Leslie Pitterson's piece in Ebony Mag about John Kerry's likely ascension to Secretary of State is a timely piece that hits home for me. I would argue that when 80% of my friends talk to me about Africa, they ask “humanitarian” questions. Which orphanage can I give to? How are people getting water? Is the poverty as bad as they show on TV? And the list goes on. While intentions are good, a conversation around how we can “help” Africans is failed from the start.
We should talk about the opportunities in Africa, opportunities that are actually harder to come by for black diasporans here in the US than on the Motherland. How many people do you know personally running US enterprises in big-time businesses like agriculture, banking, or telecommunications? If you are like me that answer is ZERO.
Beyond just not having the level of wealth needed to invest, these sectors are fully developed in the US with little room to break into the holds of the large conglomerates. With African countries holding 7 of the top 10 slots for GDP growth globally and weathering the economic crisis better than the US and Europe even a beginning business student would argue that the bigger payoffs for a startup lie across the Atlantic.
How do we get there? Jumping up and starting a business in Africa seems like a tall order – and in some ways it actually is but there is hope for us yet. Check out this article about Black American immigrants to Ghana who took advantage of the country’s open door policy and filled gaps in Ghana’s services sector. The message I got from this and from others who’ve done it is “simplify”. Laser-focus on the skills you bring and then understand the market needs.
Not yet ready to get your Marcus Garvey on? Check out the National Black Chamber of Commerce or the National Minority Business Council. Both organizations send trade delegations to African countries as well as to nations with high black populations in the Caribbean and South America. Accompanying a delegation or attending one of their workshops or events is a great way to network, compare business ideas, or crystallize an idea you already have.
If you have some time – check out what these black entrepreneurs had to say about expanding their businesses to Africa.