Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Common misconceptions about BOP customers regarding money

During the past period I was exposed to a number of individuals from first world countries with an interest in mobile money for the unbanked (MMU). What struck me in all of our discussions is that the insight and understanding about the realities of the people at the bottom of the pyramid was totally lacking. It is important to really understand life of people that have to confront the realities of life on $2 a day, before we can start to produce relevant solutions. The best way to learn (of course) is to join these people for some time, to live with them and to interact with them. This is the only way to really get to grips with their situation. Also if you are brave enough to do this, prepare yourself to learn more about compassion and the meaning of life than what you will get from best-selling authors.

Poor people have a lot more to give to us (the more affluent) than what we can give to them. They have a keen understanding of community (that we have lost), of care and support of each other and figuring out priorities. Contrary to what we often think, many of these people do not want to live like us. They do not have a need to be corrupted and weighted down by luxury and possession. They merely would like to have more predictability and sufficient resources to cater for their daily needs. Only if we understand this and much more (that I am not really qualified to offer), will we be able to offer relevant solutions.

We have to start from a perspective of respect and equality when we approach the challenge. We must be open to learn and to embrace. We must be prepared to think out of the box and apply the knowledge and insights of the people we want to help. Only then will we be able to remain relevant.

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