The Power of Money in the Right Hands
I found an incredible story while surfing the web today. I thought I’d share it with you. You can find the full story here, but I’ll summarize it for you.
Fomba Trawally is a Liberian businessman. For some context you need to know that Liberia is a small West African country that was ravaged by two civil wars, starting in 1980 and only becoming truely peacefull within the last ten years or so. The war killed hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed the Liberian economy. Today Liberia is one of the worlds poorest countires, with an employment rate of only 15%.
Fomba Trawally’s mother made her living as a street vendor selling food, and after her death Trawally continued her business. However the civil war drove him out of the country. He lived for three years as a refugee in Gambia before returning in 1991. At that point he decided that he might be able to make some money selling flip flops. So many refugees had lost everything they had, including their footwear. Cheap flip flops would be in high demand. He borrowed some money and with seed capital of only $200 he bought flip flops in nearby Gambia and brought them back to Liberia to sell at a profit. He took those profits and invested in more flip flops. His business did well and he branched out into other products, importing and selling whatever people needed. By 2005 he had opened three retail stores selling paper products and cosmetics. In 2010 he opened the only paper product factory in Liberia. Instead of buying from foriegn merchants he’s bolstering the local economy. His factory provides jobs and affordable products for the people of Liberia. He sells toilet paper, disposable diapers, paper towels, napkins, and the like. Business has done so well that he’s planning on doubling production. He’s hoping to someday export products to the countries he used to import from. In the process he’s become a millionare.
This is the kind of story that Africa needs more of. The problem of extreme poverty is a difficult one. There is no one solution that will help everyone. Still if the people at the bottom are ever going to be brought up we’ll need more individuals like Fomba Trawally. It’s amazing what an enterprizing man can do with only $200. Liberia needs more people just like him.
Trawally was fortunate enough to have a friend he could borrow his start up capital from. There are thousands of individuals just like him who have no access to financing of any kind. Fortunately, with a little help from people like you and me, things are starting to change. If you haven’t heard of micro-financing you should look it up. The basic idea is to create banks that are willing to loan small amounts ($20,$100,$500, etc.) to people in poverty who need some capital. These loans are too tiny for the big banks to bother with, but $100 can be just what someone needs to pull themselves out of poverty. A seamstress could spend her whole life sewing clothes by hand and just making enough to survive. With a small loan she can afford to buy a simple sewing machine and suddenly she can fix ten times as much in a day, and make ten times what she used to. There are lots of hardworking people out there who just need a little help to get going. If you’re interested check out Kiva, or another micro-finance organization. It’s a fantastic way to make a difference.