The African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) was launched in 2009 by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Western Union and the Western Union Foundation. Their aim is to identify and support entrepreneurs seeking to launch business ventures in Africa that could contribute to long-term economic growth. In two ADM business plan competitions, 31 entrepreneurs were awarded a total of $2 million in matching grants and technical assistance to further their ventures. USAID and Western Union have built on ADM’s success by developing relationships in the US and Africa that contribute valuable resources to ADM participants. These relationships expand the impact African diaspora entrepreneurs can have in the marketplace and improve the production and marketing of goods and services on both sides of the Atlantic. This approach gives ADM awardees access to our partners’ services such as financial resources, research and technical assistance and connections to local African businesses.
Chinwe Ohajuruka is an architect who flies between her base of operations in Columbus, Ohio and her project in Port Harcourt in Southeastern Nigeria. Her company, Comprehensive Design Services (CDS), is building its first green residence in Africa − a home that is bio-climatically designed to be comfortable, utilize solar energy and to convert domestic waste to produce bio-gas for cooking.
“Because of the ADM competition I have been able to make connections with two fairly significant partners for scaling up the project. I have met with a large insurance organization that is interested in providing affordable housing for their lower income staff that uses renewable energy. I’ve also had a discussion with Greater Port Harcourt City Development Authority who is interested in collaborating with CDS for providing low-income housing with renewable energy.”
Alden Zecha is the Chief Financial Officer of Sproxil, a firm that helps pharmaceutical retailers in Nigeria distinguish their products from counterfeits through a unique tracking system. Since becoming an awardee in 2010, Alden is actively involved in ADM and has served as a judge for the second round of the competition.
“Today the ADM offers winners much more than just capital, which we were able to obtain in 2010. In addition, there is much greater exposure, there is much greater assistance from the larger network of organizations supporting the ADM winners. As a past awardee, we continue to gain from the ADM experience. As ADM’s name becomes more well-known we are able to garner greater marketing benefits. To succeed in business in Africa I think you need three things: (1) You need to be focused on your business; (2) You need to persevere in the face of adversity; and (3) You need to think creatively to solve problems that you will face.”
Global Technology and Investment PLC improves the reliability of over land shipping in Ethiopia by providing real-time fleet management and cargo tracking solutions.
“There are almost close to 30 thousand trucks that need to be equipped with this technology and fleet management and cargo tracking is going to require almost one thousand dollars per truck. But when you look at it, actually, a thousand dollars seems like a lot of money per truck, but when you see the lost opportunity for owners − not knowing where the trucks are, the effect in terms of accidents − it’s a huge huge impact. In terms of fuel consumptions, we saw about 10 to 12 percent, on average, fuel consumptions drop. So when you see all the benefits, this is exactly where ADM also was intended to have not only social, but environmental effects also. So the ADM program came at the right time. Otherwise this business would not exist today.”
These are just a few examples of how ADM awardees apply innovative ideas to develop sustainable business. What they’re doing has a ripple effect on the marketplace: productivity improves, healthier and more effective approaches are adopted, and local suppliers get a boost. The African Diaspora Marketplace sees in all its participants the embodiment of a new spirit of business that is moving Africa into the future.