Ronald Mutebi can now do in three months what might have taken him a year. With his $100,000 share of a grant to benefit Africa, the entrepreneur will soon be sending solar ovens to his native Uganda.
Mutebi obtained exclusive Ugandan rights to market the units from Illinois-based maker Sun Ovens International. His goal is to reduce the country’s dependence on wood and agricultural waste products for cooking fuel.
Mutebi was one of 14 African American entrepreneurs, selected from a group of 58 finalists and more than 700 applicants, awarded just under $1.4 million in total grants at last week’s inaugural African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) in Washington, DC. The ADM is a joint public-private initiative on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Western Union, aimed at boosting employment in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to USAID data, there are more than 1.4 million African immigrants in the United States, many of whom are entrepreneurs who operate small businesses in their native countries and send money back to their homelands. In 2008 an estimated $10 billion in remittance flowed back to sub-Saharan Africa from U.S.-based African diaspora members, according to USAID.
Anne McCarthy, Western Union’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, said the process was started 18 months ago after a conversation between her company and USAID. McCarthy said ADM was inspired by Western Union’s involvement in another collaboration – the “4 + 1″ program – with the Mexican government and U.S.-based Mexican migrant associations that provided joint funding to businesses that had “the best chance to create employment and economic growth in key areas.” McCarthy said it created a couple thousand jobs.