Bloom Impact on leveraging engineering and innovation to tackle global challenges
Accra, Ghana November 16, 2018
Engineers play a critical role in driving innovation. Yet while innovation typically enhances goods and services, productivity, economic growth and standards of living, its benefits do not always accrue equally to everyone, says Prateek Awasthi, director of policy, advocacy and community, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada. “Canada’s innovation sector has tremendous potential to benefit Canadian industries and workers through jobs, goods and services. It also has the potential to position Canada as a global leader and ally on the world stage through knowledge transfer and partnerships with global countries and companies, and through greater integration into our trade and development contributions.”
EWB seeks to redefine the role of tomorrow’s engineer with a focus on solutions that address urgent global challenges, says Mr. Awasthi. “Under the Volunteer Cooperation Programme (VCP) of Global Affairs Canada, for example, EWB sends hundreds of university students to support local entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa,” he says. “These young Canadians can build bridges between Canadian companies and new and emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa that will be crucial for ending global poverty.”
Many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are on the verge of a dramatic transformation, with small and growing businesses exploring increasingly progressive means to kick-start significant economic growth across multiple sectors. Their innovations could improve the collective prospects of many by providing jobs, much needed goods and services, and contributing to the elimination of poverty and inequality, explains Mr. Awasthi.
" Innovation can help us fulfill our global obligations, and fulfill our sense of responsibility to the world.— Prateek Awasthi, Director of policy, advocacy and community, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada
EWB Canada supports these growth opportunities by providing funding, talent and mentorship to businesses in sub-Saharan Africa that promise a high impact, he says. “The newest venture in our portfolio, Bloom Impact, is unlocking opportunities for those underserved by traditional models of banking and financial services.”
In Ghana, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for 92 per cent of businesses – but 70 per cent of them lack access to finance. “By connecting entrepreneurs and financial service providers through a digital marketplace, Bloom Impact helps business owners learn about and apply for financial services,” says Mr. Awasthi. “It also helps service providers find eligible, new clients at a lower cost. For women entrepreneurs, who often face multiple barriers in access to finance, the app opens up new opportunities by making alternative sources of funding available.”
To boost innovation’s potential to make a positive difference in the world, Mr. Awasthi suggests that investments in innovation could have the explicit aim of promoting applications that can benefit international development. In addition, he calls for making technologies – which improve public health and education, or end poverty through decent jobs – available without licensing fees or licensed free of charge for public benefit.
“Innovation can help us fulfill our global obligations, and fulfill our sense of responsibility to the world, by creating access to basic health care, education and decent jobs, and creating the conditions where people can survive and thrive, regardless of where they are born,” says Mr. Awasthi. “According to public opinion polls, many Canadians feel it is unjust that some people have to suffer simply because they are born somewhere else. They feel a sense of responsibility towards helping countries that are not as wealthy as ours. As an organization that has ‘without borders’ in its name, we obviously agree.”