Building The BoP Project Momentum
Well, hello there!
Two months, no posts. “Pole sana”, I would normally say in my sadly broken Swahili- but as I have been focusing on lining up interviews and site visits, doing a micro-business baseline analysis for the small NGO/social enterprise I’m working with, and settling into the routine of work, life, researching and photographing around Tanzania, there has been immense progress offline (and off grid). From trying to get 24 solar panels installed properly in a remote school, to more importantly trying to assess how we might be able to generate income from them by providing energy & services to the surrounding communities, my hands have been quite full. And, well, that’s good- I truly hate to be bored :)
The Research and Outreach phase of The BoP Project continues , and it has been fascinating to learn each day about the organizations, individuals, and approaches making their way into the mainstream here in East Africa. While there is inspiring work all over, Kenya has continually come up as the place with the most activity, and that’s just one of the reasons I’ll be heading up there in a few weeks to begin documenting. An organization called KOMAZA, pioneering Micro Forestry projects for rural farmers, has been growing rapidly and was recently awarded Social Venture Network’s Innovation Award. I’ll be starting my work by checking out what they are up to, and then making my way inland for a week or two….
Interest in The BoP Project seems to be picking up, as more organizations have opened their doors and offered the time to work with me, allowing me the chance to really dig deep and capture what they’re doing. I feel that over the next 3-6 months, I will be getting an eye-opening view into a very a diverse set of personal stories emerging from different models; innovative NGO’s, small for-profit social enterprises, and large MNC’s with BoP strategies.
As the interviews, stories, and 40+ hour bus, boat, and Dala Dala rides to remote corners of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda are being planned and traveled, let me leave you with some of the interesting, inspiring, and informative links and organizations I have come across in the last few weeks.
- Movirtu: “Mobile for the Next Billion”- Movirtu is reinventing the way mobile phones are used and shared among those at the BoP. Their MXShare allows mobile customers who cannot purchase a handset, to use a Cloud Platform to access their own “account” from anybody’s phone or even a street phone- without the need for a sim card. The Cloud Platform provides real time communication (making and receiving calls) when the user is logged in, but it also allows them to track their offline activity like missed calls, and have notification alerts sent to friends or nearby village phone operators. All the benefits of a personal phone handset, available at anytime, from anywhere.
- Energy In Common: With a model that combines a Kiva-style micro lending website, microfinance institutions on the ground, green energy technology and carbon offsets, EIC allows individuals to provide green energy loans to poor entrepreneurs in developing countries. Individuals can go to EIC’s website, browse entrepreneurs, and make a micro loan to help fund their ventures. EIC then works with microfinance institutions on the ground to distribute the loans and aid the purchase of green solutions such as solar powered lights, fuel-efficient stoves, solar drip irrigation systems and solar home systems.
- Timbuktu Chronicles: Great blog on innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology in Africa by Emeka Okafor, Curator of Maker Faire Africa, and 2007 TED Global Director.
- African TechHub: Blog devoted to supporting technology as a platform for entrepreneurship in Africa. Big ICT focus.
- Grameen Foundation’s AppLab: The AppLab initiative of Grameen Foundation was founded for the purpose of “Transforming lives through innovation in information access”. As everyone seems to know by now, mobile phones hold great potential for improving the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor people around the world- so we’re excited to see what Grameen can pioneer next. Right now they are working in Uganda, Indonesia, and Ghana.
- White African: A personal blog showcasing high-tech mobile and web technology change in Africa.
- AfriGadget: AfriGadget is a website dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity. A team of bloggers and readers contribute their inspiring pictures, videos and stories from around the continent. It is a testament to Africans bending the little they have to their will, using creativity to overcome life’s challenges.
- KOMAZA: KOMAZA is a non-profit social enterprise creating sustainable economic opportunities for farmers living in Africa’s semi-arid regions. Working through village-based field staff, they partner with families and help them plant and maintain small-scale, income-generating tree farms. They call it MicroForestry.
- Soul-Beat Africa: A site/e-newsletter focused on communications for development in Africa. Check out there archives- you’re bound to find something that hits your field of interest!
- Mafuta Sasa Biodiesel: Came across this one through a friend- Mafuta Sasa collects used cooking oil from hotels, restaurants, and street vendors in Tanzania, and converts it to biodiesel. More to come on this one… they happen to be just down the street from me!
- iuMAP: A joint effort from our friends over at NextBillion.net and Ayllu, iuMAP is a tool to access the information you need on BOP social enterprises quickly and easily. Right now, iuMAP is a directory and a blog.
Stay tuned… I’ll keep posting more research here, and the stories are on their way!
P.s.. The video featuring my photography (and climb!) of the Mt. Kilimanjaro is finally up… check it out below!