20/11/2013 05:51 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty One Small Business at a Time

One of the common refrains you will hear from SABMiller is the celebration of beer's localness. Beer is typically a local product: brewed, sold and consumed locally. One of the many positive aspects of this is that it means that our value chains have the potential to make a significant impact on local economies: from the sourcing of raw materials through to the sale of beer in bars and shops.

Wherever you are in the world, micro and small businesses play a crucial role in job creation and the growth and prosperity of their local economies and, particularly in developing markets, poverty alleviation. And there are hundreds and thousands of these businesses in our value chains around the world - so it makes absolute sense for us to support them and to champion the entrepreneurial spirit that drives them.

In the developed world, we often equate entrepreneurship with high profile individuals, or Silicon Valley tech start-ups. But we believe that the millions of developing market micro-entrepreneurs whose businesses are the drivers of prosperity and opportunity are just as vital to their country's ambitions, as well as being important leaders within their own communities.

And they do have some characteristics in common with the Bransons and Mittals of this world - they have identified a commercial opportunity and also believe that starting up their own business is the best route to success.

But there are still many barriers which prevent these micro-entrepreneurs from fulfilling their economic potential, from lack of access to formal financing, complex regulatory environments or a simple lack of skills. Because of the nature of our business, we are able to use our networks - both the physical through our value chains and strategic through partners and employees - to help overcome some of these barriers.

In Latin America there are many thousands of 'tenderos' in our value chains -micro and small retailers who run grocery stores or diners. And in April we announced that SABMiller Latin America would invest US$17m over four years in the 'Camino al Progreso' programme, designed in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank.

The programme has launched in our six core markets in the region focusing on the development of the tenderos' capabilities to improve their business, the quality of their and their families' lives. We aim, by 2018, to have reached 40,000 businesses through the project.

We have been actively involved in supporting entrepreneurs across our global footprint for many years, including through programmes such as 'Destapa Futuro' in Colombia, and 'KickStart' in South Africa. One thing that we have learnt is that creating dynamic, resilient growth in small businesses requires more than start-up grants or seed funding, which is why we believe that holistic programmes such as 'Camino al Progreso' will have a significant and lasting impact on small businesses, their communities and their economies.