Expolanka enables entrepreneurship amongst senior citizens through microfinance

Friday, 17 July 2015 01:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In a bid to help address an emerging social problem in Sri Lanka, Expolanka’s CSR arm initiated a microfinance project in collaboration with HelpAge Sri Lanka (HASL) to fund senior citizens to embark on entrepreneurship projects of their own. 

In order to establish a sustainable eco-system of entrepreneurship by senior citizens, the project aims to conduct a fully-fledged programme that includes forming senior citizen committees (SCCs), training each SCC on starting self-employment activities, accounting, advocacy, lobbying as well as training the committees to provide care for the more vulnerable amongst them.

Commenting on the project Paddy Weerasekera, Head of Marketing, Corporate Communications and CSR, said: “Sri Lanka is one of the countries in the Asia that has the fastest ageing population. This increasing proportion of senior citizens will make significant economic and social changes in the country. If no proactive action is taken to cope up with such changes, there will be unprecedented results leading to a significant destruction of the social fabric that has been maintained. As a Group with an entrepreneurial beginning, Expolanka has always supported entrepreneurship in the country. In the same spirit, we decided to lend a hand in initiating sustainable project to address this issue.” 

According to social and economic predictions, Sri Lankan labour force will continue to grow for another two decades and it will shrink thereafter for a foreseeable future. Population ageing will also significantly change the age composition of the labour force, with the share of workers younger than 30 years significantly shrinking and the share of workers older than 50 years strongly increasing. If senior citizens are not contributing to the national economy, the growth of GDP will slow down. 

Protection of Rights of Elders Act No. 09 of 2000 provides a provision not to discriminate senior citizens purely by their age, when providing any service, including finances. However, senior citizens from low income families have difficulty obtaining starting capital to fund their small scale businesses.

Speaking about the initiative, Samantha Liyanawaduge, Executive Director of HASL, said: “There are large numbers of potential senior entrepreneurs who can still run a self-employment in a sustainable manner, but currently inactive due to difficulties in accessing for required capital. It is the right time that Expolanka has decided to embark on a microfinance project in collaboration with us to provide necessary capital to start on livelihood activities for senior citizens.  Income generated by senior citizens will not only make them less dependent on their family members, but will also help their families, particularly the lives of their grandchildren.”

Expolanka has always been an enthusiastic supporter of the country’s entrepreneurial spirit. This year, Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards programme 2014 (AREA) honoured Expolanka Holdings PLC for the Group’s involvement in ‘Venture Engine’. The Group has been involved in the Venture Engine programme in its capacity as the platinum sponsor for four consecutive years.

‘Venture Engine’ is an entrepreneurship development program conceptualised by Blue Ocean Ventures and the Indian Angel Network. This initiative has had a considerable impact on the start-up ecosystem through its nurturing of entrepreneurs with funding raised over $ 5 million, network building and necessary guidance.