VENTURES AFRICA – 17 African entrepreneurs have been awarded matching grants at the second African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM II). The grants are meant to fund innovative business plans and promote economic growth in seven countries in sub-Saharan and North Africa.
The grants will match ADM winners’ own funds to support growth of their businesses. According to the official press release, business plans were received from about 500 entrepreneurs who competed for investment grants for their business idea as part of the second African Diaspora Marketplace competition.
African Diaspora Marketplace was established in 2009 as a collaboration of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation.
It is a public-private initiative that harnesses the knowledge and resources of U.S.-based African Diaspora and other entrepreneurs to address economic opportunity by advancing the ability of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa to obtain capital.
This year, 44 business proposals got to the final stage, each addressing specific high priority and high- impact sectors in Africa. The finalists proposed innovative plans in agribusiness, information and communications technology (ICT) and renewable energy.
The winning proposals include an agribusiness proposal for Kenya that is aimed at implementing sustainable “zero-waste” practices through the commercial production of High Efficiency Organic Fertilizer.
Another finalist wants to set up the first legal technology provider in Tunisia; others include an alternative power-generator utilizing agricultural waste in Liberia; and an online medical information delivery system in Nigeria.
According to the terms and conditions, each awardee can receive a total investment of up to $70,000, which includes up to $50,000 in matching cash grants and/or up to $20,000 in technical assistance.
The second African Diaspora Marketplace competition is supported and funded by USAID, the Western Union Company, and the Western Union Foundation.
Other contributing partners include Ecobank, African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), George Washington University Center for International Business Education and Research, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the U.S. Department of State and Irv Barr Management.
The goal of the competition is to showcase US-based entrepreneurs with promising and innovative ideas for businesses that can create employment and strengthen trade in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
While commenting on Western Union’s participation in this year’s edition, Aida Diarra, regional vice president for North, Central and East Africa, the Western Union Company said: “At Western Union, we have the privilege of witnessing how diaspora communities are fostering positive change in their home countries every single day.”
Aida Diarra described the African Diaspora Marketplace as “an incredibly powerful example of our efforts. Through our support of ADM II, and other programs around the world, Western Union magnifies this good work, helping to drive financial access and economic opportunity in developed and developing countries.”
The representative of USAID – the agency’s administrator, Rajiv Shah is optimistic about African Diaspora marketplace which he believes will strengthen and help satisfy demand for locally-produced products and services.
“These businesses will buy, sell and hire from within the communities they serve, putting money into the local economy, building local capacity and fueling broad-based economic development,” he said.
Tony Elumelu Foundation was represented at the awards ceremony by its founder, Tony O. Elumelu. He affirmed the importance of Diaspora participation in Africa’s ongoing economic transformation.
According to him, Africans in Diaspora need to team up with Africans in Africa and work together. “We need all possible human assets,” he concluded.
The second edition of African Diaspora Marketplace incorporates key lessons from the first African Diaspora Marketplace. This year, small business investment funds and technical assistance mentors were invited to participate in the effort.
The winning projects will be monitored for a period of 24 months and grants will be paid based on milestones identified in the winner’s proposal.