Ethiopia has three peaks of Covid-19 infection, in August 2020, April 2021 and August 2021. Vaccination began in March 2021 in earnest and, so far, 2.88m doses have been given. 2,3m people have been fully vaccinated up to August 2021 out of a population of 112 million, or 2% which is still very low. Lack of vaccination is due to the lack of access to the vaccine, incorrect perceptions about the vaccine and vaccine hesitancy. Control of any new or existing variants will still be via social distancing, face masks and different forms of lockdown for at least the next year until the vaccinated population increases. The faster vaccination happens the better because of the economic consequences.
425 women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Adama, with their approximately 7,000 members have been challenged under lockdown as their access to markets was cut, their ability to access finance dried up, and they faced rising prices. When asked about the most challenging aspects of COVID-19, the majority of SHG members in Adama, Ethiopia and other four countries (Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi and BurkinaFaso) reported that the economic impacts were by far the most difficult, followed by the spiritual and social impacts. This finding is consistent with previous findings (Dec 2020) by IFP. The urban populations in Ethiopia have lost between 6.6 and 8.8% of their purchasing power. Those who are already vulnerable get pushed into outright poverty. Our survey of 85 SHG members in Adama (a City of 220,000 people) revealed that 95% suffered a decrease in income due to Covid 19. A similar vast majority said their savings went down due to Covid 19. For 40% they went down by 10-15%, for 30% by less than 10%, and for 24% by 25%-50%.
Although SHGs in Adama are assisting their members to cope up with the massive impact of Covid-19, their regular savings are being used up resulting in a weakening of the financial status of SHGs. This project aims to support the SHG network and its members to be more resilient to the negative economic shocks of Covid-19 and to incentivize testing and vaccination.
We will scale out the Community Inclusion digital Currency (CiC) that we have already piloted. It will increase the awareness of Self-help Group members’ on Public Health specifically on Covid-19 Vaccines and Covid-19 testing. It will also be adapted to allow the community to define shared goals for the community currency such as public health.
The Adama SHG community has already co-designed the current aspects of the currency on the App. Its purpose is to promote skill-sharing within members, and its name is Agelgil. Agelgil is the symbol for the CiC App. Ageligl has value, and reward for inviting others to join, shows initial positive balance, the limit on negative balances, and how to verify each trade, etc. With the CIC App, SHG members can keep exchanging their goods, services and skills even when incomes fall and markets lack cash. We propose to engage in dialogue with the community and persuade them to add public health, in particular Covid 19 testing and vaccination, as objectives of the currency that will be rewarded with small Agelgil payments.
The SHGs members are both consumers and producers of each other: they exchange goods and services. The Agelgil currency benefits them to continue to trade when the national currency is short e.g. lockdown or other restrictions. Already we see the Agelgil bring benefits such as linking and networking the SHG members in the system, providing access to finance when the national currency is not available, increasing the digital literacy of the women through designing and use of the App. The App is accessible on any smartphone, tablet or computer and you access your account using a secure sign-in system. You do not need a smartphone of your own. The CIC has also benefited some women without a job outside the home to enter the market in a flexible manner offering their skills e.g. braiding children’s hair. As a network, the CIC has durability with relatively little maintenance. Using the digital literacy of the members the project also has a plan to digitalize SHG data.
This project will work with 3,000 SHG members who are venerable to C19 and market fluctuation effects. They will agree to use the Agelgil online digital currency and willingness to get vaccinated after awareness creation training and launch some special “we are all vaccinated” events using Agelgil. By reaching the 3,000 SHGs members, the CIC will promote the COVID -19 Vaccine and increase livelihoods resilience. The resilience benefits SHG members, increasing their social connection, increasing access to critical services (finance and Health), and increasing hope (designing your own currency and its purposes are empowering). This project will also introduce Jami one application for the digitalization of SHG data.