The Hammer of Justice for Sexual Assault Victims Must Be Swift, Loud and Consistent

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 14 2020 – Every year Valentines Day is celebrated with great relish & celebration. People show their affection for another person or people by sending cards, flowers or chocolates with messages of love.

But there is a tragic dark side which stays in the shadows, when considering violence against women, one is confronted with an apparent contradiction.

“If you don’t fight, silence will kill you,” says Kenyan musician Wendy Kemunto, explaining why – a month after suffering a sexual assault by two Kenyan rugby players early in 2018 – she finally went to the police. For several weeks Wendy had remained silent, blaming herself, paralysed by a toxic mixture of shame, fear and well-founded dread at the usual & insensitive treatment of sexual assault victims by law-enforcement agencies.

But in November 2019, the two rugby players were each handed 15-year jail terms for rape, and now Wendy is speaking out to encourage more women to report such crimes.

Currently less than a third of victims report their ordeal, but data shows more than one in three women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence. In the face of such figures we can no longer shrug our collective shoulders and ignore the misogyny that fosters and encourages sexual violence.

When you know that only a tiny proportion of reported rapes ever make it to court, it is easy to understand, perhaps, why so few rape victims come forward.

The conviction of Wendy’s attackers is an encouraging sign that the Kenyan justice system is shifting from a trend where such cases – particularly those that involve high-profile individuals – remain in limbo in the courts, leaving a swathe of victims of violent assault not only without sufficient legal protection, but with the additional trauma of facing societal stigma.

The commemoration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM last week is another reminder that all forms of gender based violence are not merely vestiges of historical harmful cultures, but are practices that continue to impoverish women and their families, and lower the productivity of entire countries.

With ever more studies illustrating the developmental hazards of sexual and gender violence, it is to our collective shame that, in the words of UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres, women’s rights are increasingly being “reduced, restricted and reversed”.

Around 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts, with current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends the most common perpetrators. Around 700 million women alive today were married as children. Of those women, more than one in three—or some 250 million—were married before the age of 15.

The UNDP Africa Human Development Report for 2016 says, “Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year”. The justice system, supported by the necessary legislation, must pursue individuals who commit such acts with the same vigour that we use to go after economic saboteurs.

Countries must begin by fast-tracking the implementation of progressive policy commitments and institutional frameworks on gender equality and women’s empowerment. For instance, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa has yet to secure universal ratification.

Beyond policies, there is an enormous task ahead in changing the mind-set of insidious male entitlement that finds expression through sexual and gender based violence.

The natural place to begin must be in the home, where husbands must not only set an example of respect for their wives but also raise their sons to value girls and to respect their rights and autonomy. Schools must teach respect and gender equality to both sexes.

Such early formation is invaluable in dealing with societies that see gender based violence and misogyny as expressions of “culture” and “tradition”. In my own country India, culture and concepts such as ‘family honour’ have continued as the distorting lenses through which gender based violence, patriarchy and misogyny are seen.

President Uhuru Kenyatta must be commended for his unequivocal message that such deeply-embedded practices as female genital mutilation and early marriages will not go unpunished.

As the United Nations in Kenya, we believe this leadership is crucial for programmes such as the Government of Kenya and UN Joint Program on the Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence, which is supporting the establishment of strong prevention interventions and protection mechanisms for survivors.

While the case of Wendy Kemunto is an encouraging win for assault victims, we must remember that most victims remain invisible, as male-controlled money and power keep their plight hidden. Many are poor and ill-educated. Countless are growing up in cultures where their life chances are severely diminished simply by virtue of their gender.

So on this Valentines Day, Kenya has an opportunity to lead the way in showing that institutions and structures are ready, willing and able to enforce equal and fair treatment of all women.

Why Paraguay Can Be a “Beacon State” for Forest Management

Credit: UNDP, Paraguay

By Achim Steiner, Inger Andersen and Qu Dongyu
ASUNCION, Paraguay, Feb 14 2020 – Imagine a forest that covered half of your entire country. A biodiverse forest which supports thousands of species from giant anteaters to armadillos to jaguars. A forest that is home to one the world’s last uncontacted tribes.1

That forest is in fact a reality in Paraguay, a South American country of seven million people, landlocked between Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. It is home to much of the Gran Chaco forest that is considered the second largest forested landscape in South America — second only to the Amazon rainforest.

And like other countries which are home to the great forests of South America, Paraguay too battled raging wildfires in 2019.

But Paraguay’s portion of the Chaco forest is battling an even more existential challenge. This unique ecosystem, characterised by scrub forests, grassy plains, lagoons, marshes and jungles, is under threat from agricultural expansion, driven by cattle and soy production.2

The region has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. As NASA satellites have highlighted between 1987 and 2012, the forests in Paraguay lost nearly 44,000 square kilometres through conversion to farmland or grazing land. That’s an area roughly the size of Honduras.3

The scale of that destruction is both frightening and untenable.

Paraguay needed to support to reduce deforestation. And partly as a consequence of that destruction, the country was not able to fully realise the massive potential of its forests to support climate change mitigation.

Thus, Paraguay engaged in REDD+, a voluntary process under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which encourages developing countries to contribute to climate change mitigation efforts by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from deforestation and forest degradation. The process also helps to increase the removal of GHGs from the earth’s atmosphere through the conservation, management, and expansion of forests.

Credit: UNDP Paraguay

Since 2011, partners from across the UN System have collaborated closely to support Paraguay’s national REDD+ process through a range of tailor-made initiatives.

They include the UN-REDD Programme (2011-2016) where the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provided support to Paraguay to submit its first Forest Reference Emission Level of deforestation (FREL).

This collaboration also resulted in a new a National Forest Monitoring System for the country which allows for the reporting of forest carbon — reliable data on forest area and changes to forest area.4

Following this, and thanks to support from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility since 2016, Paraguay advanced the elements of the UNFCCC Warsaw Framework for REDD+ – institutional prerequisites that make a country’s emission reductions in the forest sector eligible to exchange for results-based payments.

UN agencies are now jointly collaborating to advise Paraguay on accessing and managing result-based payments from a range of public and private sources thus ensuring robust fiduciary management and compliance with UNFCCC social and environment safeguards.

The first example of this collaboration is Paraguay’s proposal to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) pilot programme for REDD+ result-based payments, which was approved at the GCF board meeting in November 2019.

UNEP will play the role of Accredited Entity for this US $72 million proposal and implementation will be undertaken by the three UN-REDD partner agencies: UNDP, FAO and UNEP. UNDP will build upon the support provided for the development of Paraguay’s National Strategy on Forest for Sustainable Growth and will assist in the implementation of the Strategy’s policies and measures, informed by UNDP’s experience on the ground.

FAO will support improvement of the national forest monitoring system. It will also assist in the application of rigorous methodologies to assess, quantify, monitor, report and verify emission reductions at the national-level.

UNEP will support the definition of incentives to reduce deforestation and forest degradation. It will also boost social and environmental safeguards; and engage in communications and awareness-raising efforts.

Working together for nearly a decade, UN agencies have demonstrated the power of working as one to open the door for Paraguay to access significant international resources to implement its National Strategy on Forest for Sustainable Growth and achieve the mitigation goals set out in the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – or its “promise” towards the Paris Agreement.

The results of these wide-ranging partnerships are producing dividends. In 2019, Paraguay reported 26.7 MtCO2 of emission reductions – or a reduction of nearly 50 per cent for the forest sector.

We hope that Paraguay can serve as a “beacon state” to thrust countries around the world into further positive action to when it comes to the management of its forests as a nature-based solution to climate change — while also helping them to propel forward a range of related Sustainable Development Goals.


Amplifying Voices of Climate Activists of Color

Highlighting climate activists of color is good for everyone: when minorities and underrepresented voices are included everyone benefits

Ranton Anjain, 17, from the Marshall Islands, speaks at a press conference announcing a collective action being taken on behalf of young people facing the impacts of the climate crisis. UNICEF/Radhika Chalasani

By Esther Ngumbi
ILLINOIS, United States, Feb 14 2020 – Recently, the Associated Press cropped out Ugandan climate change activist Vanessa Nakate from a photo at the World Economic Forum. The remaining activists in the photo, including Greta Thunberg, were all white.

While the AP cited picture composition as the reason for the edit and later apologized for their actions, it still happened. The editing out of Nakate – who said it felt like her story had been erased — calls for a deeper reflection on the issue of diversity, inclusion, and the lack of representation of people of color and other marginalized groups in key global conversations.

In fact, people of color should be the ones we hear from the most when it comes to issues like climate change. According to climate research and many reports, including the recently released IPCC report, the outcomes of climate change disproportionally affects people living in developing countries.

Highlighting activists of color is good for everyone. Convincingly, a growing body of evidence shows that when minorities and underrepresented voices are included, and their voices and actions displayed, including in science, everyone benefits

For example, in March of 2019, flooding events in Malawi and Mozambique brought about by climate change affected and disrupted the lives of nearly 843,000 people. In addition, in the same year, drought, floods, and conflicts brought about by the changing climate, contributed to soaring levels of hunger in the horn of Africa.

According to Save the Children, nearly 13 million people were affected by hunger with children making half the number.

Instead, climate activists and voices from these communities must be centered in global conversations if we are to sustainably mitigate climate change. They bring in firsthand experience which can greatly inform climate change conversations, science, action, and policy.

As an African climate change activist who has greatly benefited from media visibility, I strongly feel we must highlight activists of color in the media – it matters who is featured there. Undoubtedly, Thunberg is a passionate, fearless and determined activist and she deserves to be celebrated.

But we should also hear about the actions of young people like Kaluki Paul Mutuku from Kenya, who has been engaged in conservation work and activism,  Leah Namugerwa, a climate activist from Uganda, also engaged with Friday climate strikes and Ridhima Pandey, a climate activist from India.

Failing to showcase and highlight the contributions, ideas, and actions of these activists from developing countries hurts us all. It actively crops these voices out and reduces the chances that their worthy ideas will help shape policies and the world.

Often those ideas are ingenious, born of necessity and creativity. This is something I saw firsthand while growing up in rural Kenya in a town with no electricity or Internet. People in these regions innovate every day, but their ideas and ways of addressing challenges are rarely featured – and not on a global scale. This should change.

Further, rendering these activists invisible potentially denies them the chance of catching the eye of and benefiting from funding agencies that can finance their ideas and amplify their contributions. It perpetuates the problem by allowing groups with more visibility and funding in the first place to continue to grow through support.

Highlighting activists of color is good for everyone. Convincingly, a growing body of evidence shows that when minorities and underrepresented voices are included, and their voices and actions displayed, including in science, everyone benefits.

It makes our world stronger. It also sends a message to other activists and aspiring young people that they, too, can be the voice on issues of our day.

In contrast, by failing to recognize all activists, we perpetuate the narrative that only certain people can achieve greatness. Only certain people can be activists. Yet, this is not true. Even with the lack of representation, we have examples of people of color who have broken glass ceilings.

The Late Nobel Prize winner, Wangaari Maathai, for example, was an environment activist whose work continues to inspire many people-young and old. Imagine how much more persons of color may be able to achieve if they have more recognition and support.

In the end, we all must make an effort to ensure that diversity and inclusion happens. Small actions like calling out these injustices as they happen would go a long way.  If you see something—say something.

We cannot stand by the perimeter and expect a just and equal world to happen. Evermore, we must continue to be creative and find other avenues to highlight activists of color and those from marginalized groups. We all have a stake in mitigating climate change.


Dr. Esther Ngumbi is an Assistant Professor at the Entomology Department, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is a Senior Food security fellow with the Aspen Institute and has written opinion pieces for various outlets including NPR, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Aljazeera and New York Times.

Desert Locusts Invade East Africa

Credit: Harald Matern from Pixabay.

By Nelson Mandela Ogema
NAIROBI, Feb 14 2020 – Widespread hatching and movement of destructive desert locusts will turn into a full-blown crisis in the coming weeks in East Africa and neighbouring countries, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns.

“Breeding continues in the Horn of Africa, which will cause locusts to increase further in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya with new swarms forming in March and April,” explains the FAO in a forecast.

The desert locusts have destroyed 70,000 hectares of farmland in Ethiopia and Somalia, threatening food security and livelihoods in both countries. According to the FAO, locust swarms of one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people.

This is the worst desert locust invasion Kenya has had in 70 years, while Ethiopia and Somalia experienced an invasion of this magnitude 25 years ago, the FAO says.

The region experienced abnormally heavy rains between October and December, with flooding in regions that are normally semi-arid, creating conditions that are favourable for locust breeding.


A map dated February 10, 2020 showing Desert Locust spread from Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania. Source: FAO Locust Watch

A map dated February 10, 2020 showing Desert Locust spread from Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania. Source: FAO Locust Watch


“Locust swarms have started laying eggs and another generation of breeding will increase locust numbers,” says Keith Cressman, a senior locust forecasting officer at the FAO. “Urgent efforts must be made to stop them from increasing to protect the livelihoods of farmers and livestock holders.”

Stephen Njoka, the director-general of Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa, tells SciDev.Net: “Climate change could be behind this invasion, for example the current rains in Kenya are very unusual, making vegetation available to the pests and creating suitable egg laying sites in the soil.”

The Horn of Africa, made up of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, has about 115 million people. Because locusts have been found to be nutritious by some communities and cultures in the region, eating them may be a mild measure of control given the overwhelming numbers of the insects, Njoka suggests.

Njoka says that aerial and ground spraying with safe pesticides are the best ways to control locust invasion. The FAO says US$70 million is needed to support rapid control operations, such as spraying with insecticides.


Desert Locust swarm in Kenya. Copyright: FAO/Sven Torfinn (This image has been Cropped).

Desert Locust swarm in Kenya. Copyright: FAO/Sven Torfinn (This image has been Cropped).


But Daniel Otaye argues that the use of pesticides in the control of locusts is a source of concern, as pesticides might have devastating effects on other beneficial insects such as bees, green lacewings, and dragonflies, which contribute to ecosystem health.

Otaye, an associate professor and chairman in the Department of Biological Sciences, Egerton University in Kenya, says: “The invasion poses disastrous effects on the East African region that is still smarting from insecurity, droughts and aggressive floods.”

According to Otaye, the insects can devour fields of crops, such as maize and sorghum, and ravage pastures meant for livestock. He tells SciDev.Net that if the situation is left unchecked, the region might need additional food aid because of the anticipated crop and forage losses.

This story was originally published by SciDev.Net


From Cocoa to Chocolate, Made With Love in Africa

Diogo Vaz, a company in the idyllic island of Sao Tome and Principe in West Africa, is producing organic luxury chocolate from rare cocoa varieties. Courtesy: Diogo Vaz

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Feb 14 2020 (IPS)

A premium chocolate maker in São Tomé and Príncipe is on a drive to promote the taste for “made in Africa” chocolate, and tap into a $100 billion global indulgence associated with Valentine’s Day.

Diogo Vaz, a company in the idyllic island of São Tomé and Príncipe in West Africa, is producing organic luxury chocolate from rare cocoa varieties. The objective is to promote Africa’s palate for chocolate, a world-loved treat estimated to be enjoyed by one billion people every day.

“For centuries Africa has produced cocoa from wild beans but the consumption of chocolate is really low in Africa,” Willy Mboukem, Plantation Director at  Diogo Vaz, told IPS in a telephone interview.

“Modern consumer habits are a challenge and we know in Africa we are not big consumers of chocolate. People do not have this habit and often buy expensive products with a lot of sugar and missing out of the real taste of chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa.”

Ivorian chocolate. The Ivory Coast is one of the world’s greatest producers of cocoa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria produce 70 percent of global cocoa but enjoy just five percent of the global value from this market. Cocoa producers are unable to get more value from selling the raw material for chocolate to realise higher prices for farmers.

Worse still, many African cocoa producers have battled with adding value to their beans, — a process that would boost jobs and incomes — because they have little control on their value chains.

Emerging markets consultant Edward George says in an online paper that West Africa is the largest cocoa producer in the world but it exports 75 percent of it as raw beans – a key ingredient in chocolate — giving the lion’s share of value addition to confectioners and retailers at the end of the value chain.

George said that despite Africa’s agricultural sector having many inbuilt advantages of abundant agricultural land, a rapidly-growing population and lower labour costs, it lacked an efficient marketing infrastructure.

This prevented farmers and processors from getting full value from their crop, even in its raw form. In addition, Africa’s agriculture value chains were highly fragmented and face international competition.

George said a solution to poor value addition in Africa was to boost local demand for cash crops, within countries and regionally.

Last November, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Credit Suisse AG, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited and the Ghana Cocoa Board signed a $600-million loan to boost cocoa production in Ghana, the second-largest cocoa producer in the world.

The deal will be extended to other cocoa-producing countries in Africa, according to AfDB President Akinumwi Adesina. Adesina has long bemoaned the fact that Africa is not dominating the cocoa value chain, despite being the leading producer.

Ivorian cocoa framer Abou Ouattara in this file photo dated 2016. Credit: Busani Bafana/ IPS

“African farmers sweat, while others eat sweets. While the price of cocoa has hit an all-time low, profits of global manufacturers of chocolate have hit an all-time high…. It is time for Africa to move to the top of the global food value chain, through agro-industrialisation and adding value to all of what it produces,” Adesina said at the Bank’s Annual Meetings last year.

The AfDB is a strong supporter of agriculture value chains on the continent. The AfDB’s Feed Africa Strategy (2016-2025) marked a shift by the bank towards approaching agriculture on the continent as a business. Agriculture is currently one of the top priorities for AfDB.

“Agriculture is the most important profession and business in the world,” Adesina said last month when he was conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Science by the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria.

Chocolate visions

Diogo Vaz has bucked the trend and is adding value to cocoa beans at source, a risk Mboukem says is paying off thanks to growing demand for high end chocolate in Europe and the United States.

The company operates a 420 hectare farm bought in 2013 which has been replanted with 150,000 cocoa trees, which include the unique Amelonado and Trinitario varieties endemic to São Tomé and Príncipe. The Portuguese introduced cocoa from Brazil to the island nation over 160 years ago.

Mboukem said Diogo Vaz was riding on the rich cocoa-growing history in São Tomé and Príncipe and is establishing itself as a global brand for chocolate. It currently exports bulk and tablet chocolate to France, Portugal and the Gambia. The company, which employs 250 people, exports 12 tonnes of fine chocolate every two months.

“We have looked at what the European and U.S. market needs which is  low fat, low sugar organic chocolate with traceability,” said Mboukem.  “We have maintained producing chocolate from different varieties of cocoa from the farm to factory. This project is an important page in the history of Africa to master the cocoa value chain.”

It is, however, a luxury market item. “You sell units at high price and then you have a lot of different costs like the cost of packing is a big cost for us and then operational costs but chocolates, in general, is a profitable business and is huge all over the world especially in Europe, U.S., and Japan,” he said.

Diogo Vaz holds public tastings and open factory tours to educate the community in São Tomé and Príncipe about chocolate making but importantly to understand the company’s philosophy of making good chocolate through investing in the community.

“People say it is an African chocolate but the packaging and the way it’s presented and the story behind makes them feel proud because it is 100 percent African with international characteristics. They say
the chocolate is good and we have been making good chocolate, we’ve got a professional chocolatier.”

Climate change eating chocolate?

Weather extremes, a result of climate change, will lead to a fall in cocoa production by 2030, a 2011 study by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) predicted.

Climate change, and the resultant change in the rainy seasons, Mboukem said, has forced Diogo Vaz to change production methods in terms planting the beans and the fermentation and grading process to retain the best quality.

Rising incomes are driving the demand for cocoa beans, which is expected to reach 4.5 million tonnes by 2020, up from 3.5 million tonnes in 2016.

Cocoa farming by over five million small holder farmers around the world, a bulk of them in Africa, supports more than 50 million people globally, according to the World Cocoa Foundation.

The International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) says while the organic cocoa market is less than 0.5 percent of the total global production, there is growing demand for organic cocoa products as consumers worry about food safely and the environmental footprint of food production.

The global chocolate market is projected to grow to $161 billion by 2024 from $103.2 billion in 2017.

“The future is to expand value addition of cocoa beans in Africa and transform the livelihoods of many people who depend on cocoa and ensure Africa enjoys real chocolate,” Mboukem said.


Flywire Acquires Simplee to Transform Healthcare Payments Experience

Acquisition accelerates Flywire's multi–vertical strategy, broadens healthcare client base

$120 million Series E investment round led by Goldman Sachs fuels acquisition and provides additional capital for strategic growth

Flywire to accelerate investment in its payments network, platform and verticals to capture increased share of trillion–dollar global payments TAM

BOSTON and PALO ALTO, Calif., Feb. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flywire, a high–growth vertical payments company, today announced that it has acquired Simplee, a leading healthcare technology platform, to optimize the digital payments and patient engagement experience in healthcare and scale its global payments services. The acquisition builds on Flywire's growing healthcare payments business and accelerates the company's market share. Flywire is also announcing a $120 million Series E investment round, led by Goldman Sachs, which contributes to Flywire's strong balance sheet and provides additional capital to support the company's vision to digitize payments across its key verticals, including education, healthcare and travel.

Bolstered by new digital capabilities, global payments revenue is expected to grow at a 5.9% CAGR from 2019–2028 to become a $2.5 trillion industry by 2028, according to Boston Consulting Group. However, the payments experience across many industries, like healthcare, is fraught with inefficiencies and poorly integrated point solutions, which accelerate financial losses. Exacerbating high healthcare costs is the secular trend towards high–deductible health plans; according to CMS, healthcare patients in the United States will be responsible for $365.5 BN in out–of–pocket healthcare spend per year, representing a market opportunity for Flywire that is about 70% of the size of the entire U.S. e–commerce spend.

Flywire's acquisition of Simplee accelerates the digitization of payments to address the challenges around patient engagement as well as healthcare finance and affordability. Combining Flywire's high–tech platform for providers with Simplee's consumer–first paths to payment, both patients and providers are empowered to settle payment faster and on their own terms. Together, the companies will power four of the top ten US healthcare systems and process more than $10 billion in patient payments per year.

"Flywire is uniquely built on a global payments network, which is the cornerstone of how we move billions of dollars across 200+ countries and 150 currencies, and an industry–leading payments platform," said Mike Massaro, CEO of Flywire. "This digital foundation enables us to develop vertical–specific applications that make payments more efficient and cost–effective for our global clients. The Simplee acquisition improves patient engagement and healthcare affordability and extends these capabilities to a broader customer base."

Flywire is also announcing a $120 million Series E investment round led by Goldman Sachs, which will support Flywire's ongoing investment in its multi–vertical strategy. This latest round brings the company's total capital investment to $260 million. Tiger Management and Adage Capital Management also joined the round as new investors with participation from existing investors.

"We are thrilled to lead the Series E round for Flywire," said Ashwin Gupta, Managing Director at Goldman Sachs' Merchant Banking Division. "They bring together a unique blend of a payments network, platform and vertical–specific solutions to completely digitize the payments experience for their clients across industries. We look forward to continuing to help accelerate Flywire's growth."

About Flywire

Flywire is a high–growth vertical payments company trusted by organizations around the world to deliver on their customers' most important moments. Unlike other companies, Flywire is proven to solve vertical–specific payment and receivables problems for organizations that deliver high–value services. Whether in education, healthcare, travel or technology, Flywire has vertical–specific insight and technology that allows organizations to optimize the payment experience for their customers while eliminating operational challenges. To date Flywire has processed over $12 billion in total payments volume for over 2,000 clients around the world. The company is headquartered in Boston, MA, USA and has offices around the world. For more information, visit Follow Flywire on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

About Simplee

Simplee, which has raised $36.4 million in venture capital funding, founded the patient financial care movement. It provides a leading technology platform for engaging patients and addressing affordability with personalized paths to payment. Simplee's platform, Peer Reviewed by HFMA, leverages information from billions of patient interactions and proprietary healthcare tuned algorithms to drive a recommendation engine for patient payments and engagement.

Media Contacts

Sarah King

Tim Walsh
For Flywire

CC Group (UK)
For Flywire

Nyxoah raises €25 million in private funding round

Nyxoah raises 25 million in private funding round

Mont–Saint–Guibert, Belgium "" 12 February 2020, Nyxoah S.A., a healthtech company developing neuromodulation–based therapeutic solutions for sleep disordered breathing conditions, today announced that it has raised 25 million in a private financing round. Completion of the financing round is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to occur later this month.

ResMed Inc. (NYSE:RMD) (ASX:RMD), a world–leading digital health company in the fields of sleep apnea, COPD, and other chronic diseases, joined as a new shareholder.

Under the lead of Mr. Robert Taub, Nyxoah executive chairman, Cochlear Limited (ASX:COH) and several historical shareholders completed the 25 million financing round.

The proceeds will enable Nyxoah to further advance in developing long–term clinical evidence on the Genio system, prepare for the IDE pivotal trial in the United States and accelerate the ongoing market access and commercialisation activities in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Olivier Taelman, CEO of Nyxoah, commented: "We have an innovative approach to treating OSA. Having ResMed, the global leader in sleep apnea, support this significant funding round along with our existing shareholders will help Nyxoah to further accelerate its development."

"" ENDS ""

About Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and the Genio system
OSA is the world's most common sleep disorder, affecting almost one billion people globally1.
OSA makes a person stop breathing during sleep, while the airway repeatedly becomes partially (hypopnea) or totally (apnea) blocked, limiting the amount of air that reaches the lungs. OSA is a chronic condition that is associated with increased mortality risk and comorbidities, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression and stroke. The current standard of care consists of Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy, a treatment whereby air is pushed into the upper airway to keep it open.

The Genio system is the world's first and only, battery–free, leadless and minimally invasive implanted neurostimulator designed to keep the upper airway open during sleep for certain people with OSA by bilateral stimulation of the hypoglossal nerve.

About Nyxoah
Nyxoah is a healthtech company focused on the development and commercialisation of innovative solutions and services for sleep disordered breathing conditions. Nyxoah's lead solution platform is based on the Genio system, a validated, user–centered, next generation hypoglossal neurostimulation therapy for OSA, the world's most common sleep disordered breathing condition that is associated with increased mortality risk and comorbidities including cardiovascular diseases, depression and stroke.

Following successful completion of the BLAST OSA study in patients with moderate to severe OSA, the Genio system received its European CE Mark in March 2019. The Company is currently conducting the BETTER SLEEP study in Australia and New Zealand for therapy indication expansion, and a post–marketing EliSA study in Europe to confirm the long–term safety and efficacy of the Genio system. The IDE pivotal study to prepare for US market entrance is currently in discussion with the FDA.

For more information, please visit
Caution "" CE marked since 2019. Investigational device in the United States. Limited by federal law to investigational use.

1 Benjafield, Adam V et al. Estimation of the global prevalence and burden of obstructive sleep apnoea: a literature–based analysis. Lancet Respir Med 2019 Published Online July 9, 2019–2600(19)30198–5

Jacada Broadens Hyperautomation and Actionable Intelligence with Interact 12 Release

ATLANTA, Feb. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Jacada Inc., a global leader in customer service automation software, announces the recent release of Interact 12.0 "" the customer service automation platform that delivers hyperautomation, powers conversational AI, personalizes multimodal experiences, and is built on a low–code, no–code robot factory.

This latest release unleashes new customer analytics visualization tools to allow enterprises to battle customer service complexity and gain insights for continuous improvement of automation that delight customers and empower employees.

As most of Jacada customers are powered by Jacada Interact in the cloud, existing and new customers are already enjoying highlights from Jacada Interact 12.0:

  • Automation professionals and Business Operations leaders can now relentlessly test and improve various experiences and automations for customers and employees using industry–leading business intelligence (BI) capabilities now fully integrated to Jacada Interact.
  • Advancements in RPA that streamline real–time human and AI augmentation to empower employees.
  • Hyperautomation from the first customer touchpoint to the last, featuring everything from effortless customer experience design powered by conversational AI to the management of RPA–powered modern agent desktops that reduce contact center complexity.
  • Culmination of investments in the world's most powerful customer service automation software reduces the total cost of ownership for organizations that strive to move from RPA to hyperautomation.

"When you overcome the inherent complexity in customer service, our clients do more than just build great bots for customers and employees," reveals Yoel Goldenberg, Chief Product Officer for Jacada. "Organizations want to make a material impact on their bottom–line by driving up productivity, improving morale, and bolster satisfying customer experiences "" all at the same time. Only Jacada offers a unified platform to deliver on that promise and turn well–intended efforts into automation reality."

For more details, including video demonstrations of Jacada's automation technology, visit For press inquiries, contact Matthew Storm at

About Jacada
Jacada is the global leader in customer service automation software with over three decades of experience automating end–to–end customer interactions for enterprise clients."Using a #CollaborationFirst approach to automation, Jacada's solutions bring together rich UX design, real–time guidance and intelligent automation capabilities powered by customer service RPA to create truly collaborative experiences between customers, employees and bots within a single low–code automation and AI hub.

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Restoring Competition in ”Winner-took-All” Digital Platform Markets

By Ebru Gokce Dessemond
GENEVA, Feb 13 2020 – Digital platforms are at the centre of the global economy and daily lives of consumers.

A handful of these platforms have become dominant in specific markets without facing meaningful competition. They include Amazon as a marketplace, Facebook in social networking, Google in search engines and Apple and Google in application stores.

Digital platforms rely on big data and are characterized as multisided markets with economies of scale, network effects and winner-takes-all features.

These firms offer their products for “free” on one side of the market and earn revenues from online advertising and selling user data on the other side of the market.

The growing market power of these platforms raises concerns not only for consumers and smaller businesses but also for competition authorities.

Consumers not in control

Consumers can no longer control the use of their data. Smaller businesses face unfair market conditions, where they compete with big platforms that offer services by self-preferencing their own products. It is now widely recognized that these markets cannot self-correct.
What needs to be done?

One effective response is competition law and policy that promotes open and accessible markets with fair and reasonable terms for businesses. This goal is more pronounced in highly concentrated digital markets, where large platforms’ market power is enduring.

The most important competitive threats to monopolists are likely to come from new entrants, which are vulnerable to exclusionary conduct or anticompetitive acquisitions.

Governments should have in place relevant policies and legal frameworks to overcome different challenges of the platform economy. These include competition, consumer protection and data protection policies and legislation.

Adapt to new realities

There is a need for adapting competition law enforcement tools to new business realities by revising laws like in Germany and Austria or issuing regulations or guidelines as has been done in Kenya and Japan.

A 2017 law revision in Germany incorporated in the assessment of the market power of firms in the digital economy such criteria as direct and indirect network effects, parallel use of services from different providers and switching costs for users.

It also factored in economies of scale in connection with network effects, access by firms to data relevant for competition and innovation-driven competitive pressure.

This amendment allowed the Federal Cartel Office in Germany to consider these criteria in analyzing Facebook’s dominance in the social network market during its investigation into Facebook between March 2016 and February 2019.

Merger control regimes should enable competition authorities to scrutinize the acquisition of start-ups by major platforms.

Merger analysis needs to incorporate the role of data in acquiring and sustaining market power and establishing entry barriers to new firms, thereby affecting future competition and innovation.

Not only free but also fair competition

It is important to ensure not only free but also fair competition. This is more so in digital markets, where smaller firms face challenges in their contractual relationship with big platforms.

Competition law provisions on unfair trade practices and abuse of superior bargaining position, as found in competition laws of Japan and the Republic of Korea, would empower competition authorities in protecting the interests of smaller firms vis-à-vis big platforms.

Developing countries could consider this policy measure in revising their competition legislation or introduce a separate regulation concerning digital platforms’ dealings with their business users.

Such measures could facilitate entry of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to platform markets, thereby allowing developing countries to reap the benefits of the digital economy.

This is important as SMEs are crucial to job creation and innovation. Both the implementation of fair competition legislation and review of acquisitions of startups by dominant platforms could play an important role in maintaining an inclusive, competitive and fair business environment in the digital economy. This might eventually enhance innovation.

Apt taxation policy needed

Another critical element needed to ensure fair competition is an appropriate taxation policy. A significant proportion of the value created in the digital economy results from users who provide data.

The current international corporate tax system is not adapted to the digital economy. There is not yet a common understanding of “value creation” for taxation purposes in the digital economy.

This leads to a disconnect between where value is generated and where taxes are paid. According to the UNCTAD Digital Economy Report 2019, taxes paid abroad by Facebook represented only 2.9% of the profits it generated outside the United States in 2017.

Ideally, an international taxation system, which is agreed upon by all countries, and recognizes the main aspects of digital businesses that have significant implications for taxation, should be put in place.

Internet Needs New Global Regulations Against Online Sexual Exploitation

By Tsitsi Matekaire
LONDON, Feb 13 2020 – Online sexual exploitation is a global epidemic that is increasing at an alarming rate.

At any one time, 750,000 individuals across the world are looking to connect with children and young people online for sexual exploitation. The expansion of the Internet, advances in information and communications technologies (ICTs), and the development of increasingly sophisticated digital tools that provide anonymity, mean that the number of potential victims is growing exponentially, and so too is the pool of those seeking to abuse them.

An investigation by The New York Times on how technology companies and the US government are being overwhelmed by this epidemic found that a record 45 million online photos and videos of child sexual exploitation were reported by US-based technology companies to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 2018.

And the problem is getting worse. In 2019, record-breaking 70 million total images and videos were reported to NICMEC, an enormous increase on the 1.1 million it received in 2014.

Children and young people are especially connected online. One in three Internet users worldwide are under the age of 18 years, and with availability and accessibility continuing to improve, more and more children own or have access to Internet-enabled smart devices.

Technology is also making children contactable around the clock. Young people across the world are spending an increasing amount of time online, and in the US, teenagers are now engaging with screen media seven hours per day on average.

Accompanying this is the expansion of social media, which has created a plethora of new opportunities for would-be offenders to connect and interact with children anonymously and unsupervised.

Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. They are subjected to a double layer of discrimination because they are young and female, and are sexualized from a young age, both in the way society treats them and in how the media portrays them.

Sexualized images of girls and young women are ubiquitous in advertising, merchandising, and the entertainment industry. All this perpetuates gender stereotypes that can negatively impact the developing body image and self-esteem of girls.

Social media has amplified these long-standing pressures, pushing girls to conform to particular sexualized narratives, and leaving them especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation both off and online.

New data gathered by UK based internet watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) revealed that 30 percent of sexually explicit images of children found online are self-generated.

IWF took action over 124,605 images found online between January and November 2019. Over three-quarters of these images (78 per cent) featured children aged 11 to 13, most of whom were girls.

Adolescent girls are particularly at risk of being groomed, coerced, or blackmailed into providing explicit images and videos, often via webcams, which can then be posted online and shared via networks operating across the world.

In some instances, children are sending videos and images to their peers on smartphones and via social media platforms. For the most part, this content will remain with the person it was intended for, but sometimes material is passed onto others. Once online, it is almost impossible to control where it ends up or stop its spread.

Victims can be left feeling sexually violated, powerless, socially isolated, and stigmatized. A range of mental health problems are associated with this, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Exploited children are at a heightened risk of becoming exploited and vulnerable adults, and as victims reach the age of majority, they no longer have the legal protections afforded to minors in different legal and policy contexts.

Particularly disturbing can be the ongoing sense of re-victimization arising from images of abuse being shared repeatedly across the digital landscape and viewed multiple times by countless people.

Frequently, requests asking for content to be removed are ignored, or image taken off one online platform, soon reappear elsewhere. This can feel like ongoing sexual assault, casting a long shadow that can have a profoundly damaging impact continuing into adulthood.

Commendable efforts in progress, but more challenges to overcome

Governments, technology companies, research institutions, civil society organizations, donors, and many others are rising to the challenge and are providing various examples of successful interventions and innovations.

In 2009, Microsoft partnered with Dartmouth College to develop PhotoDNA, a technology that aids in locating and removing online child abuse content. Today, PhotoDNA is used around the world to detect and report millions of illegal images. It works by creating a unique digital signature of an image called a “hash”, which is similar to a fingerprint.

The hash can then be matched to copies of the same image so they can be located and removed by governments and tech companies.

Organizations such as NetClean and Thorn are harnessing the power of technology to create tools to assist law enforcement, tech platforms, and civil society organizations in identifying illegal material online, track exploiters, and bring them to justice.

The Global Threat Assessment by WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online has brought together governments, the tech industry, and NGOs to galvanize global action, increase understanding about the nature and scale of the problem, and develop and implement strategies.

These efforts are commendable and have begun to make inroads. However, the globalized nature of online sexual exploitation, combined with it continuously expanding and evolving landscape, means we still face enormous challenges and new obstacles.

Not everyone around the world is being afforded the same protections. International women’s rights organization Equality Now is undertaking a review of existing international and regional legal frameworks relevant to online sexual exploitation to understand in greater detail the practices, gaps, and opportunities.

Technological solutions need to work alongside legal and policy solutions, but existing legal frameworks are diverse and inadequate. In many countries, legislation and law enforcement have failed to keep up with cybercrime, and some governments have not yet prioritized the threat or have limited resources to invest in infrastructure and safeguards to protect vulnerable people.

Exploiters and the online platforms they use operate across national borders, and legislation has not been updated to adequately address issues regarding legal jurisdictions. For instance, any website – whether a large multinational company, one set up specifically to facilitate exploitation, or any other platform – may use servers located in various locations overseen by different legal authorities.

Other difficulties arise from balancing the rights to privacy and freedom of expression with the need for regulation that protects vulnerable people from exploitation.

Analysis of the problem, and identification and development of solutions, needs to include a gendered lens so that the specific vulnerabilities and needs of adolescent girls are considered and addressed.

Teenage girls often fall through gaps in the law, leaving them without the same basic protections that are in place for younger children, meaning they are less safe, less likely to be given support, and less likely to receive justice if their rights have been violated. They are also commonly blamed or even criminalized instead of being treated as victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The global and complex nature of online sexual exploitation requires that all of us come together to find solutions. This involves applying a gendered lens to research and understanding how the Internet and technology are being misused to facilitate sexual exploitation.

We need to formulate and adopt common international regulations or a global convention the layout the responsibility and accountability of all actors involved in the online sexual exploitation of vulnerable people. This involves having mechanisms in place to address new legal challenges as they emerge.

Crucial to success is having survivors at the center of discussions so their voices are heard and their perspectives inform and strengthen solutions. Listening to those with first-hand experience and documenting systematically what they have been through can help us identify what needs to change and put better protections in place so the world can benefit from an Internet that is safer for all. For media enquiries and interview requests please contact Sr.

*Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world by combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy. Equality Now’s international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters achieve legal and systemic change by holding governments responsible for enacting and enforcing laws and policies that end legal inequality, sex trafficking, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.

For details of our current campaigns, please visit and find us on Facebook @equalitynoworg and Twitter @equalitynow.