New Business Initiative Seeks Entrepreneurial Ideas from U.S.-based African Diaspora to Spur Economic Opportunity in Homeland. DENVER, Colo., WASHINGTON, D.C. June 2, 2009 – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Western Union, a leading global payments network, are counting on innovative thinking and entrepreneurial ideas to help alleviate poverty in Africa. Today, the organizations launched the African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM), a business-development program that will support U.S.-based African Diaspora in creating plans for sustainable start-up and established businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. The program will also provide grant funding to 10-20 small-and-medium businesses with the strongest proposals for boosting economic opportunity and job creation in Sub-Saharan Africa through Diaspora-driven development. 

“The African Diaspora has unique insights into its home countries and the motivation to encourage direct investment into Africa,” said Alonzo Fulgham, Acting Administrator of USAID. “This is an exceptional opportunity for African Diaspora in the U.S. to help alleviate the disparities surrounding Africa’s economic situation.” Added Fulgham, “Harnessing the strength of this population, estimated at 1.4 million strong, is critical to solving poverty in Africa.”

“This innovative model for corporate, government and nonprofit collaboration will support entrepreneurial solutions that create jobs and opportunity,” said Christina Gold, CEO, Western Union. “Western Union supports migrants’ investment in their home countries and also helps to power the world economy through our business model. Through this program, we can leverage Western Union’s expertise on migration trends and our vast network and resources to help create lasting social and economic impact.”

The initiative hopes to demonstrate the impact that entrepreneurs from the world’s Diaspora or migrant   communities can have on development in their home countries. Throughout the program, the level of support provided to participants and the role that support may play in the development of each enterprise will be monitored. This research will help to identify best practices around the support needed to help small businesses thrive in developing markets.

Proposals must be implemented in one of the following Sub-Saharan African countries where USAID has both on-the-ground presence and potential technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs: Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

To participate, candidates must meet the following criteria, among others:

    * Must be a member (or members) of the Sub-Saharan African Diaspora living in the United States as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
    * Must have a local partner in the country of implementation; and
    * Grant funding requests should not exceed US$100,000 and should not be less than US$50,000.

For a full a list of eligibility criteria visit www.diasporamarketplace.org.

A selection committee will review initial proposals and identify qualifying applicants who will be requested to submit a comprehensive business plan for evaluation. To promote success and ensure comparability among submissions, finalists will be provided with guidance and technical assistance in developing their business plans. Finalists will be connected with a full range of business tools and resources, including credit and debt markets, to increase the number of enterprises that can be brought to life, regardless of whether they are selected for grant funding.

Finalists also will be invited to a two-day networking conference in Washington, D.C., where they will present their completed business plans before a review panel consisting of business experts and leaders from the Diaspora community, USAID, other development institutions and private sector companies. The panel will evaluate final business plans and select grant recipients based on criteria that include the business idea and management framework, prospects for sustainability, capacity to leverage Diaspora resources and results orientation.

Following the rigorous two-round review and selection process, 10-20 qualifying entrepreneurs will be awarded grants of US$50,000 to US$100,000 each to support the execution of their business plans. These will be awarded from the initial ADM grant pool of nearly US$1.5 million, financed jointly by

USAID, the Western Union Company and the Western Union Foundation, as well as through Western Union Agent Giving Circles. One Agent Giving Circle, featuring Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) in Africa and Irv Barr Managementin the U.S., already has contributed US$250,000 to support this initiative. The ADM will facilitate access to technical assistance, as available, capacity building and information on a range of financing options for all finalists. 

From June 3rd to July 21st, individuals in the United States can also help in contributing money to the African Diaspora Marketplace funding pool by visiting any participating Western Union®Agent location. Donations can be sent through the Western Union Quick Collect service free of charge to the Academy for Educational Development (AED) account during this period of time by using Quick Collect Subscriber Name:  AFRICAN DIASPORA MARKET PLC, and Quick Collect Code City Name: AFRICANDIASPORA, DC.  Transaction limit is a maximum of US $5,000 per transaction.

Now through July 21, 2009, members of the African Diaspora in the U.S. can submit their business proposals at www.diasporamarketplace.org. Winners will be announced in December 2009.  For more information and complete rules, go to www.diasporamarketplace.org.

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