U.S.-based African Entrepreneurs Win Grants to Fund Projects in their Home Countries

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Ronald Mutebi African Diaspora MaketplaceThe African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM, www.diasporamarketplace.org), a joint initiative of Western Union Co. and the U.S. Agency for International Development that helps to develop sustainable small and medium-size enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa, awarded grants to 14 U.S.-based African entrepreneurs to fund projects in their home countries.

The entrepreneurs, who hail from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda, are winners of ADM’s business plan competition that culminated in a conference and award ceremony on Jan. 13. The grants range from $50,000 to $100,000 and match the entrepreneurs’ own funds to support the execution of their business plans.

“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, Western Union’s executive vice president of corporate affairs. “The ADM program advances our goal of creating economic opportunity around the world, which is the core focus of Western Union’s Our World, Our Family® corporate citizenship initiative. We are excited to move forward and see these plans come to fruition and foster economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Winning projects range from 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 health care and reduce the burden on government hospitals in Ghana.
Raymond Rugemalira of Crestline, Calif., the brainchild behind E & M Capital Corp., won a grant for SMS messaging that will bring unprecedented levels of efficiency to buyers and sellers of crops, farm produce, livestock or livestock products in Kenya.

“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. “We will help get the buyer to come to them.”

At the Jan. 13 conference, 58 finalists out of the 733 proposals submitted pitched their business plans to an independent panel of volunteer judges from business, non-governmental organizations, diaspora development organizations and academia. The jurors selected the winning grant recipients based on criteria that included the business idea, management framework, prospects for sustainability, capacity to leverage diaspora resources and results orientation.

“The African Diaspora Marketplace has demonstrated that partnership and innovation can lead to powerful solutions to development challenges,” said Karen Turner, director of USAID’s Office of Development Partners. “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.”

The grants were financed by USAID, Western Union and the Western Union Foundation, and through Western Union® Agent Giving Circles featuring Ecobank Transnational Inc., based in Lomé, Togo, with operations in 28 African countries, and Irv Barr Management in the United States. The Academy for Educational Development hosted and implemented the ADM event.

The grantees and their winning projects are:

•    Aceritas Ghana Ltd. (Ghana) — Green Acres Goat Farm project;
•    TAF P.L.C. (Ethiopia)  — TAF BioTechnology project;
•    AMAD Metal Manufacturing P.L.C. (Ethiopia) — Metal Products Fabrication;
•    MicroClinic Ghana Ltd. (Ghana) — Using Franchising Business Model to Improve Access to Healthcare in Africa;
•    E &M Capital Tek Corp. (Kenya) — Uza-Mazao(TM) project;
•    AACE Foods (Nigeria) — Processing and Preserving West Africa’s Best Fruits and Vegetables;
•    EarthWise Ferries Uganda Ltd. (Uganda) — Restoring Passenger Ferries on Lake Victoria;
•    Global Telecommunications P.L.C. (Ethiopia) — Fleet Managment System (Vehicle Tracking);
•    Student Card (Ghana) — Creating a Cashless Environment for our Future Generation;
•    AADT Consultants (Liberia) — Geotechnical/Environmental Testing;
•    Sproxil (Nigeria) — Sproxil.com: Mobile-based Brand management & Anti-counterfeiting for Cash-based societies;
•    Ansa Systems Ltd. (Ghana) — Reliable Power Supply;
•    Tek Consults Ltd. (Uganda) — Cooking Solar Ovens Manufacturing;
•    Palm Fruit Processing (Sierra Leone) — Production of Crude Palm Oil Using a Palm Processing Mill