Should We Be Focused on Rural Areas in the Developing World?
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Microfinance — the practice of personal small loans to spur creativity in developing nations — has well-known rural roots. Of late, I had assumed that the practice had become a city-based endeavor, in concert with other programs, targeting the world’s burgeoning urban populations.
Time spent in Africa earlier in the year did not change that perception.
However, after following up with community economic development friends back home, I learned that fostering a rural middle class should spur reflection among those passionate about cities. Sometimes, finding a way to keep a meaningful rural existence trumps city life.
According to Cole Hoover, director of programs for Seattle’s Lumana, whose work focuses in rural Ghana:
Although there is an amazing potential for growth and innovation in cities and urban areas in Africa, I think it is important to recognize that it’s not for everyone. Many people do not have the resources or connections to migrate to cities and some, quite frankly, even when possible, do not want to do so.
Lumana is a small, Seattle-based organization founded by young, multi-national entrepreneurs. In Ghana, Lumana helps people reach their personal and financial goals through microfinance, business education, planning for savings, and local mentorship. Lumana also employs four Ghanaians who work in rural areas, out of choice and for connection with their communities.
According to Hoover, these Ghanaians have affinity for their home villages, fellow residents, and a slower pace of life. In addition, they take pride in helping to lead operations that can make rural areas more livable.