Trickle Up works in Africa because of a legacy of colonialism that has perpetuated inequality, and the prevalence of weak states that often face challenges delivering basic public services and setting economic policies that encourage growth. A large number of the world’s extreme poor are in rural Africa, where food, health, education, and economic opportunities are scarce. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the incidence of poverty is increasing faster than the population, and the pace of poverty reduction in most of Africa has slowed since the 1970s.¹


Poverty in Africa is predominantly rural and, many of these areas, is rooted in the colonial system. People depend on agriculture for food and for their livelihood, yet development assistance to agriculture is decreasing. Although economic policies and institutional structures have been modified to close the income gap, these changes have dismantled existing rural systems without always building new ones. This situation is marked by continuing stagnation, poor production, low incomes, and rising vulnerability. Lack of access to markets is a problem for many small-scale enterprises and the population is poorly organized and often isolated, beyond the reach of social safety nets and poverty programs. Increasingly, government policies and investments in poverty reduction tend to favor urban over rural areas.

Western and Middle Africa

Three fourths of people living in poverty in Western and Middle Africa — an estimated 90 million people — live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.² One in five lives in a country affected by warfare.³ In conflict-torn countries such as Angola, Burundi, Mozambique and Uganda, the capacity of rural people to make a livelihood has been dramatically curtailed by warfare, and per capita food production has plummeted. Land degradation, a consequence of extensive agriculture, deforestation, and overgrazing, has reached alarming levels and further threatens livelihoods. The poorest people live in isolated zones, deprived of the social safety nets and poverty reduction programs available in semi-urban and urban areas.

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, two of every five people live in poverty.4 Women are disproportionately represented among the poor and are often excluded from full participation in the economy, particularly in rural areas. Women also lack a voice in their homes and communities. Discriminatory practices towards women in Burkinabe society remain high, despite government commitment and efforts to develop a policy and legal framework. In many situations, both the Family Code and the Penal Code are disregarded by society and authorities in favor of practices that discriminate against women, particularly in rural areas. Despite legislative initiatives, including the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), significant obstacles remain to ensure women’s access to justice, equality, and positions of political power.

Refugees in Africa

The escalating global refugee crisis is concentrated in Africa and the Middle East. Trickle Up works with refugees and host communities living in extreme poverty in Egypt, Zambia, and Burkina Faso. Many of these families are fleeing protracted situations where there is little hope of returning to their home countries in the near future. Refugees from Angola, DRC, and Rwanda have fled to Zambia. There is a rising population of displaced people from Syria, Iraq, and Sudan in Egypt. 98% of refugees in Burkina Faso are from Mali, where recent turmoil has displaced many families.5

Where we work

Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Senegal, Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Zambia


Africa Statistics:

  • 218 million people live in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa6
  • 70% of Africa’s poor live in rural areas7
  • 40.1% of the population of Burkina Faso lives in poverty – that’s 7.17 million people8
  • The richest 20% of people in Burkina Faso own 44.1% of the country’s wealth, while the poorest 20% own only 8.4% of the wealth9
  • Over 75% of women participate in the labor force in Burkina Faso10
  • Only 46% of married rural women in sub-Saharan Africa earned any cash income in the last year11
  • <20% of married women report participating in household decision-making on major purchases in Burkina Faso12
  • Today over half of children in Burkina Faso ages 7-14 work. 56.8% of them do not attend school; less than half combine work and study13
  • 68% of the world’s displaced people today live in Africa and the Middle East. 29% of displaced people are in Africa and 39% are in the Middle East and North Africa14

Trickle Up’s Impact

of refugee participants started a business with program support in Alexandria, Egypt.
the average increase in participant households’ daily spending on foods other than grains in Burkina Faso.
of participants in Burkina Faso reported having savings, up from only 34% before the program.
of participants in Burkina Faso have 2+ businesses, increasing resilience to environmental shocks & market trends.

Trickle Up’s History in Africa

Trickle Up has worked in Africa since 1980. Today, we work with community-based organizations, government social protection programs, and the World Bank in West Africa, where our regional office in Burkina Faso opened in 2013. Previously, our regional office was located in Mali, where we completed many projects in partnership with USAID, including initiatives focusing on people with disabilities. In Mali, Trickle Up worked in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Mopti with a wide range of implementing partners. In 2008, the program was extended to Burkina Faso, and in 2017 we began our partnership with the Adaptive Social Protection program to expand to Niger, Senegal, Chad, and Mauritania.


Our work with UNHCR serving refugees in Africa since 2013 has brought us to Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, with many more countries to follow as these pilot projects are completed and our partnership expands in the region. In 2017, we began a partnership with AVSI Foundation and USAID to reach refugee families in Uganda as well.

Our Projects in Africa