Women and MicrofinanceThe importance of women has been well-documented over time, despite historical disparities in their socioeconomic status. More often than not, women living in impoverished countries face numerous barriers to their financial independence. Although they have entrepreneurial visions for their future, the lack of funding forces their dreams to slowly fade away. In this same vein, at least 1 billion women in these nations do not have access to regular bank services. Perhaps it is time for a new marriage — women and microfinance.

However, the good news is that microfinance has helped countless underprivileged women pursue their aspirations of business ownership. Together, women and microfinance have the potential to destroy the old customs that have stifled women from entering the workforce.

What is Microfinance?

Microfinance is a lending service that provides small, manageable loans to unemployed or low-income people who would otherwise lack access to financial services. Microfinance has already transformed the lives of many women. With the help of organizations like the Pakistan-based Kashf foundation, which has supported impoverished female entrepreneurs since 1996, and FINCA, financial freedom has become an obtainable goal for many. One narrative from a former client, Shamsha Naveed, represents a common yet important testimony of the abuse numerous poor women suffer in Pakistan. Moreover, Naveed’s narrative highlights as well, the economic promise women now have.

Shamsha’s Story: The Power of Female Entrepreneurship

For years, Naveed’s husband sexually abused their daughter and tortured Shamsha mentally and physically. She eventually realized her only option was to leave her cruel marriage and move back in with her parents. Not wanting to be a financial liability to her mother and father, Naveed began stitching people’s clothes as a means to earn an income.

Since her stitching job required her to travel door-to-door, she often encountered insults that blamed her for her failed marriage and lack of fair payment for her work. Yet, despite this harassment and exploitation, Naveed persevered and eventually found her way to the Kashf Foundation where she enrolled in specialized career classes. Eventually, she obtained a loan. Naveed’s business is now flourishing, employing a staff of more than 20 workers which allows this female entrepreneur to successfully pay for her children’s education.

The Foundation of International Community Assistance (FINCA)

The Foundation of International Community Assistance (FINCA) is another top microfinance lending institution. FINCA has long championed the cause of female empowerment. Since the mid-1980s, more than 4 million women have benefited from the organization’s assistance. Additionally, in April 2018, the microcredit company opened a women-only branch in Afghanistan. Not only does the location provide specific lending services to women, but it also offers targeted financial literacy classes and financial products. The Afghanistan office has a staff consisting of more than 90 female employees, including female branch managers.

It simply makes financial sense for emerging nations to foster and harness the earning power of women. Women’s inclusion contributes to regions’ overall economic growth and stability. Furthermore, diversified workplaces promote heightened employee engagement and creativity. An employer whose business fosters gender equality will appeal to a wide range of talented individuals. This, in turn, demonstrates to potential employees that the company values contributions from all people.

Building Bridges to Prosperity

Lending institutions such as the Kashf Foundation and FINCA are well-aware that women are marginalized in developing countries. However, these organizations also understand that financial investment goes beyond money. The true value these female entrepreneurs bring is felt not just by their families, but also by their overall economies. As women and microfinance continue to build bridges that educate, inspire and cultivate confidence in female entrepreneurship — there is hope for transitioning many from poverty to prosperity.

– Kim Patterson
Photo: Pexels

innovations in poverty eradication in slovakiaIn 2008, 1.11 million Slovaks were at risk of poverty. Today, that number is closer to 872,000, while Slovakia’s steady economic growth is at almost 4%. However, uncertainty looms again as 70% of Slovakian employees are in danger of losing their jobs due to automation. Thankfully, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia make poverty eradication possible.

Slovakia: The Heart of Europe

Entrepreneurs succeed in Slovakia because the country is a central hub enclosed by Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and Hungary. This gives the country high exporting potential. For example, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and The Norwegian Barents Secretariat have signed agreements with Slovakia to continue cross-border cooperation with Ukraine to promote economic development.

Slovakia also has a rich cultural heritage, history and modern art. The country’s Culture Program aims to bring attention to these facets of Slovakian culture. Through this program, the Slovakian government hopes to increase income and jobs through art creation and performances. This is one of many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia that would significantly reduce poverty in disadvantaged communities.

Partnerships Are the Key to Success

The Slovakian government also encourages partnerships between students and professionals to address poverty. These programs help those in need as well as provide experience to students. Overall, they focus on technological advancements, thus creating innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia.

One of these partnership programs is the Butterfly Effect. A digital start-up, this organization assists young, tech-savvy leaders of tomorrow by offering full-time courses geared toward developers and inventive leaders. Additionally, the program encourages students to innovate for the future of Slovakia in the ever-changing digital world. For example, students developed a ride-sharing app specifically for those traveling to and from work through this program.

Similarly, LEAF focuses on developmental programs for those just starting or those who are already in their career field. They help all those who hope to build a more successful Slovakia, regardless of personal finances. LEAF also has programs specialized for teachers and skill-based volunteering that focuses on living conditions. Additionally, LEAF offers paid internships to students committed to staying in Slovakia, thus providing guidance and job security to the next generation. These programs all abide by LEAF’s four core values: ethics, excellence, entrepreneurial leadership and civic engagement.

Investors Help Equality Progress

Fueling many innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia is the country’s influx of investors, creating a demand for skilled workers. To keep up, Slovakia is dedicated to improving educational and entrepreneurial opportunities to increase its ability to adapt to new technologies. International investors have the chance to network with Slovakian startups at Innovation Day, hosted by the German-Slovak Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GSCIC).

One such digital technology startup to watch on Innovation Day 2020 is Meet ‘n’ Learn. Meet ‘n’ Learn is an app allowing parents and students to find tutors in their neighborhood. They can arrange to meet up in person or virtually through the app for lessons. Additionally, the app provides a free option where students can post questions and receive replies from multiple instructors. This app has the potential to bridge the gap between children of different economic backgrounds. Slovakia is embracing these investors that are backing these innovative ideas to give everyone equal advantages.

The Future of Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Slovakia

To facilitate poverty reduction, Slovakia encourages citizens to welcome the technological and digital world through modernization and entrepreneurship. The country’s efforts have been rewarded with a historically low unemployment rate of 7%. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría says, “Living standards are gradually catching up with the higher-income …. [T]o ensure this growth is more inclusive, [we need to] move towards more sophisticated and innovative products and ensure that everyone has the skills and training for the jobs of tomorrow.” In doing so, innovations in poverty eradication in Slovakia will continue to further the country’s progress on this front.

Sam Babka
Photo: Flickr

Entrepreneurship in Africa
Africa stands as a continent of nearly 1.3 billion people, with 27 nations having a poverty rate of over 30%. As COVID-19 spreads through the region, falling demand and break down of supply chains threaten to further slow already-sluggish growth rates. Ever the land of great resilience and innovation, hundreds of enterprising individuals have excelled in Africa, enriching themselves and their countries. Increasingly more Africans are seeking out entrepreneurial and small business opportunities to combat poverty. One such businessman helping in this effort, multimillionaire Tony Elumelu, is using his wealth to fuel entrepreneurship in Africa and transform the continent into a booming commercial hub and providing hope for the future.

Roadblocks to Economic Growth in Africa

Africa’s economy has long suffered stubborn development setbacks. Government inaction, fragile infrastructure and widespread instability have hindered the region’s industrialization and economic growth. Many countries grapple with deficient infrastructure, including inadequate means of transportation, limited access to electricity and water and poor telecommunications systems. The World Bank estimates that the resolution of these structural shortcomings would increase the region’s productivity by as much as 40%.

Politicians have been reluctant to bolster manufacturing despite an international consensus on Africa’s need for industrialization. Such apprehension can be partially attributed to Africa’s unique position in the world economy: a pre-industrial continent already aspiring to post-industrialism. This misguided ambition has discouraged lawmakers from implementing protectionist policies. Without tariffs that benefit domestic manufacturing industries, larger international corporations choke out Africa’s budding factories and discourage entrepreneurship in Africa.

Ongoing fiscal and political instability serves to magnify these already difficult issues. Mounting debt levels divert money from investment to reimbursement and waste significant capital on unproductive endeavors. For example, sub-Saharan Africa’s aggregate debt-to-GDP ratio doubled from 2008 to 2017. Additionally, frequent leadership turnover has deterred international companies from entering African countries.

Working to mitigate these hurdles is Tony Elumelu, the founder of Heirs Holdings Ltd, a private investment corporation that operates in the energy sector. Beyond oil and gas, Elumelu is investing in a far more valuable asset: Africa’s future innovators. His nonprofit organization, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), empowers young entrepreneurs with the resources they need to build meaningful businesses.

How The Tony Elumelu Foundation Advances Entrepreneurship in Africa

The Tony Elumelu Foundation fosters entrepreneurship in Africa to alleviate poverty and spark economic gains. The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme offers grants and mentorship to innovative African businesspeople, allowing them to transform their ideas into profitable corporations. Endowed with a generous $100 million, the program has already assisted 9,000 individuals in creating businesses that invigorate their entire communities.

The broad scope of TEF’s investments cultivates economic diversification, a key tenet of development and stability. Some of the organization’s recent beneficiaries include:

  • Stars From All Nations (SFAN): Headed by Tom-Chris Emewulu, SFAN nourishes young minds through informative programs and workshops. Aimed at augmenting and supplementing children’s schooling, the company is helping to resolve Africa’s undereducation crisis.
  • Doctoora: Jubril Odulana, a Nigerian doctor, created Doctoora as a solution to Africa’s limited healthcare access. The platform collaborates with medical professionals to open private practices and ensures patients receive the care they need. In the face of COVID-19, Doctoora plays an essential role in promoting public health across the region.
  • Ufinix.com: The brainchild of Nnodim Uchenna, Ufinix.com offers aspiring developers comprehensive coding courses and guidance, preparing them for future careers in computer science. By equipping students with technological knowledge, the website is propelling Africa into the digital age.
  • Light Salone: Light Salone founder Mohammed Akamara aims to redress Sierra Leone’s severe energy shortage. In pursuit of this goal, Akamara engineered affordable hybrid solar-wind power sources to electrify rural areas and boost development. Manufactured using recycled supplies, these Sowind Technologies provide a mindful solution to Sierra Leone’s electrical desert.

By supporting young visionaries, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is generating hope, ambition and entrepreneurship in Africa. Its passionate beneficiaries are launching innovative and impactful companies that not only empower their creators but also their communities. The foundation has employed the continent’s most creative, altruistic minds, initiating a cycle of philanthropy that portends Africa’s future prosperity.

Rosalind Coats
Photo: Flickr

The protection of women’s’ rights and access to opportunities for economic empowerment are vital pieces to the reduction of extreme poverty. Indian women continue to face major challenges in gender equality as inferiority persists between men and women through familial relations and cultural norms. Emphasis on traditional gender roles such as taking care of the home, children, elders and religious obligations often leave women with little time to pursue educational opportunities. As a result, India has one of the lowest female literacy rates in Asia. With a lack of education, finding employment that provides a livable wage can seem hopeless, but organizations like Shakti.ism are creating new hope.

Economic Empowerment as a Solution – Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism, a female-led social enterprise, aims to dismantle these cultural norms through economic empowerment. The organization provides employment opportunities for women in India, many of whom are victims of domestic and gender-based violence. The women work to create unique hand-crafted accessories and develop and establish themselves as artisans. The social enterprise partners with NGOs throughout India to reach as women and girls as possible. Shakti.ism is also committed to abiding by and promoting the 10 Principles of Fair Trade and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Founded by Jitna Bhagani, a survivor of gender-based violence herself, she hopes to encourage self-sustainment, independence and entrepreneurship in efforts “to break the cycle of poverty.”

Bhagani recognizes that cultural norms continue to largely impede upon the achievements and rights of women living in India. In a featured post by the Harvest Fund, Bhagani shares the stories of some of the women that Shakti.ism has helped. Many of these women are victims of discrimination as a result of the caste system. Although outlawed in 1950, it still remains deeply culturally embedded today. She notes that a lack of education, sex trafficking, familial relations and religious and cultural beliefs are some of the most prevalent causes of poverty and gender-based violence in India.

Impact

In collaboration with several NGOs, Bhagani’s Shakti.ism aims to tackle these issues by providing women with training focused on strengthening livelihood skills, compensating for a lack of formal education, a safe place to work, and alleviating dependence on male family members which reinforce societal norms. Another core goal of Shakti.ism’s mission is to provide women with the opportunity to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs, granting them access to a global market, financial and emotional support and secured wages.

Shakti.ism’s partnership with several NGOs has allowed the organization’s mission to reach women living in many parts of India, including Pondicherry, Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Chennai. The nonprofit organization has also partnered with another social enterprise called Basha Enterprises, allowing the mission to expand its reach to women in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many of the women that have been employed by Shakti.ism have pursued entrepreneurship and are now participants in a global market, and working to ensure economic prosperity and a decrease in global poverty.

Future Directions

The United Nations cites that “empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Growth” which strives to end poverty. As demonstrated by the work and reach of Shakti.ism, the economic empowerment of women is vital in the mission to end global poverty.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Nepal
Millions of Nepalese citizens are at risk of becoming victims of the human trafficking trade every year. However, one can only estimate the statistically correct percentage of victims. Captivating International, a nonprofit based in Nepal, founded My Business-My Freedom in the hopes of fighting human trafficking in Nepal.

My Business-My Freedom

My Business-My Freedom is a micro-finance and education program helping Nepalese women achieve business success, self-sustainability and freedom. Beneficiaries include both women who are most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking and current rescued survivors of human trafficking in Nepal.

The organization estimates that a loan of $200 will help one woman start her business and that when she repays it, it will go to the next prospective business owner. Currently, 240 women living in Pokhara and Chitwan are immersed in the program with room to grow. The initiative plans to continue expanding into other regions and aiding around 1,000 women per year.

How does My Business-My Freedom Work?

The program leads each woman through the process of starting a business including ensuring that it is successful, well-funded and sustainable. The My Business-My Freedom program involves the following steps for prospective business owners:

  • Providing training about entrepreneurship and business opportunity.
  • Mentoring on money management, savings, budgeting and other basic business skills.
  • Connecting with other women in similar circumstances in order to create a sense of belonging and community.
  • A low-interest loan to start up the business: when it is paid, the owner is eligible to take future loans until it is no longer necessary.

Captivating International and COVID-19 Relief

In recent news, My Business-My Freedom partnered with 3 Angels Nepal to combat food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The partnership accomplished this through checking in on women and families over the phone. If the women and their families were in need, the partnership made and delivered food relief packages to them. These packages included rice, dal, cooking oil, salt, soybeans and lentils.

The efforts of Captivating International and 3 Angels Nepal found that 30 women were in need, and provided them and their families with food. The latter organization also works on the ground by suspending loan payments and providing both phone support and food assistance.

Lowering Vulnerability Through Funding Successful Entrepreneurs

According to the Report of Armed Police Force of India, the number of Nepalese girls working in sex trafficking in India increased quite steadily from 2012 to 2017. Child trafficking is incredibly high as well. Captivating International, through My Business-My Freedom, is just one of the organizations working to eradicate human trafficking in Nepal. In covering a widening area of influence and contributing to building the economy, Captivating International is creating sustainability by increasing security and income for women. This, in turn, should help to alleviate the vulnerable populations that traffickers prey upon in Nepal.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in HaitiHaiti has experienced a long history of natural disasters and extreme poverty. Despite these challenges, Haiti could eventually thrive through technology and innovation. Technology and innovations in poverty eradication in Haiti have set the stage for new products and ideas, but expertise and transformation have also allowed the country to improve on assets that already exist.

Foreign Direct Investment

Digicel, a communications and entertainment company headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, set up its mobile phone venture in Haiti in 2005. Until its arrival, operators Comcel-Voilà (now Voilà) and Haïtel controlled the mobile phone market. When Digicel entered the Haiti market, its economic impact was almost immediate. Within two years, Digicel contributed to more than 15% of the Haitian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Meanwhile, paired with its two competitors, the contribution of all three was more than 25% of the GDP.

During the years 2005-2009, Digicel invested more than $250 million in Haiti’s economy which led to more than 60,000 jobs. Not only had Digicel poured into Haiti’s bottom line with job creation, in a market with two telecom competitors, but it was also able to account for almost 30% of tax revenue. The company has definitely been working on poverty eradication in Haiti.

In 2012, Digicel acquired Voilà, which substantially increased its market share penetration and helped maintain its presence. All of this occurred despite the fact that Haiti had experienced a major earthquake that displaced 5 million people and killed 250,000 people in 2010 on top of the devastation of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy that occurred in 2012. Those setbacks have not derailed Digicel as of 2020. The company is still strong as it continues to provide innovations in poverty eradication in Haiti by keeping the country connected.

Education: Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Many have proven and echoed that children are the future and that they need to have exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to keep pace with the future innovative job market. Haiti’s challenge is that it lacks some capabilities and resources as an underdeveloped country.

Enter the NGO, Pennies for Haiti. This NGO’s long-term goal is to end Haiti’s series of poverty by providing sustenance and educating the country’s children. Meanwhile, its short-term objective is to equip Haiti’s children through education as a means to help them rise above their current situation. While Pennies for Haiti has several ongoing projects that serve 200 people a year, two of the projects focus on education.

The first is Haiti STEM Alliance, which is open to both boys and girls. The second is STEM 4 Girls, which places emphasis on girls. While both of these projects pour their energies into helping each participant achieve higher education and realize the vast employment opportunities in STEM, the difference is that STEM 4 Girls delves into personal growth and the benefits of higher learning. Pennies for Haiti hopes to instill in young women how STEM jobs can open the door to economic freedom.

In addition, the organization visualizes engaging an abundance of youth in the STEM industry as it will create more opportunities for technology and automation careers in Haiti. Pennies for Haiti is counting on the success of both of these programs with a focus on poverty eradication in Haiti and to boost Haiti’s image to the world and make them attractive to those companies who are looking to subcontract jobs as well as showing that they are a leader in gender equality and STEM careers.

Entrepreneurs

People may not know Haiti as a startup oasis, but over 75% of its residents operate some type of business to supplement their income. As a result, it is evident that Haiti is full of citizens who have demonstrated they can build, operate and sustain their own companies. Their startups range from fresh markets to tech platforms, and these enterprises are redefining the Haiti business culture.

One citizen, Christine Souffrant Ntim, who founded the Haiti Tech Summit (2017), has firsthand experience. She answered her entrepreneurial call as a youngster by helping her grandmother and mother sell goods in the streets of Haiti.

The Haiti Tech Summit brings together entrepreneurs, stakeholders, superstars and visionaries to address humanity’s extreme difficulties via tech and entrepreneurship. It has generated tangible results in its short existence such as helping an Airbnb sign a five-year multiple year contract with Haiti’s governmental branch that specializes in culture, tourism and the arts. Also, Facebook launched Haiti’s initial globally recognized grassroots pioneer group in 2017.

The Haiti Tech Summit’s success is based on the Ecosystem Map methodology, a vigorous arrangement of unified organizations that rely on each other for shared survival. As the Summit gains more energy and notoriety across the globe, Ntim’s focus is for the association to become the world’s next major tech innovation hub by 2030.

Poverty eradication in Haiti has made positive headway as it continues to rebuild its community and successfully learn how to navigate a technology-driven society. It has the existing tools to help bridge the gap with the main ingredient, being themselves. With the assistance of foreign aid, continued support of educational equality, especially among girls and entrepreneurs mobilizing the next generation, Haiti should be ready to move into the future with momentum.

Kim L. Patterson
Photo: Pixabay

Social Entrepreneurship Journeys
People often say that necessity is the mother of invention. However, communities that require innovations do not always see enough of them. Due to a lack of access to resources, many rural communities suffer an endless cycle of poverty and poor living conditions. Several nonprofit organizations in India are conducting social entrepreneurship journeys for college students as a means of countering the problem that most brilliant, young minds in the country are focusing too much on the big picture rather than on how empowering the poor can build a stronger nation.  They are doing this to imprint the minds of the youth and shift their focus to innovation for the sake of uplifting rural communities. Here are examples of three of such journeys.

Jagriti Yatra

A charitable nonprofit organization called Jagriti Sew Sansthan started Jagriti Yatra, which is the largest of its kind in India. It is an extensive, 15-day, roundabout journey across several of the nation’s rural landmarks. The journey spans for about 8,000 kilometers across the length and breadth of India to expose youth to several grassroots problems and inspire them to be the face of innovation.

Yearly, 500 college students who clear a rigorous selection process, undertake this life-changing journey. They have the opportunity to meet several role models and social entrepreneurs who strived against unfavorable societal conditions (like poverty, hunger and lack of educational facilities) to take charge and innovate sustainable business models for their social enterprises.

Bunker Roy from Barefoot College, a voluntary research organization that works on bettering health, educational facilities and skills of the rural population, and Anshu Gupta from Goonj, an innovative nonprofit that focuses on providing clothing as a basic need among other things, are a couple of role models who are working with Jagriti Yatra to inspire the students. They are demonstrating how students can contribute to alleviating poverty and bettering living conditions in rural India.

LEad Prayana

The LEaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) program is a brainchild of Hubbali, Karnataka’s Deshpande Foundation that Mrs. Jaishree Deshpande and Dr. Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande founded. From thousands of applicants, the program selects 120+ college students based on their passion for solving problems and compassion towards the society they live in.

The on-road, 14-day journey includes activities that challenge the students’ innovative abilities and encourages them to partake in mini-projects that have environmental, social and humanitarian value. The students participate in several panel sessions that successful social entrepreneurs conduct like Madhu Chandan of Organic Mandya, a social movement that encouraged the farmers of Mandya, Karnataka to practice organic ways of farming to yield healthier produce.

ShodhYatra

What sets ShodhYatra apart from the rest of social entrepreneurship journeys is its unique mode of transport, which is nothing but human feet. Anil Gupta, a retired IIM professor, founded ShodhYatra. This journey of search spans about 100 kilometers on foot and occurs in various parts of the country. The participants get a chance to view and analyze the shortfalls in rural communities first hand and sometimes also come across innovative solutions that the villagers put into action.

Gupta calls this journey a two-way street rather than a one-sided one, where urban and rural communities exchange knowledge. Being the founder of Honey Bee Network, he propagates that humans can benefit from lateral learning without exploitation of either party, just like how honey bees thrive from collecting honey without impoverishing the flower.

While undertaking such journeys, the participants, who are usually from the urban areas of the country, have no choice but to shed their inhibitions, interact with the locals and understand the human ability to adapt and that, indeed, is the prime reason to innovate. All these journeys primarily work on the concept of social entrepreneurship, which not only focuses on bettering living conditions across the country but also on building sustainable business models while doing so.

Reshma Beesetty
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa
As of 2019, 11 percent of the world’s internet subscribers are from Africa and only 39 percent of Africans use the internet. However, Africa is quickly closing the digital gap with the developed world. Here are five facts about the technology renaissance in Africa, as digital technology rapidly expands across the continent.

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa

  1. Africa is Ripe to Enter the Tech Economy: Africa has multiple advantages over other regions in developing a technology-based economy. The continent has the youngest population in the world with an average age of 19.5, meaning that there is a large population of young people looking for a chance to break into the technology industry. Because of the continent’s late entry into the global tech economy, African tech companies can learn from the early mistakes of tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Further, Africa is entering the digital market at an ideal moment – by entering the industry late, African techies can immediately take advantage of globalized internet technology, bypassing outdated infrastructures such as landlines and branch banking and directly adopting mobile phones or mobile money.
  2. Technology is Revolutionizing Other Sectors: Technology is not just good for the technology industry – as many countries have discovered, one can apply tech to a multitude of industries. Technology is revolutionizing education in Africa through digital books and online classes with global universities such as Harvard and MIT. An app called iCow helps farmers manage their cattle populations. Africans can attend church services online, solving problems of limited religious resources in smaller communities. Additionally, mobile phones and increased connectivity have already been critical in responding to crises like Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria.  New technology has already had a profound effect on both commercial and social industries.
  3. Tech Education is Booming: Recognizing the critical need for technology-based education, multiple universities in Africa now offer software engineering, computer science and other tech programs that compete with established universities such as Yale or Stanford. Further, technology accelerators are rapidly growing. French telecommunications company Orange opened its first African digital center in Tunis, Tunisia in April 2019, which will support startups and educate young entrepreneurs. Nairobi, Kenya-based Andela is the top computer engineering accelerator in Africa, connecting its students with tech jobs around the world.
  4. Africa is Building its Own Tech Economy: The technology renaissance in Africa means that the continent will eventually have its own independent tech market. For example, in October 2019 President Paul Kagame of Rwanda inaugurated Africa’s first smartphone factory. The factory does not produce iPhones – instead, it produces the Mara, a mobile phone that the pan-African Mara Group developed. The Mara is unique in that it is the first phone a company entirely assembles in Africa. Other African companies entering the smartphone market include Onyx Connect from South Africa and AfriOne from Nigeria.
  5. Growing Tech Industries Raise GDP: The increase in access to technology is critical to increasing African countries’ economies. The World Bank reports that a mere 10 percent increase in internet penetration represents a 1.38 percent increase in GDP for a developing country. The growth of African technology also attracts international business – IBM, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all begun investment projects in Africa based on the continent’s technological growth. Though getting widespread technology access across dispersed communities is a challenge, African governments are coming together and developing plans to move the technology renaissance in Africa forward.

Though African countries are still developing, the continent is becoming a major player in the global technology economy. From international investment to country-specific development, a technology renaissance in Africa is truly underway. The next decade will only see more development and innovations from the “Silicon Savannah.”

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

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

Youth Empowerment Programs in AfricaBy 2050, Africa’s child population is projected to reach one billion, which would be the largest among the other continents. Already, the median age in Africa has shifted to 18 years old and increased the labor force substantially. The Center for Strategic and International Study released a report highlighting just how much of an impact the youth of Africa can have on the continent’s economic growth. With these trends in mind, a number of organizations are finding new and creative ways to increase youth empowerment in Africa today.

Here are three programs centered around youth empowerment in Africa.

3 Youth Empowerment Programs in Africa

  1. Young African Leaders Initiative
    The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is one of the programs created by USAID to empower young people across the world. This 2010 U.S. initiative focuses on providing Africans with resources to bolster development. These young people receive support regarding leadership skills and entrepreneurship opportunities in Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa. The four regional centers are located in higher education institutions and primarily target young people between the ages of 18 and 35. For example, one center located at the University of South Africa School of Business Leadership serves Swaziland, Zambia, South Africa and Madagascar. These regional centers help foster entrepreneurship and create opportunities for cross-border collaboration.The program also offers a fellowship for young Africans to study at a U.S. university and further develop their skills to become young leaders. The Mandela Washington Fellowship selects young people from 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to create a diverse group of fellows learning about topics surrounding business, civic engagement or public management.

    One of the most important parts of this program is the large network for young Africans to connect with each other across the continent. With online resources and regional centers in all parts of sub-Saharan Africa, every day, more young people are gaining access to information about professional development and entrepreneurship, creating a strong foundation for long-term youth empowerment in Africa.

  2. Young Africa
    In 1988, Young Africa International was founded in the Netherlands. With a goal to empower young Africans with employability and entrepreneurship skills, the program utilizes a network of independent and local affiliations to run activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.A majority of the funding goes to creating training centers to hire youth across these countries. It also allows local entrepreneurs to run their businesses in a successful environment. By establishing local nonprofits in these youth centers, it promotes local businesses while also giving youth the opportunity to explore career fields, develop new skills and learn lessons about the working environment.

    Targeted to the 15 to 25 age group, Young Africa also provides 43 courses to people in the program. These courses include vocational education in technical, agricultural and commercial skills. Young Africa also focuses heavily on life skills training to help empower young people to make healthy choices and grow their self-confidence so they can make a positive impact on their community.

    The overall impact of the organization can be seen by its milestones. In 2017, there were 1,980 vocational graduates from the program. Sixty-nine percent of them are now employed or self-employed. Overall, there have been 36,894 graduates from the vocational program and their incomes increased significantly. In Namibia alone, the participant’s average daily income increased from $15.30 a day to $40.

  3. International Youth Foundation
    For 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has prepared young women and men to take control of their futures by focusing on a combination of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.Zimbabwe:Works is an example of a program focusing on employment for marginalized groups, especially women. Using the Passport to Success curriculum, the program teaches life skills to increase self-esteem, promote teamwork and motivate young people to engage in their communities. Certain partners and entrepreneurs also assist the process by providing business courses and access to microloans and related programs. Roughly 80 percent of interns with this program have transitioned to full-time employment with various companies. Also, almost 7 out of 10 women in the targeted group received financial literacy training.

    This program is just one of many examples of youth empowerment programs in Africa led by IYF. Across 14 countries, various programs introduce young people to healthier lifestyles and brighter futures.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons