Meeting and greeting the world's young business minds

Global Entrepreneurship Summit unites the universal business spirit with investors seeking to better the world.

    Obama on a TV screen as he delivers an address at Stanford University on Friday [Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]
    Obama on a TV screen as he delivers an address at Stanford University on Friday [Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

    Palo Alto, United States - The US government initiative to unite young entrepreneurs from around the globe with socially conscious investors wrapped up on Friday with a key note address by President Barack Obama.

    More than 1,000 particpants from 170 countries took part in the three-day Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in lively workshops, business seminars, and frenzied networking sessions in California's Silicon Valley.

    The focus of the gathering was young people - especially women - from underdeveloped areas in the world to build businesses that better the lives of those willing to take a risk on their ideas - and those willing to back them with capital.

    It was the seventh and last GES of the Obama administration after the president launched the initiative in 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.

    Obama told a crowd more than 17,000 young businesspeople had been assisted by the GES over the years. "The point is I believe in you and America believes in you," Obama said at Stanford University.

    Meet some of those involved in this year's summit.

    Michael Amankwa, Founder and CEO of banking software company Corenett - Ghana

    We offer a product that is optimised for the African market and tailored to people living on $2 a day.

    We use technology that allows anyone with a basic phone to access banking services. You don't need to have a smart phone, you just need a $10 or $20 phone to have access to financial sector services. It could be loans, people on $2 a day could get loans of $1.

    When we alleviate poverty, we're going to make some money. Africa now has about 1.1 billion people and I want to bank every African. So I'm looking for partners to work with us on this journey to help raise the standard of living for every African. When I say bank every African I mean they should have access to financial services. They need to have a savings account, they need to have an investment account, they need access to micro-insurance, which could be health, death, and accident insurance.

    Providing financial services to more than a billion people requires a lot of critical partners, very strategic partners that include not just technology partners but also investors and the like, and it's going to take a lot of money to make this happen. If you're going to give out loans to half a billion people or a billion people, you're going to need the money first to give it out. So that is why we're here.

    Shelley Reys, CEO, Arrilla Indigenous Consultants & Services - Australia

    I have had a business for 24 years now working in the area of indigenous space. It's a successful company that helps organisations become culturally fit, and what I mean by that is to work in indigenous space more effectively. Most organisations in Australia don't know how to do that.

    They're saying the wrong words or using the wrong terms, being inappropriate, perhaps even racist. They start to walk on egg shells. So the way I describe my work is I remove the egg shells.

    I give organisations the skills they need to work in the indigenous space more effectively. It helps them to remain competitive, win contracts, and this affects their bottom line in various ways.

    My mission overall is to create a culture of competent Australia where every single person in the Australian workforce knows how to work with indigenous Australians effectively, and to reach their goals and aspirations.

    Jason Best, Co-founder and Principal of Crowdfund Capital Advisers – United States

    We are an advisory firm that does three things: We provide advice to government and financial regulators on how to set up online financial solutions, like crowdfunding for equity and debt. Number two we work with the infrastructure companies with crowdfunding platforms to make them successful. And three, we invest in the infrastructure of the companies themselves.

    The angle with the young entrepreneurs is about enabling crowdfunding. In a country you open up the opportunity for more entrepreneurs to build businesses.

    And so our job is to prepare the table, so to speak. So we train the entrepreneurs about how to raise money. We provide education classes to entrepreneurs and say here is the roadmap for how to be successful in equity and debt crowdfunding.

    María Cecilia Ribecco, Founder of RAISE, Community of Female Entrepreneurs - Argentina

    Our organisation was launched in 2013. We provide vocational and professional tools for women who are interested in working as a way of achieving economic independence for poverty reduction.

    It's been really difficult for me and my country to be an entrepreneur. I started as a teacher and one day I said I need to do something for women.

    This summit is really necessary for countries that have many problems with equity and education like Argentina. The US government really wants to make a different world for us, that's why they sponsor this.

    We are all going home with a spirit of change. We're going to return with impactful ideas to improve our society. It's really important that so many countries participate in this summit. We are really different but also so similar in many ways, especially the women. Now I have strong support networks to go ahead with my ideas.

    Eugene Kavishe, Managing Director of VonKavy Agro - Tanzania

    I come from Morogoro and my company VonKavy deals with poultry and eggs. What we are trying to do is upscale the business and increase production of the eggs and meat.

    We are starting a new programme of trying to reach farmers - providing them with quality breeds, providing them with education, knowledge, and skills on how to increase poultry production, and then selling that to the local community together.

    I applied to the GES summit and I was one of the 700 out of 5,000 selected to attend. Previously, in 2004, I was chosen to be one of the Mandela Washington Fellows, that's a President Obama initiative as well for young African leaders.

    For me being at the GES is an eye-opener. It's a networking opportunity and a learning opportunity. I have made a lot of networks from the meetings that are happening now in the Silicon Valley. I believe this is an asset that I will use - one way or another - to improve my business.

    Constance Swaniker, Founder of Accents and Art Limited - Ghana

    My company is involved in the fabrication of metal products for the past 16 years. We do high-end artisanal work, a lot of branded hotels coming into town, luxury homes. The few staff we have are road-side artisans or master-craftsmen who learned the trade from their grandfathers.

    Immediately I fell in love with the industry. I employ 14 artisans, welders, and carpenters.

    When I entered, there were not many women working with metal. Traditionally as a woman, you're not allowed to work with heat, or any male-dominated trade for the matter. So it was a tough industry to break into. But what worked for me was I had a strong design background and exposure and knew what the market was looking for. All of a sudden Africa was opening up, a lot of people were returning, people with refined tastes.

    But there's a problem with our skill base, Africa has a huge deficit for high-level skills. This all stems from the educational system. You have a lot of wasted talent. A few years ago I opened up my workshop to a few universities and polytechniques and we work closely now. So I set up the first artisan design school in Ghana, but this is something I don't want to begin and end there. This is something I want to transcend the whole continent.

    For me the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is amazing. The most powerful thing is the networks. You are meeting people that you would never have imagined. If we're thinking global entrepreneurship and global business, you need to have the right connections.

    Entrepreneurship now transcends borders, it's about transformational skill that designs something that impacts millions of lives.

    The challenge is how do you make education available to that little boy in the village somewhere who wants to upgrade his skills, because you know that will take him out of the poverty line.

     New wave of Silicon Valley start-ups give back to community

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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