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Make Use of Acquired Skills

Economic Empowerment

The bare figures speak for themselves: according to the United Nations, 700 million people currently live in extreme poverty and are forced to survive on a daily wage of less than USD 2. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank estimates that an additional 150 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty until 2021. Despite all international efforts, at least 600 million people will still be faced with these conditions by 2030, 90 percent of whom will live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The goals of the Hilti Foundation are therefore clear: It is paramount to empower people to escape this downward spiral and to become economically independent by earning a sustainable income that helps support better living conditions. Only in this way can people contribute to a socially and economically healthy society.

The activities of the Hilti Foundation focus on East Africa, because poverty there is disproportionally high in rural regions. Therefore, together with the aid organization Hand in Hand International, self-help groups have been established which are led by professional, local business coaches who share the knowledge that is fundamental for young entrepreneurs. These self-help groups create self-generated savings funds which, in turn, are given to individual members as microloans for necessary investments. The program has already yielded positive results: By the end of 2020, more than 11,000 new small businesses had been founded, which also helped create 10,000 additional jobs. 90 percent of participants who have completed the program are now able to earn a living above the poverty line.

Encouraged by this success, in the summer of 2020, the Hilti Foundation started a three-year project with its partners. By 2024, it is hoped that the project will be able to support the foundation of 40,000 small farms, thereby enabling 150,000 East African citizens to live a better quality of life. In 2021, the Foundation is also planning initiatives aimed at transforming already existing small enterprises into solid, mid-sized businesses, which will be able to merge into cooperatives. This would provide individual entrepreneurs additional training opportunities, better logistics and purchasing conditions, as well as access to larger sales markets. With these projects, the Hilti Foundation strives to establish a system that drives independent economic development. Such initiatives will help independent people as well as families to move out of poverty and perhaps even become part of an emerging middle class.

Photo: Hilti: African women and a girl sitting in front of a wooden hut preparing corn on the cob
Establishing economic independence – having your own business and a sustainable income that grows year on year is the basis for many families who seek to achieve a higher standard of living.

With needle and haystack

Mary Machala lives in a small village in Kenya. She is the mother of three and over the years she has managed to establish her own modest tailor’s workshop. Joseph, her husband, works as a carpenter in Nairobi. However, until recently, their joint income was barely sufficient to cover expenses for basic necessities.

In the end, a conversation with her eldest son turned into a meaningful turning point. He told her that his dream was to receive a technical education in the city. As the oldest of seven children herself, Mary had experienced first-hand how her parents struggled daily to make sure there was enough food for the entire family. There was simply no surplus money for vocational training or anything of the kind. It is therefore Mary’s goal to spare her own children a similar fate.

Photo: Hilti: Mary Machala, Company Founder in Kenya
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Photo: Hilti: Mary Machala, Company Founder, Muranga, Kenya

Now that I own my small businesses, I feel much freer in life. I never imagined I could achieve all this.

Mary Machala,
Company Founder, Muranga, Kenya

At the beginning of 2019, she visited a self-help group for the first time which is supported by the Hilti Foundation and led by an employee of Hand in Hand International. Step by step, in addition to the skills she already had, Mary learned the fundamentals needed to establish a second career: a small farm with cattle and vegetable cultivation.

Today, thanks to the additional income she has been able to gain from her training, Mary and her family have a brighter future – a prospect that allows her to finance her children’s education which will also support their own, self-determined lives in the future.

More information: Hilti Foundation