U.S. program connects, empowers entrepreneurs of African descent

Bellamore Ndayikeze speaking at lectern (© World Learning)
Bellamore Ndayikeze speaks about her perspective as an African leader. (© World Learning)

Bellamore Ndayikeze, an Australian with Burundian heritage, says the 10 days she spent recently in the United States showed her that despite the discrimination they face worldwide, people of African descent can still prosper.

“To see the people who’ve done it in this country is truly inspiring,” Ndayikeze said. “With that comes greatness, and I realized that we are so powerful. We are a manifestation of what wealth could be like if we took what we are doing to the next level.”

Ndayikeze, 27, is founder and chief executive of BN Collective, a social impact company that primarily helps Australians of African descent reach their full potential.

She was among almost 100 people selected for the State Department’s African Descendant Social Entrepreneurship Exchange, which connects and empowers people within the African diaspora. The inaugural program welcomed participants from 27 countries.

The exchange kicked off with a three-day workshop in Baltimore, where participants connected with Americans involved in social entrepreneurship who work with African descendant communities around the world.

From there, participants broke into two groups, one spending a week in Atlanta and the other in New Orleans — two cities with vibrant African descendant populations. Besides learning about the cities’ histories and current realities for African Americans, participants visited cultural centers and community entrepreneurship programs.

The groups reconnected in Los Angeles, where they met city government officials and planned next steps, including future networking.

Monique Rodrigues do Prado standing at lectern next to large sign for entrepreneurship workshop (Courtesy of Monique Rodrigues do Prado)
Monique Rodrigues do Prado (Courtesy of Monique Rodrigues do Prado)

Monique Rodrigues do Prado, 31, an attorney who advocates for Black people in Brazil, came away from the exchange seeing herself as part of a collective.

“We are doing things individually or with our community,” she said. “So I have to respect somebody different from me. We are still Black. We are still of African descent.”

The networking forums aimed to:

“As we confront our history and lingering inequalities, we stand united with the international community in our determination to build a better and more equitable future based upon respect and appreciation for the unique contributions all peoples and cultures make to strengthen the world,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. representative to the United Nations.