Want to build a global business? Start it in Africa.
The African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) encourages promising diaspora entrepreneurs to do just that.
The partnership between USAID’s Global Development Lab, Western Union, and Western Union Foundation provides seed funding, expertise, and networking opportunities for a talented group of entrepreneurs to create new opportunities in and outside the continent.
We recently caught up with a few of ADM’s entrepreneurs to discuss their progress, and what they like most about doing business in Africa.
Protecting Consumers from Fake Drugs
Tech start-up and ADM grantee, Sproxil developed an anti-counterfeiting service for a range of products, including pharmaceuticals drugs. The firm’s Ghanaian founder first pioneered the SMS-based verification service in Nigeria and quickly scaled it to additional markets. In 2013, Fast Company magazine ranked Sproxil as seventh amongst the year’s 50 most innovative businesses along with Google and Nike.
“[ADM] was fundamental in accelerating our growth, enabling Sproxil to scale-up faster than we would have otherwise,” says Alden Zecha, Sproxil Chief Financial Officer and Strategist.
“Consumers, governments, and businesses are very receptive to technological innovations that enhance quality of life. Consequently, more startups and investments are focusing on countries across Africa,” said Zecha about the region’s tech sectors.
Today, Sproxil’s mobile phone based service has helped American, African, and Asian consumers verify the authenticity of more than 11 million medicines and other products.
Going Organic Reaps Sweet Success
Sardis Enterprises International and its Ghanaian partners, grow organic fruits for export. By producing and selling organic fruits, Sardis is reaching higher-value markets. In January, its Ashanti brand pineapples began selling in Whole Foods grocery stores in the southeast United States.
With support from the ADM, farming cooperatives in Ghana that supply Sardis were able to become certified to sell organic produce in the U.S. and E.U. “That venue [ADM] was very good for a young entrepreneur that needs a platform to get exposure and assistance to expand,” says Michael Griffin, CEO of Sardis.
Griffin sees expanding opportunities for growing small businesses on the continent. “[Africa] gives the small guy a shot…the atmosphere is conducive for a smart entrepreneur to succeed.”
The company is now working on expanding its partnership with Whole Foods across America’s east coast.
Making Affordable Green Housing a Reality
In Nigeria, there is a need for more than 17 million houses. The nation also faces major challenges with reliable power, and access to clean water. Enter Comprehensive Design Services (CDS), a Diaspora founded and woman-owned business. CDS has designed and built a set of prototype housing units that provides dependable renewable energy and clean water for Nigerians of average incomes.
“The ADM grant provided much needed start-up financing,” said Chinwe Ohajuruka, head of CDC and a Nigerian-American Architect. ‘The partnership has increased [our] visibility, as we have been invited to South Africa, Japan, and even the White House to speak about our innovative and sustainable design solutions to the housing, renewable energy, clean water, and sanitation crisis.”
A resident of Columbus, Ohio, Ohajuruka says the ADM allows her to stay connected with the continent in a meaningful way.
Her ambitious goal is to eventually build 100 green and affordable residential buildings in each of the 774 local municipalities across Nigeria.
Thanks to the success of CDS, Sproxil, Sardis and other diaspora businesses supported by the ADM, it has been nominated as a finalist for the P3 Impact Awards. The award showcases outstanding public-private partnership for their innovations and results.
- Check out more on our work with Diasporas
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