Empowering Maasai WomenAccording to recent statistics, Kenya’s poverty rate has declined sharply to 36.1 percent within a decade. New and improved entrepreneurship practices appear to directly correlate with this significant drop as they provide employment opportunities. Specifically, there has been an increase in female entrepreneurship in Kenya, as well as across sub-Saharan Africa. The Leakey Collection has proved to be a remarkable organization through its support and empowerment of Maasai women in Kenya.

Empowerment through Business

In 2001, a massive drought struck the Rift Valley in Kenya where Philip Leakey and his wife Katy lived. Their Maasai neighbors suffered due to the drought’s impacts on cattle, their main source of income. Many families lost up to three-quarters of their cattle, resulting in the absence of men in search of water for long periods of time. The women stayed home to support their children. Philip and Katy Leakey responded by creating a project allowing women to sustain themselves, and their families while working at home and maintaining their responsibilities.

The project helps Maasai women design and produce a range of jewelry for overseas markets. The Leakeys designed kits for the women consisting of ten strands and an array of colorful beads. The women pick their kits, spread the beads and create strings of jewelry that are checked for quality before export. This allows the women to work flexibly with their schedules. The Leakeys designed this system to avoid interrupting the traditional Maasai lifestyle, empowering Maasai women and cultivating pride and stability in the community. The production morphed from women creating eight strands of jewelry per day to over one hundred in recent years. The project also fosters a stronger community spirit as the Maasai women create their pieces together.

The jewelry is made primarily of zulugrass, a readily available and sustainable resource, and brightly colored Czech glass beads to attract overseas markets. The collection began in Kenya but has now spread to Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Uganda, South Sudan, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal to reflect a wide array of crafting traditions. The women raise about $100 per month per person for the pieces they craft. Rina Maini came across the collection while vacationing in Kenya. She purchased a significant number of strands to sell and send proceeds to the Maasai women, and still supports the Collection today. “The business is empowering Maasai women by increasing their self-esteem, giving them financial independence and a sense of pride. It is progressive and makes a significant positive difference in their lives,” she told The Borgen Project.

Fair Trade to Combat Poverty

The collection functions by following Fair Trade policies. Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development that promotes a fair and consistent relationship between companies and workers. The policies aim to develop producers’ independence, security for workers and their families, safe working conditions and justice in the global economic system. Fair Trade offers current generations the ability to meet their needs environmentally, without compromising the needs of future generations through sustainable measures. More importantly, this strategy aims to help empower people to combat poverty and take control of their own lives. More than 1.66 million farmers and workers around the world belong to Fair Trade-certified organizations, and 23 percent of all Fair Trade farmers and workers are women.

Economic Mobility for Women

Fair Trade organizations such as the Leakey Collection reveal a trend of female entrepreneurs rising through the ranks in Kenya. Women have low levels of education compared to men, and they consistently face unemployment and the adverse effects of environmental conditions. However, the number of women who have participated in new levels of economic activity has steadily increased in recent years while the poverty rate of Kenya has declined. One in four adult women is engaged in entrepreneurial activity in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of these women have low-income backgrounds and live in slums. Such an increase in entrepreneurial activity has exposed a need for increased business education, especially for women who actively participate in the economic and business world.

The Leakeys’ long-term goal is to create a business school in Kenya. They hope to educate women about local and sustainable materials and teach them to create a business and expand to larger markets. In turn, Maasai women can support their families and educate their children to thrive in the global economy. The rise in female entrepreneurship, paired with Kenya’s declining poverty rate, are visceral proof that despite the prevalence of poverty in Kenya, steps are being taken in empowering Maasai women and improving the lives, and futures, of all Kenyans.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: U.N. Multimedia

Female Entrepreneurship
In emerging markets, women reinvest 90% of their income back into their local economies. The money they earn pays for their children’s education and their family’s food and medical needs. When women are working, not only is their family lifted up but their community and their country also feel the economic impact. That is why supporting female entrepreneurship helps alleviate poverty.

Female entrepreneurs employ one or more people, and in a survey of 112 million entrepreneurs by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 12 million entrepreneurs expect to employ up to six people over the next five years. This translates to 72 million jobs. In 2012, 126 million women were starting or running new businesses in 67 economies globally. In sub-Saharan Africa, female entrepreneurship engaged 27% of women. In Zambia, 40% of women are entrepreneurs.

The World Bank announced The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative in July 2017. It is a program that will support loans, mentoring programs and gender equality advocacy for women in emerging countries. Individuals, companies and foreign governments supply the funding for the program. The United States, Saudi Arabia and Germany among other countries pledged an initial $325 million. The goal is to raise $1 billion.

The World Bank has a long history of supporting the success of female entrepreneur programs. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private arm of the World Bank, partnered with Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Program in 2014 and set up a $600 million fund that provided training and access to capital to women starting small and medium-sized companies.

The World Bank also partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2011 to create the Women’s Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME) trust fund. WLSME supports fostering new enterprises and the growth of businesses in developing countries. The grants offered by WLSME test and rigorously evaluate the programs to understand what works best in the 12 countries involved.

There are approximately 9.34 million small and medium-sized businesses globally. The programs developed by the World Bank and other institutions will help women receive money to start and grow their businesses. It will also provide financial education and the mentoring necessary for female entrepreneurs to be successful.

Women entrepreneurs are instrumental in powering economic growth in developing nations. And as the emerging nations grow, world poverty will become closer to eradication.

Jene Cates

Photo: Google

HuaweiThis month, Huawei pledged to support the South Africa National Development Plan (NDP) to eliminate global poverty by 2030. Huawei proved their commitment by announcing their partnership with African governments, operators, and private companies towards advancing development. The announcement arrived at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa Conference in July 2017.

As the leading global Information Communications Technology (ICT) provider, Huawei plans to alleviate global poverty through advancing mobile broadband (MBB). The company intends to collaborate with African operators and lend them their support. Huawei’s goal is to optimize cost of operation, shorten Return of Sales (ROS), and increase site efficiency.

With help from their partners, Huawei aims to “enhance MBB penetration and narrow the digital divide between rural and urban areas.” Doing so will bolster national competitiveness, capacity for innovation and productivity through improving Africa’s national and global connection. The company proposed “Three-Star Site Solutions,” which are various programs that are unique to different scenarios.

Huawei named PoleStar, TubeStar, and RuralStar in particular. Each will overcome a specific obstacle. PoleStar is for urban areas that cannot afford to deploy broadband base stations. For example, technicians can install the program on lampposts and other locations simply and efficiently. RuralStar is useful in rural areas because it decreases power consumption by 85 percent and cost by 70 percent. These solutions will make sites simpler, faster and more cost efficient to access.

Over the next 5 years, the GSMA predicts there will be “720 million smartphones in use and up to 60 percent MBB connections in African markets,” giving Africa a significant economic boost. In addition, expanding MBB will also improve education, healthcare and social development.

Aside from supporting network development in Africa, Huawei also has “identified three business and industry alliances.” The first is content aggregation, which is the collection of information under a specific topic, such as video cloud. Second, they will establish a site ecosystem alliance. Finally, a fiber to the home alliance will provide internet connection to individual buildings.

Mobile broadband is an increasingly important economic and social asset, making its advancement in Africa and other developing regions a priority. With support and collaboration from organizations like Huawei, there is hope that poverty in Africa will disappear by 2030.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

The Business of Impact SourcingOn June 12, 2017, SAP Ariba, a software and information technology company, and Samasource, a nonprofit organization working to fight poverty, announced their partnership. Both organizations hope to fight poverty through collaboration and an innovation known as impact sourcing.

Samasource, founded in 2008, works to fight poverty by using the model also referred to as socially responsible outsourcing. Impact sourcing primarily helps the disadvantaged rather than as a means of saving capital. The model provides impoverished individuals with access to work and training.

Samasource does this by partnering with other organizations interested in increasing the social impact of their companies. Using a business model called “microwork,” Samasource breaks down a company’s large scale data projects into smaller pieces. Then, they outsource the smaller projects to people in need of work in the United States and throughout the world. These new workers are trained in computer (and other necessary) skills.

Samasource helped lift more than 36,000 people out of poverty through this revolutionary model.

But impact sourcing is not limited to Samasoucre. Digital Divide Data is a social enterprise that seeks to deliver high-quality digital content to its customers. The company relies on impact sourcing to assist disadvantaged youth from low-income families secure jobs. Digital Divide Data helped lead numerous individuals out of poverty by doing this since 2001.

ImpactHub is an online platform that seeks to connect businesses with service providers that will match them with “high potential but disadvantaged women and youth.”

Currently, about 1.8 billion people around the world cannot find work and do not have access to higher education. Africa will soon hold one of the largest workforces on the planet, but will not have enough readily available jobs to supply their needs. Impact sourcing is a viable solution to this problem. Today, more than 500,000 people are working because of impact sourcing.

Impact sourcing is a growing business model. Similar to microfinancing, it continues to garner attention and support in the business community.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Flickr

Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai is a quaint doughnut shop situated in the heart of Portland, Oregon. Last year it received media attention because of its Freedom to Give initiative. This initiative provides employees with an extra $30 in their paycheck. Employees are to use this extra cash to give to those in need as a form of charitable giving. Pip Employees may give their $30 to whoever and whatever they desire.

This story has inspired Pip’s employees and the surrounding community. Pip’s is the quintessential mom and pop shop, but giving back is not limited to small business.

Goldman Sachs, one of the largest investment banks in the world, has been striving to increase its charitable giving, particularly after the 2008 financial crisis. The Goldman Sachs Foundation has initiated the 10,000 Women and the 10,000 Small Businesses campaigns. The 10,000 Women campaign focuses on training women around the world in management and business. The 10,000 Small Businesses campaign serves to provide business assistance to small businesses around the world for up to five years.

The desire for small businesses to help the needy and commitment of big businesses to do so as well is similar to state involvement in fighting poverty. The reality is that small states tend to spend much on foreign aid, whereas big states could afford to spend more on fighting global poverty.

According to the World Economic Forum, a nonprofit foundation based in Geneva, the U.S. spends the most on foreign aid. Germany and the United Kingdom come second and third. However, when considering the percentage of a state’s gross national income, the U.S. does not even rank among the top ten. Sweden ranks first, the United Arab Emirates ranks second, and Norway ranks third.

This phenomenon demonstrates that big states have the capacity to give more than they currently do, just as a big business can afford to expand its charitable giving.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Flickr

Touirism in Kenya
An international hotel chain is investing in tourism in Kenya. Tune Hotels, based in Malaysia, opened a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya last July. The hotel chain is focused on giving travelers the bare necessities in exchange for a reasonable price, similar to low-cost airlines such as Spirit Airlines.

Nairobi, in particular, has become an attractive site for foreign direct investment as opposed to simply development aid. Tune Hotel is just one example of foreign direct investment, another of which is China’s investment in infrastructure in Kenya.

The target market for this hotel chain is business travelers since they normally do not use all the services they pay for at a normal hotel. Business travelers, both local and foreign, make up about 70 percent of Tune Hotel’s guests.

In addition, business travelers comprise about 95 percent of hotel bookings in Kenya. Business travel spending accounted for 37.5 percent of all tourism spending in Kenya in 2015 and is expected to rise due to increased flights between Nairobi, China and the Middle East.

Kenya has a growing middle class, which has led to a rise in domestic tourism. Kenyan tourists make up around 60 percent of the guests at Tune Hotels, and about a third of Africans have entered the middle class over the last 10 years. The Kenyan Tourism Board launched a campaign in 2013 called “Tembea Kenya” or “Tour Kenya,” which is a campaign targeted at the nation’s own middle class.

The tourism industry, which consists of hotel jobs, travel agents and leisure activities, is expected to create around 275,000 jobs in Kenya by 2025. Tourism in Kenya makes up about four percent of the gross domestic product. Thus, foreign investment in this sector is crucial to its growth.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Rural AzerbaijanIn the 10-year period ending in 2012, Azerbaijan achieved the remarkable feat of lowering its national poverty rate from 49 percent to six percent. Baku, the nation’s capital, has transformed into a modern metropolis where unemployment levels have dropped and a number of social reforms have started to foster greater economic opportunity. However, these improvements have not been felt across the entire country equally; rural areas, particularly near Azerbaijan’s southern border with Iran, are still struggling. To address this, though, new Women Resource Centers signal hope for growth in these locations.

The centers are the result of a project that aims to dramatically alleviate poverty just as much as it hopes to bring about gender equality. Sponsored by an international partnership comprised of UNDP, USAID and Azeri state government bureaus, the project is based on the philosophy that economic growth is the result of social empowerment which drives entrepreneurship and thus employment. Seeing rural women as the most economically disenfranchised, Women Resource Centers became the solution to break Azerbaijan’s vicious cycle of child marriages and poor educational standards.

At the centers, women are encouraged to share creative ideas with their communities and are educated about their personal rights. Women also receive vocational training, often in fields in which they have no prior knowledge. Importantly, these training sessions include basic business operations such as marketing, managing cash flows and filing taxes. Lastly, members can propose business plans and, if they are viable, they will receive financial contributions to help get started. Project success stories include a cattle-breeding business, a clothing store and a baker who doubled her regular clients after participating in the program.

To date, the project has already assisted more than 400 women and indirectly benefitted more than 1500 residents of the area. This includes roughly 50 new businesses led by women in order to provide for their families. From a countrywide perspective, the initiative is also shifting focus toward rural growth, which has traditionally received despairingly little attention (estimated around 11 percent of programs in the past).

Nearing the halfway point of the project’s two-year timeline, four Women Resource Centers have been constructed in Bilasuvar, Masalli, Sabirabad and Naftchala. Their opening ceremonies have touted Azerbaijan’s progress toward sustainable development, and it is clear that officials remain committed to future openings before the March 2018 end date.

According to U.N. resident representative Ghulam Isaczai, the project “helps women and youth improve their lives in a meaningful way by starting successful careers matching their aspirations…By helping them, we are helping the future of our beautiful country.”

Zack Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Farmers in BusinessBrazil’s government has recently been attempting to tackle its economic recession by offering Brazilian farmers and ranchers $8 billion in financing. The country is slowly transforming into a crop-exporter. Not only is the government investing more money in the agricultural sector, but it is also paying Brazilian farmers to produce food for children enrolled in government schools.

As many as 45 million students are being fed by what is the world’s largest universal school feeding program. The program was originally developed in the 1950s, in response to Brazil’s “zero hunger” initiative. A quarter of the country is currently receiving free meals through this program, and the Brazilian farmers are benefiting directly from the government, as well.

For the past three years, farmers have been able to cut out the middlemen and form an agreement directly with the government. Before, farmers had to make unfulfilling deals with the middlemen on whom they depended to sell their produce.

Brazilian farmers who have a school feeding contract with the government have seen their fortunes increase thanks to a dependable local market and formalized land rights nationwide. The contracts outline the required amount of food that the farmers need to produce and how much money the farmers will get in return. This gives farmers the certainty to plan for investment in new essentials and technology. Overall, incomes have increased significantly due to the resourceful and thoughtfully formulated plans made by the government.

The other small farmers with no formal land title deeds still benefit from the program because of their direct relationship with the state through the school feeding program. These small farmers, with the income they receive from the government, are able to take steps towards gaining title deeds.

In 2009, Brazil introduced a new law that requires schools to spend at least 30 percent of their meal budgets on produce from small farms. Many schools are now giving priority to small, local farms, and 70 percent of food consumed in Brazil comes from small farms. Before these changes were made to help small, local farms in Brazil, the market for school meals was primarily dominated by big food companies, and by middlemen who would exploit small farmers’ business.

Brazil is better known for its large industrial farms which produce the country’s top export commodities such as sugarcane, oranges and soy. However, most food consumed by Brazilians is grown by small family farms. These family farmers are often poor and cannot compete with industrial farms. Thus, they are inevitably forced to give up their farms and move to cities in search of better job opportunities.

The new school feeding program has not only helped keep children well fed, but has also cut government spending on school meals by cutting out the middlemen, and has increased the income for Brazilian farmers. Brazil is making great progress in trying to fix its economy by investing in agriculture and, more specifically, small family farms that feed the country.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

How to End Poverty
How to end poverty? In Paul Collier’s thought-provoking TED talk presentation, he hypothesizes the best ways to improve the lives of the most economically deprived billion people of the world. A majority of these people live in commodity-rich countries in Africa.

He believes in mobilizing the international community by creating an alliance between compassion and enlightened self-interest. Hoping that one’s compassion for people gets you started and one’s enlightened self-interest helps you get serious about helping the world’s poor.

He talks about how foreign aid is being trumped right now by the recent influxes in commodity prices. This is bringing unprecedented wealth to countries that have never experienced such things. He states that the problem with short-term economic growth tied to one commodity is that it is often short-lived. And in most scenarios, the country is worse off once the price of that commodity declines to previous levels.

Collier is not the only one to identify this problem. Larry Diamond of Stanford University has said that “there are twenty-three countries in the world that derive 60 percent of their exports from oil and gas and not a single one is a real democracy.” He observes that there is a strong correlation between energy dependence and authoritarianism. Authoritarian governments will use their profits from commodities to enrich those close to power and not spread the wealth amongst the entire country.

Collier believes that the only way to sustain the gains of short term commodity-driven economic growth is by developing international standards of economic governance. By establishing procedures and requirements for governments to enact when they are experiencing a boom, they have a much better chance of improving the quality of life in their country.

One example he provides is establishing public auctions for drilling rights. Most commodity deals right now are agreed upon behind closed doors between a representative from a large private sector western firm and a local magistrate. More often than not the western firm gets a far better deal than that of the magistrate because the magistrate is not aware of the actual value of the commodity he is selling rights to. By creating public auctions, you are allowing market forces to drive up the price of the contract which allows the country in which the commodity resides to gain more wealth from the deal.

This is just one aspect of the international economic governance reforms he would be interested in enacting. But such a small tweak in the way business is currently done could pay huge dividends in the effort to end poverty.

The international norms he would establish would be adopted on a voluntary basis. The ultimate goal would be measured on two fronts.

One, to improve the lives of the indigenous people by establishing funding requirements with commodity profits for clean water, healthcare, and education. This would lay the foundation for non-commodity fueled sustained economic growth and answer the “how to end poverty” question.

Second, to remind the Western democracies of our enlightened self-interest. A potential billion more people in the marketplace will create an increase in global demand that will be realized amongst all economic sectors.

To the question of how to end poverty, Collier believes the countries that are home to the world’s poorest billion have all of the resources at their fingertips. They just need guidance from the international community on how to improve the economic conditions of their people.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr

U.N. SDGsThe United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusive to the realm of government policy. The business and science communities can help address climate change and fight poverty as well.

According to the 2016 U.N. Global Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Study, 87 percent of executives embrace the SDGs and are willing to reevaluate the way their companies do business.

The State of Responsible Business Report 2016, published by business intelligence company Ethical Corporation, found that the level of business engagement with U.N. SDGs is highest in the Asia-Pacific region at 54 percent.

This ranking was followed by 46 and 37 percent in Europe and North America, respectively. These results indicate that companies in or near the developing world are, in fact, the most eager to work toward achieving sustainable development.

On specific goals, Ethical Corporation determined that more than half of its customers are willing to engage on climate action, decent work and economic growth, as well as responsible consumption and production (these agendas rank 13, 8 and 12 out of the 17 U.e. SDGs).

By region, African companies are more focused on the goal of quality education, whereas businesses in the Asia-Pacific are more inclined to climate action.

Liam Dowd, the managing director of Ethical Corporation, pointed out that engagement on the goals of no poverty and zero hunger (one and two on the list of SDGs) is lower. Mr. Dowd said that engagement is likely because these targets are more general in scope and require cooperation with other sectors, not because companies are turning a blind eye to these issues.

Additionally, cooperation is precisely what the business and international communities are hoping to achieve. At the SDG Business Forum held in New York on July 19, 2016, the U.N. Global Compact and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) signed a memorandum of understanding on encouraging business participation in the U.N. 2030 agenda.

According to the Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net), the U.N. SDGs also have the potential to involve more everyday citizens in scientific research and make initiatives more people-oriented.

Elizabeth Pollitzer, the managing director at Portia, a company that aims to help women across science disciplines, argued that the “SDGs can be a beacon for innovation in the way research programmes are designed to include the people who are meant to benefit.”

In turn, increasing citizen engagement is an initiative that governments, the scientific community and other NGOs can improve upon.

For the development community, the U.N. SDGs have become points of cooperation with the science and business communities. They have enormous potential to bring about more responsible research and corporate strategies.

Philip Katz

Photo: Pixabay