Young Egyptians have an amazing potential that is not yet being utilized. We have a well-established business sector, but with the establishment and success comes an aversion to trying new things. To innovating. While the business sector has made incredible impact on my country, there are still gaps. Gaps in jobs and gaps in services that would allow our most marginalized citizens to escape poverty. This is where entrepreneurs, especially young ones, can help.
The sustainable development goals (SDGs) set forth by the UN in September have boldly shaped the development agenda, and rightly so. Major problems still persist: the Global Monitoring Report forecasts that 700 million people remain living on less than $1.90 a day in 2015, marginalized populations lack necessary access to crucial services, and governments struggle to reach these ultra-poor communities living in remote corners of the world.
The expectation is that the market will provide the solution and the “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” did not materialize across a number of important sectors like health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and other services that have transformational effects on people’s lives. Without them, the world’s poorest cannot take advantage of economic opportunities and escape poverty.
Alina is launching a venture to train and match new graduates with startups in Mexico. Marcia is piloting cost-effective and ecological housing solutions in Mozambique. Ahmed is working to sell oven shelving units to rural women in Egypt so they can increase their income.
All these social entrepreneurs are thousands of miles apart from each other, in different countries, in different regions, in different sectors and different time-zones. Despite these differences however, they often face similar challenges and obstacles in scaling their business operations. Many find interim solutions to some of these challenges, while others simply cannot overcome them and, despite their potential, are unable to become viable. If these social entrepreneurs have the opportunity to share their experiences with one another, the solutions social entrepreneurs develop can work across boundaries, countries, and even sectors.
Earlier this year, we launched our eLearning course for social enterprises in January with a second installment in May. Social enterprises from across the globe – from places we didn’t even think we could reach – applied. So we began to wonder, who are these social enterprises? What are their models? What do they need most to reach the most marginalized populations? So I sat down with Charles Njemo Batumani and Arun Kumar Das, two social entrepreneurs who finished the first installment of our eLearning course in January to see what they’ve done, where they see their enterprises going and why eLearning was a way for them to improve their social enterprise. Charles is building affordable housing for low and middle income earners in Limbe, Cameroon while Arun is developing a natural plant product to combat malnutrition in Odisha, India.
In 2005, I took a strategic decision. Much as I loved surgery, I shifted my focus to Tuberculosis, (TB). While I faced criticism and jeers from my colleagues and other NGOs, I quickly realized my next challenge. In order to deliver crucial, life changing services – TB or otherwise – one has to work with the government.
It started with data!
In 2007-08, an evaluation by Catalyst Management Services of a tribal livelihoods initiative for the State Planning Commission of Madhya Pradesh showed that agriculture as a livelihoods option was unproductive and for small tribal farmers; leaving them without a profitable livelihood option. But it wasn’t because of prices, or barriers to entry. Instead, it was because crucial services and government schemes were not reaching those who needed them most.
According to the data, only 10-12% of small producers were able to access vital extension schemes and a mere 7-8% of other government schemes. The evaluation found that large farms were crowding out the smaller farmers from accessing key subsidies and benefits. So the State Planning Commission posed a challenge: find a way to reach these marginalized tribal farmers in Madhya Pradesh.
Fostering partnerships, relationships and collaboration is crucial to “opening the door” to scaling innovative solutions from social entrepreneurs that help people around the globe pull themselves out of poverty. This was the resounding message that came out of the 2015 Sankalp Africa Summit, held in Nairobi, Kenya on February 5 and 6.
During the course of the two days, nearly 700 participants from 30 countries came together in Nairobi for learning sessions, networking opportunities, and idea sharing all to help end extreme poverty.
Over the years, the World Bank Group’s Development Marketplace has worked with hundreds of social entrepreneurs around the globe. Through our multifaceted process, we have surfaced and supported hundreds of social entrepreneurs, however, we have come to realize that while financial and capacity support and learning opportunities are crucial in helping these social businesses thrive, it is equally important to support and foster networking and public private dialogue opportunities among relevant actors. The challenges in poverty reduction are difficult to say the least. But, when we come together, we can solve the challenges ahead of us.
The Sankalp Africa Summit or similar learning and networking conferences/events allow social entrepreneurs, the World Bank Group, impact investors, foundations, government officials and other players to come together to share concerns, ideas, and joint solutions to the most important development challenges. During one of the sessions led by the Development Marketplace, I was able to sit on a panel with Tim Chambers, co-Founder of Enterprise Projects Ventures Limited. Speaking to and presenting with Tim, I was inspired by his innovation, but more importantly he taught me through a real life example how partnerships and collaboration are a must in scaling innovations. Let me share a bit of Tim’s story with you:
My father was a pharmacist in Giza, Egypt, with a number of pharmacies dotted throughout the city. Growing up, he engaged me in discussions on public and current affairs and encouraged me to argue my opinions on what was happening in our community. He frequently took me to historical places around Egypt - recounting heroic and brave stories of our past - and ingrained in me pride in our country: a deep unwavering love for Egypt.
This bag belongs to Rinki. Rinki doesn’t need it anymore. She was thrown out school when she got tuberculosis. So this is tuberculosis or TB, as it’s commonly known. Though fully curable disease, it has now become a global pandemic. There are nine million new cases in the world annually. 1.3 million deaths. Ten million children have been orphaned because of it. Today itself, 5,000 people will die of TB. And TB is curable.
Let’s talk about technology. eCompliance is a low cost solution to tracking the progress of TB treatment. A tablet with a fingerprint reader attached, a patient gives their fingerprint on each visit to the treatment center. If the fingerprint is messed, an immediate alert goes to the health worker, who visits the patient’s house to give the medicine and takes the fingerprint as proof of visit. This ensures that every dose is taken and prevents drug resistant TB. The World Bank Group’s India Development Marketplace played a crucial role in scaling our eCompliance system and upgrading it to a zero text application. The zero text application is being used by illiterate health workers across the world with ease and accuracy.