Diaspora Connect were invited by ADEPT (Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform) to Brussels to participate in a special workshop to establish an African diaspora professional and business network.
The purpose of the workshop was to look at ways that existing enterprise and investment carried out by Diaspora entrepreneurs and investors could be enhanced, how diaspora professionals skills and expertise could be further shared or cross-fertilised. Discussions revolved around trying to get a better understanding of the needs of the diaspora professionals and entrepreneurs and seeing how government, groups like ADEPT and the professional Diasporan could contribute to as well as benefit from building an African Diaspora professionals and Business network.
A selection of professionals, entrepreneurs, ministers, regional economic communities and chambers of commerce in Africa, came together to dialogue around the issues, needs, and requirements of such a networking platform. Some were invited to share their stories on how returning back to Africa from the Diaspora was working for them, how they found the process of setting up business in Africa as well as how others were succeeding in their business ventures. Others discussed how they continued to live in the diaspora but work to build their businesses back home. Some of the government representatives shared how they were actively enacting policy to include the diaspora.
What stood out to me was how many people are so passionate about Africa and regardless of the issues they faced they continue to build bridges to “home.”
I had the pleasure to meet Angelique & Pauline (of Congolese origin) based in The Netherlands, sisters who set up an African young professional Network. Their insightful story was that many young professionals don’t have the same contacts with “back home as their parents did, but it certainly doesn’t mean that these young professionals disassociate themselves with “home” in fact many choose to build ties and still maintain a contact with their roots and use their affiliation with home to invest their own returns. (www.aypnetwork.nl)
Ephrem Beshah Mako from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented on how the government has implemented a lot of initiatives to help the Diasporan reconnect or re-engage with “home.” He also emphasised how Ethiopia was also open to non-Ethiopians.
The keynote was presented by Albert Tucker, a Sierra Leonean entrepreneur who lives in the UK. He has a drinks company called Karma Cola that works to promote an ethical all natural Cola drink, working with local Sierra Leoneans. (www.karmacola.co.uk)
Boris Yepmo (Congolese) from Paris. Founded LegalTech Africa, a business that provides an “alternative investment fund” to businesses through a Diaspora investment pot. It works by having each diasporan put a sum of money i.e. €500 into a pot this is then used to invest in other businesses who apply for a loan.
ADEPT plan to collate this information from the discussions and will work to create this network in the near future.
Having attended this event and met some amazing game changers, we are proud to see that Africa is no longer “the dark continent” it is now “the new frontier.”
African Union Commission – Citizens and diaspora Directorate (AUC-CIDO)