Equipping Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries to End Poverty
21 August 2018 at 5:20 pm
To celebrate World Entrepreneurs’ Day, let’s equip entrepreneurs in developing countries to end poverty, writes Opportunity International Australia CEO Meredith Scott.
World Entrepreneurs’ Day (21 August) is a chance to celebrate the ingenuity and resilience of the millions of entrepreneurs in developing countries, who are delivering an end to poverty for their families and local communities.
How can it be that in 2018 on World Entrepreneurs’ Day, one in three people live on only US$3.20 a day? That’s A$4.34 – the cost of a large cappuccino in some Australian capital cities.
And it’s all they have to buy the necessities we take for granted – food, clothes, safe shelter, healthcare, medicine and education for their children. Can you imagine making $4.34 a day stretch far enough to provide all your family’s basic needs? I can’t.
These same families often don’t have toilets or access to clean drinking water, which means they constantly suffer from debilitating and preventable illnesses that keep them trapped in poverty.
This is why Opportunity, by providing microfinance loans, is equipping 5.8 million entrepreneurs in Asia to build businesses, earn regular incomes and create a future for their families. These borrowers start a small business in their village and demonstrate real entrepreneurial skill to not only create a successful business, but to overcome the challenges of their environment.
Those challenges range from a lack of community infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools, exposure to extreme weather conditions; even inefficient transport for raw materials and finished goods.
It’s unacceptable that in the 21st century so many families in developing countries lack access to basics the Western world takes for granted.
Despite all these challenges, the entrepreneurial spirit is so strong that the Opportunity microfinance partner portfolio repayment rate is an amazing 98 per cent. This ensures that funds can be recycled after the loan is repaid, and the impact of our initial investment can create future opportunities.
When I was in India with Opportunity’s board at the beginning of this year, I was inspired by the enterprising women living in rural villages, who were building businesses like food stalls, dressmaking, kiosks and making papadums and tiffen (small boxes filled with a spicy lunch), using Opportunity loans. Each of these women is determined to end her family’s poverty. They are driven to educate their children, so they can live dramatically different lives to their own.
Healthy families are better equipped to journey out of poverty, because parents can work to earn a living and kids can go to school – every day rather than constantly missing out due to perpetual illness.
So, on World Entrepreneurs’ Day, lets honour the micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries who are turning around their lives through hard work, ingenuity and passion. Like us, they want the best possible future for their children, so let’s empower them to do just that.
About the author: Meredith Scott is the CEO of Opportunity International Australia. Scott assumed this role in April 2018, following a 32 year career at Ernst & Young, where she focused on the technology, entertainment, government and not-for-profit industries.