Why did the ASSET Program choose to start in West Africa?
The Chalmers Center chose to start the ASSET program in West Africa for four reasons.
- West Africa has far fewer Christian organizations targeting the region with their services and training compared to East or Southern Africa. Therefore, starting a pilot program in West Africa assumes both less competition and a high demand for biblically integrated curricula and training that focuses on church-based poverty alleviation among the extreme poor.
- The Chalmers Center held two Christian Economic Development Institutes (CEDIs) in Ghana and Cote Ivoire in the last three years. The feedback and evaluations of the participants highlighted the demand for ongoing training and consulting so that the Chalmers model of savings-led Microfinance With Education (MWE) could be rolled out throughout West Africa. The ASSET Program is our response to the demand of local churches and networks in West Africa.
- The Chalmers Center has a long running relationship with the NGO Freedom From Hunger since they began experimenting with micro-franchises of training centers in India. Chalmers was looking for programming models and platforms that would more efficiently scale up the dissemination of training to the Majority World. We ultimately wanted to create a delivery platform for our curricula that would empower West Africans to empower people who were poor in their own communities. Part of our discussion about adapting Freedom from Hunger's micro-franchise model to train churches dealt with assuring that our pilot program would not overlap with Freedom from Hunger's area of operation. Both agencies were in agreement that West Africa would be an acceptable place to pilot the ASSET Program.
- West Africa was also chosen because of the high concentration of extreme poverty in post-conflict states. What better place to equip the church to minister to people who are poor than in a place like Togo where approximately 60% of the population live on less than $1.25/day, or Mali, ranked 175 out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index (HDI). The need and challenge are equally great in places like Cote d'Ivoire, a nation struggling to recover from civil war that has been waged there for over a decade.