Transforming Arab Economies

A new report recently released will aid in the effort to inspire Arab economies to implement concrete actions, which in turn will spur economic growth and competition. The report, titled “Transforming Arab Economies: Travelling the Knowledge and Innovation Road,” is joint collaboration between the World Bank, CMI (Marseille Center for Mediterranean Integration), EIB (European Investment Bank) and ISESCO (the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Together, these organizations promote greater investment in a knowledge-based economy model, which is needed to meet the job creation challenge in the Middle East. Inger Andersen, Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank, said, “We hope this report can help countries of the Arab world imagine a new kind of development strategy with a knowledge and innovation-driven model at its very heart.” Through innovation and diversification of their economies, Arab countries will be able to create new enterprises and jobs.

By tapping into the field of technological knowledge, these countries will be able to continue improving their level of access to education and to information communication technologies (ICT). To achieve this, countries in the region need to implement a series of reforms, including more open and entrepreneurial economies, a more skilled labor force, improved innovation and research capabilities, and the expansion of ICT.

In addition to these structural reforms, the report suggests that governments should provide more hospitable conditions in which promising sectors can generate new activities and jobs. Governments should also establish channels through which knowledge can be transferred and disseminated, for example through foreign direct investments and international trade in goods and services.

The finance and economy minister of Morocco highlighted efforts made by the Moroccan government to create a new economic model with its foundations in knowledge and innovation. He also stressed the importance of redesigning current economy structures in the Middle East, as well as improving youth employment and maintaining a global economic presence.

However, in order to successfully create stronger economies in the Middle East, it will take a strong and focused effort. Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, Director General of ISESCO, said, “The implementation of a knowledge and innovation-based development strategy requires a vision, strong coordination at the top level of government, and a participatory approach to mobilize the population to back the needed reforms.” The approach of the report is intended to reflect the huge differences and challenges across the Middle East, and recognizes that each county must be approached with policies that are customized to their individual needs.

– Chloe Isacke
Source: World Bank, ISESCO
Source: World Economic Forum

One World Futbol Spreading the Love of Soccer
Growing up, many of our toy boxes were full of tennis balls, NERF balls, and soccer balls. As no surprise, even these simple toys are expensive and hard to come by in developing countries such as Darfur and Malawi. But with soccer being the most popular sport in the world, it has come to symbolize a strong sense of community. It is an obsession and passion with children who can barely afford a meal but will scavenge through trash to find anything that could remotely serve as a makeshift soccer ball.

In 2006, Tim Jahnigen was moved by a report on children in Darfur using pieces of trash and rocks as toys. A musical producer and multi-patent holding inventor, he decided to put his connections and passion for soccer to use. With a starting grant of $30,000 from friend and fellow musician Sting, Jahnigen created a prototype for an indestructible soccer ball. Made out of a material called ‘PopFoam’ (think the flexible but tough plastic used for Crocs), these balls can be left outdoors in rough conditions, played on dirt fields, and basically be beaten up and still have a natural bounce to them. These characteristics make them perfect for the environments children play in developing countries.

Within the past two years, One World Futbol has delivered over 200,000 balls. Despite these efforts, Jahnigen is determined to reach millions, if not all 1.3 billion children under the age of 12, through his organization. With financial support from Chevrolet, manufacturing is still continuing but the organization needs much more funding.

OWF is not a non-profit. It functions more or less like TOMS Shoes does (buy-one-donate-one) so about 25% of its soccer balls have been bought through their website and delivered with this business model. However, Jahnigen is much keener on having partner organizations and donors to help with the production costs since online purchases actually cause the price of the balls to go-up.

Ever so optimistically, Jahnigen has already been in talks with creating PopFoam cricket balls, focusing specifically on the South Asian market, where cricket is widely played. With the support of five major cricket organizations for this project, it boosted Jahnigen’s confidence in not only expanding the indestructible balls to cricket but to other sports such as football, volleyball, rugby, and basketball.

With so many intensive organizations around the world, it is always important to remind ourselves how a child’s life can be so easily changed. Soccer brings together the rich and the poor, the hungry and the full, and has the power to break across political boundaries. Supporting ventures such as One World Futbol can have an immediate impact on those worried about donating their money to other causes. Humanitarian aid can take many shapes and forms but the most basic ones, whose goals are simply to bring joy to children, also have the strongest impact.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.Exist


The International Trade Center (ITC) is a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. Its mission is to build and promote businesses in developing countries, assist in becoming more competitive in global markets, speed economic development, and further the achievements of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It now has more than 40 years of hands-on trade and business experience in the developing world, and a very focused approach to export-led poverty reduction. Their slogan, “Export Impact for Good.”

For ITC, the “true story of development” is the small, low-cost project that aims to give poor people “a hand to get started on the ladder of success.” After a modest level of support and funding, they are on their own path to self-sufficient living, and their success is exponential in impact for the immediate community. Three examples:
• Lifestyle products, derived from a local plant of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, are helping create jobs in one of that country’s poorer regions. Expert help from ITC, funding from an innovative public-private partnership and guaranteed commitments from overseas markets, will raise some 1,000 local people out of poverty.
• Brazilian tourist resort provides job opportunities to surrounding, impoverished areas: like a low-cost, organic waste recycling project – based on a local invention, and the sale of products made by local communities – leading to a significant rise in incomes.
• In India, rural populations are being lifted out of poverty through a program of selling locally produced spices and aromatic herbs on the international market. In just four years, exports grew seven fold and the average income increased five fold, benefiting well over 2,000 people.
The ITC article “New Jobs for Poor Communities Through Trade” gives the full story of the above projects.
– Mary Purcell

Source: ITC

Mobius Motors: The African HummerThe shortest distance between two points of interest is a straight line. But not in Africa. With 80% of the population living in rural areas, commuting from town to town can get a bit tricky with potholes, dirt roads, or sometimes no roads at all. When Joel Jackson moved to Africa from England in 2009, he never pictured himself running an automotive company a couple of years later, especially one out of Nairobi.

 The horrid conditions of Kenya’s roads made Jackson realize how important improving their modes of transportation were to the country’s economy. “Transportation is as fundamental to developing countries as healthcare, education, markets and all the other things that drive prosperity,” he commented. While paved roads are slowly appearing around the continent, Jackson sees Mobius Motors, his company that builds “African cars for African roads,” as having the potential to change the way African businesses and trade functions.

Every aspect of the Mobius Two, the company’s prototype, was created with the average African entrepreneur in mind. With a steel frame, the car has no windows, eliminating the need for air conditioning. All parts of the car have been made in a fashion familiar to local mechanics so that repairs and parts are cheap and easy to come by. Due to its light frame and .4 gallon gas engine, the all-terrain vehicle can securely carry up to 8 passengers or 1,500 pounds. This makes it perfect for the transport of goods across long, rugged distances.

One thing Jackson makes sure people keep in mind about Mobius is that it is not a charity. He plans on making a profit once production begins, with an average price tag of about $6,000 per vehicle. However, the goal of his company is not to focus just on monetary value but to team up with innovators from around the world to recognize the change these vehicles can bring to the global market and change the way Africa moves.

It is obvious that Mobius’ clients will not be the average African villager. For those entrepreneurs looking to expand the reach of their businesses, the Mobius Two holds the key. While they may be the ones fronting the cost of the vehicle, the entire process will most definitely include and improve the lives of thousands across Kenya, and hopefully the rest of Africa, in the foreseeable future.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Global Post

Indian Startup Provides Mobile InformationWhile many of us could not imagine a cell phone plan without unlimited data, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that hundreds of millions of people rely on basic messaging phones. Aside from the constant criticism about society being too attached to their cell phones, in reality, mobile browsers and apps provide unbelievable services at the tip of your fingers; students use it to access classroom web pages and complete homework, entire businesses can be run without stepping foot into an office, and you can book an entire European vacation from a single travel app.

One Indian startup company decided to change all that for the hundreds of millions who did not have these services. In 2008, Deepak Ravindran and his friends started Innoz, an external mobile search engine that provides mobile information and applications through SMS.

Through SmsGYAN, their own designed ‘answer engine’, users are able to use hashtags to designate which app they want to use. A specific question or format is sent in the text message, and an answer is immediately sent to the phone. With hundreds of different apps, Innoz is able to reach more than 120 million mobile phone users and sends out anywhere from 5 to 10 million answers a day.

With 20 different categories to choose from ranging from games and news to sports and productivity, Innoz includes apps such as #MATHS which sends math problems to the users phone. Other useful and interesting apps include: #STEVE, quotes from Steve Jobs, #JOBS, which lists jobs available in the user’s area, and #AEROTRIX, which helps teach practical aerospace. There is even #ipc4w which provides information of the different punishments for crimes against women.

This company has opened up a massive world of knowledge and is making it available to people who either cannot afford smart phones or live in areas where such technology has not become part of everyday life. It allows anyone to gain access to college information, hospital information, and even statistics about their favorite cricket players.

It levels the playing field for the farmer who must catch his train on the railway but never had an up-to-date schedule to rely on. It gives the struggling student a chance to learn new material and give themselves a boost in the classroom. For companies such as Innoz, the focus is on an audience that craves to have information at their fingertips but doesn’t have the means to receive it, until now.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: SiliconIndia

Sustainable Fishing in Indonesia
The practice of overfishing can have catastrophic effects on both marine biodiversity and local fish populations. In an effort to ameliorate overfishing while simultaneously bolstering local development and entrepreneurship, the Indonesian government has enacted a program that encourages sustainable fishing in Karimunjawa National Park.

For the past 5 years, Indonesian government officials have implemented a plan that effectively hands over management of the 1,100 square kilometer area to the park’s 9,000 residents. By enabling communities to form a co-op, they help encourage the long term goals of maintaining sustainable fishing practices, thus promoting foreign tourism and greater economic opportunity for their residents.

In addition to the environmental benefits that sustainable fishing has had, the empowered local communities have also stepped up to participate in local projects and political meetings, a behavior considered invaluable in long term developmental sustainability. In regards to the development in the National Park, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Marine Program Dr. McClennen remarked that “The current plan’s economic, legal, and participatory incentives have created a self-perpetuating system of exclusive access rights for local communities, who in turn support and enforce the protected area’s policies and regulations.”

Programs such as these, that combine the well-researched policies of the government along with the participation of local communities, consistently lead to positive results and mutually beneficial economic opportunities. Furthermore, by encouraging sustainable fishing through government development, both parties can realize their full potential for responsible environmental stewardship and financial gain.

– Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Antara News

WorldHaus Provides Homes for the PoorA for-profit business with non-profit principles, a growing trend in compassionate capitalism. WorldHaus is a great example – they have a mission to help the world’s “unserved housing market.”

In India alone over 500 million people, almost half the population, want and need better housing but the average cost of materials and labor makes it impossible to attain. There is no financing for the rural poor, or collateral to put up against a mortgage. WorldHaus is trying to fill this gap by manufacturing and building quality homes at a tiny fraction of standard costs, specifically developing a model that can be made affordable to the global poor.

Started in 2011, in India, WorldHaus makes customizable, weatherproof homes that can include amenities like clean-burning stoves, toilets, and solar electricity systems. Using a modular building system, families can build to any size and configuration they want. The base model – a one-room, 220 square foot home – can be built in about 10 days at a starting cost of below $2,000. Using local materials and on-site construction stimulates local economies through purchasing and employment, and cuts cost as well.

Additionally, they are working with mortgage providers to make homes available at $40/month, well within the reach for people making even $3 to $10 a day. They are setting up partnerships with governments, NGOs, and landlords to try and make homes available to families making less than $2 a day (through subsidies and rental programs).

A video from the Gate’s Notes website shows Bill Gates visiting Idealab and interviewing WorldHaus President Daniel Gross. WorldHaus was generated inside Idealab – a think tank and development project for innovative products.

– Mary Purcell
Source: WorldHaus

Indian TREAD Program Empowers WomenThe government of India introduced the Trade Related Entrepreneurship and Assistance Development (TREAD) plan to help women in rural areas of the country. The intent is for greater economic empowerment of such women through financing, training, information and counseling activities, all related to the trade of products and services within the marketplace.

Their research has shown that one of the main barriers for supporting women out of poverty is that distribution and access to credit are next to impossible without an intermediary. So the TREAD plan will work with community NGOs to make sure funds are actually placed in the hands of women. Then, additional infrastructure will be provided for counseling, training, and assistance in selling goods in the market.

Obviously, impoverished women do not have the collateral needed to secure a loan through traditional lending institutions, so this project, with the support of the government, takes down that barrier. Government grants will fund 30% of a project within TREAD, and the rest will be loaned from banks that are participating.

Additionally, NGOs can receive state government grants for undertaking activities aimed at the empowerment of women, such as field surveys, research studies, evaluation studies, designing of training modules, and more. TREAD is a holistic approach to development, identifying what is needed, what works, using real-world solutions to implement change, offering support, and bringing together various institutions to work together.

– Mary Purcell

Source: DCMSME
Photo: ecouterre


As global awareness rises and people become educated about the needs of people all over the world, social-entrepreneurs are stepping up and starting businesses of all types, in order to bring about improved social and environmental conditions. Whether for-profit or non-profit, business models are being developed and implemented, in order to increase the quality of life for people living in the hardest of conditions.  In ever-growing numbers, people are considering new business ventures to enact positive change. Here is a 10 point plan for social-entrepreneurs to focus on:

  • Save your money
  • Keep your day job
  • Stay committed – it won’t be easy
  • Focus on social issues (and you can still make money)
  • Bring passion to your mission
  • Build a great team of supporters
  • crowdrise or kickstarter)
  • Make an impact, be able to show results
  • Change the world – all of the above will make it happen

Writing for, Devin Thorpe, the strategist of the above list says that “Once you demonstrate your impact, you can grow your enterprise to have world-changing scale.” The results won’t be measured in profits, he adds. Even the smallest idea can grow into a global force, anyone can choose to start a project and make a difference.

– Mary Purcell

Sources: Forbes
Photo: Heinebroscoffee


Since the start of 2013, a huge focus in the humanitarian world has been on the benefits of small entrepreneurial endeavors in developing countries. Due to global financial crises and budget cuts, especially here in the United States, investors are becoming more picky with where and to whom they are sending their money to. In many cases, they have opted for private organizations that directly put the money in the hands of local men and women who are making immediate and visible changes in their communities.

Ana Cecila Acuña is such woman. Despite her meager circumstances, having grown up in a small village in Nicaragua, her parents instilled in her a confidence that would help her dictate her own life and propel her towards success. A big obstacle that Acuña and many other women in her position have been able to overcome is making a name for themselves in a patriarchal society where not only does man dictate home life but also all outside business and negotiations.

Ana established a small home business selling oil and rice with the help of microloans from the nonprofit Opportunity International, managing to expand her business as well as to incorporate 20 other women and their ideas into the project. This venture led her to gain a seat on the board of the La Laguna Community Cooperative. A local political organization run exclusively by men, the Community Cooperative was in charge of handling the village’s affairs. When Ana recognized a fault with the way things were going, she decided to make the change herself.

Opportunity International, which started in the 1970s, is a microfinance nonprofit that has been providing loans, saving opportunities, insurance, and finance training to entrepreneurs in over 20 countries. After working with Ana and her small business, they funded the Cooperative with a $10,000 loan. The money was used to build a well in the village, providing close access to water for over 200 families, a luxury that the Cooperative was not able to figure out on their own. Instead of walking four miles by foot each day, the water is sent directly to the village homes through a piping system that was also installed.

Acuña’s achievements are remarkable for two specific reasons: the first is because of her socioeconomic standing prior to forming her business and joining her village government and the second, because she is a woman. Women in developing countries are being looked at to lead the escape out of poverty for their families and communities. Gayle Tzemick Lemon of the Huffington Post recently reported on the increase of female entrepreneurs and that “when women have income coming in research shows that the entire family benefits in the form of better nutrition and health”.

It is important to keep in mind the potential that every single human being possess. Whether they live in Angola or Arkansas, the entrepreneurial spirit is embedded in all of us; it simply needs encouragement, a bit of hope, and of course a little bit of money.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Huffington Post