With the growing challenges in the corporate world, most countries around the world are struggling to improve their economy. But can education help a nation in improving its economic performance?
In Asia, more than 50 per cent of the population still resides in villages and rural areas. However, this number is reducing....rapidly. Nowadays, most of the villagers, who are mostly reliant on agriculture, are now moving into the bigger cities in search of better opportunities. As a result many of the Asian mega-cities like Manila and Mumbai have become overcrowded and unsustainable. The rural migration rate is specifically high in China where almost 100 cities have over 1 million people. In contrast, the United Kingdom has only 2 overcrowded cities, Birmingham and London.
So what is the solution?
What can be done to prevent these villagers from leaving the rural areas? The answer is simple. We need to give them a worthwhile reason to stay in their villages. The key question here is how?
One of the most effective solutions is Rural Entrepreneurship, a theme which has gained prominence in the Purpose Economy Asia 100 prepared by Imperative, an US-based career consultancy.
Money comes first
Most business leaders and experts know that you need to money in order to make money. Currently Micro-Finance is the most suitable option which can enable the rural residents to start their own local business ventures. Micro- Finance, primarily Asian in origin, was propagated initially in Bangladesh by Muhammad Yunus, a Nobel Prize winner. Later it became popular in India and other developing economies.
Chetna Sinha, Founder of the co-operative bank Mann Deshi Mahila Bank in Maharashtra, India, says, “If people aren't able to access a micro-finance loan, then they will go to loan sharks”. Sinha, who was titled India's Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Schwab Foundation recently, confirms that usually unlicensed moneylenders tend to charge high compound interest rates which can range from 20 per cent to 120 per cent.
However, Micro- Finance is not the sole option for these villagers as there are several other innovative loan options available for them. Mann Deshi Mahila Bank also provides specifically designed insurance products, pension services, individualised loans and savings accounts to their rural clients. Meanwhile in Myanmar, a social enterprise named Proximity Designs offers farm finance packages which gives loans for the planting and growing season. Moreover, the payments can also be delayed until the harvest.
Even though there are many rural finance options available now, but the fact remains that the loan amounts are usually very small and the interest rates are rather high for the villagers. Hence it becomes a daunting task for them to create a satisfactory credit score and be eligible for bigger sums.
Is Finance enough for successful Rural Entrepreneurship?
No. Actually it’s far from being enough. The main challenge lies elsewhere. Most of the time aspiring entrepreneurs in rural regions feel handicapped by their lack of relevant business knowledge, skills, entrepreneurial motivation, market awareness, and leadership & communication skills.
The factor which needs the most focus here is developing adequate entrepreneurial motivation and drive. The General Secretary of Sri Lanka's Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, Vinya Ariyaratne, says, “You need to change the mindset of people. That is, (teaching them) that they can do things on their own without relying on external resources to come to the village, in particular the government”.
Sarvodaya works with about 15,000 villages and helps the residents to start new business ventures by providing training, collective thinking and dialogue and establishing community institutes. Vinya Ariyaratne, who was also chosen for the Schwab Foundation's award, says, “Other organisations see poverty basically as a problem with income and straight away start microfinance and so on. But we believe development needs to encompass … spiritual, moral and cultural development too”.
What can be else done provide necessary training to rural residents on a large scale?
How can the potential entrepreneurs in villages across Asia learn about business without feeling any financial burden? The solution is right in front of us...Online Education. Earning a business diploma study online can help the villagers prepare for Rural Entrepreneurship.
However, it would firstly require the respective governments to greatly enhance the existing infrastructure in the villages, so that they can access the internet. But the good news is many villages across the continent already have internet accessibility. Hence online diploma programmes like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) can help them to learn relevant skills and gain business knowledge that will enable them to start their own business ventures. This would in turn improve the overall economy of the region and add to the national economy as well.
As a nation’s economy largely depends on different industries that have varied effects in the global market, the education level of the citizens, both urban and rural, greatly contributes towards its economic performance. Thus developing countries need to focus on improving the education system, both online and on-campus, so that more entrepreneurs and skilled workers can be created to support various industries. Moreover, the principle that every individual has a right to education has given rise to a movement for improvement of education.
By providing higher education opportunities to the rural population through online learning modes, we can enable them to be self-sufficient and contribute to their local economy. This will certainly prove to be an effective measure in persuading the villagers to remain and prosper in their own villages.