Kishor Nagula

DiasporaCamp DC 2010: Facilitating Access to Finance for African SMEs

Organized by an eclectic cast of students and business professionals with a keen eye towards Africa, DiasporaCamp DC 2010 took place at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) to discuss financial innovations for African small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). The question: how to unlock the latent potential inherent in Africa manifested through entrepreneurs at the local level.

Industry experts were brought in to specifically talk about the importance of capital to these African budding entrepreneurs. The first set of panelists, moderated by Nii Simmons of Afrobotics, included Dr. Philip Auerswald, professor at George Mason’s School of Public Policy, and co-Editor of Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization; Joseph Obi, Regional Portfolio Manager at USAID’s Office of Development Credit; Okezie Ofoegbu, Vice President at Emerging Capital Partners; and Claude Roxborough, President of the South African Chamber of Commerce in America (SACCA). Panelist bios can be found here .

The panel leveraged their subject matter expertise in finance and addressed the idea of access to capital with special attention given to the need for intermediaries between the banks/financial institutions and entrepreneurs. It was discussed that many of these entrepreneurs behind SMEs are driven with a sound idea but lack the appropriate business wherewithal to not only articulate their company’s mission but to produce sound financial projections. As a result, companies like Endeavor and SAIBL fill necessary roles by matching experienced business professionals with these budding entrepreneurs.

This set of panelists segued perfectly into Ashoka Changemaker’s presentation on the G-20 SME Finance Challenge. The adrenaline produced from the previous panel provided ample ammo on discussing innovations to ignite financial access to SME’s.

DiasporaCamp 2010 concluded with business cards exchanged as panelists and attendees freely exchanged ideas and solutions towards not only unlocking financial access but to catalyze the growth of SME’s within Africa.