Jacqueline Novogratz, head of the Acumen Fund held a press conference to announce the implementation of ‘Eradicating Poverty through Entrepreneurship in Pakistan.’ The Acumen Fund is teaming up with Bank Alfalah to launch a 40,000 dollar loan program to establish sustainable businesses within Pakistan.

The Acumen Fund provides long term loans to try to establish sustainable infrastructure within a region through entrepreneurship. Acumen rejects the old idea of just giving a lump sum of money to a foreign government and telling them how it needs to be spent. Instead, Acumen raises funds and invests money in local enterprises that can be expanded to benefit the owner as well as the community. Since its beginning, Acumen has invested millions of dollars in countries all over the world to improve overall health and quality of life.

Bank Alfalah comes into this project by implementing its ‘Beyond Philanthropy’ initiative. The bank aims to invest in business while keeping the greater good of the community in mind. With Acumen’s experience in investing to alleviate poverty and Bank Alfalah’s firsthand knowledge of the community, this pairing is expected to be a successful one.

Alfalah CEO Atif Bajwa says, “Given Acumen’s demonstrated expertise in the fields of entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation, we are confident that this program will help us play a small part in creating an ecosystem which seeks to address chronic socio-economic issues in the country.”

The Acumen Fund and Bank Alfalah are investing money into several companies including Pharmegen, a company that is devoted to bringing clean drinking water to urban cities. Another company that received investment money is called Microdrip, a company that distributes water conserving drip irrigation equipment to communities dependent on farming. The program is expected to be implemented in a multistep process over several years.

So far Acumen has invested over 14 million dollars in infrastructure in Pakistan. It is estimated that businesses funded by Acumen have positively impacted over four million Pakistani lives. The investments have also created and supported over 3,500 jobs which helps improve the overall livelihood of people in the region.

Colleen Eckvahl

Sources: Acumen: Pakistan, Acumen: Bank al Falah, Dawn

Last week, the United States announced that it would lift sanctions on four of Myanmar’s largest banks in hopes of continued economic development in the country, and as a reward for continued improvements in the country’s political system. As sanctions are lifted, the banks will now have access to the United States’ financial system and have the opportunity to interact with U.S. businesses and citizens. The four banks that will benefit, according to the Treasury Department, are the Myanmar Economic Bank, Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank, Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank.

The Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, stated, “Increased access to Burma’s banking system for our companies and non-governmental organizations will help to facilitate Burma’s continued social and economic development.”

Although most restrictions have been lifted, there are still mechanisms in place that allow the U.S. government to monitor the banks in case of a negative change in recent political reforms. In a similar gesture last summer, the U.S. Treasury began allowing U.S. companies to deal with Myanmar by way of investing and administering other financial assistance – as long as all transactions were recorded and disclosed.

This trend has continued for the last two years, as the European Union along with the U.S. have backed away from conditional restrictions regarding Myanmar’s political situation, which included the release of political prisoners.

Myanmar officials stated that previous sanctions had prevented the country from growing its economy and eradicating widespread poverty.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Reuters