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Top six sectors ideal for social impact entrepreneurship
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Top six sectors ideal for social impact entrepreneurship

Top six sectors ideal for social impact entrepreneurship
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The Islamic economy is spread across Muslim-majority nations such as Morocco and Indonesia, but the challenges at the social level are similar. To harness the power of the Islamic economy as a force for good, Goodforce Labs, a social-impact incubator, hosted a session on social entrepreneurship priorities as part of the Islamic Economy Week in October 2018.

Within the framework of the global ethical economy, it is possible for social impact startups to align themselves with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 and enshrined in 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Some of these are especially relevant for Muslim-majority countries facing specific challenges.

OBESITY

One out of every 10 adults aged over 20 in OIC countries is facing obesity (11.8 per cent), indicated by a BMI value greater than or equal to 30. This is higher than the 8.9 per cent average observed in developing countries, according to OIC Health. In the MENA region, 57.4 per cent of the population is overweight, compared to the developed countries’ average of 55.9 per cent. The level is higher for women at 61.9 per cent, making it a priority for social impact entrepreneurs to handle. Encouragingly, many governments have formulated public policy to tackle the issue as a priority, often creating platforms for public–private partnerships favouring a wellness and prevention-based approach.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

According to UN Habitat, the world’s slum population will cross the 1 billion mark by 2020. Rapid urbanisation is leading to growing demand for affordable housing. However, while there is significant oversupply in upscale and high-income housing, low-income communities tend to lack options. A 2012 study by the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Research and Training Institute put the shortage of housing in the Muslim world at 8.2 million, mostly focused in the low-income segment. There are country-specific startups addressing this challenge, such as Ethiscrowd, which has built 6,360 affordable homes to help reduce the critical shortage of 11.8 million houses in Indonesia.

INFANT MORTALITY

Infant mortality remains an urgent challenge in many countries. Among OIC countries, the average is 27 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to the world average of 29, but in Europe this rate is a low 4.5. In Pakistan, the rate for infant mortality is 61, and in Nigeria it is 64.

TOBACCO USE

At 20 per cent, OIC countries see lower tobacco use among persons aged 15 and above compared to Europe, which is at 31 per cent. However, social impact intervention is needed in many OIC countries. In Indonesia, for example, the number is a pretty high 39 per cent. In Lebanon and Tunisia, it is 34 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively. In Albania and the UAE, it is 29 per cent, both significantly higher than the global average of 20.

FINANCIAL INCLUSION

Social impact entrepreneurs would do well to focus their efforts on financial technologies that deliver social impact. Financial inclusion refers to the number of adults with a financial account, and OIC countries have well below the global average levels at 50 per cent, compared to 68 per cent globally and 86 per cent in Europe. In certain countries, financial inclusion is a priority: Niger has an inclusion score of 15 per cent; Pakistan, 21 per cent, Azerbaijan, 28 per cent, Morocco, 29 per cent; and Egypt, 32 per cent. Technologies such as blockchain can be used to facilitate cross-border micro-payments at a low cost, while non-banking financial companies and financial institutions are making significant inroads into creating solutions, with Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank being one example. 

FOOD WASTE

Chronic hunger still impacts a large population of humans on the planet, but countries also grapple with a significant amount of food waste. OIC countries are among some of the top food wasters in the world, with Saudi Arabia topping the list at 427 kg per person per year, followed by Indonesia at 300 kg, and the UAE at 196 kg. In the United States, an average of 277 kg per person per year is wasted. As a public awareness problem, this is a high-priority issue.  

(Editing by Seban Scaria seban.scaria@refinitiv.com)

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