Market economy has a lot of opportunities to bring about social development and cater to the needs of the less fortunate members of society. It offers immense opportunities and the power to deliver is unmatched.
These observations were made by Asad Omer, CEO, Engro Corporation, Ltd., while speaking as the keynote speaker at the community gathering of the Acumen Fund, on Saturday at a local hotel.
He said the Acumen Fund aimed at merging the free-market system with social entrepreneurship. “Reforming the social set-up means reforming the state,” he remarked.
Talking about corporate farming, he said the most viable thing to do was to organise farmers to create a bigger marketplace and rescue them from poverty. He said that the Fund had been working in this direction and scored big successes.
“You can never be a role model if you have short-term goals. You have to leave a legacy behind,” Omar remarked.
“Our mission is to do good, earn some money, and do more good. We aim to reach out those who may have some money but don’t know how to most gainfully utilise it,” said Zaffar Khan, Board Chair, Acumen Fund, Pakistan.
He said that the mission of the fund was to seek out ideas and venues where normal capital was shy to go.
Over the past century, he said, rapidly advancing technology and global trade had created tremendous wealth but it was disproportionately distributed. This skewed distribution, he said, had spread a sense of deprivation which had been exacerbated by the criminal neglect of the social sector.
What really increased the gap at a galloping pace was the “wait for the government mentality”, he said. The fund, he said, aimed at blending hard core commercial enterprises into social development.
“Charity alone cannot solve problems. We have to empower people to help themselves,” Khan said.
“We need to seek sustainable solutions. We have to help the less fortunate preserve their dignity. We have to utilise philanthropic funds in a more intelligent and discreet manner,” said Aun Rehman, Country Director, Acumen Fund, Pakistan.
He said that when the Acumen Fund started off in Pakistan in 2006, the portfolio was $500,000 and in 2011 it was $15 million. He mentioned the formation of the NRSP Microfinance Bank which had provided facilities to small farmers in southern Punjab and Sindh.
He also mentioned the formation of Pharmagen Healthcare formed with a debt equity of $1.5 million and had to date provided over 100,000 litres of clean, safe drinking water to the masses.
He said, “We have to merge the public and private sectors to reach long-term sustainable goals.”
His talk was accompanied by a slide presentation of the Acumen Fund-sponsored agricultrural projects in southern Punjab and Sindh, including interviews of farmers who were beneficiaries.
Others who spoke were Sheikh Noorullah, Dr Rashid Bajwa, Yusra Gilani, Saima Irtiza, and Jawad Aslam.
Summing up, Hussain Dawood said that what made the Acumen Fund different from other organisations was the moral aspect.
The Acumen Fund, founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in New York in 2001, is a non-profit global organisation that employs entrepreneurial approaches to solve issues of global poverty. It has been investing in Pakistan since 2002 and the Acumen Fund (Pakistan) was founded in 2006.