Business Opportunities in Africa from The Netherlands


MAKING Africa Work & GBT


Over the years there have been various subsidized opportunities to start a project, work or even a micro-business for African Diasporans in their original home country in Africa.
I came across some of these initiatives when posted to the Netherlands Embassy in Ethiopia and Ghana between 1996 and 2005 and noted their highly varying success.

More recently, this and last year, I was notified of two highly attractive and well set up ventures ‘Making Africa Work’ and ‘GBT – Growing Business Together’. After attending a session at each of these two programs, I was convinced that my column could also assist in well-deserved promotion.

Africa’s brain drain and growth market

Every year in Africa, the numbers of young people joining the labour market outstrip the number of jobs available. As a result, unemployment is growing; a development that promotes migration. One way of reducing this migratory pressure is to encourage entrepreneurship, since new businesses generate new jobs. Dutch companies can make a contribution because Africa is an attractive growth market with huge potential. In the expansion phase of their business, however, it is unfortunately often difficult for entrepreneurs to make the shift to the African continent. Making Africa Work can help them, with its local contacts and expertise.

Making Africa Work –

Making Africa Work is a Netherlands Government funded program for entrepreneurs in the Netherlands who have a viable business plan for Africa, and who do not meet the criteria for other government funded programs aimed at doing business in Africa. It is run by PUM Senior Netherlands Experts ( and its main partner Africa in Motion ( The program supports entrepreneurs on an individual level, involves the migrant community in the Netherlands, as well as partner networks in the Netherlands and Africa, and aims to deliver 40 bankable business plans by the end of 2017. The program supports entrepreneurs in the Netherlands who have innovative business ideas for Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Sierra Leone or Rwanda.

Making Africa Work’s ambitious aim is by 2018 to have:

• Supported at least 75 entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas for Africa
• Coached at least 50 entrepreneurs to develop their business idea into a business plan
• Delivered at least 40 bankable business plans, ready for investment.

If the business plans delivered at the end of the year prove to be catalysers for investment, business growth and jobs, the project can be scaled up, with the intention to join forces with similar initiatives.

Making Africa Work is aimed both at African migrants and students wishing to start up a business in their country of origin, and Dutch entrepreneurs who see Africa as a growth market, and are looking for partners. Johan van de Gronden, CEO of PUM Netherlands Senior Experts explains “Matching migrants and Dutch businesses with promising African companies is a modern form of essential development aid. By offering coaching, combining market research and drawing up sound business plans, the programme will promote employment opportunities as well as business opportunities in Africa”. Making Africa Work is a one-year pilot project based on experience accrued by Africa in Motion, which in the past matched a.o. a Rwandan migrant and a Dutch dairy farmer, who have since established a successful collaborative venture in Rwanda.

PUM has been an important player in the field of sustainable development since 1978, when it was founded by the former Dutch employers’ federation NCW (now VNO-NCW) in partnership with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With thousands of experienced and independent experts in key sectors of the economy it is the largest private-to-private, volunteer development agency of the Netherlands providing professional assistance from entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs in developing countries. By sharing knowledge and expertise, PUM improves revenues and profits of entrepreneurs worldwide, facilitating investments and opening up opportunities to create jobs. In 38 years, PUM has supported over 40,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries by providing tailor-made advice through short-term and follow-up knowledge sharing missions.

AIM has been initiated in 2010 by African migrants from different countries in the Netherlands. AIM’s goal is increasing the impact of the African Diaspora on the sustainable, economic development of their countries of origin. AIM is connected to migrants from 18 African countries in the Netherlands, through national umbrella organizations, student associations, African women associations and representatives of embassies. AIM develops innovative business models allowing migrants entrepreneurs to step into partnership with Dutch SMEs or knowledge institutions, in order to improve the quality and the sustainability of their products or services in Africa. AIM also maximizes the communication skills of migrant entrepreneurs by providing them with intercultural communication trainings and coaching. AIM offers innovative research opportunities for Dutch and African students from universities and high schools. AIM collaborates with the University of Wageningen, TU Delft, HAN (High school Arnhem Nijmegen) and different universities in Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and Malawi.

GBT – Growing Business Together

Growing Business Together (GBT) is an accelerator program initiated by the Dutch Embassy in Ghana and executed by iMPACT Booster. It has been set up to help start-ups in Ghana to overcome major hurdles. When you are a starting entrepreneur you do not yet have the track record and network to attract large customers or to convince a bank to lend you the money for the investments you require. You may need more knowledge to figure out the best marketing strategy, build your financial model, or organize your distribution.

In Accra, an annual ten-month GBT Coaching Program for 20 starting entrepreneurs is organized as well as a more intensive GBT Academy for another 20 entrepreneurs and a GBT Startup Investment Conference to connect Ghanaian startups to investors. In the Netherlands, we organize a 5-day intense GBT Business Booster.

GBT will realize to:

• Promote entrepreneurship among Ghanaians, in Ghana and in the Netherlands
• Boost startups to accelerate through the start-up and early-growth phase
• Improve access to finance for start-ups
• the start-up ecosystem in Ghana

Growing Business Together (GBT) is a two-year project funded by the Dutch Government to support Ghanaian startups in Ghana and the Netherlands. The project seeks to encourage entrepreneurs from the Ghanaian diaspora in the Netherlands to start a business in Ghana and entrepreneurs between the ages 18-35 in Ghana who started a business in the last 3 years, to grow their business.

This program aims to reach a wide group of young entrepreneurs through various activities to promote and support young entrepreneurship in Ghana and the Netherlands: Activities under the program include a five-day Business Booster for the Ghanaian diaspora in the Netherlands and in Ghana, GBT Business Coaches Program, GBT Ghana Netherlands Business Academy and The Ghana-Netherlands Start-up Investment Conference.

GBT’s Mission – Why are we doing this?

Ghana has many entrepreneurs, but too few businesses. Our mission is to empower Ghanaian entrepreneurs in Ghana and the Netherlands to create sustainable businesses by matching them to investors and creating new business opportunities for them.
GBT’s Vision – What we want to achieve?

Create positive impact through entrepreneurship; Create and open social business and financial networks to improve access to finance; improve and enhance interaction between Ghanaian entrepreneurs, Dutch business and the Dutch and Ghanaian government; Increase the awareness and knowledge among Ghanaians and the Ghanaian diaspora in the Netherlands; Improve the Ghanaian start-up eco-system


I attended the Official Kick-off event for partners and stakeholders and noted how Making Africa Work, implemented by PUM and AIM, and supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as involving other relevant organizations is a combined effort that will guarantee success.

I also attended the ‘Growing Business Together’ Pitch Event, where I admired the enthusiasm and drive of mostly young Ghanaians living in the Netherlands to present innovative and high potential business ventures. The program, supported a.o. by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency was expertly moderated by the versatile Augustina Austin and attended by many Ghanaian Young Professionals.

*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on