Poverty in East Africa
Village Enterprise, an organization that aims to end extreme poverty in rural Africa, published the results of its Development Impact Bond for alleviating poverty in East Africa in November 2021. A development impact bond is a kind of financial security that is made of funds from private investors to finance development in low-income communities. Village Enterprise implemented the program in households across Uganda and Kenya from November 2017 to December 2020. IDinsight, the program evaluator, documented the success of the program.

Poverty in East Africa

Extreme poverty is prevalent in East African countries, with about 44.2% of citizens living on less than $1.90 per day in March 2021. About 41% of the population of Uganda in 2016 and 37% of Kenyans in 2015 lived below the international poverty line.

Countries in East Africa experience extreme poverty because of consistent droughts, conflicts and unstable economies. Data shows connections in these regions between poverty and a significant lack of clean water services, access to quality education, transportation, housing and energy.

Details of the Development Impact Bond

In Uganda and Kenya, the Development Impact Bond provided aid to 241 villages and gave no aid to 241 control villages in order to measure and compare the effects of the aid on household consumption and amount of assets. Consumption included purchases relating to food, transportation, social activities and other everyday spending and assets included household savings, livestock and business supplies.

Village Enterprise provided two phases of cash transfers and regular entrepreneurial training throughout the duration of the program. The program provided two grants to 13,839 households. The program focused on business skills and cash transfers as a combination of both has shown to be more effective at helping people raise enough money to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

The results of the study considered various characteristics within each household. Some households started with more baseline wealth than others, about 30% of households had a woman head of household, about 47% of households reported at least one member with a disability and each household also reported their respective business types.

The study also aimed to provide results to aid and encourage similar organizations in designing and implementing future programs to alleviate extreme poverty.

Results of the Development Impact Bond

Results of the Development Impact Bond reported an increase in both the consumption and asset categories across households, with a 6.3% increase compared to the control group in consumption per household and a 5.8% increase in net assets per household. The program exceeded its goals, with a 140% benefit-cost ratio. The Impact Bond initially invested $5.32 million into the program and reports predict that the lasting effects of the program will generate quadruple this amount.

Although the program provided two different amounts of cash transfers to households, there was a similar increase in all household consumption regardless of the transfer amount. Households that received larger cash transfers reported more assets than households that received smaller cash transfers. Households headed by women started out with less baseline wealth than households headed by men but reported a similar percentage of improvement in both consumption and assets. There was no significant difference in the effects in households that had at least one member with a disability.

When comparing business types across households, households that ran crop businesses consumed less on average and households that had businesses that fell under multiple identifying categories consumed more. Households with livestock businesses and multiple-category businesses reported higher asset gains than other business types. Businesses that started with higher success levels reported an average higher in both consumption and asset wealth.

Overall, results from the Village Enterprise Development Impact Bond show significant improvements in the livelihoods of extremely impoverished households across Uganda and Kenya. Recipients all reported positive improvements in consumption and assets and provided data that organizations can use to build and improve similar programs in the future.

Success in Numbers (2017 to 2021):

  • About 4,766 businesses emerged.
  • About 14,100 beginner entrepreneurs received training with women accounting for 75%.
  • Exactly 481 business savings groups began.
  • There was a 6% average increase in household consumption and assets.
  • Estimates determined there was a $21 million “increase in lifelong household income.”
  • About 95,000 people benefited from the program.

It is clear that Village Enterprise has seen substantial success in alleviating poverty in East Africa. Through its efforts, people have been able to start businesses and improve their incomes, subsequently impacting their overall lives.

– Melissa Hood
Photo: Flickr

Three Seas Initiative
The Three Seas Initiative, which Polish President Andrzej Duda and former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitrovic founded in 2015, is an economic forum of 12 Eastern and Central European nations created as a means for Eastern Europe to boost economic development, expand infrastructure and promote cooperation in the energy sector. The Three Seas Initiative works by securing investment for infrastructure, energy and digitization projects to rectify the gap between East-West and North-South infrastructure in Europe. As more investments continue to support digital infrastructure, energy and transportation projects, people in poverty in Eastern Europe are likely to experience greater economic prosperity through the increasing trade opportunities and greater access to markets through economic investment.

Three Seas Initiative Projects

As of July 2021, the Three Seas Initiative has 90 interconnection projects with a total estimated investment value of €180.9 billion. Registered in 2018, the Rail-2-Sea project is a Three Seas Initiative plan to build a railway connecting the port of Gdansk and the port of Constanta across Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. This plan will further link the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea over four different branches of a railway, each with its local plans for modernization.

Another Three Seas Initiative infrastructure plan is the Rail Baltica plan. This plan aims to increase infrastructural integration between Baltic Sea nations. More specifically, in a partnership with Finland, Rail Baltica is creating infrastructure to construct “missing cross-border connections” and “integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network” while dissolving “transport infrastructure bottlenecks.”

These plans are all, in one way or another, increasing economic interconnection and mobility between Eastern European nations. These infrastructural developments will provide more opportunities for people living in Eastern Europe by providing greater access to European markets and more efficient supply chains. The cheapening of consumer goods through trade is especially beneficial to low-income Eastern European citizens who could potentially afford better and more daily necessities.

Impact of the Three Seas Initiative

Nations within the Three Seas Initiative saw greater economic growth and faced less economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other European Union (EU) nations. According to a July 2021 speech by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, “During 2015-2019 they [Three Seas Initiative nations] averaged 3.8% GDP growth a year, nearly double the rate of EU-15.” Furthermore, the economies of Three Seas nations only contracted by approximately 4% whereas Western European economies shrunk by approximately double that.

Throughout the initiative, the poverty rates of many nations, especially in Southeast Europe, have declined. For example, Romania had a poverty rate of 25.4% in 2015, the founding year of the Three Seas Initiative. Right before the pandemic in 2019, Romania’s poverty rate declined to 23.8%.

The Three Seas Initiative similarly oversaw a decrease in the risk of poverty in Hungary with 28.2% of people facing the risk of poverty in 2015 in comparison to 17.8% in 2019. Slovenia saw a decrease in poverty as well, albeit relatively minor from 13.9% in 2015 to 12% in 2018, and it only rose .4% in 2019.

The Three Seas Initiative has vast potential to deepen economic ties within Europe, foster sustainable European energy and reduce poverty. As it carries out more projects, the U.S. and the EU can continue to encourage economic investment and development of the Three Seas Initiative countries. Such economic investment and capital inflow have the potential to make Eastern Europe more prosperous while lifting people out of poverty.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Planting Trees Can Alleviate Poverty
Scotland announced plans to “plant millions of trees” along national rivers to preserve salmon populations. Salmon prefer cold waters and trees help provide shade during hot summer months. Planting trees alongside rivers also improves water quality, stabilizes riverbanks and protects wildlife habitats. Countries can use tree-planting campaigns to attain healthy rivers, which bring social, economic and environmental benefits that can uplift low-income communities. In these ways, planting trees can alleviate poverty.

The Value of Rivers in Low-Income Communities

Around the world, about 2 billion people rely on rivers as direct sources of drinking water, according to the World Wildlife Fund. In areas without electricity or water filtration systems, rivers can provide a quick and accessible supply of drinking water. Globally, “25% of the world’s food production depends on irrigation from rivers.” Rivers indirectly and directly supply billions of people with food and water. Therefore, it is vital to keep rivers and their surroundings clean and healthy. Dam development, rising temperatures and increasing demands for water to use on farms and in hydropower plants put rivers under more pressure than ever before. Protecting and conserving rivers especially benefits low-income communities by sustaining natural resources, like fish, that millions of people rely on to support themselves and their families.

How Trees Lead to Healthy Rivers

Planting trees alongside rivers can improve water quality by limiting pollution and runoff from nearby land. Trees stabilize riverbanks by binding the soil, which reduces the risk of riverbank collapse. Trees also absorb water and intercept heavy rain, which prevents flooding and excessive runoff. Entire ecosystems may arise from planting trees by riverbanks. Land animals form habitats in trees and surrounding wooded areas and species, such as salmon, that live in rivers benefit from the shade that trees provide. Planting trees protect and promote biodiversity in a time when many human factors threaten it. People, plants and animals alike benefit from rivers and rivers benefit from nearby trees. Planting trees can alleviate poverty by improving river health and the ecosystems that millions of people rely on to survive.

Scotland: A Plan in Action

Scotland recognizes the benefits of planting trees along rivers and aims to plant a million trees by 2035. Scotland’s plan involves planting several native tree species, which will preserve the country’s history and improve biodiversity. Fisheries in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, have already “planted 250,000 saplings” alongside the River Dee, which is a salmon fishing hotspot. Scientists found that rivers in the Scottish Highlands and uplands are too warm for wild Atlantic salmon in summer months when the fish swim “upstream to spawn.” Planting trees alongside rivers protects salmon populations and benefits Scottish people who rely on fish for food and income. With socioeconomic and environmental benefits, planting trees can alleviate poverty in places where people rely on rivers for their livelihoods and national success.

Healthy rivers are essential to ecosystems around the world and trees play an essential role in maintaining these environmental networks. As seen in Scotland, tree-planting campaigns can have great influences on preserving local and national wildlife. Planting trees can alleviate poverty by protecting rivers that support life and provide resources to millions of people worldwide.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

AFR
Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) is a nonprofit that began in 2010. It aims to stimulate the economy by increasing the use of financial services. AFR addresses the barriers that restrict financial sector service to the low-income population, with hopes to bring sustainable change and financial inclusion. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted their poverty levels and economy drastically, making AFR critical to recovery. Here is some information about Rwanda and how AFR is improving Rwanda’s financial sector.

Poverty in Rwanda

Poverty is not new for Rwandans, since it is one of the poorest countries in the world with 56.5% of the population living on less than $1.90 a day. However, this was before the COVID-19 pandemic which brought this percentage higher. The World Bank explained that “the overall increase in the poverty headcount is 5.7 percentage points, indicating an estimated additional 625,500 people falling into poverty.”

The harsh reality of the pandemic hit Rwanda hard, making foreign aid more important than before. The unfortunate aspect of the situation is the step back from previous successful progress.

How AFR Works

Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) aims to help boost Rwanda’s financial sector, which is essential for its growth. It implements phases, each lasting five years with specific goals and targets to achieve. Each phase consists of Micro, Meso and Macro level achievements which all aid Rwandans in poverty.

Between 2010 and 2015, almost 1 million people in Rwanda were able to access and use financial services thanks to AFR and its partnership with other institutions. During the second phase, between 2016 and 2020, AFR partnered with the public and private sector and implemented interventions and allowed the access and use of financial services to around 2.5 million people in Rwanda. Its work speaks for itself and with more phases to come, Rwanda has a loyal and strong team fighting on its behalf.

AFR’s Objectives

AFR’s objectives are clear and demonstrate the importance of their job.

  1. “Increase access to financial services for poor rural and urban people and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs);”
  2. “Improve the livelihoods of poor people through reduced vulnerability to shocks, increased income and employment creation;”
  3. “Provide funding and technical assistance to the public sector/private sector and/or civil society recipients in order to promote, and achieve, the objectives set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) above; and”
  4. “Carry on all other such things that are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above.”

AFR upholds values of respect, integrity, collaboration, responsibility, quality and value for money. Its mission and vision are to bring inclusivity and diversity to Rwanda’s financial sector. This could bring sustainability and resilience to the economy and people.

Rwanda’s Future

Although the pandemic brought setbacks to Rwanda’s development, its previous progress brings hope for the future. Rwanda continues to have one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Africa. By 2035, Rwanda hopes to gain Middle Income Country Status and High Income Country status by 2050.

The pandemic resulted in Rwanda’s first recession since 1994, which is extremely impressive for this country. Not to mention, its economic growth brought immense improvement in living standards, “with a two-thirds drop in child mortality and near-universal primary school enrollment,” according to the World Bank.

Organizations like AFR grow every day in strength and number, so expect great improvement in years to come. Rwanda could return to making the progress it started over 20 years ago and the benefits could continue to improve life for Rwandans.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Universal Poverty in Afghanistan
According to the UNDP, 97% of Afghanistan could be in poverty by 2022. This would be a quick plummet considering current UNDP data shows that only 54.5% of Afghans live below the poverty line. This is not particularly good either but is significantly better than the predicted more than doubled rate. This drastic predicted change is a result of a combination of things. Food prices and food insecurity are skyrocketing while economic and essential services experiencing interruption. COVID-19 is still prevalent and presents an active struggle. Those in rural communities and poor urban areas are feeling these problems quickest and hardest. If drastic change does not occur soon, there will undoubtedly be universal poverty in Afghanistan.

UNDP Predictions

The political turmoil of the Taliban resuming power, paired with economic and humanitarian issues, is creating a “full-on development collapse,” according to UNDP regional director Kanni Wagnaria. The UNDP’s 97% prediction is a worst-case scenario.

The prediction is based on 2018 estimates of the country’s GDP declining between 3.6% and 13.2% in the 2022 fiscal year. This depends on how the crisis continues and how other economies interact with the new Taliban leadership. This is a huge contrast to the previously predicted 4% GDP growth under the previous Afghan government.

Local Area-Based Programme

In response to these predictions, the UNDP has created a proposal of strategies to intervene and improve the current living conditions for those in poverty in Afghanistan. The “Local Area-Based Programme,” has four core elements: “provision of essential services, community-based livelihoods and local economies, disaster and climate-resilient response and social cohesion and inclusion participatory processes.”

The major goal of the program is to support approximately 9 million impoverished people over the course of 24 months. Another goal is to ensure the prediction of universal poverty in Afghanistan does not occur.

Local community groups, NGOs and small businesses will lead and implement this program. Within the plan, the most vulnerable would benefit significantly from cash-for-work grants for small and medium businesses and specifically within women-owned businesses. Households including children, the elderly and those with disabilities would receive a temporary basic income as well. There will also be assistance for natural disaster mitigation such as flood protection for farmlands.

ABADEI

The UNDP officially launched the program called ABADEI in October 2021. The primary goal is providing “immediate humanitarian assistance” while keeping the local economies moving. The first priority of the program is to help the people of Afghanistan meet their basic needs, with a focus on health and food security. As it raises more funds and receives more donations, ABADEI will be able to move into other priorities outlined in UNDP’s intervention strategies.

A significant indicator of outcome in the coming months and into 2022 will be how Afghanistan will do in the coming months and how the Taliban chooses to lead the country. The Taliban should be able to avoid the possible universal poverty in Afghanistan but it must make the decision to do so.

As of early September 2021, the Taliban had not reopened government offices. This is leading to many other industries such as banks and universities remaining closed as well, according to the UNDP. This has led to unstable employment and grave uncertainty among most of the country.

Additionally, expectations have determined that the Taliban could restrict capital, likely leading to inflation. This would reduce purchasing power and cause food prices to rise. The number of people below the poverty line would be even higher.

Much of what will happen to Afghanistan is relatively uncertain, yet rather imminent. Nevertheless, there are organizations such as UNDP that are being proactive and involved before universal poverty in Afghanistan becomes reality.

– Alex Mauthe
Photo: Unsplash

Expo 2020 Dubai
Expo 2020 Dubai is a gathering of 192 countries each presenting and offering an opportunity to experience their culture, food and innovations. It is the latest of a World Expo tradition that began in London in 1851 as the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. Expo 2020 is taking place from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, showcasing and promoting different solutions and opportunities that may improve the lives of people around the world. Projects aim to accomplish this by “promoting alternative employment and income opportunities, women in the workplace, competitive products and services and improved market access.”

Overview

Expo 2020 Dubai is the latest of the world’s fairs with the official theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” plus different sub-theming of sustainability, mobility and opportunity. The Expo 2020 is taking place in the Middle East for the first time. Until construction began at the site of the expo, the Expo occurred in an area of empty desert. The layout of the Expo is a vast 1,000-acre site comprising different zones in the shape of petals focusing on the sub-themes of sustainability, mobility and opportunity.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place, individuals must comply with strict precautions, including mask and vaccination requirements and occupancy limitations on the number of people present at the Expo. One of the other crucial aspects of the Expo 2020 Dubai is that there is a record 191 countries participating and each nation has its own area or pavilion. The Expo is partnering with the United Nations, which has its own pavilion that focuses on its future goals, including sustainability. Once the expo ends at the close of March 2022, “around 80% of the built Expo will transition into residential, business and commercial developments.”

Expo 2020 Dubai Addresses Global Poverty

At the Kenya pavilion, some innovators show their solutions to the country’s problems of “unemployment, poverty and food shortages” through “home farming” using basic hydroponic systems. Dr. Peter Chege Gichuku established Hydroponics Africa Limited in Kenya in 2015 with the purpose and goals of eliminating “the root cause of poverty and food insecurity.” The company is hoping to “provide cost-effective sustainable farming methods without the use of soil and an 80% reduction in water.”

WaterAid provides an example of social development commitments. In Nepal, WaterAid promotes good hygiene practices by using Nepal’s routine immunization program as a “point of contact” to reach mothers and children. The Nepal Ministry of Health and Population leads the initiative with the “financial and technical support” of WaterAid. The project has a dual purpose of “[strengthening] Nepal’s routine immunization system by improving immunization coverage and people’s trust in immunization services” while simultaneously improving hygiene practices to prevent diseases stemming from poor hygiene practices.

Looking Ahead

Many more organizations are participating in Expo 2020 Dubai. They are promoting their solutions and putting forward ideas to address issues of global poverty. The Expo presents an ideal opportunity to present these new innovations to governments of all nations and their citizens. Global events such as Expo 2020 Dubai unite nations across the world with the understanding that global collaboration is necessary to address concerns of a global scale.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Ghana Tech Lab
The Ghana Tech Lab, a collaborative tech-centric company, has now connected 7,000 youths with digital and technical education as part of its Ghana Startup Ecosystem program. The goal is to build the next generation of tech entrepreneurs in Africa.

About the Ghana Tech Lab

The Ghana Tech lab is a company building a launch platform for young tech talent in Ghana. Headquartered in Accra, the lab takes a multi-stage approach to launch startups. First, trainees complete a three-month intensive training program to develop technical and digital skills. The top talents from this program then move to the incubation program, where trainees build a business model and receive mentorship.

Finally, the company connects the new startups with seed funding through grants and a network of venture capitalists. By supporting entrepreneurs, the company hopes to fight poverty through innovation, economic development and job creation. Since its founding in 2018, the base program alone has trained 3,933 Ghanaians and incubated 68 startups.

Once a founder begins a startup, it joins the Ghana Startup Ecosystem, a program and database run by The Ghana Tech Lab. Its goal is to act as a central hub for tracking and supporting Ghanian startup ventures. The Ecosystem tracks human capital, market and financial data across Ghana. The database serves to contextualize ventures and produce market trends to substantiate ventures. This system legitimizes startups and encourages global investment.  

In fact, 50% of the startups within the system secure funding. The adjunct of the Startup Ecosystem has led to the launch and funding of 100 startups in Ghana, according to AllAfrica. Data-driven innovation has become a central tenant of the Ghana Tech Lab, as a way to promote long-term success. Rather than focus on the symptoms of poverty in Ghana, the company hopes to use economic revitalization as a way to target poverty at the source.

About the State of Poverty in Ghana

In order to understand why tech plays a role in poverty reduction, it is important to contextualize poverty in Ghana. As of 2021, Ghana has a poverty rate of 11.3%. It means that 3.57 million people live on or under $1.90 a day. The country experienced a decrease in poverty from 52.6% to 21.4% between 1991 and 2012. However, the rate of decline has become stagnant over recent years. At the same time, economic development has steadily improved over the last decade. The combination of economic growth and poverty maintenance has led to an increasing rate of economic inequality.

Because of these conditions, the World Bank in Ghana has determined that developing human capital, growing the job market and improving economic resiliency are the best strategies for decreasing poverty and economic inequality. The Ghana Tech Lab has created a business model that targets all three strategies.

The Way Building Tech Startups Fights Poverty

By directly increasing access to education and skill development, the Ghana Tech Lab removes barriers of entry for skilled work. Sourcing funding for startups benefits job production and improves long-term job security. The innovations that startups spur on also improve economic resilience. Often, the startups that come out of the Ghana Tech Lab target poverty directly. For example, Farminista Africa is a woman-led company that helps smallscale female farmers grow their businesses. By 2030, the Ghana Tech Lab expects to produce 30 million new jobs through technical education and economic development, according to AllAfrica.

By increasing accessibility to digital skills, the Ghana Tech Lab is building a new path forward. The company shows that poverty reduction is a natural byproduct of community empowerment.

– Aiden Smith
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty in Egypt 
Egypt is a place that inspires the imagination of many around the world. Located in northeastern Africa with a population of about 100 million people, Egypt was home to one of the world’s earliest urban and literate societies and continues to be an important political and economic power today. Furthermore, in recent years, Egypt has made a lot of progress in addressing poverty. Here are four facts about poverty in Egypt.

4 Facts About Poverty in Egypt

  1. Egypt’s Poverty Rate. Egypt’s poverty rate decreased in 2021. In 2015, the Egyptian government implemented a series of macroeconomic and social reforms. These measures were meant to stabilize the economy and promote sustainable growth. As a result of an increase in private sector participation in the economy, Egypt’s GDP growth reached 5.6% in 2019, up from 5.3% in 2018. Additionally, real estate, wholesale and retail trade, tourism, gas extraction and construction have all been significant factors in the growth of wealth. The change also positively impacted the unemployment rate, which decreased from 9.9% in 2017-18 to 7.5% in 2018-19. With a decrease in unemployment comes a decrease in poverty, except for the 2020 economic downfall due to coronavirus. The 2021 poverty level is 29.7%, while it was at 32.5% in 2018.
  2. Workers in Egypt. Despite positive trends in GDP growth and unemployment rates, Egypt’s poverty rate increased in 2017 and 2018. The majority of workers in Egypt were wage workers before and in 2018. Most of them had limited skills and therefore limited opportunities. Almost 60% of wage workers have informal employment, as is the case for 77% of poor wage workers. Apart from that, about one-fourth of the employed work temporary jobs. Without benefits of social insurance, inflation and other economic changes are likely to affect them.
  3. New Social Protection Programs. Egypt has struggled to meet the basic medical needs of its people in past years, but the country has had success with other social protection programs. The country transitioned from a traditional social care system to a more comprehensive social protection program. The new programs have provided housing units, implemented cash support and provided water and sewage support. The country has also worked with relevant authorities to secure health insurance and subsidized products for its people. This has allowed many individuals and families to rise out of the poverty line. The program has allowed more people to benefit from it because it aids those wanting to get out from below the poverty line, and it has worked. There has also been a 22% increase in loans and a 50% increase in pensions.
  4. Haya Karima National Project. In direct response to the high rate of extreme poverty in Egypt in 2018, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) initiated the Haya Karima Project in early 2019. The project was to help decentralize and provide the people with more resources while expanding from urban areas to the countryside. According to the Haya Karima Project’s website, “The initiative’s role includes closing the developmental gaps among centers and villages and their dependencies, investing in human development, and enhancing the value of the Egyptian personality.” This program is designed to unify the people in an economic sense and their country while keeping in mind all those on the outside borders. The program is ultimately about empowering the people and improving the quality of life for Egyptians.

Looking Ahead

These facts about poverty in Egypt show that while it has had several challenges, it is also showing great progress in the fight against poverty. With the series of new reforms, the Egyptian government has implemented new policies to lift people out of poverty. Decreasing the poverty rate can bring improvements in various sectors such as education and health care. If the country continues to improve its social protection programs, then it can set an example for the countries in the region.

– Veronica Rosas
Photo: Unsplash

The Developmental Sector
Activists are urging politicians and development agencies to reform foreign aid and humanitarian work on the ground. Critics of the developmental sector tie it to colonialism, and actors within foreign aid are thinking about improving the quality of life for people around the globe while also moving away from colonial ideologies. Outreach International is one of the organizations helping to change the realities of the developmental sector.

The Relationship Between Colonialism and the Developmental Sector

The foreign aid sector has received criticism for being a neocolonial agent. The arguments are that Western countries impose their cultures on non-Western cultures through development programs and that the Global North portrays the Global South as helpless.

In the history of development programs, Western countries have imposed their values on non-Western countries and have touted modernization. Prominent Western officials, who were unaware of the Global South’s everyday realities, designed the programs without input from the actual citizens. The West brought values and practices to non-Western countries that were not necessarily important or even helpful for the people in these countries, as these experts mainly were from non-aid countries.

Additionally, some have portrayed foreign aid recipients as helpless. The foreign aid sector has not historically given agency to people in recipient countries to decide what they want for their futures and how they wish to achieve it. A mentality developed that the Global North could “save” the Global South from misery and poverty even though the Global South was not asking for anyone to save it.

The developmental sector receives criticism, but it has also helped people around the world. For instance, from 1990 to 2019, extreme poverty has substantially decreased from 36% of the global population to 8% of the worldwide population, maternal and infant mortality rates have reduced by 50% and smallpox cases no longer exist.

Neocolonialist criticisms invite the developmental sector to reflect on its history and current practices. The inclusion of voices from aid-recipient countries in creating and implementing development programs can produce sustainable poverty reduction.

Prioritizing Community Voices: Outreach International

Outreach International is a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the challenges of global poverty. The organization partners with nine locally-registered nonprofits that operate in nine countries spanning from Africa to Latin America to Asia, and the organization has been in operation for 42 years. Outreach International’s program interventions focus on organizational, capacity and leadership development. The organization, alongside its program and community partners, has worked on 541 community issues, and 62,724 people benefit from the organization’s work.

Collaboration with local communities in poverty-reduction work is the cornerstone of Outreach International’s programming. In fact, The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Elene Cloete, Director of Research and Advocacy for Outreach International, and she shared that, “We [Outreach International] believe that you can support people in obtaining greater social, economic health…. They [locals] are in [EC1] and should be in the driving seat of their community-led development.”

The Participatory Human Development Process (PHDP), Outreach International’s own methodology, creates sustainable improvements to everyday life. Through the PHDP, the organization and its program partners facilitate discussion among community groups so that locals are the ones who identify the poverty-related problems that are most salient to them and so that local communities can create their own solutions. The PHDP enables communities to plan their futures.

Outreach International’s On-the-Ground Success in the Philippines

Rural communities often face high rice prices in the Philippines. Rural communities also rely on wage labor in the agricultural sector, and rural Filipinos can only work during the planting and harvesting seasons. Between these seasons, many rural Filipinos are out of a job. Combined with high rice prices, rural Filipinos struggle to feed their families.

Outreach International, its program partner, Outreach Philippines, Inc. and rural Filipino communities have worked together to establish a program that allows rural communities to access rice from their own community-based organizations at very low interest, especially in comparison to the other options that rural Filipinos have. The community groups implement rice loan projects through which they buy rice at an affordable price because they purchase the rice in bulk. The interest rate powers the growth of the local community groups by increasing the number of people who can take part in them.

Rural communities own and run the rice loan project, and the program’s rice and money remain in the communities, giving agency to rural Filipinos and allowing them to access a more sustainable source of food. Dr. Cloete sums the program up beautifully; “That’s the beauty of it. Because the project is owned, managed, driven by the community, they have ownership over the project. And they can decide what issue they want to address next. We have this beautiful cyclical thing that takes place.”

Activists and organizations within the developmental sector are encouraging it to veer away from neocolonialism and instead make local voices heard. Outreach International is a crucial example of championing sustainable poverty reduction through the empowerment of local communities. The organization is contributing to changing the developmental sector, and it will be exciting to see Outreach International’s growth and impact over the coming years.

– Anna Ryu
Photo: Unsplash

Reduce Poverty in India
In August 2021, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will spend $1.35 trillion to improve the country’s infrastructure. The infrastructure plan called “Gati Shakti” will create jobs that can potentially reduce poverty in India by increasing household income across the nation and improving the economy at large. The plan also intends to expand the “use of cleaner fuels to achieve the country’s climate goals.”

The Gati Shakti Plan

The specifics of India’s Gati Shakti plan were not immediately announced, but amid the country’s economic decline and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi claims the plan will increase India’s economic output, which decreased by more than 7% in 2020. Specifically, “the plan will help local manufacturers compete globally and create new avenues of future economic growth.” In addition, Gati Shakti will help India “become energy independent by 2047,” by transitioning to “a gas-based economy” and developing India into “a hub for hydrogen production.”

How Better Infrastructure Can Reduce Poverty in India

Studies show a clear link between improved infrastructure and poverty reduction. Better infrastructure may help reduce poverty in India in a variety of ways. Improved infrastructure has the ability to increase economic activity in the country by minimizing “production and transaction costs” and increasing “agricultural and industrial productivity.”

Infrastructure leads to job creation due to the demand for labor in both the development process and the ongoing management and maintenance of the infrastructure. Therefore, impoverished and disadvantaged people can participate in an economy that they once had no place in.

Even though income-related aspects of poverty are at the forefront of the issues better infrastructure addresses, better infrastructure also has non-income advantages, including “health, nutrition, education and social cohesion.” These aspects improve the quality of life for people across the nation. Overall, better infrastructure has the potential to contribute to reaching the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

How Infrastructure Improvements Contribute to SDGs

  1. SDG 2: Zero Hunger. Malnutrition and food insecurity are significant problems in India, with more than 200 million citizens lacking “sufficient access to food.” Modern infrastructure can help improve people’s access to food by promoting better productivity (particularly among farmers) and by helping to decrease production costs. Decreased production costs can drive prices of food products down, making them more accessible to the impoverished.
  2. SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Adequate health infrastructure means more people will have access to health care services, especially impoverished people in remote locations. Better health infrastructure will increase the number of in-hospital births, which will reduce both the infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate. This reduction will come as a result of the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to hospital equipment in case of emergencies. India’s current infant mortality rate stands at a staggering 28.771 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  3. SDG 4: Quality Education. Road infrastructure influences the attendance and enrollment of students in schools. This also affects the quality of teachers attracted to a school. More school facilities mean education is more accessible to children in remote locations. More than 27% of Indian youth find themselves “excluded from education, employment or training.” Education infrastructure is essential because education helps people acquire the skills and knowledge to obtain higher-paying, skilled jobs that can help them rise out of poverty.
  4. SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, according to The Indian Express, almost 200 million more Indian people could face poverty by the close of 2021. Ultimately, this means that more than 50% of the Indian population may live in poverty. Under SDG 8 is target 8.7, eliminating child labor in its entirety by 2025. Families tend to resort to child labor when they need extra income to meet their basic needs. India’s infrastructure plan can potentially help reduce poverty in India by providing adults with more job opportunities and by increasing household income, negating the need for child labor. Similarly, parents marry off their young girls to take the economic burden off the household, hoping that the girls’ husbands will economically provide for the girls. However, with increased household income and more employment opportunities, families can bear the costs of taking care of all their children. Then, marriage will be an option and not an economic necessity.

For all these reasons and more, better infrastructure can reduce poverty in India, improving lives throughout the nation.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr