Carlos Slim on how to scale what works in development

By Catherine Cheney 16 November 2015

Carlos Slim on “the best way to fight poverty.”

Following a performance by women wearing traditional Peruvian dress, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú and Canadian billionaire Frank Giustra posed with former U.S. President Bill Clinton in matching alpaca scarves and caps.

The Clinton Foundation periodically takes donors and partners like Giustra and Slim, who go in half and half on projects launched by the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership in Latin America, to see the work they make possible. Devex joined the group in Peru this week, and saw how the Foundation uses trips like these to grow their projects to new countries and with new partners.

“That’s the wealthiest guy in Peru,” CGEP CEO Mark Gunton said, pointing to billionaire Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, who purchased items from Chakipi Acceso entrepreneurs lining booths featuring their products with coin purses filled with soles that the Clinton Foundation provided. “He’s sort of drunk the Kool-Aid.”

The success of Chakipi (which means “to your home” in Quechua) Acceso in Peru has led it to spread to Haiti and Nigeria, with a pilot in Colombia, and other sites coming soon. Gunton told Devex when Clinton visited the Chakipi Acceso project three years ago, he said it was among the most impressive things he had seen in 30 years. And Gunton said he cannot think of a developing country where this distribution enterprise model would not work.

“This is getting the biggest bang for the buck.” Giustra told Devex. “It’s so easy to implement, versus the supply chain projects which are a little bit more work and a little more involved in terms of the logistical structure, but this is really easy to set up.”

Once the pilots turn into enterprises, Chakipi Acceso brings on general managers to run operations. Miguel de La Flor, who has 19 years of experience managing startups and early stage companies, leads the program in Peru. He spoke with Clinton, Giustra, Slim and other delegates about his work equipping these women with sales skills training, coaching them on selling products, and providing goods that would otherwise never reach the last mile.

Carlos Slim, Bill Clinton, and Frank Giustra with Chakipi entrepreneurs. Photo by: Catherine Cheney / Devex

“While these projects are working on a small level, these are projects whose success come from being models to be repeated in many places,” Slim told Devex in a video interview at the “Advanced Stocking Location” stop on the tour. “These are projects that need to mature, and they will succeed if they are repeated, if they are copied, if they are multiplied.”

Rodriguez-Pastor, whose fortune comes in part from a supermarket holding company, said he is now interested in helping to support Chakipi Acceso in Peru. And Slim said he wants to support the expansion of the model to Mexico, where Gunton and his team are already scoping out the opportunity to generate both social impact and financial returns.

Rebecca Marmot, who heads up global partnerships at Unilever, a key partner for Chakipi Acceso in Haiti, also joined the group, as did delegates from the Inter-American Development Bank. The Multilateral Investment Fund, an IDB member, is providing $500,000 to scale CGEP's Chakipi Acceso enterprise to more than 2,000 women microdistributors in Peru.

While Slim is often referred to as “the Warren Buffett of Mexico,” he has not signed on to The Giving Pledge Buffett launched along with Bill and Melinda Gates to urge billionaires to give away their fortunes. Devex spoke with Slim in the same week that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos overtook him as the fourth richest man in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. When asked what more billionaires can be doing to advance global development, Slim emphasized that the broader business community has a role to play. “Big business, medium business and small businesses are very important because that is where jobs are really created,” he said. “And where poverty is really combated.”

“I want to show you something,” Clinton said, drawing in the two reporters by his side to share his infectious enthusiasm for the disinfectant product he held in his hand. “This is the smallest bottle of bleach I’ve ever seen.”

Expanding on the public health benefits of this Chakipi product, Clinton said, “the reason is, Peru has no shortage of food, but a big child nutrition problem, because the kids throw the food up because the houses aren’t sterilized.”

In his interview with Devex, Slim emphasized the importance of going beyond giving and engaging in problem solving. “It is essential to not simply donate funds without getting involved in solutions for problems,” Slim told Devex. “It's what we do at our foundation.”

As Devex reported at the IDB gathering in Panama City in 2013, the Carlos Slim Foundation is spreading its reach across Latin America through strategic partnerships. That same year, Slim and Bill Gates announced joint charitable initiatives to support agriculture research, eradicate polio, and improve the health of the poor in southern Mexico and Central America.

Slim has pledged $100 million to fighting poverty in Latin America in partnership with Clinton and Giustra. So expect to see more alpaca scarves and caps, more song and dance from Chakipi women entrepreneurs, and, if the Clinton Foundation is successful, a broader replication of their business model across the region.

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About the author

Catherine cheney devex
Catherine Cheneycatherinecheney

Catherine Cheney covers the West Coast global development community for Devex. Since graduating from Yale University, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in political science, Catherine has worked as a reporter and editor for a range of publications including World Politics Review, POLITICO, and NationSwell, a media company and membership network she helped to build. She is also an ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network and the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute.

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