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entrepreneurs in AfricaThe Baobab Network is an investment company dedicated to empowering small business owners across the African continent. Many countries in Africa including Ethiopia, have incredibly fast-growing economies. While aid has been a long-standing form of economic assistance to many of the low-income countries in Africa, small entrepreneurs in Africa often lack access, connections and funding to reap those benefits. The Baobab Network does more than just throw money into the economy. The company gets tech-focused businesses off the ground to sustain their communities.

The Baobab Network’s Mission

The baobab tree is infamous across sub-Saharan Africa and a true symbol of the company’s philosophy. With an emphasis on the power of technology, The Baobab Network seeks to build sustainability in the untapped marketplaces. What’s more, these solutions are working to solve some of the continent’s most pressing issues.

The strategy used by The Baobab Network to build up small businesses is three-pronged. The strategy starts with a $50,000 investment, an intensive venture consulting regimen and access to an entire network of experts, investors and potential business partners. Capital is necessary for small businesses, especially those looking to break into a market where there was little opportunity as the technology and service sectors are underdeveloped in many regions of sub-Saharan Africa. This funding can be used to invest in the right people, the right equipment and the right business plan. Continued involvement in the early stages of the businesses that The Baobab Network supports ensures that growth is achieved. Capacity-building in the beginning, coupled with lifetime access to global support allows business owners in Africa to continue to grow their companies and contribute to the development of their communities.

Portfolio Companies

The companies that The Baobab network has invested in are achieving creative, groundbreaking solutions. For example, FXKudi, a company started by Abioye Oyetunji, Adetunji Afeez and Kodjo Kevin is connecting the West African marketplace through technology. FXKudi operates in six countries and allows people to spend, send and receive money through an app on their phone, allowing buyers and sellers to interact across borders. While countries in West Africa are close together geographically, they lack a strong interconnectedness, especially in their economies. This has shifted in recent years, and Brookings reports that cross-cultural engagement in Africa can be a vessel for economic rebuilding.

Thola is another successful company in The Baobab Network, started by a woman named Nneile based in South Africa. Thola champions “peer-to-peer lending,” connecting small business owners including livestock farmers to access to capital without the discouraging red tape. The company believes that simplifying relationships between lenders and investors is the best way to build community and achieve growth.

A number of other Baobab Network companies are doing great things including creating education marketplaces and digitizing manufacturing industries. The company focuses exclusively on African candidates and yet many of the companies are reaching a worldwide audience.

A Look Ahead

The Baobab Network is doing important work all over the continent. African entrepreneurs from Ethiopia to Sudan have the opportunity to secure investment and change their futures. Additionally, it is clear that the growth of self-sustaining businesses that are looking to the future of technology will have positive implications for the growth of the entire economy. Empowering one empowers many and The Baobab Network’s portfolio of successful companies could be changing the world.

Hannah Yonas
Photo: Wikimedia

America's-poor
The Huffington Post has started exploring the lives of America’s poor in a novel way. Rather than reporting on them, it asks the poor themselves to write about their experiences. All their stories are consolidated under a page entitled “All Work and No Pay: False Promises of the American Economy” on the Huffington Post’s website. While many are from people who live under the poverty line, others are from those who earn well above it–and still struggle to make ends meet. Here are a couple of common themes in these stories:

  1. You can work incredibly long hours for almost no money but still look for more opportunities for extra hours. You are almost always exhausted, and leisure time becomes impossible.
  2. Saving and planning for the long-term becomes very hard when you are living paycheck to paycheck. In addition, there’s a nagging fear of losing everything you have anyway. Disaster, often in the form of a simple unaffordable car crash, can be just around the corner.
  3. The struggle of the “in-betweeners.” You work multiple jobs to make ends meet, but by doing so, earn too much to qualify for government assistance. This creates multiple problems. For instance, you are not eligible for day-care assistance for your children but are yourself so busy that it is difficult to look after them.
  4. It can cost a lot of money just to keep your job or try and find a new one. Transportation and car maintenance costs are often unaffordable. A better job with longer-term prospects can be out of reach because it is simply too far away.
  5. Even if you have high qualifications and lower your standards drastically by agreeing to work for minimum wage, it is still very difficult to find work. Many employers shun “overqualified” or older people, believing they will be more demanding.
  6. You make shortsighted financial and health decisions because having small pleasures from time to time makes life worth living. For instance, you might pick up smoking to relieve your stress, while choosing to ignore its long-term effects.
  7. Investing in your future, such as going to school, can make your life more miserable. It adds to your stress and depression and makes it harder to pay your bills. Crippling student debt has driven people towards a lifetime of debt.
  8. It is difficult to socialize with friends because you are too busy and do not want to spend extra money.
  9. You often avoid basic medical treatments, like going to the dentist. Even when you are experiencing something more serious, the tendency is to avoid going to the doctor for as long as possible.
  10. Sometimes you just go hungry. Especially if you have kids and need to feed them instead.
  11. Having kids is something that needs to be a decision that is very carefully examined. Partners often realize that they cannot afford children and give up the dream of having them.

Radhika Singh

Sources: Huffington Post 1, Huffington Post 2
Photo: Epic Times

healthcare
The UN recently announced that paying out-of-pocket for healthcare leads to “deep impoverishment” in many nations. It is estimated that 80 percent of people throughout 44 countries do not have healthcare due to the high cost.

“It is the poorest with the highest needs who suffer the most from having to pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses,” says ILO Health Policy Coordinator, Xenia Scheil-Adlung.

According to the World Health Organization, over 100 million people fall into poverty every year due to medical expenses. An additional 150 million are required to contribute almost half of their incomes on medical bills. The majority of these countries lack social healthcare programs, affordable insurance options or government-funded healthcare.

Remarkably, a great deal of those living in impoverished areas devote relatively more money to health services than people living in wealthy, developed countries. For instance, in Germany where almost every citizen has social healthcare, residents pay only 10 percent of national medical expenses.

On the other hand, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo very few residents have access to healthcare and they pay approximately 70 percent of national medical care costs. Similarly, in Seirra Leone, citizens pay over 75 percent of total healthcare expenses out-of-pocket. This has resulted in deep impoverishment in Seirra Leone and other similar nations.

“At least 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to the most basic healthcare,” said Dr. Rüdiger Krech, Head of Social Protection in the Division Health, Education and Social Protection at GTZ. “Often it is because they cannot afford it. As a result, millions become very sick or die every year from preventable or curable medical conditions. For example, the toll from treatable infections and preventable complications of pregnancy and delivery is more than 10 million deaths each year,” Krech added.

Since 2010, national economic consolidation policies have delayed and adversely affected efforts toward universal healthcare. Recent policies have cut back health services and reduced wages for healthcare workers, augmenting the financial hardship on private households.

Officials state that universal healthcare access is a key element in the global initiative to end poverty. Director-General of the International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder, emphasizes that universal healthcare diminishes inequality and promotes economic growth.

“Social health protection is not only a key tool to make health care accessible to all and to free millions of people from poverty. It is also an investment in health, productivity and development—an investment that is a prerequisite for international competitiveness,” said Assane Diop, Executive Director of the ILO.

Experts agree that investments in healthcare systems create economic growth for all parties involved as well as raises in productivity and wellbeing for residents. Many urge that in order to overcome the global health crisis, policies for universal healthcare must be initiated.

Meagan Douches

Sources: United Natons, World Bank, World Health Organization
Photo: Empower Magazine

Where should I donate money
There are many charitable organizations that do good work when it comes to global poverty issues — almost too many, in fact. Thus it can be an overwhelming process when it comes to deciding where you want to donate your money, and that all depends on the global poverty issues that matter most to you. Are you interested in serving global health issues? Finding technology and solutions? Maybe you want your money to go toward global education and businesses. What’s important is finding where your passion is in the deep pool of global poverty issues, and that will make it a little easier in deciding where you’d like to donate your money.

 

3 Places Where You Might Want to Donate to

 

1. The Adventure Project

With a focus on businesses, The Adventure Project helps families escape global poverty by recruiting local people to become entrepreneurs. By teaching them how to sell products and services to their communities, they become pioneers in their own local economies to help everyone venture forward. Your donations will have a transformative impact by providing local partners the means to educate and support people living in poverty so they may become profitable entrepreneurs. Thirty dollars can fund one month of job training, and with $360, you can fund someone’s chance to have a business for an entire year.

2. The Girl Effect

Launched in 2008, The Girl Effect began its unique movement empowering adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves, their families and their communities. By providing girls with powerful resources and investing in development practitioners who are committed to advocating for female empowerment, there is a better chance of preventing global health issues, such as child marriage, HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy. With 250 million adolescent girls living in poverty, why wouldn’t you invest in this global poverty issue? The Girl Effect is created by the Nike Foundation in collaboration with the NoVo Foundation, United Nations Foundation and Coalition for Adolescent Girls.

3. One Day’s Wages

It all started when two people fell in love in Seattle and decided to donate their 2009 income to alleviate global poverty. Eugene and Minchee Cho took it one step further by encouraging families and friends to donate their “one day’s wages” and be part of a global grassroots movement of people who are committed to renewing their pledge monthly, quarterly, yearly or even on their birthdays. One Day’s Wages promotes and provides sustainable solutions through partnerships and small organizations in developing regions. Your donations directly enable the Board and Staff to fund small NGOs and CBOs to invest in people and communities in the developing regions.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: The Adventure Project, Girl Effect, One Day’s Wages

 

“The Borgen Project is an incredible nonprofit organization that is addressing poverty and hunger and working towards ending them.”
– The Huffington Post

 

Learn about The Borgen Project

 

money buy happiness
We are all familiar with the saying “money can not buy happiness.” It has been printed on bumper stickers, t-shirts and even pillows. People use it as a reminder to focus on the things they enjoy in life without a price tag, such as family and friends, rather than the material objects they can obtain with a swipe of their credit cards. But the link between happiness and money is complex, especially when it is evaluated on a worldwide scale.

The first person to develop a theory on the money-happiness connection was Richard Easterlin, a Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California. In 1974, Easterlin proposed that the wealthier people in a country are generally happier than poorer people in the same country, but wealthier countries, on the whole, are not happier than poorer countries. Known as the “Easterlin Paradox,” he found that the average reported national happiness level did not vary significantly with national per capita income.

The Easterlin Paradox is based on the difference between absolute and relative income. Happier people are those who are wealthier in comparison to their neighbors, and the divide between the rich and the poor is only widening in developed nations. According to a report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last year, the richest 10 percent of people across the 33 OECD member states earn 9.5 times the income of the poorest 10 percent.

So it is no surprise that people living in wealthier countries are consumed with “keeping up with the Joneses,” and, moreover, that this affects their happiness. According to licensed psychologist Beth Golden, Ph.D., happiness is found in wanting what you have, a concept commonly found in the philosophies of Dalai Lama.

“Cultural pressure that glamorizes and idealizes wealth and celebrities creates a sense of dissatisfaction and inadequacy for many people who buy into this illusion that wealth buys happiness,” said Golden.

A further impediment to happiness in wealthier countries is materialism. People in these countries have more aspirations because of advertising, social media, television and their peers to strive to acquire “things” or material wealth. “This may not exist in poorer countries where there is less exposure to technology and a great deal of daily energy is spent just trying to meet basic human needs for food, water, shelter and safety,” said Golden.

In 2011, Gallup conducted a poll which measured positive emotions in 148 countries and areas using five questions: (1) whether people experienced enjoyment the day before, (2) whether they felt respected, (3) well-rested, (4) laughed and smiled a lot, and (5) did or learned something interesting. The results were shocking to analysts who solely focus on “traditional economic indicators.”

Data showed that residents of Panama, which ranks 90th in the world in terms of GDP, reported the highest positive emotions with 85 percent answering “yes” to all questions asked. Residents of Singapore, which ranks 37th in the world in GDP per capita, reported the lowest positive emotions with only 46 percent answering “yes” to all questions asked. From the numbers, Easterlin appears to be right.

However, every survey has its flaws, and every theory has its challengers. In this case, the challengers are Wharton business and public policy professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, who published their own paper on the money-happiness connection titled “Subjective Well-Being, Income, Economic Development and Growth.”

In their paper, which analyzes data spanning over 40 years, 155 countries, and hundreds of thousands of individuals, Wolfers and Stevenson argue that “richer countries on average have higher levels of life satisfaction” and “as countries grow, their citizens report higher levels of life satisfaction.”

Wolfers and Stevenson maintain that absolute income is the strongest contributor to happiness while other aspects, including relative income, are of lesser importance. They further state that wealthier countries can afford investments in scientific research that contribute to lower child mortality and higher life expectancy rates, as well as improved public health.

Political leaders are also taking into account the strong link between a country’s level of economic development and the happiness of its people. British Prime Minister David Cameron regarded society’s sense of well-being as the “central political challenge of our times” and encouraged policies to focus “not just on GDP but on GWP–general well-being.” Initiatives to determine accurate worldwide levels of happiness have also increased in recent years.

But what really makes people happy? Though the answer is subjective, Golden believes that work that provides meaning and purpose and love through the availability of caring and supportive relationships is the key to happiness for many.

So can money buy happiness? The simple answer is maybe. But the connection between the two will only strengthen as national leaders begin to take “gross domestic happiness” into equal consideration to a country’s success as GDP.

– Abby Bauer

Sources: [email protected], Gallup, NBER, The Guardian, CDDEP
Photo: Daily Finance

Pricy_healthy_food_vs_Cheap_unhealthy_food
Many experts agree that buying healthy food has a barrier: the price. By eating nutritious foods, the world’s current obesity epidemic could be reduced drastically, but unfortunately, there may be a reason for why certain socioeconomic groups are more overweight than others.

The Harvard School of Public Health has now conducted research to see whether it is too expensive to eat healthy if you are making less money.

The short answer is yes, it can be.

Mayuree Rao, lead researcher in HSPH’s study, found that lean meats compared to fattier pieces of meat were globally more expensive. She was able to study 10 different countries, convert the food prices between countries and adjust the prices to correlate with inflation.

She found that although the level of difference varied, there was in fact a correlation between the more nutritious and healthier versions of food and the price. Generally, lean cuts of meat cost 29 cents more than the fattier cuts.

Grains, dairy and snack foods have less of a price barrier and often are enhanced with added vitamins and nutrients. This does not necessarily make them healthier though. Many snack foods and cereals have added vitamins and minerals, but are also high in added sugars, fats and are not made with whole grains, but instead refined grains.

Diets that were most beneficial and balanced with lean meats, vegetables, fruits and dairy cost approximately $1.50 more a day than the unhealthy options.

This may seem like a minimal impact to your wallet, but it is actually almost $50 more a month spent on groceries. For families that are on a tight budget it is understandable why the fresher and healthier choices are sometimes skipped over for the less nutritious, but more affordable options.

For low-income areas, healthier options like full-service grocers are not available. Residents are forced to use convenience stores, which do not always have fresh produce, and when they do, the fruits and vegetables available are not always the best quality and are therefore less appealing.

The availability of full-service grocery stores may be the answer. With more options that are accessible, low-income communities will be able to get some on-sale items and not have to resort to buying convenience store foods or buy meals from fast food restaurants.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: Food Research and Action Center, CNN
Photo: The Good Calorie.com

business
Motivation is what causes people to act in certain given circumstances. For example, motivation causes children to stand up to bullies or causes citizens to stand up to a dictator. Motivation is extremely important in daily life. Motivation can be either internal or external. Internal motivation comes from within and external motivation comes from the external environment such as from money or compliments. If people are internally motivated, they will not easily lose focus of their goals. On the other hand, if people are externally motivated, they are more likely to lose their focus when the external motivational factors are removed.

To eradicate global poverty, intrinsic motivation is extremely important. Intrinsic motivation is the combination of activation, persistence, and intensity.

The activation component helps people recognizing the need to reduce global poverty because reducing poverty means having more equality, better environment and a better world. In addition, people are social creatures and they want to help other. This instinct is built inside each and every one to ensure the survival of the human race.

The persistence component involves people keeping focus on the goal ahead – erasing global poverty. Global poverty is a big issue and it is impossible to erase it in a short amount of time.  Persistence is essential. Understanding the time and effort it takes to end global poverty, one must prepare and devote oneself, because it is a life time commitment.

The last and most important component is intensity. Intensity allows people to act aggressively to  go above and beyond to ensure the success of the goal. This component pushes people to realize their full potential. Intensity about eradicating global poverty is contagious. People will listen and follow the examples and ideals that are given to them and embrace it even more.

Anyone can be intrinsically motivated to take good actions to reduce global poverty. The job of the representative in ending poverty is to activate the motivation sleeping deep inside others and bring it to the surface.

– Phong Pham

Sources: About.com Psychology, Sparknotes
Photo: Giphy.com

A Penny Saved, A World Changed? Diverting
Let me start by saying that I love my dog.

When I’m not working on this blog I am teaching English to Ethiopian immigrants here in Columbus, OH. I work mostly with adults and so far the class has been a great experience and I learn a few neat things as I teach and converse with the students. Just the other day we spent a long time learning the new term “pet”. Most English speakers will be able to recognize that word and meaning right away because they have heard it or used it many, many times and they have the linguistic competence to use the word without thinking much about it. The first step of explaining the new word was easy enough and led to the understanding that these “pets” where animals. We would ask “Did you have any pets back home?” “Yes, three cows and a goat.”

We spent a few minutes more explaining the difference between domesticated pets and livestock and continued with the day’s lesson. One man asked whether pets should be called “it” or “he/she”. After answering that man’s question I realized how much we really do love our pets. To many pet owners, their animals are almost human. I’m much more than guilty of being “that dog guy”, I will talk to the dog of a stranger in a foggy park at dusk, I will share the bed with my dog and I’ll even talk to the dogs’ owners sometimes.

That being said, my dog is a dog. She (I still can’t call her “it”) may seem almost human, but she is just a dog. I was thinking about this recently as I stopped in the store to buy some dog food. My healthy, four-year-old dog eats generic, dry, boring dog food that comes in 50 lb. bags. Walking around the dog care aisle I saw designer foods that cost a hefty penny more and I remembered the simple fact that people love their dogs. But, what about the difference? One national name brand dog food is about $12.50 for about 18.5lbs. of food. One designer name brand food costs $29 for 15 lbs. Even if we disregard 3.5 lb. the difference in favor of the cheaper alternative that gives us about $16.50 saved. Now, $16.50 saved for every 15lbs of dog food will add up to a significant sum by the end of the year, especially with multiple dogs.

What if that money went to help other humans, other people? The idea of diverting isn’t anything new, save a bit of money on things here and there and give to a greater cause, but it does work. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t love animals, or that we shouldn’t occasionally spoil the creatures we spend so much time with, but maybe we could take a chunk of that saved change and share it with our human brothers and sisters as well, be it through groups like The Borgen Project or any organization you’d like.

– Kevin Sullivan

Photo: DoggySpace