Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Diaspora Camp DC 2010 Event recap #diasporadc

Culled from Diasporacamp.org
DiasporaCamp DC 2010, a Barcamp with a focus on the African Diaspora, took place on July 24th, 2010 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The ‘unconference’ run from about from 9am to 6pm. The event brought together about 120 entrepreneurs, investors, students and professionals to find out the ways to access capital to start, fund and grow small and medium enterprises as well as other kinds of ventures. Attendees were excited to find out this diverse community of people interested in Africa and the Diaspora existed in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. The theme was: Financial innovations for African small & medium-scale enterprises.

The event began with some opening remarks by members of the organizing team. Made up of Africans and non-Africans with a passion for the continent, the organizing team was backed by the GhanaThink Foundation which put it together. Ato Ulzen-Appiah, Clare Allenson, Nii Simmonds set the tone for the event after thanking our major sponsors, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (JHU-SAIS). Kaushal Jhalla then introduced Gebreselassie Tesfamichael, the morning keynote speaker. Gebreselassie Yosief Tesfamichael is the former Finance Minister of Eritrea where prior to leaving the government in 1999, he led Africa’s fastest growing economy. He spoke about how the Kenney Auditorium at SAIS was housing some of “the most adventurous, most talented people from Africa”, and how “they have not been tapped”. Tesfamichael believes Eritrea is one of the most succesful countries in tapping its Diaspora. He also said “failure to tap into diaspora is a failure of leadership in Africa”. He ended by saying, “The negative image of Africa can be changed to the positive by the Diaspora”.

The first panel of the day followed. It was moderated by Nii Simmonds and titled - Access to Capital / Financial Innovations. The panelists were Dr. Philip Auerswald (George Mason Universty), Mr. Joseph Obi (USAID), Okezie Ofoegbu (Emerging Capital Partners) and Claude W. Roxborough (South African Chamber of Commerce in America). The panel spoke about some innovative ways and new of raising capital for doing business in Africa. The panel spoke about some innovative ways of raising capital for doing business in Africa. The discussion also centered around how we can institute financial innovation, current funding sources, and African investment in other African countries. The panel also discussed the challenges of sourcing funding, and return on investment (ROI). One big takeaway from the panel came from Okezie, who said, “Which sector won't make you money in Africa? The list is endless - power transportation, waste, etc". After the first panel, there was a mini-panel featuring representatives of Ashoka Changemakers. They talked about how they worked with G20 and Rockefeller foundation to draw upon public innovation. They spoke about the G-20 SME finance challenge, which would be a public-private partnership that will catalyze finance 4 SMEs.

During the lunch break, Carol Pineau, maker of the award-winning "Africa, Open for Business" documentary showed another of her works - "African Investment Horizons". She ridiculed the misconception of no money in Africa by saying that her film was funded by Africans. She also touched on the need for bed-nets and how people should invest in health-related businesses as well. Carol mentioned her upcoming project - skype interviews with African entrepreneurs. The afternoon keynote was given by Richard Cambridge, head of Diaspora Relations at the World Bank Africa Diaspora Program. World bank has decided that to work with the African Union to get a working definition of the Diaspora. Richard spoke highly of the African Diaspora, saying “Africans are the most educated immigrant group in the US”. He also mentioned the 30-40 Billion dollars a year in remittances to Africa, as well as more Eritrean and Malian doctors in U.S. than Eritrea and Mali. He spoke about Africa Town in Guangzhou, China which houses over 100,000 Africans who help Chinese do business in Africa.

The second panel followed, titled “African Businesses: Financing, Scaling, and Building Partnerships” and moderated by Chinedu Enekwe. The panelists were Amini Akunju (Workshop in Business Opportunities), Caroline Otonglo (Multilateral Investments Guarantee Agency), Kendal Tyre (Nixon & Peabody), Irene Osei, (Lifeline Homecare), and Rahama Wright (Shea Yeleen). The panel talked about hurdles, challenges and what affects the security of women SME entrepreneurs in Africa. The panel discussed the business language and the language of the investor. The panel also talked about how financing is driving social change. The panelists mentioned the importance of travelling home (to Africa) and doing (your) own visibility study while the local governments need to put the right systems in place. It is also important to raise your own capital before getting outside funding. Panelists seemed anti-Foreign aid. “Why would you live off your credit card? Foreign Aid = credit cards for governments”. It was argued that we need two strong institutions, tax-paying cultures, and a strong media.

Time only permitted for one breakout session period. There was a short break to plan the various breakout sessions. The breakouts were Healthcare delivery (case study: Ghana), Marketing Africa as a land of opportunity, Micro-finance, and How to build a successful African-themed website (case study: Museke.com). Notes from the breakout sessions will be on the Diasporacamp.org website. One major takeaway was “If they can't come home, the Diaspora can still contribute”. There had been breaks between all items on the agenda, during which attendees networked, discussed ideas, dissected issues raised in previous sessions, amongst other things. This was in the true spirit of BarCamps, where attendees talked about what was dear to them and were where they wanted to be. The event rounded up around 6pm.

The organizing team hopes to see attendees partner to work on various projects and business as well as start new businesses, and organizations. There will be future DiasporaCamps in various places in the USA and around the world to send the conversations worldwide and continue to bring the idea of congregating, sharing, learning and acting to people interested in African Diaspora everywhere. For more information, go to http://diasporacamp.org

See pictures from the event

See videos from the event
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