Landlocked Zambia, which sits in the heart of sub-Saharan Africa, celebrated 50 years of independence in October. Despite the country’s rich copper-mining industry, more than half of its population lives in rural areas, much of which remains impoverished. The anniversary, then, provides a timely opportunity to take stock of progress made to-date – and to identify where challenges remain.
While extreme poverty in the country reduced from 58 percent in 1991 to 43 percent in 2010, the current figure remains a long way off the UN’s Millennium Development Group goal of 29 percent. There’s still significant work to do at all levels to help Zambians work their way out of poverty. While there’s no doubt the government is working hard to help its people, work at the grass roots of society is where we’re likely to see most change.
Microfinancing is a great example of this development in progress. Funding initiatives are making it easier for Zambians to access small, affordable loans to help them to help themselves. The MicroLoan Foundation for example, which I founded twelve years ago, is committed to helping tackle poverty through encouraging independence, rather than dependence. Correctly targeted micro-loans, combined with tailored training, has enabled 28,000 individuals to start their own businesses in Zambia since 2006, allowing them to work themselves out of poverty in a sustainable way.