African diaspora small business roundtable underscores importance of diasporan businesses

With more than 2.1 million African immigrants living in the United States, members of the African diaspora represent vital contacts for international economic exchange. Diaspora communities are facilitators of global business, with their familiarity of local economies and relationships in their home countries. For development finance institutions like DFC, diaspora networks are a valuable resource for building meaningful investment projects — especially in Africa, which is home to one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world.

In July, DFC hosted the Africa Diaspora Network (ADN) to connect African diasporan entrepreneurs in the United States with a presentation on DFC’s investment tools. In the roundtable chaired by ADN board member Innocent Shumba, key Congressional leaders Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York as well as members of DFC’s team discussed how DFC can help small and mid-size businesses gain footholds in emerging markets across Africa.

“One of the most effective ways the United States can show leadership in the world is by providing the tools that help emerging economies grow,” said Representative Meeks, the first Black chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. “Fostering economic engagement with members of the diaspora on the continent and in the United States … is paramount to not only benefiting small businesses at home, but also upholding our development commitments abroad.”

With over 120 participants, the roundtable engaged a diverse group of African diasporans, with 39 countries represented among the attendees.

“How we take your skills, your ambitions, your innovativeness and collaborate to make sure you get access to capital and also strengthen ties with your home countries is terribly important,” said Senator Warner, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaking to diasporan businesses.

Warner further emphasized DFC’s key role in engaging African business. “The Development Finance Corporation, which is a relatively new enterprise in the federal government, has already got over $9 billion committed to projects in Africa — this needs to be one of the key tools we use to strengthen ties to Africa.”

The roundtable featured remarks by Representative Meeks and Senator Warner as well as representatives from ADN and DFC.

DFC has over 330 projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and expects to only increase its commitment to supporting private sector-led investment across the continent. In fiscal year 2021, DFC committed $2.9 billion in the region, a 290% increase from fiscal year 2020. Recent projects include investments to build and expand data centers, bolster energy security, and increase access to nutrition.

DFC COO Agnes Dasewicz, Regional Managing Director for Africa Vibhuti Jain, and Development Outcomes Director Roxanne Alozie also presented about DFC’s suite of investment tools — ranging from equity financing to technical assistance — that the agency can offer to best support high development impact.

“DFC tools are designed to support businesses of all sizes, and we’re committed to forging more local partnerships in the countries in which we work,” said COO Dasewicz.

The African Diaspora Network roundtable is just one event in a series of outreach events DFC has hosted to educate potential clients on how to access DFC support for their businesses. In mid-July, DFC hosted another business roundtable to address disability-inclusive investment, discussing how DFC tools can valuably impact the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities that live in developing countries worldwide. Over the last year, DFC has connected with more than 1,000 businesses through more than 20 roundtables, affirming its commitment to sustainable and high-impact investment around the world.

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U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Investing in development and advancing U.S. foreign policy. Twitter: @DFCgov