Solving poverty about innovation, not a resource issue - expert

Cape Town – Solving poverty is an innovation challenge and not a resource issue, according to Luciana Ledesma, a tech entrepreneur based in Barcelona.

She was one of the speakers at Africa Tech Week hosted in Cape Town by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the City of Cape Town and Topco Media.

Research indicates that innovative solutions which can solve 85% to 95% of problems related to poverty in the world already exist.

“So, we need to stop reinventing the wheel and learn more of what is working so we can bring innovation to solve problems of poverty,” she said.

“Profitable business models which create prosperity for the poor can be identified, analysed and replicated.”

She pointed out that, despite there being a lot of efforts in the world to tackle the poverty challenge, there are very little results.

“How can we disrupt the poverty industry? For me tech is a solution, but it is not the only one. The biggest one is people and communities where one can make change,” she said.

In her view, both current mainstream ways of tackling poverty are lacking.

The first, the charity approach, is too much driven by incentives for those implementing it. This then, in her view, leads to the job “never being completed due to a bias towards the incentives”.

The second, the social entrepreneurship approach, in her view, brings the problem that the good work done is rarely scaled up to really make a huge impact.

“Economises are structured around people buying products they do not need and having unsustainable lifestyles. This leads to growth stagnation,” said Ledesma. 

“We must change the starting point of our approach to poverty. The starting point we have at the moment is creating many, many losers so we can have some winners.”

She proposed that one rather sees where good change is happening in addressing poverty challenges in the world.

"Go to these areas identified as having the highest impact rate and understand the entrepreneur models and policies they introduced and then see how you can replicate it in your own area," she suggested.

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