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Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) solutions for the bottom two billion

Michael Oluwagbemi's picture

Last week, I discussed the problem of the growing cadre of the “dangerously educated.” Many of the dangerously educated I wrote about, live in the poorest nations on Earth, which, driven by politically convenient calculations have achieved modest levels of literacy, but have left a large cache of their youths with little opportunities to use their education. In the same vein, global programs premised on using education to alleviate poverty have driven donor funds to these countries to educate their youths, but have done little to provide essential ladders of opportunities to use their acquired knowledge.

This quagmire makes for being “dangerously educated.” In it, I recommended a number of solutions, the chief of which was “policy prescriptions that straddle innovation and entrepreneurship… (which) maximize (the) use of the pool of highly educated labor force.”

Essentially what this means in concrete terms is what I will be exploring in the coming weeks in my Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) Solutions series. BoP extends inevitably to how the bottom two-billion of our world live and survive; it is essentially a concept which seeks to develop market solutions which maximizes social impact while optimizing net economic effect on our world: especially in the lives of the impoverished.

BoP stands uniquely at the great intersection where the energies of a potentially “dangerously educated” youth can be harnessed for collective good rather than harm. “In economics, the bottom of the pyramid is the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. In global terms, this is the 2.5 billion people who live on less than $2.50 per day.” The phrase “bottom of the pyramid” is used in particular by people developing new models of doing business that deliberately target that demographic, often using new technology, new market capturing techniques, media as well as products.

The great play on BoP solutions developed by the “dangerously educated” cadre is that they essentially are using their education to develop solutions for a socio-economic group which their education is designed to help them grow out of, but which socio-political factors have kept them in. The great case for this demographic is not only their proximity to the societies that require these solutions, or that they often feel the need for these solutions in their everyday lives, but is also because it offers a bright light out of despondency for those who are still “dangerously uneducated” and returns value for the essential investments in education society have put in them. Not just in monetary terms, but in real social value.

It is for this reason that I am convinced that bottom of the pyramid concepts, if properly applied to innovation, investing, education and even aid can essentially change the calculations for the bottom one billion of our world, and have multiplier effects on the rest of us. Indeed, a world with less “dangerously educated” youths—wrenched from the hands of terror, frustration and fear is one generally safer for the middle class, more prosperous for the upper class and more convenient for everyone in between and below.

Follow me, as we explore using BoP concepts in the next few weeks to solve unique problems that bedevil the world's poorest.


Submitted by Anonymous on
As a provider of distance learning material that has also developed a range of needs based education support solutions I think the BoP approach is one worth further support. Basic education done well empowers people to pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Poverty alleviation remains one of the greatest blights on society that traps people in a downward dependency spirals. We need to educate the providers of donor funds that successful education must be focused on a positive life changing end result for the student. This can be through vocational or academic approaches to learning. What must drive this forward is setting higher aspirations from the educators for our students and not assigning them to a poverty of tutor inspired low aspirations that accept life as it is rather than life as it could be. „ Some people see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not?" George Bernard Shaw