Why are there still so many poor people in the world after more than six decades of anti-poverty efforts? Social scientists can provide a great many nuanced reasons, but they usually overlook the obvious: 70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, most of them far from cities and towns, often distant from passable roads. Those anti-poverty efforts, and the goods and services of the market economy, rarely reach them.
To make significant headway against ending poverty, development programs need to be planned around that grim reality. And any market-based solution must recognize that last-mile delivery has to be built into the business model. Income-generating products and services are of no use to isolated farmers (and most of the rural poor live from farming) unless they can access them.
One of the greatest impediments to achieving scale is the high cost of delivering products and services not just the “last mile” but the last 500 feet.
Poverty will be with us forever unless we can reach the village — and beyond.
Paul Polak and Mal Warwick’s award-winning book, The Business Solution to Poverty, highlights 20 “takeaways” that encapsulate much of the book’s essence. Today we have featured the sixteenth of those takeaways. Future posts will include others.