Innovators Support President Obama on YouTube

October 21, 2012

Back in August in San Francisco, I was interviewed by CNet Co-founder Shelby Bonnie on my thoughts on innovation in America and why I support President Obama in the 2012 election. The interview was part of the Technology for Obama Innovator Series and also included interviews with other entrepreneurs who support Obama like Drew Houston of DropBox, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Jon Bischke of Entelo, Dave Morin of Path, and Aaron Levie of Box.

I, along with these leading innovators and entrepreneurs, believe that President Obama is the best candidate for business, innovation, immigration, and education.

Below is the intro video from Tech4Obama followed by five videos from my interview. Please feel free to share these videos with your network.

Intro – Tech Entrepreneurs on Innovation and President Obama (2:06)

1. Innovation In America (4:42)

2. Innovation and The 2012 Election (2:24)

3. Lessons Learned in Business (3:05)

4. The The Story of iContact & The Steps for Innovation (4:30)

5. Keys to Success & The Start of Connect (3:33)

You can watch the full series of videos on the Tech4Obama channel on YouTube.

President Obama Has Been Great for Business

Here’s how the stock market, job market, and corporate profits have fared the last few years. President Obama has truly been great for business.

  1. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 92% since March 2009
  2. The country has created 4.3 million new jobs since the bottom in March 2010
  3. Corporate profits have increased 64.8% since January 2009

Keeping in mind the depths of the Great Recession during which President Obama came into office, this performance is very strong for one term. Even in normal times, this would have been very strong performance as President.

I also like much prefer President Obama’s perspective on women’s rights, foreign policy, immigration, and creating the jobs of tomorrow in clean energy and advanced manufacturing here at home.

He’s earned my vote for a second term.

Today’s Fuel Explosion in Nairobi

September 12, 2011

I’ve got a special place in my heart for East Africa, having visited there three times and with investments in Pengo Loans and Think Impact, both with operations in Kenya. After visiting the Kibera slum in Nairobi in 2009 to see the work of Carolina for Kibera, I feel especially for those who are living day-to-day in the slums of Nairobi and other parts of the developing world.

Today in a Nairobi slum called Sinai a fuel pipeline starting leaking. Immediately hundreds of people gathered around, grabbing every container they could to capture the fuel. Soon thereafter, the pipeline caught fire and exploded. At least 100 people immediately burned to death in the explosion and ensuing house fires in the densely concentrated slums. Another 120 went to the hospital with severe burns.

Below is a news video of the story from the local Kenyan NTV. Take a look at the living conditions of these communities. Often without electricity, running water, and sewage. Yes, it’s true that 39% of the world survive on less than $2 per day (a per capita income of $730 per year), and yet so few people are aware of this. For those of us in the United States living on an average of $130 per day (the U.S. per capital income as of 2011 is $47,240), this type of existence is surely hard to fathom.

And here is another video from NTV showing some of the burn videos in the hospital (warning: graphic):

Here’s the NY Times article.

You’re Invited: A Metropolitan Safari for Rwanda at iContact

November 2, 2010


I wanted to invite Dare Mighty Things readers to a special event coming up at iContact. We are hosting a “Metropolitan Safari” on Monday November 8th at 6:30pm at our new offices in Morrisville.


We will have as guests two remarkable women from Rwanda who will share with us their perspective of the Rwandan genocide, how the country has turned their economy around through technology and entrepreneurship, and the role of women in rebuilding the country. We will also be giving the grand tour of our beautiful new space and offering rides on our new slide.


We will have African food, African music, and an open wine and beer bar.


Tickets can be purchased here. You can also RSVP on Facebook. You can use the discount code “ICONTACT” when you register if you wish. All proceeds from the evening will benefit The Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda. More information is in the invitation below. I hope you can come. Thanks for helping us spread the word!


You can also download a PDF invite for the event.


Sincerely,

Ryan


You’re invited to join us for a very special evening at iContact’s new offices in Morrisville, NC


What: iContact’s “Metropolitan Safari” Fundraiser for the Akilah Institute for Women Rwanda


When: Monday, November 8th, 2010 6:30pm to 8:30pm


Where: 5221 Paramount Parkway, 2nd floor, Morrisville, NC 27560


Purchase tickets here


(You Can Use Discount Code “ICONTACT”)

Join us November 8th and see iContact’s new offices in Morrisville for the first time while supporting a great cause.


We’ll be giving the grand tour of our brand new building on the Lenovo Campus that gives us room to grow to 550 employees and offering free rides on our slide.


We’ll start out with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the 2nd floor at 6:30pm then going upstairs for the Akilah presentation. I hope you will join us for this special evening.


Ticket Information


(Use Discount Code “ICONTACT”)

All proceeds from the evening will support the Akilah Scholarship Fund and empower young Rwandan women to become leaders in their communities.

About the Akilah Institute for Women

Akilah empowers young women to transform their lives by equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to become leaders and entrepreneurs in East Africa. Learn More | Make a Direct Contribution

Maximizing Social Return from The Giving Pledge

July 18, 2010

I originally wrote this post for the Social Entrepreneurship Section of Change.org. You can find the original Change.org post here or read below.

A Vision in a Time of Peril

It’s hard to see the big picture in times of turmoil. Let’s go back to Wednesday, March 4, 2009. That day, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the richest individuals in America, wrote a letter to David Rockefeller, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. The letter suggested a gathering of their billionaire friends to discuss giving.

The letter was mailed in the backdrop of a tumultuous week. By that Friday March 6th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest point in twelve years, free falling 52.9% from two years before in the good ‘ole days of 2007 prosperity.

March 6th, 2009 brings back vivid memories. I was visiting the White House with a group of young entrepreneurs with The Summit Series. The White House Office of Public Engagement had put together the session to discuss their plans for the Economic Recovery Act. As Jason Furman, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, spoke to our group, the market was in freefall.

While the media was anointing The Great Recession and debating whether it would become a depression, Gates and Buffet had the fortune and foresight, to bring together their friends for dinner in New York to discuss how to give back.

The Launch of The Giving Pledge

Out of this meeting in New York came an initiative called The Giving Pledge, “an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”

So through The Giving Pledge Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet are encouraging other billionaires to give at least 50% of their net worth away.

In fact, instead of the recommended 50%, Warren Buffett has pledged to contribute 99% of his net worth to charity within 10 years after his death, all to be used for immediate need and none for endowments. Laudable indeed. Buffet writes in his usual matter-of-fact style,

“The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs.”

How Much Money Are We Talking About?

Mr. Buffet will perhaps give around $50 billion to philanthropy by the time of his death. Through The Giving Pledge, he and Gates have the opportunity to leverage their influence and connections to multiply their giving many times over and set the example for other billionaires, who can no longer give away just 10% of what they have and feel good about themselves.

The total net worth of the Forbes 400 in 2009 was $1.27 Trillion. If Gates and Buffet convince 20% of these billionaires to give half of their net worth away, they’d be able to drive another $120B into philanthropy, doubling the amount of they themselves can personally give away.

So let’s say The Giving Pledge is successful and it generates another $120B in giving over the next twenty years, or about $6B per year for the next twenty years.

While an additional $6 billion per year can certainly make an impact, this amount pales in comparison to the $3.8 trillion proposed spending in the U.S. Federal Budget for 2011. It also pales in comparison to the $303B in total annual private giving by U.S. citizens.

The Goal: Sustainable Economic Prosperity

The two issues in our world today that are causing the greatest threat to a secure and stable human society with access to opportunity for all are extreme poverty and environmental sustainability. Most people don’t know that 39% of the human beings on this planet live on under $2 per day. If our goal is global stability, not to mention justice, this cannot be allowed in our world. And most of us by now get the global economic and natural disaster that will be caused if we keep increasing our annual consumption of goods without decreasing our carbon emissions.

As an entrepreneur and social entrepreneur, I believe that our mission, challenge, and opportunity as a generation is to create sustainable economic prosperity for all. We will never have a truly secure or stable world until we do. So how can this extra $6 billion per year be used to get the maximum return toward this goal of sustainable economic prosperity?

While humanitarian aid is absolutely necessary and moral, providing funds with this extra private capital for short-term gap filling needs caused by the symptoms of these issues won’t solve the issues themselves.

How Can This Money Make The Biggest Positive Impact?

So how can these funds best be used to generate the highest Social Return on Investment (SROI) and work toward sustainable economic prosperity for all?

The funds of these Giving Billionaires can either be given to address immediate need or invested to change much bigger systemic issues that are at the root cause of so much human suffering. While I do not know which will generate the highest return, I believe that by investing in changing global public policy (in a few select areas mentioned below) to reduce the incentive structures that are at the root cause of much suffering, lack of access to opportunity, and environmental damage these new Billionaire Givers will generate the highest SROI.

In order for this relatively small amount of additional capital to have the biggest positive impact, it must be leveraged. Philanthropic money can be leveraged by investing it in changing how other, larger, capital flows occur within our global system.

To effect real long term global change this $120B should be directed to:

1) Change U.S. domestic policy so we stop spending on the very expenditures that block access of the poorest countries to the market and creates need for more humanitarian aid and philanthropic giving in the first place (e.g. farm subsidies, trade tariffs, some military spending);

2) Influence a change in International Financial Reporting Standards and laws of nation-states so that companies can no longer off-balance sheet their negative environmental externalities;

3) As Nathaniel Whittemore has recommended, invest in social entrepreneurs who can leverage these dollars and markets (the largest capital flow of them all) to create sustainable change with dignity; and

4) Launch a campaign to encourage not just billionaires, but millionaires, to make a giving pledge and generate many trillions of additional dollars to invest in one through three.

Leverage Point 1: Invest in Domestic Policy Changes to Gain Social Return

Imagine the social good that could come from a concerted effort focused on lobbying to reduce the gargantuan $721B per year U.S. military budget (which as of 2008 was 48% of the world total military spending and larger than the next 45 countries combined) by 25% so that we could increase the salaries of every teacher in America by more than 50%.

There are 6.2 million elementary and secondary school teachers in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 Census. The average U.S. teacher salary was $51,009 according to American Federation of Teachers Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2007. So in total, the U.S. spends around $316 billion per year on teacher salaries. Hence a $180 billion re-allocation from defense to education would enable us to pay teachers 57% more.

Having this type of dollars and cents carrot might just enable Chancellors to negotiate out the single requirement of Teacher Unions that is the most damaging to our children’s education–the inability to fire a teacher who is not performing due to the tenure system, allowing the best teachers to be paid well above $80,000 per year.

Take a look at the below graph showing the allocation of 2009 U.S. Federal Taxes and you’ll see where our priorities seem to lie as a nation (of course noting that most funds for education come from State Taxes). A few billion dollars per year spent on influencing our Government to re-allocate this pie a bit more toward butter and a little less toward guns might just provide a huge return.


Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation Budget Chart for FY 2009

Leverage Point 2: Invest in Global Policy Changes to Gain Social Return

If these giving billionaires that join The Giving Pledge really wanted to get a large social return they would allocate dollars to change the public policies that drive the economic incentive structures that are the source causes of many of the issues.

One of the biggest problems in the world today is of course environmental sustainability. Six billion dollars per year, if the funds were focused, might just be enough to lobby the largest world governments to make a change to their accounting principles.

If companies across the world were required by law (that was enforced) to pay for the replacement of any environmental resource that they utilize such that each company had a net neutral impact on the environment, we’d remove much of the incentive structure that causes investors to seek out companies with the highest returns, which often are companies that unethically but legally have off-balance sheet environmental externalities that are simply passed on to all human beings.

Any philanthropist who can begin to create a tipping point for governments to stop accepting off-balance sheet negative environmental externalities that are not reported in GAAP or IFRS statements would enable the return on their investment to be leveraged many times over.

Change the economic incentive structure and you’ve changed the flow of trillions of dollars of private capital that billions of dollars of philanthropic capital simply cannot compete with.

Leverage Point 3: Create an Investment Fund for Triple-Bottom Line Entrepreneurs

As Nathaniel Whittemore suggested two weeks ago, some of the funds from The Giving Pledge should be directed to a Social Private Equity Fund. Nathaniel writes,

“What I can imagine is an institutional actor whose specialty is helping great social businesses with good revenues get even bigger while retaining their social and environmental missions. These types of firms would bring companies into their portfolio by acquiring some of the stock that had previously been held by investors and founders, in that way providing that liquidity that is missing from the current social finance system without compromising the social mission. This would create more incentives for early stage social investors, and provide social entrepreneurs more plausible returns that could increase the variety of the people thinking about social businesses.”

I agree with Nathaniel that late-stage capital for socially responsible businesses would be a help to provide liquidity, and thus returns, to the early stage investment funds already investing in triple-bottom line entrepreneurial companies.

I would add however, that any company that gets to $30M or $40M in EBITDA positive revenues, regardless of whether it has a core social mission or not, will be able to raise private equity and provide liquidity to shareholders. I don’t think the gap in the market is lack of funding for profitable at-scale social ventures.

The gap in the market is lack of funding and assistance for small-scale socially-responsible businesses that have the desire and dream to grow their impact and their revenues but don’t know how–both in the developed world and the developing world.

The biggest market gap I see is investment dollars in for-profit businesses in the developing world, where “microequity” investments of $5,000 to $50,000 along with some guidance and incubation can generate huge returns for a local entrepreneur who requires capital greater than a microfinance organization can provide but isn’t able to take on the $50,000 to $300,000 that organizations like Acumen Fund are able to invest.

And so, to maximize both financial return and social return for the Billionaire Givers, I would recommend not just a late-stage PE firm for social ventures, but also expanding capital investments in existing or new growth stage funds for socially responsible companies, particularly those in the developing world.

The second area of leverage I see within the world of private capital markets, is to invest in putting pressure on publicly-traded companies to implement strong CSR programs and actually live up to them. A few billion dollars spent buying mass media advertising to publicly encourage (read:shame) large MNCs so they live up to global CSR standards would be dollars well spent for social return.

Leverage Point 4: Invest in The Giving Pledge for Millionaires

While I applaud Gates and Buffet’s effort on The Giving Pledge, in order to enable this pledge to truly make a substantial impact, part of the funds should be directed to extend the effort beyond billionaires and create a new social norm where it is simply expected that anyone who makes way more than they need will contribute half of their net worth by the time they die to making the world a better place.

For the millionaires out there, it will just screw up your kids if you leave too much money to them. So why not ensure your legacy by committing now, publicly, to giving at least 50% away?

There are 10 million millionaires in the world, with a total net worth of $39 trillion according to the 2010 Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini World Wealth Report. The average millionaire has $3.9 million.

Excluding the $1.3 trillion of the Forbes 400 from this $39 trillion, there is $37.7 trillion in assets among millionaires globally. What if there were a Millionaire Pledge?

If through a directed effort we can get 20% of global millionaires to commit to give half of their wealth, instead of an extra $120B for philanthropy, we’d have an extra $3.8 trillion. If we invest much of this $3.8 trillion in the three key leverage areas to fundamentally change our global economic and public policy system and use the rest to invest in filling short-term societal needs we can make a truly meaningful impact in the world.

Every multi-millionaire should commit to giving at least 90% of their wealth away by the time of their death. I made a commitment to do this in 2008 (in my book Zero to One Million) and will uphold this commitment. You can’t take money with you.

So who will take up this charge? And what do you think about these four areas of recommended investment?

Social Good With Market Returns at Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

April 15, 2010

Why I’m At Skoll…

I’m in Oxford, England today for the first full day of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. I’m making great connections with investors who care about social impact equally to financial returns and learning how iContact can be a more socially responsible enterprise.

Our vision for iContact is to “Build a great global company based in North Carolina for our customers, employees, and community.”

So I’m here to ‘go to school’ for three days on how to truly maximize return for customers, employees, and community so that we can in turn maximize financial results for our shareholders. Fiduciary duty can go along with human social duty!

To me, having a formal CSR program and caring about impact for the customers, employees, and community is just good business sense that in fact maximizes financial return.

Increasing Financial Results By Focusing On Social & Environmental Impact

Personally, I strongly believe, in today’s new world, ensuring your business provides a positive social and environmental impact (or at least not a negative one!) will increase your financial return, not decrease it. I’ve seen this happen with numerous for-profit socially responsible companies like Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, Whole Foods, Burt’s Bees, and Salesforce.com.

How can focusing on social impact improve financial results?

How can focusing on social return improve financial results? In three simple ways.

  1. The type of employees who want to work at companies that care–companies that put equal emphasis on profits and purpose–are the most productive and often most aware and intelligent team members.
  2. There is a growing movement toward consumers who care. Consumers will have much more brand loyalty to a company that they know cares and makes a positive social impact.
  3. When customers become passionate about a brand they talk about it more and more people will write about it.

The Tipping Point

After 30 years of so many in the social enterprise field working towards this, the tipping point has been passed wonderfully and thankfully. As the Dean of the Oxford Said Business School Colin Mayer said last night, the financial crisis has shown that short-term focus on only financial results does not lead to long term success.

Organizations like B-Labs have succeeded in changing public policy toward the benefit of companies who care. Self-interested (”greedy”) business owners who want to make money will now wonderfully benefit financially from implementing a formalized Corporate Social Responsibility program and ensuring they track and social impact and environmental impact.

The invisible hand is now starting to work toward social good with economic growth now that incentives are being realigned properly toward sustainable economic growth. While there is much more path to tread toward truly aligning policy incentives and consumer purchasing behavior toward companies who care–it is happening and the tipping point has passed! Eureka!!

Social Good With Market Returns?

Right now a panel called ‘Social Good With Market Returns’ is about to begin. I’ve been tweeting a lot about the conference via @ryanallis.

The moderator is Herta von Stiegel of Ariya Capital.

The speakers are:

Nick O’Donohoe, Global Head of Research JP Morgan
David Chen, Principle, Equilibrium Capital Group [video]
John McCall MacBain, Founder and Director, McCall MacBain Foundation

Nick from JP Morgan is talking about the Social Finance group at JP Morgan. Nick is not a “normal banker.” They invest in social enterprises that have a double-bottom line (financial and social). This social investing field is also being called “Impact Investing.”

Ensuring Off-Balance Sheet Externalities Are Positive

There is a engaging discussion going on now at the panel around off-balance sheet externalities (positive and negative) of impact (positive or negative). Nick says “every time we make an investment we are creating externalities.” He says these externalities can be positive (jobs) or negative (pollution). He says “for the first time the investment community is measuring the social impact of what they are doing and only investing in companies that create net positive externalities.”

This discussion is at the core of global history of the past 200 years as the ideological battle between communism, socialism, and capitalism has been waged. The new consensus that is emerging here is that what has won (and in fact what must win for the sake of humanity’s ability to continue) is socially responsible capitalism. As John Perkins points out in Hoodwinked, there is nothing inherent in the model of Capitalism and the competitive market economy that require off-balance sheet externalities that destroy the world.

Taking Into Account the Full Cost of Environmental Damage

Now the discussion is revolving around how to adjust public policy to enable the true cost of negative externalities to be accounted for in the financial accounting results. Some are saying the Holy Grail for improving the world through business is to make all investing ‘impact investing’ by taking into account the true cost of environmental resources that are not renewed into Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

“Better accounting for negative externalities is really important” said John McCall MacBain of the McCall MacBain foundation just now on the panel. The discussion is revolving around environmental costs being forced on any organization that destroys a natural resource (public good) that does not replace it sustainably and the impact this would make on ensuring warped incentives are not provided to global financially-focused Boards of Directors.

The discussion has shifted to bringing the silos of philanthropy, impact investing, running non-profits and socially responsible for-profit entrepreneurship.

Borrowing a meme from my friend Judith Cone who worked at the Kauffman Foundation and now works at UNC as a Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, perhaps it is all about where goodness lies. Goodness can be in the heart of the public sector official, for-profit socially responsible entrepreneur, non-profit executive, global multinational Board member, activist, or investor.

Nick O’Donohoe from JPMorgan is speaking about how JP Morgan can access capital high net worth individuals and institutions they work with which want to tap into investment funds specifically set up for investing in companies who put an equal emphasis on social impact as financial results.

Questions & Comments?

What questions are there on this topic of public policy changes and investing in companies that create social good while achieving market returns or above market returns? I’d love to discuss this more!

You can follow tweets from the Forum here.

Why Poverty?

November 20, 2009

As I sit on the 28th floor of a hotel in San Francisco I am angry, yet hopeful.

I wonder why in a world with as much wealth as we see, as much luxury that we experience, should 40% of the human species live on under $2 per day?

2.56 billion human beings, people just like you and I, live on under $2 per day. On average, 24,900 children under 5 die each and every day in the developing world, often from preventable diseases and starvation. 24,900 children under 5. Check out the sources below. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Why does no one talk about this?

Were you aware of this? Please comment…

-Ryan

——-Sources——-

1 – 2008 World Development Indicators: Poverty Data Supplement, World Bank

From p. 10: “…the number of people living on less than $2.00 a day has remained nearly constant at 2.5 billion. From Table 3: “People living on less than 2005 PPP $2.00 a day (millions), 2005 – 2.564″

2 – UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2009

From p. 121, Statistical Tables, Table 1 Basic Indicators, Summary Indicators, Developing Countries “Annual Number of Under 5 Deaths (Thousands), 2007 – 9109″ We arrived at 24,956 deaths of children under 5 per day by taking the 9,109,000 total deaths per year for children under 5 in developing countries and dividing by 365.

25 Facts on Global Military Spending

August 23, 2009

25 Facts on Global Military Spending

August 17, 2009 · Print This Article

Last week on an airplane ride to Boston, I was reading the book Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs when I came across some statistics on military spending in Chapter 12, Rethinking Foreign Policy.

One statistic stood out to me from p. 274. I read that “One day’s Pentagon spending would provide enough funds to ensure antimalarial bed net protection for every sleeping child in Africa for five years.” I learned that while the Pentagon spent an average of $1.6 billion per day in 2007 only $1.5 billion in total was needed to provide nets for 300 million sleeping sites. This was interesting, and compelling.

I decided to do some additional research on global military spending, and here’s what I found. I’d love your thoughts and comments!

25 Facts on Global Military Spending

To make it on this list a statistic must be from a trusted primary source with a clear “as of” date or a reputable secondary source that clearly lists its primary sources. All statistics are sourced and cited at the bottom of the page. Please add a comment if you find additional good sources.

  1. Between 2000 and 2008, including supplemental war spending, U.S. military spending increased from 387 billion to 710 billion, an 83% increase. (1)
  2. In 2007, world military expenditure reached $1.339 trillion (2)
  3. In 2007, the USA’s military spending accounted for 45 per cent of the world total, followed by the UK, China, France and Japan. (2)
  4. In 2007, the 15 countries with the highest military spending account for 83 per cent of the total (2)
  5. Between 2001 and 2007 US military expenditure has increased by 59 per cent in real terms, principally because of spending on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and due to increases in the ‘base’ defense budget. (2)
  6. Global Military spending increased 45% between 1998 and 2007 (2)
  7. In 2007, the United Nations and all its agencies and funds spent $24.9 billion, or about $4 for each of the world’s inhabitants (2)
  8. In 2007, the UN’s budget was 1.86% of the world’s military expenditure (2, 3)
  9. In 2008, world military expenditure reached 1.472 trillion (4)
  10. In 2008, U.S. military spending was $711 billion, 48.28% of the global total, followed by China with 8.28%, Russia with 4.75%, and the UK with 3.76% (4)
  11. In 2008, the combined military spending of the second through eighth largest military spenders (China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Germany, and Italy) was $300.2 million less than the military spending of the first largest military spender, the United States (4)
  12. In 2008, US military spending was more than the next 46 highest spending countries in the world combined. (4)
  13. in 2008, US military spending was 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran. (4)
  14. In 2008, US military spending is almost 55 times the spending on the six states of Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria whose spending amounts to around $13 billion. (4)
  15. In 2008, the United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total. (4)
  16. In 2009, the U.S. Military base budget was $515.4 billion in 2009 plus 135.8 billion in emergency and discretionary spending for a total of $651.2 billion. (5)
  17. In 2006, including all military-related expenditures outside of the Department of Defense, the United States spent $934 billion on its military in 2006 (6)
  18. In 2007, one day of spending of the U.S. Pentagon ($1.6 billion) would equal enough funds to ensure antimalarial bed net protection for every sleeping site in Africa for five years (300 million bed nets at $5 each). (7)
  19. In 2007, the United States spent $572 billion on its military, $11 billion on international security, $14 billion on development and humanitarian aid, and $11 billion for diplomatic functions. (8)
  20. In 2009, the United States spent $710 billion in military spending (4), $18.8 billion in total bilateral economic assistance via USAID (9), and $5.2 billion in development aid to Africa (10)
  21. Military expenditure comprised approximately 2.4 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008. (11)
  22. The combined arms sales of the Top 100 arms-producing companies reached $347 billion, an increase of 11 per cent in nominal terms and 5 per cent in real terms over 2006. (12)
  23. Between 2002 and 2007 the value of the Top 100 arms sales has increased by 37 per cent in real terms. (12)
  24. Forty-four US companies accounted for 61 per cent of the Top 100’s arms sales in 2007, while 32 West European companies accounted for 31 per cent of the sales. (12)
  25. The estimated financial value of the international arms trade in 2007 was $51.1 billion. According to national data, the USA was the largest arms exporter in 2007, with exports worth $12.8 billion; Russia was in second place, with $7.4 billion; France was in third place, with $6.2 billion; Israel was in fourth place, with $4.4 billion; and the UK was in fifth place, with $4.1 billion. (13)

Additional Facts in Graphs & Images:

width=500
width=553
width=500
width=553
width=552
width=500
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military
Image Source: U.S. Military Spending vs. the World, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
us
us
width=400
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 2A
Arms
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 6A
Arms
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 6A
arms
Image source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 6B
nuclear
Image source: Nuclear Warheads by Country, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Chapter 8
arms
Image source: Nuclear Warheads by Country, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 12A

Fact Sources:

  1. Travis Sharp, Growth in U.S. Defense Spending Over the Last Decade, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, February 26, 2009
  2. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2008 Year Book, Chapter 5
  3. Global Policy Forum, Total UN System Contributions
  4. U.S. Military Spending vs. the World, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
  5. U.S. Department of Defense Budget 2009
  6. Robert Higgs, The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here, using data from U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2008 and U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970
  7. Sachs, Jeffrey, Common Wealth p. 274
  8. White House Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, FY 2007
  9. USAID, FY 2009 International Affairs Budget Request, Summary and Highlights, p. 7
  10. USAID, FY 2009 International Affairs Budget Request, Africa Regional Overview, p. 2
  11. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 3A
  12. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Chapter 6
  13. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s 2009 Year Book, Appendix 12A

Please add comments below on any thoughts you have or additional good sources. Thank you!

25 Facts on Global Poverty

August 1, 2009

25 Facts on Global Poverty

August 16, 2009 · Print This Article

One of the challenges I’ve faced as I’ve sought to learn all I can on global poverty over the past few years has been how challenging it is to find accurate, trusted statistics on the topic. I spent a few hours tonight beginning a compilation of stats on global poverty, which I’ve added as a new page on The Humanity Campaign web site.

What do you think about these facts? What can we do to end extreme poverty in our lifetime? Please feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.

Special Thanks:

Thank you to the site GlobalIssues.org for their work in collecting verifiable facts and statistics on major global issues. Their page “Poverty Facts & Stats” was of great help in compiling these statistics. Thank you also to the World Bank, UNICEF, UNICEF Cananda, and UNDP for vital reports neccessary for the compilation of these statistics. The United Nations report “The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009” was also particularly helpful.

A Collection of Sourced & Verifiable Facts on Global Poverty

To make it on this list a statistic must be from a trusted primary source with a clear “as of” date. All statistics are sourced and cited at the bottom of the page.

  1. As of 2008, 79.8% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day. (5.15 billon people) (1)
  2. As of 2008, 48.6% of humanity lives on less than $2.50 per day. (3.14 billion people) (1)
  3. As of 2008, 40.2% of humanity lives on less than $2 per day. (2.60 billion people) (1)
  4. As of 2008, 21.7% of humanity lives on less than $1.25 per day (1.40 billion people) (1)
  5. As of 2008, 13.6% of humanity lives on less than $1 per day. (880 million people) (1)
  6. As of 2008, the world’s richest 20% consume 76.6% of private consumption (1)
  7. As of 2008, the world’s richest 10% consume 59.9% of private consumption (1)
  8. As of 2009, 25,000 children under 5 years old die each day due to poverty (2)
  9. As of 2006, access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%. (3)
  10. As of 2007, every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide. (4)
  11. As of 2007, 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity (5)
  12. As of 2007, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined. (6, 7, 8 )
  13. As of 2009, the poverty line in the USA for a single individual is drawn at $10,830 per annum or $29.67 per day. (9)
  14. As of 2006, 10.6 million children die every year from causes that are easily preventable – equal to 29,000 children every day (10)
  15. As of 2006, half of these deaths 29,000 daily deaths of children occur in just six countries – China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan (10)
  16. As of 2006, 2 million children die every year from pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections, making it the leading cause of death of children under five years of age (11)
  17. As of 2006, 1.6 million children die every year from Diarrhoeal disease, primarily from the resulting severe dehydration that can quickly result in the failure of vital organs in young children (11)
  18. As of 2006, 1.1 million children die every year in Africa from malaria, making it the largest cause of death for children under five in Africa. (11)
  19. As of 2006, 657,000 children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV every day, most through transmission of the virus from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding (11)
  20. As of 2006, 500,000 children die every year from measles. (11)
  21. As of 2008, on the whole, people are healthier, wealthier, and live longer today than 30 years ago. If children were still dying at 1978 rates, there would have been 16.2 million dealths of children globally in 2006. In fact there were only 9.5 million such deaths. This difference of 6.7 million deaths is equivalent to 18,329 children’s lives being saved every day. (12)
  22. As of 2007, each year, more than 500,000 women die from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. (13)
  23. As of 2007, in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of dying from complications from childbirth over the course of her lifetime is 1 in 16, compared to 1 in 3,800 in the developed world. (13)
  24. As of 2005, an estimated 15.2 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS (14)
  25. In 2008, net disbursements of official development assistance (ODA) reached $119.8 billion. That is equivalent to 0.3 per cent of developed countries’ combined national income. (15)

Global Poverty Facts in Graphs

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Global

Source: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 51

Global

Source: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 52

Sources:

  1. World Development Indicators 2008, World Bank, August 2008
  2. UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2009
  3. 2006 United Nations Human Development Report, pp.6, 7, 35
  4. 2007 Human Development Report (HDR), United Nations Development Program, November 27, 2007, p.25.
  5. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.44
  6. World Bank Key Development Data & Statistics, World Bank
  7. Luisa Kroll and Allison Fass, The World’s Richest People, Forbes
  8. World Bank’s list of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (41 countries)
  9. www.hhs.gov“. The 2009 HHS Poverty Guidelines. http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/09poverty.shtml.
  10. UNICEF Canada 50 Year Progress Report 2006, Overview Sheet
  11. UNICEF Canada 50 Year Progress Report 2006
  12. World Health Organization, World Health Report 2008, p. 14
  13. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.16
  14. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.20
  15. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 48

What Jess, Bob, and I Did in Africa

July 10, 2009

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July 5th, 12pm – I’m looking out the Virgin Atlantic airplane window at Mt. Kenya as we end our twelve day trip to Kenya and Uganda. We’ve begun the twenty-eight hour journey home. East Africa is a beautiful region with substantial economic opportunity, and very worthy of a visit. This was my second trip to Uganda, but first to Kenya.

What Drew Us In

We went to learn. We went to visit some of the non-profits The Humanity Campaign has worked with in the past and those we are considering supporting in the future. We came back changed permanently having seen the juxtaposition of the beautiful rising Africa against the constant suffering of unlistened to and forgotten millions of people just like you and I. In the developing world, 2.6 billion people live under $2 per day (PPP adjusted) according to the World Bank and 49,300 people die each and every day needlessly from preventable disease and starvation according to the WHO.

Some of The Stories That Sear Themselves Into Your Memory

For just a second, imagine 139 girls from your local elementary school have been kidnapped by an armed rebel group and taken to a jungle 400 miles away. One hundred and nine of them are negotiated to be returned but 30 of them stay and are raped, abused, and are forced to be sex slaves for as long as thirteen years. Six of these thirty girls are killed attempting to escape. Imagine hiding in a snake-infested ceiling drop at your high school to avoid being kidnapped by the LRA. Imagine being 17 and living in a slum in Africa with over 1 million residents. Both your parents died of AIDS, then your grandfather was killed, then your pastor who took you in abused you. Now you’re on your own, struggling everyday to survive. These are just some of the life altering stories I’ve heard over the last twelve days.

Day By Day, What We Did

Bob Phoenix, Jess Shorland, and I left the iContact parking lot at 4:30pm on Wednesday June 24. We drove over to Raleigh-Durham International Airport for our flight to London. We arrived in Heathrow Airport on Thursday morning, took the Heathrow Express to Paddington, took the Underground to Waterloo, and were on the London Eye by 10:30am in good tourist form. In our twelve hour layover in London we rode the Eye, took photos on the lions at Trafalgar Square, ate Bangers and Mash at The Clarence, saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham, and visited the London office of Credit Suisse in Canary Wharf to visit some of Bob’s co-workers.

We departed from Heathrow that Thursday night and arrived the next morning in Nairobi. After filling out our Kenya arrival cards and swine flu papers, we made it through immigration in about an hour. Three $25 Kenyan Visas later, we picked up our luggage at baggage claim and excitedly met Mary Muhara from Africa Rising at international arrivals. We had checked into the Bush House and Camp in the South C district, which had a reasonable rate of 4600 Kenyan Shillings for a double room with an en suite bathroom (and hot showers). We left our bags and proceeded with Mary to begin what we we really there for–to visit the non-profits we were working with and learn as much as we could about extreme poverty, hunger, basic healthcare, and conflict resolution.

We visited Nairobi, Kampala, Lira, Gulu, and Mityana over the twelve days. We were there to visit the organizations that The Humanity Campaign has contributed to in the past and to scope out new organizations to invest in the the future. We were also there to learn–to venture another foot into the water of exploring what it will actually take to end extreme poverty and hunger in our lifetime. Jess’ focus was to learn about conflict resolution.

During the trip we visited nineteen social entrepreneurial organizations all told (some non-profit, some for-profit) in Kenya and Uganda. We visited seven schools, four community non-profits, three local businesses who had received microloans, two microlending institutions, one hospital, one clinic, and one technology incubator.

Our itinerary was as follows:

Day One – Fly from Raleigh to London
Day Two – In London, Fly from London to Nairobi
Day Three, Nairobi – Africa Rising, TULIP
Day Four, Nairobi – Carolina for Kibera, Trash Clean Up, Soccer Tournament Fun Day
Day Five, Nairobi – Fly to Entebbe Uganda, Car ride to Kampala to home of Louis Ntale
Day Six, Kampala, Lira, Gulu- Concerned Parents Association, Community Microlending to Young Mothers Program
Day Seven, Gulu – Invisible Children Uganda / St. Joseph’s High School, Gulu High School, MEND
Day Eight, Kampala – Bus from Gulu to Kampala, Appfrica meeting in Kampala
Day Nine, Mityana – Mityana Hospital, Mityana Secondary School, Affinet, Naama Millennium Primary School, Santa Maria Medical Clinic
Day Ten, Kampala – Faula Uganda / Opportunity International
Day Eleven, Entebbe – Bob and Ryan Flight from Entebbe to Nairobi, Jess gets picked up by Juma to go to WOMEDA in Karagwe, Tanzania
Day Twelve – Fly from Nairobi to London to New York to Raleigh

Where We Spent Our Time

Here is a report on each of the organizations we visited with while in Uganda and Kenya the past twelve days.

AFRICA RISING

Africa Rising is a non-profit organization based in Durham, North Carolina that currently supports organizations in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. The organization retains a representative in East Africa named Mary Muhara, a Kenyan residing in Nairobi. Mary’s job is to vet potential non-profit organizations for the group to contribute to and to follow-up with those currently in the Africa Rising network. Mary was very kind to take us around Nairobi on our first day to show us TULIP and a Beacon of Hope store.

TULIP GIRLS CENTRE

The first organization we visited with Mary was TULIP Girls Centre. TULIP is an organization that Africa Rising supports today. TULIP was founded by Mary Munyi. Mary started by taking in five disadvantaged girls from the community around here. Today, TULIP is a private school for sixty disadvantaged girls aged 13 to 16 (form 2, 3, and 4) located just outside of the Korogocho slum, the second largest slum in Nairobi after Kibera and the most dangerous.

We met with Nicera Muriithi the Program Manager. Nicera explained that their operating budget was $30,000 per year. We learned that their teachers were paid approximately $125 per month.

When we asked why we should support a private school in the area Nicera explained that the government had not built a primary school in the area because it was a poor area and that there was no public school nearby. Nicera explained that her biggest need was to get more land so she could expand the school. She indicated it would cost $25,000 to purchase the one acre of land. She also requested textbooks and a computer so she can train the students in typing.

We had a chance to speak with the students. When we asked what they wanted to be in the future, they named lawyer, doctor, preacher, and politician. The reality was however that all these professions required a college degree and that these girls would not be able to afford to attend university.

CAROLINA FOR KIBERA

On Sunday June 28 at 8am we showed up at the office of Carolina for Kibera (CFK). CFK has a girls center, clinic, waster management program, and youth soccer program.CFK was founded in 2001 by Rye Barcott, a friend of mine and fellow Tar Heel. Rye was a U.S. Marine Officer for five years who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rye just finished a MBA at Harvard Business School and a MPA at the Kennedy School of Government.

Kibera is in Nairobi and with 1 million residents, it is the largest slum in Africa. That day in Kibera, Jess, Bob and I walked about 30 minutes to the soccer field with a couple interns from Duke and UNC and some visiting Muzungus (white people) from Vancouver. We grabbed rakes and helped remove trash from the street and sewers in Kibera as part of CFK’s ‘fun day’ in which kids did a couple hours of community service cleaning up the area and then participated in a soccer tournament.

It was an eye opening and life altering experience walking through the dirt paths of Kibera and raking clothes, water bottles, shoes, fruit, corn, and litter out of open drainage ditches filled with brown water and human excrement as part of a team of perhaps 200 that went out in the community to clean up. I had seen rural poverty in Africa before, but this urban poverty was different. The community seemed vibrant, entrepreneurial, alive, musical. Dozens of stray dogs and chickens roamed. The small one-room houses in which 6-8 slept were made of mud with a tin roof. Yet we knew we wouldn’t be safe by ourselves, especially after dark. The lack of sanitation was very visible.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on Kibera, “Kibera is heavily polluted by soot, dust, and other wastes. Open sewage routes, in addition to the common use of Flying toilets, also contribute to contamination of the slum with human and animal feces. The combination of poor nutrition and lack of sanitation accounts for many illnesses. Not only are death by disease and conflict common inside this slum, but it is estimated that 1/5 of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV live in Kibera.”

Kibera was the center of many of the riots and killing that occurred following the contested Kenyan election in December 2007.

At 11:30 that morning we had to leave the soccer field and walk the 30 minutes back to the CFK office. We couldn’t find anyone who was willing to walk with us and were told we should not walk alone due to safety (and we didn’t remember the route). We finally found a wonderful 17 year old young lady to show us the way back. She was the 17 I spoke of earlier in this post whose parents had died of AIDS. She moved in with her grandfather but he shortly passed. She then moved in with her pastor, but he abused her. She was effectively alone struggling to survive and all she wanted was a small place of her own. Stories like this were all too commonly heard.

It was a life changing experience to spend four hours in Kibera, and I know I’ll return. I have a very high level of respect for everyone at Carolina for Kibera. I’d love to work to start a similar program in Korogocho, a slightly smaller but more dangerous slum in Nairobi.

Here’s a video of me dancing with the children in Kibera before a Carolina for Kibera soccer match:

CONCERNED PARENTS ASSOCIATION

After taking the Post Uganda bus to the Kamdini depot, we were picked up by Richard from Concerned Parents Association, another organization that Africa Rising currently contributes to. We met with Anthony, the Interim Executive Director of CPA. CPA started in 1996 after 139 girls aged six and seven were abducted from a local school by the LRA. Of the 139 that were taken, 109 were returned quickly in negotiations, but 30 remained. Since 1996, 24 of the 30 remaining abductee girls have returns. The other six were killed while attempting to escape. The girls today are all 19 or 20 years old. In March 2009, the last surviving girl returned. To give some perspective, in order to escape successfully each girl had to walk for one month, often alone, in the jungle of Northwest Uganda or the Garamba Forest.CPA helps these returnee abductees with counseling. Almost all of the 24 returnees girls brought with them babies. They had been made wives or sex slaves of the LRA while the bush (forest). These babies were called ‘Bush Babies’ by the local community, and often discriminated against. Today, the LRA still has over 3,000 women and child that they have abducted. July 2006 was the last abduction in Uganda. However, today the LRA is abducting children in the Congo and most recently massacred 600 over the Christmas 2008 holiday in the DRC. The people in Lira still fear the LRA returning to Acholiland (Northern Uganda) according to Anthony.

Today the Concerned Parents Association is focused on improving children’s rights and fighting/reporting rape and domestic violence in their tribe of Lango around Lira, a city of 62,000 people. They have sixty employees and work with over sixty parent groups at schools in the area. They amazingly operate on an annual budget of $350,000 per year. They currently receive funding from Save The Children Uganda, The Mennonite Central Church, the Christian Aid, UNICEF, and the European Union, –although the EU funding is likely to run out in October. They do and can give out condoms in their area as part of their reproductive health and family planning efforts even though they are funded by some Christian organizations. They have four offices including the main headquarters in Lira and branches in Gulu, Kitgum, and Oyam.

Anthony noted that while most of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps have dissipated in Lira and Gulu, there are still people in IDP camps in Kitgum, due to concern about the return of the LRA and an especially ruthless Ugandan tribe of cattle-raiders, the Karamajong.

We asked why Anthony chose to be involved in CPA. Anthony himself was almost abducted by the LRA. He told us that the LRA once attacked his school in 1995 when he was 17. In order to avoid being abducted, he hid in a snake infested ceiling drop.

Anthony indicated that CPA’s needed include additional assistance with report writing and documenting in English and funding.

LIRA GIRL MOTHERS MICROFINANCE PROGRAM

After visiting with Anthony at the Concerned Parents Association, we were taken to visit one of the programs that CPA supports, the Lira Girl Mothers Microfinance Program (LGMMP). We met with two advisers and eleven young single mothers, who seemed to range in age from about 15 to about 24. We met with them sitting in blue plastic chairs under a tree outside of a primary school about 2km away from the center of Lira.One of the things that struck me immediately was how softly these women spoke. One could literally not hear them from eight feet away. Even their advisers and our female guide from CPA spoke extremely softly. I found it challenging to decide whether to ask them to speak louder and risk offending them. Eventually I did. The women mostly spoke Luo and not English, so our guide translated for us.

The LGMMP had twenty-eight girl mothers involved in its programming and eight advisors. They sang a song for us at the beginning with the lyrics, ‘we will never forget you, please don’t forget us.’ They were involved in five different types of microbusinesses that they had been trained to start. Initially they were given $75 each to start their businesses (as a grant not a loan). They used $17 of this to purchase ‘trading licenses’ so they could start their business legally, so they were left with $58 to begin.

They had started a grinding business, a distillery, a sewing company, a charcoal company, and a bakery. They indicated their biggest challenges were:

  1. Transporting of their goods to the market
  2. The expense of trading licenses ($17)
  3. The fluctuating price of food
  4. Finding space for their businesses and paying rent
  5. Inability to sell their whole product before it goes stale

As an example of their issue with transport costs, the mother running the charcoal business would pay 10,000 UGX ( ~$5) for her charcoal bushels at wholesale, then pay 4500 UGX (~$2.25) and then be able to sell her charcoal 15,000 to 20,000 UGX ($$7.50 to $10). On a bad day she would work all day to make $0.25. On a good day she might make $2.50, depending on the retail price she could negotiate.

When they had the opportunity to ask us questions, their first question was whether we would be able to help financially support them so they could expand the program to other young mothers in the area. They indicated their morale was low as they had held meetings with potential donors before but hadn’t yet received any outside support. They also requested assistance in finishing their formal education.

Their biggest business needs was capital–particularly a grinding machine ($35) and a sewing machine ($75). In the four months the program had been operational, the twenty-eight women had successfully been able to save 800,000 UGX ($200).

I found myself struggling whether to attempt to give the ladies helpful business advice based on my experience (group supplies together in one shipment to reduce transport costs, use savings to reinvest in capital now rather than later, etc.). With Bob as an investment banker from Credit Suisse and me an entrepreneur we naturally wanted to. Yet at the same time we recognized we knew so little about their businesses and environment.

We ended up choosing to use questions to inquire why they were or weren’t doing certain things. They had good answers. We asked why they didn’t use these savings to invest in the capital necessary to reduce their renting costs and earn a higher profit. They responded that they had committed to saving for one year or until they got to 5,000,000 UGX ($2,500), whichever was first. Once they reached this mark they would consider whether to use their savings to allow other mothers into the program and/or invest in necessary machinery.

Overall the ninety minute meeting gave us a fairly good understanding of the business and personal challenges these women faced and left with an appreciation of the work that CPA was doing and an even greater respect for organizations like Opportunity International and FAULA who follow a slightly different model of providing small loans instead of small grants. It is truly amazing what $75 can do, whether as a loan or grant. It can give a woman her freedom.

INVISIBLE CHILDREN UGANDA

I first heard about Invisible Children in the summer of 2008 while visiting Uganda. I learned much more about IC while meeting their co-founder Bobby Bailey and CEO Ben Keesey at The Summit Series event in Aspen in April. Invisible Children began in 2003 as a documentary after three young filmmakers from Southern California visited Gulu. They rather courageously filmed and released a documentary about what was happening in Gulu in 2003 (children being abducted, attacks by the LRA, children being forced to walk miles every night to find a safe place to sleep).Today, the Gulu region and the Acholiland region of Northern Uganda is peaceful and relatively safe (and very worth visiting!). However, Joseph Kony and the LRA have moved on to the Garamba Forest in Northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and continue their abductions and raids into Sudan, East Congo, and the Central African Republic. Since 2003, Invisible Children has produced six additional short videos telling the challenging stories of individuals there around Gulu. In 2005 IC registered as a U.S. non-profit organization and in 2007 they registered as an NGO in Uganda. They work primarily in Gulu, Pader, Amulu, and a bit in Kitgum.

In the United States, Invisible Children raises money, mostly through high school and college students, to fund both their on the ground efforts in Uganda and to fund legislative lobbying events and rallies (to encourage the U.S. Congress and State Department to work with Uganda, the DRC, and the ICC to pursue and capture Kony and stop his abductions and mass killings.

In 2008, Invisible Children had an overall annual budget of $7M, of which approximately $2M went to fund projects on the ground in Northern Uganda around Gulu.

Jess, Bob, and I arrived at the Gulu office of Invisible Children Uganda at 9am on June 30th. We met first with Erika who worked in communications. Erika was extremely nice and helpful and share a lot with us about IC Uganda.

In Uganda, Invisible Children has three on the ground programs. These are

1. Economic Development Iniatives (EDIs) including:

  1. Bracelet Making – IC started out their EDI programs by hiring 182 bracelet makers to produce bracelets that would be included in the Invisible Children DVD packs. They now have a surplus of bracelets, so have transitioned this individuals to a training program on income generation.
  2. Savings & Investment Program – These 182 individuals are now part of a savings and investment program which provides a six to eight month curriculum on income generation
  3. MEND – A new for-profit arm of Invisible Children that produces messenger bags and purses with the brand MEND from a nice factory near Gulu that we visited under the director of a talented and energetic designer named Marie. MEND started with 10 women and now has 13. Almost all of them are former abductees.
  4. Cotton – A program to provide organic cotton to Bono’s wife’s organization Eden, to help assist people in moving out of the IDP camps and back to their ancestral homelands.

2. Visible Child Scholarship Program (VCSP)

  1. Secondary Scholarship Program – Provides scholarships to 650 secondary school students in and around Gulu and Pader
  2. University Scholarship Program – Provides scholarships to 59 university students in Uganda and 1 who earned a full-ride to Boise State University in Idaho
  3. Mentorship Program – Providing 24 mentors to local students

3. Schools for Schools (S4S) –

  • A program through which schools in the United States support a school in Northern Uganda. IC provides assistance to ten schools in the area.
  • They work to rehabilitate structures and classrooms, install running water and water tanks, add toilets, and put in computer labs.
  • We visited St. Jospeh’s College (A High School), Gulu High Schools, and another primary school which I cannot recall the name of to see the work that Schools for Schools had accomplished.

Meeting with Jolly, Country Director for Invisible Children Uganda

After meeting with Erika outside under a thatched reception area, we went inside to speak with Jolly Okot, the Country Director for Invisible Children Uganda. Jolly indicated that the LRA was abducting children as a human shield. She indicated many in the LRA had been brainwashed to believe that Kony had spiritual powers. Today, she said, the LRA was abducting many more children in the DRC, Central African Republic, and Sudan. Jolly spoke of the political discussions between the DRC and Uganda about allowing Ugandan forces into the Congo to go after Kony. She indicated that Kony was being supported by President Bashir of Sudan, who also has an ICC warrant out for his arrest.

The other major NGOs I saw represented in Gulu were World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, African Revival, UN, UNICEF, and UNHCR.

APPFRICA

Appfrica (on Twitter at @appfrica) is an technology entrepreneurship incubator and custom software development firm run by Jonathan Gosier, an American living permanently in Kampala with clients including Google and the Grammeen Bank. Jonathan currently has 8 programmers. He pays $900 per month for an internet connection of 192 kpbs, equivalent to DSL and about 1/10th the speed of cable broadband we get in the U.S. for $40/month. He spoke to us about the EACOSS, EASSY, SEACOM, and O3B (by Google) initiatives to bring faster broadband access to Africa. Jonathan was a big believer in making change through business. He felt there was a wealth of programming talent (especially with Python, Ruby, Symbian, Java, and C+) but a lack of opportunity in Kampala.

MITYANA HOSPITAL
On Thursday July 2 we had the chance to visit Mityana, a town about an hour to the West of Kampala. We visited five organizations that day, the first being the Mityana Hospital.The hospital was built in 1947 and serves the 288,000 people who live in the district and many from surrounding areas. It has 6 doctors, 100 beds and 4 wards: maternity, male, female, and children. It has an HIV/AIDS clinic that serves 4,000 regular patients with the help of Population Services Internatational. It also has an x-ray lab and a dental office.

Funding from the hospital comes from the government, with some additional funds coming from NGOs. According to their Director, their biggest needs are surgical and diagnostic equipment and an ambulance. They have an operating budget of 23,000,000 UGX per month ($11,500).

MITYANA SECONDARY SCHOOL

Mityana Secondary School is one of two high schools that iContact and The Humanity Campaign have started a scholarship program for. I visited the school for the second time on this trip and had a chance to speak to their entrepreneurship class. Their principal indicated their biggest challenges are parents paying school fees, orphan students, and transportation.They indicated building additional dorms for some of the students would be very helpful to the children without parents and those for whom the school is a many miles away. One of their biggest needs is getting internet access to their computer lab, which is currently outside of their budget.

The school has 1,350 students and 70 staff members. The government pays the teacher’s salaries and parents pay school fees, which are 468,000 UGX ($234) per year normally and 900,000 UGX ($450) per year for students who live at the school.

AFFINET

AFFINET stands for the African Friends in Need Network. It is the second school that the iContact/Humanity Campaign scholarship program will be benefiting. It is a vocational school in Mityana, Uganda. It was started in 2000. It has a strong social justice mission. It provides classes on sewing, fashion design, carpentry, and home economics. It has 111 students and focuses its efforts on girls who have been left behind. It has had 195 graduates so far since the first class graduated in 2004.Over lunch with the Bishop, we learned that AFFINET would like to start classes in bricklaying, IT, and livestock. They need computers, sewing machines, and funds to complete their bathroom and ceiling in the girls dorms.

NAAMA MILLENNIUM PRIMARY SCHOOL
Namma Millennium Primary School was founded in 2000 by Dr. Christopher Kigongo, a Ugandan who now works at Duke University. I’ve worked with Christopher over the past year to set up a scholarship program for students at the school that is providing funds for students who attend Naama Millennium Primary School in Mityana, Uganda to continue on to secondary school at either AFFINET or Mityana Secondary School.I first visited Naama in 2008 and fell in love with the children. Last year, they danced and drummed. This year, students from Duke had developed a play on nutrition and hygiene that the students performed for us, followed by the amazing popping and locking hip hop dancing of a five year old boy (followed by Bob, Jess, and I doing a dance for them).

In 2008, a number of students from Nourish International worked at the school to put in cement floors, windows, doors, and a rainwater harvesting system. The improvements were very visible this year.

SANTA MARIA MEDICAL CLINIC

Our final stop in Mityana was the Santa Maria Medical Clinic. The Clinic is a for-profit private business, started and run by Dr. Paul Mugambe. The clinic today sees 60 patients per day. They provide more available and better care than Mityana Hospital according to Dr. Mugambe. They most commonly treat malaria, respiratory issues, diarrheah, and HIV/AIDS. They have 30 beds today.The clinic’s biggest challenges are people who need care but cannot afford it and thus do not pay their bills, high taxes, and a lack of surgical room. The clinic charges 60,000 UGX ($30) for a normal baby delivery and 300,000 UGX ($150) for a c-section delivery. Dr. Mugambe would like to expand the clinic but is currently renting so cannot make additions to the property. He is looking to get a loan of 75,000,000 UGX ($37,500) to purchase the property, but loan interest rates are currently too high at 20%.

FAULA / OPPORTUNITY INTERNATIONAL

On our final day in Kampala on July 3 we visited with FAULA and Opportunity International in Kampala. Both are microfinance organizations that are working together in Uganda. Jess, Bob, and I had the chance to meet with the CEO of Opportunity International Uganda.They have 200 staff members in the country, nine branches, and a $6 million microloan portfolio. Their average client takes out a loan of $150 and makes repayments weekly. They have a 2.4% default rate. They work through a group system in which a group of at least ten takes out a loan together (the peer pressure and accountability provides higher repayment rates). Once an individual pays back their group loan they can obtain a larger individual loan.

Opportunity prices their loans at 3% per month interest (compounding to be equivalent to 43.5% per year). While this is high, they indicated that the return from the use of their capital that is otherwise unavailable is much higher. They’ve developed an impressive, sustainable model.

We visited three of Opportunity International’s clients in Kampala, the owners of a banana stand, a metalworking shop, and a small conveyance store.

Opportunity International also has a partnership with Compassion International in Uganda.

WOMEDA
After Bob and I left to go back home, Jess was picked up by Juma Masisi who runs WOMEDA in Karagwe, Tanzania. Jess has been at WOMEDA for a few days now. She is studying conflict resolution and women’s rights there.WOMEDA stands for WOMen Emancipation and Development Agency. According to their web site, WOMEDA “promotes the status of marginalized groups by creating and strengthening equal opportunities for women, men, and children through the provision of socioeconomic, legal, and human rights activities in order to attain sustainable development.”

We are hoping that Mary Muhara from Africa Rising will have a chance to visit WOMEDA in the coming days and consider supporting the organization.

Overall we very much enjoyed our time in Kenya and Uganda. I wanted to especially thank Louis Ntale and Rebbecca Ntale who allowed us to stay at their house for three nights and their son Kenneth Ntale for driving us in Uganda. Thanks to all for reading. Comments are very welcome!

Investigating Gender Inequality in Tanzania

July 1, 2009

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A Post by Guest Writer Jess Shorland

I have just returned from visiting Tanzania. I was there from July 5th through July 12th. On this, my second trip to Karagwe, Tanzania, I had only one week to learn as much as I possibly could about local conflict – the reasons behind it, who was often involved, and possible solutions.

Thanks mostly to Juma Masisi, Director of WOMEDA (the Women’s Emancipation and Development Agency), I managed to talk with over thirty women, all of whom shared their amazing stories with me. The women’s experiences all demonstrated the seemingly archaic gender gap that remains not only in the town of Karagwe, but in many villages across the globe.

So I began my work to speak with these women connected to WOMEDA in this small rural village in Tanzania.

In front of a clay brick house, kneeling on mats woven by the calloused hands of the women sitting opposite me, I began with my own story of how my rights had been violated when I was 17 years old.

I had hopes that being open and candid with the women would bridge some of the cultural gaps and language barriers that I thought could prevent the comfort that fosters honesty. With repetitive “Poles” (which means sorry in Swahili) as Juma translated, the women grew more serious. After I explained my experiences and how they influenced my interest in gender inequality, I asked them if they would share their stories with me. One by one, the women elaborated on their struggles.

The Women’s Stories

Zainabu, 28, has a family of eight children, three wives and one husband. When she married her husband, she had no idea that he would eventually take two other wives, and that one of those wives would live with them in the house that she built. “I thought he would at least ask me, or even tell me, but it was very abrupt,” she said. She explained expressionlessly that she still loves him, but would have never married him had she known that this was his intention.

She finds it painful and difficult to share her husband and no longer wishes to have sex with him. But if she refuses, she faces a high risk of being beaten or kicked out of her house. And she fears leaving him because her husband will keep her children, who are a source of labor and potential income (especially female children because of the dowry system still in place). Looking down at her clasped hands, she said that she could never bear to leave her children.

What she did not know is that under Tanzanian law, children younger than seven are usually left in the mother’s custody, and children older than seven are given the right to make the decision themselves. Because of the lack of information and awareness of these laws, Zainabu thought that she had no other options. For her, it was either deal with it or leave her children. She also has the right to legally object to the second wife staying in her house and could take action to secure her property rights. She made eye contact with Juma as he explained, and inquired further of how she could do this.

Zainabu is but one example of a woman who feels badly about her relationship and the way she is treated, but who does not know that there are legal institutions that can emancipate her from these human rights violations.

The cognitive dissonance created by the feeling that what’s happening to her is wrong and believing that she has no other options creates an internal conflict with which she continuously struggles.

But herein arises another obstacle: in order to take legal action, you have to first get to the court. And you have to have enough funds to carry on with the proceedings.

Take, for instance, the case of a young woman who was raped in the village of Kjungangoma, Tanzania. It is about 30 kilometers from the nearest court.

This woman moved to Bukoba (bordering Lake Victoria) for her own safety. An elder woman in the village decided to seek justice and attempted to continue with legal proceedings. Transportation to town and back by taxi costs about 5,000 Tanzanian shillings, or about $2.00 USD. So the elderhad to walk the 30 kilometers to the court.

The Tanzanian government is supposed to pay these transportation expenses, as well as lawyer fees and court costs. Unfortunately, by the time paperwork is shuffled around, reimbursement is often pushed aside. So, unless a Tanzanian can afford the upfront costs of taking a case to court, both in time and money, he or she is still left without the proper means to seek justice.

This issue now leads me to the story of Methodia, a woman who was born at the time of World War I (she is about 90 years old now). When her only son passed away, she took in his many children. Later, her grandsons soon chased her out of her own house to take over her farm. She went to the magistrate to file a legal complaint, but her grandchildren had already bribed him. He told her there was nothing he could do.

Methodia now lives with her granddaughter, although this is culturally considered shameful. She wants to continue fighting for what is rightfully hers, but fears that if she reclaims the house, her grandsons will kill her in just a matter of months. In broken Swahili while looking down at her feet, she quietly said, “I may be old, but I still matter.”

This issue of corruption runs rampant in many developing countries, but especially in places where the legal system is not closely monitored. Marginalized women seeking their legal rights face an enormous risk of being stopped in their tracks by this very obstacle. The legal process cannot work in places wheremoney becomes more important than justice because basic human needs are not met

Abusing women’s property rights has been a major issue in many of the cases I heard. There is Gertrude, whose husband sold their profitable farm and house to be with another woman, leaving her with literally nothing. And there is Benidette, whose husband left her and took the doors, windows and tin roofing with him. Or how about Zamda, Pascazia and Zainabu who are forced to live with their husbands’ other wives in the homes that they built.

If property rights can be restored and protected, marginalized people will have a sense of ownership and space to better build their economic opportunities. The importance of property rights in terms of conflict resolution and development cannot be stressed enough.

I wanted to get to more sensitive topics with these women. I felt uneasy at first. I knew I had to just dive in and hope that they would share their very private lives with me.

One of the most powerful and insightful moments during my trip happened at the end of a discussion with 25 women. I asked them, “How many of you have sex with your husband?” As Juma translated, the women were obviously caught off guard. I asked again. This time, seven women raised their hands.

“How many of you don’t have sex?” – Only three hands raised, with a little laughter in the background.

“How many of you want and enjoy having sex?”

Silence fell upon that room, the only sound coming from the tarp that covered it. All the women were quiet, and every hand was down.

The explanations that followed told of husbands coming home drunk and abruptly climbing on top of their wives, forcing them to have sex. Another explained that she felt badly to share her husband with one, two and even three other wives–or any number of unidentified mistresses for that matter. Marital rape was obviously present. Women feared that if they tried to stop their husbands, they would be kicked out or beaten.

The Youth’s Stories

I looked to the youth next, hoping for a new informed generation that could show a ray of hope for the future of human rights. I spoke with two groups of secondary school students, ranging in age from 15-22 years. At Ruminyika Secondary, about fifty students began talking with me, and after some time of asking clichéd, obvious questions, they began to reveal their own curiosities. Their questions were inquisitive, touched with a brutal honesty that only increased my respect and appreciation for them.

The discussion was intense as we talked about everything from birth control pills to female genital mutilation to relationship advice. I turned the conversation toward gender roles and asked if the boys ever hit their girlfriends. The boys all laughed and gave each other high fives. A spokesman for the boys explained that it was a common practice to “show her that you love her,” especially if she shows interest in another man. “You have to keep your girl, so you hit her,” the boy said. The girls remained silent, which made understanding their emotions difficult. I could only sit in awe of what I was hearing from such young boys. It was a reminder that children imitate their surroundings, and that many of these teenagers were preparing to lead the same life as previous generations, breeding more of the same gender inequalities. At that moment, I felt helpless–that there was nothing I could do.
Juma and I explained to the group that under Tanzanian law, it is illegal to physically harm someone. Then, a boy shared a disturbing story of rape. He told of his experience of “almost rape” – stopped only by an unexpected car horn that gave the girl time to get away. “I know it is illegal, but I wanted to do it for the sake of doing it. I wanted to accomplish my mission,” he said, almost proudly. Laughter roared from the crowd of about 100 students accompanied by my complete and utter bewilderment. Can universal human rights actually exist in a world of such cycles of violence?

The Future Potential

In the midst of these horrifying abuses of human rights that taint the youth, I found cases that reaffirmed my hope for inherent justice for the equality of all human lives. Take the example of Julianna. After her husband died in 1989 she started her own business, put all four of her children through school and now has her own house and small farm. She has no doubt faced many hardships. She is still not able to access all the opportunities she deserves, but proudly she stated, “No one can mess with my rights now.”

And then there is Godsen, who after my discussion at a secondary school, stood up in front of his classmates and sang a poem he had written about eliminating HIV and AIDS. When his classmates stood up and threw their hands in the air filling the half-finished hall with praising cheer, I remembered that these inequalities in basic human rights are not inevitable. These inequalities have been created by man and can be eliminated by man. Progress is no doubt being made, but much more change is needed.

As Juma and I drove away from the secondary schools on my last day in Karagwe, I noticed a beautiful river at the bottom of a lush valley, overshadowed only by steep hills. I commented to Juma how breathtaking the scenery was, to which he replied, “That is the river that borders Rwanda. In 1994, thousands of Rwandan bodies floated down that river.”

And so, in a new age of globalization, a society teeters between vestiges of past ideals and practices and the crest of social and economic development. Karagwe is filled with amazing people doing amazing things and the amount of opportunity to innovate in the face of crisis seems unlimited. At the same time, the information and social gender gap in this region breeds local conflicts that can, if no action is taken, quickly escalate to a national and even international scale. We must bridge that bloody river, for it is much too easy and foreseeable to resort to violence if economic development, access to information and legal resources are not invested in. We cannot afford to forget that above all, we are one human race, and when working together toward a shared goal, our capabilities are immeasurable.

About The Author:
Jess is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, studying Peace, War & Defense. She is the founder and Executive Director of Uncharted Magazine and the creator of Poor Student No More, where she blogs about her journey to get out of student debt.

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