Thank you to CEDPS for allowing me to talk about the work of the charitable organization Community Refund in Nicaragua. I don’t know if you saw it but the project was actually just covered by the BBC although it’s difficult access when abroad. It’s a collaboration between real estate agents, real estate attorneys, title insurance providers and real estate investors to generate funds for the local community at the time of closing. All parties to a Nicaragua real estate transaction are offered the opportunity of donating a percentage of their closing fees or funds. So in an ideal world:
- The real estate agent will donate 1% of their commission
- The title insurance company 1% of their title insurance fee
- The real estate attorney 1% of their due diligence fee
- The buyer 1% of their purchase price
- The real estate vendor 1% of the sale price
The result – a large donation to go back to the community. After all everyone benefits if the community in which they are buying real estate is able to grow and prosper.
One of the best programs of Community Refund is Savings Start. It’s designed to help people from the local community save money to start their business. It’s designed as a training program teaching key business skills such as computer literacy, business planning, marketing and sales. There is also a requirement to open a savings account to which Community Refund offers matched donations.
Much of these skills may seem fairly basic, but when you’re learning alone and isolated they can seem like huge barriers. People in the developed world take for granted that they can gain access to all sorts of training and education relatively easily. In countries like Nicaragua it’s not really as simple. For example online entrepreneurs in these countries often need to use proxies and VPNs in order to gain access to payment processors like Paypal. It’s quite simple to learn what to do if you have unlimited access to the internet, but much more difficult if you don’t.
A number of small businesses have already been set up by entrepreneurs on the back of the Savings Start program. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s a great example of how a local real estate industry can ensure that some of the benefits flow to the local community. Everyone will be better for it. It highlights just what is possible if people are given even a small hand in starting out. Creating a business is difficult if you’re continually on the subsistence line with no additional funds to invest. Even a modest amount of extra income can create many multiples of wealth within a specific community.
To access the BBC from African you’ll need to subscribe to a paid VPN service.