Africa: U.S Makes Three-Year Commitment to African Entrepreneurs

obama south africa

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama land in South Africa

The U.S. African Development Foundation announced a three-year commitment July 3 to support President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, beginning in October 2013.

The Initiative is President Obama’s effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders, launched in 2010. Its new flagship program, the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, announced June 29, is designed to support young African entrepreneurs in ways that accelerate economic growth and strengthen democratic institutions across Africa.

The U.S. African Development Foundation will award up to 200 young Africans taking part in the Washington Fellows program from 2014 to 2016 with $25,000 entrepreneurship grants to initiate or expand their business and social enterprises in their home countries. USADF will help ensure that the opportunity to participate extends to the best and the brightest, even in remote and marginalized communities in Africa.

Obama announced the Washington Fellows program at a town hall meeting with students in Johannesburg, South Africa, in June. “We’ll focus on civic leadership and public administration and business and entrepreneurship, the skills you need to serve your communities and start and grow businesses and run effective ministries,” he said.

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Photo taken from: the New York Times


Afreximbank: Putting Africa On The Map

Ekra: “Our Role Is To Ensure That Africa Trades With Itself”

The overspill of the credit crisis in the developed world drove a huge new demand for Afreximbank’s trade finance products, leading it to develop new partnerships with other multilateral institutions, the Bank’s chairman and president says.

THE GLOBAL CREDIT CRISIS THAT began in 2007 created a vacuum in the availability of finance for African counterparties, one that prompted a surge in demand for Afreximbank’s products. This, in turn, drove major changes to how the organisation funded its operations, according to Jean-Louis Ekra, the Bank’s chairman and president.

Very few African financial institutions had direct exposure to the kind of complex financial products that prompted the near collapse of banks in the developed world. However, the crisis rapidly turned into one of liquidity squeeze. Needing to cover positions at home and rebuild capital buffers quickly, banks in Europe and the US stopped lending. African banks who had previously relied on credit lines from their global counterparts found themselves cut off.

This absence of liquidity was reflected in a broader pull back from Africa by international investors and banks, who were looking to retrench and reduce their exposure to riskier assets. This compounded the problems caused by falls in commodity prices, prompted by weaker industrial demand in markets that consume Africa’s natural resources. With money hard to come by, companies started to turn to Afreximbank en masse.

Read the full article: African Business Magazine

Noteworthy News: May 20 – 26


1. Omidyar Network and Monitor Group Release Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa Report.

Philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network partnered with consulting firm Monitor Group to identify the challenges facing African entrepreneurs and pinpoint the most significant barriers inhibiting high impact entrepreneurship. The initiative interviewed nearly 600 entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania; hosted an Entrepreneurship in Africa Summit; and presented the finding to policymakers across Africa.Key Takeaway:  The greatest challenges facing entrepreneurs in Africa are financing, skills and talent, and infrastructure.

Read the full report here:

2. Linda Thomas-Greenfield Likely Choice for US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has tapped Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a widely respected career Foreign Service officer, to the department’s top Africa post. The Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs oversees the Africa Bureau and U.S. diplomatic missions and focuses on managing and directing policy. Final decision on the nomination – a presidential appointment – rests with the White House. Thomas-Greenfield, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia from 2008 until 2012, previously served in Jamaica, Nigeria, Gambia, Kenya, Pakistan, and Switzerland and was principal deputy in the Africa Bureau (2006 to 2008) and deputy secretary in the Population Bureau (2004-2006).Key Takeaway: If appointed, Linda Thomas-Greenfield will play a significant role in shaping US foreign policy in Africa and will be a key power player during President Obama’s visit to Africa during June.

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3. Building A Venture From Scratch Not For The Faint Hearted, Says Gourmet Tea Entrepreneur

Cote d’Ivoire-born Swaady Martin-Leke is the founder and CEO of YSWARA, a newly launched African tea company that is targeted at the higher-end consumer market. The company is based in South Africa, but sources its teas from across the continent. According to Martin-Leke, the luxury market in Africa offers increasing opportunities with the steady growth in the African middle class and discretionary income. Before starting YSWARA, Martin-Leke spent eleven years of her career with General Electric.Key Takeaway: Building a luxury company presents unique challenges in Africa due to a limited number of suppliers able to produce goods at a competitive rate and at the same quality level, but it also presents an opportunity to develop a distinct competitive advantage and build a long term relationship with customers.

Read more about Swaady and the luxury tea market:

4. Ushahidi Launches Kickstarter Campaign for BRCK, Your Backup Generator for the Internet.

Ushahidi, the Kenyan based non-profit technology company, is currently raising funds to begin manufacturing BRCK ,a smart, rugged device that could connect to the internet any way it could, hop from one network to another, create a hotspot for multiple devices, while plugged in or running on battery power. The device is “the easiest, most reliable way to connect to the internet, anywhere in the world, even when you don’t have electricity.”Key Takeaway:  Ushahidi has already raised US $100K for this device and could play a significant role in increasing internet accessibility across Africa.

Check out Ushahidi’s progress:

5. Rockefeller Foundation Pumping $100 Million into Africa’s Digital Scene.

The Rockefeller Foundation has pledged nearly US$100-million to Africa’s digital sector in the hopes of impacting “one million lives in six countries through leverage and private sector partnership”. The program, Digital Jobs Africa, is designed to use the ICT sector to create sustainable job opportunities for African youth.Key Takeaway: This initiative represents another investment in using technology to decrease persistent youth unemployment through skills training and entrepreneurship.

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6. Six Thoughts On The Role Of Women In Africa’s Growth and Development.

At the launch of the inaugural WIE Africa (which stands for Women, Inspiration and Enterprise) symposium in Cape Town last week, a number of respected African businesswomen and leaders shared their thoughts on the role women should be playing in Africa’s future.Read what they had to say:

7. Nelson Mandela’s Grandsons, Ndaba Mandela and Kweku Mandela Amuah Launch Social Network,

Two of Nelson Mandela’s grandsons have started a social network that connects people with similar interests together and to causes they are passionate about. The platform also inspires people to be active in their communities and to effect change locally. The duo partnered with Backplane, the technology company that created Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters community and have support fromKey Takeaway: This team is bringing social networking to support local community initiatives with inspiring and motivational content to encourage individuals to serve as local leaders.

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