One nonprofit’s innovative approach to economic development is making an impact.
Is it possible to give people in Africa the tools they need to pull themselves out of poverty? Haute is a new Peoria-based nonprofit that answers this question with an emphatic “Yes!” By providing entrepreneurs in Africa with business knowledge and ideas, Haute has produced significant, tangible improvements in the lives of hundreds of people in Africa.
Africa: A Charity Case?
The fact that little economic progress has been made in Africa as a result of billions of dollars of foreign aid should not come as a surprise. “Aid” is funding to provide a short-term fix to a critical problem, such as a shortage of food or water. Aid is, by its very definition, not meant to address the underlying disease called poverty—it is simply meant to treat its symptoms. By viewing Africa as a charity case, we are not helping Africans to pull themselves out of poverty. In fact, we are doing just the opposite by creating dependencies on our generosity.
The New Paradigm
Haute’s approach is based on a new way of viewing economic development. Simply stated, Haute’s view is that an economy is “developed” if there is a critical mass of people who know how to make money with money. These people are known as entrepreneurs. In order to bring about true change, Haute empowers entrepreneurs in Africa to lift themselves and their employees out of poverty by providing them with business knowledge and ideas. By giving entrepreneurs in Africa the knowledge and skills they need to improve and expand their businesses, Haute promotes job creation in local African economies. And creating jobs is the only permanent way of eliminating poverty and the need for foreign aid.
Talk is Cheap
Does Haute’s approach really work? Since it began operations in 2007, Haute has provided management training to 111 entrepreneurs in Africa who run businesses representing a variety of industries. The training program covers essential business topics such as marketing, accounting and financial planning. In 2008, Haute conducted video interviews with the first 17 clients it trained. On average, each of these entrepreneurs had created 1.2 new jobs as a direct result of implementing the training provided by Haute. Extrapolating that figure means that Haute has created an estimated 133 jobs in local African economies. That’s 133 people that now have an income and can lift themselves out of poverty. There is also a multiplier effect, as these new employees now buy more food, clothing and supplies from other local businesses, which further increases income for other business owners and their employees.
But Wait, There’s More
Not only does job creation promote economic well-being, it also has significant social and political impact. In many cases, a person living in poverty is willing to go to extreme measures to ensure that his or her political party wins an election. Why? Because it is one of the only ways of guaranteeing that food will be on the table. Many of us here in the U.S. would make similar choices if placed in the same situation. Haute’s programs give people a better way out of poverty, and one that is more sustainable. When a person is earning an income, it no longer matters which political party wins the election. There will be food on the table regardless.
The Peoria Connection
Haute has strong links to the Peoria community. Haute was founded by Ben Hafele, a Peoria native who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa from 1999 to 2001 and now works for Caterpillar in the Economics group. Haute benefits from an exceptionally strong board of directors made up of local community leaders, including:
- Henry Holling, Interim City Manager, City of Peoria
- Dr. Robert Scott, Chairperson, Department of Economics, Bradley University
- Dr. Mike Vidas, ENT Otolaryngologist, Peoria Ear Nose & Throat Group
- James Hafele, Attorney Of Counsel, Kavanagh, Scully, Sudow, White & Frederick
- Jim Foley (Advisory Member), Director of the International Trade Center and NAFTA Opportunity Center at Bradley University.
Bradley University has been an integral part of Haute’s development, offering office space and access to high-caliber student talent. Haute currently has five interns and four volunteers from Bradley engaged in a variety of projects. iBi
Haute is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity. To learn more, visit hautenet.org.