Emerging African Leaders: Entrepreneurship and Business Development – A Regional Project for Africa

2017 participant Muhammad Sanyang posing next to a pick-up truck from "Johnny's Truck Farm" before volunteering with the Cultiva Project of Growing Gardens in Boulder, Colorado

On June 3, 2017 Meridian International Center welcomed 23 emerging leaders from Africa and Haiti for a three week long International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) that was centered on entrepreneurship and business development. Through this program the participants were able to observe the effectiveness of the business sector in creating jobs and alleviating poverty; examine the legal and regulatory systems that allow entrepreneurs to flourish; and discuss societal barriers - especially for women and disadvantaged groups - facing entrepreneurs and innovations to overcome them. The participants convened in Washington, DC before travelling together to Chicago, IL. From Chicago, the visitors were split into three groups that traveled to Salt Lake City, UT; Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM; and Denver and Boulder, CO. They all reconvened in Portland, OR to officially close out the program on June 24th.

While in Washington, the group had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Jeff Reid, Founding Director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, to discuss small business management and entrepreneurship in the U.S. with students involved in the StartupHoyas Summer Launch Program. The Leaders were also given an introduction to the U.S. federalist system of government, a briefing on issues of trade between the U.S. and African Nations, and an examination of legislative efforts to promote small business growth by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Before departing for Chicago, the visitors met with representatives from the State Department and 1776, a small business incubator that houses startups and supports them with information, mentors, and resources.

In Chicago, the participants took part in a marketing and communication skills workshop led by Ms. Laurie R. Glenn, Founder, President, and CEO of Think Inc., a non-profit organization that links individuals with some of the most thought-provoking leaders in the world.  Future Founders demonstrated a useful model of connecting youth with mentors to help build a toolkit of entrepreneurial skills. The Chicago International Trade Commissioners Association and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce provided extensive information on trade from the perspective of the United States. After having the opportunity to share a meal with an American family, the visitors set off to their respective city-splits.

In each of the cities the visitors had a chance to partake in a volunteer opportunity, which involved plowing fields in Tesuque Pueblo Farm, New Mexico; cleaning the kitchen at the Spice Kitchen Incubator, an economic empowerment program for newly resettle refugees operated by the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, Utah; and maintaining a community garden at Growing Gardens in Boulder, Colorado. Other highlights for the groups included meeting with the Women’s Bean Project, a social enterprise dedicated to helping women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment by putting homeless women to work.; ARCA Organics, a small farm business venture of ARCA that employs individuals with developmental disabilities and raises funds through the sale of organic products; and Kaddas Enterprises, a family owned operation specializing in Thermoform plastic manufacturing. After several days of programming, the visitors all reconvened in Portland.

In Portland, Mr. Jon Blumenauer, CEO of the furniture repair and refurbishing company The Joinery to hear his tale of commitment and dedication growing a one-man business into a healthy company employing over 30 employees. Mr. Juan Barraza, Program Manager for the Center for Entrepreneurship at Portland State University shared information about local and global partnerships to build entrepreneurial impact-focused leaders and catalyze social innovation. Staff from Oregon's Kitchen Table and the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network offered sound advice on local business mechanisms for community development. Following a program closing with the State Department and the program team from Meridian, the participants departed the country to travel home and apply what they'd learned to their respective organizations.


U.S. Department of State
International Visitor Leadership Program, U.S. Department of State

Project summary

Emerging African Leaders: Entrepreneurship and Business Development – A Regional Project for Africa | June 2017
Number of Visitors: 23
Regions: Africa, Western Hemisphere
Countries: Algeria, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Congo - Kinshasa, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Mauritius, Niger, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe
Impact Areas: Entrepreneurship
Program Areas: Global Leadership
Partners: NGOs, Public Sector, Private Sector