Information and news about business

Because International is Aiding Children
There is an invention that is changing the lives of millions living in poverty around the world. A leather sandal, called The Shoe That Grows, has been making a big difference for children living without shoes that properly fit them. Kenton Lee, a pastor and founder of the nonprofit organization Because International, designed the shoe. He came up with the idea during a six-month stay in Kenya. He originated this new brand of footwear that has benefited those who have outgrown their previous pairs of shoes. Because International is aiding children in developing countries that live without proper-sized shoes and are vulnerable to serious injuries and parasites.

More than 300 children from poor families are in need of a pair of properly fitting and long-lasting shoes. Using materials around his house, Lee used the plastic part of a baseball cap to have a makeshift expanding shoe. He also used tacks and soft foam to create pegs, allowing the shoe to expand.

“The design process was interesting because I am not a designer, and I knew nothing about shoes,” Lee told Bored Panda. “I was just a normal guy with an idea.”

Helminth Infections

More than 225,000 pairs of adjustable sandals are distributed to more than 100 countries around the world. The previous lack of this resource has prevented kids from attending school daily and staying healthy. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide have suffered from soil-transmitted helminth infections, in which parasitic worms transmitted by eggs pass through the feces of those infected by the disease. The adult worms live in the intestines where they produce eggs every day. Helminth infections also weaken an individual’s nutritional status by feeding on host tissues including blood which leads to a loss of protein and iron. In addition to helminth infections, hookworms, which are also parasitic, cause intestinal blood loss that results in anemia.

As for the organization’s long-term goals, it plans on continuing distribution to poor countries. This provides an economic improvement, in which job creation appears, low shipping for merchants, decreased carbon footprinting and overall innovation of footwear that will increase economic growth while fighting poverty.

The Bednet Buddy

Because International is also aiding children through its invention to protect kids vulnerable to mosquitoes. The Bednet Buddy is also available on its official website; a pop-up net lined with long-lasting insecticides, which are synthetic substances for killing insects. The Bednet Buddy has the guarentee to protect children aged 5 and under from mosquito bites while sleeping. Lee, who also invented this protective kit, came up with the idea during the same visit to Kenya. He visited an orphanage where children were sleeping without bedding or a roof over their heads during the night, leaving them more vulnerable for mosquito bites, increasing the chance of catching malaria.

The organization has made about 1,000 nets and sent 700 to the west-central region of Africa for testing, so the organization has already manufactured the product and some have already used it. Because International is still working toward making improvements to the product that it has yet to reveal.

GroFive

Because International also has a sister company for commercial use called GroFive. Because International primarily owns GroFive and is a small-time player in the American footwear industry. Where parents typically run out to buy their children more pairs of shoes, costing them hundreds of dollars, the company decided to use the idea of The Shoe That Grows for American consumers. The key is to sell the product domestically where parents can purchase this type of shoe for a low price instead of buying multiple pairs for higher prices. GroFive sells its expanded sandals, or “expandals,” for both kids and adults at $39.95 a pair.

Pursuit Incubator

In addition, Because International has also developed a program for struggling entrepreneurs to take their new ideas to the next level. Known as the Pursuit Incubator, Because International offers training to get new businesses off the ground and to mobilize them to their target audience. It even gives guidance and funding that help support these new entrepreneurs as they embark on growing their businesses.

Overall, Because International is aiding children through its consistency in making products and services that can help serve those in need. In addition to The Shoe That Grows, it is capable of making more products. It can market these for use in underprivileged and developed nations alike. Finally, it provides services to help others with their own products.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty
Since the 1970s scare, the state of the earth, specifically in regards to climate change, has been a hot topic of conversation in the scientific community. The degradation of farmlands, dangerous weather patterns and the gradual deconstruction of global ecosystems are becoming more apparent. With a growing cause for concern, scientists, corporations and individuals have come to understand that a change must occur.

On the other hand, alleviating global poverty is a pressing issue also. The world could dramatically reduce international poverty with longterm investment and adequate programming. Therefore, it can be challenging to determine where to allocate resources. Despite this conundrum, three companies have proven that resource allocation might not have to be a choice if they become sustainable companies reducing poverty. The Plastic Bank, Chr. Hansen and M-KOPA have dramatically improved the lives of impoverished and/or food insecure individuals while maintaining a corporate focus towards alleviating global sustainability issues.

3 Sustainable Companies Reducing Poverty

  1. Plastic Bank: The Plastic Bank is a Canadian company that started in 2013 with the goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean. Impoverished and overpopulated areas with little to no waste management systems are primary sources of ocean plastic build-up. The organization works with local residents in Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia and soon Brazil to mitigate plastic waste by mobilizing locals. It accomplishes this by imploring the citizens to collect and deposit plastic buildup in exchange for credits that they can use to buy necessities such as food, medicine and cleaning products. Not only does this reduce individual waste production, but it improves the lives of those who partake in the exchange and those around them. Plastic Bank has committed itself to the implementation of activities to educate these communities about ecological health and the science of sustainability in addition to trading labor for goods.
  2. Chr. Hansen: Chr. Hansen began in 1873 as a single pharmaceutical factory and has grown into a global force in food production and sustainability. In 2019, Corporate Knights acknowledged the Denmark-based company as the world’s most sustainable company. The organization continues to pursue these sustainability goals through the improvement of natural food longevity agents and reducing dairy waste. Further, the company floods investment into alleviating food insecurity with a primary focus on the second U.N. Sustainable Development goal. To accomplish such a goal, the company works with local agencies and/or other civil society organizations to support local, small-scale dairies in developing countries.  Chr. Hansen also devotes attention to the dairy market in Northern Africa where camels are more common than cows. Through this work, the company is investing in research about processing for preservation to decrease camel milk waste and giving local residents affordable access to these products.
  3. M-KOPA Solar: M-Kopa Solar is a Kenya-based company that has implemented solar power to over 750,000 homes and businesses in the region. Not only does the company provide clean energy, but these highly efficient systems also provide low-cost energy to the user. M-KOPA provides rural and off-grid individuals with the comfort of electricity that would otherwise be fiscally or physically inaccessible. Not only do the consumers benefit from the energy but there is also potential to profit from the sale of that power to others. Providing this energy permits consumers to focus less on how to afford power and gives them autonomy. M-Kopa is one of the few African-based sustainable companies reducing poverty within the residing country. This organization is working to expand its reach further through Kenya and into other regions.

These companies have proven that resource allocation is not a choice. These three sustainable companies reducing poverty have done so through corporate missions and societal impact initiatives.

Kayla Brown
Photo: Unsplash

Global poverty is an ever prevalent issue in the world today. Poverty affects at least one billion children worldwide and is responsible for the death of 22,000 children daily. Many companies are emerging with missions to help stop global poverty by selling things jewelry or food products and donating some of the proceeds to charitable organizations. Some companies are working directly with the people they are helping. A way to contribute to the fight to stop global poverty is to support and buy from these companies fighting poverty.

Jewelry Companies Fighting Poverty

There is an exorbitant number of accessory companies around the world. In 2018, people spent 18 billion euros on luxury jewelry globally. Many people buy jewelry from large, name-brand corporations. One way to help global poverty is by buying jewelry from smaller companies who give back to the cause. Here are companies fighting poverty with jewelry sales.

  1. Starfish Project: Starfish Project is a jewelry company whose mission is to help exploited women in Asia through a variety of Holistic Care programs. The project’s Community Outreach Services are helping train women to be entrepreneurs. So far, more than 140 women have found employment through Starfish Project.
  2. Noonday Collection: Noonday Collection is a small business created by Jessica Honegger that specializes in selling jewelry. Women learn to make and then sell jewelry at Noonday jewelry markets called Trunk Shows. So far, Noonday Collection has helped more than 1,700 women around the world launched their own businesses.
  3. Nightlight Design: Nightlight Design is an international organization whose mission is to end commercial sexual exploitation in Thailand. The jewelry proceeds go towards supporting the organization and its efforts to employ these women.

Food Companies Fighting Poverty

Hunger is a pressing issue that comes with global poverty. Those in extreme poverty often do not have the resources to get access to food. In developing countries, 12.9 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment. There are many companies that sell food in order to fight world hunger. Here are some companies fighting poverty that are giving back by selling food.

  1. KIND: KIND is a company that mostly sells granola bars. The KIND Movement started in 2004 as the company’s way of trying to make the world a little better and a little kinder. KIND and The Kind Foundation have spent more than $34.5 million to fight world hunger. Volunteers through the companies have donated 50,490 hours to charitable causes.
  2. Annie’s: Annie’s is a company famous for its boxed macaroni and cheese as well as other snacks. Its creator and founder, Annie Withey, has strong values geared towards helping the planet and the people on it. She set out to create a socially conscious business through Annie’s. In the last six years, Annie’s has “donated more than $2.5 million” to a variety of organizations working to make a better world.
  3. Justin’s: Justin’s is a nut butter company created by Justin Gold. It gives back to the planet through poverty relief efforts. The company works with the Whole Planet Foundation and Conscious Alliance to provide hunger relief around the world. Justin’s works with many other organizations committed to helping global poverty.

Clothing Companies Fighting Poverty

For those living in poverty around the world, clothing is a huge problem. Many do not have the resources to buy clothing that accommodates often harsh weather conditions, leading to sickness and injury. Fortunately, there are many clothing companies who give back by employing people in developing countries. Through the proceeds, these people are able to make a living. Here are some poverty helping companies that give back by selling clothing.

  1. ASOS: ASOS is a large clothing company that is home to hundreds of well-known brands. It recently launched ASOS ‘Made in Kenya,’ a line encouraging people to live up to their ethical values by buying clothes made by garment workers in Kenya. ASOS has also released 11 collaborations with SOKO, Kenya. Proceeds from the collection boosted the workforce and helped parents afford school for their children.
  2. People Tree: People Tree is a clothing company based in the U.K. whose supply chain is 100 percent ethical and fair trade. The clothing company partnered with many humanitarian organizations such as Bombolulu Workshop, which works to empower physically disabled people in Kenya. It works with a variety of groups in several countries.
  3. Elegantees: Elegantees is a clothing company whose mission is to end sex trafficking largely caused by poverty in Nepal. The company’s goal is to employ women from Nepal to help manufacture their clothing. It offers women stable jobs to provide for themselves and their families and keep them safe from sex trafficking.

Although world poverty numbers can seem daunting at times, there are many small choices one can make in their everyday lives to help create an impact. One way to help end global poverty is to buy products such as clothes, food and jewelry from companies fighting poverty.

Natalie Chen and Jenna Chrol
Photo: Pixabay

New Business Opportunities in Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia is a 600-island nation in the Pacific Ocean where 40 percent of the population lived in poverty as of 2014 and 32 out of 1,000 children died before the age of 5 as of 2017. Micronesia is heavily reliant on U.S. aid since the nation’s independence in 1986, but many expect it to end by 2023 as the country struggles with unemployment, over-reliance on fishing and a stagnant local business sector with uncertainty looming. Micronesia’s private sector will need a significant boost when aid from the U.S. comes to an end. Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia, specifically at the local level, is a priority the Pacific island nation needs to capitalize on.

Connecting Micronesia

The rise of the internet has been an important business driver for the private sectors for many nations. Micronesia has been tackling a project to expand the country’s own servers both locally and globally. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project by the World Bank is a long-term project that will not only connect Micronesia with its neighbors Palau, Nauru and Kiribati via a fiber network, but also allows Micronesia to open and regulate the market to allow the private to build and improve domestic businesses that the current satellite connections would not be able to bring. The building of the lines to improve networking and connections is a pivotal investment to increase the domestic business sector to boost the local economy. Exploiting the internet is an important objective for opening new business opportunities in Micronesia and evolve the local marketplace.

Tourism Sector in Micronesia

Improving the tourism sector is also a priority Micronesia should exploit to bolster its economy. Neighboring countries such as Palau, Nauru and the Northern Marina Islands, a U.S. territory, have strong connections to various Asian countries to allow easier access to their respective areas of interest, which Micronesia also currently relies on if falling short. States within Micronesia have taken steps to rectify the tourism concern, such as when Yap made a controversial deal with the Chinese development company Exhibition & Travel Group in 2011 to develop tourist destinations 1,000 acres across the state. Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea-based airline Air Niugini established connections to Chuuk and Pohnpei, Micronesia in 2016 and increased flight capacity in 2017.

Fishing Sector in Micronesia

While Micronesia has been improving its tourism sector, it has also made deals with countries outside of the U.S. to bolster its fishing sector which has been in major need of development. Focusing on the regional neighbors has been a major step in that development. As an island nation, fishing is one of Micronesia’s main economic sources, however, there have been concerns about its long-term reliability, and thus, the country’s management of resources has become necessary. Chuuk has size-based policies to control and maintain fish populations during appropriate seasons, balancing the marketplace and keeping fish populations at sustainable levels. Micronesia also began a transparency program in its tuna fishing sector in 2018, a measure to monitor and sustain the tuna population for both local and international marketplaces. Fishing is an important asset for Micronesia; maintaining the population levels of various species including tuna is a priority the country be paying attention to for years to come.

Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia requires the country to branch out from the guiding hand of the U.S. and beseech nearby neighbors to bolster the local economy. Micronesia also expects to sustain its local fish populations to enhance the markets both locally and internationally. While the steps have been small, the Federated States of Micronesia has made the necessary moves in the event that the United States end its aid in 2023.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

programs through the US embassy in cambodia
The purposes of embassies around the world are to represent different country’s governments in another country and facilitate relationships between them. It is the responsibility of government agencies to address current global issues. As a result, many embassies assist in development initiatives in the countries they are based in. Embassies do this in many ways, especially through collaborating with local organizations, sponsoring organizations or creating new embassy-based programs. Below are two of the most sustainable and beneficial programs that the U.S. embassy works on in Cambodia.

SHE Investments Incubator Program

Women run 65 percent of the micro-businesses in Cambodia and most of those businesses do not have the resources or the engagement to propel them to their higher potential. In fact, women only account for one percent of formal business owners, whether small or large businesses. The mission of SHE Investments is to support women business founders in a male-dominated industry with the goal of impacting Cambodian communities both socially and economically.

SHE investments started as an idea in 2013 and fully launched in 2014. USAID Cambodia sponsors this organization through the Development Innovations (DI) Cambodia project, one of the programs through the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia.

In 2016, the organization applied for the DI grant through USAID. SHE Investments received a small grant that went towards the development of Ngeay Ngeay, a free database to help women-led businesses register with their local government agencies, such as the Ministry of Commerce. This helped to transform the organization’s possibilities with technology because it had not tried to utilize those resources to the fullest extent prior to the grant. The DI grant also provided workshops in social media and branding, which opened the organization’s network to different corporate partners.

“I didn’t have any skills for video before. It looked really hard. But [the DI trainers] made it really simple for someone who has never edited before,” said Seng GeachLeang, the Communications and Community Engagement Officer.

With the support of USAID and the programs through the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, SHE investments was able to expand its inaugural program, the SHE Incubator Program. It works to assist micro-businesses with five paid employees or less in order to give them personal training and preparation for running a larger scale business one day. The workshops, delivered over the course of six months, are in the Khmer language.

In order to create sustainable change, SHE investments tracks the growth of the small businesses over time to determine the impact of their assistance, whether or not there is an increase in household income, women’s empowerment and comfort with decision-making as a result of their assistance.

Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI)

Another one of the programs through the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia not only reaches the country’s own youth but also those in neighboring countries. The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) supports and provides opportunities for youth across all Southeast Asian countries.

In 2013, YSEALI began its movement to engage young adults from 18 to 35 years old in leadership development and relationship making. The program is unique because it connects young adults from different countries in the region with each other. This is to promote unity and belonging as well as strengthen diplomatic ties between Southeast Asia and the U.S.

The leaders can apply to become members at any time. Once in the group, they focus on topics and issues that youth in the regions determine themselves. This has included but has not limited to, professional women empowerment, food security and foreign relations. Programs within YSEALI include professional and academic fellowships to the United States, regional workshops and grant funding.

It is evident that the benefits of YSEALI are on an even larger scale than it seems. According to the Huffington Post, during the 2015 and 2016 academic year, over 55,000 Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) students studied in the U.S. and their economic contribution to the U.S. economy was $1.7 billion. This mutually beneficial relationship ensures the prioritizing of the future of personal development of ASEAN youth. These young adults are the future change-makers in their region of the world.

Still, including these programs, there are a number of other programs through the U.S. embassy in Cambodia and each is unique. Many of the programs provide avenues of support for young adults as they make up approximately 65 percent of people in the Southeast Asian region. With the help of organizations and programs like those in this article, there are opportunities to make lasting change for the better in Cambodian communities.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

5 facts about Prosper AfricaThe Prosper Africa initiative is the Trump administration’s plan to move from an aid-focused to business-heavy strategy in Africa. In the words of USAID Administrator Mark Green, Prosper Africa targets Africans’ “innate desire to want to lead themselves” and construct “their own bright future.” The continent’s rapid growth provides ample opportunities for investment in African business and increased African employment. Exactly how the U.S. will take advantage of these opportunities is described by these five facts about Prosper Africa.

The Next Big Market

Africa is quickly urbanizing and consuming new products. The Brookings Institution found that urbanization accounted for 80 percent of African growth. African consumers and businesses spent $4 trillion in 2015 amid this explosion, a number expected to rise to $6.66 trillion by 2030.

Local businesses have become very profitable. There are 400 African firms that make at least $1 billion yearly. Successful companies secure themselves from the continent’s instability using a variety of methods. Dangote Industries, for example, forms relationships with host governments and creates its own electricity to run its facilities.

Supporting African Business

Despite these victories, Africa’s business environment still suffers from shortcomings in infrastructure and employment. Firms are difficult to run when 600 million people throughout the continent lack electricity. Youth unemployment compounds this issue. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance Minister, worries that African youth will turn to violent extremism if economic opportunities do not appear.

Prosper Africa will not only seek to remedy the abovementioned ailments but also compete with China’s trade dominance in the region. According to Business Insider, China’s Belt and Road initiative is already in full force. This initiative seeks to strengthen ties with Africa through trade and business development. President Xi Jinping announced in 2018 that $60 billion would go toward Africa’s development. Among the new projects funded by China are a $31.6 million East African trade headquarters and a $500 million cement factory in Zambia.

5 Facts About Prosper Africa

  1. The goal: Prosper Africa will herald more private investment in the continent and enhance bilateral trade relationships with the United States. The International Trade Administration says that it will increase innovation, transparency and start-up firms by reducing risk and providing access to American trade support services. Besides aiding African businesses, Prosper Africa hopes to expand the number of U.S. firms active on the continent. Africa contains over 1 billion consumers, and the U.S. has a purchasing power of $13 trillion to make the most of an improved relationship.
  2. How it works: Prosper Africa launches a whole-of-government effort that uses existing agencies to remove investment barriers. The Department of Commerce and USAID will work together to focus on the three problem areas including knowledge, expertise and regulations. Administrator Green stated that “Deal Facilitation Teams” at U.S. embassies will support interested African entrepreneurs in moving past gaps in business knowledge or expertise. Prosper Africa will also provide loans to new firms, so banks will allow credit access.
  3. USAID’s critical role: USAID will provide crucial support for the initiative. Their previous experience within many African nations makes them aware of measures needed to overcome poverty. In 2016, USAID helped Kenya eliminate a 30 percent government shareholding requirement in foreign firms. The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition reports that this created a more attractive market and raised American exports there by $60 million. Efosa Ojomo, co-author of “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty,” says a transition to more permanent forms of aid like this will ensure lasting success.
  4. Increasing stability: Prosper Africa will increase stability on the continent, resulting in less need for American troops. In remarks before the Heritage Foundation, National Security Advisor John Bolton stated that Africans would take security into their own hands once economically empowered. The U.S. hopes more prosperous regional alliances, like the G5 Sahel Joint Force, will reduce violence and fight crime. There are currently 6,000 American troops in Africa on 100 missions. A Center for Strategic and International Studies report projected that U.S. military presence will drop by 10 percent in the next decade as a result of Prosper Africa.
  5. Increasing employment: According to the World Economic Forum, 15 to 20 million new workers will appear yearly by 2030. Africa only maximizes 55 percent of its human capital, however. Prosper Africa’s new business deals will work to solve this problem. The Trump administration announced a $20 billion investment by Texas natural gas company Anadarko in Mozambique on June 19, 2019. Anadarko has already trained 500 people in the country and currently has 1,000 Mozambicans in its classes. Its success resonates with African businesses, and 900 have already registered as suppliers for Anadarko.

These five facts about Prosper Africa show that the U.S. is taking a new approach to fighting poverty in Africa. Direct foreign investment will pave the way for prosperity going forward, and aid will have a training focus. Prosper Africa has potential not only to compete with China’s investments but also to generate healthier environments across the continent.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Pixabay

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

Credit Access in Bulgaria
Bulgaria is an Eastern European country with a population of approximately 7 million people. In 2016, the country’s poverty rate stood at 23.4 percent, which means that around 1.6 million Bulgarians lived below the national poverty line. In addition, Bulgaria has the lowest GDP per capita in the European Union and the highest levels of income inequality among E.U. countries. Increasing credit access in Bulgaria could be one way to recharge the economy and help reduce poverty.

Background

Poverty in the country has been steadily rising. Since 2000, the poverty rate has increased by 9.4 percent. Contradictorily, the unemployment rate has never been lower and wages have never been higher than they are now. To explain this contradiction, it is important to know that Bulgaria has experienced a rapid population decline. Between 1988 and 2018, the population of Bulgaria declined by nearly 2 million people. By 2050, economists predict that the Bulgarian population will fall to 5.5 million if the country does nothing to reverse the trend. This has precarious implications for the nation’s economy, and increasing access to credit is a viable solution to stymie population loss.

Particularly concerning is the fact that young and educated Bulgarians constitute the bulk of those leaving the country. In most cases, they leave to find employment elsewhere in the E.U. Some dubbed this phenomenon a “brain drain,” and studies confirm that it hinders economic growth and development. Experts at the Institute for Market Economics in Bulgaria argue that political stability and economic growth are the surest ways to dissuade young people from leaving the country; in other words, the overall outlook for the country must be bright.

Credit Access in Bulgaria

One possible way to address Bulgaria’s population problem is to increase access to credit. With increased credit access, impoverished Bulgarians can secure the funding they need to start a business, purchase a home or own a car. Expanding credit for small businesses could be due to economic growth. Furthermore, a 2006 study found that increased credit access in Bulgaria had a strong correlation with total factor productivity. Credit access has also led to growth in both the manufacturing and service sectors. A Georgia State University study found that access has led to a 0.34 percent annual increase in value for both sectors. These sectors account for 83 percent of Bulgaria’s GDP.

By further developing access to credit, Bulgaria has a brighter economic outlook. Despite its population decline, the GDP has increased by $52 billion since 2000. In order to reverse the brain drain and address national poverty, financial institutions and the Bulgarian government should continue to invest in credit access. Credit access will allow young entrepreneurs to remain in the country, helping the economy grow and encouraging Bulgarians. Economic growth, according to the Institute for Market Economics, remains Bulgaria’s best chance at recovering its lost population.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

microfinancing in africaAt the turn of the 21st century, new ways of combatting poverty grew in popularity. Microfinancing, a system of banking created by Mohamed Yunus, offers small loans and financial services to those without access to traditional banking means, such as the extremely impoverished and those living in rural villages. Today, many organizations such as Grameen Bank offer microfinancing services across the world. According to The U.N. African Renewal project, most microfinancing clients are in Asia, but the African sector continues to grow. Microfinancing has the potential to transforms the lives of citizens without traditional banking services across the countries of Africa, but the overall effectiveness of this relatively new financial practice is still under hot debate.

The Bright Side of Microfinancing

To proponents of microfinancing practices, the new fiscal theory provides a fresh, grassroots fix to a deeply entrenched problem that requires new solutions. The Grameen Bank, founded by Yunus, still stands by the fiscal theories created by its founder. Microfinancing from Grameen bank is called “Grameencredit” and according to the bank itself, its aim is to help poor families overcome poverty by helping themselves. It is also targeted to help poor women. The premise of microfinancing operates on the idea that with more economic independence, at-risk individuals and communities can become more powerful and self-sufficient against problems such as corruption, poverty, and women’s rights issues. To proponents of microfinance, microfinancing in Africa will allow rural villages and impoverished people to gain economic independence, which will allow them to take advantage of education opportunities and health care services.

What Needs Work

Skepticism centers around a lack of concrete data and a distrust of anecdotal evidence. The U.N. finds that current data on microfinancing shows how it can be hard to measure how micro-finance affects poverty. Proponents of microfinance usually rely on case studies and anecdotal evidence. The same UN report also cited that some question the efficacy of microfinance because small businesses don’t contribute much to the economy’s productive capabilities or structural changes. Offering small loans to poor communities will do little to move the needle in terms of a countries gross domestic produce and it won’t address federal or state-level corruption. While offering microfinancing in Africa will help families on a case by case basis, the overall effects on regional or domestic economies have yet to show conclusive evidence of structural change beneficial to the poor.

Microfinance Today

To combat the shortcomings of microfinance, many institutions that give out micro-finance loans also offer other forms of aid and assistance. The Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) has operated micro-finance operations since the 1980s and continues to do so today. Along with offering traditional banking services to the poor, FINCA also provides other services as well such as mobile banking. According to FINCA financial services are not always available in developing countries, but cellphones are becoming more common. Mobile banking services provide people in rural areas the opportunity to access banking services through FINCA that were previously unavailable. Along with mobile financing options, FINCA also operates banks with “POS [point of sale] terminals equipped with biometric recognition, otherwise known as fingerprint scans. These provide better security for clients accessing their FINCA accounts. Thus, modern technologies improve access to banking institutions while also ensuring secure transactions.

Along with offering baking services that require payment such as loans, FINCA also invests money into local markets in need of attention. FINCA also invests in energy, education and agriculture through FINCA Ventures in Africa. FINCA Ventures operates a specific type of investing called impact investing, where those receiving investment need to meet certain requirements set out by the investing institution. FINCA Ventures invests in startups with clear goals and plans to make a deep social impact and create a customer base using FINCA’s network. Those that FINCA invests in must offer a service that betters a community while also giving them access to FINCA’s banking and investing services. One such company is Amped Innovation, which offers affordable solar energy powered home systems and appliances. By augmenting microfinancing in Africa with other services, FINCA can affect larger systemic issues that traditional microfinancing ignores.

Microfinance Going Forward

FINCA, as well as other microfinance firms such as Grameen Bank, try to combat the shortcomings of microfinance by offering services and investments that aim at fixing systemic problems in impoverished communities such as infrastructure and banking security. Microfinance is still in its infancy and needs to find solutions to shortcomings of the past. With additional services and time to prove its worth, microfinancing in Africa will be an effective tool in the fight against poverty.

– Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

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