This You Must Know that; Beyond Remittances Business networks can play a key role in poverty reduction

By Ghana Diaspora Youth Movement (Ghadym)
Commentary This You Must Know that; Beyond Remittances Business networks can play a key role in poverty reduction

In a conversation with a friend who had visited home and returned, she was expressed the distress and hardships that Ghanaians are going through while foreign businesses have taken over and are booming beyond imaginations.

She like many others and everyone especially those living the democracy fairytales and the opposition blame governments gross corruption and mismanagement of the economy.

She asked where the chines and all these foreign people get the money from to invest and I told her it was simple....Do you remember since six years I have asked every Ghanaian I know, every Africa I know and asked that we came together to raise funds to start businesses here in Germany and expand home? Yes she answered. But we are selfish, everyone of us want to go and build a house and ride a big care, hold the newest and extremely expensive gadgets and Show off that we are from abroad.

Exactly, so the answer is simple. The Chinese and all these foreign people come up with ideas, then they build business networks and raise funds, they go into it as full-time workers or some invest as business angels into these businesses and they work to build an empire not huts.

Business networks are common among many Diaspora communities especially those of India, Turkish, Chinese etc origins. Some are well established, acting as long-standing ethnic Chambers of Commerce within a single country of settlement, while others are new and truly transnational. I have found it to my surprise that blacks are not welcomed into certain spaces of the business community because of Stereotype. Blacks are at the Rock bottom of the economic and business ladder.

Many businesses are using information technology to create and maintain ties among participants. Africans mostly would steal the idea, run with it and try to do it alone on scales that are insignificant.

Of late, I am beginning to give up on the dream of getting us Ghanaians and Africans together to business network or form consortiums to concentrate on like minded people irrespective of where they come from.

Greed, greed and again greed and short sightedness is the fortitude the African especially those of West African origins who are Christians build their foundations and walls with.

The Lebanese Business Network, as an example, is a non-profit “business development vehicle” with an online marketplace and business matching database. Let's narrow it to Ghana. We know of family business or business dynasties that have been build by these people.

With the business networks their goal is to create links between Lebanese entrepreneurs, expatriates and international businesses, by identifying business opportunities and potential areas of partnership.

Indians before I left Ghana ten years ago had started flooding Ghana mainly investing in beverage production businesses as well as importation of calico for production of batik and tie and dye, colours and chemicals for the industry just to mention a few areas.

Today, they have advanced in information technology (IT) entrepreneurship and professionals have established a number of business networks all over the world especially in Canada and the UK if we come to the Diaspora. One of the most powerful is TIE (The IndUS Entrepreneur), which has grown from its core in North America and India to 25 chapters, including Singapore, Switzerland and the UK. It matches experienced entrepreneurs and start-up managers in a mentoring relationship and backs up promising enterprises (in the United States and India) with venture capital from a core membership of investors. Devesh Kapur points out that the benefits of the network go beyond profitable investment and start-up finance: It has boosted India’s confidence as well as the confidence of overseas investors about India’s potential despite India’s numerous problems.

Companies like Yahoo, Hewlett Packard and General Electric have opened R&D centers in India largely because of the confidence engendered by the presence of many Indians working in their US operations.

This points to the cognitive effects arising from the projection of a coherent, appealing, and progressive identity on the part of the diaspora which signals an image of prosperity and progress to potential investors and consumers.

Unlike africans who are so much individualistic and are unable to see beyond themselves and so thrive on a low-level scale of struggling and working many jobs just to get by and save to build a house at home and or at best remit families.

While researching for this write up, I came across many innovative initiatives similar to those I have tried without success to get our people to put reason to.

Lets take a look at the World Bank. There are many interesting new initiatives and one of them is the African Diaspora Summit, which was organized in December 2003 by the Dutch-African Diaspora organization AfroNeth. Representatives of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands African Business Council and the European Centre for Conflict Prevention took part in the conference.

In an interview, the organizer of the African Diaspora Summit noted that the creation of AfroNeth and other similar Diaspora organizations was strongly influenced by the creation of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and its focus on Africas self-reliance. The participants were acutely aware of the need for skills and resources in

Africa to accomplish self-reliant development and the ability of Africans in the Diaspora to provide such skills and resources, and the “unsatisfactory” nature of western development policies in African countries. Combining interests in business and conflict resolution, the Summit initiators looked to Diaspora as a new source of development creativity: “Africans rooted in both African and Western culture could provide the ingredients for a new approach to development cooperation and economic development”

Narrowing it further, we see a similar endeavour was the GhanaExpo, which took place in London in October 2003.

Sponsored by ExpoAfrica Net, which has headquarters both in London and Accra, GhanaExpo was an exhibition fair promoted as an opportunity for Africans in the Diaspora to connect with businesses, goods and services in Africa. More than twenty sectors were represented, included were agriculture and raw materials, handicrafts and other retail good, automotive, electronics, travel and tourism. The Expo was heavily promoted and even attended by the Ghanaian President and the Ashanti King. This was the first event of its kind, though the goal is to extend the idea to other African countries. The Expo also included a strong cultural component, including traditional drum and dance performances, etc., and took place during Black History Month in the UK.

Have you ever wished for an opportunity to see what life is really like ‘back home’? Do you have professional skills that you can share with professional colleagues in developing countries? Are you interested in giving back to those less fortunate than yourself?”

Significant investment in the country of origin by Diaspora investors can be a push factor for market reforms and/or strengthening institutions in country of origin.

Germany has so much to offer. Because of disunity and lack of interest to learn the language, Africans especially Ghanaians are unable to harness the wealth Germany has to offer. Worse is their inability to collaborate to forster business networks that would become support base for themselves and the continent as a whole.

This is my call, that Africans take another look at the many years spent in individualism that has made little difference to move to business networking in order to build start-ups that can be sustainable beyond gestation.

Africans living in the Diaspora should raise funds and partner on business ideas and build businesses back home instead of having to spend in foreign currency that doesn't help the economy.