Friday, July 29, 2005

KICKSTART: Trusting In The Self Motivated Entrepreneur

In July 1991 by Nick Moon, Jeffery Brewer and Martin Fisher founded ApproTEC in Kenya. The idea was to kick-start sustainable economic growth in developing countries and to help the millions of people living in those countries escape from poverty.

In the subsequent 14 years over 36,000 families in East Africa have used their simple tools to start profitable new businesses, increase, their family wealth and help to grow their local economies.

ApproTEC was able to help these people use their entrepreneurial spirit, to "kick-start" the success and financial growth that they experienced.

Because of this, the people at ApproTEC came to believe that "KickStart" was "not only a name that much better explains what we do - kick-starting businesses, lives and economies - but that it is also a name (unlike ApproTEC) that our supporters and friends will remember, and will remember how to spell."

Because it takes a market and private sector oriented approach, KickStart looks like a profit making enterprise, but it is actually a non-profit organization that develops and markets new technologies in Africa. The organization introduces new low-cost technologies to local entrepreneurs in order to create new jobs and new wealth and allow the poor to climb out of their poverty by establishing profitable new small businesses.

It's unique model is being replicated in Tanzania and Mali as well as in Kenya, and it hoped that it can expand its program in East Africa and open new programs in Southern and west Africa as well. KickStart has also established a 501©3 non-profit corporation in 2001 that is based in San Francisco, California in order to raise funds for its efforts.

KickStart's web site states that to date they have help to create over 35,000 new businesses (which is over 800 new businesses per month; and that profits exceeding $37 million a year have been generated by these businesses.

Their mission focuses on providing new technologies for dynamic entrepreneurs in small-scale enterprises.

KickStart deeply believes in the self-motivated private entrepreneurs who manage small-scale enterprises and they state that these entrepreneurs are the most effective agents for developing emergent economies.

KickStart's believes that its "market and private-sector oriented approach ensures that the impacts of its program become fully self-sustaining in local economies. Technologies are installed in the private sector and continue to be produced, marketed, and used by entrepreneurs to create thousands of vibrant new businesses and jobs, long after KickStart's interventions have ceased."

I cannot take the space to list and fully explain all of the technologies that KickStart has introduced into the market, but I would like to give you a brief glimpse of a few that they have created.

Micro-Irrigation Technologies:
Since 1996 KickStart has been the leader in micro-irrigation technologies through the development and sales of its series of manually operated "MoneyMaker" pumps. The need for these pumps was evident because small-scale commercial farming can be a very profitable business in Africa, but it is difficult without irrigation. KickStart makes other models of pumps in addition to the "MoneyMaker" pump.

Cooking Oil Technologies:
The oil of sunflower and sesame seeds is used for cooking in East and Central Africa and KickStart's manually operated "Mafuta Mali" oilseed press has proved to be the most popular cooking oil press in those regions. In 1994, KickStart trained four local engineering firms to manufacture the new presses. From 1994 to 1999, with funding from the Netherlands government and the British DFID, KickStart promoted the new press and the small-scale production of cooking oil and seedcake as a profitable business venture in Kenya.

Construction Technologies
Low cost construction is a "must" in order to provide affordable shelter, which is always be in demand. KickStart has developed a high-pressure "Actionpac" press for making building blocks from soil and cement. In addition to the Actionpac press, they have developed a process for producing roofing tiles and other building supplies.

Sanitation Technologies:
In 1992 KickStart designed equipment to produce a Domed Concrete Pit Latrine Slab for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refuges) during the Somali refugee crisis. This technology is presently in use in refugee camps in many areas of East and Central Africa where relief agencies have installed over 90,000 KickStart domeslabs.

Among the other technologies are
Transport Technologies and the production of Low Cost High Quality Carpentry Tools. But this by no means exhausts KickStart's inventory of technology.

KickStart has been able to carry out its innovative function by: Researching Markets in order to Identify High Potential Small Scale Business Opportunities. Once this has been done they Designs New Technologies and Business Packages. After that, they Train Manufacturers to Produce the New Technologies and Promotes those Technologies by Marketing them to Local Small-Scale Entrepreneurs. In order to assess its progress, KickStart Monitors the Cost-Effectiveness and Impacts of its Programs by quantifying the number of new businesses and jobs created and the amount of new profits and new wages earned by the new entrepreneurs and their employees. These impacts are then compared to the costs of the program.

KickStart has been so impressive that the John Deere Foundation awarded it a $3 million grant in June of 2005 to provide basic tools to African farmers. The grant, to be awarded over the next three years is intended to help KickStart to help end poverty in developing countries. Consequently, KickStart has a three-year plan to expand it work into six more African countries and enable some 80,000 African families (which translates to approximately 400,000 people) to raise their standard of living by introducing small, inexpensive irrigation pumps and other money making equipment.

And to be honest, dear reader, I can not do justice to the energy and enthusiasm of KickStart's web site, so to get the full impact of what they say about what they are doing, you really should visit their pages at:

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