Indigenous Communities in Latin America
Data from 2014 shows that there are 58.2 million Indigenous people and 826 different ethnic groups in Latin America. Due to marginalization and discrimination, the current challenges for Indigenous communities in Latin America include a lack of access to quality education, inadequate access to health care services, low internet access and land appropriation.

Challenges for Indigenous Communities in Latin America

  • Health. Life expectancy among Indigenous peoples is up to 20 years lower than non-Indigenous people, according to the United Nations, due to disease outbreaks. A lack of access to treatment and quality health care due to poverty and marginalization also plays a significant role. In particular, “Indigenous peoples experience disproportionately high levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular illnesses, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis,” the U.N. reports. In fact, more than half of Indigenous adults suffer from type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, maternal mortality is a very concerning issue that affects mothers and newborns because of low access to hospitals and the lack of available doctors/trained professionals. In Guatemala, for example, in 2008, skilled professionals attended only about 30% of the births involving Indigenous women.
  • Education. Education is a proven pathway out of oppression, marginalization and poverty. According to Article 14 of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.” Yet, one of the current challenges for Indigenous communities in Latin America is the lack of access to quality education at all levels and low completion rates. In 2016, 85% of Indigenous children in Latin America participated in secondary education but just 40% finished their secondary education.
  • Access to the Internet. The OECD says the “Internet is the backbone of the digital economy, it underpins much of the world’s social activity and it is a powerful catalyst for innovation, economic growth and social well-being.” Among other benefits, the internet increases access to education, job opportunities and information and allows for the dissemination of information and news. But, Indigenous peoples lack access to the internet and digital tools required to thrive in an increasingly digital world. For example, in Ecuador and Peru, non-indigenous households have access to the internet “six times greater” than Indigenous communities.
  • Land Appropriation. Indigenous people have faced issues concerning land rights in the territories belonging to them. Apart from territorial invasions and forced displacements, deforestation as well as construction and mining activities affect Indigenous peoples’ rights to preserve their lands. In most of these situations, major companies are involved. Indigenous communities have faced violence from people looking to exploit the land’s resources. Data indicates that Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras saw 2,109 incidents of “communities affected by extractive industries and their associated activities” between 2017 and 2021.

The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)

The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to defending and upholding “Indigenous Peoples’ individual and collective rights.” Its primary goal is to promote, respect and safeguard “Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land, territories and resources.”

The IWGIA was founded in 1968 when a group of concerned scholars became aware of the genocide against Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon. The IWGIA is currently working in different areas, such as climate change, land appropriation and global governance.

Safeguarding Land Rights and Amplifying Voices

In terms of displacement and land appropriation/dispossession, IWGIA explains the far-reaching consequences: “Land dispossession will lead to the loss of Indigenous Peoples’ traditional livelihood practices and the inter-generational transfer of Indigenous knowledge and will undermine their social organization, traditional institutions and cultural and spiritual practices; all of which can cause poverty, food insecurity, social disintegration and loss of identity and human dignity.” For these reasons, IWGIA’s “strategic focus areas” for 2021 to 2025 involve documenting violations, advocating for accountability and protection and empowering and supporting Indigenous people to “defend their land rights and to achieve land tenure security.”

The IWGIA wants to ensure Indigenous people’s voices are heard at an international level and that Indigenous people participate in important decision-making processes. In 2021, IWGIA produced 58 articles, podcasts and videos to raise awareness of Indigenous rights and spoke to nine different universities to disseminate this information. The IWGIA also participated in 20 United Nations meetings and made efforts by “facilitating events, providing information and supporting Indigenous Peoples’ participation.”

Despite ongoing marginalization and discrimination, human rights advocates and organizations continue to fight for the rights of vulnerable Indigenous communities.

– Elena Luisetto
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty Reduction in Colombia
Colombia is a country located in Northwestern South America with a historically high poverty rate, exacerbated by the economic turmoil in the country during COVID-19. Inflation onset by the pandemic targeted Colombia’s primary industries, which included construction, mining and retail. These industries all fell by 27.7%, 15.7% and 15.1% respectively in 2020. Overall, the Colombian economy declined by a total of 6.8% in total as a result of the collective recession of major industries within the country. This resulted in Colombia’s GDP growth rate falling from 3.2% in 2019 to -7% in 2020.

With the apparent downturn in Colombia’s economy, issues such as unemployment and poverty became more prevalent in the country. This warranted concern as before the pandemic more than one-third of the population already lived below the poverty line in 2019 and Colombia ranked as one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of income. Recent changes and discussions in Colombia’s government, however, promise a future of poverty reduction in Colombia.

The 2022 Colombian Presidential Election

Colombia swore Gustavo Petro into the presidency on August 7, 2022. Regarded as one of the closest elections in Colombia’s political history, Petro outwon his running mate Rodolfo Hernández by a 50.48% majority and made history by becoming Colombia’s first left-wing president. He looks to the goal of closing all inequity gaps within Colombia, including the wealth gap. Petro is actively working toward achieving his goal of economic reform in Colombia to counter the issue within the country.

Petro’s New Legislation

Projections have indicated that Petro’s proposed legislation will raise more than $11.5 billion annually to combat poverty in Colombia through two key actions. Firstly, the plan involves taxing the top 2% of Colombia’s highest earners. Petro stated that Colombian society should not view this action “as a punishment or a sacrifice,” but rather, “a solidarity payment that someone fortunate makes to a society that has enabled them to generate wealth,” The Guardian reported.

Secondly, Petro plans to implement an additional levy on energy and mining exports, sectors that significantly contribute to Colombia’s financial revenue. He aims to “add a 10% tax on some of Colombia’s biggest exports — oil, coal and gold — after prices rise above a certain threshold,” The Guardian reported.

Petro believes that these two major changes are the key to overall poverty reduction in Colombia. The proposal has received mixed reactions. Petro’s supporters are hopeful as they are happy to see his campaign promises come to fruition, meanwhile, others are skeptical, believing that Petro is too altruistic and is targeting the wealthy.

Looking Ahead

In 2019, Colombia’s wealthiest 20% “earned more than half of all income made” in that year, says Colombia Reports. The president’s proposal of taxing the wealthy will help to reduce inequality in Colombia and ensure a more fair distribution of wealth. This proposal will not only aid Colombians living in poverty but will also significantly aid with post-pandemic economic recovery.

– Aarika Sharma
Photo: Unsplash

English Learning in Latin AmericaLatin America notes large numbers of extreme poverty across its population. In 2021, extreme poverty hit 86 million, under the pressures of COVID-19. This is a 5 million increase from 2020 — the Social Panorama of Latin America report highlights that this is a setback equivalent to 27 years. English learning in Latin America could help reduce poverty across the region by opening up more economic opportunities.

English Learning in Latin America

According to the English Proficiency Index, “Latin America is the region [with] the lowest levels of English” as of 2020. Low English proficiency rates stem from a “low quality of language teaching programs in public education and the difficulties in accessing alternative training” as a result of the scarcity of language training institutions and the expensive costs of such programs.

According to the index, some of the Latin American countries with the lowest rates of English proficiency are Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico. In Mexico, less than 10% of schools have English as part of the education curriculum. Furthermore, in 2015, Latin America lagged 2.5 years behind Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in schooling development.

The Importance of English Skills

According to the report “Work in Progress: English Teaching and Teachers in Latin America, “Many, if not most, English teachers in Latin America lack either the necessary English skills, the necessary pedagogical skills, or both, to be effective educators in the classroom.” Yet, most Latin American countries do not have programs in place to ensure English educators receive the training necessary for high-quality English education.

The Inter-American Dialogue highlights that one of the top “21st-century skills for most countries in [Latin America] is English language proficiency.” It says further, “English proficiency is increasingly necessary for business and international communication and, in that regard, linked with prospects for economic competitiveness and growth in the global economy.”

Learning English in Latin America offers many new opportunities, sources of revenue and securities. There are clear benefits to learning and speaking more than one language. In particular, English speaking skills open up a greater range of job opportunities. On top of this, English is commonly used as “a trade language or diplomatic language.” In fields such as tourism, science and computers, English is the dominant language.

Opportunities in and out of Latin America

Firstly, tourism is booming in Latin America, bringing significant income to the region. Considering the proximity of the United States and Canada to Mexico, it is no surprise that Mexico is a popular destination for tourists from these English-speaking countries.

In 2019 alone, 55 million U.S. citizens traveled to Latin America. Speaking English would likely enable locals in Latin America to do business more effectively in the tourism market. Locals could conduct tours in English or provide translation services.

English is growing as the language of choice for international business and trade, known as “business English.” As much as 80% of jobs offered in Latin America require proficiency in English. Considering only 20% of professionals in Latin America can speak English, a lack of English proficiency is concerning for labor markets. As international commerce expands, if Latin America wants to draw in more money and attain greater job security and revenue, it needs to promote greater education in English. This will persuade more multinational corporations to relocate to Latin America or hire individuals within Latin America.

Lastly, speaking English provides individuals with the opportunity to apply for jobs in countries that offer better wages and job security. The minimum wage in Mexico is 172 pesos for one day of work, which converts to around $8 a day.

The Positives of the Pandemic: Education, Policies and Technology

The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise in education software that people across the world can access remotely. This expands people’s access to opportunities for English learning. With the added pressure on governments to provide online services for schooling, in Latin America, there are now 12 million adults accessing online education, UNESCO says.

Many Latin American countries are recognizing the importance of providing English language learning opportunities. Costa Rica has made English learning compulsory and launched an initiative in 2018 where teachers across the country enter into English learning courses.

Following the increased pressures of COVID-19, resulting in about a third of Latin America living below the extreme poverty line as of May 2021, English learning in Latin America appears to offer a window for many to access new opportunities in a wider job market with higher pay and more security. If Latin America continues to prioritize English learning, this skill could translate to economic growth across the region.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Unsplash

how-electric-vehicles-are-driving-growth-in-latin-americaElectric vehicles are quickly gaining traction all across the globe. Consumers are recognizing that battery-powered engines are not only good for the environment but can also save them money in the long run. Major automobile producers are taking note, with corporations like General Motors saying they will produce only electric vehicles by the 2030s. This emerging market seems to be a win-win for both consumers and producers. However, the largest benefactor of the shift to electric vehicles may not be producers or consumers, but instead Latin America. Here is how electric vehicles are driving growth in Latin America.

Foreign Direct Investment

Every major recipient country in Latin America saw foreign direct investment (FDI) rise in 2021, with the majority of this growth being tied to the mining and energy sectors. This is because Latin America contains some of the world’s largest deposits of cobalt and lithium, two mandatory ingredients of the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles. In fact, Latin America contains the “lithium triangle” of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile where the highest lithium concentrations in the world are found. 

The Problem

Despite these vast stores of valuable minerals, many Latin American countries have been unable to capitalize on them thus far. Cobalt and lithium can be difficult to mine and store. Lithium, for example, takes 12-18 months of filtration after bringing the mineral to the surface before extraction can occur, according to Lithium Congress. While this process isn’t very capital intensive, researchers estimate it could take nearly 500,000 gallons of water per ton of lithium extracted. In one Chilean region, lithium mining resulted in the region losing 65% of its water.

For some rural communities, this simply isn’t feasible without outside investment in infrastructure.  Additionally, mining these materials poses serious health and safety risks to miners, civilians and the environment. In the United States, chemical leakage from lithium mining affects fish 150 miles downstream from a lithium mining operation, according to Lithium Congress. In order to extract these resources in a safe manner, this industry needs long-term infrastructural investment and new technology. Fortunately, due to the increase in popularity of electric vehicles, this investment is starting to flow into the region, developing new technologies to make the process safer.

Chile

Chile, one of the countries in the “lithium triangle” received a 32% increase in its FDI from 2020, bringing its total investment to $13 billion, according to UNCATD. However, not everyone celebrates this investment. Lithium mining in Chile has already placed a heavy burden on its fragile ecosystem. Many citizens are wary of investments that could increase this burden. Entire rivers are beginning to dry up in Chile due to excessive water waste from lithium mining. Without proper intervention, lithium mining is posing a direct threat to the indigenous communities across Chile that rely on natural water sources for agriculture.

Clearly, Chile needs a new mining method. Fortunately, KMX Technologies and CleanTech are teaming up to bring their proprietary Direct Lithium Extraction technology to the country’s mines. This technology could be able to minimize a mining operation’s environmental footprint, address water and other resource scarcity and make mining operations more efficient.

Argentina

Argentina contains the second largest lithium reserves in the world, but like Chile, it has had trouble capitalizing on these reserves. However, this is likely to change soon. Chinese corporation Ganfeng Lithium agreed to construct a $600 million lithium plant that solar panels power entirely. This project could create 100,000 jobs in the country.

Job creation is critical for Argentina. In 2021, the country posted an unemployment rate of 10.9%, a figure well below the OECD average of 5.7% in the same year. Construction on the mine started in June 2022 and while no expected completion date has been announced, the expected production from this mine is an astounding 20,000 tons of lithium chloride per year.

Brazil

In Brazil, relaxed rules on lithium exporting could draw $2.76 billion in FDI by 2030. The majority of this expected investment is predicted to go to one of Brazil’s poorest regions, the state of Minas Gerais. Approximately 1.21 million people in Minas Gerais are multidimensionally poor. The largest concentration of the multidimensionally poor in the state of Minas Gerais lives in the more rural northern regions of the state. This same area is where the largest lithium deposits in Brazil are found, along the Jequitinhonha River valley. Large-scale investment into lithium mining has the potential to completely transform this region and Brazil’s emphasis on sustainable development for Lithium projects adds a layer of protection for civilians in that area.

Lithium and cobalt mining has the potential to transform Latin American economies. While the two minerals can and have created problems for mining countries in the past, an increase in electric vehicle demand is driving corporations to solve these problems. In doing so, electric vehicles are also driving growth in Latin America, making mining cheaper, more effective, and safer. The FDI rushing into Latin America due to lithium and cobalt demand could not only transform the mining sector but most of the economy. This level of investment necessitates infrastructural investment, creates long-term jobs and could foster a competitive business environment.

Benjamin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Aid to Latin America
The diverse sprawl of nations that make up Latin America and the Caribbean is currently mired in the intense ramifications of inequity and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite internal efforts from across Latin American nations to fight off poverty, inequality and illness, it is evident that more foreign aid to Latin America is necessary. The aid should fall into the two main categories of helping maintain sovereignty for Latin Americans and growing their economies.

The Current Crisis

The most significant threat to lifting Latin American nations out of poverty is the rate of high inequality paired alongside low social program spending, which has resulted in the region accounting for 28% of total global COVID-19 fatalities by April 2022 despite only making up 8.4% of the world’s population. In addition, ineffective cash transfers and tax systems, which often neglect to collect from the wealthiest citizens, result in women, Indigenous communities and other marginalized groups bearing the brunt of the economic fallout.

The impact of the pandemic has only exacerbated the issues of low social program spending and lack of progressive taxation. Increased food insecurity, economic contraction of 7.4% in the region in 2020, as well as increased poverty and extreme poverty rates, all paint the current picture of economic and social inequality in Latin America and the need for more aid to alleviate the region’s levels of poverty.

Current Aid

Funds are currently in play, supplying aid to Latin America for COVID-19 relief and future infrastructure support. The World Bank initiated funding for public health systems throughout 2021, various industry support funds, vaccines and emergency health response improvement. Countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Panama have received substantive aid with the primary focus on COVID-19 and health-related recovery.

Over the past 20 years, the need for aid in Latin America and the Caribbean has remained high, but due to developmental growth in the region, the “U.S. government has increasingly concentrated those resources in fewer countries and sectors.”

The rate of poverty in the region reduced from 45.3% in 2002 to 30.5% in 2019. However, around 2015, progress in many Latin American nations began to stagnate. Political instability deteriorated economic conditions in nations such as Nicaragua and Venezuela, and poverty levels only worsened across the region in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the Biden administration has proposed as of March 31, 2022, a foreign assistance budget of $2.1 billion for aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. However, these funds have yet to receive approval and the type of causes that the money would go to suggests that there is no exclusive focus on marginalized groups and women in these countries.

The Necessary Aid

An Amnesty International report in April 2022 shows the need for more aid to Latin America in the coming months, but the kind of aid that goes beyond basic health and economic assistance. Most notably, countries must rework the frame of providing funding and aid by opting for a “human rights-based approach to recovering from the pandemic and tackling inequality.”

Looking Ahead

With much of the impact of the social and economic fallout of the pandemic falling on the women of these countries, aid that is to come to the region must take into account how services and economic improvements can work for women. Aid that helps Latin American countries provide financial investment for improved infrastructure is aid that can help alleviate poverty. In addition, aid with a focus on equality and taking into account the social and economic discrepancies on a nation-by-nation basis can more adequately contribute to ending poverty in Latin America.

– Albert Vargas
Photo: Flickr

USAID's $331 Million Initiative
On June 9, 2022, during the Ninth Summit of the Americas, Samantha Power, administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that USAID will allocate $331 million to help bolster “medium-to-long-term food security and resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean.” USAID’s $331 million initiative to address food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean also includes direct emergency food assistance to vulnerable populations in the region. In addition to emergency food assistance, USAID will allocate more than $198 million in related assistance including sanitation and hygiene intervention. Subject to congressional approval, USAID will also spend more than $132 million on resources for smallholder farmers.

Powers explained, “The food crisis in the Americas will not be solved solely through emergency food assistance — far from it. It requires a long-term solution, one that sees Latin and Central American communities as partners rather than recipients.”

How Food Insecurity Impacted Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean

Food insecurity has negatively affected the livelihood of families and individuals in Latin America and the Caribbean. For instance, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) reported that more than 3.9 million Guatemalans “experienced high levels of food insecurity” between March and May 2022. Furthermore, the IPC also predicts that the number could increase to 4.6 million from June to September 2022. In addition, a 2022 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and United Nations World Food Programme survey found that 40% of the English-speaking Caribbean population suffers from food insecurity. That is a sharp increase from 2020. USAID’s $331 million initiative aims to reverse this trend.

On-the-Ground USAID Operations to Help Smallholder Farmers

USAID’s $331 million initiative also includes on-the-ground operations to tackle the issue head-on. A model for this type of support was the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program in Guatemala, which helped smallholder farmers access new and commercially-viable agricultural technology. From 2015 to 2018, the Feed the Future program helped more than 1,400 Guatemalan producers improve access to quality potato seeds. This illustrates the type of assistance USAID will be conducting in its effort to help Latin American and Caribbean countries tackle food insecurity with its $331 million initiative.

On-the-Ground USAID Operations to Help Households

USAID also has programs to support households in Latin America and the Caribbean struggling with food insecurity. For instance, USAID supported the 2015 – 2018 Más Riego program in Guatemala which aimed to improve smallholder family nutrition and income through training youth, smallholder businesses and families. Specifically, this project helped Guatemalan households and youth by training them on how to use low-pressure drip irrigation. This is the type of program USAID will support with the new $331 million initiative.

Looking Ahead

The influx of USAID funding for operations in Latin America and the Caribbean highlights an increasing prioritization of international development in U.S. foreign policy. As the Biden administration commented during the summit, the new USAID initiative “will result in big deliverables on issues for Latin America and the Caribbean such as migration, democracy, economic recovery and climate change.”

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Help Latin America
On April 26, 2022, Rep. Mark Green (R-TN-7) introduced the Western Hemisphere Nearshoring Act (H.R. 7579), a bipartisan bill that aims to accelerate economic development in Latin America through nearshoring. Using nearshoring to help Latin America and the Caribbean will also safeguard the interests of the U.S. Moving supply chains to Latin America, from China, will give many countries more sustainability. Decreasing dependency on China by establishing partnerships in the Western Hemisphere will bring a wide range of benefits, including poverty reduction in the region. By cosponsoring and advocating for the bill, U.S. legislators in both houses can support both the U.S. economy and the reduction of poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Benefits of Nearshoring

  • Promotes economic stability and growth in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Reduces migration to other countries from Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Reduces overdependence on China as a supply chain.
  • Greater “peace, security and democracy” in the region.

By importing goods from nearby countries instead of China, U.S. companies have a cheaper choice for international sourcing. This would help create jobs and rebuild the struggling economy in Latin America and the Caribbean, considering that the number of individuals enduring extreme poverty in the region increased to 86 million in 2021. Nearshoring would not only address the economic downturn but would also address job scarcity post-pandemic.

This nearshoring opportunity will benefit the region’s economy and everyday workers. Prospective deals could uplift multiple countries in the region and promote stability and growth. By helping its neighbors reverse poverty trends, the U.S. can also prevent dangerous journeys of migration by providing a solution in the home countries of potential migrants.

Poverty from the Source

U.S. companies would provide significant economic opportunities by using nearshoring to help Latin America and the Caribbean with benefits reaching rural and urban areas. One can understand poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean better by viewing the lack of job opportunities — the region has an unemployment rate of about 10% in 2021.

Whether it is rural people moving to urban cities where job opportunities are scarce or a lack of opportunity in rural areas themselves, private sector companies making deals in Latin America and the Caribbean would tackle the issue from its source. In the 2000 publication “Options for rural poverty reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Rubén G. Echeverría from the Sustainable Development Department of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) confirmed that economic growth and GDP increases will help reduce extreme poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The IDB has outlined and supported private sector companies that have provided better wages in rural areas. Urban-based centers for economic development and nearshoring would provide the city with jobs for those from rural areas or those with a lack of higher education.

Long-term Capability

In October 2021, the U.S. Chamber’s Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean (AACCLA) held the 2021 Virtual Forecast on Latin America and the Caribbean Conference. Discussions included considering nearshoring to help Latin America and the Caribbean’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

During the conference, “panelists shared insights on how to create a resilient and sustainable global supply chain, the opportunities to revitalize certain nations and the role foreign policy plays in supporting the Latin American and Caribbean economies.”

The Panamanian government sees nearshoring as a strong economic development solution for Panama as “60% of the world’s commerce goes through the Panama Canal.” Furthermore, “more than 170 multinational companies” have bases in Panama, making Panama the ideal nation for nearshoring.

By providing proof that nearshoring can have positive effects on Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. lawmakers have a great platform to support the U.S. economy while helping Latin America by providing economic opportunity and a way out of poverty.

– Karen Krosky
Photo: Flickr

Zubale's Economic Aid
E-commerce is a growing market worldwide and Latin America is no exception. Zubale, a company working in the e-commerce trade, connects workers, part- or full-time employees, with contractors and companies desperate for work. In its first major round of funding, a Series A round, Zubale earned $40 million in its first round of receiving significant venture capital. Zubale’s economic aid should expand operations throughout Latin America, beyond the boundaries of Mexico, where it started.

Zubale’s Foundation

The founders of Zubale, Allison Campbell and Sebastian Monroy created the company and began operations specifically in Mexico to serve as a testing ground and to allow people to find work and seek reliable income for those who have flexible schedules with the assistance of a smartphone. When the company first started, it connected workers with employers and the connected workers could earn rewards from certain corporations. Zubale, in its earliest days, worked out a system of credit that helped in the short-term for its contractors and part-time employees. However, as the company has grown, the workers who use Zubale’s app now earn reliable money.

Zubale’s economic aid in the very first stages of the company’s development was minimal. As the connected workers only earned digital rewards, the economic aid was less than desirable in Mexico. Initially, the company opened its business to the public with only 10 full-time employees. Now, it has quadrupled in the size of its full-time base of workers who work in Zubale’s headquarters. Furthermore, Zubale has countless part-time workers both in-office and find work for themselves through their phones. Campbell and Monroy founded the company in Mexico and have met with great success. They now expect to expand operations into Chile and Brazil, Grit Daily reports.

Impact in Mexico

When measuring their number of workers using the term “gig-workers,” whether full or part-time, Zubale has tens of thousands of workers who use the company’s app to find fieldwork. Campbell and Monroy learned that the Latin American retail and e-commerce markets generate $2 trillion. However, companies spend about $40 billion funding unreliable work and tasks. Zubale’s economic aid in Mexico saves companies money by finding them reliable, flexible work to fulfill the unfinished duties efficiently and effectively.

Mexico’s poverty rate is 43.9%, which means that numerous individuals can benefit from the work Zubale connects them to. Zubale’s setup helps the app’s workers set up checking and saving bank accounts and credit cards with major corporations that work and garner trust internationally. The impact Zubale can have in Mexico is even more impressive considering that more than half of the population does not have a secure bank account. Credit card ownership dropped from 15% to 9% from 2014 to 2017. The number of credit cards in Mexico has already increased by two million, with more than 28 million credit cards in circulation.

Zubale’s economic aid has gained a reputation and investors were eager to jump on board and get the work of Zubale to other Latin American nations. QED Investors was one of Zubale’s investors, and Lauren Morton, a partner at QED Investors, said, “We were immediately impressed by the vision and execution of the Zubale team. Their approach to growing opportunities for independent workers in the region is a major step forward in financial inclusion and we’re inspired by the ways to grow this impact over time.”

What Can Zubale Do for Latin America?

Zubale’s economic aid can mirror the impact it has had in Mexico. The company can lower the poverty rates and increase the number of people who have credit cards or secure checking or savings accounts with respected banking institutions. Zubale intends to start by expanding in Brazil and Chile. Sebastien Monroy moved to Brazil to begin Zubale’s operations slowly and implement the company into the local economy, with positive receptions.

Respectively, Brazil’s poverty rate, the last figure is from 2019, was 19.6% and Chile’s poverty rate, from 2020, was 10.8%. Some 30% of Chileans own a credit card and 27% of Brazilians own at least one credit card. Almost 70% of Chile’s adult population has a bank account with a secure and reputable bank, with Brazilians matching Chile’s rate of bank account ownership.

As long as Zubale promises the same assistance with setting up credit cards or bank accounts, the opportunities for economic advancements are significant. Setting up a credit card for someone allows the person to build a credit score and financial history, making them eligible for more economic advances. Credit scores and credit histories are building grounds for trustworthiness and international acceptance. Credit scores also have benefits outside of the individual impacts.

It is a bit of a domino effect because individuals with higher credit ratings are more likely to invest in stock. Areas with more citizens who have higher credit ratings overall are more likely to open more investment opportunities, creating a circle of prosperity, not poverty. With Zubale’s economic aid, this change in cyclical economics is becoming a greater possibility for all the countries in which they operate.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Innovative Mobility InitiativesEmerging economies are quickly urbanizing, in turn creating social, economic and health issues. According to Bloomberg, in 2021, about 33% of Latin Americans live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 daily. Due to mass movement from rural towns to large cities throughout the 20th century, urban areas expanded without the infrastructure necessary to accommodate their growing populations. Now, it is often the most impoverished communities relegated to the outskirts of cities with a lack of viable transportation options excluding them from the economic opportunities necessary to combat poverty. Latin American innovative mobility initiatives encourage inclusivity and accommodations for marginalized communities.

Mobility Initiatives in Latin America

  • Me Muevo Segura (I move safely) Campaign. Concerns of violence and harassment restrict the mobility of women in Bogotá, Colombia, especially once daylight fades. In a 2017 study in Bogotá, a staggering 90% of females reported feeling “unsafe on public streets” and 86% reported feeling unsafe on public transportation. The Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI) developed a campaign that maps out the street and cycle network of Bogotá. The campaign also established “interventions in mass public transport” and redesigned public spaces in order to make females feel more safe and secure in public. Innovative mobility initiatives encourage inclusivity within public spaces by enhancing safety, which promotes women’s participation in the social and economic realms of the city. Gender-responsive and inclusive city planning must be a priority when developing innovative mobility initiatives in emerging economies.
  • “Re-ciclo” Project in Fortaleza, Brazil. Informal recyclers in Brazil, called catadores, play a significant environmental role in Brazil. Innovative mobility initiatives encourage inclusivity for the catadores as they stand as some of the most marginalized people in the country. In Brazil, about 281,000 catadores participate in the recycling process and on average make up to $184 per month. TUMI started “Re-ciclo” in the Brazilian city Fortaleza with the goal of improving the livelihoods of the catadores and accelerating recycling rates by implementing “electric and manual cargo bikes as an efficient and sustainable mode of transport.” The catadores also educate communities about waste management and how to separate and dispose of waste properly. Waste pickers also report lower rates of physical fatigue as a result of the new bikes. Some catadores report that the bikes gave them an advantage as there was less waste to manage yet an increase in catadores. With the rise of unemployment in Brazil, standing at 14.7% in April 2021, the bikes offer the advantage to travel further and faster than before.
  • The Longest Cable Car in Latin America. Iztapalapa is one of the most populous peri-urban areas in the Americas, which many once viewed as the most dangerous borough in Mexico City. According to the most recent data from 2015, 33.2% of Iztapalapa residents lived in moderate poverty and 1.72% in extreme poverty. A symbol of state neglect and rampant violence, the area sought ways to combat the stigma. In 2021, Iztapalapa completed the construction of the longest cable car in Latin America with the capacity to connect the isolated area to a vast swath of the city, opening economic and educational opportunities for the community. Innovative mobility initiatives encourage inclusivity for communities like Iztapalapa that are seeking to shed their grim reputations. The neighborhood also boasts the “best-lit street” in Mexico, an effort to curb the prevalence of violence against women.

Looking Ahead

Active mobility is an important city element that requires infrastructure and adequate services to function properly. Underfunded transportation networks have negative implications for marginalized communities. Innovative mobility initiatives encourage inclusivity in Latin America and many countries in the region have stepped up efforts to alleviate transportation poverty for marginalized communities.

– Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr

E-commerce Brings Opportunities to Rural CommunitiesRural commercialization continues to grow in Latin America as communities increasingly turn to e-commerce to conduct business and make purchases. In 2020, retail e-commerce sales rose by 63.3% in Latin America. The COVID-19 pandemic is a driving factor in the growing popularity of e-commerce in the region as digital platforms to purchase and sell negate the need for physical contact. According to a study by Karine Haji, e-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities to improve their quality of life. E-commerce has the potential to engage rural communities and provide the opportunity for those communities to participate in the consumer market unlike ever before.

Rural Opportunities with E-commerce

Consumer market demand is increasing in rural regions and with that comes increased financial inclusion and access to products not typically seen in the region. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, rural markets are expanding at a faster rate than urban markets in many countries. Rural communities typically have a short supply of retail stores, products and e-commerce that offer the opportunity to fill this gap. Not only can rural areas access more consumer goods due to e-commerce but they are also able to avoid the difficulties of traveling to urban centers to purchase goods. E-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities by alleviating the burden of transportation and ultimately saves money. The expansiveness of e-commerce allows rural sellers to make sales on a more broad and dynamic scale rather than limiting their reach to customers in their immediate vicinity.

Social Commerce Provides Inclusivity for Rural Communities

Social commerce is a trend occurring in the e-commerce realm that connects suppliers with local communities. The concept of social commerce is based on the market model and uses existing social platforms. Originating in Colombia and launched in 2018, Elenas is Latin America’s first social commerce marketplace and has increased services to communities all over the region. Many sellers on Elenas are housewives or students and large portions of Elenas sales come from rural communities. Furthermore, the research team behind Elenas has found that the impact of the company directly affects social and economic conditions for women. In 2021, Elenas launched in Mexico and became a popular employment opportunity for unemployed women in the country. E-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities, especially women and students who seek economic opportunities and employment.

E-Commerce Brings Opportunities to Rural Communities in Brazil

Brazil is embracing e-commerce as an inclusive and sustainable economic alternative to traditional consumer markets with the goal of alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life for its people. Brazil is a leader in e-commerce in Latin America and seeks to expand its interests. According to the 2021 eEbit Webshoppers report, Brazil’s e-commerce activity rose by 31% in the first six months of 2021. The Brazilian government supplied pandemic relief funds to citizens through digital wallets, providing access to online stores. Brazil has also taken steps to bridge the digital divide by implementing national broadband plans. Increased internet access offers inclusivity and access to consumer markets typically out of reach to rural communities.

E-commerce Inclusive Opportunities for Rural Communities

As rural communities continue to engage with e-commerce, they begin to emerge in the global supply chain, ultimately generating wealth for the community and by the community. E-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities as well as a sense of ownership and economic engagement, ultimately giving power to marginalized communities. Additionally, it nourishes job creation and industry development. E-commerce also generates the funds that a community needs to improve infrastructure and increase broadband connection. Several countries in Latin America embrace the benefits of e-commerce as a proven inclusive and sustainable economic opportunity for marginalized communities.

– Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr