The Appropriate Technology for Enterprise Creation “ApproTEC” is an international Non-Governmental/Non-Profit Organization (NGO) that was founded in Kenya in July 1991 by Nick Moon and Martin Fisher. Its mission is to promote sustainable economic growth and employment creation in Kenya and other countries by developing and promoting technologies, which can be used by dynamic entrepreneurs to establish and run profitable small-scale enterprises.
These include manual oil presses for extracting cooking oil from e.g. sunflower, manual block presses for making and selling strong building blocks composed of soil and cement, manual hay balers, extended bicycles for increasing the load carrying capacity of ordinary bicycles, and a range of manually operated micro-irrigation pumps for subsistence farmers who are making the transition to commercial agriculture.
Developing countries in Africa and elsewhere, are moving rapidly from centrally planned and subsistence based economies, to market based cash economies, The poor can no longer grow enough to eat on their small plots of land and, with the ending of cold war subsidies, they need to pay for education, healthcare and a growing number of other commodities and services.
So, just as in the developed world, the biggest need of the poor is money. With money they can feed and educate their children, afford healthcare and housing, plan their families and determine their own destinies. Without it they are caught forever In the downward spiral of poverty.
However, in the poorest countries there are very few jobs or other opportunities for the poor to make money. In Kenya, with 60% of the people living on less than a dollar a day, less than 14% of the labor force has a job in the formal sector; in Tanzania its less than 7%. In both places the labor force is growing but the formal sector is stagnant as investors fear violence and corruption.
The hope for creating new incomes and new jobs is for thousands of motivated local entrepreneurs to start thousands of new, value adding and highly profitable businesses. However, these entrepreneurs face major constraints. The vast majority of them are very poor; they have very limited access to capital, little education and limited experience or exposure to the outside world. However, ApproTEC has demonstrated that for a profitable enough investment, even the very poorest entrepreneurs can find a way to beg, borrow or save a small amount of capital – say between $50 and $1,000 to start a new business. But their biggest challenges are that the vast majority of existing technologies are not useful for poor entrepreneurs who want to establish new small businesses in developing countries. And since it is difficult and expensive to sell new big-ticket items to poor people in poor countries, almost no one is developing and marketing any new low-cost tools and machines for the poor. This is a classic “market failure”. In the developed world governments subsidize R&D to promote useful new technologies (grants to universities & industry) but in developing countries there is almost no expenditure on technology development.
Through their non-profit organization ApproTEC, Martin Fisher and Nick Moon has been able to develop and promote, through existing market channels, technologies that are designed to fit the social and economic circumstances of the poor, and that enable them to increase productivity and household incomes. Some 30,000 micro-enterprises now use ApproTEC technologies to generate over $32 million in new profits each year.