Africa

Besides COVID-19, Jack Dorsey’s USD 1 Bn Pledge Shows He Still Has Eyes For Africa


April 8, 2020

In a series of tweets dated April 7, 2020, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey revealed he has set aside USD 1 Bn in stock to help fund relief efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorsey, who also doubles as CEO of payments startup, Square, and whose job as Twitter CEO was under threat not too long ago, stated that he will give the new venture shares from his Square holdings.

Dorsey is contributing from his Square holdings and not Twitter because, according to him, he owns a bigger proportion of the fintech startup.

The 43-year-old announced the initiative called Start Small while stating that the USD 1 Bn contribution amounts to 28 percent of his entire fortune. He also said the Start Small initiative, which has taken up its first task in fighting COVID-19, will disclose all transfers, sales, and grants on a public Google sheets document.

But beyond fighting COVID-19, Dorsey’s gesture also brings something that can certainly be expected to be of direct benefit to the African continent.

Start Small will not be limited to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Dorsey wrote in a thread.

“After we have disarmed this pandemic,” he wrote, the organisation will shift its focus to girls’ health and education, and research into universal basic income – the idea that governments should guarantee a minimum income for all citizens.”

Although Start Small will have its hands full with tackling the coronavirus pandemic for the foreseeable future, Dorsey’s pronouncements about taking on girl child education once the present storm has passed points to a potential boost for Africa.

Dorsey’s gesture was lauded by both girls’ rights campaigner and Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, and two-time Minister of Finance for Nigeria/former Managing Director Operations World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is also a known advocate for the empowerment of the girl child.

Last year, Dorsey was in Africa for the better part of November visiting four countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, and South Africa.

As a parting word, he said “Africa will define the future, especially the Bitcoin one,” while also declaring that he would return to Africa mid-2020 and spend between 3 to 6 months working on some project on the continent.

While that trip is largely in doubt owing to both the global halt caused by the pandemic and the fact some Twitter shareholders are not quite comfortable with the idea, Dorsey seems to have once again found a way to put the African continent in his plans.

This idea is validated by the fact that Dorsey’s campaign for girl child health and education post-COVID-19 is something that could have the greatest impact in Africa,

According to UNESCO estimates, 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school and 15 million girls of primary-school-age — half of them in sub-Saharan Africa — will never enter a classroom. 

Indeed, data from the United Nations (UN) suggest that African nations account for 9 out of 10 countries where it is toughest for girls to go to school.

South Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR), Niger, Chad, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Ethiopia have one more thing in common besides being African countries — they are all among 10 countries across the globe where girl child education is at its lowest. Afghanistan is the only non-African country on that list.

In Nigeria where one of the world’s highest extreme poverty rates can be found, only 4 percent of poor young women in the North West zone can read.

Studies consistently reinforce that girls who face multiple disadvantages — such as low family income, living in remote or underserved locations, disability or belonging to a minority ethnolinguistic group — are farthest behind in terms of access to and completion of education.

Girl child education, which Dorsey appears to be interested in, will no doubt be of great use in Africa and it is fair to assume that the Twitter chief has this in mind.

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