Pioneering African Entrepreneurship on Display at Diaspora Marketplace


This article originally appeared on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Impact Blog and can be accessed here.
At USAID, a central tenet of our efforts is the belief that for development to be effective in the long term, those from the developing nations must take the lead on implementing innovative solutions to improve their economies and the lives of their countrymen.

This principle was on prominent display at the second African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM II) at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., held June 22 and 23, where participants showcased their promising ideas for businesses to create employment and strengthen trade in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

The event, sponsored by USAID, the Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation, was an opportunity for 44 finalists selected from a pool of 495 applicants to display their entrepreneurial prowess in a wide variety of sectors, including agribusiness, renewable energy, and information and communication technology.

The U.S.-based applicants were competing for up to $50,000 in matching grants and/or up to $20,000 in technical assistance to advance the businesses that support their African communities.

“The African Diaspora Marketplace is a great example of the type of public-private partnership we want to see more of at USAID,” said Dr. Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Director of the Office of Innovation and Development Alliances at USAID. “By supporting African diaspora entrepreneurs who are looking to create innovative, sustainable businesses in their country of origins, we are building the foundation for inclusive economic growth critical to sustaining long-term development. USAID is proud of our partnerships with diaspora communities—from the ADM II to our ongoing work with the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA)—and we wish the winners great success in their business endeavors.”

Michael Griffin, CEO of produce importer Sardis Enterprises International, discussed the work his company was doing in Ghana to provide opportunity for fruit growers.

“One of the biggest things is that we have a co-op,” he said. “The cooperative farms for us. Without us bringing the product in [to the U.S.], they don’t get to take their product to the export platform. … The main thing is that we help them in building some type of finance for themselves.”

Another eye-catching display at the market belonged to the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, which creates durable bicycle frames from bamboo.

“Most of the bikes that are imported into the country are of poor quality, they are very expensive, and they are not designed for rough roads that run in the country,” said Kwaku Kyei, a global strategist at the organization. “So we decided to come out with these bamboo bicycles which are multipurpose and affordable for our target groups, especially for farmers and people from the rural areas.”

David Bariho, the Technical Director for ORIBAGS Innovations, highlighted the dual benefits of his business, which produces paper and customized reusable shopping bags from agricultural waste in Uganda.

“Our aim is to increase production, fulfill the market, give our clients what they need, and increase employment for people, mostly women and youth,” he said. “These are people who give us materials, so we need to give back. … Our product, really, provides both social and environmental benefits for the community and for all people.”

This year’s 17 winners and the innovative approach of the ADM II will be recognized at the Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum on July 25-26. Hosted by the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and IdEA, the Global Diaspora Forum celebrates the contributions of America’s diaspora communities to development and encourages greater partnership between diasporas, the U.S. Government, the private sector, and civil society.