The Diaspora Funded development company

So, you want to develop Africa: The Diaspora Funded development company

The conventional ways are improving governance democracy and free and fair elections. Eliminating corruption and red tape and using the investment Banks  venture capital etc.

The other way is the involvement of NGO providing expertise and services in healthcare, appropriate technologies and development.

These models are good and necessary and there are other development models that are also viable in support of good governance and NGO initiatives.

This idea is a hybrid of some of the ideas that already exist and a play on new models using web tech.

Preamble

Large number of Africans remit large sums of money back to Africa [Estimates of the average total annual value of remittances to Africa vary between $32 and $40 billion. (This excludes the informal network of money transfers, which is significant. If taken into account this figure could increase by as much as 50 %.) ] source allafrica .com (http://allafrica.com/stories/201001140368.html). The amount includes support for relatives, investments and trade. Can we convince a fraction of these people to fund development programs in Africa?

The existing companies doing this for agriculture:

Thrive Agric: https://www.thriveagric.com/

FarmCrowdy: https://www.farmcrowdy.com/

In Nigeria there is a bank that does similar investments:

Bank or industry: https://www.boi.ng/

African examples; African development bank: https://www.afdb.org/en/

But there is need for more investment models and alternative investments:

The Basic Idea

To create an investment company that uses donations from Africans in Diaspora to develop countries on country by country basis. The donors will get to choose what projects they want to fund. The donor will have access to Projects cost, business plans, time scale, expected outcomes.  The projects are grade on risk levels and the implementation teams are introduced. The projects can be profit or non profit. They span all industries. The projects are generated by the company or submitted by entrepreneurs looking for funding for projects.

The model will use a combination of new media and basic venture capital investment models out there. There are a large number of success stories in Africa.

There is a large base of educated people both locally and in Diaspora

There are very successful companies operating in Africa: telecoms, banking and finance, Oil and Gas, services, manufacturing to name a few. The lack of government support for business infrastructure for these industries shows that there are opportunities in spite of the obstacles. The challenges include scepticism, a history of corruption in Africa, investment in white elephant projects, lack of infrastructural development etc

There are some principles (see sections on principles) that will form basis of the investment strategy examples some of this strategy is being applied is by The African Diaspora Marketplace (http://www.diasporamarketplace.org) but this is different as it will:

  • Raise money from the Africans in Diaspora (see issues section)
  • Invest in for profit or Non profit projects
  • Provide transparency for investors: get projects audited and provide reports and updates. It’s an extra cost but with the record of corruption its necessary ,basically the business fighting perception there are many successful businesses in African that are not corrupt
  • Create some solutions to social needs but not exclusively: Jobs, healthcare, infrastructure, technology, Solar, water sourcing and treatment, Finance.
  • Enable the Investor / Donor to choose from portfolios, the project to invest in; this will have mean that there will be lists of proposals and business plans, costs and constant feedback on level of completion.
  • Proposed timeline and returns (or completion and for non-profits archiving goals or other measurements)
  • There are some commercial or infrastructure projects that will be to large and the project might seek matching funds from other sources e.g. development banks, venture capital fund etc

The Backend requirements:

  • The geographic locations will need in-depth analysis of the risk and return since it’s in Africa and each country has its own dynamics (and even down to state and regional level). A starting place is all the existing country commercial data that can be bought. The other sources are is development Bank data that already exist plus updates based on our own market research.
  • Since there is a need for transparency there will also be a need for a more proactive audit trail with a front facing elements for donors to see the progress of their investments.
  • All the resources needed might not be financial as the programs will need local champions to deal with red tape and to champion each project. And secondly so each country will need a database of professionals to execute the projects.
  • Also a decision has to be made on a project basis if the investment is a donation or an investment. It also has to meet job creation criteria, short /medium/ long term impact.
  • The question has to be answered for each project the minimum and maximum amount per donor for each project. What to do if the minimum amount is not met or the project is overfunded.
  • How the organisation gets paid: since people will be paid for working for the organisation / setting up the infrastructure and support. What commission will be charged for providing these services (or explores alternative form of funding). There might be a need for more transparency on the structure and running of the organisation than most organisations mainly to combat the scepticism of donors (based on the African history of corruption in some institution).
  • The job creation component of every project will need to be stated as this is a development goal with more resonance than most in Africa.
  • The web front end will have to integrate with all social media and also have a robust payment system in place. (the tech is its own project )
  • There are other sites such a KIVA that help small to medium businesses. The website is not competing with them for money there is enough to go around and the type and scale of the projects is different.

Principles

  • Be an agent for good
  • Get buy in from local population
  • Create jobs and opportunities for people ( this is major)
  • Be transparent
  • There are well educated people in Africa and are quite underutilized and have to be engaged (there is a large number of young educated people)
  • Recognise the contribution of every one
  • Try and leave a legacy for future generations
  • Educate, Educate, Educate and it’s a two way street
  • Because its hard does not mean impossible

Issues

External:

  • Convincing different Africans in Diaspora to contribute (note this is not limited to the diaspora
  • There are two main sources of ideas people submitting business plans and in-house project
  • How do we engage governments to allow certain businesses to operate without them interfering?
  • Registration and legislation: Is the company a finance house or a crowdfunding platform.
  • Creating investment models that take into consideration the local risk profile. (and all the Political, economic, social, legal, environmental, tech issues)
  • What is our relationship to NGO’s and how they can contribute
  • There are issues around other organisations competing for resources and they will not react positively to our business model.
  • The issues about for profit and non profit have to be clearly resolved. For the non profit there might be the need to register part of the business as a non profit (or each project as a non profit). For the profit side the investment vehicles and the legal side of things have to be resolved. After an investment is made do the contributors become shareholder or are they just contributing to for profit project. Do the “for -profits” projects recycle some of those profits for other projects? Do the profits get paid back to donor?
  • Measurement of results goes beyond cash profit the other indices include Job creation, social impact etc
  • Should the company be limited to investment, or should it include loans and other forms of finance such as joint venture funding development funding, or turnkey projects?
  • Do you partner with financial institutions and how?

Internal:

  • There are two business plans the one for running the business and one for the executing projects it does not stop at the allocation of funds there will be need for recruitment for each project provision or an extension of our auditing and monitoring and establishing of local offices. (acting as a VC but with more involvement)
  • You might have to explain publicly how the commission derived from the transactions are needed to run the organisation on a long term basis.
  • The board of directors have to be carefully chosen and the organisation should not be confined to only Africans there are a lot of people world wide who have good will and bring a variety of skills and connections to the table.
  • Should the site be only marketed to Africans in Diaspora or everyone interested in African development
  • Although this is focused on African it should be replicated in Asia, and south American and eastern Europe anywhere that needs development and where there are development needs cannot be provided by governments and NGO’s.
  • Paying your investors their returns especially if they are remitting money in FX
  • How do you differentiate the investment type: Loans, dividends, shareholding or a hybrid model?  Does the business\ investment transit from a private to a public company

As usual this is not exhaustive it’s a summary of what can be done. I expect that people will take it further.

Resources:

Different stripes of this idea exist (i.e. websites that aggregate and fund projects):

KIVA, http://www.kiva.org

  • Kickstarter : http://www.kickstarter.com/,
  • Indiegogo : http://www.indiegogo.com/,
  • Ycombinator: http://www.ycombinator.com/
  • Profounder: https://www.profounder.com/

Support for IDEAS

  • The Funded: http://www.thefunded.com/
  • Techstarts:  http://www.techstars.org/
  • Rocked Hub: http://www.rockethub.com/
  • Venture Hacks: http://venturehacks.com/
  • TED: www.ted.com

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