November 16 – 22, 2020
Today we celebrate the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week and take a moment to recognize the powerful role entrepreneurs play in lifting lives, strengthening communities, and accelerating self-reliance through market-based solutions. At the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), we recognize the power of entrepreneurship to fuel innovation and solve global development problems. Entrepreneurs bring creativity and ingenuity to address challenges faced by their local communities. By investing in breakthrough innovations based on rigorous evidence and fueled by risk-taking entrepreneurship, USAID can improve millions of lives, at a fraction of the usual cost, while helping build capacity and self-reliance in the countries and communities where we work.
Over the years, USAID also has worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses through open innovation approaches that encourage new ideas to come from anyone, anytime, anywhere. Initiatives such as Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), Grand Challenges, prizes, and pay-for-performance awards crowdsource new solutions, develop partnerships with entrepreneurs, and bring cutting-edge thinking into every element of USAID’s work. In 10 years, DIV has funded 225 innovations in 47 countries and improved the lives of millions. Since 2011, USAID-funded Grand Challenges have financed 587 solutions from 107 countries.
One example of how this type of investment can empower entrepreneurs is a start-up energy company Fenix, which, after receiving initial funding from USAID, consolidated its operations, solidified its business model, and planned for expansion into new countries. Acquired by ENGIE in 2018, Fenix now delivers clean, affordable energy to three million people across six countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In South America, Instituto Terroa, a social start-up funded through the Better Together / JuntosEsMejor Challenge, is expanding its entrepreneurial and technical-training programs to help young Venezuelan refugees work with young Brazilian social innovators to launch businesses that help create socially-motivated, positive outcomes in the community. Investing in organizations that support local entrepreneurs is just one way the Challenge aims to help scale innovative solutions to the Venezuela regional crisis.
USAID is also connecting entrepreneurs to higher-education institutions and policy-makers through our partnerships with seven world-class universities. The Ashesi Venture Incubator (AVI) and fellowship, developed by Ashesi University in Ghana and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology D-Lab, is one of them. AVI equips emerging, socially minded entrepreneurs to build hybrid business ventures that also address global development challenges. Dzifa Anagblah, Chief Executive Officer of affordable-fashion company Safi Label and an AVI Fellow, expanded her team and obtained a production facility during her participation in the program.
Entrepreneurs drive economic growth, create jobs, and fuel economies critical to building resilient and self-reliant communities. By supporting entrepreneurs and their innovative spirit, we amplify their impact and allow them to scale up their creative solutions in a way that positively changes the communities they serve.