To Martin Fisher, 48, and Nick Moon, 51, a simple pump could be the solution to poverty for millions of Africans. They're the co-founders of KickStart, a San Francisco--based nonprofit that encourages rural entrepreneurship by providing tools that Africa's poor can afford. Since the group was founded in Nairobi in 1991 under the name ApproTEC, it has developed a machine to make building blocks, a press that extracts cooking oil from seeds, a hay baler and a series of hand-operated micro-irrigation pumps. Their latest, the MoneyMaker Hip Pump, retails in Africa for $34.
For someone like Felix Mururi, a Kenyan in his early 30s, the hip pump made small-scale farming more profitable than working in a city. Recovering his investment within three months (the goal for every KickStart product), he felt confident enough to rent more land. But Fisher and Moon are doing more than selling a pump. They're trying to market a new model of development. Their aim, says Fisher, is "to create dignity rather than dependency and to leave in place a sustainable and dynamic private sector."
Moon says KickStart operates on a simple maxim: "The greatest good to the largest number in the shortest time at the least cost." It seems to be working. The company has sold 63,000 pumps in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali and estimates that $45 million in profits and wages has been generated by new, "kick-started" businesses.
Over the next three years, KickStart plans to expand into three more countries, sell 125,000 more pumps, roll out a "deep-lift irrigation pump" that can pull water from 60 ft. underground and bring 400,000 more people out of poverty.