BOMA Project

According to the U.N., the majority of people living in extreme poverty are women. This unfortunate reality is commonly referred to as the “Feminization of Poverty.” Lack of resources, education and income for women are among the various reasons this phenomenon exists. However, organizations like The BOMA Project are fighting to end this gender disparity among the world’s poor by empowering women in poverty.

The BOMA Project is a U.S. non-profit organization as well as a Kenyan NGO. The organization was recently chosen to receive a prestigious grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Notably, the organization seeks to help impoverished women in drought-prone areas. The BOMA Project is currently operating in two Kenyan counties: Marsabit and Samburu. Both of these areas suffer from arid climates that make it difficult for their residents to thrive.

The BOMA Project’s two-year program is known as the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP). This program empowers and educates women to sustain small businesses.

The organization states that REAP, “replaces aid with sustainable income and helps women ‘graduate’ from extreme poverty by giving them the tools they need to start small businesses in their communities.”

REAP is accomplished through five major phases:

  1. Targeting the most vulnerable women within communities using a wealth ranking system.
  2. Assigning village mentors who assist in writing business plans as well as visit monthly over the two-year period.
  3. Providing two installments of grants to help women acquire the necessary resources to start their businesses.
  4. Training women how to run their businesses successfully.
  5. Forming savings associations comprised of 3 to 4 other BOMA businesses.

The BOMA Project also teaches women how to keep track of daily budgets, be secure during unexpected shocks and save for future purchases. This all-encompassing system has been the foundation of the organization’s success since its beginnings in 2009.

Since then, 9,432 women have enrolled in the program. Of the women who have already completed their two-year training, 93 percent are no longer living in extreme poverty (according to the organization’s criteria) and 98 percent now have savings.

While these numbers are promising, The BOMA Project is aiming to expand its reach, helping 100,000 women and children by 2018 and 1 million by 2021.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr

Loans in Bangladesh

Nearly half of the population in Bangladesh work in the poor agricultural sector where they have traditionally been excluded from accessing credit facilities that could improve their livelihoods.

To help farmers lift themselves out of poverty, USAID’s Development Credit Authority has partnered with Bangladeshi banks to provide customized financing options that fit the needs of local communities. Here are Benefits of Small Loans in Bangladesh.

3 Benefits of Small Loans in Bangladesh

  1. Bank loans give farmers the opportunity to become self-sufficient. Many poor farmers lack the resources to invest in the land they work on and often spend a significant portion of their income on rent or lease  agreements. Through credit facilities, small farmers can purchase the land they work on providing them with stability and opportunities for growth.
  2. Some farmers have used loans to diversify or increase their crop production or to purchase livestock. Through loans, some workers have even been able to make the switch from being a laborer on someone else’s farm to developing a farm of their own. Each small investment that farmers are able to make moves them one step closer to economic stability.
  3. Entrepreneurs have the option to expand their businesses through bank loans. One of USAID’s success stories is of a man who had run a carp farm for 16 years. His business was well-established but in order to expand he required a loan, which he received through the USAID program. Farmers can increase their livelihoods when they have more land, because they can cultivate more crops or raise more livestock.

The availability of loans in Bangladesh that are customized for small borrowers will go a long way to benefit farmers, their families and local communities.

Emily Milakovic

Photo: Flickr

Mike Mlombwa
Mike Mlombwa, the owner of CountryWide Car Hire, began his fame and fortune in the slums of Mwanza. As a child, Mike grew up in homes all around the village because his mother couldn’t afford to raise him. Friendly neighbors paid for his education, and in exchange he would work in gardens and tend to the cattle.

Humble Beginnings

However, after completing his primary education, Mlombwa was unable to find anyone in the local village to further fund his education. As reported by BBC news, as a teenager,  Mlombwa walked 50km (30 miles) to the nearest industrial city, Blantyre, because he could not afford bus fare.

In the commercial capital of Blantyre, Mlombwa found refuge in the church, where he stayed and began a part-time job that paid for his secondary schooling. Eventually, Mlombwa made enough money to buy his first car, allowing him to travel and buy stock in Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique. Shortly after Mlombwa acquired several cars and CountryWide Car Hire was born.

According to How Africa, Mlombwa remembers thinking, “the business became flooded [by competitors], especially from India…So I sat down and thought: What should I do?” He concluded that he would need a loan in order to expand his company, but the banks were hesitant to give him one due to his lack of prior education.

Yet Mlombwa was persistent, and he turned to various car owners for more vehicles in exchange for 20 percent commission. With a new fleet of cars, his business became profitable, and the banks granted him a loan.

The State of CountryWide Car Hire Today

Today, CountryWide Car Hire has over 80 vehicles and is a well-established service provider in the transport sector and carters for the car rental industry. Mlombwa still sees room for improvement, and he is now seeking to double his fleet. He is also constructing a number of hotels to add to his customer service venue, states How Africa.

When Mike Mlombwa reflects on the impoverished village he came from, he thanks God for the opportunities he was given. Although he was never able to attend college, Mlombwa stated, “I am happy to face challenges and I am happy I became an entrepreneur. And to be honest, I don’t see it as a regret that I did not finish my schooling because now I can employ people with masters degrees.”

Mlombwa acknowledges that now he has a name in the world, and he plans on sharing his success strategies with others. One of the most important qualities an entrepreneur can have is patience, because most entrepreneurs want fame and fortune right away. The key is to start small and grow strong, which is exactly what Mike Mlombwa did.

Megan Hadley

Sources: BBC, Country Wide Car Hire, How Africa
Photo: Flickr

New technology and modern innovations have played an ever-increasing role in the fight against global poverty in the 21st century, but where do these new tools and practices come from? Most come from established technology and manufacturing firms like GE, IBM and Apple. Major universities are also hotbeds for invention. However, in the last five years there has been a surge in innovation coming from grassroots and non-traditional organizations with the help of social media and other sites, such as Kickstarter. Keeping with the changing tides, the University of California at Irvine launched a contest in May of this year encouraging students to propose original solutions for poverty relief.

The contest took development out of its traditional setting and encouraged all to participate. Undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and UCI alumni were all invited to come together and take part. The Blum Center for Global Engagement hosted the challenge. The goal of the challenge, as Blum Center Director Richard Mathew states, was “to bring the vast stock of ingenuity, creativity, knowledge and passion that exists across the campus to bear on alleviating poverty at home and abroad.” The Solutions Challenge presented an unorthodox approach to relief development as it aimed to bring minds of all backgrounds together in the hopes of producing greater results.

Participants were only required to submit a “feasible idea.” That is to say that the participants did not need to be engineers. All submissions had to meet three criteria, however. First, the proposals had to elaborate on the specific impact on poverty that the device or technology would address. Second, the proposal had to be reasonably realistic and achievable given limited time and resources. Finally, participants had to enumerate the scope their proposal would cover as long as their long-term goals. Three finalists were chosen and met with potential investors in a private venue.

First place was given to PhD student Katya Cherukumilli. Her proposal was to use certain minerals to remove toxic fluoride from drinking water in rural India. Erik Peterson, a resident of Irvine, won second place with his proposal for Lifesign, which would be a device given to homeless citizens as a register that would include data such as health information, hometown and needed services. Replacing handwritten signs, the device would show a code to be entered on the Lifesign website to donate to certain causes and services. Irene Beltran, an undergrad at UCI, took home third place with her “Lab on a Chip” proposal. The chip is tiny and only requires a drop of blood to test for tuberculosis. All three finalists are now consulting with industry leaders and investors.

UC Irvine’s challenge was inspired in part by another school in the University of California system. UC Berkeley’s Development Impact Lab runs a similar contest every year, encouraging engineers, computer scientists and IT specialists to develop technology-based ideas for global aid. UC Irvine’s contest encourages a more theoretical approach, prioritizing creativity in ideas ahead of a physical prototype.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Govtech, Blumcenter, Berkeley
Photo: UCI

Driven by an increase in the availability of cheap phones and a jump in the number of telecom subscribers, the African gaming world is booming, to the delight of several ambitious developers on the continent. Mobile games often cost less than a dollar and can be downloaded quickly, making them easy to access on a budget and on the go. The African video game market is tiny in comparison to the $50 billion U.S. market, but growth is steady; at the end of 2013 the video game market in Kenya was worth $44 million and Nigeria’s valued at $71 million.

Although the action/adventure genre remains popular among consumers, many game creators are attempting to add more depth to their games in order to help reform Western perceptions of African countries. Developers attempt to use their games to tell unique African stories that break through widespread stereotypes. Abiola Olaniran, founder and chief executive of the Nigerian gaming company Gamsole, creates games with a distinctly African flavor that revolve around local characters in African cities. A continent of 54 countries and 3,000 cultures, there are a lot of stories to tell.

“African-themed games can be the future of gaming if people can relate with the content on a personal basis, based on their daily life experiences,” Olaniran notes.

Kuluya Games, based in Nigeria as well, also makes African culture the centerpiece of their games. One of the studio’s most popular apps is called Afro Fighters, and in it you can play as Safari the Warrior and attempt to defeat the Dark Lord of Oti. Similarly, Ghana’s Leti Arts created Ananse: The Origin, a game based on West African folklore that takes storylines from the tales of the ancients.

The influence of the growing African gaming market is not only cultural. In Nairobi, Allan Mukhwana of Momentum Core crafts his games to be educational. Momentum Core’s game Mosquito Hood tasks players with killing mosquitoes through several increasingly difficult levels. Each time a player completes all levels of the game, the Kenyan government has agreed to donate a mosquito net to a family living in a malarial zone. So far, the game has made it possible for 1,400 families to receive mosquito nets. The company has also created games raising awareness about HIV and focused on literacy.

Anne Shongwe, founder of the South African based gaming company Afroes, emphasizes the ways in which video games can be useful in inspiring social change. The company developed a game called Moraba in partnership with U.N. Women. The aim of the game is to end violence against women, and as players move through the game they are required to answer questions related to gender violence.

Although the African gaming market has a long way to go, especially in the arena of finance/budget, developers remain optimistic that a serious breakthrough is possible. The prospect that video games may be a useful in solving societal issues may seem far-fetched, but with the bright future that the gaming market seems to have, it should not be cast aside.

Katie Pickle

Sources: Elearning Africa, BBC
Photo: Google Play

UNICEF has partnered with ARM, a smartphone chip manufacturer, and Frog, a design firm, to launch the Wearables for Good challenge. This challenge hopes to identify new uses for wearable devices that could help save the lives of individuals in underdeveloped countries.

Devices such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit are among the most popular wearable devices now. You have access to information that most need a smartphone or computer to access. The Wearables for Good challenge hopes to harness this same power of technology.

For an individual to receive a wearable device, it is encouraged to own a smartphone that can be paired with the device. But this is not necessary because the challenge is also looking for unused or old smartphones to be donated.

The Wearables for Good challenge hopes to inspire design and technology experts to develop wearables that could be used to improve the health in underdeveloped countries. UNICEF hopes the project will encourage entrepreneurs to recycle fitness trackers that are no longer in use in order to repurpose them into devices that can help individuals avoid death, disease and disaster in underdeveloped regions.

Not only will the devices help the health of those in underdeveloped regions, but the challenge will also recycle electronics that are out-of-date or unused by companies. Specifically, the challenge is seeking devices that can:

  • Alert individuals of disasters
  • Officially register children located in remote regions
  • Provide tools to help mothers and children access basic health care and nutrition
  • Serve as non-clinical diagnostic tools to examine infections

Such devices include items like bracelets or headgear and implantable devices like pacemakers. The challenge may also include remote monitoring devices that can be placed near a person’s body or attached to their clothing.

Erica Kochi, the co-founder of UNICEF Innovation, tells The New York Times, “We’re looking for entries that are scalable and sustainable. We don’t wasn’t something that is a neat idea, there’s no marketplace for it.”

Designers must keep in mind that underdeveloped countries are tricky marketplaces. Geography, resources and culture need to be taken into account to ensure that the developed devices will be useful to the users.

The deadline to submit devices is August 4, 2015. The winning designs will be built and distributed by UNICEF using ARM-based hardware.

This is an ambitious project for UNICEF to take on. But UNICEF has already started taking the necessary steps to ease the project into place. For example, they have begun establishing relationships with the governments where they hope to launch the Wearables for Good device.

In addition to this, UNICEF’s corporate partners have already started implementing the framework for the development stage. The Chief Executive of ARM, Simon Segars, tells the New York Times, “the cost of innovation is the lowest it’s ever been,” making it the perfect time to launch this new device.

– Kerri Szulak

Sources: Digital Trends, iHealthBeat
Photo: Forbes

Poverty is defined as being in a state of having no money or goods. This definition reins true for so many people facing global poverty. In fact many people live on less than $1.25 a day. Among many things needed to get out of poverty a few personality traits that come in handy are the ability to be a self-starter, determination, and passion. Here are 2 individuals who have acquired just that. They have risen out of poverty in Africa and right in to success.

Andrew Mupuya

Store clerks usually ask: Will that be paper or plastic? However, in Uganda, that question is no longer asked.  Plastic bags have been banned. Who would have thought that when this ban was implemented in 2008, a 16 year old boy would shine a light on a new business venture involving paper? Incredible enough that 16 year old was Andrew Mupuya. At the time, Mupuya was living with his parents in poverty. His parents both lost their jobs and could no longer afford to support his basic needs, leaving him to care for himself. “I had to get to meet my basic needs by myself,” stated Mupuya. After the plastics ban, the young entrepreneur had an idea to support the increased need for paper bags. This idea spawned the company now called Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments, the first registered paper company in Uganda. Mupuya raised and collected the 36,000 Ugandan shillings ($18) needed to start his new business.  From there on Mupuya and his team of 14 employees produced paper bags without the help of machines. The team assembles over 20,000 bags per week and supplies numerous companies around the country. From all of these efforts the young entrepreneur won the Anzisha Prize, awarded to African entrepreneurs. He has also been able to finish school and earn a bachelor’s degree in Commerce, as well as support his family.

Fomba Trawally

In 1989, a war broke out in Liberia forcing many citizens, including Fomba Trawally to flee to Gambia. Years passed by and Trawally decided to return home to restart a business he pursued before the war. “When the war took place people had to be displaced from another point to another point. So, in the process of that they don’t take their shoes and they walk with their bare feet. And the 200 I brought from Gambia I decided to invest in to slippers.” The business which began with Trawally selling footwear out of a wheel barrel morphed in to a company to be proud of. His new company, Kombu Beindu and Sons imports plastic, such as, diapers and cosmetics from countries around the world. These are eventually sent out to supply neighboring towns with goods. So far, Trawally has made over 600,000 dollars and is able to open 3 more stores. He never expected to rise out of poverty and become a wealthy business man. “My advice to other friends around the world, including Liberia, is that you should be encouraged and believe that you can do everything with 100 or 500.” These two entrepreneurs are proof that people can rise above poverty and end up in a better environment. – Amy Robinson Sources: CNN, African Leadership, CNN-2, BBC Photo: Osa’s Eye

How to start a foundation
Starting a business is arguably one of the great American dreams conjured in the minds of many. Combining the freedom to be your own boss and the ability to pursue a passion to the fullest lures many to become entrepreneurs. The same can be said for those who want to start a foundation, social enterprise or a nonprofit organization. There are many parallels between a for-profit venture and a nonprofit one, such as possessing working knowledge of laws and creating an organizational structure. Perhaps the largest difference comes in the core mission; nonprofits work with their communities in mind rather than their pocketbooks.

So how do you start a foundation? explains that incorporating, similar to starting a for-profit business, is an initial and crucial step. Next comes filing for nonprofit status with the federal government, specifically the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A piece from Entrepreneur makes it clear that while filing for this special tax-exempt, 501(c) 3  status is made easier with help from an attorney, individuals can complete the process themselves.  Hurwit & Associates, a Newton, Mass. law firm that specializes in nonprofit law, provides the filing requirements for each state. Additionally, there are professional services like that specialize in helping potential entrepreneurs start their firms and offer an easy three step process wherein they complete and send the nonprofit paperwork to you. The cost is highly agreeable versus hiring an attorney and starts at $99.

Obtaining 501(c) 3 status is contingent upon completing IRS Form 1023 and can be a difficult process. NOLO contends that the best time to file that form is “…within 27 months of the date you file your nonprofit articles of incorporation.  If you file within this time period, your nonprofit’s tax exemption takes effect on the date you filed your articles of incorporation…”  The 1023 Form itself is made up of 11 parts in which you disclose the full structure of your venture.

Entrepreneur, advises from Jeff Hurwit of Hurwit & Associates for the next step, “The foundation must be governed by a set of bylaws…provisions for the organization’s governance and board selection process, general decision-making, required meetings and conflict-of-interest policies. provides a good collection of bylaws information and samples.” The following steps involve being very selective and discerning in who to award foundation money to and building a strong board of directors. The board might ideally be composed of individuals who are considered experts in their field and therefore would lend credibility to decision making and the overall donation and award process. Last, the organization must practice good money management to remain viable and sustainable.  This includes strong fundraising efforts.

Chris Guillebeau, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, contends that following one’s passion can be done today with very little money. Speaking to Forbes, Guillebeau explains his experiences meeting fellow entrepreneurs who began with little planning and startup cash, advising young people to take a chance and follow their passion. Specifically, he advises specifying ideas, acting now, networking heavily and committing to growth.

Going into business for oneself or starting a foundation are nearly synonymous at their inception. Both involve paperwork, commitment and proper management in all phases. With a plan, a little cash and unwavering passion for a cause, getting a venture off the ground is definitely something doable for anyone.

– Dave Smith

Sources: NOLO, Entrepreneur, LegalZoom, Forbes

Made in Africa
“Think global, act local” has become a popular mantra in the developed world, but it is the work of a Congolese entrepreneur that seems to truly embody the sentiment.

Inspired by what Apple is to the U.S. and Samsung is to Asia, Verone Mankou, 26, spent years fundraising to design affordable smartphone and tablet options – made in Africa, for Africa.

Mankou founded VMK in 2009 under financial constraints. The company was launched as an “establishment” that provided internet communication services, such as corporate web design.

VMK has since grown into a corporation (PLC) with reported earnings of $500,000, according to its website. Services have now expanded to include the design and retail of feature-phones, tablets, and smartphones.

The growth can be attributed to Mankou’s vision for Africa’s future and goals. The company derives its name from the Kikongo word “vambuka,” which means “wake up.”

In 2007, Mankou saw the potential for VMK when he noted that the cost of a laptop in Congo was more than $1000, a price unattainable for most Congolese.

His attempts at designing a more affordable, locally produced laptop were unfruitful, but when he turned his attention to the possibilities of tablets, his perseverance paid off.

A Congolese minister happened to read a Time article that featured Mankou’s pursuits and helped him to secure funding that launched VMK.

Criticism has followed Mankou’s success, due to the fact that VMK products have been designed in Africa, sold in Africa, but are manufactured in China. Mankou hopes to change this with the 2014 construction of a factory in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville.

The objective to create affordable products has been met. The Way-C, or “the light of the stars” in Lingala, another local language, is a small tablet that costs $300. It measures 7.4″ x 6.7″ x 0.5″ and weighs 13.4 ounces. Both Wi-Fi connectivity and 4GB of internal memory are standard features.

The Elikia (“Hope”) is VMK’s smartphone that has a price tag of $170 without a contract. It includes rear and front cameras, 512MB of RAM, a 650MHz processor, and a 3.5-inch display.

While VMK currently only sells products and services to France via the Internet and locally in Congo, 2014 will bring expansion in DRC and Cameroon. The company will also enter Niger as part of a pilot education program financed by Orange, a mobile networking company that purchased stocks in VMK.

Mankou is intent on embracing expansion at a slow pace, keeping customer experience and widespread access as the focus. With entrance to each new African country, he is intent on providing not only a sales team, but marketing and customer service teams as well.

– Zoë Dean

Sources: Wired, Smart Planet, VMK Tech
Photo: The Sierra Leone Telegraph

“Buy a Belt–Feed a Family.”  That is the motto of Mission Belt, a company whose co-founder appeared on the critically acclaimed show Shark Tank and scored a deal with fashion mogul Daymond John.

With the simple idea of designing a belt with no holes, emerged a company designed to fight global hunger and poverty. The strategy? Micro-lending.

The company was named Mission Belt because it had one mission–to help people break out of the cycle of poverty.  The company policy is to donate 100 percent of one dollar from every Mission Belt sold. According to company statistics, the dollar they donate often represents 20 percent or more of their profit. They work with a “non-profit, peer-to-peer ‘micro-lending’ organization” called Kiva, which distributes money in the form of $25 micro loans to people in the developing world.

One dollar goes a long way in this case, because when the borrowers repay their loans, those funds can be lent out over and over.

So far, Mission Belt Co. has made 1,492 individual loans, with the majority going to the agricultural sector.  According to the Creative Director of the company, they chose the agricultural sector (primarily targeted towards helping women) so that they can directly help people feed themselves and their families.

“We like to think of it as corporate responsibility to give something back. We feel strongly about the work we do, and the contributions to this micro-loans have meant the world to so many people around the world.”

Nate Holzapfel, co-founder of Mission Belt Co., is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post online and recently wrote an article about his thoughts on the secret to life. He says that helping others is what has been the secret to his success personally, financially and emotionally. “Realization of ourselves and our humanity is the key to empathy, which is essential if you want to truly be happy.”

It is not uncommon to see U.S. companies engaging in corporate giving on a large scale. In a 2011 survey carried out by The Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine, data revealed that in 2010, total cash donations by 180 of the nation’s largest companies were $4.9 billion.

Among the top companies listed was the supermarket Kroger, which created a loyalty program where 2-5 percent of a shopper’s bill would be donated to a community group of the shopper’s choice. Wal-Mart Stores also topped the list, with an announcement of a $2 billion five-year strategy to fight hunger.

Goldman Sachs was also recognized, despite criticism remaining surrounding its generosity in light of the liquidity crisis. It was among the companies who donated the most cash in 2010, and is also known for a project called “10,000 Women,” a five-year investment which provides female entrepreneurs in the developing world with a business and management education.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: Sharktanksuccess, Mission Belt, Huffington Post, Forbes, Goldmansachs
Photo: Twisted Sifter