By Chrissi Albus, WEAll Youth

Clean drinking water makes a difference between life and death. 

According to the United Nations, up to 2.2 billion people do not have access to safe, clean, and controlled drinking water. (2) Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General said, Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardises both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” 

Article 25 of the Human Rights Convention, the right to wellbeing, states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families. Clean drinking water is an absolute necessity for that. Therefore, one essential goal of our society must be to ensure the availability of safe drinking water for everybody. However, “in some countries, there is a 61% financing gap to achieve the UN’s water and sanitation goals”. (2) It is an injustice how access to water is distributed in this world, especially related to the huge consumption of virtual water in many high income countries. Everyone needs access to drinking water for their health and wellbeing. It should not be a game of luck who has water to drink or who can afford it. It is an undisputed part and aim of a Wellbeing Economy to ensure this. This is why it is important to advocate for fair availability of water. 

Inspired and empowered to make a difference

“We believe that the human network is the strongest power in the world in our generation. Networking means telling others about others and others telling others about you”(1). 

To tell a story is probably the most powerful and touching way to communicate. So, I want to tell you the story of Prof. Askwar Hilonga and the Gongali Model Inspire and Empowering Center.

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Glory Mushi at work in the Kilala waterstation.

“I remember my father told me that when I drink stagnant water in the valleys (in Swahili, Maji yaliyotwama korongoni au Maji ya Lambo) – which was very dirty – I should assume, he told me, that it is “a tea with milk” (chai ya maziwa)”(1), says Prof. Hilonga.

The region around Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro, where the Gongali Model Inspire and Empower Center is located, has an exceptionally high fluoride concentration in drinking water. This can cause fluorosis, a disease in which the joints stiffen and tooth enamel degrades due to excessive intake of fluoride. But even better-known diseases such as typhoid fever are still diseases today that arise because of dirty drinking water.

Prof. Hilonga grew up in a small village, Gongali, near Lake Manyara in North Tanzania. He himself struggled with several diseases, mainly related to dirty water. With the support of his local church community, he was able to attend university and later, went to South Korea to do his PhD in Chemical Engineering… He is always asking: “What does my PhD mean to my community in Tanzania?”. He wanted to give something back. Prof. Hilonga designed a new solution to ensure getting safe drinking water as a common good for everyone. He is the creator and founder of Nanofilter TM, a water filter using nanotechnology that provides safe and clean drinking water, in Swahili “Maji Safi na Salama”! It removes 99.999 % of impurities (bacteria, heavy metals, various pollutants) from the water. The filter is customised to the local environment issues.

Nevertheless, the water filter alone was not the goal. He established the Gongali Model Co. Ltd company for innovative activities to empower and IMPACT people’s lives. He wants to inspire youth to develop innovative and sustainable business ventures and initiatives that empower their community and to answer the question of what is really needed.  The Gongali Model was actually designed to be a model as a movement for Sustainable Transformational Development, as a concept for a new – wellbeing – economic system accessible for everyone. By October 2020, the Nanofilter project has created 127 jobs for young women in water stations, which are placed all over Arusha as well as in Kenya and Zambia. For many young women it is a way to earn an independent income and become more confident. This is contributing to one of the great wellbeing goals of equalising the gender gap by making sure women take part in economic life.  In these water stations, filtered water is sold in refillable bottles at a low price. Thus should also allow the poorest members of the community to access safe and clean drinking water.

A nanofilter for households

The Gongali Model company (https://gongalimodel.com), is launching the #Thirst for life project starting on 22nd July. #Thirst for Life wants to build 1000 Nanofilter water stations throughout Africa, from Alexandria in Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa. The aim is to provide access to clean water to as many people as possible. The project is delivered in partnership with Veronique Bourbeau, who will do a Solo-Run 13,000 km, from the north of Africa to the south to raise awareness to provide safe drinking water for all people. Veronique says: 

“If your why is strong enough, then you can run for a long way.” 

To be inspired and empowered are two of the most important goals of Prof. Hilonga and his wife and business partner Ruth Elineema Lukwaro, from Arusha, Tanzania.He wants to engage the youth to stand up and participate in their local communities, to create new solutions for societal issues . He and his wife Madame Ruth want to touch people’s lives to make a change. Their knowledge and story exemplify a societal vision or further economic changes for wellbeing for all. 

His book “The story of a journey of an African Innovator – From Gongali Village to London & BEYOND” describes his journey. Further information about the projects can be found on the Gongali Model website.

  1. Prof. Askwar Hilonga. 2020. “The story of a journey of an African Innovator – From Gongali Village to London & BEYOND”
  2. United Nations. 2020. Goals – 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

About the author: “My name is Chrissi Albus. I am WEAll Youth member based in Lund, a small town in the south of Sweden. In my opinion, it is very important to be motivated  to create something great or to participate in a movement you believe in.  And that is why I would like to tell you the story of Prof. Askwar Hilonga. He and his wife were my bosses when I worked in their company Gongali Model in Arusha. They inspired me to get engaged with their project, and showed me that motivation and inspiration is the foundation for every project I will get involved in.”

By Gary Stevenson

In 2008, I started a job predicting interest rates and the strength of the world’s largest economies.  In the thirteen years since then, financial markets, economists, and global central banks, predicted a recovery for both interest rates and the economy in every single year from 2009 to 2020.

Despite these twelve consecutive years of predicted recovery, now, in 2021, interest rates all over the world, much like the global economy, remain at emergency levels.  This was true even before the onset of the Covid-19 economic crisis.

So why have economic forecasts, as well as the recovery of economies, been so disappointing since the 2008 crisis?  I have devoted the last twelve years of my life to figuring this out.

The logic behind these optimistic predictions has been as follows:

The economic collapse of 2008, as well as the prolonged “Great Recession” that has followed it, were both what economists would call “demand crises”.  That means that, at their core, they are caused by society, as a whole, not spending enough money.  When people don’t spend enough money, businesses can’t sell their products, and they respond by closing down, shrinking, or stopping hiring.  That pushes up unemployment and pushes down wages, leaving people with even less money to spend, making the problem worse.

Modern economics is well familiar with this kind of problem, and has two broad solutions which can be used.  The first, often referred to as “fiscal stimulus”, refers to the government boosting spending and employment directly, either by giving money to people, or large scale spending and investment projects.  The second, often called “monetary policy”, refers to making large amounts of low interest rate loans, via the banking system, in the hope that companies and individuals will use the cheap loans to increase their own spending and investment.

After the 2008 crisis, at first, both of these policies were used in large amounts.  Soon afterwards, however, with the election of an austerity-focused government in the UK, and the emergence of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, direct spending from many governments was cut back, and “monetary policy” was left to take centre stage, with increasingly larger and larger amounts of money lent, rather than spent, into the economy via the financial system.

Despite cutbacks in government spending across the world, financial markets, central bankers and economists continued to predict that these aggressive “monetary policy” interventions, such as zero or even negative interest rates, and “quantitative easing” would be enough to kick start the economy.  The fact that these supposedly temporary measures are still in place today, shows that they were wrong.

So why didn’t this policy work, and why were economists still predicting a recovery as recently as early 2020, before the Covid crisis hit?

These were the questions about which I obsessed in 2010 and 2011.

At that time, I was an interest rates trader at Citibank in London.  My job was to predict when interest rates would recover, and I had witnessed markets incorrectly predict a recovery for the previous three years.  I was also, at that time, still living in my family home, a small terraced house squeezed in between a railway track and a disused factory in Ilford, East London.

I had studied Economics at the London School of Economics, and I knew that economic theory suggested that the huge amount of cheap loans being lent out by the Bank of England should stimulate the economy.  But I could not see any trace of a meaningful effect on the people who grew up with me in this working-class corner of East London.

At the same time, I was working on an enormous trading floor, in a glittering skyscraper in Canary Wharf.  I was immersed in financial markets, which had been rocketing despite the despondent economy, and was working shoulder to shoulder with millionaires, who got richer each day that financial markets rose.

It started to become apparent to me that “monetary policy” had an achilles heel.  No matter how much money global central banks poured into the economy, cheap loans were only available to the rich.  Not only that, but the rich were not spending the money – they were using it to buy assets, such as stocks and property, which did nothing to boost the economy.  Inequality was the missing link.  Unless the money was channeled to ordinary and poorer working families, rather than just the wealthy, it would never boost the economy, only asset prices.

My conclusion from this was inescapable, but depressing – since inequality was at the heart of the crisis, but was not being addressed, the economic crisis would be interminable: wages would stay low forever, and new money would constantly be pushed, via wealthier individuals, into stock and house prices.  The economy would never get a boost.  Upon realising this, in 2011, I started to bet that there would be no end to the economic recession.  By the end of that year, I was Citibank’s most profitable trader in the world.

This is a bleak economic forecast, and I believe it is true.  But it also provides profound opportunity for improvement and change.  Our current tools have not been working to boost the economy, but that is only because we have been failing to address this key issue.  Richer people tend to save their money, whereas ordinary working families spend almost everything they make.  When too much wealth accumulates in the hands of very wealthy families, it causes problems of underspending in society, and oversaving, pushing down wages and interest rate and crushing the economy, whilst simultaneously making housing unaffordable and pushing stock markets up.  All of these problems can be resolved, and both the economy and collective wellbeing can be improved enormously, if we only start treating wealth inequality as a serious issue and policy goal.

I have personally made millions by betting that failing to tackle wealth inequality will keep our economy in a slump forever.  I firmly believe that wealth, well paid work, and good quality, secure housing could be a realistic possibility for all if we deal with wealth inequality as a society.

The only realistic path to reduced wealth inequality is a serious change to the way that we tax the super rich.  Reducing wealth inequality is not about increasing tax on hard working, well paid workers and professionals.  These people may be relatively high income, but they generally do not hold huge amounts of wealth.  Billionaires and multi-millionaires, increasingly sitting on large amounts of inherited, family wealth, do not earn their incomes from working and, as a result, do not pay income taxes.  Instead, they pay other, lower taxes, which are often completely avoidable.  If we allow this situation to continue, it is inevitable that wealth inequality will increase, and our economic and societal problems will get worse.  We must amend the tax system so that the richest pay higher rates of tax than the rest of us, not lower rates than their cleaners, as they often do now.

It will not be an easy task, undoubtedly.  The super rich have the best tax lawyers and often the ability to amplify their voice in the media. They will proclaim that leaving them untaxed is essential for the economy.  I have made a career and a fortune by betting that isn’t true.

If you want to know more about the damage that wealth inequality does to our economy and society, please feel free to watch and share my videos on Youtube, or to read the full theory on my website.

A prosperous, dignified future can be available to all of us.  But only if we fix wealth inequality.

Photo by Simran Singh Mohan

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