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Entrepreneurial Solutions for Prosperity in BoP Markets: Identifying the Problem and the Solution

This chapter is from the book
Getting to the root cause of poverty requires moving beyond theory as we look at the problem from the perspective of typical individuals in Bottom of the Pyramid markets. In this chapter, Eric Kacou considers such individuals.

Every generation faces a challenge, the answer to which shapes how it is remembered in history. Poverty has emerged as the foremost challenge facing our generation. A great many approaches have been tried in the fight against poverty. Despite limited progress, most citizens in developing countries still live at the bottom of the economic pyramid (BoP).

In Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C. K. Prahalad makes a strong case that the vast majority of people living on under two dollars a day in the developing world represents an opportunity for businesses to make money while having a social impact. Finding ways to solve poverty while tapping into economic opportunity at the BoP requires that we discover why this challenge persists.

Whether in business, government, civil society, or just simple citizens, most individuals operating at the BoP face myriad challenges. These challenges not only affect productivity but also confuse attempts to unearth the root cause of poverty. Getting to the root cause requires moving beyond theory as we look at the problem from the perspective of typical individuals in BoP markets. Let us consider such individuals.

Pretoria, South Africa: Themba, CEO Who Can't Collect

It is early Monday morning in Pretoria, South Africa. In the bustling capital city, workers head into their offices. It is the last week of the month. The excitement is tangible: It is month-end, with a coming three-day weekend. High spirits incite an eagerness to close deals, secure payments, and swiftly conclude the month's business.

But the coming weekend is the least of Themba's concerns.

When poverty led others to join gangs, Themba decided to start a business. The story of his firm, ITC Africa, started as the business equivalent of a fairy tale. Themba won a large multimillion rand contract to supply his national government with IT equipment and training. The deal made headlines. It was the first time a black-owned firm had won such a large tender.

Yet, nine months later, Themba feels as though he is standing in quicksand. Themba is exhausted. The government officer who is supposed to pay him hasn't done so and has not returned his repeated telephone calls of late. Failure to make payroll would deal a devastating blow to employee morale.

To make matters worse, he has malaria and his fever is rising. As he walks out of his office, he prays that his illness doesn't make a difficult situation impossible.

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