Small businesses make big changesSmall- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are estimated to account for more than 90 percent of businesses in the world. SMEs employ around 60 percent of employees in private sectors and add around 50 percent of the world GDP. The benefits of SMEs cannot be overstated–small businesses make big changes.

Mahindra Rise is an example of a company that has far outgrown the small business classification, but it is an inspiring story for up and coming enterprises. Mahindra Rise began in 1945 in India as a steel company but has had the success and adaptability to extend beyond steel production. This company now works in 20 industries over 100 countries and is best known for its vehicle production.

At the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya, former President Barack Obama said, “Entrepreneurship creates new jobs and new businesses, new ways to deliver basic services, new ways of seeing the world—it’s the spark of prosperity.” President Obama is describing how small businesses make big changes. Here are a few examples of that small business strength.  

Farmerline

A mobile app based out of Ghana, co-founded by Emmanuel Owusu Addai and Alloysius Attah, Farmerline helps small farm-holders across Africa. A small-scale farm is dependent on market prices, weather and farming techniques, all of which can change quickly. This app, launched in 2013, has helped over 200,000 farmers across four countries increase their harvest by sharing information through the app.

Afghan Citadel Software (ACS)

Roya Mahboob helped co-found ACS at the age of 23 in 2010, helping to create a business aimed at creating opportunities for women to be incorporated into Afghanistan’s growing technical culture. Some of what ACS does is build internet classrooms, register users for online education and produce videos by young Afghan women.

Nirtech Limited

Co-founded by husband and wife duo Nichole and Ricardo Thompson in Jamaica, Niritech aims to help students in the Caribbean grow in the subject of digital literacy. Through an online platform, students are connected to instructors and have better access to education in order to become more competitive in the job industry.

FaceTagr

Vijay Gnanadeikan created the FaceTagr app to use face recognition to help find and identify missing people. The Chennai IT developer came up with the idea because of the huge amount of children that go missing in India; estimates are that about five children per hour disappear. Right now, the app is being tested by the police and government and, so far, FaceTagr has helped to locate 100 children in India.

Emerging companies understand their local contexts and create niches in order to compete with large multinational corporations. Local companies use their knowledge and understanding to work around institutional voids and an inability for market research. Companies that treat voids as opportunities create profitable enterprises. These small businesses make big changes in their world by not being afraid to compete and discovering the local needs.

– Natasha Komen

Photo: Flickr


Zambia’s youth have continued to face not only high unemployment rates, but also poor quality education, teenage pregnancies and early marriages. Fackson Shamenda (Zambia’s labour and social security minister) says the country’s young people are critical for development objectives; however, work is being done to increase employment for Zambia’s youth.

Promoting Equality Among Zambia’s Employed Youth

Launched in 2013, Impact Enterprises was Zambia’s first digital outsourcing company with a mission to provide the country’s youth with digital jobs. The company soon found that in group settings, young Zambian women were afraid to share their opinions among male coworkers. In June 2015, Impact Enterprises launched Ladies of Victory and Encouragement (LOVE), a support group for its female employees.

By July 2015, LOVE helped the company’s female employees become more confident in participating amongst male workers. One of the employees, Debra, said that LOVE restored the energy she used to have in secondary school. In January 2016, Dimitri Zakharov (CEO of Impact Enterprises) said the LOVE support group significantly strengthened the company’s employees and services.

Zambia’s Action Plan For Unemployed Youth

In March 2016, Zambia’s government developed an action plan to increase employment for Zambia’s youth. These are some of the action plan’s objectives:

  • Make youth employment a strategic target for developing Zambia’s economy.
  • Rejuvenate the dynamism of the local labour markets by enhancing the quality of Zambia’s graduate programs and students’ skills.
  • Ensure full participation of Zambia’s young men and women in the design and planning of youth-centred interventions.

Jerry Sakala (patron of Zambia’s U.N. Youth Association) said that for strides of addressing unemployed youth to be meaningful, strong and coordinated responses will be required from both Zambia’s stakeholders and its youth. “This multi-sectoral approach will ensure that programmes and activities to empower and create employment opportunities for the youth are mainstreamed across all sectors,” said Sakala.

A Young Zambian Entrepreneur Employs 50 People

For young Zambians who have achieved stable employment, they now work to give back to their fellow unemployed residents. In February 2017, Jessie Chipindo (a young entrepreneur and founder of Zambia’s Dulce & Banana restaurant) employed 50 specialized staff to work for her business. Zambia’s government was greatly pleased with Chipindo’s work. Chipindo thanked the government for creating an environment where the country’s young entrepreneurs could flourish.

Agriculture as a Profitable Investment For Zambia’s Youth

In January 2018, Dr. Kaunda (cofounder of Billionaire Farmer Agric Solutions) said that Zambia’s youth could generate great profit from agricultural work; however, the challenge lies in attracting the youth to this job in the first place.

“We need to change the outdated perception that agriculture is back-breaking, unprofitable work for an old, tired generation,” said Kaunda. Kaunda also says that while agricultural work yields financial benefits, it still requires a firm commitment to hard work.

Establishing a Positive Change

On March 26, 2018, the Innovative Zambian Youths Organization (IZYO) institution planned to an entrepreneurship summit for Zambia’s youth. Joseph Maimba (the institution’s CEO) said this is part of the Zambian government’s effort to close the unemployment gap among the country’s young people. The summit will be begin on April 5, 2018 and focus on helping Zambia’s young entrepreneurs develop new skills.

Zambia’s government sees the potential of its young people to develop the country’s economic standing, and many entities will continue to focus on creating employment for Zambia’s youth

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Best Careers for Fighting PovertyMany people are looking to make a difference these days through volunteer work, making donations and voting, but there are also many careers that can make a huge impact. The best careers for fighting poverty may be surprising to some, but each makes a difference in the lives of others.

Working in these fields makes the world a better place and improves the lives of the poor:

  1. Teachers
    Kids spend approximately 1,200 hours annually in the classroom. A teacher’s influence is vast and encompasses the education, mental health and safety of the children they teach. Education is vital in the fight against poverty and provides students with the tools necessary to make a living and gain the schooling needed to avoid poverty.
    It is important more than ever that female teachers gain employment in developing areas. This allows girls in culturally strict regions to be able to attend school, feel safe and receive gender equality in the classroom.
  2. Social Workers
    Those in vulnerable situations are able to receive support through their social workers, such as family counselors. Social workers work to improve the mental health of those seeking counsel, and help diagnose emotional issues, so that they can receive treatment and progress professionally.
  3. Doctors and Nurses
    Working in one of the best careers for fighting poverty, those in the medical field have the power to affect the health of people in poorer communities. They can even opt to go abroad with volunteer groups or Doctors Without Borders during seasons they choose.
    Doctors and nurses can also help vaccinate those in developing countries, provide health counsel and improve the health conditions of the community they work in. Citizens in good health are less likely to remain or fall into poverty in the first place. With good health, they are able to work full time, participate in the economy and attend school.
  4. Entrepreneurs
    People who start their own businesses are able to address issues that may not have already been addressed by their communities or nations yet. Entrepreneurs have the power to not only create jobs and positively impact their local economies, but are also able to create influential movements and businesses.
  5. Lawyers
    Lawyers are able to participate in pro-bono work, providing legal assistance to those who would not otherwise be able to afford the help. They are also able to prevent those wrongly accused from going to prison, which stimulates the economy and keeps people in the work force and out of crime.

There are many influential jobs that can reduce poverty in communities, but these are the best careers for fighting poverty that have the widest reach. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime and to be able to make those hours count is an impactful feat, accomplished by those who care enough to make a career out of making a difference.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

fintech startups in AfricaFinancial technology, or fintech, refers to innovations aimed at new ways of delivering financial services. With the goal of changing lives, fintech startups in Africa are moving people forward on a digital route. Fortunately, such firms have no lack of funding.

According to a recent report from Disrupt Africa, the overall funding from venture capitalists jumped by 51 percent to $195 million from 2016 to 2017, with fintech funding accounting for one-third of the funds. The regions that were considered as the top three investment destinations were South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

Over the past several months, the African tech scene has trended in a positive direction as consumers turn to more digitally driven services in the region. After the success of MPesa in Kenya, many fintech startups in Africa are aiming to bridge the digital gap across other unreached communities in the region.

Here are three leading fintech startups in Africa that are rethinking ways to digitalize communities in Africa.

 

Flutterwave


Flutterwave was founded in 2016 and provides payment technologies and infrastructure to the continent’s largest financial institutions. With the aim of disrupting the traditional banking style in Africa, its instant rise captures the current tech scene of Africa.

The company currently operates in more than 36 countries and has partnered with 10 bank partners in Africa. With as much as 34 percent of adults in sub-Saharan Africa with bank accounts, Flutterwave has a practically untapped market to reach.
Founded by ex-bankers, entrepreneurs and engineers, the technology aims to make banking simple for its customers. With 10 million transactions processed, Flutterwave has processed $1.2 billion in payments and receives the backing from venture capitalists like Y-Combinator, Ventures and Social Capital. The company provides solutions for banks, enterprise and entrepreneurs, with no upfront, annual or special project fees.

According to a World Bank report, roughly $20 billion a year is sent to Nigeria alone, and foreign remittances made up the second-largest source of foreign exchange receipts in Africa’s biggest economy after oil revenues. Flutterwave aims to target the digital payment gap, enabling users to transfer money into different bank accounts. Such fintech initiatives will allow the communities and families in Africa to receive digital payments from family members and business relatives from across countries and, in turn, will spur growth in the developing region.

 

Pezesha


Launched in Kenya, Pezesha aims to become Africa’s largest peer to business microlending marketplace by including Africa’s low-income borrowers in the financial system. As one of the leading fintech startups in Africa, Pezesha is driven by the core values of integrity, security, reliability, excellence in teamwork, accountability, responsibility and innovation.

Instant loans can be availed by borrowers on the peer-to-peer lending platform via SMS, provided the minimum criteria is met. Such services allow low-income borrowers in Africa to generate credit scores using data analytics. Pezesha also extends funding for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which could indirectly benefit jobs and employment in the small business sector.

SMEs create 80 percent of the region’s employment and fuel demand for new goods and services. But according to The World Bank, an estimated 50 percent of SMEs have no credit access and are less likely to secure loans when compared to larger firms. By providing microcredit access, small businesses will get funding support and allow entrepreneurs to design bankable projects.

Pezesha was recently selected to participate in the BlackBox Connect 20 accelerator programme, powered by sponsors like Google, IBM, Stripe and Silicon Valley Bank.

 

Riby

Riby has become one of the best 50 emerging fintech startups in the world, according to the recent annual Fintech 100 report by KPMG and H2 Ventures. Based in Nigeria, Riby offers a mobile app-based service for a range of financial management features including the digitization of collaborative saving, lending and investments.

Riby acts as a platform for groups, employees, individuals, associations and financial development institutions and remotely helps them controls their financial activities.

The app includes features like personal savings, cooperative savings and loan management, peer-to-peer lending, agent management and personal and group investment management. Through the digitization of collaborative saving, lending and investments, Riby aims to increase financial literacy amongst individual members of the groups.

A major reason for the fintech rise is the usage of mobile phones in Africa, which has increased from five percent in 2003 to 73 percent in 2014. With 650 million mobile phone owners in the continent (more than in the U.S. and Europe combined), the 3G mobile network is also growing rapidly.

According to Disrupt Africa, more than 300 fintech startups are active across the African continent. It is evident that fintech startups in Africa are attracting the attention of banks and investors, but more importantly, they are helping the lives of many unbanked customers in Africa and indirectly improving the economic condition of the country.

For the African economy, the tech wave has just started. The untapped market could provide a wealth of opportunities for many fintech startups, equipping customers with more sophisticated digital tools.

– Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr

 EconomyWomen are dominating the African workforce and increasing revenue in many countries. This domination has led many countries to recognize how female entrepreneurship drives the economy through innovation and success as technology continues to advance.

Companies such as Mastercard are traveling to Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa to partner with nonprofit organizations aimed at teaching young girls why they should enter the workforce and how they can make an impact. With these partnerships, organizations, such as the Mini Enterprise Programme, hope that girls and women will take the initiative to enter the workforce in the near future.

In Ghana, women make up more than half of the labor force; if maximally utilized, the additional personnel could lead to increased production of good services by 2.5 percent within one year. One of the benefits of being able to export more products in a year is the increased revenue it brings in to the country. Female entrepreneurship drives the economy in Ghana by helping to build more jobs and providing more opportunities for other women to enter the force.

Female entrepreneurship also drives the economy by using education to teach youth. Companies work with organizations to empower young girls, as they have recognized the potential young girls have to drive the economy in the future. Many women in the field have stepped up as role models and proven that they can start businesses just as successfully as a man.

Furthermore, women are working faster than men to start businesses in many African countries. According to the World Bank, the time required to start a business for women and men increased about a day between 2015 and 2016,  however, women were still, overall, faster than men by one day.

The opportunity to involve women is a positive step forward not only for the economy, but for the alleviation of poverty experienced by many around the world. Approximately six out of 10 of the world’s poorest people are women. They are usually the primary caretakers of the family, yet are often denied the opportunity to earn an adequate living.

The initiatives set out by Mastercard and other organizations give hope to women suffering from poverty and promote the continued empowerment of women. Empowering young girls has led to more African countries seeing the benefits of having female entrepreneurship drive their economies.

– Seriah Sargenton

Photo: Flickr

Women's entrepreneurship in developing nationsInvesting in women and girls is a promising way to develop a global economy. One way to do that is via women’s entrepreneurship in developing nations.  A thriving and successful economy and an enlarged consumer base are just some of the benefits of increased female membership in business and leadership positions. Developing nations stand to face the most benefits from the inclusion of women in the business world.

“Women’s economic participation and their ownership and control of productive assets speeds up development, helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities and improves children’s nutrition, health, and school attendance”, reports the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Women are more likely to devote more of their earnings back into their families and communities than their male counterparts, feeding money back into their local communities.

An example of this is with seaweed farming. Women dominate the seaweed farming industry in several developing nations. A study focusing on Africa, India, and South-East Asia found that women made up roughly 90 percent of seaweed farmers in Tanzania, representing leadership opportunities and a significant trade for women. Economic contributions from seaweed farming were observed improving the quality of life for families involved in the farming business, according to the report.

The “seaweed women” made important advances in the sustainability of the farming practice but the women also demonstrate dedication and patience as described by their male coworkers during the farming process. Community members also benefit from the local seaweed industry, the report claims.

A similar study finds that female farmer-entrepreneurs in Ghana have contributed to local poverty reduction. While the study did not directly report on the residual benefits, “It is reasonable to infer that improvements in entrepreneurial ventures lead to the creation of more jobs, which improves the local economy,” the report concedes.

Thailand, The Philippines, Botswana, Costa Rica, South Africa, Peru, Malaysia, Colombia, Romania and China are among some of the lower-middle and low-income economies scoring high on Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs. Furthermore, despite unfavorable entrepreneurial conditions, women in Bangladesh, Uganda, Mexico and Vietnam are resolute and establishing successful businesses.

Though there are many success stories, increasing women’s access to financial services and easier accruement of credit would facilitate benefits intrinsic to women’s entrepreneurship in developing nations. Experts claim that women are an untapped resource essential to global economic growth and development.

The OECD argues that the inclusion of women’s voices in politics are essential to mitigate gender disparities and commence national benefits for nations collectively. Featuring more women’s entrepreneurship in developing nations also contributes to emerging markets and increases global trading partners. Advocating for women in more business positions is in the best interest of everyone. In the words of the all-wise Spice Girls, girl power.

– Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr

Middle EastIt seems like every year, another company or app comes out that changes our lives and disrupts traditional businesses. Netflix changed movies and TV shows, Uber changed individual transportation and Airbnb changed the hotel industry. These new and innovative companies have allowed more people to access services that may have been out of reach in the past.

Now, this trend has taken hold in an unlikely place: the Middle East.

Currently, the two most prominent Middle Eastern startups in the region are Souq, an online e-commerce retailer and Careem, a ride-hailing service. While these firms are not based around wholly original ideas, the mere fact of their creation shows a desire for citizens in these countries to utilize smart technology to improve their daily lives.

Amazon’s acquisition of Souq in 2017 showed the effectiveness of the firm in the region, considering that Amazon’s modus operandi when entering new regions involves launching its own platform paired with a substantial investment component. The efficiency of Souq, however, allowed Amazon to make a direct buyout instead.

Startups like those seen in other parts of the world are sprouting up in the region regardless of the challenging economic and political circumstances they face. In 2016, the top 100 startups in the region raised over $1.42 billion, with each firm raising at least $500,000. But this does not come easily.

Many Middle Eastern countries do not have a conducive climate for startups compared to western Europe and North America. Bankruptcy laws and overregulation have stifled innovation for decades. However, the increase in startup firms in a variety of sectors shows a young, tech-savvy population that seeks to innovate and reinvigorate the economies of the Arab world.

Jamalon, an online book-selling firm, was started by a Jordanian who grew up in Palestinian refugee camps. Ala’ Alsallal saw a need for greater access to Arabic-language books for people in the region, especially works that are banned by various governments in the region.

“You know what the censors told me? ‘We don’t want any books that can change the way people think,'” Alsallal told Forbes Magazine. “That doesn’t matter,” he says. “We just keep sending them.”

Entrepreneurship with a social mission is common among startups, and it is no different in the Middle East, as shown by Jamalon. Average citizens are destined to benefit immensely from these companies. If this trend continues, the advent of Middle Eastern startups will increase access to services and will improve the quality of life for the people of the region.

Daniel Cavins
Photo: Flickr

AfricaRural Africa is one of the most poverty-stricken regions of the world. Half of the global poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa and 389 million in this region live on less than $1.90. While other regions in the world have seen drastic reductions in poverty, progress in Sub-Saharan Africa has been slow. Even though the persistence of rural poverty in Africa is a multi-faceted problem, certain primary factors can be addressed. The extreme poor lack access to resources to achieve economic empowerment. Thankfully, organizations like Village Enterprise have stepped up to the plate to introduce new opportunities.

Village Enterprise provides a graduation program on entrepreneurship and innovation for those living in extreme poverty in Uganda and Kenya. The organization hopes that its simple and cost-effective model can help bring an end to extreme rural poverty in Africa. Village Enterprise stands out from other organizations by using a group-based approach. Each business is started by a group of three people and usually provides support for 20 people in the community. When individuals join the program, they can’t pay for their family’s needs and have no business experience. The program includes training, a $150 grant and mentorship for the aspiring entrepreneurs.

81 percent of the businesses started through Village Enterprise were founded by female entrepreneurs. This is especially important, since women reinvest 90 percent of their income on average to their families and communities, while men only reinvest 30 to 40 percent.

Lucy Wurtz, Development and Communications Director for Village Enterprise, told The Borgen Project that the employees on the ground have tools, including Grameen’s Progress Out of Poverty Index, to determine the level of poverty in a community and who could use their services. Then, every household in the community is invited to join the program. While only 30 entrepreneurs can be working and training in a group at a time, Village Enterprise can reach 90 to 100 households in a community a year.

“The idea is everyone who wants to has a chance to participate,” says Wurtz, “so you are lifting up the whole area.”

When the program is finished, Village Enterprise is able to move on. Once the entrepreneurs learn the skills, they are empowered and able to continue improving their economic standing. The business owners are also able to work together as a group, as each member can pick up different skills. Some become especially adept at finance and can help their fellow entrepreneurs with book-keeping. Others may specialize in marketing or leadership.

“Once you give a number of skills to a group of people,” says Wurtz, “that group starts acting as a support body to disperse the skills within the group members and take on the attributes of what you’re teaching.”

Village Enterprise measures the impact of the program by the increase in the standard of living. The organization recently conducted a randomized trial involving 6,000 households and 138 villages in Uganda. Researchers returned to the communities a year after the program was finished to see if there were still significant improvements. The study will soon be available to view on the Village Enterprise website.

The organization is expanding in several ways. It continues to grow in the countries in which it already works, Kenya and Uganda, and is also looking into expanding into other African countries, with the Democratic Republic of Congo being one potential target. One of the factors driving expansion is a new opportunity for donors. Village Enterprise is now participating in an innovative way to finance development: development impact bonds. These bonds get investors to pay up front for the costs of an intervention that can be measured by predetermined metrics. If the goals are met, then an outcome payor, usually a donor agency or foundation, will pay back the investor based on this performance.

Village Enterprise has started over 39,000 businesses and trained over 156,000 entrepreneurs. With hope, this approach can go on to empower and lift up the over 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty.

Brock Hall

Photo: Flickr

Argentina's Growing Tech Hub in Latin AmericaArgentina is one of three Latin American countries in the G20 and now has a booming tech industry. Though the industry has been on the rise since the 1980s after a major Argentinian recession, growth in recent years can be attributed to a few key factors.

One reason for Argentina’s growing tech hub is President Mauricio Macri’s new market-friendly policies. President Macri has sought to use the tech sector as a source for both new growth and reduced economic reliance on commodities. Though criticized, the policies Macri has introduced have helped the country reopen access to international debt markets and incentivized entrepreneurship. The Macri administration expects that 1.5 percent of GDP will come from the tech sector because of new policies.

The new law, called Ley de Emprendedores, or the Entrepreneur’s Law, replaces a previous law where approval and financing procedures took nearly a year to complete before entrepreneurs could legally launch their companies. The policy also allocates public funding to co-invest with private funding into businesses, by the means of the Fiduciary Fund for the Development of Venture Capital. This legislation is backed by both the Association of Entrepreneurs in Argentina and the Argentina Association of Private Equity, Venture and Seed Capital.

As such, the startup technological field continues to grow with a new generation of companies. These companies include the Y-Combinater backed Bluesmart, satellite startup Satellogic which raised $20 million last year to build imaging satellites and Affluenta, a peer to peer lending platform, which raised $8 million last year.

The stars of Argentina’s growing tech hub are three internet companies located in Buenos Aires that are worth over a billion dollars: MercadoLibre, OLX and Despegar. MercadoLibre is the only internet company from Latin America that is listed on NASDAQ. As the Huffington Post states, “a startup ecosystem is flourishing” in Argentina.

Gabriella Paez

Photo: Flickr

Pitch & FlowMC Lyte and DJ D-Nice hosted Pitch & Flow, a competition where rappers and social entrepreneurs join together to win money for their causes.

Pitch & Flow was held on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. According to XXL, celebrity guests included Stretch Armstrong, Melissa Bradley, Young Paris and Doug E. Fresh.

The Africa Creative Agency, Unreasonable Group and Lowe’s Innovation Labs paired the rappers and the social entrepreneurs together for the competition. The eight rappers weave the goals of their entrepreneurs into stories that encouraged the audience to vote for them. After three rounds, the winning duo won $7500 for their cause.

The causes championed at Pitch & Flow represented many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Some of the goals illustrated within the causes include uses for solar energy, educating the incarcerated and recyclable material production.

According to CityLab, all of the rappers involved in Pitch & Flow are passionate about social issues themselves. Many of them “double as activists and educators, and are in line with the grassroots vibe of the whole event. One of them even served as a Hip-Hop Cultural Envoy for the U.S. State Department.” The event gives rappers the opportunity to use their skills to promote a good cause.

Pitch & Flow also provides a unique opportunity for the organizations in regards to informing others about what the organization is about. Rap presents the organizations’ values in a creative and concise way that sticks with an audience.

At the end of Pitch & Flow, rapper and Northeastern University math professor Professor Lyrical and Sun Culture entrepreneur Samir Ibrahim won the $7500 prize. Sun Culture is an organization that “provides solar-powered irrigation systems to farmers in East Africa,” according to Essence.

Pitch & Flow illustrates how the creative arts can be used to promote worthwhile global causes.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr