Africa isn't a lost cause, and global consumers are making a difference
In spite of conflicts and humanitarian crises, there's change afoot in Africa. Seven of the ten fastest-growing economies during the next five years will be in sub-Saharan Africa. To support them, global consumers can use the Internet to gain direct access to the goods of African artisans.
The news from Africa has been pretty grim lately. In the Horn of Africa, 30,000 children have already died, and the UN estimates 13 million people are at risk of starvation in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.Skip to next paragraph
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The mounting Kenyan military campaign to defeat Somali’s Al Shabab terrorist militia and recent outbreaks of violence in refugee camps – supposed havens from surrounding conflicts – will also fuel the perception that Africa is a continent in chaos where warring factions make it impossible to deliver basic services.
Fortunately, that isn’t the whole picture.
In spite of conflicts and humanitarian crises, Africa is not a lost cause. Seven of the ten fastest-growing economies during the next five years will be in sub-Saharan Africa. The African Development Bank sees a growing middle class, and The Economist magazine projects Africa will soon have a higher growth rate than Asia.
I’ve been to Africa six times during the past seven years to buy crafts, clothing, and other goods sold through my organization, TheHungerSite.com. We cooperate with nonprofits (Mercy Corps, Partners in Health, and Millennium Promise) to alleviate hunger and poverty by promoting the work of Africans themselves.
The continent’s real wealth is not in its buried minerals or fertile fields (although those are worth plenty). It’s in the heads and hands of Africans, including a diverse group of world-class artisans: weavers in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Swaziland; stone carvers in Kenya and Zimbabwe; woodworkers in Mozambique, and many others.
Part of our site’s mission is to link producers in the developing world with first-world consumers, because providing sustainable income to once-marginalized populations is the surest way to reduce intergenerational poverty.
To maximize income for local producers, we partner with organizations such as The African Trade Hubs, Global Mamas, and Aid to Artisans, that connect us directly with craft workers, eliminating a long chain of sellers and re-sellers. This enables us to deliver as much as 20 to 40 percent of the sales price for items from our online store directly to artisans.
In the long run, however, it is growing markets for African goods, combined with political and economic reforms that are giving Africans a chance to earn secure incomes.
In Rwanda for example, following the devastating genocide of 1994, sisters Joy Ndunguste and Janet Nkubana started a small company to distribute handwoven baskets. From an initial group of 20, Gahaya Links has grown to a network of more than 4,000 weavers. When a new weaver joins the group, Joy and Janet insist that the first paycheck is used to buy shoes for the weaver’s children; going barefoot in Rwanda creates a high risk of contracting hookworm.