Information and news about business

Poverty Alleviation and Entrepreneurship
Research shows supporting entrepreneurship in low-income countries may be one of the most effective ways to permanently reduce global poverty. Despite this, this method of poverty reduction has often been overlooked. This is due to the fact that there has been limited information on its positive impact. However, with more information compiled, individuals in positions of power have sought to make it a focus of poverty reduction. The Global Partnership for Poverty and Entrepreneurship (GPPE) is an organization that has collected a plethora of this data. The resources on the GPPE website provide countless examples of poverty alleviation and entrepreneurship.

The Global Partnership for Poverty and Entrepreneurship

Established in November 2019, the GPPE officially launched in May 2020. This partnership was created by the University of Notre Dame with the intent of building up a research base that can help with future initiatives in supporting low-income individuals with entrepreneurial pursuits throughout the world. In an interview with Dr. Michael Morris, the head of this start-up, the three main objectives of this organization became clear. The first objective was to gather information on entrepreneurial startups in poor communities throughout the world. The second objective was to teach individuals about compiled information within poor communities in order to allow for community uplift. The third objective was to reach out to academics who have an influence on getting more research done on these topics and easily spread techniques to those within their academic influences.

Overall, the GPPE wants to get more people on the ground within impoverished communities. These people would support the poor with their entrepreneurial endeavors. The GPPE is currently setting up example programs within the United States. The purpose of these programs is to prove resources in various areas can be useful in supporting low-income individuals. Within South Bend, Indiana one of these example programs is the Urban Poverty and Business Initiative. This initiative uses resources from the Notre Dame community, especially from the students, to help poor individuals set up entrepreneurial endeavors. Students have helped create social media platforms and helped with marketing for the impoverished in the South Bend community. This is just one idea countries around the world can use to help reduce global poverty.

Entrepreneurship Among the Youth in Swaziland

A study on the youth in Swaziland has provided important information on where certain entrepreneurial systems are lacking within Africa. Other countries can use this study as a resource to help enact systems for poverty alleviation through entrepreneurship. Inadequate work experience provided within universities, a lack of youth voice in entrepreneurial policies and weak business environments are all factors that have driven the youth within Swaziland to have poor entrepreneurial experiences in the past. Organizations like the Youth Enterprise Fund, created in 2009 in Swaziland, have struggled to support new entrepreneurs.

Models have, however, been created in order to show the effects of government intervention when it comes to reducing obstacles that hinder the growth of young entrepreneurs, which can be extremely useful. Examples of influential government intervention include granting youth greater access to capital and giving them business training. Business training in particular has shown to make an enormous difference among the youth of Swaziland with regards to sales. A mixture of giving the youth in Africa more educational resources and professional connections has proven to greatly improve their entrepreneurial success and thus help them rise out of poverty.

Poverty-Reducing Work of Women in Bangladesh

In many low-income countries, the workforce does not utilize women as often as men. This can cause the viewpoint of women being financially burdening. Creating entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for women positively impacts their livelihoods. This is especially true for women living in rural areas. Within Bangladesh, a company called Hathay Bunano has given women both jobs and resources to build enterprises on their own. What this establishment has found is that not utilizing women is a huge waste of production resources. This includes supporting more women artisans through developing pride in the ownership of a product.

Hathay Bunano has worked to employ women who are at the most disadvantaged positions within Bangladesh. The organization has shown that simply giving these women jobs boosts their self-confidence in order to create better lives for themselves. Hathay Bunano is a company that produces hand-knit toys which is important in the context of proving that handicraft businesses can thrive in a competitive economic market. Overall, evidence shows providing grounding for poor women to start businesses that can be supported by their skill levels is plausible.

In conclusion, information that the GPPE has compiled, including the two studies mentioned above, shows poverty alleviation and entrepreneurship can go hand in hand. Working to inform more individuals on how communities can support the poor in their creation of businesses and entrepreneurship will transform low-income countries’ economies and the lives of the poor within them.

– Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr

Women-Led Tech Startups in Africa
Currently, only 28% of women worldwide pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. This gap is a result of women dropping out of STEM courses based on social, cultural and gender norms. Around the world, girls face limited educational pathways and resources within STEM subjects. To address the barriers in STEM education and the tech industry, many women-led tech startups in Africa are encouraging women to pursue tech careers.

The Rise in Women-Led Businesses in Africa

According to the United Nations Africa Renewal Magazine, “sub-Saharan Africa boasts the world’s highest rate of women entrepreneurs, at 27%.” As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) to improve clean water and sanitation, it is expected that 2.5 million engineer and technician jobs will be created in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, women will have opportunities to pursue a career in tech. There will also be a market space for women-led tech startups in Africa.

To encourage women to enter the tech industry in Africa, African women have started initiatives that promote and invest in women interested in the tech field. For Example, African Women in Technology, FirstCheck Africa, #HerFutureAfrica and Women in Tech Africa are all notable initiatives led by African Women. Highlighted below are five inspiring women who have contributed to the rise of women in the male-dominated tech field.

5 Women Leading the Emergence of Women-Led Tech Startups in Africa

  1. Nthabiseng Mosia from South Africa: Mosia is an entrepreneur and the co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Easy Solar. Easy Solar, based in West Africa, is an off-grid solar distribution company. It supplies electricity to communities with little or no access to the grid. As a result of Mosia’s company, more than 350,000 residents of Sierra Leone’s communities have access to affordable energy.
  2. Rachel Sibande from Malawi: As well as a social entrepreneur working in technology and energy, Sibande is a computer scientist. She is the founder of mHub, a technology hub for innovators and entrepreneurs. Offering access to financial and investment support across five countries, mHub is a key resource for women-led tech startups in Africa. From 2018 to 2019, mHub financed $800,000 to youth and women entrepreneurs, which created 304 jobs. In addition, Sibande has established the Girls Coding Club, Children’s Coding Club, a Robotics Club and Machine Learning community camps. These clubs encourage more girls and women to pursue careers in tech.
  3. Farida Bedwei from Ghana: Bedwei is a software engineer and disabilities rights advocate. She is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of software company Logiciel. Logiciel develops technology solutions and provides micro-banking systems for more than 600 financial institutions. She was named one the most influential women in business in Ghana and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2016.
  4. Jumoke Dada from Nigeria: Dada is a tech consultant and the founder of Tech Women Network, which provides a platform for women in technology to showcase their skills. Dada is involved with HUE Tech Summit, an event for women of color in tech as well as Techies Who Brunch, which helps women connect in the industry. Her efforts contribute to upskilling women interested in tech, making Dada is a leader and advocate for women in the tech industry.
  5. Rebecca Enonchong from Cameroon: Enonchong is an advocate for technology entrepreneurship and innovation. She is the Chair of ActivSpaces, the African Center for Technology Innovation and Ventures, and the founder and Chief Executive Officer of AppsTech. ActivSpaces is a tech hub in Cameroon that promotes and supports young people to have successful careers. AppsTech provides tools for tech entrepreneurs to grow their enterprises such as license sales, implementation and training services. With available sources like AppsTech, Enonchong’s efforts are important in the emergence and growth of women-led tech startups in Africa.

These five women are making a significant difference in Africa and paving the way for more female entrepreneurs, especially in the tech industry. With these innovative efforts, the number of women-led startups in Africa will hopefully continue to increase.

– Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

Blockchain in Southeast Asia
Early 2021 saw the formation of a new partnership between the San Diego-based blockchain platform, Solana, and the Vietnam-based investment firm, Coin98 Ventures. Together, they plan to provide a grant of $100,000 and technical, marketing and community support for Southeast Asian startups via the Solana platform. In total, the development fund will be worth $5 million. Solana’s development fund is among a trend of growing interest from private companies along with increasing government support across the region, now seeing supporting blockchain technology as a practical part of a development strategy. As a result, blockchain in Southeast Asia is increasing.

What is a Blockchain?

At its core, blockchain is an innovative database. Unlike the traditional form of storing data in a table format, blockchain operates as its name suggests: as a chain of blocks. Each block contains data, and each new inputted information adds a new block to the chain. When a new block is added, it undergoes time-stamping and encryption.

Essentially, blockchain software provides a secure and decentralized form of storing data, particularly financial data. The software operates on an algorithm to automatically record and encrypt transactions without a third party’s costly support. As a result, blockchain decentralizes financial transactions while also making them cheaper.

Blockchain: An Expanding Market

The blockchain market comprises one of the fastest-growing in the world. In 2020, the market size was $3 billion. The Markets and Markets firm predicts it to reach $39.7 billion by 2025. Moreover, its Compound Annual Growth Rate is a stunning 67.3%.

One can partly explain this growth rate by increasing access to the internet and e-commerce in the world. Access to the internet has increased rapidly. In 2000, about 413 million people had an internet connection; by 2016, this number jumped to 3.4 billion.

The Benefits of Blockchain

Billions of people still experience exclusion from financial tools and cannot use anything other than physical cash for transactions. As of 2017, 1.7 billion people across the globe remained unbanked. However, by sidestepping financial institutions, blockchain decentralizes banking and opens up possibilities for many locked out of traditional financial tools such as transferring and storing digital currency and investing.

Cutting out the middleman reduces the fees involved in transactions, which often run high. This is particularly important for migrant workers who pay high transaction rates to transfer money back home to their families. For example, in 2018, Western Union reported a $5.5 billion profit in fees from the money transfers in the same year.

Additionally, blockchain reduces the cost of doing business. It cuts overhead costs by lowering transaction fees, upgrading analytical tools to understand the market/customer needs and protecting and storing data more efficiently. For instance, by the year 2024, expectations have determined that blockchain will save the food industry $31 billion. And in early 2020, Cargill and Agrocorp and partners used a blockchain platform to shorten a U.S.-Indonesia wheat transaction from a month to a mere five days.

Blockchain in Southeast Asia

Perhaps more than any other region, Southeast Asia can benefit most from blockchain’s developmental potential. As a region, it has a high internet penetration rate of 58%. Moreover, it is an underbanked region with a shocking 73% of its population still unbanked in 2017. Additionally, Southeast Asia has a large migrant worker population around the globe who would benefit from blockchain. In 2017, the International Labor Organization estimated that of the migrant worker population, 20.2 million originate from Southeast Asia. Finally, as a manufacturing hub with a large e-commerce presence, blockchain technology plays an essential role in facilitating online shopping and supply-chain tracking and data storage.

Appropriately, Southeast Asian governments have supported this nascent technology. For starters, the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has embraced the technology in its Economic Community 2025 Strategic Action Plan for Financial Integration. The organization claims that it will “promote innovative financial inclusion via digital platforms.”

Likewise, countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines have invested in blockchain education programs to promote its development. Singapore, for instance, launched a $9 million program, the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Program, to facilitate and research blockchain applications. Vietnam, for its part, has transitioned the storage of government education records to blockchain technology and has plans to use block-chain infrastructure to transition Ho Chi Minh city to a smart city.

Southeast Asian Blockchain Companies

Through this support, hundreds of blockchain start-ups are rapidly growing across the region, utilizing blockchain in diverse ways that cut across different sectors. Some of the significant blockchain companies that illustrate its diversity are:

  • Electrify (Singapore): Founded in 2017 to introduce “trans-active energy platforms that will democratize access to clean energy across the Asia Pacific.”
  • Pundi-X (Indonesia): Partners with retailers worldwide to install its XPOS – a blockchain-powered point-of-sale device that allows retailers to accept cryptocurrency.
  • LuxTag (Malaysia): Utilizes blockchain to verify the authenticity of luxury items.
  • HARA (Indonesia): Founded in 2015, it relies on its blockchain software to provide data exchange for the food and agriculture sectors.

Blockchain’s potential as a developmental force is palpable. The growing blockchain market in Southeast Asia is vital for development in the region. It gives many people access to financial tools who otherwise would not have it while also easing business flow across industries. These factors have propelled blockchain in Southeast Asia as a critical tool in its development.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Refugee Soap Maker
Kenya hosts one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. The country has over 495,000 refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and violence from Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. The majority of these refugees are located in camps in Dadaab in the southeast of Kenya, Kakuma in the northwest as well as Nairobi. In what some have referred to as “the forgotten crisis,” many of Kenya’s refugees have spent generations living in camps. During the COVID-19 pandemic, sanitation has become an issue among the refugee population in Kenya, Luckily, a refugee soap maker has emerged to aid with that challenge.

The Situation

The three Dadaab camps, which some originally expected to hold only 90,000, are now home to over 300,000 refugees. Similarly, the Kakuma camp is home to nearly 200,000 people. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the close quarters and less-than-ideal sanitation standards can be dangerous. Like many others around the world, those in Kakuma have been stocking up on everything from food to sanitation supplies.

A Clean, Helping Hand

Innocent Havyarimana is a refugee soap maker in Kenya. Through his business, he helps to combat COVID-19 at the local level of the Kakuma camp. A former chemistry student from Burundi, Havyarimana fled the country in 2013. Upon arriving in Kakuma, he began to look for a way to support himself. In his search, he noticed that the region did not have a factory to produce soap. Afterward, inspiration struck.

Havyarimana garnered information from the web and took a course on soap making which the World Lutheran Federation aid agency offered. With a loan from a former classmate in Burundi, he was able to begin his soap-making business, Glap Industries, short for God Loves All People. The refugee soap maker then received grants from relief agencies including, UNHCR and NGOs, such as the African Entrepreneur Collective.

Glap Industries supplies soap to local institutions and relief agencies outside of the camp. The business additionally provides classes for refugees on making cleaning products. The company also serves as a way to provide jobs for refugees. A total of 42 employees currently work for Glap industries, the majority of them refugees themselves.

Glap Industries Adapts to COVID-19

With a spike in the need for sanitation products, the refugee soap maker had to increase its production by 75%. Further, Havyarimana started making hand sanitizer with aloe vera in addition to his soap products. The soap maker wanted to ensure access to sanitary supplies, especially for those most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the disabled and the elderly. To accomplish this, he significantly lowered his prices and began producing smaller, more affordable sizes. Glap Industries offers soap in 100 milliliter to 1-liter containers, the smallest costing only 50 cents. “I lowered prices, as it was more important to protect people than to think of profit,” says Havyarimana.

The Bigger Impact

Businesses and entrepreneurship are a vital part of the economy of Kakuma. According to a 2018 World Bank study, the 2,000 businesses operating in Kakuma bring more than $50 million annually to the local economy. Eujin Byun of the UNHCR in Kenya says that “the refugees are playing a pivotal role in helping contain the spread of COVID-19 in Kakuma.” UNHCR has been working with the government to improve the capabilities of local health facilities to treat patients. Another aim is to spread necessary information concerning the virus, such as the importance of handwashing.

As a refugee soap maker, Innocent Havyarimana encourages other refugees to take precautions against the virus. However, his role stems far beyond fellow refugees. Havyarimana shares the importance of sanitization in stopping the spread of the coronavirus through Kakuma, and subsequently the rest of Kenya. His outreach and business help to minimize the spread of COVID-19 for those all throughout Kenya.

Nina Eddinger
Photo: Flickr

Silk InvestSilk Invest is a private equity firm founded in 2008 that invests in emerging markets that demonstrate the potential for long-term economic growth. The largest private equity fund managed by the firm is called The Silk Africa Food Fund. Investments made from this fund target companies involved in food processing and distribution throughout Africa.

The Silk Africa Food Fund

The fund was started in June 2012 and focuses primarily on businesses that distribute food to African consumers. Countries that attract investment the most are those which are institutionally and politically stable enough to support long-term economic growth. Silk Invest is distinct from many other foreign investment funds that support the effort to reduce hunger in Africa in that it does not target agriculture but rather the distribution of food to consumers.

The three largest investments the fund is involved with are Nigeria’s Sundry Foods Limited, Ethiopia’s Nas Foods Plc and Egypt’s El Rashidy El Asly. Of these three, Nigeria’s Sundry has seen the most significant success and expansion following its partnership with Silk Invest.

The Success of Sundry Foods Limited

The company runs the popular restaurant chain, Kilimanjaro, as well as bakery and food catering services throughout the country. When Silk Invest first gave funds to Sundry in 2012, the company had seven restaurants open and a revenue base of around $3.4 million. In 2020, just eight years later, Sundry has 40 restaurants and a revenue base of around $34 million. The entrepreneurial effort of the company’s founder, Ebele Enunwa, has been instrumental in this progress.

Sundry is a company firmly rooted in supporting its fellow local businesses. Instead of setting up in the more commercial capital of Lagos, Enunwa established headquarters in Port Harcourt where he is a local entrepreneur. Its management team consists of local hires and its supply chain uses locally sourced raw materials, including chicken and rice from rural areas.

Sundry’s Impact and Potential

Sundry Foods Limited represents an example of the enormous potential which exists for businesses in developing nations when the proper investment is made. By providing capital to Sundry, Silk Invest gave the company the tools it needed to expand its operation. By doing so, Sundry has not only offered an improved service to consumers throughout Nigeria but has also stimulated its broader community’s own economy by maintaining a steady and even increasing demand for local products.

The impact made by Sundry’s growth is palpable. Over the last 10 years, the company has created over 2,000 jobs. Silk Invest’s Africa Food Fund is hugely impactful in the effort to reduce poverty in developing nations not only because of the direct benefit the invested capital provides to individual businesses but also because of the economic growth created in broader communities as an indirect result.

The Importance of Investing in Africa

This impressive progress was all stimulated by a $2.4 million investment. The high return for Silk Invest demonstrates that funding businesses in developing countries is not only beneficial to the growth and development of those businesses but is also a practical and sound investment for the firms offering the capital.

Investing in the effort to reduce world hunger presents impactful and beneficial opportunities for all parties involved. By establishing the Africa Food Fund, Silk Invest has committed itself to this effort while simultaneously supporting developing economies.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

Impact Investing in RwandaImpact investing is a growing industry with huge potential for combatting poverty around the world. The practice consists of firms and individuals directing capital to businesses and enterprises that have the capacity to generate social or environmental benefits. Traditional businesses tend to avoid such investments due to the high level of risk, low liquidity and general difficulty to exit if returns are not satisfactory. Most impact investing is done by particularly adventurous capitalists as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that aim to create social change. Impact investing in Rwanda, in particular, has yielded positive results.

AgDevCo

AgDevCo is an example of a social impact investing firm that aims to invest with the intention of reducing poverty and increasing opportunity in developing regions. Based in the United Kingdom, AgDevCo was incorporated in 2009 and has engaged in numerous projects since.

The firm’s specific area of investment is in African agriculture, where it believes that impactful investments have the potential to be a significant force in reducing poverty. The firm is currently investing in eight different African countries. Its portfolio includes $135 million worth of funds in 50 different companies. These investments have engaged more than 526,000 customers and have created or sustained more than 15,000 different jobs.

Uzima Chicken Limited

One of its investment projects is a partnership with the East African poultry company, Uzima Chicken Limited. Uzima Chicken produces and distributes the Sasso breed of chickens. Sasso chickens are resistant to disease and can feed through scavenging. These beneficial traits make Sasso chickens particularly useful in the struggle to reduce poverty in East Africa.

In 2017, AgDevCo invested $3 million to support Uzima’s establishment in Rwanda. As a result of the investment, Uzima gained funds necessary for rapid operational growth as a domestic producer of poultry. This is in line with the government of Rwanda’s strategy to achieve poultry self-sufficiency in two to three years. Uzima has also been able to expand into Uganda, where its business is rapidly scaling upwards.

The Uzima Business Model

The Uzima model of business involves the employment of company agents who raise the chicks for six to eight weeks before selling them to low-income households in rural areas. Such a model provides benefits to farmers, who can increase income through the sale of the more valuable Sasso chickens, as well as the agents.

Agents typically make a 25% profit from selling chickens. A survey of Uzima agents found that, on average, 27% of household income came from selling Sasso chickens. By providing a reliable source of extra income for employed agents, Uzima helps to alleviate the burdens of poverty for these people. As of 2017, the efforts had created 150 new jobs, 40% of which are held by women. Rwandan women have benefitted significantly from Uzima’s employment with 64% of women agents reporting that the income they earned from selling Sasso chickens led to a positive change in the decision-making power they had in their households.

Impact Investments for Poverty Reduction

Uzima’s Sasso chickens grow faster, live longer, produce more eggs and have higher market prices. They are disease-resistant and thrive in local, rural conditions. Out of all the customers buying these chickens, 54% live below the $2.50 poverty line. AgDevCo investment gave Uzima the capital necessary for operational expansion, and as a result, a greater quantity of impoverished people in East Africa could buy superior chickens and increase income. Uzima’s business also has clear potential for women’s empowerment, making it a great tool in the effort to reduce poverty and inequality in the region.

The impact investments made by firms like AgDevCo have clearly measurable impacts in impoverished regions, particularly noting the success of impact investing in Rwanda. This makes impact investment firms an important part of the global effort to reduce all poverty.

Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

Female entrepreneurs in AfghanistanIt is no secret that women’s rights in Afghanistan have been suffering due to decades of war and Taliban rule in the country. Afghan women have been denied employment, education, healthcare and basic freedoms for years and were punished violently by the Taliban for attempting to find work or go to school. Years after Taliban rule, women are picking up the pieces of a broken society that drove them and many other Afghans into severe poverty. Organizations such as the Women’s Economic Empowerment Rural Development Project (WEERDP) and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), both funded and backed by the World Bank, set up savings and loan associations in different communities to allow Afghan women to start their own business. Female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan have the potential to help the economy and poverty within the country.

Women’s Empowerment Projects of the World Bank

International Aid to Afghanistan is essential for empowering its women and bringing communities out of poverty. The World Bank has a variety of programs dedicated to poverty eradication. It implemented the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Project to support Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA). VLSAs operate as a community bank that gives out micro-loans to women to create employment opportunities to sustain economic growth. Examples of businesses that have been started are hair salons, tailor shops and bakeries.

While the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program closed down in 2018, it was replaced by the WEERDP and continues to be backed by the World Bank and the International Development Association (IDA) to ensure steady funding.

VSLA’s are funded by the World Bank and the IDA to ensure sustainable financial institutions are available in Afghanistan, with the hope that they will partner with larger commercial banks in the future.

Benefits of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

There are roughly 275,684 Afghan women beneficiaries of the WEERDP.  Many of them have had access to financial services for the first time with the program. Many others have taken loans, learned how to repay them and have begun saving for the future. These are valuable life skills for women who were not able to enter the workforce or gain an education in the past.

With the increase of women-run businesses in Afghanistan’s rural communities, VSLA’s can begin to partner with larger banks to begin serving bigger loans to women after seeing the success of the businesses that started with micro-loans. The support of financial institutions is important to give women the confidence to become entrepreneurs, especially in a country where the percentage of women in the workforce has been statistically low. Skills like leadership, management and problem-solving are derived from starting a business and they can be spread throughout communities to strengthen the role of women in the economy.

Skills can even be passed down through generations. Building a structure with programs like the WEERDP is vital for long-term economic growth and success because it can open doors for creativity and innovation for an economy that would benefit.

The Future of Female Entrepreneurs in Afghanistan

Increasing the number of women entrepreneurs with savvy financial skills can benefit the communities of Afghanistan in many ways. Successful women can begin to venture out into local politics and healthcare fields to build on their skills while sharing their talents with the community. Women have important input on what types of businesses are needed for their community and can reduce poverty in specialized ways.

Afghan women make up roughly half of the nation’s population, so their representation is needed to drive economic and societal progress. Having women be visible in the business sector can allow for gender equality to improve in Afghanistan over time, improving the development of the nation as a whole.

– Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain Startup in MexicoAs internet connectivity expands around the globe so do the benefits of blockchain technology and its potential to better the lives of those living in poverty. In Mexico, accessible financial services and insurance programs are vital to the improvement of the quality of life of Mexicans living below the poverty line. Saldo.mx, a blockchain startup in Mexico, helps facilitate this access.

Blockchain Startup in Mexico

A blockchain startup in Mexico has utilized the security of blockchain technology to meet the needs of Mexicans living in poverty. Saldo.mx offers Mexicans a secure and easy-to-use platform on which they can pay their bills using remittance money from abroad.

This is a significant development in the Mexican fintech market as Mexico receives billions of dollars in remittances from the United States each year, with $10.6 billion reaching Mexico in the third quarter of 2020 alone.

Especially during a time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to securely receive timely remittances is crucial for the financial security of Mexicans who rely on remittance payments for their survival.

Saldo’s services have the capacity to reach millions of Mexican customers, as it has been estimated that by the end of 2020, upwards of 81 million Mexicans will have internet access and thus the ability to quickly receive and utilize much-needed cash without having to wait for physical cash to arrive from abroad.

Consuelo: Access to Affordable Insurance Plans

One of Saldo’s newer services is Consuelo, which allows users to find fixed health and life insurance policies. Consuelo uses blockchain technology to connect its users to an insurance plan with a “smart contract,” which eliminates the need for a claim adjuster and gives the users direct access to affordable plans.

By removing a costly middleman and lessening the financial bureaucratic burden on customers, Consuelo gives its users a chance at obtaining health and life insurance and decreases long-term financial insecurity concerns.

Consuelo also helps uninsured Mexicans bypass the bureaucratic messiness of the national public healthcare system, which is supported by numerous uncoordinated social security institutes. This allows for better continuity of care by allowing Mexicans to remain with the same doctor by staying on their plan provided by Consuelo rather than facing the possibility of having to switch to another doctor through the national system after losing their jobs.

The Diverse Applications of Blockchain Technology

Innovation is not confined to affluent areas of developed countries. Especially in the age of the internet, new solutions can be developed and rapidly disseminated from any part of the world and can impact the lives of millions. In Mexico, receiving international transfers of money and gaining access to affordable health and life insurance plans can be difficult for the unbanked and those without stable employment. Startups like Saldo exemplify the potential of internet entrepreneurship and blockchain technology in helping lift the global poor out of poverty.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Southeast Asia has been reducing its poverty level as a whole for the past decade. However, the rise of automation has now put the population back at risk. One of the largest industries in terms of employment in Southeast Asia is the production and manufacturing industry. The most common type of work found in this region is in small factories. These jobs are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of automation in Southeast Asia.

Affected Industries

Automation is the process by which labor or a job that is performed by a human switches to being done by a machine. In many cases, a robot is able to work faster and more efficiently than a person with the added bonus of not having a salary and never needing time off. Thus, the prospect of a workforce full of machines is very appealing to those looking to lower their labor costs.

Automation in Southeast Asia stands to put a large number of laborers out of work. The International Labor Organization reported that 73% of Thailand’s manufacturing workforce are at high risk of having their jobs automated. On a whole, the ASEAN-5 (Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) faces a 56% risk for employment being automated in the next two decades. The majority of workers affected will be those with both lower wages and lower levels of education. These are the types of jobs easiest to automate, which renders these workers as the most severely impacted demographic.

Further, the types of jobs created through automation, like machine operation and maintenance, require skills the lesser educated workers replaced by automation lack. In Vietnam, those with only a primary school education are three times more likely to have their job automated than someone with a secondary degree.

The Transition

These countries face an interesting problem. Through automation, they stand to gain much in the way of foreign investments and business. Southeast Asia has become a hub of global production, which provides many economic benefits. On the other hand, automation puts the lives of the working-class people in these countries in serious danger. Several countries in Southeast Asia have proposed new ideas to try and navigate through this transition.

The Indonesian Minister of Finance has proposed the implementation of a universal basic income. This has the possibility of alleviating the stress caused by job loss. The Government of Thailand has approved a tax incentive to boost automation within the country. The proposition aims to bring in foreign investors that would train Thai workers and create employment opportunities.

Conclusion

A smooth transition to automation will be crucial in keeping much of the population of Southeast Asia above the poverty line. It is fundamental to support workers in the age of automation in Southeast Asia. Most importantly, they need access to higher levels of education. Hopefully this issue will encourage these governments to provide more opportunities and training to their citizens. People can continue to work in meaningful ways in the age of automation through adequate aid.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in the PhilippinesOver the past decade, there have been drastic innovations in the Philippines. The country has experienced dramatic economic growth and development. In 2019, the Global Innovation Index (GII) found that the country improved on all metrics used to calculate advancement.

Economic Growth

In 2019, the Philippines appeared for the first time in the “innovation achievers group.” The country outperformed many other countries in the area.  Some of the metrics used to calculate these scores included increased levels of creative exports, trademarks, high-tech imports and employed, highly educated women.

As a country, the Philippines has risen 19 spots in the ranking since 2018, to 54th out of 129 participating countries. This indicates a significant increase in the standard of living for many Filipinos. This is apparent in the significant decrease in the poverty rate over the past few years. From 2015 to 2018, the national poverty rate dropped a total of 6.7%, or by 5.9 million people.

Prosperity is largely due to the success of local business owners and entrepreneurs. They have used their influence and prosperity to help those in need in their communities and countries, especially in the health sector. Coincidingly, there was a significant increase in global trade. Both factors have propelled the Philippines into the global economy as an important emerging market to keep an eye on.

Global Benefits

In 2018, the Philippines and the United States trade relationship developed significantly. The total goods trade was $21.4 billion collectively, in the petroleum and coal, aerospace and computer software, motor vehicles and travel/hospitality sectors. This is beneficial to the U.S. because international trade employs over 39.8 million Americans. As the Philippines becomes more prosperous, more Filipinos are able to pour money and resources into helping marginalized communities across the country. As such, there has been an increase in innovations in the Philippines, notably in the health and medical sectors.

RxBox

A distinct industry on the frontlines of innovations in the Philippines is the health sector. Increased health for a population is directly related to better access to opportunity and a higher standard of living overall. One company doing this important work in the Philippines is RxBox.

RxBox was developed by the country’s Department of Science and Technology. It is a biomedical telehealth system that provides health care and diagnoses to people in communities that are remote, difficult to access. The service is additionally available for people who do not have access or the ability to travel for health care.

It is a game-changer for disadvantaged people who would otherwise not be able to get fast, effective medical care. RxBox reduces costly hospital and medical visits, which facilitates better health for people. Communities are then better able to care for themselves and for their families, providing greater opportunities for everybody.

Biotek M

There is another player in the innovations in the Philippines: Biotek M. It is a revolutionary diagnostic kit for Dengue. A local team at the University of the Philippines-Diliman were the creators of this new technology.

Traditionally, the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is used to confirm the disease but can cost up to $8,000 and takes 24 hours to get results. That is inaccessible to lower-income people who are oftentimes the demographic most commonly afflicted by the dengue infection. The kit helps reduce resource usage for both medical centers and patients by making the diagnosis process significantly more streamlined.

In 2017, 131,827 cases of Dengue were recorded with 732 deaths, mostly affecting young children aged 5 to 9-years-old. Being able to quickly diagnose and treat people who contract this illness makes a huge impact on people living in poverty.

When people spend less time, energy and money on being healthy, they are able to use their resources more efficiently. In this way, medical innovations in Philippines and a growing economy directly increased the standard of living for people living in poverty within the country.

Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr