The African Diaspora Network (ADN) has been instrumental in not only offering a platform for dialogue, action and innovation but also driving investment opportunities in the continent, pertinently through their flagship symposium. The African Diaspora Investment Symposium (ADIS), fosters the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of Africans in the diaspora together with their champions. The event has been for the past seven years since inception, a catalyst for diaspora-driven initiatives and investment with the potential to shape the continent’s future as well as a platform to control the narrative about Africa. For the 2022 event, the Network seeks to bring the global community together to Silicon Valley; it has been hailed as the premium convening of the African investment ecosystem in Silicon Valley.
Since January, the Network has been running online forums, addressing thematic concerns and the pivotal role that the diasporan community can play in solving and sealing gaping deficits. It has been hailed as the premium convening of the African investment ecosystem in Silicon Valley. The previous discussions that have been ongoing, have hitherto offered panel discussions on healthcare, agriculture, renewable energy, education and connectivity. The forums kicked off with the state of Africa’s healthcare access in January, February saw discussions on the theme’ From E-Learning to Educational Systems Transformation, March marked in-depth conversations about ‘Changing the landscape of Agriculture in Africa’, April talks regarding ‘Energizing Investment in the Solar and Renewable Sector’ ensued, followed by ‘Bridging the Connectivity Gap’ in May. June will see the Foundations for the Future: Policy and Infrastructure in Africa.
Similarly, the edition will be dedicated to celebrating Builders of Africa’s Future 2022 Entrepreneurs. In light of this, the ADN, in partnership with the United States African Development Foundation (ASADF), the Conrad Hilton Foundation, and the African Management Institute of Kenya, recently announced the eleven recipients of the 2022 Builders of Africa’s Future (BAF) Awards. BAF entrepreneurs are spearheading local and innovative solutions to Africa and the world’s complex problems. ADN through the BAF initiative has supported the growth of over 40 African entrepreneurs across the continent by providing access to strategic partnerships, funding, mentorship and frontline access to investment opportunities in Silicon Valley.
Eleven African Startups are scheduled to receive the prestigious Silicon Valley Award for entrepreneurs, picked across all sectors, such as agriculture, renewable energy, education, healthcare and menstrual health. They include Kenya’s Justine Abuga, CEO and Founder of Ecobora, Tanzania’s George Akilimali , CEO and Co-Founder of Smartcore Enterprise Limited, Ghana’s Victor Boafo, Co-Founder of Entofarms, Morocco’s Dr. Hanane Chaibainou, CEO and Co-Founder of Biotessia, Ghana’s Caleb Edwards, Co-Founder and CEO of Wami Agro Limited, Uganda’s Sr. Jane Frances Kabagaaju at Nkuruba Health Centre; Uganda’s Jamila Mayanja CEO of Smart Girls Uganda; Zambia’s Sr. Christabel Juunza Mwangani of Emerging Farmers Initiative; Tanzania’s Hyasintha Ntuyeko CEO of Kasole Secrets, Uganda’s Dr. Ahimbisibwe Co-Founder of mSCAN and Uganda’s Sr. Rose Thumitho, LSOSF, Co-Founder of Mother Kevin Providence Social Enterprise. Past recipients of the BAF award include Aella Credit, Flutterwave, Deaftronics and FundiBots among others; who have received additional funding from investors, increased visibility and recognition from international organizations, including Nigeria’s First Digital Startup Accelerator Program hosted by Forbes.
The 2022 Builders of Africa’s Future winner will get access to two mentors each, enterprise training from the African Management Institute and an opportunity to pitch to potential investors during the symposium in June. Entrepreneurs who will meet the funding criteria will have an opportunity to receive up to $25,000 upon completion of the program. According to ADN founder and Executive Director, Almaz Negash, the initiative began in 2018, to ensure that grassroots African entrepreneurs have access to training, mentorship and funding opportunities. The Network vows to continue augmenting support for African changemakers and offer assistance in scaling up their work and impact on the continent. In reiteration, USADF President and CEO Travis Adkins, noted that the African diaspora plays an important role in the continent’s economic development, by promoting trade and foreign direct investment, creating businesses, transferring new knowledge and skills, whilst spurring entrepreneurship. He gave assurance that USADF will continue supporting ADN by increasing financial resources. DIS22 takes place in a virtual format bringing together representatives from private, government, corporations, academia, philanthropy and NGOs to create intentional outreach to entrepreneurs and investors.
Recommendations on Investment Opportunities
From the 2022 inaugural session, investments in telehealth were identified and diasporan healthcare professionals were urged to help leapfrog African healthcare by offering their expertise to healthcare workers on the ground. In addition, the session marked the launch of the telehealth pilot, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to leverage technology that expands digital health access. The designed robust pilot project will expand healthcare access in Africa using the latest telehealth technology to targeted populations, especially women and girls, mobilize highly trained medical professionals from the African diaspora in the U.S. and beyond, to provide critical healthcare services and technologies, advance data analytics and emergent technologies for the benefit and well–being of target populations such as home diagnostics and AI-based systems, whilst providing a voice and forum for the recognition of African healthcare innovators.
Education being the key tool of development, investments in edtech were greatly encouraged during the February session, especially to promote literacy in marginalized areas thereby boosting economic development and ultimately contributing to continental development. Into the bargain, the diasporan community was urged to consider giving beyond remittances, to support Africa-led schools and education platforms. In the March session on agriculture, it was highlighted that the diaspora can play a colossal role in supporting African farmers by investing a proportion of their paycheck in local farms, buying African products and involving the youth to change the narrative on farming by considering it as a profession; whilst dedicating their purchasing power to locally-sourced and made products, thereby supporting local businesses.
Investing in African renewable clean energy companies was highly recommended during the April session, given that Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change, despite emitting the lowest greenhouse gasses at a paltry 4 %. In addition, the continent is already bearing the brunt of global warming evidenced by the numerous natural disasters caused by extreme weather. The African diaspora was identified as a key player in breaking Africa’s dependence on other continents for renewable energy supplies. In the same breath, the toolbox from Power Africa was highlighted, which is a one-stop shop for information and funding opportunities for private sector developers, governments, investors, utilities, and others seeking to increase access to electricity. It is designed to unlock power project development in Sub-Saharan Africa, and investments in the project was a point of emphasis.
A series of discussions ensued during May’s session on ‘Bridging the connectivity gap’, where innovations, policies and investments were identified as vital in accelerating pertinently internet connectivity, as Africa heads towards the fourth industrial revolution. In light of this, the stark digital divide in the continent was highlighted with reference that in 2021, only 33 percent of Africa’s population was using the internet, meaning an estimated 871 million people were found to not be realizing digital dividends. Therefore, the diaspora community was encouraged to tap into and seal the deficit by harnessing the power of technologies, as a driver for economic growth and innovation in the continent, by availing the power of information and communications to connect, targeting this unconnected populace, to deliver goods and services in healthcare, education, finance, commerce, agriculture and governance.