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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
Tales of Africa's entrepreneurs
Collecting rubbish in Senegal
A new force of dustbin women are on Senegal's streets

The world's most influential leaders are thrashing out strategies to improve the plight of the poor in Africa. But many aid agencies stress that genuine economic development must come from small-scale projects as well as large international initiatives. BBC News Online tells the tale of three local entrepreneurs.

Click below to read their story



Bamako, Mali

In the space of five years, Mariam Jaras Dirassouba has risen from being a housewife to being a bank manager.

She had been unemployed with no access to credit and few opportunities to generate cash to support her family.

Now she has the authority to grant loans of up to $1,000 to local people wanting to start out in business.


The challenge ahead is to keep recreating the bank on a larger scale

Mohammed Mahmoud
Oxfam, Mali
It all began when a group of Malian women started borrowing small sums of money of up to $50 from an Oxfam-backed local organisation.

With their loans, the women pioneered money-making projects, including selling spices or kindling in the local markets.

Having experienced the benefits of credit, the women demanded training to set up a cooperative bank to help their friends and neighbours.

With 260 women now involved, the bank has grown to the point where it can issue loans big enough to finance much more ambitious business plans, including a mango juice factory and a cloth dying business.

Bank of Mali in Bamako
Mali's formal banking sector is a no-go area for many women
Mme Jaras Dirassouba has risen to be in charge of the bank, and is guiding its growing contact with Mali's formal banking system.

"Poor women would never normally have access to credit from the formal banking system," Mohammed Mahmoud, Oxfam's director in Mali told BBC News Online.

"Many can't read and write, they don't know how banks work, and could never submit a business plan.

"These women have gained the skills to access the formal banking system whilst giving other women the chance to borrow money to start out in business.

"The challenge ahead is to keep recreating the bank on a larger scale and see how it can grow again."


Kebemer, Senegal

Collecting rubbish may not sound like an entrepreneur's dream, but it has given new financial freedom to a group of women in the small Senegalese town of Kebemer.

The women borrowed money to buy a horse and cart, employed rubbish collectors and now earn a salary by cleaning up the streets on a daily basis.


The project has not only reduced health problems, but it has also created income and employment for 20 people

Mahmoud Diop
The local authorities don't have the money or resources to collect rubbish, leading to illnesses amongst the children playing outside, explains the project's director, Mahmoud Diop.

That means that people can see the benefits of the daily service and are willing to pay for it, Mr Diop told BBC News Online.

"The project has not only reduced health problems, but it has also created income and employment for 20 people."

The idea of a new force of dustbin women was first conceived four years ago, getting off the ground after Christian Aid provided the loan for the first horse and cart.


The women have increased their power to provide for their household

Mahmoud Diop
The women have since earned the money to buy more than 300 dustbins, 10 horses and carts and employ administrators to organise the project, which now spans 500 homes.

There have also been profits left over to invest in new money-making projects, including travelling to Mauritania and Gambia to buy shoes for resale in their local towns.

"The women have gained a huge amount of financial independence and increased their power to provide for their household," Mr Diop said.


Dekaya, Ethiopia

Businesses around the world aspire to improve their productivity with new technologies.

And Ethiopia's honey farmers are not being left behind.

Ethiopia's new bee hive
The new bee hives have increased honey output eight-fold
Bee-keeping is a traditional activity in Dekaya in southern Ethiopia, using hives made out of hollow logs.

Now, farmers have introduced more innovatively designed hives from Germany while still making the hive out of local wood.

The improvements have meant that each hive is producing about 26kg of honey, compared to the 3kg produced with the old-fashioned method.

The boost in honey output has come at a critical time for Dekaya's farmers who are facing less rain than usual and the threat of food shortages.

About 150 farmers have benefited from the new technology, after Action for Development provided technical training and the loans for the first hives to be used.

Now the farmers are setting themselves up as a cooperative, with the aim of securing their own loans from banks to buy new hives in the future.

"I think it has significantly changed the lives of these farmers and their families," said Action for Development's field officer, Teklearegay Jirane.

"The children can go to school, they have access to better accommodation, and one man has been able to build a new house with the money raised from selling honey."


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18 Jun 02 | Business
05 Jun 02 | Business
21 Jun 02 | Business
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