Information and news about business

New Job Creation in AfricaAfrica’s unemployed population is made up mostly of young people. African youth account for 60 percent of the continent’s unemployed. Many of these young people are viable job candidates with college degrees; however, they are often forced to accept work doing menial tasks outside of their area of studies, such as physical labor or hotel maintenance. Development Channel is aiding in job creation in Africa

African Youth and Information Technology

In the last 25 years, unemployment for young people has increased by 80 percent, further contributing to the economic and social divisions these countries already feel. Of those who are employed, many still belong to Africa’s large population of working poor. In an effort to make themselves more marketable to the job markets in Western nations, many African youths are pursuing an education in Information Technology.

Degrees in IT are viewed as sustainable and respectable by young people. Because of this, IT has become one of the most popular avenues of study by African university students. This creates huge potential for new job creation in Africa in the IT sector as a solution to some of these continent’s youth unemployment disparities.

Development Channel in Africa

Development Channel is a collection of companies that seek to bridge the divide between developing and developed nations by improving access to resources that will offer financial assistance, affordable nourishment and other resources that will improve quality of life. These programs are all available through the Development Channel “Mother App.” The introduction of this app also brings positive news for the many young people across Africa with training in IT as Development Channel’s app is creating more than 5,000 jobs.

The position, “Mother App Trainer,” will focus on teaching others how to access the myriad platforms for aid that Development Channel offers. The position offers room for a continual increase in a salary based on performance as well as healthcare coverage and discounts on items sold by their food stores. The job is even more appealing as it can be performed from one’s home, with all training done online and over the phone.

More Than Just a Job

The company itself is contributing to the fight against global poverty and disparity. Development Channel’s slogan is “bridging the development divide.” The platform offers aid in myriad services, including food stability, credit cards, homeownership, emergency relief infrastructure, water infrastructure, community development, information technology, philanthropic income support, student loans, vehicle ownership, legal defense, women’s empowerment, waste management, education and more.

For example, Development Channel believes malnourishment and a lack of access to viable food sources greatly contribute to the poverty cycle. This is why the platform has a chain of “corner stores” called SISCHI that offer easily accessible, affordable food. Another of its companies, Flow, makes it easier for people to access lines of credit in locations where citizens formerly had no basic bank accounts at all.

Not only is Development Channel initiating new job creation in Africa for the largely untapped market of educated African youth but the companies housed under Development Channel are aiding in creating a better quality of life for people in developing nations.

– Gina Beviglia

Photo: United Methodist News Service

Women-led CompaniesWhen women work, they help engage and encourage more women to get into the workforce and thus drive the cycle of helping to lift women and their communities out of poverty. A 2016 McKinsey report estimated that advancing global gender parity in economic activity by 2025 could add up to $28 trillion to the global GDP per year.

In addition to reducing poverty, a United Nations study found that businesses with a higher proportion of women executives and directors saw an increase in profits and returns on invested capital. Not only do women in business help reduce global poverty and increase the global market, but many of their companies provide services directed at those in poverty. Here are six women-led companies that give back to the poor.

6 Women-Led Companies that Help Poor Communities

  1. 10Power: CEO Sandra Kwak founded 10Power in 2016 hoping to bring power to communities without access to the electric grid. Kwak and her company work with local partners in Haiti to make renewable energy affordable and accessible for places that need it most. Only a third of the island has access to the electric grid, but 10Power hopes to change that. By teaching local installers and engineers about solar power and panel installation, 10Power give more people access to clean, renewable power.
  2. CloQ: In 2016, co-founder Rafaela Cavalcanti helped launch the app CloQ, with the mission to provide access to cheaper and easy-to-use formal nano-credit to the lower-income and unbanked population in Brazil and to include them in the formal credit system. Since CloQ caters to a poorer population who may not necessarily have financial data, their credit model is based on client evaluation, behavioral and reliability, rather than solely on financial records. The app focuses on providing micro-loans, usually around $25. As the connection and relationship between the user and CloQ grows, loans up to $150 can be awarded. As 33 percent of the Brazilian population does not use or have a bank account, this app is a great solution for taking out small loans and preventing people from falling victim to loan sharks.
  3. Laboratoria: Co-founder and CEO Mariana Costa Checa began Laboratoria in 2014 in Peru. Laboratoria’s main initiative is to provide low-income and poor women with access to education with free web-development and coding instruction. The 6 month-long boot camp focuses on front-end development and UX design. Students also learn a variety of coding languages including JavaScript, HTML and CSS. The company also helps place their graduates into jobs by hosting hackathons to connect companies with students. More than 1,000 women have successfully completed Laboratoria’s program and more than 80 percent of those women went on to work in the technology industry. With over 450,000 unfilled tech jobs expected to arise in Latin America, Checa hopes her company will give low-income women the skills and opportunities to fill those jobs.
  4. Unima: Co-founder Laura Mendoza helped start Unima in Mexico in order to provide cheap, efficient diagnostic testing to poor and remote communities. The organization developed a fast and low-cost diagnostic and disease surveillance technology, particularly targeting tuberculosis (a highly contagious disease prevalent in poor communities). Patients put a drop of blood on a specially-designed paper. The result of the chemical reaction on the paper is evaluated by a smartphone app. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and each paper costs around $1. Due to its simple design, Unima’s technology does not require a lab to evaluate blood samples, so the diagnostic testing is easily transportable to remote communities. The Unima also stores all results from the smartphone app in a cloud server for real-time data surveillance. While large-scale testing of the technology began in Mexico, Unima hopes to expand its reach to remote and low-income communities in Africa as well.
  5. Vunilagi Book Club: Started in 2017, founder Adi Mariana Waqa’s book club provides books and a passion for reading to kids in Fiji. She and her volunteers encourage kids to read and ask questions. By inspiring a love of learning in youths, the book club’s mission is to help kids avoid the generational cycles of poverty by tackling illiteracy and encouraging them to pursue education and employment. Vunilagi has donated over a thousand books to six different rural villages and is run by around 30 volunteers.
  6. Wazi Vision: Founded in 2016 by Brenda Katwesigye, Wazi Vision provides affordable eye care. In Uganda, home of Wazi Vision, 1.2 million people are visually impaired, but eye care (testing and corrective lenses) is very expensive. Wazi Vision designs and provides eyeglasses at 80 percent of the cost of other glasses on the market. Wazi Vision also trains and employs women to design glasses, perform eye tests and manage delivery logistics. In order to provide low-cost eye care, Wazi Vision, supported by the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and Greentec Capital Partners, developed an eye testing software that uses Virtual Reality. The technology does not require an optometrist, helping Wazi Vision reach more remote communities that may lack an optical center. Since its inception, Wazi Vision has tested over 5,000 children in schools across Uganda, donates glasses to children who cannot afford even their cheaper version, and continues to donate 10 percent of every pair of glasses bought toward the purchase of a pair of glasses for a child in need.

These six women-led companies are helping those in poverty, as well as providing inspiration and empowerment for other women looking to own and run businesses. These companies not only benefit the women who have helped establish them but countless others in need.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Africa
Africa is expected to double its population by 2050, raising some alarms of the possibility of increasing already high poverty, unemployment and food insecurity rates. In response to these worrisome predictions, and capitalizing on Africa’s burgeoning industrial and technological industries, one company, Gambia’s Tropingo Foods, has established a business plan that sets out to tackle these issues and modernize agriculture in Africa

The Current State of Africa

Africa is no stranger to poverty. In fact, more than 40 percent of Africans still live below the poverty line. Part of the high rates of poverty can be explained by the unemployment rate since six of the top ten countries with the highest unemployment rates are in Africa. Poverty and unemployment have led to a huge problem with food insecurity. More than a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa’s population over the age of 15 suffer from food insecurity. Though farming accounts for 60 percent of jobs in Africa, production must increase dramatically to match population grown in the coming years.

While the continent has made and continues to make technological strides across a variety of markets, production processes for agriculture in Africa have remained, for the most part, as they have been for years. As African farmers face population growth, changes in climate that may reduce rainfall, which accounts for 90 percent of agricultural irrigation, and the high cost of essential fertilizer, they will need to adapt and utilize technology for their industry to sustain these changes.

Tropingo Foods and Agriculture in Africa

Despite a large amount of farming in Africa, the continent only accounts for two percent of the world’s agricultural exports. Aware of this gap, Mommar Mass Taal, a young Gambian entrepreneur, created Tropingo Foods in order to pragmatically and sustainably address these problems. With a background in economics and market development, Taal has created a business that makes use of modern technologies vital to success. In just a few years, Taal has turned Tropingo Foods into Gambia’s largest processor and exporter of groundnuts, producing dried mangoes in the offseason.

As his business grows, he acknowledges that he will need to increase the number of employees, with 120 of the current 140 employees being women, as well as increase partnerships with local farmers. While Taal has had success in the industry, he is pushing the Gambian government to fund vocational training to better prepare citizens for the workforce. In order to support the growing population, agriculture in Africa must increase by 60 percent over the next 15 years and the industry must begin to utilize modern technologies.

Looking Forward

As African agricultural companies such as Tropingo Foods grow, they will increase the demand for employment and local farm production. However, investment from both within Africa and abroad will be necessary for this growth to be beneficial and sustainable. The World Bank has detailed a plan calling for $16 billion to fund agriculture in Africa in the face of climate change. While there will undoubtedly be challenges as the agriculture industry in Africa adapts to internal and external changes, if companies such as Tropingo Foods continue to seek pragmatic solutions, Africa may find itself playing a vital role in the world food export market.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Flickr

New law hopes to attract new business to Angola
The future is bright for business in Angola. A new president and a new law are set to open the doors for foreign investment and more opportunities for the people in the country.

The country recently passed a new Private Investment Law. This Angola business law is set to attract lucrative businesses to the nation.

Angola Business Law

The unanimously passed Private Investment Law opens Angola’s doors to foreign investment that had previously been impeded by difficult requirements and country’s bad reputation.

The old law mandated that any foreign investor that partners with a local company or natural person has to have at least a 35 percent stake in the proposed business or investment. This requirement was intended to help Angolans partner with foreigners but turned out to be a restrictive factor for carrying out investments in the country.

To help aid international business, the new Angola business law removes the minimum amount of investment. Foreigners can now invest in Angola without paying in the hefty $1 million minimum, which was also one big barrier. The law also requires that foreign investors hire Angolan workers and provide a discrimination-free environment with good salaries, job training and a healthy environment.

The Work Behind the Law

The new Angola business law is all part of President Joao Lourenco’s plan for developing the country as an economic miracle.

After being elected and ousting former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for nearly four decades, Lourenco promised to attract foreign investment. In recent years, the country has struggled due to its lack of a diversified economy. The country heavily relies on selling crude oil externally, as oil accounts for more than 90 percent of all exports.

Ever since a decrease in oil prices, Angola has struggled to remain competitive. The new law makes business more open to foreigners and will ideally attract new businesses that can hire Angolans and bring capital to Angola’s economy.

The Fight Against Corruption

Lourenco ran his campaign on the promise of fighting corruption within Angola’s government, but he is also very committed to helping business thrive in his country.

“We are very committed to removing a major obstacle to doing business in Angola, which is the so-called phenomenon of corruption,” he told in an interview with Euronews. “So, this is a struggle that is difficult, it will take some time but we are prepared to face this giant problem of corruption and we are sure that we will win.”

By opening his country for foreign business and tackling barriers, he encourages large corruptions and wealthy investors to consider Angola.

Chairman and CEO of ABO Capital, Zandre Campos, is particularly encouraged by the law. He stated that the future is bright for Angola’s economy and its investment opportunities. All of the elements included in the law can greatly contribute to the growth of businesses, research, and trade, which is crucial for the country.

The world should watch Angola in the coming months to see if this law attracts foreign business and helps the nation build its economy. If nothing else, parliament’s nonpartisan stand and President Lourenco’s work thus far are very encouraging for the country.

With the new Angola business law, the future looks bright for Angola’s economy and workers.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

What Role Can the Private Sector Play in Poverty Alleviation?
The private sector constitutes a large portion of wealth and job creation in most countries, rendering it a powerful social tool that can be used to alleviate poverty and promote the wellbeing of the general public. Unfortunately, historically, this tool has been used to promote the interests of private actors.

The interests of private actors and the interests of the public have often come in contradiction, particularly as the world has globalized. However, the alignment of public and private interests is possible when you consider that those living in extreme poverty represent a largely untapped and mismanaged resource for a lot of private actors. When determining what role the private sector can play in poverty alleviation, it must be understood that poor corporate labor practices have contributed greatly to global poverty and proper practices have the ability to reverse it.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Those living in poverty, particularly extreme poverty, are often surrounded by economic deprivation, including unemployment, low wages and a lack of investment from private actors. Corporate social responsibility is one of the many avenues that can be taken to bring the structures and goals of the private sector in line with the needs of the public.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business model of private accountability to the public, meaning that businesses and corporations incorporate practices that create positive social impacts domestically and throughout the world. CSR is a broad concept, allowing it to manifest itself in several different ways. There is certainly room for error in the implementation of CSR practices, but when carried out effectively, CSR can serve as a sharp tool for alleviating poverty while also increasing a corporation’s bottom line.

Patagonia: A Model for Effective Corporate Social Responsibility

The apparel industry is one of the most competitive in the private sector. With that competition, there has historically been a “race to the bottom.” Organizations have looked to manufacture in places with the most lenient regulations on worker rights, wages and environmental waste. These places, non-coincidentally, tend to be the most impoverished. However, this has not been the case within Patagonia.

Patagonia has been integrating CSR into its business model since its conception in 1973. The corporation operates in several nations around the world, with portions of its manufacturing happening in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Thailand and more. The company has prioritized its Fair Trade Certifications, paying a premium on top of the costs that they already incur. This money goes straight into the hands of factory workers who get to vote on its use. This not only ensures that Patagonia’s workers are well compensated but also that the most pressing needs of the community are met.

At the Hirdaramani Mihilia CKT Factory, workers decided to spend their premium on a daycare. For many women in the factory, employment would not be possible without it. The piece of mind workers get from knowing that their kids are not only safe but progressing in their development, allows for more diligent and quality work in the factory.

What Role Can the Private Sector Play in Poverty Alleviation?

Fair Trade USA CEO, Paul Rice, stated that the organization has to “prove that fair trade is good for business.” Patagonia is one of its partner companies that is doing just that for them. Patagonia has more Fair Trade Certified styles than any other apparel brand, and it is expanding every year. In 2017, 30 percent of its product was fair trade certified, indicating that there is plenty of room for further expansion, but also that expanding the scale of CSR practices can be sustainable for business as well—even when its competitors do not engage in the same practices.

Consumer awareness of the Fair Trade Certified seal has almost doubled to 63 percent since 2008. As the world has globalized and the reality of billions of people living on less than two dollars a day has become common knowledge, consumers have begun to pay greater attention to how their goods are made. Corporate responsibility is becoming the standard, and as consumers, governments and most importantly corporations themselves continue to promote and enforce that standard, the number of exploited and impoverished workers will fall.

Today, transparency and responsibility translate into dollars. More consumers are willing to pay for goods that they know were made ethically, employee turnover is lowest at corporations that integrate CSR and workers in developing countries perform better when their wages and standard of living are adequate. More than 1,250 corporations have recognized this to be true and that number is sure to increase in the coming years. So what role can the private sector play in poverty alleviation? The answer is, quite simply, a large one and one that can also benefit their business as well as the public.

Julius Long
Photo: Flickr

Providing Clean Water: 3 Beauty Brands that HelpShampooing hair, showering, washing hands after the bathroom- these are all examples of things that are easily taken for granted in the developed world. But 844 million people lack access to safe water around the world and 2.3 billion lack access to proper sanitation. BROO, Aveda and Ollie and Otto are three hair care companies that have partnered with different charity organizations in a goal of providing clean water for the millions of people that are currently living without it.

BROO & Water.org

With every Broo product purchased, one person is provided with the access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Water.org believes the biggest barrier to clean water is affordable financing and knows that charity alone is not a long-term solution for having clean water. By partnering with WaterCredit, Water.org is providing loans to families for only $322. The goal of these loans is to provide families with water connections and toilets. Having water in homes costs only a fraction of what it does to buy clean water from vendors, which could cost as much as 20 percent of a family’s income.

Once the loans are paid back, the funds turn into another loan for a family in need, continuing the cycle of providing clean water and getting families out of poverty. Ninety-nine percent of these loans are paid back in full. Since WaterCredit started, 2.6 million in loans have been disbursed.

Without clean water in the home, women and children in some places spend six hours a day walking to gather clean water. Clean water supply changes people’s lives by giving them more time to get an education and better health. Providing clean water to communities in need ends the cycle of poverty by giving them access to things that previously were not available.

Aveda & Global Greengrants Foundation

Aveda celebrates Earth Month every April by raising funds and increasing awareness for the environment and people lacking clean water. By selling Light the Way Candles, Aveda has raised over $50 million for clean water projects since 2007.

All of the proceeds go to Aveda’s partner Global Greengrants Foundation and support grants that are providing clean water to those in need. Global Greengrants and Aveda have provided 920,000 people with clean water through projects in 85 different countries. Projects include things like “helping communities advocate for safe and affordable drinking water, protecting watersheds such as lakes, wetlands and rivers, helping communities address climate change which contributes to water shortages and scarcity around the globe.”

In April 2018, Head Technology Trainer Godliver Businge of the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative in Gomba, Uganda, taught women in the community how to build Biosand filters that kill 99 percent of bacteria in contaminated water.

With funds from Global Greengrants and Aveda, Gomba is now a prosperous community that can afford to buy textbooks and other school supplies for the children. Buswinge continues to teach women how to build Biosand filters, which in turn reduces the poverty rate and increases health.

Uganda Women’s Water Initiative is also teaching women about bio-intensive farming and how to make soap. Three hundred women are now trained in how to make Biosand filters and rainwater harvesting tanks.

Ollie and Otto & Generosity.org

Ollie & Otto partnered with Generosity.org to provide clean water for one person in yearly period for every product purchased. So far, the partnership is supporting clean water projects in Haiti, India and Africa.

Since Generosity.org started, they have helped 20 countries gain access to clean water and proper sanitation. According to this organization, teaching people to wash their hands and properly use latrines saves more lives than any vaccine.

Funded by partners like Ollie & Otto and other companies, Generosity.org has funded 813 projects and 470,000 people.

Clean water and proper sanitation give people access to a better life. Without the need for a time-consuming gathering of water or health care costs of water born disease, communities now have the time and money to provide an education for their children and to earn more income by working.

Companies like Broo, Aveda and Ollie & Otto are paving the way towards providing clean water and proper hygiene and sanitation for communities that deserve to be lifted out of poverty.

– Hope Kelly

Photo: Flickr

Growing Markets in Lagos
Nigeria is often associated with a stagnant economy riddled with corruption; however, Lagos, the country’s largest city, hosts business opportunities that are continually growing, making it one of Africa’s largest rising economies. Lagos is currently Africa’s seventh largest economy, and its rapid rise in GDP and population have the city projected to become the continent’s second largest market by 2035. The growing markets in Lagos have boosted Nigeria’s economy and have set an example in a continent full of market opportunities.

Economy and Population in Lagos

The GDP and population growth of Lagos, Nigeria are the most indicative factors of the rapidly growing market opportunities in the city. Economic growth first began in Lagos after the government moved the capital to Abuja in 1991, and then continued on after the government invested money in the growing oil industry in the area.

In addition to the oil industry, Lagos has also economically benefitted from Nigerian policy reforms that improve privatization of businesses. Many newly privatized companies are centralized in the Yaba district of Lagos, which has been financially supported by the state government, and infrastructure projects are constantly underway to reflect the rapid growth of the city.

This economic growth has led to a state output of $136 billion in 2017, comprising more than a third of Nigeria’s GDP. The strong economy of Lagos is projected to continue growing with a 4.5 percent GDP growth per year in 2035, a figure that rests significantly above the current global average of 2.9 percent.

Lagos’s growing economy and infrastructure largely work to support a rapidly increasing population. By 2035, the population is expected to reach 28.5 million people ­­– significantly higher than the 2012 census population of just over 8 million people. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode claims that the population is a significant factor of the growing markets in Lagos, adding that the city has “the population and rise of an emerging class” and is “a new market, a new frontier to consider.”

New Businesses in Lagos

New business opportunities have shown off the increasingly prosperous markets in Lagos, and many successful Nigerian startups now have their offices in the city. Finance/technology, consulting, retail companies and startups like PayLater and Yellow Brick Road have historically dominated the economic environment of Lagos, and continue to host numerous companies that have caught investors’ attention.

Investment opportunities in Lagos are also important to the city’s markets and are some of the largest in all of Africa. According to the World Bank, an estimated $93 billion in investments in Africa is required annually, and Lagos requires at least a quarter of these investments.

Continued Expansion

Market opportunities in Africa continue to expand with economic growth, and these opportunities are only emphasized in Lagos, Nigeria. The city has become a thriving music, fashion and film hub throughout Africa, and growing markets in Lagos develop along with GDP and population.

Africa has immense economic potential, and Lagos is only one of several cities on the continent that showcases these realized business opportunities. With continued attention and proper investment, both the city and the nation should see a bright fiscal future.

Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic (DR) — with assistance from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and other institutions — has instilled a clear strategy for economic development. Fortunately, the Dominican Republic is now reaping the fruits of such labor.

Up-to-Date Advances

There are several facets to the economic growth in the Dominican Republic, but two pillars of such growth stand out. As outlined in the Caribbean Growth Forum, two of these pillars are improving business climate and modernizing the public sector, and these well-planed has created extreme progress in the DR.

First Pillar

The speed at which companies seek to register their businesses has decreased from 45 to 7 days. The rate at which property titles are issued and bills for bankruptcy law are finalized both occur much more rapidly. Ultimately, such changes benefit both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and creditors, since the former has greater borrowing capacity, while the latter has better protection.

The Dominican Republic’s business climate has also improved through the implementation of programs for non-reimbursable seed money to boost entrepreneurship amongst the youth. The Industry and Commerce Ministry created a training pilot to fortify business management practices to over 5000 SMEs.

These initiatives are crucial to empowering bright minds in the community to take risks on business endeavors and successfully manage such startups. Moreover, this also allows for greater attraction of investors, who seek to capitalize on promising entrepreneurial undertakings. SMEs already in existence would, of course, benefit from the training in commercial management.

Loans For Change

A significant stride to improve the business climate in the Dominican Republic came in the form of a $300 million policy centered loan from the Inter-American Development Bank in 2017. This effort seeks to support financial regulations in order to increase productivity, foster the creation of institutions to finance productive development as well as improve protection of contracts and transactions.

Additionally, this plan of action would update administrative processes, facilitate growth in competitiveness and help institutions that focus on promoting innovation and production developments. Finally, the loan would work to reduce evasion and avoidance of social security contributions by strengthening fiscal and social security systems, which would ultimately boost labor formalities.

Second Pillar

According to the World Bank, the Citizen Observatory for Public Procurement and 25 other committees have been created to monitor public contracts. By doing so, the changes would:

  • Foster private sector confidence
  • Encourage SMEs to participate in public contracting
  • Form greater transparency, especially in what is “open procurement”

In 2015, the Inter-American Development Bank financed a $25 million project that worked to develop the Dominican Republic’s fiscal structure. In doing so, the project enables the processes of planning, monitoring and evaluating budgets, and helps modernize the ways of conducting the management of public funds. In addition, the endeavor also fosters greater participation of SMEs — particularly led by women — in public purchases.

What Now?

There are a set of focal points that would illustrate and improve the effectiveness of the strategies regarding the economic growth in the DR. The set includes creating a feedback-loop that would help assess reform implementation and accomplishment of goals, and therefore scale outreach and media interactions with stakeholders and set greater definitions of reforms, their timelines and other indicators of performance.

In the past decade, economic growth in the DR has been achieved through the execution of new strategies of development. These strategies, amongst other details, coincide with the DR’s 2030 National Development Strategy and have set the country on track for continued growth.

A Nation’s Future

The Dominican Republic, with the support of international institutions, is a step closer to accomplishing its goals. Already, the country has experienced success in many vital aspects of its economy’s sustainability, and its potential for continued growth is abundant.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Patagonia and Fair Trade USAFair Trade Certified: recognized by most from a coffee package or chocolate bar. Farmers, however, are not the only workers that benefit from Fair Trade Certification. The disconnect between the source and purchase of a good is one that Fair Trade USA is working to connect.

What Do Patagonia and Fair Trade USA Do?

Patagonia is leading the apparel industry in support of Fair Trade Certified goods. Patagonia and Fair Trade USA have partnered to help over 42,000 workers improve their quality of life since 2014. A solid 75 percent of Fair Trade USA’s disbursements to workers come from business partners like Patagonia, while the other 25 percent comes from contributions from corporations and foundations.

The Patagonia and Fair Trade USA program involves Patagonia paying for use of the Fair Trade Certified label. The money goes directly to the workers making the apparel. Once the disbursement is received, the employees decide how to use it by vote. Over the years, workers who make Patagonia clothing have used their disbursements for household appliances as well as childcare and healthcare.

Examples of Fair Trade Benefits

At the Hirdaramani factory in Agalawatta, Sri Lanka, Fair Trade disbursements provided a free daycare facility for the worker’s children. This ensures that even workers with families continue to thrive.

In addition, the community chose to build a health and hygiene program that provides things like sanitary pads. The health program doubles as a safe space to talk about reproductive health, which is considered taboo in Sri Lankan culture.

In Mexico, 1,500 workers at Vertical Knits factory used their Fair Trade disbursement to buy bicycles and stoves, improving either their work commute or home life. VT Garment Co., Ltd.’s disbursement paid school tuition for 265 children in Thailand and provided a fun community day to celebrate the factories successes.

These partnerships alone improved the lives and communities of over 4,500 workers. According to Patagonia, other benefits of Fair Trade Certification include “maternity and paid leave, no child or forced labor, and additional money back to workers.”

Effects of Unfair Working Conditions

Although partnerships like Patagonia and Fair Trade USA provide endless benefits to workers’ physical and mental health, thousands of workers in the apparel industry continue to work in sweatshops where working conditions are unsafe and wages are not livable. According to War on Want, a worker’s rights charity organization, many are “working 14 to 16 hour days seven days a week.”

Fires and collapsing buildings killed hundreds of workers in 2012 as factories were unregulated. Soon after these incidents in Bangladesh, factories began implementing fire safety and building codes to ensure workers safety. Though improvements are being made, there are still millions of workers being underpaid and overworked in the garment industry.

How Fair Trade USA is Helping Workers

Currently, Fair Trade USA works with over 1,250 companies internationally, helping workers out of poverty by providing safe working conditions and livable wages. As explained in the 2017 Fair Trade Certified Quality Manual, “When shoppers choose Fair Trade Certified goods, they are able to vote with their dollar – supporting responsible companies, empowering farmers and workers and protecting the environment.”

By purchasing goods that are Fair Trade Certified, consumers are ensuring the betterment of the workers’ lives by providing access to things like healthcare, education and modern appliances.  These things would not be accessible if not for programs like Fair Trade USA.

As abstract as it may seem, there are people behind every purchase. Continued support for organizations such as Patagonia and other Fair Trade Certified companies will change the lives of individuals and communities in monumental ways.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in the MaldivesMaldives is made up of over 1,100 islands with a population of 400,000 people. According to Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), they are trying to facilitate potential credit access with measures like the Credit Information Bureau and the “Credit Guarantee Scheme for small- and medium-sized enterprise financing.”

The Credit Guarantee Scheme

Launched on August 7, 2016, the Credit Guarantee Scheme was set up to encourage banks to loan money out to small- or medium-sized businesses, so that individuals can have easier credit access in the Maldives. The program was started for businesses, under normal circumstance, that were unable to secure a loan.

The Credit Guarantee Scheme “will guarantee 90 percent of the loan granted by the participating banks to commercially viable small- and medium-sized enterprises,” according to the MMA. For the program to work, businesses have to meet the following criteria:

  • The business must be registered with the Ministry of Economic Development as a small- and medium-sized business.
  • All shareholders/owners must be Maldivian.
  • The business should be registered with the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority.
  • There should be no overdue loans at any bank or financial institution.
  • The business must be financially viable.

The loan amount can either be 100,000 rufiyaa (approximately $6,450) or 1,000,000 rufiyaa (approximately $64,480). The interest rate is 9 percent and the repayment period is five years. The borrower can have a grace period of six to 12 months with zero collateral and an equity contribution of 20 percent. According to the MMA, in 2016, a total of 68 applications were submitted with a total value of 44,628,896 rufiyaa (approximately $2.9 million).

The Credit Information Bureau

The Credit Information Bureau, the first system of its kind for Maldives, holds the credit information of individuals who are requesting credit. According to Minivan News, “the creation of a formal mechanism for sharing credit information will improve access to finance for small and medium enterprises.”

Maldives’ main income is due to tourism and fishing. According to the World Bank, Maldives is considered to be an upper middle-income country because of the returns of tourism. Maldives poverty “declined from 23 percent in 2003 to 16 percent in 2010 based on the national poverty line.”

Maldives has also experienced a growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While the rate has been steady in developed countries, Maldives growth is relatively higher. According to Bangladesh Bank, the average growth in the last four years “has been approximately 6.8 percent, which is significantly higher compared to regional growth rates.”

The Maldives are attempting to establish credit for its people so that they’re able to open their small- and medium-sized businesses that were unable to apply for credit before. This not only helps the country but the individuals as well, so they have credit access in the Maldives.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr