Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Creating a Sustainable Business among South Africa's Poor 'One Bite at a Time'

Take a look here. The cookies looks very tempting and the website, succinct, cool and professional. Alicia Polak was an investment banker who worked for Merrill Lynch, in the course of her work, she had the chance to visit Africa and she realized how ineffective and wasteful charities and NGO aides are. Determined to do something, she went to Khayelitsha (a poor and violent quartier in South Africa) and started a cookie company which markets to the high end market. (hotels, restaurants, etc)

The ladies of the KCC ( Khayelitsha Cookie Company) were formerly unemployed. They survived on a small grant from the state. Since joining KCC they have been trained in baking, packing, labeling and customer service. We have seen the effect of full time employment on their quality of life and self esteem. The mere act of commuting to work they have said has made them feel part of mainstream society. They love what they do.

Bridge the gap between poverty and profitable business, and you'll get a virtuous cycle of wealth creating activities, lifting thousands out of poverty. These activities are definitely more "sustainable" (yeah, its cliché) than throwing billions in the form of aid which encourages the feed-me attitude. As Kong Zi said (cliché again, but who cares? :) ), give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he'll never go hungry. I salute her work.


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