Creating job opportunities in the poorest nations of the world is key to development while also being a significant challenge for the world. With unemployment ranging as high as over 20% in some low-income and developing countries – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest unemployment recorded – companies and businesses around the world have been striving to increase human capital through working locally and providing employment opportunities onsite. Here is a list of four businesses creating jobs in the world’s poorest nations.
With its commitment to using production as a means of breaking “the negative cycle of poverty by creating opportunity for real, measurable, long-term economic growth,” Because International’s business model centers around the idea of aiding entrepreneurs through production. Its main product, The Shoe That Grows, is a long-lasting, expandable shoe designed for children in low-income countries. The company hires in areas that need the product the most. Local production helps sustainability and other benefits, from reduced carbon footprint and lower shipping costs to job creation.
The company has thus far created jobs on two production sites. The Umoja Company site in Kenya works on The Shoe That Grows for local markets. The Anbessa Shoe Share company, in Ethiopia, supplies shoes for international brands such as J.Crew and D.S.W. Additionally, Because International runs the Pursuit Incubator, an online support program where entrepreneurs living in poverty can gain relevant training and coaching, as well as get funding and develop their network. The Incubator has so far helped several start-ups based in Africa. Among them are Reform Africa, which makes bags from recycled plastic, Our Roots Africa, which produces plant-based and biodegradable straws and SoaPen, which provides hand soap pens for kids in low-hygiene areas.
A Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker that allows food to cook for up to 12 hours without any additional heating. The product preserves heat and aids the cooking process. It is an easy-to-use foam insulated bag that wraps around cooking pans. This way of slow-cooking minimizes health issues by obviating the use of wood, charcoal and fuels in cooking. This common way of cooking in low-income areas is a health risk. The product also saves 13,000 hours per year. Because of this, women have more time to develop other skills. This provides an opportunity for women and girls to increase their earning potential and autonomy. As Kirsten Fenton, Wonderbag’s representative, told The Borgen Project, “Communities and their people lie at the heart of Wonderbag’s purpose.”
The company works with partnering factories and sewing collectives to provide local women with paid employment opportunities. Through organized training, teaching and guidance, Wonderbag has created community employment in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and soon Brazil. “These employment projects have been run with the support of co-operatives… [and] single mothers manufacturing Wonderbags from their home.”
MakaPads is an Uganda-based business producing naturally absorbent and biodegradable sanitary pads from local papyrus and paper waste. Its aim is to reduce period poverty and make sanitary products widely available for women and girls in developing countries. Its motto is “Let’s ensure every girl has access to and can afford to buy sanitary pads.”
The company currently operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone. The average income in these countries is less than $1.25/month, yet a packet of period pads costs twice that. This inequity pushes women to use riskier products such as cloth rags, waste paper or banana leaves.
MakaPads provides training to those who wish to produce the pads themselves. CEO Nnassuuna Mirembe told The Borgen Project, “MakaPads are a Menstrual Hygiene Management product that is proudly made by over 90% women using resources from within the communities.”
The company has so far taught and employed over 200 women and men. “Maka also means home, which means several girls and women can stay at home, take care of the house chores but also make portions of the sanitary pads which they sell to the company and are paid a unit rate for each product,” explained Mirembe. This is possible due to the use of materials grown locally. These materials are easily and widely available, allowing the trained manufacturers to work from their homes and not have to bear any additional income.
One Dollar Glasses
One Dollar Glasses is a pioneering organization that produces optical glasses for those in need. The glasses are a revolutionary design. A single steel wire is the only necessary material. Additionally, the manufacturing process does not require any electricity, involves only one bending machine and costs $1 per pair. Considering how easy and accessible the production process is, the organization has managed to create more than 200 jobs in eight operating countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar and Peru – through financing relevant training and providing bending machines to those seeking employment. One Dollar Glasses also organizes its Best Spherical Correction Training to help trainees learn how to conduct eye tests and adjust glasses on patients.
These four companies have found innovative ways to create job opportunities in the poorest nations. They use sustainable techniques and are contributing to ending global poverty. Providing job opportunities in the poorest nations uplifts the entirety of the global economy. To do so in a sustainable, futuristic way is truly an accomplishment for these brands.
– Natalia Barszcz