The Affero Blog
Did you know that 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day? Or that 840 million people do not have enough to eat? That’s a lot of hungry people. Did you know that a billion people lack access to clean water and 2 billion lack access to sanitation? Meanwhile, millions of people die each year from the same malaria we’ve eradicated in the U.S. and 10 million children are expected to die this year from other preventable diseases.
These are the devastating realities of poverty today.
This week at Acton Institute, I met with thought leaders and proven practitioners from over 50 countries, all looking to bridge the gap between good intentions and sound economic practices. These are amazing people doing great things. During one session, I had a conversation with Dr. Michael Miller, who shared many crushing statistics and pointed out that the bulk of foreign aid has been largely ineffective in alleviating poverty. Michael reported that not only is there no correlation between aid given and economic growth achieved, many times foreign aid ends up subsiding oppressive regimes and harmfully politicizing attempts to foster development.
How can we change this? We need to have a heart and a mind for the poor.
In their book, When Helping Hurts, Steve Corbett and Brian Kikkert write that expensive and well-intended programs often penalize work, undermine families and create dependence – perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Trillions of dollars have been spent attempting to address world wide poverty. Yet these programs are failing miserably. What can be done?
This week I was encouraged by many examples of enterprising leaders developing new models of business succeeding in the poorest of countries, raising the worker’s wages and creating new jobs for others. For instance, you may have heard of micro-lending institutions like Kiva which connect micro-leanders and budding entrepreneurs online. With a few clicks, you can find an enterprising person from across the globe like Pendu Luisi, a 27 year old who borrowed $175 to open a cafe in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Pendu is highly motivated and simply needed to be given an opportunity to engage the powerfully productive free market. With the partnership of a micro-lender, Pendu is a successful entrepreneur with great hope for the future. I keep hearing stories like these and I am encouraged. This is good news and it is spreading. I recently heard the president of Rwanda say that entrepreneurism is the backbone of a new Rwanda. Innovative development efforts are focusing on the individual and are empowering micro-businesses owned and run by the poor like Pendu. This is working. New wealth is being unleashed through new businesses. Through exciting efforts like these, the poor are being given a hand up, instead of being dependent on a hand out. And as Pendu can atttest, business is good. She earns up to $5 a day and has even hired a shop assistant.
The Affero Project is on the move! We are a growing community working against poverty and injustice, committed to bringing hope and empowering people all over the world. While Marc and Lucas are in Africa this week, Christian and I are headed to Alive ’10, a music festival at Atwood Lake Park in Mineral City Park. We’ll be hanging out with some of our favorite affangelists, showing our “I’m In” promo in between performances and making loads new friends. So watch for my post next week and I’ll plan to share some highlights from this event.
When I was in downtown Grand Rapids this week walking to a meeting, I saw a bus with one of those “Rent this ad space” signs on it. It read, “MOVE YOUR MESSAGE” and it made me think of you. You’ve hear me say that you are the vehicle for spreading the word about Affero. It’s true. The way we share information on the internet now makes it possible for us to get together and get things done like never before. Thank you for sharing this post on via facebook, twitter and the rest. And if you haven’t already, get on the bus and don’t forget to spread the word. Peace.