Access to finance for migrant entrepreneurs: sharing strategies for success

From 3-4 April, over 70 participants came together in Barcelona for a workshop on access to finance in migrant entrepreneurship support, jointly organised by two European Consortia: M-UP and MAGNET – Migrant Acceleration for Growth Network. Youth Business International (YBI) is proud to be a founding partner in the M-UP initiative – The Network for Migrant Entrepreneurs to Scale Up and Grow.

The event brought together a variety of participants to collaborate on needs and barriers in migrant entrepreneurship, in particular in access to finance. Alongside representatives from the migrant community, there were attendees from organisations supporting migrant entrepreneurs, as well as policy makers working to improve the business environment.

There was plenty of opportunity for networking with the other attendees; to share ideas and experiences and explore opportunities for future collaboration to collectively further support for migrant entrepreneurs. The event highlighted a joint understanding of the importance of supporting migrant entrepreneurs for economic development, social cohesion and community integration.

Highlights of day 1

Hosting us in the Centre Cívic Can Deu for this joint workshop was fellow M-UP member, Autoocupació (part of YBI’s member Youth Business Spain). We were welcomed to the event by representatives from both M-UP and MAGNET, followed by Mercè Garau, Director at the Catalan Employment Service, who highlighted the social and economic benefits of migrant entrepreneurship:

“Successful entrepreneurs can become leaders and role models in their communities… Business creation and entrepreneurship is one of the main engines of development.”

The varied sessions began with a keynote speech from Klaas Molenaar from The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Klaas encouraged participants to think about what we don’t see and acknowledge blind spots in our understanding of support for migrant entrepreneurs. Challenging our assumptions and misconceptions, he reinforced the importance of considering not only migrant entrepreneurs’ financial capital, but also social and human capital (cleverly represented by three apples).

Jörg Schoolmann, Director of Development at KIZ Sinnova next provided key findings from his research on the financial needs of migrant entrepreneurs in Germany and Spain. In comparing these results, he shared why these two countries’ results differed, with context, background, mentality and cultural settings being key reasons, as there can be many different challenges in each country.

We were then fortunate enough to hear from five migrant entrepreneurs themselves, who shared their motivational stories and explained how they came to be successful entrepreneurs in Spain. One of these entrepreneurs, Ousman Uman, originally from Ghana and founder of Nasco Feeding Minds, described his enterprise that provides access to digital education and computer equipment for children and young people in Ghana – empowering them to gain skills and employment in their home communities.

The afternoon session was a comprehensive policy panel discussion focusing on the perspectives of migrant entrepreneurship support across different European contexts as well as difficulties and opportunities in accessing financial assistance. Facilitated by Dr Daniela Bobeva, the participants shared their perspectives on financing, from challenges to opportunities available in the sector. All agreed that a holistic approach to policy-making in migrant entrepreneurship support is necessary to incorporate social as well as economic rights.

Highlights of day 2

The second day started with Ewa Bankowska of the Microfinance Centre introducing a plenary session followed by interactive group discussions on experiences in access to finance. Group leads were representatives from both sides of the two consortia and each generated engaging and insightful discussions with the other participants while sharing their approaches and learning from other organisations’ interventions.

Workshop group discussions

There was then a session facilitated by Klaas Molenaar covering current FinTech solutions for migrant entrepreneurs and how these can leverage access to finance for migrant entrepreneurs. Examples included Adie’s (YBI and M-UP member in France) brilliant chat bot functionality, ACAF Winkomun’s app that supports migrants and refugees, EthicHub’s blockchain technology for crowdlending and an overview of current FinTech services by the Microfinance Centre. It was concluded that FinTech may be able to provide solutions where traditional approaches are not suitable, however, there are currently relatively few microfinance solutions available specifically for migrants.

The Barcelona Declaration

The final session of the day and the workshop was a collaboration and ideation exercise in order to come up with ideas for a manifesto for migrant entrepreneurs. As well as the event’s focus on access to finance, areas of discussion included digital, regulation, social networks and capacity building approaches. One participant said that “we need better representation of migrants in the public sector and better education in general”. Another noted “increasing transparency across regulation would make things easier for migrants”.

Using the outcomes of these discussions, The Barcelona Declaration will be created – a manifesto for migrant entrepreneurship that will incorporate one of the main outcomes of this event; that a holistic approach is needed for access to finance in migrant entrepreneurship. Stay tuned to hear more about this!

Guillem Aris of Autoocupació said of the event:

“It was amazing to work together with such an incredible pool of experts and organisations sharing best practices and building recommendations on improving access to finance for migrant entrepreneurs in Europe”.

M-UP (The Network for Migrant Entrepreneurs to Scale Up and Grow), funded by the European Union’s COSME Programme, brings together expert organisations from across Europe to help migrants navigate the challenges of turning their existing microbusiness into a successful small to medium sized enterprise (SME). Visit the website to learn more.

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