Over the last several months, 40 highly motivated entrepreneurs have been working hard on their business plans for potential new ventures.
There is something, however, that sets these entrepreneurs apart from a typical business person. All 40 are either part of the Ghanaian or Ethiopian Diaspora living in the Netherlands and are planning to start businesses in their countries of origin. With ties to both their country of origin and the country they now call home, Diaspora can act as a bridge between the two countries and are uniquely placed to identify business opportunities.
I absolutely see the Diaspora as particularly well placed to start a business in their country of origin.
It is with this unique potential in mind that the ED4D project offers assistance in their journey to start up or expand businesses back home An integral part of this assistance is the allocation of an individual mentor for each entrepreneur from PUM Netherlands Senior Experts. With a vast wealth of international experience, these experts have been able to provide comprehensive insights into the challenges the entrepreneurs may face setting up their business.
The ED4D team sat down with two mentors to find out more about how the business plans are progressing, and how the mentorship is helping the entrepreneurs in refining their ideas.
Entrepreneur Henock Belete Asfaw meeting with Jan Dalhuisen, Plant Manager of De Hamer Beton whilst on a visit to the plant with his mentor Hans Kooijman.
Cees Duijn is an expert with 35 years of experience in the field of Recycling and Recovery. As the PUM expert for Environmental and Recycling Technologies, his knowledge has been crucial in improving the chances of success of the business of his entrepreneur Charles Peprah.
Charles has an ambitious plan to encourage the local community of Kumasi, Ghana, to ‘Recycle! Don’t trash our future’. By offering cash to local people in return for their used plastic it is hoped that the amount of plastic waste contaminating the local environment will decrease. Not only will this make a positive contribution to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (specifically goals 11 and 12), it will also create a sustainable business for Charles, as he will be able to recycle and sell the collected plastic for future use. Not only that, it will provide local employment, adding to the sustainable development of Kumasi.
It is an ambitious plan, and Cees has been impressed by Charles’ open and enthusiastic attitude, however as he explained, it is one thing having knowledge of the local situation in Ghana, but to make the business a success you also need a lot of business-specific knowledge. He cautioned not to start out with an over-ambitious plan and ‘to leave this all behind and to start talking real business’. He advised to revise his business plan and to look at Ghana and be realistic and determine what is really needed.
This is something that was echoed by Hans Kooijman a civil engineer and PUM expert who is mentoring Henock Asfaw with his idea to produce manhole covers for use in Ethiopia. He reiterated that the knowledge gap was the biggest hurdle to setting up complicated businesses in a new sector. Hans even described taking Henock to a prefabrication factory in the Netherlands in order to show the complicated processes he will face within his business.
These comments clearly show the value of partnering Diaspora entrepreneurs with PUM experts. Both experts have been able to impart their knowledge and help to try and reduce this knowledge gap and both Cees and Hans stated that the business plans of both Charles and Henock are much more realistic and comprehensive.
In many ways it was clear that the experience of being a mentor was very similar for both Hans and Cees. Both emphasized the enthusiastic nature of the entrepreneurs, and both quite clearly stated the added value that Diaspora can bring as entrepreneurs in their countries of origin. As Hans explained of Henock;
Of course, he speaks the language, he knows the culture, he knows whom to reach out to. If I were to go to Ethiopia to do the same business, I would make perfect manholes, but I wouldn’t be able to sell them to anyone. Added to that, the Diaspora also have experience in the Netherlands, live here or spend time here, are knowledgeable about technology, about making a rational business plan and running an efficient business. Bringing both worlds together is a good combination.
Similarly, Cees said that with Charles’ family connections in the local community in Ghana, he has unique access to his target market.
There is no doubt that the Diaspora entrepreneurs face a steep learning curve when they start their businesses in their countries of origin. What is for sure however is that the chances of success of the respective entrepreneurs projects have been greatly enhanced due to the extra expertise given by their mentors. A debt of gratitude is most definitely owed to Cees, Hans and all the other expert mentors from PUM.