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The New Times – Rwanda
By: Gitura Mwaura
It is ten years since Bitcoin started trading spawning myriad other cryptocurrencies. There are now 2,400 digital currencies and growing. Even governments have been creating their own.
Bitcoin and its descendants have become such a part of life that they are already been taxed in some countries. In Israel, for example, they are taxed as an asset and in Switzerland as foreign currency. In Argentina and Spain, they are taxed as income.
If the virtual currencies are being taxed, it means acceptability that has gained them legitimate status in the jurisdictions that have embraced them, including those that have already created their own.
Last week, local economists and tech leaders were urging the government to create the country’s first digital currency.
It has been in the public domain for some time now that the National Bank of Rwanda has been considering it, and has actually been looking at research from other central banks.
Though NBR Director-General of the Financial Stability, Peace Uwase, explains that Rwanda is not ready just yet, as she recently told Bloomberg, the economists are convinced it is about time the country adopted its own cryptocurrency.
I would extend it further and argue that it is not just Rwanda but the East African Community, as the process towards single currency proceeds, to consider its own digital currency.
Of course, the concerns remain of the currencies’ extreme volatility and other high risks. But these concerns don’t seem to shave topped the taking up of the digital money elsewhere.
A recent survey by the US Library of Congress on legal and policy landscape surrounding cryptocurrencies around the world shows that not all countries see the advent of cryptocurrencies as a threat; it shows increased adoption.
One of the reasons for the growing adoption is the proliferation of the thousands of cryptocurrencies. This has prompted more national and regional authorities to not only grapple with their regulation, but increasing make some countries to have their own.
A number of countries, including in Africa, already have or are in the process of developing their own system of cryptocurrencies.
Tunisia stands out as the first country in the world to issue an official digital currency, the e-Dinar, in 2015.
Senegal was second in Africa having issued the eCFA, the digital version of the CFA Franc, in December 2016.
The CFA Franc being the legal tender for the more than 10 former French colonies in West Africa, the aim was to eventually roll out the eCFA in these countries.
If it is about examples, the EAC can look to the west of the continent to learn from their success and challenges, of which there have been a number. It should keep abreast of members’ digital plans and start developing requisite monetary policy.
Other countries around the world that have issued their own cryptocurrencies include China, Singapore and Ecuador.
Countries including Russia, Japan, Estonia, Sweden and Palestine are on the verge of launching their own national cryptocurrencies.
For most of the others, one of the most common actions identified across the jurisdictions in the Law Library of Congress survey is government-issued notices about the pitfalls of investing in the cryptocurrency markets.
The warnings, mostly issued by central banks, are largely designed to educate the citizenry about the difference between actual currencies, which are issued and guaranteed by the state, and cryptocurrencies, which are not.
This is the situation we in the EAC currently are. While not banning citizens from investing in cryptocurrencies, they are cautioned it is at their own personal risk because no legal recourse is available in the event of loss. It is emphasised that many of the organisations that facilitate such transactions are unregulated.
It could be that the EAC countries stance is not unlike that of such as Belgium, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. They have determined that the size of the cryptocurrency market is too small to be cause for sufficient concern to warrant regulation and/or a ban at this juncture.
However, when I think of cryptocurrencies, I think of the mobile money and the perceived risks associated with pseudo banks before the platform was adopted. Central banks in the region took the plunge with the necessary measures and let it play.
If they had not, we would not be witnessing the runaway phenomenon of mobile money to include and empower.
Digital currencies could turn out to be just as phenomenal. As the economists and tech leaders were suggesting, it is worth consideration to create virtual currency.
Sada ElBalad English – Egypt
By: Dr. Magdy Badran
Global Hand-washing Day occurs on 15 October of each year. Global Hand-washing Day is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of hand-washing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. It is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times.
Clean Hands Save Lives
Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Handwashing education in the community can reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by about 23-40%, reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%, reduce diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by about 58% and reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by about 16-21%.
Bacteria have been known to linger on the hands and other objects for days! This means that if you do not wash your hands expecting the bacteria to die, you might be in for a surprise. They will stay on your hands, or even worse – make their way to your eyes or mouth, causing infections.
Ten million bacteria would fit very comfortably on something as small as the head of a pin? Given the right conditions, those 10 million bacteria would double every 20 minutes.
Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community.
Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often.
How Often Should You Wash Your Hands?
There is no daily quota of hand washing that you have to hit in order to stay healthy. It all depends on your environment and what are you doing throughout the day. Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food, before eating food, before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea, before and after treating a cut or wound and after using the toilet.
Wash your hands after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste, after handling pet food or pet treats and after touching garbage.
5 Steps to Proper Hand-Washing
Follow these five steps every time you wash your hands. Wet your hands with clean water — warm, if available — and apply soap. Lather by rubbing hands together; be sure to cover all surfaces. Continue rubbing hands together for 15 to 20 seconds — sing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head. Thoroughly rinse hands under running water to ensure removal of residual germs. Use paper towels to dry hands and then, if possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.
Hand-washing and Nail Hygiene
Don’t forget to pay extra care to washing underneath your nails. Those that are prone to nail biting may suffer from many unpleasant consequences. Appropriate hand hygiene includes diligently cleaning and trimming fingernails, which may harbor dirt and germs and can contribute to the spread of some infections, such as pin-worms.
Fingernails should be kept short, and the undersides should be cleaned frequently with soap and water. Because of their length, longer fingernails can harbor more dirt and bacteria than short nails, thus potentially contributing to the spread of infection.
Dry your hands thoroughly. This minimizes the likelihood a nail infection will occur and prevents water from softening the nails too much.
Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. Sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. However, Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs. Hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.
If you’re using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, apply product to one palm, rub your two hands together, making sure to reach all surfaces, and continue rubbing until hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
Hand-washing and Food Hygiene
Hand washing is vital in preventing contamination of food by food handlers. Handwashing in the food industry is one of the first lines of defense in food safety. Harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus and viruses present on the hands of food workers are removed by proper hand washing techniques.
Hand-washing with soap is an important part of food hygiene, a set of hygienic practices that keep food safe and prevent food-related illnesses. Contamination of food can lead to a wide range of illnesses and outbreaks, many of which are particularly dangerous for pregnant women, fetuses, and people with compromised immune systems. Up to 70 percent of cases of diarrhea may be associated with poor food hygiene.
Hand-washing and Nutrition
Hygiene is important for improving nutrition but is not a stand-alone solution. Improving handwashing with soap is considered a nutrition-sensitive intervention.
Hand-washing prevents diarrhea diseases, which not only contribute to the deaths of many children under five but limit the body’s ability to absorb nutrition from food. Hand-washing breaks the vicious cycle of diarrhea and under nutrition.
Children are susceptible to infection by bacteria and viruses, found in fecal matter, that cause diarrhea. When children get diarrhea, they often eat less food, and have a reduced ability to absorb and benefit from nutrients in the food they do eat. As a result, this can contribute to under-nutrition. When children are undernourished, they become far more susceptible to developing diarrhea when they come into contact with the bacteria and viruses in fecal matter. And so, the cycle repeats itself. Good hand-washing with soap can prevent nearly half of all cases of childhood diarrhea.
Drinking clean water and hand-washing with soap can prevent the loss of nutrients through diarrhea and reduce stunting by up to 15% in children under the age of 5, giving them a better chance of maintaining good nutrition and growing up to thrive.
The negative effects of under-nutrition during the first 1,000 days on physical growth, immune system and brain development may be irreversible. Poor hygiene is also linked to wasting and severe acute malnutrition.
Want to ‘Reset’ your Brain? Wash your Hands
There are many health reasons to wash your hands, but it can also have psychological effects. Specifically, it may lessen guilty feelings or remorse over past actions—or at least serve as an attempt to do so. In the mind, dirt is associated with guilt, so theoretically washing doesn’t just remove dirt, it also removes a guilty feeling. Those who washed their hands after thinking about an immoral behavior felt less guilty. It seems when you wash your hands in a public toilet, you help guilt other people into washing theirs as well. Not only are you staying healthy, you’re also doing a public service by shaming others into following suit.
Even using a hand wipe to wipe away dirt can improve your way of thinking. Washing your hands does not just keep them clean, but the act can also cleanse your brain of old ideas. Washing your hands can shift goal pursuit, making prior goals less important and subsequent goals more important.
Feeling clean directly affects our view of other people. When people in one study washed their hands, they were more disgusted by the bad behavior of others.
Want to feel more optimistic? Wash your hands. Washing your hands can wash away the feeling of failure and can help boost optimism after a failure.