Africa Wellness Initiative
Africa: The Next Frontier for Innovations
As the world continues to navigate post-pandemic and through other emerging global challenges, Africa has shown great resilience and with that has come great innovations that have an impact on many aspects of humanity (socially, health wise or environmentally). Through the TLC African wellness stories, I had the opportunity to interview some phenomenal institutions across the continent whose innovations are already changing the continent’s wellness landscape.
TREND 1: Wellness Tourism in Africa
Wellness tourism in Africa has suffered greatly due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many people lost their jobs due to the lockdown and many wellness hotels had to close. New (Wellness) Guest segments have expanded, and source markets have focused on the national and domestic market. The domestic segment is projected to continue to account for the highest revenue share owing to increasing expenditure for domestic wellness activities. In addition to the traditional guests, many more young people and families are now visiting wellness facilities, in part due to increasing health awareness and the need to strengthen the immune system. Awareness of physical and mental wellbeing is gaining in importance. The demand for mental wellness offers (e.g., coaching) has increased enormously. The “new” guests spend longer periods of time in destinations. In addition, wellness is combined with different outdoor activities and other general holiday activities (e.g., entertainment, socializing, etc.). The environment of the destination and nature (outdoor wellness) is gaining importance. Back to the origin: The holistic approach is gaining additional attention as well as a return to original methods, traditional rituals and locally produced products with natural ingredients. Natural and local remedies are becoming more important. Especially, but not only in the energy sector, investments have been made or are being planned to increase sustainability. The materials used in wellness facilities, equipment and buildings should feel good to the guest and, as far as possible, come from local resources. They should also be produced in an environmentally friendly way and be beneficial to health.
TREND 2: Corporate Wellness in Africa
The ongoing pandemic has many companies reconsidering their plans and investment areas for employee wellness in 2022. Companies are working to enhance the employee experience, retain workers and improve their overall health. During the pandemic workers’ livelihoods, perks and benefits have been adversely impacted and workplace wellness is one such area presenting challenges to employers, necessitating shifts in plans for employee wellness. One major challenge is the worsening mental health of employees due to prolonged periods of anxiety, stress, burnout and substance abuse. This is leading employers to explore online resources and digital health solutions. Employers who offer health benefits are placing a keener eye on programs that have wellness built in and selecting insurers who are more responsive in tackling chronic conditions and severe acute illness across the entire workforce. A focus on where and when employees work is now an expected norm; leading companies will be exploring opportunities and challenges faced by their employees working in a hybrid model. As a result of the pandemic, workplace wellness is now viewed as more than physical and mental health; social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical aspects are all considerations. Employers will need to ensure that they are providing robust wellness programs that address all these dimensions. More emphasis will be needed on wellness as the lines between work and life become increasingly blurred. The pandemic impacted many people financially and they are yet to recover; financial worries have become a major cause of employee stress. Many employers may want to consider providing tools and resources around financial wellbeing in 2022.
TREND 3: Embracing Good Nutrition for a Healthy Immune System in Africa
Since time immemorial, food has always been the foundation of African culture. From birthdays to weddings, to funerals, where two or more are gathered, there shall be food. Therefore, the story of wellness as Africans is rooted in the food we eat. When we talk of a “diet,” every culture in Africa has unknowingly passed down the knowledge of how to nourish and maintain a healthy family through the food prepared for them. How each meal is prepared and what each item is accompanied with have been the nuggets of wisdom passed down the generations. As every young child sits in the kitchen, listening to the older generation tell them how those before them prepared supper and were taught the “family secret recipe,” what was imprinted into their minds and memories was not simply moments in time, but information on dieting, portions, and balanced meals. The Pandemic has brought back these discussions and almost every single household can attest to a remedy that helped them cope with the flus and of course more recently, COVID -19. African households and families of different cultures understand how these unwritten yet fully understood rules came about, and we are now preserving this knowledge so that we not only continue to pass it down through the ages, but most importantly, preserve the African indigenous food culture that has seen us maintain such healthy and wholesome meals, even in modern times.
TREND 4: Contributing to Climate Change for Carbon Credits in Africa
Africa’s forest cover has continued to decline over the decades, weakening the ability of the continents ecosystems to withstand climate change. Theodore Oben, from Cameroon, the Managing Director of Green Zone International, is on a quest to change this trend. His innovation has launched a carbon offset project that will not only contribute to efforts to combat climate change but will ensure the wellness and wellbeing of the people and communities in which it is implemented. This project will help farmers plant over 3 million trees (80% of them fruit and nut and indigenous trees) in Cameroon, providing farmers with a great social and financial impact from harvests of their fruits and nuts. Part of the carbon credits that will be generated will also be used for community development. This innovation is currently being commenced in Cameroon and Kenya and is set to expand to other countries in Africa.
TREND 5: Renewable Energy and Clean Cooking in Africa
Inefficient household cooking fuel contributes to premature deaths globally. In Africa, the most affected are women and children since they spend a lot of time cooking for the household. One of the major contributors to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is biomass fuel which includes wood, charcoal, or crop residue. Dr. Linda Davis, is the founder of Giraffe Bioenergy, an organization developing local production of clean, safe and affordable cooking fuel in Africa. Dr. Davis’s innovation addresses clean cooking, thereby contributing to the household wellbeing and the community.
TREND 6: Embracing Digital Platforms to Enhance Food Security in Africa
The science of farming; from texts to mobile phones and digital apps.
In Africa, small holder farmers constitute 50 – 70 percent of the population. Yet, most of this population that is involved in food production is poor. Yvette Ondachi’s, founder of Ojay Greene, innovation in digital technology through a mobile app has been able to move subsistence farming to micro-enterprises. This digital platform is also designed to help agronomists track the quality and quantities of production as they visit the farmers at regular intervals. It enables interaction with small holder farmers by employing a four-fold approach of engaging, educating, equipping and empowering them. This digital platform performs satellite image monitoring and can integrate this data with other endpoints like weather, index, pest alerts and disease control, production yields, market linkage, training preparations and planning. This mobile technology is also able to provide small holder farmers access to profitable markets and earnings that not only improve their livelihood but also their household wellbeing and food security.