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 Africa’s Small BusinessesIn June 2022, Google announced a new initiative that targeted small businesses in Africa. The initiative was part of the company’s month-long celebration of International Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Business Day. Micro, small and medium-sized businesses, make up a large portion of the global economy, “[accounting] for 90% of businesses, 60 to 70% of employment and 50% of GDP worldwide.” The significant role that micro, small and medium-sized businesses play internationally as the backbone of economies holds true, especially in Africa. Consumers “buy more than 70% of their food, beverages and personal care products” from Africa’s small businesses.

Loyalty to Small Businesses

This loyalty to small businesses has continued despite the insurgence of corporate supermarkets and retail chain stores. Transitioning this loyalty to e-commerce holds incredible promise for economic development throughout the continent. South Africa posted online sales of $1.8 billion in 2020 and countries like Nigeria and Kenya where the retail sector is a major component of GDP posted 30% and 40% growth rates respectively in 2021.

The framework for e-commerce in Africa has been laid out. Internet coverage, access to credit cards and bank accounts and mobile phone usage have all increased substantially in Africa in the last decade. Google has noted this opportunity for growth in Africa, with Google’s country director for West Africa Juliet Ehimuan noting that “E-commerce presents an opportunity for small businesses in Africa to reach new customers and grow.”

However, the online market has remained untapped for many small and medium businesses in Africa. Technical know-how, as well as concerns over cybercrime, has impeded online market penetration by small and medium businesses in Africa, according to a report by World Trade Organization (WTO). Fortunately, Google’s new initiative is helping build online retail presences for Africa’s small businesses, aiming to “…assist small businesses in Africa to gain the expertise to connect online, expand their customer base and scale-up,” according to Ehimuan.

Google is accomplishing this strategy through a three-pronged plan. It includes the Shopping Small Business Summit, an online career certificate course, and the Local Opportunity Finder.

Shopping Small Business Summit

In late June 2022, Google hosted a Shopping Small Business Summit. According to The Guardian, this event was a one-hour virtual training session to help small and medium business owners develop the skills they need to compete in the online marketplace. This training session covered both e-commerce trends as well as digital marketing tools and skills.

Online Career Certificate Course

The second portion of Google’s plan to help build online retail presences for Africa’s small businesses is an online career certificate course, as The Guardian reported. Unlike the Shopping Small Business Summit, this course has limited availability and is not free. However, Google has offered 1,000 scholarships to Africans who wish to participate in the course. This course will cover digital marketing and e-commerce trends in a deeper capacity than the Small Business Summit, and it aims to prepare Africans for entry level-jobs in e-commerce.

Local Opportunity Finder

Google also launched the Local Opportunity Finder in June 2022. The Local Opportunity Finder is a free online tool for small and medium business owners that aims to improve their online presences. This new tool can analyze a Google Business Profile and then give personalized recommendations for improvement. These improvements are geared towards making e-commerce sites more appealing to consumers and overall more consumer-friendly.

Google’s commitment to growing small businesses is helping build online retail presences for Africa’s small businesses. The large African retail sector is dependent on small businesses. However, the continent has lagged behind in terms of digital market space until now. If African businesses can take advantage of Google’s initiatives and work through the impediments holding back e-commerce in the continent, they could scale their businesses up and expand their consumer bases.

Benjamin Brown
Photo: Flickr

5 Fairtrade Products You Should Switch to Right NowFairtrade products are certain items that consumers can buy that comes with a certified seal. This seal ensures that the product was manufactured under quality working conditions, a safe environment and protected human rights. In 2017, 50% of the global population didn’t grow in wealth while the top 1% doubled their wealth. Fairtrade products are a way to ensure that money doesn’t go entirely to corporations and workers can make a liveable wage off of their work. Fairtrade products are often only a few cents more; yet, they can make all the difference when consumers choose to switch to fairtrade products.

Fairtrade During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairtrade partnered with other companies to provide a COVID-19 relief fund. Within two years the partnerships pledged to provide €15 million to Fairtrade’s Producer Relief and Resilience Funds. The money spent on Fairtrade products not only goes to the livelihood of the workers but also helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. The funds will also help small businesses get back on their feet. This will aid with short and long-term relief to Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Most workers make $2 a day for their labor. Buying Fairtrade products will help people across the globe create a sustainable life for themselves. Here are some common products that consumers can buy under Fairtrade:

  1. Chocolate: Coca is one of the most detrimental products to produce with one of the most corrupt industries. Coca often causes “poverty, deforestation, gender inequality, child labor and forced labor.” By choosing to buy brands of Fair Trade chocolate such as Divine Chocolate, consumers will be helping workers obtain a liveable income, better relationships with the companies, receive COVID-19 relief aid and maintain a higher minimum price to protect them from price drops.
  2. Wine: There are more than 50 vineyards that provide Fairtrade wines from Argentina to South Africa. By choosing wines such as Don David Malbec, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Azana White Blend, Co-op Irresistible Sauvignon Blanc and Cape Original Moscato Rosé, small-scale farmers are able to “join independent trade unions and enter into collective agreements with vineyard owners.” With this, they are able to “invest in social, economic and environmental improvements.” With wine, in particular, Fairtrade also protects the workers against “toxic agrochemicals” that farmers sometimes spray in vineyards.
  3. Coffee: Coffee, along with wine, is a heavily used product. Fairtrade offers coffee farmers trade with a minimum price, terms of trade and Fairtrade Premium. Fairtrade Premium allots the workers with extra money on top of the original price to help their communities. Some of the Fairtrade coffee brands include Cafédirect, Equal Exchange and Higher Ground Roasters. Starbuck also provides Fairtrade products.
  4. Ice Cream: There are many Fairtrade ice cream brands, and many consumers are already eating them. Ben and Jerry’s focuses its business around fair trade products. The company uses all fair trade ingredients, which mostly include cocoa and coffee. Their contribution to fair trade provided coca farmers with $1.5 million in premiums. Using the premiums, farmers can improve their agricultural approves and built their community. Fairtrade also states that since its 2010 partnership with Ben and Jerry’s, the “premium funds have benefitted more than 1,400 farmers and their families through the construction of a medical center, libraries, schools and the production of 400 tons of compost!”
  5. Cotton: Almost 26 million tons of cotton are harvested every year, yet the cost of cotton remains low. Cotton causes many environmental issues such as the use of agrochemicals, water use and polluted water. This causes many of the cotton producers to put their fresh water at risk. By buying Fairtrade cotton, consumers can protect the cotton industry’s health and safety. Fairtrade also focuses on “unsafe and unfair labor conditions in cotton processing and textile factories.”

These five products are just a few of the Fairtrade products available. A way to know which products to buy is to look for the Fairtrade seal on the product, which is black with a green and blue figure labeled “Fairtrade.” These products are endorsed by Fairtrade America and more products such as bananas, flowers, sugar, tea, honey and vegetables are provided in Fairtrade. With fair trade products that promote sustainable products as well as sustainable living, agricultural workers can improve their living conditions and wages, and ultimately rise out of poverty.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in the Maldives

Maldives is made up of over 1,100 islands with a population of 400,000 people. According to Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), they are trying to facilitate potential credit access with measures like the Credit Information Bureau and the “Credit Guarantee Scheme for small- and medium-sized enterprise financing.”

The Credit Guarantee Scheme

Launched on August 7, 2016, the Credit Guarantee Scheme was set up to encourage banks to loan money out to small- or medium-sized businesses, so that individuals can have easier credit access in the Maldives. The program was started for businesses, under normal circumstance, that were unable to secure a loan.

The Credit Guarantee Scheme “will guarantee 90 percent of the loan granted by the participating banks to commercially viable small- and medium-sized enterprises,” according to the MMA. For the program to work, businesses have to meet the following criteria:

  • The business must be registered with the Ministry of Economic Development as a small- and medium-sized business.
  • All shareholders/owners must be Maldivian.
  • The business should be registered with the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority.
  • There should be no overdue loans at any bank or financial institution.
  • The business must be financially viable.

The loan amount can either be 100,000 rufiyaa (approximately $6,450) or 1,000,000 rufiyaa (approximately $64,480). The interest rate is 9 percent and the repayment period is five years. The borrower can have a grace period of six to 12 months with zero collateral and an equity contribution of 20 percent. According to the MMA, in 2016, a total of 68 applications were submitted with a total value of 44,628,896 rufiyaa (approximately $2.9 million).

The Credit Information Bureau

The Credit Information Bureau, the first system of its kind for Maldives, holds the credit information of individuals who are requesting credit. According to Minivan News, “the creation of a formal mechanism for sharing credit information will improve access to finance for small and medium enterprises.”

Maldives’ main income is due to tourism and fishing. According to the World Bank, Maldives is considered to be an upper middle-income country because of the returns of tourism. Maldives poverty “declined from 23 percent in 2003 to 16 percent in 2010 based on the national poverty line.”

Maldives has also experienced a growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While the rate has been steady in developed countries, Maldives growth is relatively higher. According to Bangladesh Bank, the average growth in the last four years “has been approximately 6.8 percent, which is significantly higher compared to regional growth rates.”

The Maldives are attempting to establish credit for its people so that they’re able to open their small- and medium-sized businesses that were unable to apply for credit before. This not only helps the country but the individuals as well, so they have credit access in the Maldives.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

global entrepreneurship
As historically less developed countries begin industrializing, their citizens are taking the opportunity to start exciting new businesses, and global investors are taking notice. U.S. investors are looking into African, Asian and South American start-up companies to invest in. While the motivation behind this investment may be profit-oriented, it also creates an interconnected world that is economically dependant on each other.

Why Countries are Investing in Global Start-Ups

  1. Support from Global Governments: One big reason why global entrepreneurship has taken off is governments worldwide are supporting it. In 2017, the U.S. and India jointly hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which brings together entrepreneurs from around the world to connect with prospective investors. On top of that, governments worldwide are putting resources into building up their entrepreneurial communities. The six-month program, Start-Up Chile, offers its students $35,000 and a one-year visa to move to Chile and grow their business.  
  2. Great Locations: As the entrepreneurial spirit spreads in a country, like-minded people flock at epicenters of design. For example, Santiago, Chile has been dubbed “Chillecon Valley” due to its high number of tech start-ups. Similarly, Buenos Aires has an electric entrepreneurial community that creates competition and cooperation between different companies. This spirit (and the great weather) attracts entrepreneurs to relocate from around the world.
  3. Highly Skilled at Low Costs: As an investment opportunity, global entrepreneurs offer considerable value for their cost. Due to the relatively low cost of living in less developed countries, entrepreneurial cities are an attractive place for skilled people to move to. Some experts estimate that highly skilled tech workers in Argentina can be hired for 25-35 percent of the cost of their U.S. counterparts.

How Investing Supports Peace Worldwide

  1. An Interconnected World: By creating business ties between countries, peace becomes an economic necessity. Some economists believe the best way to achieve global peace is to create a world that is so economically dependent on one another that conflict would be mutually destructive. While total economic dependence may not come anytime soon, on a smaller scale the theory works the same way.
  2. Global Entrepreneurship Helps People Globally: Global Entrepreneurship greatly improves the quality of life for participants. Not only do successful small business owners help themselves, but they also contribute to the local economy by employing local workers. Therefore, by helping people start businesses worldwide, developed countries can help eliminate global poverty one start-up at a time.
  3. Increased Stability: Evidence suggests that one of the main causes of political unrest is not religion or culture, but rather the economy. As people are unable to find well-paying jobs, they search for alternative vehicles to express their unrest. In this way, global entrepreneurship is an asset to national security. Providing people with resources and support to help themselves is cost-effective and works to eliminate causes of civil unrest rather than covering up symptoms.

The U.S. government is supporting global entrepreneurship by co-hosting the Global Entrepreneurship Summit with India. Meanwhile, people are investing in start-ups worldwide to get a jump-start on the next big company. Through both of these actions, global entrepreneurship is getting the push it needs to improve economic conditions and create world peace.  

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the United States
According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014, 47 million people — or 15% of the U.S. population — were living in poverty. Additionally, poverty in the United States is 2.3 percentage points higher than in 2007, the year before the recession hit in 2008.

Furthermore, 2014 was the fourth consecutive year that the poverty rate has remained stagnant. While conditions are not worsening, they are not improving either.

What Defines Poverty in the United States?

The federal government’s official poverty threshold for 2015 was as follows:

  • Household of four (two children, two adults): $24,444
  • Household of three (one child, two adults): $18,540
  • Household of two (over 65): $14,326
  • Household of two (under 65): $15,871
  • One person (over 65): $11,376
  • One person (under 65): $12,331

Click here to see additional information regarding the poverty threshold.

Who Lives in Poverty in the United States?

Poverty does not affect all demographics equally. Numbers from 2014  show that 13% of men lived in poverty, as compared to 16% of women. Poverty numbers for married couples were at six percent, while single-parent families with no wife were at 16%. Single-parent families with no husband saw a poverty rate of 31%.

As of 2014, 21% of all children in the United States lived in poverty. About 15.5 million children, more than the entire population of Ecuador, lacked the required resources to ensure even a basic level of comfort and freedom from distress.

What Can We Do To End Poverty in the United States?

There are several things that can be done to help bridge the gap between the richest and poorest Americans. Here is a list of five tips to help get you started:

1. Volunteer

Be giving of yourself. Find a local Open Heart Kitchen to work in. You can also volunteer with an organization that provides tutoring or afterschool programs for children living in impoverished areas. Your compassion can help immensely.

2. Donate

Find an organization that helps fight poverty in the United States. Additionally, it is important to find one that expresses values and a mission that you care about. The Borgen Project may be focused on fighting poverty abroad, but the work that they do helps create jobs and stimulate the already-struggling American economy. As nonprofits, these organizations also rely heavily on donations to fund their philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors.

3. Contact Your Congressional Representatives

Congress is supposed to represent its constituents, so contacting them can make a difference. Writing a simple letter or email, or making a phone call to your representative’s office lets them know that you are a concerned citizen. If enough people contact a representative in support of a particular issue, it sends the message that it is something that he or she should fight for. Above all, representatives speak for the people who elected them, so your voice does matter.

4. Support Local Small Businesses

Shopping local helps stimulate the economy in your area. When independent businesses are successful, they create jobs. Donating and volunteering are great ways to help fight poverty, and they can be very fulfilling. But providing a person with the opportunity to work and learn business skills sets that person up for future success.

5. Support and Use Public Transportation

For many people, buses and trains are a primary means of transportation. Getting to and from work and school would be impossible without these things. It is also an industry that employs over 400,000 people and generates $58 billion in revenue annually. According to publictransportation.org, every dollar invested in public transportation yields around $4 in economic returns. In addition, public transportation also creates and sustains 1.1 million each year.

In order to eradicate poverty in the United States, we need to work together. We need to invest in people, providing them with the necessary skills and resources. As a result, they can better provide for themselves and their families. Contact your congressional representatives, serve your community or buy from a local small business. These are all simple things that you can do to assist in the fight against poverty at home.

-Aaron Parr

Photo: Ivarfjeld