with passengers. A recent ban — unrelated to coronavirus — on the city’s fleet of motorcycle taxis and auto-rickshaws meant that many Lagosians are in even closer contact than usual, raising the risk of exposure should the virus spread.

For the full story, see:

Ruth Maclean and Abdi Latif Dahir. “First Confirmed Diagnosis In Nigeria Adds Pressure On a Weak Health System.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 29, 2020, and has the title “Nigeria Responds to First Coronavirus Case in Sub-Saharan Africa.”)

Commuters Riot after Lagos Governor Bans Motorbikes and Rickshaws

LAGOS — It is dark when Abisoye Adeniyi leaves home on the packed Lagos mainland, weaving through cars and minibuses. She reaches her bus stop as the sun rises.

The 23-year-old Nigerian lawyer used to hop on a motorbike – known locally as an okada – for a quick ride to the bus that carries her from the mainland, where most of Lagos’s 20 million residents live, to work in the island business district.

Since the bikes, along with motorized yellow rickshaws called kekes, became illegal in most of the city on Feb. 1 [2020], Adeniyi has added a 30-minute walk to her journey – stretching the commute to nearly two hours.

“It has not been easy at all,” she said.

Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu outlawed the loosely regulated motorbikes and rickshaws, citing safety and security concerns.

Gridlock in the megacity, whose traffic jams were already ubiquitous, has intensified to the point that riots with burning tyres broke out and #LagosIsWalking trended on Twitter showcasing residents with ruined shoes.

For the full story, see:

Reuters. “Burning Tires and Sore Feet: Lagos Bristles Under Bike Ban.” The New York Times (Monday, February 17, 2020). Online at: https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/02/17/technology/17reuters-nigeria-transportation-ban.html?searchResultPosition=2

(Note: bracketed year added.)

“You Can’t Donate People Out of Poverty”

(p. A9) Dr. Polak, . . . , found that poor people valued and cared for things they had bought. “You can’t donate people out of poverty,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2007.

The trick was to figure out which tools were needed and how to make them at an affordable cost. For nearly four decades, Dr. Polak roamed the world’s poorest regions and quizzed farmers about their needs. “The small farmers I interviewed became my teachers,” he said in a video posted by one of the organizations he founded, iDE, formerly known as International Development Enterprises.

While visiting Somalia in the early 1980s, he noticed people lugging water and other items by hand or with awkward donkey carts. Working with local blacksmiths, he devised a better donkey cart, using parts from junked automobiles. From that point, he relied on market forces: Blacksmiths began making and selling the carts for the equivalent of about $450. Buyers of the carts could earn $200 a month for transporting goods, according to iDE.

. . .

Paul Polak (pronounced POLE-ack) . . .

. . .

He wrote or co-wrote two books drawing on his experiences, “The Business Solution to Poverty” (2013) and “Out of Poverty” (2008).

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Roving Entrepreneur Built A Better Donkey Cart.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, October 26, 2019): A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Oct. 25, 2019, and has the title “Paul Polak Built Better Tools for Farmers in Poor Countries.”)

The books authored, or co-authored, by Paul Polak, mentioned above, are:

Polak, Paul. Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008.

Polak, Paul, and Mal Warwick. The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013.

Muyembe Had Knowledge of an Ebola Cure Before Clinical Trial

(p. A1) In a medical breakthrough that compares to the use of penicillin for war wounds, two new drugs are saving lives from the virus and helping uncover tools against other deadly infectious diseases. They were proven effective in a gold-standard clinical trial conducted by an international coalition of doctors and researchers in the middle of armed violence.

. . .

(p. A10) Dr. Muyembe set out on his path to an Ebola treatment during the 1995 outbreak. He transferred blood from five survivors to eight patients, hoping that the antibodies that kept some people alive would keep others from dying. Seven of the patients who received the blood transfusion recovered.

He published the results in a scientific journal in 1999. Other researchers said the study was small and had failed to include a control group, a comparison set of patients who weren’t given the treatment, to fully test its efficacy.

For the full story, see:

Betsy McKay. “From a War Zone Came an Unexpected Cure for Ebola.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, October 31, 2019): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 30, 2019, and has the title “‘Ebola Is Now a Disease We Can Treat.’ How a Cure Emerged From a War Zone.”)

100 Million Africans Use Mobile Money

(p. B6) Hyperinflation and economic isolation have pushed this poor, breakaway republic closer to a virtual milestone than most other countries in the world: a cashless economy.

Mobile-money services have taken off over the past decade in Africa; 1 in 10 adults across the continent—about 100 million people—use them. In Kenya, Vodacom Group Ltd.’s groundbreaking service M-Pesa, broadly considered the first major and most successful mobile-money technology platform, counts 26 million users, roughly half the population. More than half of the world’s 282 mobile-money platforms are in sub-Saharan Africa, research by McKinsey & Co. shows.

The continent, home to many of the world’s frontier economies, has come closest to skipping, or “leapfrogging” as it’s often called, traditional brick-and-mortar banks and going straight to heavily using phones as wallets.

And nowhere are the benefits of mobile money more apparent than in Somaliland, where the extreme economic and financial conditions have allowed Zaad, a service from the main local telecom, Telesom, to catalyze commerce in one of the most isolated parts of the world.

“I have my salary paid on Zaad, so I only use cash when I can’t use Zaad,” said Qassim Ali, a supermarket salesman here in the country’s capital. “I prefer it. I have less cash on me, so I am less vulnerable if I am robbed.”

. . .

The reasons for mobile money’s success in Somaliland are on full display on Hargeisa’s busy, bumpy streets, where rows of money changers lounge in front of 3-foot-tall towers of cash, some held together by nets, others in sacks. To get the shillings to a customer’s car, most money exchanges employ assistants armed with wheelbarrows to lug the heavy bags.

Once a week, Abdulahi Abdirahman hauls two bulky, heavy sacks of shillings from his gas station across Hargeisa to the money-exchange area downtown and, several hours later, returns with just a few dollar notes in his back pocket and his Zaad wallet loaded up.

For the full story, see:

Matina Stevis-Gridneff. “An Unlikely Leader in the Mobile-Money Race.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, July 7, 2018): B6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 6, 2018, and has the title “An Isolated Country Runs on Mobile Money.”)

Innovative Entrepreneurs Bring Prosperity to the Poor

(p. A17) As the economist Joseph Schumpeter observed: “The capitalist process, not by coincidence but by virtue of its mechanism, progressively raises the standard of life of the masses.”

For Schumpeter, entrepreneurs and the companies they found are the engines of wealth creation. This is what distinguishes capitalism from all previous forms of economic society and turned Marxism on its head, the parasitic capitalist becoming the innovative and beneficent entrepreneur. Since the 2008 crash, Schumpeter’s lessons have been overshadowed by Keynesian macroeconomics, in which the entrepreneurial function is reduced to a ghostly presence. As Schumpeter commented on John Maynard Keynes’s “General Theory” (1936), change–the outstanding feature of capitalism–was, in Keynes’s analysis, “assumed away.”

Progressive, ameliorative change is what poor people in poor countries need most of all. In “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty,” Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen and co-authors Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon return the entrepreneur and innovation to the center stage of economic development and prosperity. The authors overturn the current foreign-aid development paradigm of externally imposed, predominantly government funded capital- and institution-building programs and replace it with a model of entrepreneur-led innovation. “It may sound counterintuitive,” the authors write, but “enduring prosperity for many countries will not come from fixing poverty. It will come from investing in innovations that create new markets within these countries.” This is the paradox of the book’s title.

Continue reading “Innovative Entrepreneurs Bring Prosperity to the Poor”

“Profit Feeds Impact at Scale”

(p. 1) Eric Reynolds will tell you that he is on the verge of freeing much of humanity from the deadly scourge of the cooking fire. He can halt the toxic smoke wafting through African homes, protect what is left of the continent’s forest cover and help rescue the planet from the wrath of climate change.
He is happy to explain, at considerable length, how he will systematically achieve all this while constructing a business that can amass billions in profit from an unlikely group of customers: the poorest people on earth.
He will confess that some people doubt his hold on reality.
“A lot of people think it’s too good to be true,” says Mr. Reynolds, a California-born entrepreneur living in Rwanda. “Most people think I am pretty out there.”
The company he is building across Rwanda, Inyenyeri, aims to replace Africa’s overwhelming dependence on charcoal and firewood with clean-burning stoves powered by wood pellets. The business has just a tad more than 5,000 customers and needs perhaps 100,000 to break even. Even its chief operating officer, Claude Mansell, a veteran of the global consulting company Capgemini, wonders how the story will end.
“Do we know that it’s going to work?” he asks. “I don’t know. It’s never been done before.”
Inyenyeri presents a real-world test of an idea gaining traction among those focused on economic development — that profit-making businesses may be best positioned to deliver critically needed services to the world’s poorest communities.
Governments in impoverished countries lack the finance to attack threats to public health, and many are riddled with corruption (though, by reputation, not Rwanda’s). Philanthropists and international aid organizations play key roles in areas such as immunizing children. But turning plans for basic services into mass-market realities may require the potent incentives of capitalism. It is a notion that has provoked the creation of many businesses, most of them failures.
“Profit feeds impact at scale,” says Mr. Reynolds, now in the midst of a global tour (p. 8) as he courts investment on top of the roughly $12 million he has already raised. “Unless somebody gets rich, it can’t grow.”
More than four decades have passed since Mr. Reynolds embarked on what he portrays as an accidental life as an entrepreneur, an outgrowth of his fascination with mountaineering. He dropped out of college to start Marmot, the outdoor gear company named for the burrowing rodent. There, he profited by protecting Volvo-driving, chardonnay-sipping weekend warriors against the menacing elements of Aspen. Now, he is trying to build a business centered on customers for whom turning on a light switch is a radical act of upward mobility.
. . .
To succeed, a stove had to be so convenient and clean burning that women preferred it over their existing cooking method.
Mr. Reynolds began testing stoves made in Italy, India, the United States and China. He tried making his own.
He came to realize that the magic was in the combination of stove and fuel. He experimented with making charcoal out of corncobs. (“A stupid idea,” he says.) He tried burning banana leaves. Then he discovered wood pellets, which involve compressing wood and eliminating water, the element that produces much of the smoke.
He settled on a Dutch-made stove that reduces wood down to clean-burning gases. Using pellets reduced the need for wood by 90 percent compared with charcoal. But those stoves cost more than $75.
Then came the epiphany: Inyenyeri could supply the stoves for free while collecting revenue from subscriptions for pellets. Rwanda was urbanizing rapidly, and city dwellers rely on charcoal. They would be eager to switch to pellets, which were 30 to 50 percent cheaper.
. . .
(p. 9) The business model would get more attractive as the cost of charcoal climbed, and as innovation inevitably made stoves more efficient. Inyenyeri would also stand to collect revenue from an arrangement it later entered into with the World Bank to sell credits for reducing emissions.
In 2010, Mr. Reynolds sold his house in Boulder and went all in on Inyenyeri. He unloaded his wine cellar, liquidated his retirement accounts and moved to Rwanda with no plan to leave.
. . .
“This business model will happen,” he says. “If it’s not Inyenyeri that’s the first mover, then it will be someone else who learns from our mistakes and does it better. It’s too big of an opportunity.”

For the full story, see:
Peter S. Goodman. “‘A Low-Cost Fix for Africa’s Silent Killer.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, Dec. 6, 2018): 1 & 8-9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 5, 2018, and has the title “Toxic Smoke Is Africa’s Quiet Killer. An Entrepreneur Says His Fix Can Make a Fortune.”)

Entrepreneur Carr’s Philanthropy Harmed Mozambique

(p. C6) It is an old, old story. A wealthy man comes to town, promising change and a brighter future. He’s the expert. He knows best. Inevitably, it doesn’t exactly work out that way.
Stephanie Hanes, an American correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, spent three years watching one particular version of that fairy tale unfold in central Mozambique.
The wealthy man was Greg Carr. An Idahoan, Mr. Carr had made millions first by selling voice-mail systems and then by running Prodigy, an early internet service provider. At age 40, he turned to philanthropy . . .
. . .
In “White Man’s Game,” Ms. Hanes outlines, in a nonpolemical way, the long history of Western involvement in Africa’s wilderness.
. . .
Turning to the present day, Ms. Hanes takes World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy and other Western groups–known as Big Green–to task for their conservation colonialism.
. . .
She . . . points out that they are a bit cynical. “The conservation industry mirrors the humanitarian assistance industry,” she writes, “with alarmist pledge drives, heart-stirring photos and admonitions to ‘act now!’–all to be repeated for the next grant cycle.”
. . .
It is clear from Ms. Hanes’s account that a complex interplay of social, political and economic matters affected Gorongosa, not just one man’s ambition. The imported elephants inevitably roamed outside the park and into nearby towns, damaging crops and perhaps killing a villager. Mr. Carr’s tree planting, a laudable goal on the surface, was seen negatively by the people there because, culturally, tree planting was a way of marking one’s territory. When visiting a prominent local leader, Mr. Carr arrived in a red helicopter, oblivious to the fact that, in Gorongosi culture, red is the color of violence. For locals, Mr. Carr was the latest in a long line of outsiders invading their land. He destabilized rather than restored.
In the West, Mr. Carr’s work catalyzed praise: a glossy piece on Gorongosa in National Geographic by the noted biologist E.O. Wilson, a profile in the New Yorker. But the reality on the ground was different. Few tourists came to Gorongosa, and a flare-up of civil-war tensions led to violence. Overall the 150,000 Mozambicans who lived in the district, according to Ms. Hanes, saw little measurable improvement in their lives. Park staff even tortured suspected poachers.
In the most powerful scene in the book Ms. Hanes observes Mr. Carr and his associates staring at a map of Mozambique and contemplating expanding the park borders to incorporate a vast swath of land so that animals could migrate again. They wanted to rewild central Mozambique. It was just another example of the “generations of white man standing around maps,” observes Ms. Hanes. They never mentioned the millions of people who lived in those lands.

For the full review, see:
James Zug. “The Do-Gooders’ Playground.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017): C6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 4, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Hanes, Stephanie. White Man’s Game: Saving Animals, Rebuilding Eden, and Other Myths of Conservation in Africa. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017.

Stylus Line Drawing Found from 73,000 Years Past

(p. A13) Researchers say they’ve found the world’s oldest known line drawing in a seaside cave in South Africa–a red cross-hatched grid sketched on a broken grindstone by early humans 73,000 years ago.
The discovery, made public Wednesday [September 12, 2018] in Nature, offers evidence of an important addition to the artist’s tool kit, the scientists said. Experts in human origins have discovered many images of greater antiquity made by engraving or by painting, but this appears to be the oldest example of a picture made by using a stylus.
“It was definitely drawn with a pen or pencil,” said archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood at the University of Bergen in Norway, who led the team that analyzed the drawing. If so, the abstract image appears to be about 30,000 years older than other early drawings in Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.
. . .
In the prehistory of human creativity, the invention of drawing combines a new skill and a new tool. Drawing with a stylus of some sort is a breakthrough in portability and spontaneous expression that can turn any surface into a message board. “If you can draw, you can walk across a landscape and leave a message or a symbol anywhere you want,” Dr. Henshilwood said.

For the full story, see:
Robert Lee Hotz. “Ancient Hashtag Reveals Origins of Drawing.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018): A13.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 12, 2018, and has the title “Is This the World’s Oldest Hashtag?”)