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Western Union and USAID Announce Winners of Second African Diaspora Marketplace

Western Union and USAID Announce Winners of Second African Diaspora Marketplace

Innovative Competition Acts as Catalyst for Business and Job Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2012/ At the second African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM II), 17 U.S.-based entrepreneurs were awarded matching grants to fund innovative business plans and promote economic growth in seven countries in sub-Saharan and North Africa. The grants will match ADM winners’ own funds to support growth of their businesses.

Nearly 500 entrepreneurs submitted business plans to compete for a grant as an investment in their business as part of the ADM II competition. ADM II is a collaboration of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (http://www.usaid.gov), the Western Union Company (http://www.westernunion.com) and the Western Union Foundation (http://foundation.westernunion.com).

Launched in 2009, ADM is one of the few public-private initiatives to harness the knowledge and resources of U.S.-based African diaspora and other entrepreneurs to address economic opportunity by advancing the ability of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa to obtain capital. Forty-four finalists for ADM II vied for the top awards with business plans addressing high priority, high-impact sectors in Africa. Finalists presented plans in agribusiness, information and communications technology (ICT) and renewable energy.

Winning proposals included a Kenyan agribusiness implementing sustainable “zero-waste” practices through the commercial production of High Efficiency Organic Fertilizer; the first legal technology provider in Tunisia; an alternative power-generator utilizing agricultural waste in Liberia; and an online medical information delivery system in Nigeria. Each awardee can receive a total investment of up to US$70,000, which includes up to US$50,000 in matching cash grants and/or up to US$20,000 in technical assistance.

ADM II is jointly funded by USAID, the Western Union Company, and the Western Union Foundation. Other contributing partners include Ecobank, African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), George Washington University Center for International Business Education and Research, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the U.S. Department of State and Irv Barr Management.

The marketplace competition showcased promising and innovative ideas for businesses that can create employment and strengthen trade in emerging markets in sub-Saharan Africa. The program supports U.S.-based entrepreneurs in supporting African communities.

“At Western Union, we have the privilege of witnessing how diaspora communities are fostering positive change in their home countries every single day,” said Aida Diarra, regional vice president for North, Central and East Africa, the Western Union Company. “The African Diaspora Marketplace is an incredibly powerful example of their efforts. Through our support of ADM II, and other programs around the world, Western Union magnifies this good work, helping to drive financial access and economic opportunity in developed and developing countries.”

USAID and other development leaders believe that the fight against poverty in Africa is largely a fight against unemployment. Establishing innovative, sustainable business initiatives and promoting entrepreneurship generates jobs and capital, creating the potential to improve the fortunes of generations to come.

“The African Diaspora Marketplace will strengthen and help satisfy demand for locally-produced products and services,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “These businesses will buy, sell and hire from within the communities they serve, putting money into the local economy, building local capacity and fueling broad-based economic development.”

Speaking at the ADM II awards ceremony, Tony O. Elumelu, the Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, affirmed the importance of Diaspora participation in Africa’s ongoing economic transformation.  According to Elumelu, “Africans in Diaspora need to team up with Africans in Africa and work together.  We need all possible human assets.”

In November 2012, ADM II winners will convene in Lagos, Nigeria where The Tony Elumelu Foundation will host a session with impact investors looking for investment opportunities among the winning businesses.

ADM II incorporates key lessons from the first African Diaspora Marketplace. Expanding upon its success, Western Union and USAID invited small business investment funds and technical assistance mentors to participate in the effort this year.  Each winning project will be monitored for a period of up to 24 months and grant payments will correspond to key milestones identified in the winner’s proposal.

Distributed by the African Press Organization on behalf of Western Union.

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