Opportunities for all: a firsthand account of young entrepreneurs in favelas

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In its very first time in Rio de Janeiro, Google for Entrepreneurs Week was held Friday at the Complexo do Alemão (German’s Complex) a neighborhood and a group of favelas in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Economia Rio was honored  to have been invited to cover the event, having the extraordinary opportunity to witness powerful stories of  slum dwellers who have become successful entrepreneurs.

Carlos Pedro da Silva, Robson Borges and Helcimar Lopes gave their reports alongside entrepreneurs, developers and researchers throughout. All shared their experiences in business, emphasizing what resources are needed and available to act on their ideas. Also touched on the tools being used to build and consolidate businesses that have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Why is this so significant, one might ask?

For many years, Complexo do Alemão was considered one of the most violent areas of the city.

On November 25, 2010, the Special Ops Battalion (BOPE) together with the Brazilian Navy, invaded the Vila Cruzeiro favela, in Rio de Janeiro. The majority of drug traffickers eventually fled to the neighboring Complexo do Alemão.

The operation, which was part of the 2010 Rio de Janeiro Security Crisis, was the State responding to drug traffickers setting buses and other vehicles on fire using combustible fuels. These attacks occurred in various neighborhoods throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro. The coordinated attack was in retaliation for the government setting up UPPs, Unidade de Policia pacificadora, Pacifying Police units within various favelas around Rio. This led to the expulsion of assorted armed drug traffickers, and tightened pressure upon criminal leaders in those favelas which continued outside the control of the State and its laws, such as the Complexo do Alemão.

Many challenges lie ahead for the consolidation of peace in the area and enabling people to advance socially and economically.

However, as we listened to these moving stories of entrepreneurship flourishing in a territory once marginalized in every way possible, we are left hopeful and inspired.

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