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African Diaspora Entrepreneurs to Spur Job Growth in Africa


Thursday, February 11, 2010
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Receive $50,000 – $100,000 Matching Grants to Fund Business Plans

A commercial plant tissue culture business that uses biotechnology to increase yield and quality of produce for Ethiopian agriculture producers, to a franchise business model that will empower female nurse entrepreneurs to improve access to healthcare and reduce the burden on government hospitals in Ghana were recently awarded matching funds to fund their business plans by the African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM).

ADM is an initiative launched last year by Western Union and the United States Agency for International development (USAID).
 
The initiative, which included a research component, was designed to demonstrate the impact that entrepreneurs from the world’s Diaspora or migrant communities can have on development in their home countries.

The program which launched last summer involved African Diaspora members in the United States submitting comprehensive business plans that were evaluated based on “business idea and management framework, prospects for sustainability, capacity to leverage Diaspora resources, and results orientation”, according to Western Union.

733 business proposals were submitted with the panel whittling it down to 58 business plans.

The finalists pitched their business plans to the judges during a conference in Washington, DC to select the final fourteen that were awarded the matching grants. The winners were awarded grants ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

Raymond Rugemalira of Crestline, California was one of the grant recipients. His winning business proposal was an SMS messaging system for buyers and sellers of crops and livestock in Kenya to increase their efficiency.
“I want to help improve the lives of small scale farmers by offering them markets via mobile phone technology so that they can concentrate on what they know best to do, which is to farm,” Rugemalira said at the ADM conference upon winning.  “We will help get the buyer to come to them.”

The fourteen business plans that won the grants will be implemented in seven African countries including Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The competition rules required that the submitted proposals be on countries in Africa where USAID has both on-the-ground presence and potential technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs. Those countries are Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Participants had to be members of the Sub-Saharan African Diaspora living in the United States as a US citizen or permanent resident and were required to have a local partner in the country of implementation.

Speaking at the ADM conference, Karen Turner, Director of USAID’s Office of Development Partners lauded the program as a demonstration of partnership and innovation bringing about ‘powerful solutions to development challenges”.
“ADM highlights not only the value of public-private partnership but also the contributions that U.S Diaspora communities can make.  Today’s event also shows how widely the spirit of entrepreneurship and commitment to economic opportunity – central themes of the upcoming Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship – are shared,” Turner said.

Western Union revealed that its participation in the program drew on its experience with the 4 + 1 public-private gift matching initiative in Mexico, which engages Mexican Hometown Associations in the U.S. to fund productive projects leading to sustainable job creation in Mexico.

“This is a rare public-private initiative that successfully harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit of U.S.-based African Diaspora members to address poverty through business innovation,” said Anne McCarthy, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Western Union.

The full list of awardees can be found here.

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About Williams Ekanem

Williams Ekanem is Mshale's Washington, DC based correspondent.

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