Diaspora Entrepreneurs & Innovators

Successful entrepreneurs share their advice for growing a business at the African Diaspora Marketplace
Successful entrepreneurs share their advice for growing a business at the African Diaspora Marketplace.

Diaspora entrepreneurs and innovators are creating economic opportunities and breakthroughs that address development challenges in their countries of origin. 

USAID engages with entrepreneurs, scientists and researchers from diaspora communities to source and scale solutions to key development issues. 

Diaspora entrepreneurs are gearing investments toward their countries of origins and in America. In 2011, immigrants in the U.S. started over 28 percent of new businesses. Also, immigrant-owned businesses generated an estimated $67 billion in U.S. business income.  And immigrants are 30 percent more likely to form new businesses than U.S.‐born citizens.

Many successful Diaspora entrepreneurs take the skills and knowledge they have gained back to their countries of origin to start new businesses and improve local markets. In particular, Diaspora entrepreneurs have greatly contributed to reconstruction and economic development in fragile and post-conflict countries. 

Scientific and technological innovations are a crucial pillar for finding new solutions to health, environmental and development challenges. Many aspiring scientists come to the U.S. from abroad for higher education and research opportunities. The contribution of these innovators to science and research in America is immense as nearly 32 percent of all U.S. Nobel Laureates are foreign born. 

Diasporan scientists and researchers have long been among the most influential innovators and change makers in their countries of origin. Diaspora innovators share their skills and knowledge to build scientific communities in their countries of origin and create appropriate technologies that meet local needs. 

USAID works with Diaspora entrepreneurs and innovators in a number of ways:

  • Through the African Diaspora Marketplace, Latin America Idea Marketplace and Caribbean IdEA competitions, USAID is promoting sustainable economic growth by supporting diaspora-linked businesses abroad with funding, mentorship and technical assistance.
  • USAID's Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) tests and scales cost-effective, evidence-based, and promising new approaches to development issues by social enterprises and other organizations. 
  • The Global Development Alliance (GDA) leverages the expertise and resources of businesses, nonprofits, universities and other private sector organizations and USAID to achieve lasting development outcomes. 
  • Spurring open innovation through global competitions such as Grand Challenges for Development that focus on issues such as maternal and newborn health, clean energy, agriculture, literacy and governance.  
  • Supporting transformational and collaborative research in developing countries through initiatives such as the Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER). 
  • In partnership with U.S. National Science Foundation, USAID’s Research and Innovation Fellowships place promising talent from U.S. institutions with hosts in seven pilot developing countries to help address major development issues and engage in cutting-edge research, while building host institution capacity. USAID plans to expand the scope, countries, and pool of fellows eligible for the program in the near future.

Examples of USAID's work with Diasporas:

  • Sproxil, provides a mobile-phone verification service to fight drug counterfeiting and authenticate a wide range of products. This U.S.-based and African diaspora-founded company is currently protecting millions of consumers in five countries with support from the African Development Marketplace. In 2013, Sproxil was recognized by Fast Company as one of the most innovative businesses of the year.  
  • Gram Power, a start-up has received support from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program to provide electricity to villages in rural India that lack access to power through a network of 'Smart Grids' that aim to connect 30,000 people with reliable energy.
  • In Indonesia, the PEER program is supporting local and U.S. researchers to identify the effects of climate change on the marine environment. 
  • USAID in partnership with Al-Mubadarah Arab Empowerment Initiative, Cisco, UN Foundation and other partners launched the MENA + Social Good ‘virtual’ global summit on the role of the Internet, social media and technology in shaping the Middle East region.

Please contact us for more information.

Last updated: June 27, 2014

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