Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Small-time solutions for big-time poverty

Because we think of poverty in developing nations as a huge problem, we tend to leave the thinking of solutions up to international aid, government and non-government agencies and big business. We have this assumption that because they are much bigger, smarter, and richer than us, they have the responsibility to fix the problem. Who are we, after all, to even comprehend the scale of the problem, let alone contribute to solving the problem?

But here's a radical idea: since the people suffering in poverty are so short of many necessities, why don't we (as in 'normal' people) invent some kind of technology they can use to maximize what resources they do have, and sell it to them at a low cost? Notice I said 'sell' and not 'give', because resources can only be acquired at a cost; and if we don't recover our costs our Christmas Tree would run dry very fast.

And why should we even bother helping these poor folk whom we have almost zero contact with in our day-to-day lives? Simple: there are millions of people living under the poverty line in the world today, let's say on about US$1.25 a day. They may not have a lot of money in their pockets, but they do have SOME money they would be ready to part with IF we can sell them a product that is both good and useful to them.

If a few million people would give us a portion of their US1.25 a day, what's in it for us is a huge market with lots of further growth potential... or in other words, there's a lot of money to be made selling them a product they would be willing to buy. But we're so not selling them junk. As David Wolman says, "The poor may be poor, but they're not stupid."

So, if we're going to save people from poverty, perhaps the best ones to do it would be us, the small-time entrepreneur with an innovative idea that would benefit millions for a low, low price. Wait, why does this sound like PW all over again?


elim said...

oh... has the poverty line increased? is it becase of inflation? When I was in sec sch I remember it was US $1 !!

Xmac said...

Check the link. According to Wiki, "In 2008, the World Bank came out with a revised figure of $1.25 at 2005 purchasing-power parity (PPP)."