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Smoke That Kills, Stoves That Save Lives

By   Shlomo Maital

 

The man in the photograph is Eric Reynolds. Next to him is the stove he invented. It burns cleanly wood pellets. This California-born entrepreneur identified a problem (African villagers burn wood inside their huts, for cooking, and the smoke kills many through respiratory problems), and found a solution. He gives away the stoves, through his company called Inyenyeri,  and funds the business by selling the wood pellets at a reasonable price.   The business model is based on the fact that poor Africans cannot afford large capital expenditures but can afford to buy the wood pellets from time to time.

     His story is told in the Dec. 8 edition of the New York Times.   The article begins: “Eric Reynolds will tell you that he is on the verge of freeing much of humanity from the deadly scourge of the cooking fire. He can halt the toxic smoke wafting through African homes, protect what is left of the continent’s forest cover and help rescue the planet from the wrath of climate change.”

     Some time ago I wrote a blog about an Engineers Without Borders project, by Israeli (Technion) engineers, who used biomass to generate methane, bottle it, and then let the villagers use it for cooking instead of wood smoke. Reynolds has tackled the same problem, in Africa, but has a different solution.

     According to the New York Times article, “He is happy to explain, at considerable length, how he will systematically achieve all this while constructing a business that can amass billions in profit from an unlikely group of customers: the poorest people on earth.   He will confess that some people doubt his hold on reality.”

     We know that C. K. Prahalad, in his book Fortunes at the Bottom of the Pyramid, explained long ago how one can build businesses on the poorest of the poor. So it is indeed possible.  

     Reynolds says, “Profit feeds impact at scale,” …he is now in the midst of a global tour as he courts investment on top of the roughly $12 million he has already raised. “Unless somebody gets rich, it can’t grow.”   More than four decades have passed since Mr. Reynolds embarked on what he portrays as an accidental life as an entrepreneur, an outgrowth of his fascination with mountaineering. He dropped out of college to start Marmot, the outdoor gear company named for the burrowing rodent. There, he profited by protecting Volvo-driving, chardonnay-sipping weekend warriors against the menacing elements of Aspen. Now, he is trying to build a business centered on customers for whom turning on a light switch is a radical act of upward mobility”, the New York Times article noted.

     Reynolds is 66…and qualifies for being one of the world’s many “snow-capped idea volcanoes” (senior grey-haired entrepreneurs).

 

 

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Tzameret Fuerst: Pass It Forward!

By Shlomo Maital

Tzameret Fuerst    PrePex

            Tzameret Fuerst                               PrePex

   Tzameret Fuerst is a highly-popular Israeli inspirational speaker, who travels the world telling her story.   Here it is, in short.

     She read about how HIV/AIDS is killing millions in Africa. In Botswana, one in every four persons has HIV.   Unlike the rest of us, she decided to act. She read about WHO research showing that circumcision greatly reduces exposure to HIV, by 70%, because removing the foreskin takes away the HIV virus’ favorite place to hide and invade (foreskin cells are sensitive, prone to abrasions and cuts, easy for the virus to invade). But so what? There is no way we can circumcise millions of African men.

     Well – why not?   Fast forward. Fuerst started Circ MedTech and tackled the problem with passion, and her company developed PrePex. PrePex is a device placed on the penis, that cuts off blood circulation to the foreskin; within a week it drops off. Simple. It has four parts: A placement ring; an elastic ring; an inner ring, and a verification thread. A nurse can install it; no need for surgery or a doctor. It has FDA approval and today, the Gates Foundation, WHO and the World Bank plan to get the device to 20 million men, saving 3.4 million lives and some $16.5 billion.  

     A crucial milestone came when Fuerst, stalled in her efforts to disseminate PrePex, got on a plane and flew to a conference she knew was attended by Bill Gates. She approached him, said “ May I have a few moments of your time, outside?”. Gates agreed. She persuaded him to cut the red tape and help move PrePex forward.

     There is a very personal angle. Fuerst divorced her husband, who was Chair of her company. She felt that as CEO she could not continue, as a result. So she resigned, for the good of the company and its device. She now travels the world, gave a TED talk, and tells her story to inspire others.

     How many of us can say that our energy, persistence, empathy and creativity have saved millions of lives?   Thanks, Tzameret. Your name, in Hebrew, means “summit” or “top”. And you are.

     

2050:  Which Countries Will be Most Populous?

By Shlomo Maital

 Indian people

     Forecasting 2050?   That’s 35 years from now – in today’s world, impossible to predict what the world will be like then, right?   Except for one thing – population.  Demographers are pretty good at forecasting population trends.  Here is Bloomberg’s report, based on a study by the Population Reference Bureau.

     Today:   The world’s most populous country is China, with nearly 1.4 billion people.   A very close second is India, with almost 1.3 billion.   Third is America, at 340 million, followed closely by Indonesia, with some 230 million.   Fifth, Brazil, and sixth Pakistan, both around 200 million.  Seventh, Nigeria, 180 million; Eighth, Bangladesh, 150 million, followed by Russia and Mexico.

      2050:  India will be the world’s most populous country by far,  at 1.65 billion.  China’s population will actually decline (owing to the one-child policy),  to just below 1.4 billion. 

U.S. will be third, at 400 m., with Hispanics providing much of the growth,  in a tie with Nigeria.  Fifth, Indonesia, followed by Pakistan, and Brazil, at just over 200 m.     Bangladesh will be 8th.  A surprising 9th will be Congo, with close to 200 m., and 10th, Ethiopia,  at about 180 million.   Russia will not be in the top 10, as its birth rate is far below replacement. So is Japan’s. 

    In other words, three of the 10 most populous countries in the world will be African by 2050.   The world may do well to begin thinking now about how Africa will feed its growing population, and how the world can help it prepare to do so.   Perhaps India as well. 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
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