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UK Government must defend against big oil and mining dirty tricks

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 5:41am  |  Global Witness
21st March 2015 Include in Homepage Featured Items feed:  off

Anti-corruption campaigners urge the UK Government to divorce itself from industry guidelines that would create transparency black-holes

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Statoil’s historic disclosures blow holes in Exxon and Shell’s campaign for secrecy

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 5:50am  |  Global Witness
19th March 2015 Include in Homepage Featured Items feed:  off

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Transparency campaigners call on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to follow Norway’s lead

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Une entreprise accusée d’avoir financé la guerre en Centrafrique invitée à une conférence de l'UE sur l’exploitation forestière

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 9:14am  |  Global Witness
17th March 2015 Include in Homepage Featured Items feed:  off

Appel urgent pour mettre fin à l'impunité de l'industrie forestière en République centrafricaine et pour adopter un cadre d'action européen sur le bois de conflit

BRUXELLES (17 Mars 2015) - Une entreprise ayant financé des groupes armés en République centrafricaine (RCA) a été invitée par la Commission européenne à participer à une réunion sur  l'exploitation illégale des forêts et le commerce du bois illégal, révèle aujourd’hui Global Witness.

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Company accused of financing Central African war invited to EU logging conference

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 3:31am  |  Global Witness
17th March 2015 Include in Homepage Featured Items feed:  off

Call for urgent action to end impunity of logging industry in Central African Republic and adopt an EU framework of action on conflict timber

BRUSSELS (17 March 2015) - A company involved in financing armed groups in Central African Republic has been invited by the European Commission to its annual stocktaking of efforts to end illegal logging and related trade, Global Witness reveals today.

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Azerbaijan Anonymous: Correspondence with SOCAR

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 1:35pm  |  Global Witness
4th March 2015 Include in Homepage Featured Items feed:  off

In December 2013 Global Witness published Azerbaijan Anonymous in which we called for the release of information concerning who the real owners are of companies involved in the extraction and trading of oil that belongs to the Azerbaijani people, and how these companies got access to these deals.

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Liberia has burned the furniture to warm the house

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 2:52am  |  Global Witness
27th February 2015 Include in Homepage Featured Items feed:  Include in Homepage Featured Items feed

Recent oil deal represents risk for country struggling to recover from the Ebola crisis and restore order in its oil sector

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UK lawmaker calls for investigation into London-listed oil company over bribery allegations

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 10:28am  |  Global Witness
25th February 2015 A leader of a cross-party anti-corruption group of British MPs yesterday called for UK and US authorities to investigate claims that Soco International, a London-listed oil company, may have breached anti-corruption legislation in the course of its work in Africa’s oldest national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Include in Homepage Featured Items feed:  off

A leader of a cross-party anti-corruption group of British MPs yesterday called for UK and US authorities to investigate claims that Soco International, a London-listed oil company, may have breached anti-corruption legislation in the course of its work in Africa’s oldest national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Edmond de Rothschild Foundation Fueling Social Entrepreneurship in India

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 12:51pm  |  NextBillion

The Edmond de Rothschild foundation, based in Switzerland is exploring opportunities to partner with like-minded foundations in India to increase their work in the country.

A network of 12 foundations spread across France, Spain, USA and Israel is at the pivotal point of transitioning from a traditional charity giving approach to strategic philanthropy.

Firoz Ladak, CEO of Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, says, "Our mission statement and putting in to place tools for assessing impact evaluation and engaging closely with the partners. Not in the business of writing checks but engaging with our partners." Ladak an Indian origin investment banker joined the foundation six years ago.

The foundation run by the fifth generation of the Edmond De Rothschild family has been involved inphilanthropy for the past 200 years ever since the industrial revolution.

The overarching focus of the foundation is on education, everything from supporting Ph.D thesis in America, to supporting schools in France to professional training specially when it comes to social entrepreneurs.

For their work in India the foundation is focusing on this latter strand. "We give roughly $15- $20 million a year. Next three years budgeted commitment for a $1 million for India," says Ladak. For him India is a new market and for the past two years they had been piloting investing in social entrepreneurship in the country.

Leading Change in the "New Normal"

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 12:51pm  |  NextBillion

As we watch business leaders struggling to adjust to the "new normal" of the global economy, we can't help thinking of the economic transition India began almost 20 years ago. The changes that India struggled to cope with, such as slowing domestic growth, increasing globalization, and an uncertain political and regulatory environment, describe global markets today. No one has a perfect model for managing this level of uncertainty. However, we believe that India's (incomplete) journey offers valuable lessons about managing growth and change.

India began morphing from a highly protected economy to a liberalizing one in the 1990s, following a balance of payments crisis. Indian business leaders had to cope with rapid changes on all these fronts at the same time:

a) Competitors: Multinational companies quickly entered the domestic market and few local players were prepared to compete with them. Even large domestic firms were far behind their global counterparts in funding, innovation, and access to markets.

b) Regulations: The regulatory environment, particularly for the banking and financial sectors, went through major changes. The currency fluctuated, exchange controls were loosened, and many tariff structures were modified.

c) Consumers: Companies initially focused on satisfying the pent-up consumer demand of a growing Indian middle and upper class. Today, companies are also focused on reaching the poor at the "bottom of the pyramid," and expanding distribution to the mythical "last mile".

PolyU Announces the Establishment of Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 12:51pm  |  NextBillion

Backed by strong support from The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) Charities Trust, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has brought together multi-disciplinary expertise for the establishment of Hong Kong's first Design Institute for Social Innovation.

The new establishment will be called the "Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation" (JCDISI). The announcement ceremony for this pioneering project was held today (17 January) on the university campus, with HKJC Chairman Mr T. Brian Stevenson; PolyU Council Chairman the Honourable Ms Marjorie Yang Mun-tak; and PolyU President Professor Timothy W. Tong officiating at the event.

Addressing the ceremony, Professor Tong said the establishment of JCDISI is one of the major events for PolyU's 75th Anniversary celebrations. He is pleased to note that JCDISI will be housed together with PolyU School of Design in the Jockey Club Innovation Tower. The 15-storey Tower is also the first permanent architecture by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid in Hong Kong.

The construction of the Innovation Tower was approved by the Government in 2009, and PolyU is required to raise one-quarter of the construction cost to cover the enhanced features. In 2010, the HKJC Charities Trust kindly approved a donation of $249 million to support the Jockey Club Innovation Tower project and the set up of JCDISI.

The New Rules of BoP Marketing

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 12:07pm  |  NextBillion

Santosh Nagar is almost a city within a city. Inside this sprawling slum in Mumbai's north-western suburbs are rows of houses that sit cheek by jowl with each other. Over 20,000 residents run businesses from tailoring to soap making in its narrow, labyrinthine bylanes. There are almost half a dozen schools and hawkers selling everything from brooms to insurance policies. Not to forget the ubiquitous kirana store, one every 15 metres, serving a growing demand for everyday household items, from mosquito coils to popular detergent, from lanterns to shampoo sachets.


Ravi Maurya, whose tuck shop lies amid this hustle-bustle, has been doing brisk business in this urban slum for a quarter of a century. Maurya wouldn't think of moving out of Santosh Nagar. This is where he's always lived - and earned his livelihood, serving countless customers, many of whom transact no more than Rs. 5 at a time. Maurya's merchandise is also tailored accordingly - small pack sizes, lower priced products and lesser known brands. The national brands that get advertised on television don't always make it to Maurya's shop shelf, unless he decides to go to the local wholesaler and buy his supplies. The large company distributors shun stores like his situated inside the slum, preferring to restrict themselves to the larger outlets, about a kilometre or two away. "They just didn't care about us," says Maurya.

So about a year ago, Maurya was pleasantly surprised when a PepsiCo distributor salesman turned up at his door, offering to book orders, supply ready stock and even offer him a week's credit. As a result, today PepsiCo's Lehar range of namkeens and wafers hang from shop fronts in his store - and across most of Santosh Nagar - aggressively competing with locally made brands like Diamond and Balaji.

Citi Microfinance: Social impact key part of investors’ agenda

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 9:35am  |  NextBillion

Microfinance Focus, January 17, 2012: Bob Annibale is Global Director of Citi Microfinance and Community Development. He leads Citi's commercial relationships with microfinance institutions, networks and investors across the globe. Bob also represents Citi on the Board of the Microfinance Information Exchange, the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds, the SEEP Network, the Microfinance Network and the Executive Committee of CGAP (World Bank).

In an exclusive interview with Microfinance Focus, Bob spoke about the vision of Citi Microfinance for the global microfinance sector.

The interview was first published in Microfinance Focus special print magazine which was distributed at the Global Microcredit Summit 2011 in Spain.

Microfinance Focus: How do you see the investment environment changing over the next few years? Is it going to be different from what it has been?

Bob Annibale: Many factors contribute to changes in the investment landscape, particularly recent global events in the equity and sovereign debt markets and slow economic growth in the U.S., Europe and Japan. In this challenging and complex global environment, microfinance is confronting additional challenges, such as the impact of rising fuel and food prices on their clients, continued income inequalities and the need for funders - philanthropic, public and commercial - to continue to invest in the growth of the sector.

As outreach and growth have been pursued in a number of markets, the scaling of microfinance has been accompanied by similar challenges and trends as in the wider financial sector, including competition, sales and collections practices; the need for greater transparency in product pricing and features; the integration of the sector with credit bureaus; and appropriate regulations and supervision.

In recent calendar quarters, growth has slowed in many countries or regions. Though there may indeed be a slowing in the pace of growth in microfinance investment funds, in some countries this may also be in response to changes in customer needs and demand. While the capacity of for-profit and non-profit investors, specialized funds and institutional investors continues to grow, microfinance institutions [MFIs] must recognize that many donors and investors are focusing on a broader agenda that goes beyond financial access to include financial capability and varying degrees of social impact.

How Oliberté, the Anti-TOMS, Makes Shoes and Jobs in Africa

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 9:32am  |  NextBillion

'Why or how could anyone want to make shoes in a place full of so much poverty and corruption?'

That's the question many people asked Canadian Tal Dehtiar when he founded Oliberté Footwear, the first company to make premium shoes in Africa using African materials and explicitly linking shoes sold by Western retailers to job creation on the continent. Dehtiar started the Toronto-based company in 2009, and sales increased from a mere 200 pairs initially to 10,000 in 2011. He projects sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 this year.

"At Oliberté, we believe Africa can compete on a global scale," he says, "but it needs a chance. It doesn't need handouts or a hand up. It needs people to start shaking hands and companies to start making deals to work in these countries."

Oliberté shoes are stitched and assembled in Ethiopia with leather sourced from local free-range cows, sheep, and goats-the default in a country with many herders whose livelihoods depend upon ranging wherever grass may be. The livestock haven't been injected with hormones to speed their growth, a common practice in other parts of the world. The result is a light, limber, yet sturdy upper.

The shoes feature crepe rubber soles made from natural rubber processed in Liberia and lined with soft, breathable goat leather. This spring, the company will expand its line to offer leather bags and accessories, some of which will be sourced in Kenya and made in Zambia. It produces woven labels and other branding materials in the African island nation Mauritius.

India To Launch $1B Innovation Fund By June-July

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:59pm  |  NextBillion

India plans to launch a $1 billion fund by June-July, with an initial capital of Rs 5 billion, to invest in innovations that can generate services and products to uplift the poor, a top government official told reporters on Monday.

"We need to provide money to those who have ideas but no seed capital," Sam Pitroda, adviser to prime minister on public information, infrastructure and innovation, said on the sidelines of an industry event.

The fund, named India Inclusive Innovation Fund, will invest in sectors such as agriculture, water, energy and healthcare, Pitroda said, after delivering the keynote address at Grid Week Asia Summit, organised by Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers' Association.

"It will have an initial investment, seed capital from the government. The finance ministry has already talked about allocating 100 crore (Rs 1 billion)."

The fund intends to raise Rs 5 billion in its first phase.

Indian Villagers' Lives Transformed by New Energy Delivery System

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:45pm  |  NextBillion

It's late December and an icy fog cloaks the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh. Here, far from the cities, smoke rises in dense, choking spirals from meagre wood fires and scantily-clad children shiver against the cold. These are largely farming families, and their mud huts fortified by the occasional brick wall are for the most part devoid of light, heat or clean water.

But it is here in Uttar Pradesh, one of India's largest and poorest states, far away from the country's straining power grid, that US-born entrepreneurs Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad have started to pioneer a wholly different energy system, designed to meet some of the most basic needs of the poorest.

Their company, Mera Gao Power (MGP), provides ultra-low cost lighting and mobile phone charging services to individual houses by building and operating solar-powered micro grids at a village level.

Each household that signs up to their service receives two LED lights and one mobile-charging point in their home at a cost of 25 rupees (£0.301) per week. The setup cost is an additional one-off payment of 40 rupees (£0.48). "This is the kind of price point that the majority of them can afford," Sandeep Pandey, MGP's operations manager, explained.

The benefits of these simple services for a village household are multiple. The lights not only allow individuals to work after dark, providing additional time for activities that generate income, but they permit extra time for children to study.

"I wanted this light straight away, as it enables me to cook after dark," said Muni-devi, a grandmother from the village of Kaharanpura who makes samosas to sell at the local market. "With longer hours to work, I can earn more for my family each day."

Santram Pal, a father of four from the neighbouring village of Chuck, was exuberant, too. "I'm very happy with the lights," he said. "Now my children can study at night and my house won't go so black inside from the smoke. Thieves won't come either."

Howard Weinstein Named Social Entrepreneur of the Year

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:09pm  |  NextBillion

NEW YORK, Oct. 27 /CSRwire/ - Solar Ear founder and CEO Howard Weinstein was selected as social entrepreneur of the year by World Technology Network. The announcement was made at the awards banquet held at the close of the World Technology Summit and Awards in New York City Wednesday night. Weinstein's award was accepted by Nick Laperle, CEO of Solar Ear's technology partner Sonomax.

Solar Ear designs and manufactures a solar-powered, battery rechargeable, inexpensive hearing aid solution. Technology partner Sonomax designs in-ear technology to custom fit earpieces to each patient in a single visit.

Previously Weinstein has been a Tech Award Laureate and was the recipient of the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Audiology.

Innovation focused on the affordable

Weinstein started Solar Ear when he saw the need for an affordable, user-friendly and ecological hearing aid. WHO estimates that approximately 278 million suffer from hearing loss of which 200 million live in developing countries. Adult-onset hearing loss is the second longest cause of years lived with a disability.

"The hearing aid industry is one of the most innovative industries in the world, which is both good and bad," said Weinstein. "Most of the innovation has been misplaced and focused on the wrong things, like developing technology for a $7500 hearing aid. That is completely out of reach for most of the world's deaf population." Only 12% of hearing aids manufactured are in the developing world.

Solar Ear offers hearing solutions for under $100US. The products were featured in "Brilliant Eco-Inventions; Designs to Solve the Worlds Problems," which appeared in the November 2010 issue of National Geographic. Solar Ear products are now included in the collections of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum and the Smithsonian.

Mobile Money to Deliver Cash Aid: Believe the Hype?

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 3:48pm  |  NextBillion

In the two years since the earthquake, several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have used Haiti's nascent mobile money services to deliver cash to people in need. These programs have been among only a handful of global examples (14 were identified worldwide) of cash distribution using mobile money and represent an important opportunity to learn. Early research suggests that mobile distribution had some tangible benefits for recipients of aid, but they also carried costs that could exceed those of traditional physical and voucher-based transfers. We've put together a set of recommendations that can help NGOs to get the most out of this exciting new platform.

As NGOs in Haiti adopted mobile money, they were aware that this was also new territory and an opportunity to establish some evidence about its usefulness. Two of them actually put parallel aid programs into effect that delivered the same transfers to two groups of people, one using traditional physical or voucher-based distribution methods, and the other using mobile money. They found that mobile money could be faster and safer, but its usefulness as a tool for expanding financial inclusion was less clear.

On the other side of the ledger, using the mobile money platform came with big start-up costs. As a result, the first deployments of cash distribution programs using mobile money carried higher costs than traditional distribution methods. But in the "steady state"-when all one-time costs have been paid-mobile money may yet turn out to be cheaper. And if the use of mobile money spreads among consumers, fees to transfer cash will likely drop as well, further lowering the cost of the platform.

Africa Not Fit For Print; The 'Light' Side Of The 'Dark' Continent

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 3:12pm  |  NextBillion

A Chinese, Latin American, and North American student are sitting in a classroom. The teacher pulls out a map of Africa, and asks 'tell me what you see". The Chinese student speaks of opportunity and business; South African steel, Congolese minerals, and Angolan oil to power his country's growth, and an endless list of future contracts for Chinese-built roads, bridges, and infrastructure to link the continent. The American reflects on Darfur, the Rwandan Genocide, thatched-roof villages, famine, Bono, Madonna, nonprofit work, and starving children. The Latin American student draws parallels in a tragic reflection of the worst parts of his own country; nefarious warlords, corruption, and poverty.

Who is right, and who is wrong? No one. And everyone. The complexity of this mighty and expansive continent can hardly be confined to a single narrative. Over one billion people. 54 independent states (as recognized by the UN). Nearly 3,000 languages. And as remarkably diverse as the continent is, so too should be the stories that emerge from it.

As I stepped through doorway of my concrete apartment in Nairobi, Kenya the other morning, I had the strange feeling I'd done something terribly wrong. I had just returned from two weeks traveling by local transport -- bus, boat, motorcycle, and foot -- through the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and as it happens, had an incredible, inspiring, and uplifting time.

Before you barrage me with your criticisms, and claim perhaps I'm blind, insensitive, ignorant, or arrogant for eliciting pleasure from my time in the D.R.C., let me explain myself.

The journey went hard against the grain of the typical Congo narrative; I did not pay a single bribe. Immigration officials turned out to be the friendliest and most helpful bunch I met. No men with AK-47s kidnapped me. I spent Christmas day hunting with Mbuti pygmies in the world's second largest rainforest, swimming in crocodile-infested rivers with their children. I met with grassroots NGOs and social entrepreneurs that were changing communities and bringing hope. I encountered warm smiles, and generous hospitality. I saw a beautiful, untold side of the country.

Investing in Impact: Making the Case for Patient Capital

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 2:52pm  |  NextBillion

Case study highlights challenges facing the nascent social investing sector and explores ways to face them.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.-Social investing. Impact Investing. Patient capital.

That the idea itself has more than one name underscores the challenges facing an industry that seeks to invest in and grow companies that measure wealth both by profit and the ability to solve social problems.

This relatively new sector in the venture capital world is trying to redefine the very mission of capitalism. The idea is that for-profit companies should be judged by more than one bottom line.

But who defines those more intangible bottom lines? How do investment firms discover startups worthy of investment? How does social investing raise funds when it's still in a no-man's-land between philanthropy and traditional venture capital?

Those questions are probed through the lens of San Francisco-based impactne investing firm Good Capital in the case study Good Capital and the Emergence of the Social Capital MarketSupervised by finance professor Gautam Kaul and written by Lauren Foukes, BBA '06/MBA '12, the case won fourth place in the 2011 NextBillion Case Writing Competition.

Social investing is a relatively new idea, especially in the United States, and those involved in the industry have to lay the foundation for their own ecosystem, says Kaul, the John C. and Sally S. Morley Professor of Finance. Leading experts need to set standards-especially on how to measure and value social impact-and need to establish a regulatory framework in the U.S., where the law usually favors the primacy of shareholder value.

Haiti Embarks on Economic Recovery Plan with Help from Private Sector

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 2:59pm  |  NextBillion

Much of the media coverage of Haiti's post-earthquake rehabilitation has focused on the role played by the international community and aid donors. But on the second anniversary of the earthquake, the island's narrative may be slowly shifting from one of aid dependency to one of proactive self-help. The government is embarking on a multipronged initiative to combat cholera, permanently rehouse the displaced people, improve infrastructure, and stimulate the economy through a drive on job creation.

Haiti's new prime minister, Garry Conille, said the government's main focus will be to join with private sector partners to address key economic and infrastructure needs to kickstart the economy. "We clearly understand that aid alone will not develop this country [so] we're creating a lot of incentives for the private sector to come in and invest," he said.

The government aims to attract foreign direct investment through Haiti's forum on private sector investment, and entice corporate interest in the country with initiatives such as a 15-year tax holiday and generous subsidies for foreign businesses. It is also working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and USAid to develop Haiti's manufacturing industry - a venture that Conille believes has the potential to create thousands of jobs over the next 12 months.

Work has already begun on a 246-hectare industrial park by the South Korean apparel manufacturer Sae-A, which is keen to capitalise on Haiti's guaranteed duty-free access to US clothing markets. The $78m development in Haiti's North Corridor will provide 20,000 jobs and directly support the livelihoods of up to 120,000 people. As well as providing myriad opportunities for local entrepreneurship, the industrial park will also include a residential development with 5,000 homes.



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