Sanitation in Colombia
Colombia is a fast-growing country with a population of 49 million. In the last 10 years alone, the population has increased by 5 million people. As a result of the added pressure on the country’s infrastructure, many citizens may not have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. In recent years, Colombia has been working to increase its population’s access to WASH facilities. The country continues to develop initiatives on how to increase this accessibility. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Colombia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Colombia

  1. Access to Clean Water: Exactly 1.4 million citizens do not have access to clean drinking water. This accounts for around 3% of the population. There is a large discrepancy between urban and rural populations and their access to clean water. In fact, 100% of the urban population has access to basic drinking water. In the rural population, however, only 86% have access to basic drinking water.
  2. Increase in Water Access: Colombia has seen an increase in the population that has access to basic drinking water services from 90% in 2000 to 97% in 2015. The Colombian government plans to increase water accessibility to rural regions such as La Guajira by 2024. Additionally, in 2019, over 8,000 indigenous people living in rural Colombia gained access to basic water facilities through the development of reservoirs and ancillary infrastructure.
  3. Rural Water Usage: Around 19% of the rural population use water from rivers, lakes or wetlands for drinking, washing and cooking. Colombia has over 514,800 sites where farmers raise livestock. Unfortunately, the animals easily contaminate water from natural resources such as lakes and rivers. This can lead to illness and disease in these rural areas. 
  4. Rural and Urban Water Management: There is currently a discrepancy between the access to clean water between rural and urban communities. In 2017, 81% of water access in urban areas had a designation of safely managed while 19% had basic water management status. In comparison, rural areas only had 40% of their water with a safely managed label and 46% had basic water management.
  5. Health Implications: Due to poor access to WASH facilities, 2% of the national GDP goes toward health-related costs. In 2016, there were 366 deaths due to the poor sanitation and water conditions in Colombia. In 2012, there were 119 deaths in children under 5-years-old due to inadequate access to water and sanitation. 
  6. Toilet Access: Currently, 4.9 million people do not have access to a toilet in Colombia. In rural areas, three in 10 people do not have access to safe toileting facilities. Tierra Grata is an organization that is helping rural communities by installing waterless eco-toilets. These eco-toilets aim to decrease the pollution of natural water-ways and increase the population’s health and well-being.
  7. Household Hygiene: Out of a population of 49 million, only 28 million people in urban communities and 3.3 million people in rural communities have access to basic hygiene services. Basic hygiene includes access to bathing facilities and the ability to wash hands prior to food preparation and after toileting. Between both rural and urban communities, there are 14 million citizens who are without access to hygiene facilities.
  8. Hygiene at School: UNICEF identified the issues that prevented student hygiene as an inconsistent water supply, poor sanitation systems and lack of hand-washing facilities. Only one in five schools had both soap and toilet paper available for student use. The School Sanitation project was able to improve school hygiene and decrease diarrhea-related absences by 30%.
  9. Sanitation Improvement: In 2000, 12% of urban sanitation was managed safely and 66% had basic management. In 2017, this number had risen to 15% having safe management and 77% having basic management. In rural areas, open defecation decreased from 25% in 2000 to 13% in 2017.
  10. Water Recycling: El Salitre wastewater treatment plant is on the Bogotá River. The river collects wastewater from 10 million people. The plant is currently treating and recycling the river water to provide for safe water access to millions of households. Studies show that water treatment plants increase both public and environmental health. 

Despite the improvements, there is still a large number of Colombia’s population that do not have access to safe or basic WASH services, especially when considering the country’s rural communities. Luckily, with the government and organizations continuing to work to improve sanitation in Colombia, a brighter, cleaner future is on the horizon. 

– Laura Embry 
Photo: Flickr

tech startups in Latin America
According to the Vice President for Finance and World Bank Controller Jorge Familiar, “We should adopt and promote technology and innovation to boost economic growth, poverty reduction and increase opportunities for all, rather than planning barriers.” In recent years, Latin America has followed Familiar’s advice as it has seen a dramatic rise in access to technology and a sense of entrepreneurship. Below are seven facts about tech startups in Latin America.

7 Facts About Tech Startups in Latin America

  1. Latin America is more connected than it has ever been, a necessity for the success of tech startups. More than 70 percent of South Americans had access to the internet as of January 2020, up from 55 percent in 2017. There are about 500 million smartphone subscriptions across the region. Brazil and Mexico rank fourth and fifth in the number of Facebook users with 120 million and 84 million users respectively. Additionally, Latin America has been one of the top growing markets for Spotify and Netflix.
  2. E-commerce sales in the region reached $53.2 billion in 2018, up 18 percent from 2017. This is attracting attention from international e-commerce businesses such as Amazon, which opened its first distribution center in Brazil in 2019.
  3. Venture capital investments in Latin America surpassed $1 billion at the end of 2017. There were 25 new global investors that year. These investors include Softbank, Telstra Ventures and Rethink Education.
  4. Three tech startups surpassed $1 billion valuations at the beginning of 2018. These startups include Nubank, an online banking service, and PagSeguro, an e-commerce service for commercial operations.
  5. Strong institutional support in the region has facilitated the expansion of startups. Startup Chile and Mexico’s Fund of Funds are government-initiated investment firms that act as accelerators to provide capital to small and medium enterprises to get them off the ground. Similar organizations exist in Argentina, Peru and Columbia. Brazil’s development bank has played a critical role in the provision of capital to small businesses as well.
  6. The share of female participation in creating startups is higher in Latin America than in Europe. The failure rate of startups is higher than ever in many Latin American countries. However, this is due to a growing sense of entrepreneurship amongst men and women alike.
  7. The Tech Growth Coalition began in 2018 to facilitate investment in the region’s startups. One of the issues Latin American startups face is the small domestic markets the countries have. However, by working together as a region, countries can overcome this problem. The Tech Growth Coalition, which consists of large investors such as Google and Facebook, emerged to help with this cross-border collaboration. The parent organization, the Latin American Venture Capital Association, which originated in 2002 and consists of more than 190 firms of all types and sizes, has built up $65 billion worth of assets “directed at capitalizing and growing Latin American businesses.”

The growth in the number and size of tech startups in Latin America is key for several reasons. One key reason is the opening of foreign markets and the attraction of foreign investment and businesses. This not only leads to increased “investible resources and capital formation” but “a means of transferring production technology, skills, innovative capacity and organizational and managerial practices between locations, as well as of accessing international marketing networks.”

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

9 Facts About the Informal Economy in Latin America
The informal economy is a fluid area of work that people may drift in and out of. Certain companies may live in both the formal and informal job sector as well. The International Labor Organization (ILO) distinguishes between the informal sector and informal employment, stating that the former is an “enterprise-based concept and is defined by the characteristics of the enterprise in which workers are engaged” while the latter occurs on a case-by-case basis regarding the employee’s relationship to the enterprise. For example, some companies operate within the formal sector but hire certain employees “informally.”  In other words, one can define the informal economy as “firms and workers that stand outside a country’s tax and regulatory systems.

It is important to note that the informal economy is not synonymous with the black market or the underground economy. Additionally, the informal market is not necessarily illegal. However, many countries do not mandate the social benefits and protections included in the formal economy. Informal work can include a variety of jobs including street vendors, subsistence farmers, seasonal workers, industrial workers and others. Given this characterization, below are nine facts about the informal economy in Latin America.

9 Facts About the Informal Economy in Latin America

  1. A total of 140 million people work in occupations involving social vulnerability, limited rights and precarious conditions. According to the ILO, this number translates to roughly 50 percent of total employment in the region. It is a little less than the global average but more than double for the developed region.
  2. The percent of informally employed workers varies greatly across the region. Costa Rica had the lowest rate of informally employed workers as of 2013 at 30.7 percent. In addition, Guatemala had the highest at 73.6 percent.
  3. An International Monetary Fund study found four main contributing factors to the expansive informal economy in Latin America. Some of these factors include the heavy tax burden on corporations and individuals as well as minimum wage constraints. Another factor is the importance of agriculture because informal employment is much higher in the agricultural sector.
  4. Although there are poor and non-poor alike across the informal and formal sectors, empirical research has displayed that those working in the informal economy may be at a higher risk of poverty than those employed in the formal economy. The exact relationship between the informal economy and poverty is difficult to determine. This is due to a variety of circumstances that can affect poor households. For instance, the income an individual brings home may not technically be below the poverty line, however, it may not be sufficient to support five people. Regardless, informal employment is often unstable due to inconsistent wage earnings and a lack of social protection.
  5. The informal economy affects youth in Latin America. According to the International Labor Organization, there are an estimated 56 million Latin Americans in the age range of 15 to 24 in the workforce. A little over 7 million are jobless and 27 million are working informal jobs. Many quit without much of a choice as six out of the 10 jobs available to them are in the informal economy.
  6. In 2013, 44.5 percent of the non-agricultural informal employment in Latin America was male while 49.7 percent was female. However, globally males make up a higher percentage because they make up a larger portion of the workforce. In contrast, when looking across developing countries, 92 percent of all women have informal employment compared to 87 percent of all men.
  7. The informal economy in Latin America represented 34 percent of its average gross domestic product (GDP) from 2010-2017, which is higher than any other region in the world. This is true despite Latin America being in possession of one of the lower percentages of informal work, 40 percent compared to the 85.8 percent of employment in Africa.
  8. The informal economy has been reducing in Latin America and the rest of the world for the past 30 years. This could partly be due to a reduction in the challenges to register a business.
  9. Improving transit infrastructure and access to education can reduce the size of a country’s informal economy. A case study of Mexico City found that high transit costs can lead to an increase in the percentage of workers on the outskirts of cities choosing informal work. Furthermore, by improving access to cheaper and more efficient transit services, informal employment can decrease. Meanwhile, a case study in Peru showed that it is easier to obtain formal employment if one has higher education. This was true even for indigenous groups in the country who often face discrimination when entering the formal sector.

Informal work remains an ambiguous topic requiring more research. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that the informal economy is not inherently bad. While many struggle because of their informal work, they often cannot afford the costs of transitioning to the formal sector. For instance, one may deem small businesses that have under 10 workers as informal, and therefore, they would not have to pay social benefits, thus saving them money. In other words, in some circumstances, informal workers may require additional support, but would not necessarily benefit from transitioning into the formal sector.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The School Fund: What One Company is doing to tackle the Global Education CrisisOver 115 million school-age children are not able to attend school worldwide, largely due to compulsory school fees that are required for attendance. In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 63 million adolescents are out of school and only 37 percent of children finish secondary school. One company targeting barriers to education is The School Fund (TSF). Through the collaboration of technology and willing donors looking to make a difference, the organization is able to provide low-income students with the opportunity to receive an education.

The Mission

The School Fund is a crowdfunded, nonprofit organization based in California. One hundred percent of donations go directly toward each student’s unique scholarship. Its mission is to tackle the global education crisis by connecting donors to students in developing countries who cannot afford an education. It stands firmly behind the belief that education is the most effective way to successfully eradicate poverty.

Barriers to Education

The reasons children do not receive secondary education are plenty and vary from location to location. Some of these reasons are the cost of supplies, the long distances that need to be traveled to reach school, safety and cultural norms. When it comes to education, poor and rural areas are especially disadvantaged.

How it Works

The School Fund partners with local organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. These range from private schools to local public schools, or local scholarship organizations. The Field Partners then select students for the TSF website, including biographies, stories and pictures of the children. Biographies help to keep each donation personal and invested in the growth of each child. Donors then select which student they want to sponsor.

These donors are able to view the breakdown of school costs and receipts on a web platform with complete transparency. Direct journal updates from their sponsored student are available for donors as well, helping to foster the connection between the donor and the student. The School Fund ensures that students are attending school via receipt tracking and field drop-ins.

Outcomes

The School Fund has successfully funded 1,291 students, with many more on the horizon. Since 2009, the organization has raised over $500,000. TSF also found that with just one extra year of secondary education, a student’s lifetime wages have the potential to increase by 10 percent.

TSF has shown a 50 percent growth rate each year in revenue accrued for scholarships. It also connects regularly with its Field Partners to collect updates, including grades and yearly data. This ensures that each student is seeing improvement and growth through their education.

Women in particular benefit from receiving an education. Only one in four girls attend school in many of these developing countries, but of those who do, women have fewer unwanted pregnancies, delay getting married young, have healthier kids and are three times less likely to test positive for HIV. TSF is helping women combat cultural norms and ensuring empowerment for all.

 

Children around the globe continue to face barriers to education. The School Fund is one of many organizations breaking down these obstacles, making sure money is not a deterrent for something that everyone should be entitled to.

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Pixabay

Roads in Latin America
In 2010, the United Nations declared the Decade of Action for Road Safety, calling upon governments to take the actions necessary to reduce the 1.3 million annual traffic deaths that plague modern society. For Latin America in particular, where 60 percent of roads remain unpaved and the rate of deaths from traffic fatalities stands at twice that of high-income regions, this was and is an incredibly pressing issue. That is why, as the Decade of Action for Road Safety comes to a close in 2020, it is important to reflect on what governments have done to build safer roads in Latin America, and how they can continue to carry the torch in securing the future of the region’s most vulnerable.

Taking Action on the Ground Level

Efforts to improve road safety have traditionally fallen into one of a few categories. Awareness campaigns, such as Salvador, Brazil’s Life Not Traffic program, invest heavily in training drivers on proper road etiquette, as well as lobbying for stricter drunk-driving laws. For Salvador and other Latin American cities, in particular, educating the youth through programs like “child drivers of the future” is also a major priority, as traffic deaths are the leading cause of death for Latin Americans ages 15-29.  So far, the results of these efforts are striking. In just eight years since its initial launch, Life Not Traffic has contributed to a 50 percent drop in traffic fatalities in Salvador.

Structural solutions, on the other hand, focus on pinpointing areas of improvement in regard to material conditions on the road, as well as looking at safer and more efficient ways to control the flow of traffic. The construction of roundabouts to replace traditional four-way intersections, for instance, has led to a 50-70 percent drop in traffic fatalities and a 30-50 percent drop in traffic injuries. Meanwhile, increased investment into speed and red-light cameras is also yielding promising results.

Structural solutions can also bring economic benefits, such as in the case of Tocantins, Brazil, where times of rain have historically inhibited the region’s road network, depriving Tocantins’ residents of access to Brazil’s urban population centers. To combat this issue, the World Bank has funded the construction of more than 700 concrete bridges in cooperation with local authorities, which has both increased employment and the average wage of the region’s agricultural workers. Safer, more reliable roads have also meant a rise in the percentage of children attending school in Tocantins, which has had the added effect of opening up more work opportunities for Tocantins’ female population.

Obstacles to Improvement

The World Bank’s work in Tocantins is a particularly salient example in this case, as it highlights the traditional obstacles to improving Latin America’s road infrastructure, as well as the steps necessary to overcome them. For one, there is the problem of geography. Where conditions in European and North American nations are, for the most part, agreeable to road building, tall mountains, thick jungles, expansive deserts and urban centers hamper Latin America. These, in combination with the region’s low population density, have made road-construction very costly.

However, while geographic conditions certainly make the task of building better roads more difficult, the real crux of the issue lies in the lack of funding that Latin American governments are able to devote to infrastructure. Estimates from the Inter-American Developmental Bank indicate that the region faces an annual infrastructure-spending shortfall of around $100-150 billion, due to regional governments’ issues with fiscal deficits and mounting public debts. As a consequence, programs aimed at both improving and expanding the region’s road networks frequently go underfunded, leading to the need for foreign aid and investment.

Foreign Aid Successes

Indeed, recent years in Latin American have seen an increasing number of successes in road improvements due to foreign aid, though economists estimate that still more aid is necessary before Latin America will be able to bring its infrastructure on par with the rest of the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, has provided $26.8 billion in infrastructure-related loans to Latin America since 2005, including financing a major highway in Bolivia that should bring significant economic benefits to the region after its completion in 2021. The United States, for its part, has also recently launched a new initiative to encourage more private U.S. financial investment into Latin America’s roads and other infrastructure.

In addition to building new roads, many new organizations have also taken root in the region with an eye on other means of improving road safety. The Latin NCAP is one such organization, launched under the umbrella of the U.N.’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, which has published over 100 safety assessments for new vehicles since 2010, helping to keep Latin America’s drivers safe before they even step in the car.

While much work remains when it comes to building safer roads in Latin America, it is undeniable that foreign aid has led to major improvements for the region’s inhabitants.

– James Roark
Photo: Pxfuel

5 New Technologies in Latin AmericaSilicon Valley may be the world’s tech Mecca, but technological innovation isn’t restricted to the San Francisco Bay. Latin America is in the midst of a technological revolution. Nations like Argentina, Columbia and Mexico are continuing to invest in IT infrastructure and modernize STEM education standards. Latin American nations now rank higher than China and India in English fluency, making the region an appealing prospect for outsourcing IT services. Latin governments recognize the economic potential in new technology: Argentina’s Program AR ensures public school students learn to program while Columbia’s Plan Vive Digital finances 80 percent of tuition and fees for IT students. Those investments are paying dividends. Here are five new technologies in Latin America.

5 New Technologies in Latin America

  1. Clic Educa (Chile): Clic Educa is a modular e-learning platform developed in Chile. The program measures students’ emotional states and behavioral patterns and provides instructors with customized feedback. Teachers can modify Clic Educa’s curriculum and learning materials to best suit their needs. They can even design lesson plans for students with learning disabilities or other conditions.
  2. Emiti (Mexico): Emiti is a startup headquartered in Guadalajara, Mexico. It created a health-monitoring smartwatch for eldercare purposes. The watch includes an emergency button, and it automatically detects if the wearer is undergoing a medical emergency. Sudden falls and cardiac irregularities are among the conditions the device will detect.
  3. Biofase (Mexico): Environmental sustainability is a hot topic in the current zeitgeist. Chemical engineer Scott Munguia founded Mexico’s Biofase in 2014. It is a bioplastics firm that converts avocado seeds and synthetic organic compounds into plastic goods. Biofase uses only inedible food waste to manufacture its products. Its bioplastic degrades naturally, so the company’s operations do not contribute to food shortages or greenhouse gas emissions via waste incineration.
  4. Emi Labs (Argentina): Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming business and technology worldwide, and Argentina is no exception. Emi Labs utilizes a virtual AI assistant to automate rote tasks necessary to HR operations such as screening resumes and scheduling interviews.
  5. La Casa Uruguaya (Uruguay): La Casa Uruguaya is an environmentally friendly construction project aiming to revolutionize the housing market by designing sustainable smart homes. These energy-efficient houses use solar energy, recycle water and employ a sensor network to regulate temperatures and lighting. La Casa Uruguaya’s homes are surprisingly affordable. They range in price from $50,000 to $90,000 and are installable in just 15 days.

These five new technologies in Latin America are but a few examples of the region’s ongoing tech boom. Latin America’s rapidly growing middle class offers entrepreneurs a consumer base for their products. Digital transformation is well underway. Internet penetration rests at 57 percent, but 70 percent of citizens subscribe to mobile plans. On average, Latin Americans log on to the internet for longer lengths of time than anyone else in the world. The next Silicon Valley may well rest south of the border.

– Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Newsroom

Helping Latin American Coffee Farmers
The Arbor Day Foundation is an organization that plants trees in order to mitigate the effects of global warming. Its aim is to plant 100 million trees around the world by the year 2022. However, it does not limit its goals to stopping climate change. In fact, by planting coffee trees in South America, the Arbor Day Foundation devotes its time to helping Latin American coffee farmers earn a fair wage.

About the Arbor Day Foundation

The Arbor Day Foundation’s main mission is to stop climate change by planting as many trees as possible around the world. Much of its focus is on encouraging people in the United States to purchase trees to plant in their backyards. However, it also partners with international corporations, such as Rain Forest Rescue, to replant and restore forests around the world. The Arbor Day Foundation’s ultimate goal is to plant 100 million trees by 2022.

While the Arbor Day Foundation’s main focus is on preventing climate change from getting worse, it also acknowledges that trees are important to communities. Part of this acknowledgment involves teaching people in impoverished countries more sustainable ways to use trees to make money. In addition, Arbor Day offers income to any locals who are willing to plant trees. For example, impoverished families in China can distribute and plant wolfberry trees to make a little extra money.

The Arbor Day Foundation Coffee

One of the Arbor Day Foundation’s many causes is helping Latin American coffee farmers grow sustainable coffee. The Foundation does this by helping the farmers plant trees in the Amazon Rainforest. The coffee beans from these trees grow in the shade of the surrounding trees, which helps them get more moisture and ultimately enriches the soil and produces better-tasting coffee. It also allows local farmers to make more money. The farmers have to learn more sustainable growing methods in order to avoid losing the land to soil degradation. By growing their coffee in the shade, they can keep their land and sell more, better quality coffee beans than they could otherwise.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s method of growing coffee also motivates local farmers to reforest areas that had previously been deforested for various reasons. Peruvian farmer Amaro Chasquero Jaramillo is currently growing both young coffee plants and young trees. His ultimate goal is to reforest the area with the coffee trees in the shade of the other trees. He hopes that, in addition to increasing his income, his efforts will also protect local wildlife from further man-made harm.

The Arbor Day Foundation sells three types of coffee on its website, all of which originate in impoverished countries. The medium-roast Arbor Day Blend and the darker Italian Blend both originate from the Cajamarca Region in Peru. The La Sombra Blend, another medium blend, originates in La Chiapas, Mexico. All three blends cost $11.99 for a one-pound bag and members of the Arbor Day Foundation receive a 20 percent discount and a free mug.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Goal

The Arbor Day Foundation’s main goal is the reforestation of the world and the mitigating of global warming. In the process, it helps the poor in impoverished countries learn to grow crops more sustainably and earn more money. In particular, the Arbor Day Foundation is helping Latin American coffee farmers earn a fair wage. Coffee farmers in Latin America learn to grow their beans in the shade of surrounding trees, thus producing better quality coffee and ultimately letting them turn more of a profit.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Technology in Mexico
Mexico’s image tends to receive negative portrayal in news reports depicting violence and crime. However, advancements of technology in Mexico provide an alternate image of the country as a pioneer in the Latin American technological scene. Here are five key facts that represent the country’s incredible achievements.

Guadalajara is a Growing Tech Hub

Located in Jalisco, Guadalajara presents itself as Mexico’s own Silicon Valley due to its massive community of 600 tech companies, 35 design centers and four research centers. With this cluster of tech companies, Jaslico exports more than $148 billion tech products to global consumers.

Guadalajara houses 13 universities such as Tecnologico de Monterrey, which graduates 85,000 students in IT yearly. This is especially notable considering that the city has 78,000 employed IT professionals, 57 percent of whom come from Guadalajara, presenting an excellent investment into the growth of the Mexican IT community for a sustainable tech hub.

Technological Outsourcing and Nearshoring Favors Mexico’s Location

Up until the 1990s, outsourcing in Mexico existed mostly in manufacturing capacities, such as Ford manufacturing at the south of the border. Now, thanks to the startup movement in the 2010s, Mexico is also an outsourcing hub for nearshoring. This is the process of conducting business operations in a nearby country that shares the same time zone. This results in convenience, consistency and better collaboration. For example, border neighbors such as the U.S. and Mexico adopt this relationship in software development companies such as ITexico, which have relationships with U.S. clients such as McDonalds and IBM. With low labor costs and a thriving technological community, companies such as ITexico with revenues of $5 million view Mexico as a great source of outsourced nearshoring.

Technology in Mexico Receives Vast Amounts of Venture Capitalist Investments Yearly

From 2014-2016, the U.S. invested nearly $120 million into 300 Guadalajara startups. In 2017, out of all Latin American countries, Mexico received one-quarter of total investment at $80 million in funding for 59 venture deals. Viewing investments from a grander scale, nearly 1,900 venture capitalists received $22 billion in investments between 2010 and 2018.

Investments per company vary between $80,000 – $120,000. Companies such as Voxfeed provide investors with a great return on investment considering its $2 million in revenue.

Such financial growth benefits the Mexican economy as it is currently the world’s 11th largest economy. It has the potential to gain $245 billion GDP by 2025, and the possibility of being the world’s largest economy by 2050.

Fintech Growth in Mexico Surpasses Other Latin American Countries

In 2017, Mexico led Latin America with the growth of 80 Fintech companies in 10 months, amounting to a total of 238, and ahead of Brazil which had 230. In 2018, Mexico retained its lead with 394 Fintech startups, still ahead of Brazil which had 380.

Fintech is continually growing thanks to entrepreneurship to create Fintech startups, as well as low banking and lending. For instance, 44 percent of the population does not use any banking products.

In this sense, growth not only increases the size of this sector but also aids the Mexican population in becoming more financially secure with platforms like Konfio that assists individuals and businesses with access to affordable loans.

Aside from Fintech expanding the function of technology in Mexico, investors such as Goldman Sachs view the sector as an opportunity for growth. Just recently, in September 2019, Goldman Sachs invested $100 million into Konfio, a small business loan lender. This allows $250 million in loans to 25,000 companies.

Technology in Mexico Advances With New Urban Landscapes

As Mexico advances technologically, the city landscape in Guadalajara does so to sustain a future generation of tech. As part of the 2012 Ciudad Creativa Digital project, the city has undergone construction to reinvent the historic district of Parque Morelos with the aim of creating a more urban, media/tech center and a 21st-century creative workspace. Developers envision Guadalajara with new educational and cultural institutions such as the Digital Creative Institute, as well as a Middle School in Visual Arts. On a cultural scale, institutions such as The Mexican Marketing Museum and Media Center engage the public to learn more about media. Outdoor theatres, pools and playgrounds provide a recreational experience.

By investing in this new landscape, Mexico will tap into the $1.5 trillion media and entertainment sector. Allowing more revenue, jobs and new technology to overall ensure a durable urban fabric to foster the growth of media in Mexico.

These five facts prove the successes of technology in Mexico in the forms of a new tech hub, nearshoring, venture capital investment, Fintech growth and a media/tech-oriented environment. Such successes in investing and growing a solid tech foundation will allow the country to sustain a future in the continuously digitizing world.

– Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

5 Women Fighting Poverty in Latin America
Around the world, women bear the brunt of poverty. Specifically in developing countries, women hold the responsibility of household welfare and the gendered division of labor; in their attempt to manage both, women face the absence of autonomy and economic opportunities.

Here are five women fighting poverty in Latin America. These women are working hard to ensure their rights and the rights of thousands of people in their countries who are living in poverty.

Mariana Costa Checa

A businesswoman from Peru, Mariana Costa Checa is the brain behind Laboratoria. Laboratoria is a web-based education startup that uses online boot camps and corporate training programs to train women in the tech industry. The goal of the company is to enable women of all income levels to train for and connect with and work at tech jobs that have an impact at the systematic level. By providing women with a source of income and the knowledge to pursue various careers, Mariana has established a company that has the potential to draw hundreds of women, and their households, out of poverty.

Claudia López

Another one of the women fighting poverty in Latin America is Claudia López, who was elected as mayor of Bogotá in Colombia’s October 2019 election. This event marked a historic first for the country as Claudia López is the first woman, and the first gay woman, elected as mayor. In Colombia, the mayor of Bogotá holds a high position, often considered the second most important politician in the country after the president. López has reached a milestone for women, and she promises to continue fighting for women by providing educational opportunities and opening up more job opportunities.

López also prioritizes fighting corruption, ending child labor and putting more police officers on the streets. With her victory, the country has a chance to put an end to some of its most ongoing and pressing issues.

Erika Herrero

As the chief executive officer of Belcorp, Erika Herrero Bettarel has been making waves in the beauty industry and the community of women. Belcorp is a multi-brand corporation that specializes in beauty products and services based in numerous countries around Latin America. Belcorp believes that women are a major driver of positive social change, and the company aims to bring women closer to their idea of beauty and fulfillment. With Erika’s help, Belcorp has been able to help support over 1 million women in terms of receiving income, flexible working hours, appropriate training, social protection and micro-life insurance.

Belcorp has also facilitated over 1,600 scholarships for young Latin American girls and trained over 18,400 low-income adult women in areas of personal development, violence prevention and economic development. Erika Herrero says that by capitalizing on the importance of the beauty industry, she is able to use Belcorp to open up more networks and job opportunities for women in Latin America, promising women a better future by helping to end their poverty.

Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco

Co-founders of Pro Mujer, Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco, are leading women’s development through social entrepreneurship. Patterson and Carmen’s work has provided women in Latin American with health, microfinance and training services that are typically out of reach to women of low-income families. Pro Mujer works with over 277,000 women across five Latin American countries to help diagnose and treat health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Individuals in poverty are at high risk for these chronic diseases due to economic problems.

When individuals in poverty are struck with illnesses that go untreated, their condition further deteriorates, perpetuating the cycle. Pro Mujer promotes healthy behavior among clients by holding meetings, offering health counseling and education and using innovative and financially sustainable health models to diagnose and treat illnesses. By offering below-market prices for its services, Pro Mujer is giving sophisticated health care to those in poverty.

 

Women may still carry the weight of poverty, but there are many women fighting poverty in Latin America. Mariana Checa, Claudia López, Erika Herrero, Lynne Patterson, Carmen Velasco and countless others are making a significant difference with their work. As women continue to make progress in Latin America, the region has high hopes of economic growth.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

Top 6 Water NGOs in Latin America

A number of countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region are experiencing water crises which present an obstacle in achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to clean water access by 2030. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations actively working to help them get there as quickly as possible. Keep reading to learn more about the top six water NGOs in Latin America.

Top 6 Water NGOs in Latin America

  1. Founded in 2007, Water Charity’s first project focused on improving the health of garbage dump workers by providing water filters in Guatemala City. Since then, the NGO has executed numerous water missions throughout 12 Latin American countries, among other projects worldwide. Each of its projects is innovative and tailored toward the specific needs of the communities in which they work. For instance, through the Dajabon Latrine Project in rural northwestern Dominican Republic, 110 families now have access to safe and sanitary latrines. Moreover, the initiative strives to educate families on the importance of health and hygiene given Dajabon’s poor education system.
  2. Living Water International in Mexico has been working to improve water access, hygiene and sanitation throughout the country’s poorest and often most rural communities. With operations spanning from water systems to hygiene education, the organization aims to focus on the marginalized regions of southern Mexico. Living Water’s “Lazos de Agua” program from 2013 to 2016 promoted WASH (“water, sanitation and hygiene) services to 68,000 beneficiaries in Oaxaca and Puebla. The organization’s projects, such as a new initiative to serve beneficiaries in 65 Mexican rural communities, continue to emerge across the nation and beyond.
  3. blueEnergy knows that the most efficient way to create change is through community consultation and working with local actors. Recognizing the context of a changing climate, blueEnergy has delivered water and sanitation to more than 30,000 people in marginalized regions of Nicaragua. Regarding a recently built water filter, Victorio Leon, a resident of Bluefields, Nicaragua only had positive feedback. “This filter has helped me economically and helped me avoid being sick a lot of the time… now we know we can drink this water with confidence.” Indeed, according to the World Bank, lack of water and sanitation results in a loss of 0.9 percent of Nicaragua’s GDP. Promoting health, and ultimately economic opportunity is among blueEnergy’s primary goals.
  4. WaterStep recognizes that making a true difference in developing countries requires planning for the long-term. For this reason, the nonprofit educates vulnerable communities on why and how to use safe water solutions such as bleach making as well as how to use WaterStep’s on-the-ground technologies. One of its ongoing projects includes that in Ecuador, which began following the country’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016. Thousands of Ecuadorian survivors were misplaced and lacked any source of clean water. WaterStep responded to the situation by implementing water technologies and training people in refugee settlements on how to use this equipment.
  5. Water For People has targeted Honduras’ marginalized and rural regions such as Chinda and San Antonio de Cortés, since 1997. The NGO invests in public and private sectors alike to provide proper water and sanitation solutions. Since the nineties, Honduras has seen success not only in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the percentage of people lacking clean water by 50 percent. Moreover, at least 84 percent of the rural population now have access to improved water. Grassroots efforts such as those by Water For People are making clear steady strides towards achieving SDG goal six: providing clean and safe water to all regions.
  6. Solea Water acknowledges the clear inequalities between rural and urban Panama. While Panama City has seen outstanding economic growth in recent years, in marginalized indigenous areas, extreme poverty affects nine in 10 inhabitants. Consequently, clean water access remains a critical issue in these regions. One of the organization’s many projects includes work in Sinai, Panama, where seven in 10 people lack safe drinking water. In addition to implementing a municipal water system which utilizes sustainable technologies to pump water, the organization has supported WASH education to locals. Solea Water’s goals of better health, education and overall improved standards of living within regions like Sinai are made a reality through the organization’s tireless dedication.

What Happens Now?

While access to water has improved in poor and marginalized regions in-line with the decrease in global poverty, disparities remain. These disparities are clear between regions, where 94 percent of citizens in the United States and Europe have access to safe drinking water compared to 65 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, even larger disparities can be seen within a given region, such as the gap between urban and rural regions within Latin America. While 96 percent of citizens living in the Dominican Republic’s cities can obtain piped water, less than 25 percent of Dominicans in rural areas have this same access.

While the fight to universalize access to clean water and sanitation remains a pressing matter, these top six water NGOs in Latin America present the importance of civil society’s proactive planning, hard work and progress.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr