Whenever I think really hard about what I really want to do it always comes back to Innovation for the Bottom of the Pyramid. Some of you may not be familiar with that term. I wasn’t until I started studying Corporate Social Responsibility and all that it entails. If we refer to the guru Wikipedia it can be defined as,
“In economics, the bottom of the pyramid is the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. In global terms, this is the 3 billion people who live on less than say$2.50 per day.”
The part that fascinates me though is that, “the phrase “bottom of the pyramid” is used in particular by people developing new models of doing business that deliberately target that demographic, often using new technology. This field is also often referred to as the "Base of the Pyramid" or just the "BoP".”
On our first trip to Kenya for Rally4Life we found ourselves with a spare morning in Nairobi, so being resourceful I turned to TripAdvisor for some inspiration and found that the #2 thing to do in Nairobi was to take a trip of Kibera, the world famous “slum”. So we signed up for the trip, met up with Freddy, our host and local resident of Kibera and set off into the unknown, nice and inconspicuous with a camera crew in tow.
It is the largest slum in Africa with many associated problems, with an estimated population density of 2000 residents per hectare. Much of the ground underfoot is made up of refuse and it is infamous for its flying toilets, which I am not going to explain, you can look it up. Overall, the initial intensity of it can be overwhelming. However for me what I got most from the experience was a sense of wonder, apparently shared by writers for the Economist, who in an article in 2012 suggested that Kibera "may be the most entrepreneurial place on the planet" and that "to equate slums with idleness and misery is to misunderstand them”
Kibera was vibrant. The population were just hustling to survive. There were market stalls with everything you can imagine for sale, beauty salons galore, people making jewellery and crafts, selling their music to us via iTunes. There was a converted bus loaded with computers that you could use for a small fee. People were dressed in suits and fancy shoes, city dressed is how I would describe it, with elaborate hair styles and elegant nails. Freddy was obviously doing good business with his ranking on Trip Advisor and we finished the tour enjoying a cold soda back at his small but immaculate home right in the middle of it all. He told us he could afford to move out now but this is his home and he likes it. You could certainly see the community aspect to life, although we weren’t so naive to imagine it is all roses as there are plenty of political tensions and it is certainly not safe to be wandering the alleys at night.
Ever since that experience and my studies of the BOP I have been intrigued by the thought of inventing something that would be life changing for the billions of people that live in poverty. I would love to go back and see if an idea came to me, or more likely, to find and develop and idea that a local already has but is unable to capitalize.