A Hand Up, Not A Hand Out: A feature on our new microfinance programme

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The question of how to alleviate poverty, with 1.2 billion people still living on less than $1 a day, remains one of the, if not the greatest question of the 21st century.

With there still no definitive answer, perhaps a more pertinent question is, if it was simply a matter of money – why has it not yet been achieved? As with most social problems a solution will not be found by throwing money at it. In fact, more likely is that it will be an entrepreneurial approach that will be more likely to succeed, particularly because in most instances it is a community led approach that will offer the most suitable approach to addressing the issue.

 

While there are different theories around how best to achieve the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger (the number one priority of the Sustainable Development Goals), it seems generally agreed that empowerment is fundamental to any solution. At a time where valuable British aid and grant funding to foreign countries looks set to be reduced, organisations with social purposes that towards providing solutions to societal problem have turned to entrepreneurial means of generating sustainable income while creating change in order to protect their work. Whilst social enterprises still aim to generate profits like any other business, those profits are principally reinvested in the business, or in the community, to help further the enterprise’s social aims. It’s with this, there has been a global rise and increase (or at least awareness) of social enterprise.

 

This kinder type of capitalism in an international context is perhaps best associated with microfinance (or microloans). Developed by Muhammad Yunus (later awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the field) in Bangladesh in the 1970s, microfinance is a form of financial services for entrepreneurs and small businesses. By opening up access to basic banking and financial services, microfinance has been successful in helping ambitious entrepreneurs develop sustainable streams of revenue from their endeavours. Not only this, by signing up to microfinance projects, they also commit to reinvest their profits into their families educational and healthcare needs.

 

Africa on the Ball is a Scottish charity which works towards the advancement of education, health care and enterprise within deprived communities. They are also an example of one of many charitable NGO which has turned to assisting in the development of social enterprises to aid their mission of empowering, inspiring and supporting African communities and individuals to lead full, healthy and sustainable lives.

Formed in 2010 at the University of Stirling by students and their involvement in UKSport’s IDEALS project, the charity’s work has been predominantly focused within the community of Kalingalinga, in Lusaka, Zambia where it has developed a community sport set up as a means of engaging with deprived and hard to reach groups within society. Since 2010, Africa on the Ball has established an educational sponsorship fund, a food programme, a litter picking programme and a community outreach football programme ensuring everyone can access and enjoy the benefits of sport regardless of the participant’s background or ability.

 

Seven years on from forming the charity is keen to continue tackling gender inequality and alleviating poverty through new and innovative means. With 70% of the world’s most marginalised population being women, Africa on the Ball will use the heralded microfinance system as a way to ensure women can access basic financial services for theirs and their family’s benefit. With no microfinance or micro credit programmes registered within Gambia, it is Africa on the Ball’s intention to approach the sector with a new model based on their learning and understandings of the successes and weaknesses of other microfinance programmes across the world. The programme will incorporate and operate a micro-leasing option for entrepreneurs, farmers and tradesmen that need tools to develop their own income (tools and machinery will include sewing machines, tools for carpentry, farming implements, tools for auto-repair and laptops).

 

Using their presence within Scotland (and specifically Stirling) as a means of raising awareness and perhaps more importantly capital funding for projects like these is fundamental. As a small charity, it relies entirely on the kindness of donations from a handful of supporters and similarly is seeking the support of the business sector to help them realise their ambitions of empowering communities through enterprise. If you’d like to make a donation to the Microfinance start up, please visit africaontheball.org/donate – similarly, the charity are seeking donation of tools for the microleasing aspect of their project. You can contact the charity at info@africaontheball.org.

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