African Diaspora Investment Symposium showcased a landscape that is pretty untapped and ripe for growth.
Over the weekend, hundreds of people gathered from the motherland to discuss how to increase investment opportunities and facilitate a pipeline for entrepreneurs on the African continent.
Keynote speakers included Chinedu Echeruo, the tech entrepreneur and founder of HopStop, who sold his company to Apple, Inc., and generated over $1 billion, and Taffi Ayodele, the founder of Thando’s, a Lagos- and New York-based footwear company that is already generating revenue and is a substantially profitable business.
There was definitely a clear delineation between investment opportunities in the U.S. and on the African continent. From the entrepreneur’s perspective, the types of apps being created help protect the environment, generate economic literacy, and foster clean energy, whereas consumer-based applications with gamification models or social media platforms are very popular here in the United States.
Black Enterprise spoke with Phionah Musumba, founder of the Malkia Foundation, an organization that empowers girls, their mothers, and caretakers, with education and opportunities. As part of the foundation, a microfinance company was set up to lend the women money, allowing them to create small businesses, but not without financial literacy. “Before we lend any money, we give them eight weeks of financial literacy skills, so that they know how to handle it,” says Musumba.
It didn’t end there. Evelyn Nassuna, the Ugandan founder and CEO of Shared Action Africa, focused her business on economic opportunities for women in rural areas, through access and financial services. Pascal Bashombana, a Congolese entrepreneur, is working with Camme, a local nonprofit that focuses on helping at-risk youth. It is very clear that the entrepreneurs on the continent are all about uplifting and empowering the community.
There were so many topics being discussed, from “How to Close your First African Deal,” to “Africa’s Growing Startup Ecosystem.” Panel discussions even got as specific as “Powering Africa: Creating Current and Prospective Solutions.”
Black Enterprise also spoke with the founder of the African Diaspora Network, Almaz Negash, to find out why she thought this symposium was necessary. “I love creating a space for people to dialogue and come up with action steps,” says Negash.(Image: Almaz Negash)
“With the African Diaspora Network, about six years ago, I said, ‘Why are people talking about Africa, when there are no Africans involved in the conversations?’ I want us to write our stories ourselves, so that it doesn’t get written by people who feel sorry for us. I really wanted to make sure that we were at the table, not looking from the outside, in, but actually really working and co-creating solutions for Africa.”
This is the second year of the symposium, and it’s growing. The goal for each year is to increasingly build the network. “The African Diaspora Network is all in the name,” says Chris Folayan, chairman of the board. “The network is all about bringing people together.”
In addition to growing the network within the Diaspora, they feel that there has been a huge disconnect from Africans on the continent and Africa Americans from the U.S. Carl Davis, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce in Silicon Valley, has vowed to help close that gap, thus things could look a little different this time around, next year.
Sequoia Blodgett is the technology editor for Black Enterprise, Silicon Valley. She is also the founder of 7AM, a lifestyle, media platform, focused on personal development, guided by informed pop culture.