Youth Entrepreneurs in Africa
The world is full of innovative thinkers and passionate experimenters. To ensure that these minds are able to make a lasting impact on the world, there needs to be certain types of support to exponentially increase the success rate of the idea. One such support avenue is to encourage youth entrepreneurs in Africa to utilize their skill sets and ideas to benefit not only their communities but also the globe.

The Youth for Africa and SDGs (YAS!) Portal Platform

Recently, the United Nations Development Program launched a Pan-African Entrepreneurship Portal-Platform with the help of Accenture in East, West, and Southern Africa to create an online support community for youth entrepreneurs in Africa.

The Youth for Africa and SDGs (YAS!) Portal Platform was designed and implemented with the intention to cultivate an online network that would promote mentorship between youth entrepreneurs in Africa and established professionals, funding for members and projects, sharing of information that would lead to future developments, and networking between individuals with similar interests and goals.

“YAS! will better serve the private sector with innovation, supplier diversification and talent on the African continent and in parallel accelerate the growth of the entrepreneurship eco-system,” said Sandiso Sibisi, Accenture Africa’s Open Innovation Lead.

Youth for Africa and SDGs’ Four Pillars of Support

The Youth for Africa and SDGs focus on its four pillars of support: Learn, Ecosystem Map, Challenges, and Opportunities.

  1. Learning would help youth entrepreneurs in Africa start strongly with their entrepreneurship. The YAS! Portal-Platform would provide its members with key concepts important in having a successful enterprise development as well as news about other African leaders.
  2. An ecosystem map allows for users to provide or accept funding for certain entrepreneurships and have access to a network of other professionals and young African entrepreneurs. This map would connect the entrepreneurship stakeholders with service providers, corporations.
  3. There are certain challenges that young African entrepreneurs can focus on to receive recognition of a financial award. These challenges are related to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations. This specific pillar is critical for the purpose of this organization as ending poverty and creating a better future for the futures of young African entrepreneurs drives this platform.
  1. Lastly, the opportunities that come with the platform is indispensable for youth entrepreneurs in Africa. These young individuals are able to learn more about the global entrepreneurship and connect with leading entrepreneurs, potential investors, and opportunistic corporates.

“YAS! is a much needed Pan African digital mechanism for youth entrepreneurs to access opportunities and contribute to the positive transformation of the continent through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Tomas Sales, the United Nations Development Programme Advisor for Private Sector.

YAS! and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals are important in any plan for the future because those 17 goals are designed to apply universally to all peoples.

As the Millennium Development Goals are the predecessors to the SDGs, it can be stated without a doubt that these goals are working towards a better world for all. In the case of YAS!, the most important goals are to end poverty, protect the environment and allow people to have the freedom of choice in their futures.

A New and Improved World

A YAS! Informational Leaflet asserts that it focuses on Sustainable Development Goals because they “present a universal call to action by the United Nations for all stakeholders to join efforts to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”

This digital platform serves to be a place for young entrepreneur minds to flourish and grow while serving as an advocate for achieving the U.N.’s SDGs.

It will allow people to connect with each other as well as work together in achieving something more than just an idea or a project. With YAS!, the entire future can change as these young minds are given the opportunity to work for bettering the world and their lives.

– Jenny S. Park
Photo: Flickr

Female Entrepreneurs in Latin AmericaThe entrepreneurial spirit is catching in South America. According to the World Bank, 63 percent of Latin Americans believe they have what it takes to start a successful business. Meanwhile, local governments are offering support to local entrepreneurs. In Chile, the environment is so strong for startups that it has been dubbed “Chilecon Valley.”

Despite this, there is still widespread poverty in the region. An estimated 25 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $4 a day. The situation is even worse for women, as only 53 percent participate in the labor force. Fortunately, three women are aiming to change that by helping their local communities and being role models for prospective female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Leila Velez

Leila Velez is a Brazilian entrepreneur who is aiming to bring the efficiency of waste management in the fast food industry to beauty salons. She started her business, Beleza Natural, at 19 years old with the hope of bringing the accessibility of places like McDonald’s to the beauty industry. Now, her company has locations all over Brazil and employs 3,000 people, many of whom Velez says are single mothers in their early 20s.

While Velez may have modeled aspects of her salons after fast food, she did not want them to become another low paying job people take on temporarily. She wanted to provide career opportunities that give her employees sustainability in life. She says working at her salon is the first job of 90 percent of her employees and she wants her company to offer the opportunity to build a career rather than be a temporary stop.

Jimena Flórez

When Jimena Flórez began her initiative to educate rural farmers about sustainability, she had no idea it would lead to an international snack food company. Chaak Healthy Snacks, originally called Crispy Fruits, works closely with local Colombian farmers to provide healthy snack foods like low sugar brownies to 90,000 kids per month.

Flórez’s company started out trying to help out local Colombian farmers by helping them use organic techniques she learned from relatives in Germany. When she visited her family’s German brewery after college, she knew she could bring the information back to help Columbians. This led to a dry fruit company that later rebranded to healthy snack foods to appeal to an international audience.

In 2015, former President Barack Obama invited Florez to attend a Global Entrepreneurship Event where he thanked her for “helping to lift up his community.” As one of six young entrepreneurs invited, Florez is primed to expand and continue to provide healthy snacks all over the world as one of the many rising female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Marian Villa Roldán

Being a female entrepreneur is difficult anywhere, but in Latin America, where a certain level of masculinity called “machismo” is integral to the culture, it is more difficult. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found that 40 percent of Latin American women have been on the receiving end of violence in their lives. This negative attitude toward femininity goes all the way to the top, where only 17 percent of executive positions are held by women.

Marian Villa Roldan and her company Eversocial are out to change that. Eversocial, an online marketing and design company, has supported numerous initiatives that empower Latin American women, including PionerasDev, which helps teach young women how to code. Eversocial has also supported Geek Girls LatAm, a similar organization that helps Latin American women get into STEM fields.

Success for Female Entrepreneurs in Latin America

Latin American women pursuing careers in entrepreneurship are succeeding in a tough environment, but they do not let that stop them from giving back to their communities. Whether it be through providing employment, offering a helpful product, or supporting noble causes, these women fight poverty and serve as role models for the next generation of female entrepreneurs in Latin America.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women Through Education and Entrepreneurship
A majority of the world’s poor are women, and gender inequality pervasive in countries around the world is a key reason for this occurrence. Women face barriers to obtaining education and entering the economy that men do not — globally, 33 million fewer girls than boys are enrolled in primary education, and women constitute 61 percent of the illiterate population between the ages of 15 and 24.

Education and Entrepreneurship

Empowering women through education and entrepreneurship reduces poverty by increasing their employability and enabling them to provide for their families and contribute to the economic development of their communities.

Without education, girls are more likely to be trafficked or become child brides; it is also more likely that women and their families will live in poverty. Education is crucial to the reduction of poverty, as it enables women to acquire jobs, help provide for their families and contribute to their local economy.

Women’s incomes rise between 10-20 percent per year of education they receive. This rise in income can be the factor that raises families out of poverty, as women reinvest 90 percent of their incomes into their families (50-60 percent more than men do). This can improve a family’s economic status and increases its food security.

Empowerment in the Workplace

However, many women and girls do not receive the education they need to acquire good jobs. Even women who can obtain an education are not guaranteed work in some developing countries where social norms relegate women to the domestic sphere. In fact, these options can often consign women to duties of housework and childcare and discourage them from entering the workforce.

By empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, women can break down these social norms that restrict not only their own success, but also the prosperity of their communities.

Women who are able to work still face substantial inequality. They often have lower incomes than men in the same positions, and more than one billion women cannot access basic financial services. For example, women farmers in many developing countries are restricted from owning land, accessing credit and acquiring productive resources.

Women also do not receive the same support from national and international development organizations as men do, though they on average produce higher values of output than men. Empowering women through education and entrepreneurship can reduce poverty by allowing women to be productive workers and contribute to the economy.

Economic Benefits of Female Empowerment

The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization estimate that developing countries’ agricultural output would increase by between 2.5-4 percent if female farmers had equal access to productive agricultural resources and services. If such resources became available, it would reduce the number of hungry people worldwide by 150 million.

In Malawi and Ghana, improving women’s access to resources increased the production of corn by more than 15 percent, and Burkina Faso experienced a production gain of six percent when fertilizer and labor were reallocated on an equal basis.

With the rapidly rising global population, this increase in food production is crucial to people’s survival. In addition, if gender inequality and the financial barriers women face are addressed, $28 trillion could be added to the global annual GDP by 2025.

Addressing & Reducing Global Poverty

To reduce global poverty, the world needs women; but women need the opportunity to obtain an education and be a part of the economy. The Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act and the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act both empower women. They both have the ability to reduce poverty by helping women achieve equality and would each cost less than $500,000 over a four-year period.

The Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act would prioritize efforts to provide girls and women — particularly those in vulnerable settings such as conflict zones and refugee camps — access to safe primary and secondary education. It would focus on reducing discrimination against displaced girls and improving their educational and entrepreneurial opportunities.

The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act would require the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to conduct a gender-analysis to identify and understand gender gaps so as to better address these in the workplace. Gender-specific measures to empower women would be established in USAID programs, and the agency would expand support for businesses owned and managed by women. The act also emphasizes the importance of eliminating gender-based violence.

Goal of Gender Equality

The United Nations, FAO, World Bank, World Economic Forum and others all recognize the importance of gender equality in the reduction of global poverty. The Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act and the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act are two bills the United States government could pass to help solve the issue of gender inequality and poverty.

Empowering women through education and entrepreneurship will reduce poverty levels among current and future generations, and will benefit not only developing countries but the whole world as well. ­

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

Ghana
In early Ghanaian society women were seen only as child-bearers subservient to male dominance. In fact, a famous Ghanaian proverb states, “A house without a woman is like a barn without cows.” Women in Ghana have faced strict societal gender norms and fought to make great strides towards overcoming them, specifically in the workforce.

Ghanaian Women in the Workforce

Ghanaian women in the workforce are greatly involved, and heavily impact Ghana’s economy. These improvements for Ghanaian women have come in the last decade, and one company, “Divine Chocolate,” has been a huge contributor for this change.

Divine Chocolate has changed the lives of many farmers, and has specifically improved conditions for Ghanaian women in the workforce. The organization started a Women’s Cocoa Farming Training program that not only teaches women reading, writing and arithmetic, but it also teaches small business skills and specific trades: soap making, batik, and vegetable gardening, to name a few. This knowledge can add to Ghanian women’s income and help provide for themselves and their families.

Efforts such as these have not only taught women valuable skills and given them new work opportunities, but it has also greatly empowered Ghana women. In addition to the valuable skills taught by “Divine Chocolate,” another company fighting for Ghana women is called “Global Mamas.”

Global Involvement

Global Mamas helps a village in southern Ghana with their textile industry and connects them with a larger global marketplace to sell their goods. The women are also provided with training for their future work and given a new opportunity in the textile industry.

Ghanaian women in the workforce have persevered in the face of adversity, especially against societal views against them. Women face many more challenges entering into work than their male counterparts do, but this has not stopped them. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor even revealed in a study that Ghana women are more often entrepreneurial than the men in their country.   

Female participation in the workforce in Ghana is at an all-time high of 96.1 percent. Ghanaian women are not only involved in the workforce, but they are also leading it. According to the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship, women in Ghana make up 46.4 percent of all business owners in the country.

Over the past decade, women in Ghana have made great strides working and boosting their economy. Females are powerful, as seen in the entrepreneurial attitude and success of Ghana’s women. These strides in the workforce create new opportunities for women throughout the country and will continue to have an impact for the future of Ghanaian women in the workforce.

– Ronni Winter

Photo: Flickr

global entrepreneurship
As historically less developed countries begin industrializing, their citizens are taking the opportunity to start exciting new businesses, and global investors are taking notice. U.S. investors are looking into African, Asian and South American start-up companies to invest in. While the motivation behind this investment may be profit-oriented, it also creates an interconnected world that is economically dependant on each other.

Why Countries are Investing in Global Start-Ups

  1. Support from Global Governments: One big reason why global entrepreneurship has taken off is governments worldwide are supporting it. In 2017, the U.S. and India jointly hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which brings together entrepreneurs from around the world to connect with prospective investors. On top of that, governments worldwide are putting resources into building up their entrepreneurial communities. The six-month program, Start-Up Chile, offers its students $35,000 and a one-year visa to move to Chile and grow their business.  
  2. Great Locations: As the entrepreneurial spirit spreads in a country, like-minded people flock at epicenters of design. For example, Santiago, Chile has been dubbed “Chillecon Valley” due to its high number of tech start-ups. Similarly, Buenos Aires has an electric entrepreneurial community that creates competition and cooperation between different companies. This spirit (and the great weather) attracts entrepreneurs to relocate from around the world.
  3. Highly Skilled at Low Costs: As an investment opportunity, global entrepreneurs offer considerable value for their cost. Due to the relatively low cost of living in less developed countries, entrepreneurial cities are an attractive place for skilled people to move to. Some experts estimate that highly skilled tech workers in Argentina can be hired for 25-35 percent of the cost of their U.S. counterparts.

How Investing Supports Peace Worldwide

  1. An Interconnected World: By creating business ties between countries, peace becomes an economic necessity. Some economists believe the best way to achieve global peace is to create a world that is so economically dependent on one another that conflict would be mutually destructive. While total economic dependence may not come anytime soon, on a smaller scale the theory works the same way.
  2. Global Entrepreneurship Helps People Globally: Global Entrepreneurship greatly improves the quality of life for participants. Not only do successful small business owners help themselves, but they also contribute to the local economy by employing local workers. Therefore, by helping people start businesses worldwide, developed countries can help eliminate global poverty one start-up at a time.
  3. Increased Stability: Evidence suggests that one of the main causes of political unrest is not religion or culture, but rather the economy. As people are unable to find well-paying jobs, they search for alternative vehicles to express their unrest. In this way, global entrepreneurship is an asset to national security. Providing people with resources and support to help themselves is cost-effective and works to eliminate causes of civil unrest rather than covering up symptoms.

The U.S. government is supporting global entrepreneurship by co-hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit with India. Meanwhile, people are investing in start-ups worldwide to get a jump-start on the next big company. Through both of these actions, global entrepreneurship is getting the push it needs to improve economic conditions and create world peace.  

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

Medellín’s Transformation
In 1993, Colombia had the highest homicide rate in the world at 420 per 100,000 people, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Medellin was said to be the most dangerous city in Colombia during this time, but has gone through great changes in the past two decades. Medellín’s transformation is an inspiring model for many cities previously affected by violence and war.

Danger of Medellín

In the 1980s, Medellín was considered to be one of the most violent cities in the globe. In fact, TIME Magazine named Medellín the most dangerous city in the world due to the high crime and murder rates in 1988.

At the time, Medellín was home to Pablo Escobar’s cartel and cocaine empire. There was a lack of government control of the city and crime rates exponentially increased. Additionally, the nation was also affected by the internal conflict between Colombia and the internal guerilla groups. In 1991, the city experienced 6,349 killings, bringing its annual rate to 181 per 100,000 people.

Transformation of Medellín

Since then, the city has put in place many violence prevention programs, invested in social entrepreneurship, created effective public transportation, transformed public spaces and improved some of the worst neighborhoods severely affected by the internal war.

In the past 20 years, homicide rate has been cut by 95 percent and the poverty rate by 66 percent.  Now, the annual rate of killings per year is fewer than 50 per 100,000 people and it contributes more than 8 percent of Colombia’s GDP, as its second largest city.

Forty percent of Colombia’s exports now come from Medellín. Additionally, 9 out of the top 50 medical facilities in the Americas are located in Medellín. In 2012, Medellín was even named the most innovative city in the world by the Urban Land Institute. Medellín’s transformation began with its public transportation system. The first metro ride in Medellín took place in 1995, and since then, it has become the most effective public transportation system in Colombia.

Transportation in Medellín

Additional lines were added and the cable car were built in the 2000s. The transportation project in Medellin connected the entire city, including slums previously neglected by the government. Additionally, escalators were built to facilitate access for people in the slums — citizens in areas such as Comuna 13 used to walk 1,300 feet, but due to the transportation advancements, they came to experience further integration with surrounding areas.

Such developments allowed many living in poor areas outside of the city to take on jobs in the city center, and shortened the commute time for all people in Medellín. To this day, the metro and its stations are still very clean, safe and well maintained within the city.

Social Entrepreneurship and Social Change

Medellín’s transformation is also largely due to its investment in education and social programs. Medellín is known for its investment in social entrepreneurship. A part of revenues earned by the city is invested in organizations such as Ruta N, which work to promote social innovation and technological development.

People in poor areas are also encouraged to start their own businesses, shop, or cafe; such business endeavors are facilitated by entrepreneurial development centers that provide cheap credit loans. Medellín’s transformation ignited economic growth and rapid change for the city by becoming an international hub for business, innovation and tourism.

Such developments have shown that areas affected by violence can change for the better through investment in urban development and innovation.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Pixabay

The Role and Scope of Microenterprise in Developing CountriesMicroenterprises — businesses with fewer than ten employees and often a sole proprietor — might not ordinarily come to mind when thinking of what drives an economy. However, in places where opportunity is most lacking, innovation abounds. In her course syllabus for a class entitled “Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries”, Stockholm University associate professor Birgitta Schwartz calls entrepreneurship fundamental to the organization of societies. She asserts that microenterprise in developing countries mobilizes people, resources and innovation. “It is about generating ideas, organizing and hands-on action that can have many different effects,” says Schwartz.

How Is Microenterprise in Developing Countries Unique?

The answer to this lies partly in motivation. For many Western societies, entrepreneurship eyes opportunity, while in developing countries, it is borne out of necessity. According to a 2017 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 76.2 percent of Africans see entrepreneurship as a good career choice, as opposed to around 65 percent for developed nations like the United States.

What is the reason for this? Well, with factors like extreme population growth and an increasing life expectancy, keeping the working age constant means having to create many additional jobs. As a result, microenterprise in developing countries represents a large percentage of employment. In Ghana, for example, household or micro-businesses tally 57 percent of the country’s total workforce.

Added Challenges

While entrepreneurship presents challenges enough, the added factors associated with living in poverty create a special dynamic all its own. These challenges may include:

  • Adequate access to financing
  • The risk involved with political and economic imbalance, and
  • A lack of the skill set necessary to create a successful market

Lacking alternative sources of financing, the successful entrepreneur living in poverty may use internally generated cash flow from one business to fund his or her other businesses. Perhaps surprisingly though, research suggests that countries that have experienced economic instability are more likely to have higher rates of private saving. In a manner of speaking, crisis provokes a necessity to save.

Microenterprise may play more of a role in poverty alleviation than was previously thought. Entrepreneurs in developing countries look at risk differently. Whereas Western business strategy sees a competitive threat from the well-established incumbent businesses, such a threat doesn’t exist in developing countries. And while urbanization threatens this advantage, entrepreneurs look to the more rural areas of their country to start and grow their businesses.

Microenterprise in developing countries can be made even more difficult without the added benefits of mentorship and apprenticeship. Many of these emerging markets have few people with the necessary skills to effect the kind of change that can be the impetus for large-scale economic strides. With a lack of accountability, trust becomes even more important. Micro-businesses in these countries are often family-owned and much more attuned to the local market environment, which results in higher returns to capital and a larger potential for growth.

Success in Spite of Circumstances

An example of microenterprise at its finest is Hanan Odah, a Palestinian refugee whose husband died in the civil war in Syria. She rebuilt her micro-business, selling stationery and perfume and now helps her new community and her family of three to survive. Despite conflict and economic collapse, Odah continues to build her brand, thanks in part to a steely will and in part to microfinance programs that loan small amounts of money at low interest rates.

This is the kind of presence that microenterprises can have in developing countries. Whereas external forces may cause economic instabilities, small startups with low overhead and little opposition, like Odah’s, continue to thrive and grow.

Entrepreneurship in developing markets depends not necessarily on the traditional tenets of opportunity and vision, but rather on necessity and provision. For every stereotype of countless roadside stands selling nearly-identical wares, there is a provocative truth lurking beneath the surface of this dormant economic volcano.

– Daniel Staesser
Photo: Flickr

South Africa's Growing Business Landscape
South Africa‘s business landscape can be challenging. Many businesses have become successful nationally as well as internationally in some cases, but it can be difficult for new businesses to get off the ground. These are a few of the difficulties faced by businesses in South Africa as well as some opportunities to overcome.

The Brain Drain

The large number of skilled workers leaving South Africa for other countries has led to the term “brain drain.” The Global Innovation Index estimates that South Africa has lost 5 percent of its researchers and entrepreneurs to other countries, which has taken away up to 20 percent of innovative production. By September 2015, 47,000 skilled South Africans had left the country, with 70 percent happy with their choice. This brain drain has led researchers to wonder why so many citizens are leaving and how to increase enthusiasm for staying in South Africa.

The Challenges of Owning a Business

Part of the challenge for entrepreneurs is simply the time required to open a business in South Africa, which hurts small businesses that cannot afford to wait. The main positive of opening a business is that the rules seem to be followed and there is a clear path to take. However, the time involved is lengthy. Construction permits can take up to 127 days to complete, but getting electricity for a building can take up to 226 days. It is estimated that it takes an average business owner 200 hours a year to complete their taxes. If someone breaks a contract, it may not be worth the time to try to recover the costs, because it takes an average of 500 days for cases like these to go through the court system.

Many Changes in the Last 25 Years

Other difficulties for many South Africans may be systemic ones. South Africa has seen a lot of change in the last 25 years in overcoming the aftermath of South Africa’s apartheid system. Like most major system changes, there are improvements and also growing pains. Many neighborhoods in South Africa still reflect separations in races and ethnic groups, which dates back to when this was required by apartheid law. In addition, there is still a significant wage gap between black and white citizens, with white citizens earning more.

However, improvements such as the murder rate being halved, access to better housing and the growing availability of electricity (50.9 percent in 1994 to 85.3 percent in 2012) show the country is invested in a better future. While these changes and challenges do not directly relate to businesses in South Africa, they illustrate the environment businesses are operating in. More than ever, it is clear that businesses are needed to help with some of these issues, particularly with the unemployment rate, which is at 26.7 percent, higher than it was in 1994, but lower than when it hit its peak of 31.2 percent in 2004.

Successful Businesses in South Africa

There are still challenges facing businesses in South Africa and a large number of citizens are finding opportunities elsewhere, but there are those that have stayed and been successful. When South African entrepreneurs were asked what lessons they learned, they cited the importance of building a loyal consumer base, a willingness to be gutsy and a readiness to try new things.

Some successful entrepreneurs that have changed the face of South Africa are Pam Golding, who founded Pam Golding Properties in 1976 as an estate agency, but has since moved into the luxury residential space. Or Richard Maponya, who started successful businesses involving retail and property despite apartheid laws and recently helped open Maponya Mall. Or Adrian Gore, who founded Discovery Health, which has had such a huge impact on health insurance that many other companies are duplicating his model.

While not all of South Africa’s challenges will be cured through business, developing a healthy business base will create more opportunities for citizens, increase employment opportunities and help fill in other voids, such as infrastructure or bridging gaps between groups of people. All of this together will help to create a healthy work and business environment, consequently reducing the brain drain in South Africa.

– Natasha Komen

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act
The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act (WEE) of 2018, H.R. 5480, was introduced in the House earlier this month. The House of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Representative Louis Frankle (D-FL-22), 
Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, worked together to propose this bipartisan legislation.

“By confronting these barriers women face, we can help lift people out of poverty and drive economic growth – by some estimates adding trillions of dollars to annual global GDP,” says Chairman Royce.

Introduction to the WEE Bill

The aim of the WEE bill is to improve the status of women worldwide through empowerment and education so that women play a greater role in entrepreneurship. An introduction to the “Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act” means that the bill would supplement programs that promote women’s economic roles through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The “Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act” specifically focuses on:

  • Ensuring the reduction of gender disparities including gender-based violence, women’s property rights and economic participation as part of U.S. policy
  • Ensuring that all USAID programs incorporate gender-specific issues in attempts to empower women
  • Advocating for small and medium-sized enterprises that are owned, controlled or managed by women
  • Increasing women’s use and jurisdiction over resources such as land and financial inclusion

It’s no secret that the majority of the world’s poor are women. According to the U.N. Women Deputy Executive Director, Lakshmi Puri, If women and men have the equal access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets, the consequent 20-30 percent increase in agricultural production on women’s farms could lead to 100-150 million less hungry people.”

U.N. Women and Women Everywhere

The Borgen Project’s main goal is to eliminate global poverty; nevertheless, the facts cannot be ignored that when women play a greater role in the economy, it brings innumerable benefits to the nation and the world as a whole. According to U.N. Women, by increasing female labor force participation, education, shared household income, and women’s overall participation in the economic world, it would bring exponential benefits to the country as a whole.

Not only would economic empowerment bring millions of families out of poverty, child mortality would decrease and economies grow faster. Finally, the Mckinsey Global Institute study proposes that “closing gender gaps in labour-force participation rates, part-time versus full-time work and the composition of employment would add 12-25 percent to global GDP by 2025.”

An introduction to the “Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act” understands the obstacles when empowering women’s economic standing. The bill symbolizes a step in the right direction for U.S. efforts to help eliminate global poverty.

– Emma Martin

Photo: Flickr

Small-scale enterprises have been a large part of industrialization as well as job creation in India. As defined by the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act of 2006, a microenterprise in India is a small business in which the investment in plant and machinery is no more than $ 40,000. Microentrepreneurship and women entrepreneurs are alleviating poverty in India, particularly because up until the past couple of decades women were a largely untapped source of economic potential.

Women Entrepreneurs in India

The Government of India has defined women entrepreneurs as those whose enterprise has a minimum financial interest of 51 percent of the capital and is made up of at least 51 percent female workers. Although rural women in India are mainly responsible for agricultural production, domestic duties and childcare, their economic status is low in a male-dominated society. Women in India have been able to raise their economic status and fight poverty in their country by taking charge of microenterprises.

Increasing the participation of women in micro, small and medium enterprises is an important stepping stone to alleviating poverty in India because not only does it engage women in productive work outside their homes, but it also empowers them and improves family health. In addition, women entrepreneurs can provide society with different management, organization and business solutions because of their different perspectives and skills.

Self-Help Groups (SHGs)

One major resource for women entrepreneurs in India are the Self-Help groups (SHGs) provided by the Government of Bihar and supported by the World Bank. These groups are part of what is known as “Jeevika”, the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project. (“Jeevika” means “livelihood” in Hindi.)

SHGs provide skills training, access to markets and finance as well as business development services. There are 45 million rural women in India who have been empowered by these SHGs under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) in 2011. The NRLM has saved $ 1.4 billion, leveraged $ 20 billion from commercial banks and is helping nearly 3.3 million women farmers increase agriculture and livestock productivity. Here are some success stories that, with the help of such programs, show how women entrepreneurs are alleviating poverty:

  • Nearly 800 rural homes in Gujarat have partnered with Airbnb to generate incomes averaging $ 500 a month. This service enterprise was made possible by the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) that helped the homes to make official connections. In addition, tourism operators plus culinary and transportation services have been benefiting from local Airbnb homes.
  • Kiran Devi, due to resources from a self-help group in Bihar, went from stitching two to three pieces of clothing every day, ending up with blisters on her hands to directing the Aranyak Producer Company. Her farmer’s production company has adopted technological solutions to aggregate maize from small farmers and deliver better prices to over 6,000 maize farmers in the Purnia district of Bihar. Her company enhances agriculture and livestock productivity for small-scale women producers by helping them form producer groups in each village to aggregate produce, train and control quality. They even directly connect the market to these women farmers who would have sold their produce to local middlemen.
  • Technical assistance partners have increased the success of artisan groups in Madhubani, Bihar through design upgradation and implementation of e-commerce platforms.
  • Women Entrepreneurs India (WEI), an independent initiative, helps women entrepreneurs develop skills by providing training programs, financial education, motivation, mentorship and support with product and services marketing. Some of the home-based business options they suggest include retail consulting; home-based food services and delivery; event planning; writing; marketing; online translating; fitness; and fashion and jewelry design.

Future of Microenterprises

Women have, therefore, been able to use household skills to knit, stitch, weave and embroider for developing their microenterprises. They have also been able to use their technical skills and raw farm materials to earn substantial incomes and small agricultural units.

In conclusion, one reason the future of economic growth in India looks bright is that women entrepreneurs are alleviating poverty with their growing microenterprises. That is to say, the empowerment of women in India goes hand-in-hand with the auspicious development of microenterprises.

– Connie Loo
Photo: Flickr