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The International Trade Center housed within the UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio) institute of Economic Development is partnering with USAID to train small businesses in Tunisia.  UTSA will take their Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Counselor and Director Certificate Training program to Tunisia.  The goal of the training is to help Tunisia establish SBDCs to train and support small business owners and entrepreneurs. Many of these are women and young adults with little hope of a sustainable future.

UTSA’s training program is just one component of a larger initiative focused on strengthening Tunisia’s economic development. The initiative is funded and led by USAID.  UTSA and USAID will provide the SBDC training in Tunisia, as well as stay involved with providing technical support to owners and employees of small and medium-sized enterprises.  The program will work to provide a competitive  advantage to these small business owners and work to improve  their lifestyles.

North Africa’s smallest country, Tunisia, is working to rebuild its democracy after the 2011 revolution. It is bordered by Algeria, Libya, and the Mediterranean Sea. Tunisia is ready to promote economic growth and trade opportunities with a special focus on small and medium businesses.

The International Trade Center at UTSA has grown to be one of the largest trade assistance organizations in Texas. They have been  working with countries in Central and South America.  The trade center helps companies increase their global competiveness through technical trade consulting, market research, and innovative training. Follow them on Twitter (@TexasTrade) or find them on Facebook (facebook.com/texastrade).

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: UTSA

How to Build a TelecentrePLANWEL is an NGO in Pakistan that is short for Planning Professionals for Social Welfare Works. It was founded in 1990 by a group of local technology and business experts for the purpose of promoting basic computer literacy, information sharing, health care, e-government, e-commerce, and e-learning through telecentres, or what they call community access points. Telecentres are public places that provide access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which help promote development for populations who otherwise would not have such access.

In the past 20 years or so, PlanWel has collaborated with several foreign entities such as Utah State University, Kansas State University, American Distance Learning Consortium, International Telecommunication Union, USAID, and World View Foundation – Malaysia. To date, PlanWel has contributed to the formation of over 400 telecentres all over Pakistan. PlanWel’s mission statement is, “Bringing Technology to the People, Building Technology Based Communities, and Technology for the People and Run by the People”. PlanWel is one of the many examples of telecentre programs that are working to improve lives by providing access to ICTs.

Generally, telecentres are located in rural areas of the developing world. According to the Telecentre.org Foundation, there are over 87,513 telecentres in over 53 countries. In this interview, the PlanWel CEO, Shahab Afroz Khan, talks about how to build a telecentre.

What do the telecentres look like?

“In fact, they are not at all fancy. In a rural setting, it would be a one-room to two-room building with some space for housing 5-10 PCs’s at the maximum, one Printer, Scanner, Fax Machine. Internet connectivity through Fiber lines – DSL (In Pakistan we have a very well connected Fiber Optic network). For power, if it’s not on the National Grid, we have it by solar energy. One teacher would teach the students – Typically he is the Owner/ Manager, who would earn his living through this.

The only missing element – AND most important is content in the local language – which we are still looking for and working on.”

What advice would you give on how to build a telecentre community?

“First of all, motivate the community and tell them what they are missing: Information about business, citizen’s information, money transactions, sharing of information, and computer literacy. Once they are convinced that there is a need to open up a telecentre, they need to try and get some type of support from important local people, such as a landlord, local government representative, and the like. This is important because, in many countries like in Pakistan, you must have local support.

It is also absolutely necessary to have your own building – one room of 14ft X 10ft would be sufficient. You cannot run a telecentre on rented space. Next, locate some donors to give you the hardware – this is the easiest part as the donor would like his name to be advertised – which you can do with some caution.”

– Maria Caluag

Source: PLANWEL, Telecentre.org
Photo: LawaOnline

How Tax Havens Are Hurting Those In Poverty
Some people may not realize it, but avoiding taxes can hurt more than the government–it actually negatively affects those living under the poverty line the most.

Some large businesses can get away with paying fewer taxes through the use of tax havens. Tax havens allow these businesses to sneakily conduct business through other countries that have extremely low tax rates to legally avoid paying taxes. For example, Associated British Foods was suspected of using tax haven conduct to avoid paying enough tax money to Zambia that could have put 48,000 children in school. Two other major companies were also accused of denying the Democratic Republic of Congo an estimated $1.36 billion.

According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, avoiding taxes severely hurts poor people living in developing countries, and these nations lose three times more money as a result of tax havens than they receive in aid each year.

Tax havens are one of the largest invisible obstacles that affect poverty, and they are difficult to regulate because they are difficult to find. Not all companies that conduct business in multiple countries are using tax havens, and it’s tough to tell from what a company reports if it is utilizing any tax haven subsidiaries. Combined with the idea that tax havens can significantly increase a business’s profit, it will be difficult to find and stop these companies from denying tax money to the nations that need it most, but it can be done. Next month the G8 will meet to talk about some of the world’s most pressing problems, and hopefully, tax havens will be on the discussion list.

Katie Brockman

Source: The Guardian

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s TED Talk on Doing Business in Africa
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a director of the World Bank, was Nigeria’s Finance Minister and then briefly Foreign Affairs Minister from 2003 to 2006, the first woman to hold either position. During her tenure as Finance Minister, she worked to combat corruption, make Nigeria’s finances more transparent, and institute reforms to make the nation’s economy more hospitable to foreign investment.

In her TED Talk, she told many stories about changing Africa and how African people say no to corruption and everyone outside Africa should give more credibility and invest more in Africa.She stressed that we should do more business in Africa instead of just aiding Africa. And also, Africa should pay more attention to expand privatization and the government should increase more financial management and democracy.

– Caiqing Jin

Source: TED Talk

social-entrepreneur-plan
As global awareness rises and people become educated about the needs of people all over the world, social-entrepreneurs are stepping up and starting businesses of all types, in order to bring about improved social and environmental conditions. Whether for-profit or non-profit, business models are being developed and implemented, in order to increase the quality of life for people living in the hardest of conditions.  In ever-growing numbers, people are considering new business ventures to enact positive change. Here is a 10 point plan for social-entrepreneurs to focus on:

  • Save your money
  • Keep your day job
  • Stay committed – it won’t be easy
  • Focus on social issues (and you can still make money)
  • Bring passion to your mission
  • Build a great team of supporters
  • crowdrise or kickstarter)
  • Make an impact, be able to show results
  • Change the world – all of the above will make it happen

Writing for Forbes.com, Devin Thorpe, the strategist of the above list says that “Once you demonstrate your impact, you can grow your enterprise to have world-changing scale.” The results won’t be measured in profits, he adds. Even the smallest idea can grow into a global force, anyone can choose to start a project and make a difference.

– Mary Purcell

Sources: Forbes
Photo: Heinebroscoffee

Microsoft Aids in African Economic Development

This month, Microsoft introduced a new program in Africa in hopes of becoming a stronger component in African economic development. According to the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative website, “the goal [of the initiative] is to empower every African who has a great idea for a business or an application and to turn that idea into a reality which in turn can help their community, their country, or even the continent at large.”

Economically, Microsoft is looking to capitalize on the promise Africa holds and improve Africa’s global competitiveness. The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative has four plans that it is working to accomplish by 2016:

1. Provide African youth with tens of millions of smart devices

2. Bring 1 million African SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) online

3. Help provide additional skills to 100,000 members of Africa’s current workforce

4. Help 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills and then help 75 percent of these graduates find job placements.

Fernando de Sousa, the General Manager of Microsoft’s 4Africa Initiative, commented that Microsoft’s ultimate goal is to empower a generation. This gives insight into the motive behind Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative and shows how accomplishing its plans will contribute to Africa becoming more globally competitive.

In their effort to accomplish these plans, Microsoft has created a new smart device called the Huawei 4Afrika that will come fully loaded with specific applications designed just for Africa. The phone will be available in select areas at first and will be given to students attending universities, developers, and people who have never owned a smart device in order to guarantee them access to devices that are affordable and have the most advanced technology. This will give them opportunities to collaborate, connect, and have access to online venues and markets.

Efforts have also been made on the educational and small business side. Microsoft has invested in an educational platform that leverages both online and offline learning devices called Afrika Academy. They have also invested  in a pilot project with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and a Kenyan Internet service provider to improve technological access in Africa and provide low-cost, high-speed broadband. An SME Online Hub has also been created that will aggregate available services to help SMEs expand their business within their community, as well as further out.

Further, de Sousa believes that “the 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.” This works to the advantage of the entire world as technological advancement plays a key role in many aspects of life globally, including health care and living standards; making Africa more accessible makes business deals easier to conduct.

– Angela Hooks

Sources:Fight Poverty, Microsoft 4Afrika, Business Fights Poverty
Photo: Microsoft 4Afrika

Kenyan Flowers
Giving flowers is a globally symbolic gesture.

Red roses mean love and romance, yellow daisies and sunflowers symbolize friendship and joy; but how do all, if any of these, suggest that you’re helping fight poverty?

The story starts with Feed the Future, a U.S. government initiative to end global hunger and increase global food security. Feed the Future has partnered with Kenyan farmers to cultivate crops for sustenance, such as potatoes, as well as cash crops, such as “smallholder-grown cut flowers,” writes Ian Chesterman, Chief of Party for USAID-funded Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project.

Partnering with Kenyan flower farmers has lifted thousands of farmers into an economic situation that helps them produce crops that sustain both their wallets and their stomachs, meaning that thousands of families can afford previously unavailable medical care and that thousands of children can go to school, where they will learn skills to affect prospects for their futures and hopefully lift themselves safely out of poverty.

For about two years now, this USAID project has partnered with Wilmar Flowers Ltd., a private business that was looking to expand its ventures more thoroughly in Europe and worldwide, to hire thousands of more farmers for the project.

Wilmar has been able to “invest in collection centers, research and development trials of new flower varieties and new technologies such as shade nets, charcoal coolers, water harvesting dams and grading sheds,” expanding the company’s private business while simultaneously creating jobs in Kenya.

A long cry from Feed the Future’s initial investment in the partnership, Wilmar has taken over the project, meaning that USAID’s involvement has remained minimal at best while private industry manages itself.

Wilmar’s advancement might have never happened without the involvement of USAID, a foreign aid-giving entity of the United States Federal Government, once again demonstrating the value of the meager portion of the U.S. budget dedicated towards foreign assistance.

– Nina Narang

Sources: USAID, USAID
Photo: Hortidaily

Brain Drain
The encouraging news is that, overall, African students who study abroad are returning to Africa for many reasons. The “Brain Drain”, when students go elsewhere to study and never return, has been a serious problem all over the continent with students attending universities in the United States and Europe and staying there to work.

As of late, more and more students are returning to their home countries because of the growing number of opportunities for young businessmen and women to make a profit and a difference. The changing trend is not to be strictly attributed to a sense of duty. Instead, business sense and entrepreneurship fuel the change. A greater retention of the best-educated scholars could lead to new businesses, job creation, social change and a higher level of government efficiency- all changes that would be welcomed throughout many sub-Saharan countries.

As seen in many international aid programs, the most successful projects are those in which the local community is invested and involved. The growing return rate of students aids the “local” aspect and also leads to business growth as well.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source:Voice of America
Photo: CAFWD