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Grand design: the planned Education District of Akoncity


says interest is growing but people “want to see the system is clear and can be trusted”. Committing relatively small amounts along- side well-known entrepreneurs helps de-risk deals, but the platforms’ relative novelty, com- bined withAfrica’s high rate of financial scams, has led to some scepticism. “People aren’t ready to take the risk in


Africa yet. They don’t trust the landscape,” says Hiruy Amanuel, a US venture capitalist. Emigrants’ often complex relationships with their home countries can also create hesi- tancy. “If you are a diaspora [member] you look at things differently to others,” says Almaz Negash, founder of the US-based African Diaspora Network, which connects local founders with investors.“We left our countries for many reasons [be it] educational, busi- nesses, or political.” Nonetheless, Mr Tijani and Mr Njoku


believe syndicates will unlock significant capi- tal for Africa in the coming years. Mr Njoku, who grew up watching his mother send thou- sands of dollars from London to Nigeria each year, says that investing “is in the same tradi- tion” of remittances. “I think the diaspora should be the primary funders of these start- ups,” he says.


Backto the motherland Others are leveraging their international edu- cation and knowledge by returning to launch businesses themselves. “More than anything, that is what the diaspora can bring to Africa,” says Mr Tijani. A vivid example is second-generation dias-


pora Amadou Daffe. In 2016, he moved to Ethiopia and alongside Mr Amanuel founded Gebeya, a pan-African freelance talent market-


June/July 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com


place. “Mywholepurpose in life is to domypart to make Africa globally competitive. That is what drivesme,” says Mr Daffe.“While working for corporate America I had an epiphany and realised I needed to go back to Africa and do something.” Gebeya’s 1500 users are growing 45% each month, and Mr Daffe aims to reach 15,000 within three years. Of the various ways that the diaspora con-


tributes to Africa’s development, he says “the most important migration I see right now” is people returning to work for local start-ups. “It’s particularly visible at the executive level,” he says, noting that half Gebeya’s team are returnees. During a recent six-week stay in Ghana,


Afford’s Ms Opoku-Owusu observed how the pandemic has causedmore diaspora citizens to spend longer periods in their home country, often to scope out business prospects. “The appetite is clearly there, and much more so now that most people can work from any- where,” she says. “More of them are looking for investment opportunities on the ground.” The consensus is that Africa must better


capitalise on remittances to fully harness its multi-billion dollar potential. However, some observers say only 10-20% of transfers are likely to be redirected into investment. “There is a bal- ance between helping to solve specific and immediate problems– like making sure there is food on the table – and helping a business access capital,” says Carl Manlan, Ecobank Foundation’s chief operating officer. “Improving the small and medium-sized enter- prise environment creates great opportunities, but no one can take away the joy of a family member that receives that extra cash to take a cousin to hospital.”■


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