Aid money is not just about hand-outs, it is more and more about igniting and fostering long term, self-sustaining development projects. A key tactic in this is providing training and support for small-business ventures that lead to self-employment and job growth.
One such project funded by the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Trade Center (ITC) and the UN, called Ethical Fashion, makes handbags, accessories and clothing for world famous designers. This project was conceived by Simone Cipriani, an Italian shoemaker, who saw no reason why Italy’s model of fashion production could not be recreated in Kenya, and places like it. Mr. Cipriani sought out unemployed and underemployed women with experience in basic beadwork and tailoring, and with training he turned the small idea into a profitable company. Ethical Fashion had sales of $900,000 in 2012, and employs 1,200 women full time. Their wages have gone from about $2 a day to nearly $8, and this income then circulates back into the community and further expands economic growth.
This project is indicative of social-entrepreneur projects and international aid programs that are spreading all around Africa and the developing world. Desmond Tutu started his own fellowship program in South Africa, to promote this entrepreneurial solution to poverty and hardship. With funding from the UN, international foreign aid, and private companies, Tutu’s fellowship now spearheads organizations and businesses across Africa, making marked improvements in the communities they serve.
Gbenga Sesan, a Tutu Fellow, started his own company Ajegungle.org in Nigeria, where 90 percent of graduates are unable to find full-time jobs. His company targets these unemployed but highly skilled individuals. Many of them come from disadvantaged communities, and could easily get pulled into petty crime and theft in order to provide for themselves. But Mr. Sesan, working in one of the poorest slums in the country, provides them with IT training and entrepreneurial skills, connects them with internships and local employers, and helps them start their own small businesses. Since he started his work in 2007, and has since helped to improve the lives of over 13,000 young Nigerians.
Stories like these are endless, and the focus on job creation is ever expanding as precedent shows real progress in third-world development. To learn how this type of foreign aid helps the US economy and US jobs, click here.
– Mary Purcell