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Developing Commerce in Africa: Phone Company in a Box

July 5, 2012 - 0 Comments

I never thought of paint as being an important part of the engine of commerce.

That is, until I met Ueli Frei, who heads FUNDES International, an NGO that fosters economic growth among micro-businesses in Latin America. His team helped a group of independent “mom and pop” drug stores band together and operate, in many ways, as a single retailer.

By painting the stores all the same, they built themselves in to a larger “brand” which can better compete in the global marketplace.

FUNDES facilitates other area such as operations, financing, and strategy, enabling these micro-businesses to scale and hire more employees. Its work with 11,000 stores across Mexico, Bolivia, Panama and El Salvador has helped to generate more than a 30 percent in sales and a 47 percent growth in the number of customers. “It really wouldn’t have been possible without the use of telecommunications.”

The World Economic Forum estimates that a 10 percent increase in mobile penetration in developing economies can raise the GDP as much as much as 2 percent. In Episode 5 of The Network Effect, Steve Shepard shares a story about how this promise is being fulfilled in Durban, South Africa.

Programming note: The television premier of “The Network Effect” documentary will be Saturday, July 7th at 8PM and 11PM EST on ShortsHD, available on DirecTV channel 568 and AT&T U-verse channel 1789.  It will be rebroadcast throughout the month (see schedule) as part of the “Summer of Docs” series.  After July, the full series will be available online

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