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WESTERN UNION CO : Diaspora Small Business Solutions Seen as Key to Development in Africa

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11/11/2010 | 08:05am EDT

At a time of renewed focus on the power of entrepreneurship to lift people out of poverty, a study by a George Washington University researcher finds that strong feelings of accomplishment, pride, duty and honor motivate many diaspora entrepreneurs to invest in their country of origin. The survey of participants in the African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) found that diaspora investment motivations are complex, reflecting financial as well as personal drivers, including the sense that they can prevail over common barriers to business success.

Ronald Mutebi, President of TEK Consults Group, is setting up a solar oven manufacturing plant in Ug ...

Ronald Mutebi, President of TEK Consults Group, is setting up a solar oven manufacturing plant in Uganda. Mutebi's business plan won a grant at the African Diaspora Marketplace, financed jointly by USAID and Western Union. (Photo: Business Wire)

The ADM is an entrepreneurial business program, supported jointly by USAID and Western Union, which seeks to boost economic opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa through sustainable start-up and established enterprises by U.S.-based African diaspora. Earlier this year, more than 700 participants from 19 countries submitted business proposals for grants to match their own funds to support the execution of their business plans. Fourteen businesses in seven Sub-Saharan African countries were awarded matching grants of up to $100,000.

?Africa can see progress similar to what China has seen in less than a decade, and without substantial foreign direct investment. Just look at the flow of remittances to these countries. As businesspeople, we in the diaspora community want to contribute to economic development in our countries of origin. And we have the passion to succeed in creating opportunity,? said ADM grantee Ronald Mutebi. Mutebi is President of TEK Consults Group, which has been testing and distributing solar ovens in Africa. He is in the final stages of setting up a manufacturing plant in Uganda and has more than 1,000 prospective buyers for his product.

Mutebi added, ?The ADM to me was a first of its kind, a forum where the diaspora came to showcase our various enterprises and to learn and share as well as encourage one another that we are not alone in the struggle for economic empowerment of our brothers and sisters.?

The survey found that diaspora investment motivation is driven by a variety of factors, including expectations of financial, emotional, social-status and political gains as well as family concerns. While more than half of ADM participants maintained that they invest in their country of origin to create jobs and income for themselves (62%) and acquire personal financial independence (65%), approximately three fourths claimed that their country-of-origin investments would generate a feeling of accomplishment (83%), will help them feel better about themselves (79%), enhance their self pride (76%), and fulfill a sense of personal duty (72%).

?ADM participants invest from the heart out of care and concern for their families and country of origin. They want to make a difference," said Dr. Liesl Riddle, Research Fellow at The George Washington University Center for International Business Education and Research (GW-CIBER), and the study's leader. ?This is a great development opportunity for Africa: to match innovative entrepreneurial ideas and talent with much-needed funding to bring their visions to life.?

?This research will help us begin to understand the key factors that enable diaspora investors to be successful. It is part of our process to identify best practices that can foster economic opportunity and help small businesses thrive in developing markets,? said Aida Diarra, Western Union Regional Vice President, Economic Community of West African States.

Unique ADM business plans are beginning to take shape in several countries. Among them: Mutebi's TEK Consults Group, which is developing and implementing a comprehensive solar oven program in Uganda. TEK's program greatly decreases dependence on wood and agricultural waste products for cooking fuel, allowing time and money previously spent for cooking fuel to be spent more productively. Already, the first oven components have been shipped to be assembled in Uganda. The ovens are scheduled to appear in Ugandan markets in January 2011.

Earthwise Ferries is reestablishing, managing and operating a fast-ferry transportation system on Lake Victoria, with destinations in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The first 150-passenger ferry, designed to run on diesel or straight vegetable oil, is launching in December 2010 and is projected to reduce travel time on Lake Victoria by at least 60%. Earthwise has enlisted 600 indigenous farmers to grow sunflower seeds to produce the vegetable oil.

Uza-Mazao uses SMS messaging to bring unprecedented levels of efficiency to buyers and sellers of crops, farm produce, livestock or livestock products in Kenya. Transactions are conducted using an existing mobile-phone wallet system. Farmers are able to figure out what is in demand in their region so they can produce and distribute accordingly. In the first month more than 2,000 farmer co-operatives have registered for the service.

Individual entrepreneurs responding to the online survey of ADM participants perceive barriers that are similar to those documented through other major research on doing business in the region. Characteristics described in the environment include bureaucratic, financial capital and infrastructure barriers.

While direct investment was the primary investment interest of the diaspora entrepreneurs, the survey's respondents also expressed interest in investing in mutual funds consisting of firms based in their country of origin, purchasing government bonds issued by their country of origin and contributing to funds that would lend to small and medium enterprises in their country of origin.

The African Diaspora Marketplace was financed jointly by USAID and Western Union, with contributions from Western Union Agents Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) in Africa and Irv Barr Management in the United States.

Please follow this link to read the full report: http://business.gwu.edu/CIBER/research/1011.htm.

To learn more about the ADM, visit: http://www.diasporamarketplace.org.

About Western Union

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. The Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services are offered through a combined network of approximately 435,000 Agent locations in 200 countries and territories. In 2009, The Western Union Company completed 196 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $71 billion of principal between consumers, and 415 million business payments. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com.

About The Western Union Foundation

Through Western Union's Our World, Our Family(R) signature program, the Western Union Foundation supports initiatives to empower individuals, families and communities through access to better education and economic opportunity. Recognized by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy in 2009, the program is a five year, $50 million commitment announced in 2007 reflecting the efforts made by Western Union employees, Agents, and partners around the world. Since its inception in 2001, the Western Union Foundation has awarded more than $67 million in grants and disaster relief to more than 1,900 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in 100 countries. For more information, visit http://foundation.westernunion.com.


The Center for International Business Education and Research at The George Washington University (GW-CIBER) serves as a vital portal for businesses, policy makers, citizens, students and faculty throughout the nation to increase their international skills and awareness of the internationalization of the U.S. economy. GW-CIBER supports research, teaching, and outreach related to the theme of Institutions and Development. One of GW-CIBER's key programmatic areas focuses on the roles that diasporas can play in the development of their countries of origin through entrepreneurship, investment, and other activities that strengthen the national business-enabling environment. Since 2006, GW-CIBER has sponsored the GW Diaspora Capital Investment Project, a multidisciplinary research initiative that examines the motivations and activities of diaspora investors and entrepreneurs, and the roles of NGOs, multilateral organizations, and national governments in promoting and facilitating diaspora investment and entrepreneurship. Visit http://business.gwu.edu/CIBER/.


USAID is the lead government agency providing development and humanitarian assistance to people around the world. The agency's Global Development Alliance (GDA) links U.S. foreign assistance with the resources, expertise and creativity of the private sector as well as nongovernmental organizations. Since its launch in 2001, the Global Development Alliance has changed the way U.S. international development projects are financed and implemented. By cultivating more than 900 public-private alliances with over 1,700 individual partners, it has allowed USAID to leverage an additional $9.6 billion in resources for development. For more information about USAID and its programs around the world, visit www.usaid.gov. For more information on Global Development Alliances, visit www.usaid.gov/gda/index.html.


Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=6507643&lang=en

Western Union
Anna Alejo, +1 720-332-3884
The George Washington University
Caroline Broder, +1 202-994-0884
Gina Jackson

© Business Wire 2010
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