Can the Bottom of the Pyramid Entrepreneurship Be Seen as a Panacea for Poverty Alleviation in Cameroon?
Posted: 20 Jun 2016 Last revised: 8 Jul 2016
Date Written: June 18, 2016
The concept of the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) was first used by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in his April 7, 1932 radio address, The Forgotten Man, in which he said ‘These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power...that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid’. The more current usage of the BoP refers to billions of people living on less than a $2 per day (Prahalad and Stuart, 1998). In his proposal of uplifting the poor of the poor, Prahalad (2002) and later Ndedi (2009) propose that businesses, governments, and donor agencies must not see the poor as victims, but instead start seeing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs as well as value-demanding consumers.
Hart and Simanis (2005) advance another approach, one that focuses on the poor as business partners and innovators, rather than just as potential producers or consumers. Hart and Simanis (2005) have led the development of the Base of the Pyramid Protocol, an entrepreneurial process that guides companies in developing business partnerships with income-poor communities in order to co-create businesses and markets that mutually benefit the companies and the communities. Another recent focus of interest lies on the impact of successful BoP approaches on sustainable development from a normative ethical perspective, on poverty alleviation as part of an integral part of sustainable development in an intra-generational justice platform.
What about empowering the bottom of the pyramid or the base of the base of the pyramid in Cameroon? There are poverty reducing benefits if the Cameroonian government works with financial institutions, civil society organizations and local governments to create new local business models that support financially potential entrepreneurs with no business collateral. More than 10 millions of Cameroonians form this largest, but poorest socio-economic group that need sometimes just F CFA 100 000 to start a business in the corner of a street in Bafoussam or Ebolowa. After all, uplifting the poor of today who may be a part of the middle class of tomorrow, engine of growth in any country.
This article focuses on a road map or the move from financially supporting business people who are not creating jobs, to empowering millions at the base of the pyramid from a poverty alleviation perspective. The paper provides the roles that must play both big corporations based in Cameroon and the Cameroonian government to achieve the above.
Keywords: BoP, Cameroon, Entrepreneurship, Poor, Business
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