The Pekingese and the Desechable

March 1st 2012

The following is Part one of a four-part blog on inequality, economic crime and social fabric in Colombia by Steven Bunce

‘I want my mother to move. This neighbourhood has grown insecure. Since they opened a shopping centre here, it has attracted thieves’.

When I ask my friend why he attributes a surge in robberies to the opening of a shopping centre, he explains that this middle-class district of Cartagena is surrounded by rapidly expanding poorer zones. The residents who shop there are increasingly falling prey to hold-ups by poorer residents that move in and out of the area, eyes peeled for more well to do individuals exiting their homes or the mall with their purchases. ‘They’re like sharks circling, looking for something to feed on’, he adds.

Who is best placed to serve the interests of the world's poor?

February 28th 2012

In a recent article, Anke Schwittay argues that relying on corporations to develop products for the 'bottom of the pyramid' (BoP) "cannot address the structural drivers of their circumstances and will lead to neither the eradication of poverty nor a corporate fortune at the BoP." (2012:S71)

Presenting evidence from Hewlett Packard's e-Inclusion program, she shows how the company's goal of creating products for the BoP quickly altered when the market proved unprofitable. Given that their main incentive is to make profits and serve shareholders, corporations' stated commitments to development issues have little staying power. We should not, therefore, put all our eggs in the market basket as a cure-all for global development.

Waste not: Gentrification and public life in Santo Domingo

February 19th 2012

Picture this: the sun sets over the Caribbean sea, framed by palm trees, the waves washing up upon a swathe of yellow sand with rows of white deck chairs. A group of locals hang out in a pagoda that juts out over the water, chatting and enjoying the view and watching people swimming and rock-fishing.

Behind them, young people play volleyball in a sandy court set up in a tree-lined plaza. Families watch their kids enjoy the playground, as they consume food bought at the small bars and food outlets scattered around each side of the plaza.

Boom! A change is coming to Haiti's mobile money market... and the world

February 10th 2012

It seems that there may be another mobile money service arriving to Haiti in a few months... and this time it's US-based, and has global ambitions for the unbanked. Meet Boom!

What makes m-Via's Boom interesting is that, unlike TchoTcho Mobile and T-Cash, it isn't just for use in the domestic market. In fact, it isn't even mostly for the domestic market: m-Via's CEO, William J. Barhydt, describes Boom as 'the world's first global, mobile phone based, bank account'.

Boom's advantage is that it combines an international remittance service with the facility to send money locally and pay local merchants. And with Haitians having an annual international remittance economy of approximately US$1.5 billion dollars, a great deal of cash could end up in Boom accounts.