Gates CEO to corporations: Nonprofits can help you spur business and fight poverty at the same time

Gates CEO to corporations: Nonprofits can help you spur business and fight poverty at the same time

Improving fruit production and quality can provide opportunity for both farmers and corporations  Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/angela7/381998091/sizes/m/in/photostream/"> angela7dreams(Flickr)</a>
Improving fruit production and quality can provide opportunity for both farmers and corporations Photo: angela7dreams(Flickr)

Jeff Raikes thinks private businesses have a lot to offer the world of global development, but sometimes they need a little help from their friends.

In a recent letter to BusinessFightsPoverty.org, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s CEO explains how the foundation works to pick up the slack where markets fail to deliver by “identifying those failures and filling the gaps.”

The foundation identified one such market failure in Uganda. Tens of thousands of small fruit vendors have been unable to sell their products to international buyers because they do not meet certain international specifications. This causes a lot of farmers to be sitting around with loads of mangoes and nowhere to sell them.

To fill the gap, the Gates Foundation started to work with the nonprofit TechnoServe to improve productivity and quality with 50,000 Ugandan farmers in order to meet the previously unattainable standards. TechnoServe provides the farmers with agricultural training, analyzing market opportunities and helping farmers access credit. The foundation then partnered with Coca-Cola, which has agreed to source mangoes and passion fruit from those specific farmers for its fruit juices. Coca-Cola will benefit by having more access to quality raw materials and the farmers will benefit from increased international demand.

Nonprofits used to fix problems by pulling out checkbooks and paying for the things corporations wouldn't. More and more, they're helping show corporations just how profitable fixing problems can be.

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