(Photo: Courtesy Eric V. Guichard)
It’s nothing new. Business has been booming across Africa. However, in recent years, savvy business people have begun finding ways to ensure that African economic power continues to benefit Africans. BET.com talked to Eric-Vincent Guichard, the founder and CEO of Africa-based investment platform Homestrings, about his firm’s bid to help Africans develop Africa and his vision for the future of the continent.
BET.com: What inspired you to start Homestrings?
Eric-Vincent Guichard: Well I think it all starts with who I am and where I’m from. My mother is from Brooklyn, New York. My father is from Guinea-Conakry in West Africa. I grew up in West Africa, spent 20 years there, went to school in Senegal, and then finished up college and grad school in the U.S. before working at the World Bank for six years. So the combination of those experiences always had me keeping an eye on what was going on in Africa.
I learned that there are 23 million Africans living outside of the continent about a third of whom are professionals, upper middle class, and I bumped into a study that showed more than 80 percent of Africans living in the U.S. said that they wanted to invest back home. So the path to Homestrings was already set in the combination of those key factors.
After you got things off the ground, was it difficult to get investors on board?
Not at all. I got a lot of support from the Diaspora, from the African Diaspora and from non-Diaspora who felt that we were creating a paradigm shift. We were introducing a whole new source of finance for development. Maybe we were creating a bridge that didn’t exist before for the Diasporas to not only participate in the financing of growth but also use Homestrings as wealth building tool. Our returns last year alone, our maiden year, was about a 20 percent return. So clearly they saw something above and beyond what I saw and they are quite supportive and we’re very appreciative. We’re very grateful.
How do you feel about Africa’s “growth story” right now?
It is powerful. It is sustainable. It is anchored in really, really strong macroeconomics. It is also anchored in exponentially growing middle class at about 300 million people. It is a completely different story from what the press is reporting and it is transformative. You simply have to be on the ground to see that there is a significant disparity between what the Western press is reporting and what is going on, on the ground.
When your children are adults, what kind of Guinea will they visit?
Let’s just say that within 10 to 15 years, even 20 years, when they visit Guinea they will see a transformed country that has a booming middle class. They’ll see the existence of an interstate highway system where they can take a bus, a train, or fly to any urban points in West Africa or in Africa for that matter. They will be able to consume African produced goods both in agriculture as well as electronics and other manufactured goods with African brands that are not only continental with continental reputation but also in global reputations and so they will live in a completely different world. Africa will have gone through this same kind of perception transition that Asia went through in the '70s and '80s … I think Africa is at the cusp of that.
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