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Meet the New Heroes
Nick MoonMartin Fisher

Photos: Stuart Productions

Nick Moon & Martin Fisher

Project: ApproTEC (Appropriate Technology for Enterprise Creation)

Location: Nairobi, Kenya, offices in Tanzania, Mali and San Francisco, Calif.

Nick Moon and Martin Fisher founded ApproTEC out of their belief that poor people don't need handouts, they need concrete opportunities to use their skills and initiative. ApproTEC provides these opportunities by specially designing and manufacturing tools that help people work more productively, allowing them to break the cycle of poverty.

"The concept of poor people is really that they need handouts, they need help," says Moon. "We say that a poor person is a very entrepreneurial person and the one thing they want in life is to get ahead."

Moon says his company takes a business-like approach to the business of development, "otherwise we're going to be locked forever in this cycle of handouts and giveaways and bleeding-heart social welfare programs."

Fisher says he believes a private sector solution like ApproTEC is the only sustainable economic model for developing the world. He says that on average, income goes up by a factor of 10 after people buy an ApproTEC product — providing a return on investment that would be hard to beat anywhere in the world.

"It's transforming their lives," says Fisher, "moving them from poverty into the middle class. If you look at the problems in Africa, in other developing countries -- the solution is to create a middle class."

What Does ApproTEC Do?

ApproTEC develops and markets new technologies in Africa. The company's product lines include a series of manually operated micro-irrigation "MoneyMaker" pumps and the "Mafuta Mali" sunflower and sesame seed oil press. These low-cost tools are bought by local entrepreneurs and used to establish new small businesses. The technologies not only create jobs, they create new wealth.

All of ApproTEC's tools are designed to be profitable, affordable, durable, easy to operate and easy to maintain. Most of the equipment is manually operated because electricity and fuel are expensive. The tools are also designed to be mass-produced locally in Africa.

ApproTEC has developed a sophisticated monitoring program in order to gauge impact. According to their latest research, 35,000 new businesses have been started with their products (about 800 per month), 35 million dollars a year in new profits and wages have been generated, and new incomes drawn from the businesses account for more than .5 percent of Kenya's GDP and .2 percent of Tanzania's.