Each year 500 young African leaders come to the United States for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a competitive program launched by President Obama in 2010. This year, the University of Nevada, Reno hosted its first group of 25 entrepreneurs from countries across the continent. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey sat down with two of these fellows to talk about their ventures.
Tinotendaishe Frampton Gambahaya is from Zimbabwe and runs his own micro-financing business called Frampton's PowerCard. Gambahaya said the goal of his credit card is to provide lower interest financing for Zimbabweans in need of basic goods and services.
"We believe as an organization that we're giving the power to transform their economic destiny whichever way they want to use the money that we give them," he says. "Whether that be to finance a small business, whether it be to finance their college degree, or just to buy something like a cell phone."
Fatoumata Binta Baldé works in logistics and has her own nonprofit called the Be In Touch with Africa Foundation, or B.IN.T.A. Like Gambahaya, she says the most difficult part of operating a business or nonprofit in her home country of Guinea, in West Africa, is raising capital.
"The main challenge that I face for the foundation is having people who want to invest (and) who want fund me," she says. "Because everyone is struggling for their own families, they have to feed their own families and put their children in school."
To meet Binta, Tino and some of the other fellows, the public is invited to attend an informal forum called "Meet Africa" Thursday, July 23, from noon to 3 p.m. at The Honor Court on UNR's campus. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions about the participants and their businesses.