Thursday, November 1, 2012

Africa's 'Avon Ladies'

How about a project that encourages entrepreneurship amongst poor women, provides needed goods to poor rural families and lowers child mortality rates?

Here it is: It's called Living Goods and, using micro franchises similar to the Avon model in the western world, it creates women entrepreneurs who bring needed products to Africa's rural poor. The goods they sell promote health: sanitary pads, soap, condoms, de-worming pills, detergent, iodized salt, fortified foods, baby delivery kits, bed nets and malaria treatment.
The sales reps get two weeks of basic health care training making them virtual village doctors on their routes.

The financing model is similar to the micro loans that have succeeded in the third world. The women receive $60 worth of starting product and have 48 months to pay back the loan. They keep 15 - 20% of the sales in profits.

More amazing is that they are running a randomized controlled trial to determine how well the program is working. With this data, which so far is looking good, they hope to appeal to the philanthropic investors who want to make a real difference.

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