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Accenture and VSO give Entrepreneurship Award to shoemaker from Sierra Leone


Accenture and VSO today announced that Umaro Kargo, a shoemaker from Makeni, Sierra Leone, is the winner of the Making Markets Work for the Poor: Entrepreneurship Award. The award, which honors an individual or group which demonstrates outstanding entrepreneurial spirit in the face of adversity, provides Mr. Kargo with $2,000 worth of in-kind support for business development training from VSO partners to help him build his business by accessing influential markets within West Africa.

Aligned with Accenture’s global corporate citizenship initiative Skills to Succeed– which by 2015 will equip 250,000 people around the world the skills to get a job or build a business – the award seeks to recognize and celebrate examples of how markets can work to help lift people out of poverty.

“I am truly honored to receive this award, as I will now receive the tools necessary to expand my business and create jobs and training opportunities for more physically challenged young people like myself,” said Mr. Kargo. “I want to help youth in Sierra Leone have access to a more meaningful and productive future.”

To be considered for the award, an individual or group must have overcome extreme disadvantage, stigma or discrimination and developed a sustainable business model as well as have the support of their community and a strong understanding of market supply and demand.

Mr. Kargo, 29, suffered from childhood polio, lost his parents in the Sierra Leone Civil War and was forced to live on the streets before gaining the skills to build his business. With VSO’s support, he opened a small shop with 10 employees who produce and sell shoes made from locally recycled materials such as used car tires and animal skins. The award recognises his successful and sustainable business model, as well as his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to providing jobs in his community.

“Supporting VSO helps bring to life Accenture’s commitment to building skills,” said Adrian Lajtha, Chief Leadership Officer at Accenture. "We share VSO’s commitment to making a significant, lasting impact on the long-term economic vitality and resilience of individuals, families and communities around the world.”

Tiziana Oliva, VSO Africa director, said:
“Businesses all over the world will know the difficulty of keeping afloat, but many people in developing countries have the added problems of limited access to education and training, knowledge about markets and to financial services. These problems are particularly severe for people who are trying to rebuild their lives in post-conflict states such as Sierra Leone.

“Lots of people have great ideas but struggle to build viable businesses that can provide them with a decent living. By supporting budding entrepreneurs with training in business skills VSO is helping them to get small businesses up and running. Small enterprises can boost the local economy and provide essential jobs, giving people the opportunity to work their way out of poverty.”
Editor’s notes

About VSO:
VSO is different from most organisations that fight poverty. We bring people together to share skills and knowledge and, in doing so, we create lasting change. Our volunteers work in whatever fields are necessary to fight the forces that keep people in poverty – from education and health through to helping people learn the skills to make a living. In doing so, they invest in local people, so the impact they make endures long after their placement ends. We’re also focused on gender equality and, increasingly, climate change. And we help poor people to get their messages heard, gathering public support and advising influential decision-makers.


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