Bill's Trip to Mali Part 2: The Good News about Africa


Trickle Up’s president, Bill Abrams, travels to Mali, West Africa. Here, he chronicles his experiences from meeting a local governor, to meeting with Trickle Up participants, and sharing his perspective on the future of the region.

As poor a country as Mali is, it is certainly not hopeless.  To the contrary.  On the plane here, in my stack of background reading, I was fascinated by a report from the Center for Global Development, a Washington DC think tank.  “Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries are Leading the Way” reported the “good news” about how 17 countries of the 48 African nations “have defied the old negative stereotypes of poverty and failure by achieving steady economic growth, deepening democracy, improving governance, and decreasing poverty.”

Both Mali and Burkina Faso, where Trickle Up introduces 4-5,000 people per year into our program were on that last of 17 “emerging” economies.  That’s very good news; in my opinion, the very best way to end poverty is to have robust, sustained economic growth that benefits large numbers of people – as has famously been the case in China and India.  Economic growth translates into jobs, improved infrastructure, ready access to markets, improved education and health care, stronger governments and a bigger tax base.

Still, the extreme poor often are not in a position to easily share in economic growth.  They tend to live in remote, rural areas that are not where growing industries locate (as we see in India), lack the skills and education that can be a steppingstone to advancement, and sometimes are excluded from government programs designed to help the poor.  So, while we take comfort from positive economic trends, we also know that Trickle Up is still very much needed – to give people improved income and assets, which in turn can mean that their children benefit from improved nutrition and education that can qualify them for opportunities in the future and help them move from the informal economic sector to the formal one.

I am reminded of a story that I once heard Larry King tell about radio broadcaster Arthur Godfrey, the Larry King of his day.  Back then, talk show hosts did their own commercials, sometimes writing them themselves.  Godfrey was adlibbing a commercial for Bayer aspirin and came up with this classic line, “Until there’s a cure, there’s Bayer.”  So, for us, until there’s broad-based economic growth that reaches the extreme poor, there’s Trickle Up.

For part 3, click here.