Finally Good News

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu - SoleRebels

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu – World Economic Forum on Africa 2012 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

The press has been awash with stories from the African continent in the last few years – and not the usual fair concerning famine, war and privations. Rather, many countries in Africa are taking what they have, technologically, and innovating, in exciting world-beating ways. We’ve highlighted the mobile phone revolution – changing the way banking and community medicine is distributed and handled – in these pages before, and so it follows that interesting entrepreneurs are also in the press as of late.

One such example of an innovative, fresh initiative was profiled on the BBC website. And it makes for inspiring reading. The story of an Ethiopian shoemaker using recycled materials and those from her immediate environment, illuminate how much successful businesses rely on good ideas and what those ideas cost – nothing. The shoe company in question, SoleRebels, was started by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, in 2004 and has already gained accolades like the Young Global Leader award in 2011 and is turning over $2m this year, with a projection of $20m in 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Désert-du-Thar - Water Scarcity in the making

Desert tribes living in the Thar Desert near Jaisalmer, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just last week international new sources ran reports on Beijing’s dangerous air quality, complete with pictures on the BBC and CNN of a thick blanket of yellow smog covering the streets – apparently at record, toxic levels. This, it could be said, is the cost of China’s rapid economic expansion over the last two decades. But before cynicism takes hold, there have also been unlikely reports of new environmental agendas emerging from the most populous country on earth; positive advances in tackling water scarcity and preservation.

This may seem like an inessential area of concern, but water scarcity will emerge as one of the greatest challenges to mankind in the foreseeable future. And the BBC have just run a piece on China being the global leader in investments to protect watersheds – “preserving or reviving natural features, such as wetlands, streams and forests that can store and filter freshwater supplies.” This is good news, and also shows that governmental and private sector decision-makers are thinking much longer term, unlike the U.S. or Russia. Read the rest of this entry »

Food Waste

Massive food consumption in modern society – Korean food 8 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent report on the BBC by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers stating that, “half of the world’s food is thrown away” has inspired many heated responses from retail and governmental sectors alike. Is it true? From the volume of voices now in the debate, the exact statistics don’t really matter – the important point is that a new dialogue has now been created around the issue of food waste.

This is a hot topic that is increasingly taking centre stage in the press. Top high street UK brands like M&S and Morrisons have already been quick to keep up with the public’s desire for fairtrade, ecological and recyclable products. This comes at an opportune time, because the smart brands can make money and win public trust – and, hopefully, stay in it for the long haul. The damning report was a cautionary tale that the change must come from up high, with Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, saying: “Governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN need to work to help change people’s mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices.” But surely this is a battle that must equally be fought at street level, with retail and branding and effective consumer communication as well. Read the rest of this entry »

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo is working closely with companies in order to help the natural world facilitate further advances in technology and industry

It was encouraging to read an article on the BBC about the San Diego Zoo working closely with companies in order to help the natural world facilitate further advances in technology and industry. This is the first zoo in the world to open a ‘Centre for Bioinspiration’ hoping to inspire and aid human problems with the ‘biomimicry’ of nature. It may seem surprising, actually, that this is not already happening, when one thinks of the medicine from the natural world humans have collected and used – the list is limitless. But, with the increasing loss of biodiversity and extinction of species being very real threats, this may provide a learning bridge and also a means to re-discover the necessity of our coexistence.

Currently, butterflies are being studied at the zoo, hoping to inform the new design of the Mirasol e-reader display; the list of what humankind has managed to ‘steal’ from nature is enormous: Velcro, wing design in airplanes and wind turbines and all manner of sustainable environmental structures. The head of this new auspicious collaboration, Larry Stambaugh, has the simple goal of learning from the greatest teacher of all – nature: “The zoo’s scientists and animal care staff will research the biology of plants and animals, and the centre then aims to collaborate with organisations around the world to develop actual products.” Read the rest of this entry »

Katherine Lucey

Katherine Lucey
“TEDxPVD-129 (Photo credit: TEDxProvidence)”

It is often argued that limitations are the fuel for creativity – innovation and ambition not being reliant upon access to technological tools or even much financial support. If the above idea is true, then Africa’s advances in the last five years are proof positive that willful ingenuity is the real backbone of groundbreaking entrepreneurial successes. CNN has been running an excellent series on African nations’ new role in devising ingenious uses for mobile phones – from banking to medical advice – and ways to harness renewable energy resources to help create better lives in many seriously impoverished areas.

The latest article details how a new initiative to be bring solar power to poor areas is helping those without electricity and empowering the women who are selling this unique service. Katherine Lucey is the founder of Solar Sister, an organization built around women helping poor communities escape ‘energy poverty’ by providing affordable solar-powered devices such as lights, and mobile phone chargers, ultimately helping those desperately in need of energy sources. Read the rest of this entry »


Gandhi believes in “Being the change you want to see in the world”

Our collective desire to accumulate and consume seems more prevalent than ever. The notion of success, money and ‘stuff’ has been fostered since the days of capitalism’s founding father, Adam Smith, began espousing his economic theories in the 18th century. The world now is, of course, a very different place but we can see that the maxim of ‘more is more’ is firmly rooted in much of the western world’s psyche. So, it’s refreshing to see a new breed of philanthropist emerging in the last decade – using wealth as a tool for social betterment. In short, it has become trendy to leave the world with nothing left in your account because you’ve given it all away. And this is a good thing.

This Zen-like stance has been propagated and loudly trumpeted by some of the biggest financial players in the world – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Charles Feeney. The latter has had an interesting interview with the New York Times, and elaborated on his Buffett-esque philosophies and giving nature. Like the Midwestern values of Buffett, this billionaire flies coach class, wears unostentatious clothing and has been donating his billions to good causes – “medical care, education, criminal justice advocacy and peace-building initiatives,” since the early 80s, according to the article. Read the rest of this entry »

Electric Car

Sales of electric cars in Britain are expected to double in 2013 as cheaper models enter the market and the number of charging points increases

While governments continue to negotiate themselves out of any action on the renewable energy front, the private sector is heating up with investments. New solar energy developments in North Africa have been widely written about, but many governmental backers have recently gotten cold feet and pulled out their funding. So, it’s encouraging to read a recent article in Britain’s Guardian newspaper trumpeting the positive advances that the electric car market is making in the UK – from both public and private sectors.

Although these alternatives to traditional automobiles are still in their infancy – at least in branding and design – it seems the ’Sales of electric cars in Britain are expected to double in 2013 as cheaper models enter the market and the number of charging points increases,’ according to the paper. And unlike the stalled actions in the solar power market, Britain’s government seems to be actively looking to increase charging points for owners of the vehicles. Read the rest of this entry »

Positive perspectives from the frontline

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