About author: My name is Ousman Umar, originally from Ghana and currently a migrant entrepreneur in the field of education and IT in my country but developing the project and raising funds from Barcelona.
In April this year, I travelled to Barcelona to join 70 other participants, including migrants, refugees and representatives from universities, governmental bodies and NGOs for the 2-day workshop. As a migrant entrepreneur doing business in Ghana for seven years, I was excited to attend the workshop on Access to Finance for Migrant Entrepreneurs, which was organised by M-UP and MAGNET (Migrant Acceleration for Growth Network) and hosted by Autoocupació, an M-UP member.
Since I established my association in 2012, access to finance has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to overcome. For migrant entrepreneurs entering a new labour market, in a new country, possibly with a language that is unfamiliar, accessing finance to start a business can seem like an impossible task.-
On the first day, it was great to hear from Mercè Garau, Director of the Catalan Employment Service. She said: “Successful entrepreneurs can become leaders and role models in their communities… Business creation and entrepreneurship is one of the main engines of development”. I agree that given the opportunity, migrant and refugee entrepreneurs can make huge contributions to their new communities. In fact, in University of Oxford Professor, Alexander Betts’, 2014 study it was found that the presence of refugees boosts local economies as a result of the additional purchasing power, creation of employment and human capital.
Financial, social and human capital
Jörg Schoolmann, Director of Development at KIZ Sinnova, an M-UP member in Germany, outlined his research on the financial needs of migrant entrepreneurs in Germany and Spain. He found that challenges of context, background, mentality and culture all differ from one country to the other.
Klaas Molenaar, from the Hague University of Applied Sciences, explained the importance of not only considering financial capital, but also social and human capital. I found this important as it helps to understand the different sides of migrant entrepreneurship.
Afterwards, a storytelling session ensued, in which five migrant entrepreneurs, including myself, shared our experiences of starting and growing our businesses. I shared how I founded NASCO Feeding Minds, which provides access to digital education and computer equipment for children and young people in Ghana. My goal is to empower youth with the skills to gain employment in their home country. Our challenge is to increase the number of members and donors of our association to strengthen and expand the project in Ghana.
We ended the day with policy discussions focusing on migrant entrepreneurship in different European countries. I appreciated that the workshop highlighted the positive effects of supporting migrant entrepreneurs on the economy and social wellbeing of society, within cohesion and integration for example.
The insightful discussions continued the next day, kicked off by Klaas Molenaar, who covered the current FinTech (Financial technology) solutions available for migrant entrepreneurs and how they can help in access to finance. He used the example of Adie, an M-UP member in France. They developed a brilliant chat bot functionality, while ACAF Winkomun’s app supports migrants and refugees, and EthicHub’s blockchain technology for crowd-lending. We concluded that FinTech can provide solutions where traditional accesses to finance methods are not available/suitable.
The Barcelona Declaration
The workshop was concluded with brainstorming session to contribute to a manifesto for migrant entrepreneurs. It was really beneficial as we gathered the ideas of the two days and managed to write the Barcelona Declaration, which concludes that a holistic approach is needed for better access to finance for migrant entrepreneurs.