Mark Bennett – obituary of an education entrepreneur

February 11, 2015 in Hub-Blog

A little under two years ago, Mark Bennett was forced to mark his sixtieth birthday by gathering his employees together and telling them that the company was on the verge of running out of money. He was, as usual, working every hour he could to ensure its survival. For six weeks he had met with three ... (more...)

Is there such a thing as an exclusive business?

January 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

A common challenge for inclusive business practitioners, much debated at last November’s BIF team week in Malawi, is defining their field. If inclusive business is business activity that expands opportunities for the poor, doesn’t any business operating in a poor country (or, arguably, elsewhere) ... (more...)

A muzungu’s defence – Why inclusive business needs foreigners

December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

The debate in Zambia around a new Companies Bill has caused worried looks on the face of at least one inclusive business entrepreneur. The proposed legislation would severely curtail the activities of foreign owned firms, limiting their ability to borrow money locally and the sectors in which they could ... (more...)

Sustainable business development or cargo cult? Local sourcing at Lumwana mine

November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

On a group of islands in the South Pacific, the pre-industrial age ended quite suddenly in 1942. As the American military manoeuvred to block the Japanese advance into the Pacific, rural villagers who had previously considered the iron nails with which they banged together their huts to be the height ... (more...)

Access to finance for inclusive businesses in Zambia

November 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Riverside Pub in Lusaka has a problem: it regularly runs out of beer. This naturally has a detrimental effect on business, and the owner is seeking investment to overcome the problem: namely, the $20 he needs to add an extra crate to his regular order from the distributor. At a rough calculation ... (more...)

Improving access to markets for tradesmen… and why a drain-cleaner costs fifty times more than a security guard

August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

When dirty dishwater began spilling across my driveway in Lusaka, I went looking for someone equipped to poke blockages out of long pipes. I was led to a nearby road junction, where a man known to his companions as Mr Plumber offered to unblock the drain for $30. He had the necessary long pokey thing, ... (more...)

Biofuel feedstock from small farmers: Copperbelt Energy Corporation

July 10, 2012 in Hub-Blog

The Jatropha farmers who gathered to meet the BIF team last month at Kapiri Mposhi in central Zambia are optimists. Several years ago, organisations came and encouraged them to plant Jatropha, in the belief that a good income could be made from selling the bushes’ oily nuts as feedstock for biofuel ... (more...)

Relational economics, and overcoming short-term thinking

June 27, 2012 in Hub-Blog

Last year, while researching rural connectivity initiatives for the iSchool project, I visited Macha, a rural village in southern Zambia – and was amazed by what I found there. In addition to the usual dusty jumble of earth huts, stalls and maize fields, Macha is home to an Internet cafe, a large ... (more...)

The curse of the concrete cows

May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Milton Keynes, the English new town near which I grew up, was once described by a family friend as “the place where people live behind hedges”. The expanding suburbs of Lusaka, where iSchool has its offices, look superficially similar, except that here people live behind concrete walls. Some of the ... (more...)

The cyberslum

April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

Aisha Community School has 584 pupils, and 60 desks. “Sometimes we lay planks across them so the children have something to write on,” the headmaster tells us. Even by Zambian standards, this is not a wealthy school. Aisha occupies a tiny maze of concrete rooms in the middle of Ng’ombe, a high-density ... (more...)