Inaugural Atiku Center Lecture: Former Paraguayan Mayor Offers Poverty Elimination Tips

Renowned Paraguayan social entrepreneur and former Mayor of Asuncion, Professor Martin Burt, has advocated a paradigm shift in tackling poverty in Africa, moving away from alleviation or reduction, to poverty elimination.

This approach, says the visiting professor in the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, seeks to understand the most pressing needs of poor people and is largely hinged on new ways of data collection.

Delivering the inaugural lecture at the newly commissioned Atiku Abubakar Center for Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Development, Professor Burt stressed that this “Poverty Stoplight” program has been successfully implemented in Paraguay and puts the poor themselves at the center of it. The program is a practical methodology that is driven by the use of technology to identify the needs of the poor. “This tool allows poor families to self-diagnose their level of poverty as a first step in developing a personalized strategy to lift themselves permanently out of poverty.”
At the lecture held inside the University’s modern auditorium, Burt stated that “In order to capture the multiple dimensions of poverty, the tool uses stoplight colors (red, yellow, and green), photographs, maps, electronic tablets, and simple software to create innovative maps that enable the poor to see and understand the ways in which they are poor." The 20-minute visual survey methodology simplifies gathering data on 50 indicators while encouraging and facilitating a focus on the gaps poor families need to close to overcome their various poverty-related challenges.

The methodology and tools also allow businesses, nonprofits, and governments to support families’ efforts to pull themselves out of poverty in efficient, targeted ways.  AUN has both the available technology and the development commitment to best make use of this new approach to poverty elimination, he pointed out. 

Professor Burt, however, challenged AUN students, who come from Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, and other African countries, to take up the research and implementation challenge as their contribution to pull Africa out of poverty.

At the occasion, President Ensign pointed out that the Center was the only facility that AUN’s Founder and Nigeria’s former Vice President allowed to be named after him in the 10-year-old University. Atiku Abubakar had refused to allow any building or facility named after him.

The Center was established to support AUN’s mission as Africa’s Development University and will identify and coordinate development projects.

Director of Research for the Atiku Center, Colombia-born Professor Alfredo Ocampo, said innovative projects in education, ICT, and entrepreneurship are the Center’s top priorities. “A principal role for the Atiku Center is that of applied research and grant writing to support the Center and University’s activities. The research will combine the evidence-based paradigm from sound scholarly research, with the collection of primary and secondary data relevant to development objectives, using appropriate methodology and technology. It will publish reports and books on a regular basis and make all data gathered for the community, region, and country, available on its website.”

The Center will also support the following projects: The Adamawa Peace Initiative; the Grand Alliance; STELLAR (a literacy project);Science Technology Engineering& Math (STEM); Yola EcoSentials; Yola Higher Education Forum; Digital Sharing, and a pilot program using the “Poverty Stoplight” approach to eliminating multidimensional poverty. The University, entering its tenth year, has undertaken numerous development projects and the new Atiku Center will be expanding its activities as it moves into its permanent home in the new library building. “All required community development courses and volunteer activities are now coordinated through the Center,” said Professor Ocampo.

Professor Burt is the founder of Fundación Paraguaya, the largest nonprofit in Paraguay, which he founded in 1985. Fundación Paraguaya has three programs: Microfinance & Poverty Elimination, Entrepreneurship Education, and Financially Self-Sufficient Schools for Low-Income Rural Youth. He is also co-founder of Teach a Man to Fish, a UK-based charity promoting youth entrepreneurship and self-sufficient rural schools in Latin America and Africa. Burt has served as Mayor of the Paraguayan capital city of Asuncion and Chief of Staff to the President of Paraguay. He is particularly active in online instruction in social entrepreneurship, the creation of innovative models to help families bring themselves permanently out of poverty, and is a PhD candidate in International Development at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

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