Karibu! We are honored to welcome you back to Nairobi, Kenya to participate in the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Conference. In bringing Silicon-Valley innovation to East-African entrepreneurship, Village Enterprise is leading a game-changing effort to help hundreds of thousands of families extract themselves from grinding poverty. We believe that entrepreneurship plays a vital role in breaking the cycle of poverty and we have five key points that we would like to share with you:
- The power of hope is real. Nicholas Kristof’s recent article in the New York Times mentioned not only the positive impact of graduation programs, but also the essential role that creating hope plays in generating lasting results. He states,” Give people reason to hope that they can achieve a better life, and that, too, can be self-fulfilling.” After becoming paralyzed in one leg after contracting polio as a child, and losing both of his parents, Joseph Khaukani from Mugomari village, was forced to drop-out of school to support his younger brother and sister. After participating in the Village Enterprise program, he has developed a successful agri-business that produces kale. Joseph’s children are now able to attend school, his family can seek better medical attention, and he even has his eyes set on building a better house before the end of 2015. Joseph exemplifies that a little hope can go a long way.
- Women and youth are entrepreneurs too. The Village Enterprise model is especially relevant to the focus of this year’s summit on women and youth. 80% of our business owners are women. In addition, as youth compose a significant portion of the population and unemployment rates rise, Village Enterprise has recognized the importance of adapting the model to provide opportunities for youth. Village Enterprise recently completed a study in conjunction with FHI360 and USAID on how to best meet the needs of rural youth and the program will continue to pilot programs to leverage the entrepreneurial pursuits of youth.
- It’s cost effective to give one-time aid. For just $500 for a 3-person business, Village Enterprise provides entrepreneurs with the resources to create sustainable businesses- seed capital, training, mentoring and access to savings and growth capital- permanently breaking the cycle of poverty for business owners and their families. Emily Etemesi Ashira, an entrepreneur in the Kiseri Region, spoke to the significance of the Village Enterprise training program. She attests that even without the grant funding, the business savings trainings made a significant impact on her life and helped her to scale her retail kiosk. She has now purchased a sheep and cow, can provide for the needs of her children, and has earned respect throughout her village for her entrepreneurial ventures.
- There is a proven method to break the cycle of poverty. A recent study released by Innovations for Poverty Action support that the graduation model lifts people out of poverty and empowers their entrepreneurial pursuits. Graduation programs essentially “graduate” households out of extreme poverty by providing both consumption support as well as long term guidance, such as business and financial skills training. Individuals that participated in graduation programs exhibited improved health, stabilized income, and an increase in savings.
- Entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. Despite living on less than $1.25 a day, Village Enterprise entrepreneurs exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that is indigenous to the African continent. Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva and author of the recently released book Clay Water Brick, stresses that Village Enterprise entrepreneurs she encountered during her time in East Africa embody her favorite definition of entrepreneurship from Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson: “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” In other words, she asserts that entrepreneurship is the ability to pursue opportunity without money, permission, or pedigree, or most other means that might make pursuit easier.