Prosperity

Economist increasing global connections and growth for the heart of North America

El Paso, Texas

Patrick meeting with the Shanghai International Shipping Institute during his fellowship to China in 2018.

An economist specializing in international trade and leading a university-based research center, Patrick Schaefer (USA/Zhi-Xing ’18) forged a partnership with China’s premier government think tank, the Shanghai International Shipping Institute. Patrick’s center — the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness at the University of Texas, El Paso — produced research for the Shipping Institute that put the bi-national Paso del Norte region (which includes Texas, New Mexico and northern regions in Mexico) on the map as a major influential trade hub that is significantly impacted by recent trade wars between China and the U.S. The data will be used by local, state and federal decision-makers who are at the helm of opening opportunities that will strengthen economic growth in the U.S. and China.

Every morning, Patrick watches the shipping containers from Chinese and other Asian companies pass by his office window on the Union Pacific rail lines. With nearly 48% of all import products arriving at the Los Angeles port coming from China, this lion’s share of goods eventually makes its way into the rest of North America by passing through the Paso del Norte region. This hub represents connection points between the U.S. and Mexico and between the east and west coasts of the U.S., and has historically been a point of convergence for many people of different backgrounds, continuing through today’s times. A border town of recent U.S. news spotlight, El Paso in particular prides itself on being a city where two different cultures, languages and ways of life can live in easeful confluence.

Maritime trade routes between Asia and the U.S.

How do these cultural lessons influence international trade agreements and relationships?

With cultural knowledge and awareness of how to effectively and respectfully approach a foreign government, Patrick came prepared to hit the ground running in China. Before arriving in China, his center produced a report that analyzed U.S.-China maritime trade flows, and had it translated into Chinese. With the Chinese version of the report in hand, Patrick successfully convinced the Shanghai International Shipping Institute to consider a partnership or agreement with his center. The result was the commissioning of a follow-up report that shows the specific effects of recent U.S.-China trade policies and tariffs.

This relationship with China brings a new dimension to his work at the university that goes beyond bi-nationalism. Patrick has not only exposed China to the importance of the Paso Del Norte region, but he has brought China to El Paso, including to the students that he works with at the university, lawmakers and government administrators. The ultimate goal is to use data to “break away from isolation” and help “distant parties to learn about each other,” according to Patrick.

Patrick piloting a vessel simulator into the Port of Hong Kong at the Shanghai Maritime University
Patrick with his China-based Program Coordinator, Li Dong

Learn more about the importance of the Paso del Norte region here through Patrick’s TED talk.

Watch Patrick in action with counterparts in Beijing and Shanghai while on his #EFjourney.

Change & Innovation, Prosperity

Financier invests for environmental and social good

San Francisco, California

Ted Levinson (USA ’14) visits an organic egg farm in Thailand, a prospective borrower.

Ted Levinson (USA ’14) specializes in pairing values-driven financiers with socially responsible businesses in emerging markets.

On Fellowship in India and Indonesia he learned that access to capital was the biggest constraint on growth for sustainable-agriculture, alternative-energy and other renewable-resource companies that generally are too large for microfinance loans but too small for development-bank financing.

From his professional background at the intersection of philanthropy and investing, Ted also knew that family foundations and donor advised funds in the U.S. sit on almost $1 trillion dollars – an ideal pool of money to tap to support international social enterprises.

To bridge the gap he created Beneficial Returns, an impact investing fund that loans money for equipment purchases to enterprises advancing the quality of life by combating poverty in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Beneficial pools capital from U.S.-based family foundations and donor-advised funds to make loans in the amount of $50,000 to $500,000.

A team from Guayaki harvest its prime ingredient, yerba mate.

Since its founding in 2017, Beneficial has loaned $1.4 million to five companies, including Guayaki, a popular U.S.-based beverage company that sources its main ingredient – yerba mate – from the Atlantic Rainforest in South America. Yerba mate is one of the world’s six most commonly used stimulants (coffee, tea, kola, cocoa, and guarana, being the others), and claims many health benefits.

Through its market-driven restoration model, Guayaki provides a powerful economic incentive for its suppliers to preserve and restore the rainforest. The model has led to the creation of hundreds of jobs in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. A loan from  Beneficial Returns helped outfit a new factory in Brazil.

Being exposed to new experiences on fellowship, said Ted, gave him the courage and international connections to quit a rewarding job at RSF Social Finance and launch Beneficial, where he works internationally and leads a small team.

By providing prospective borrowers, investors and collaborators, the Eisenhower Fellowship’s global network has been instrumental in advancing his work.

Sistema Bio produces biogas and fertilizer out of manure and farm waste.

Featured: Ted Levinson (left) and Edward Mungai (right) discuss their investments in a social enterprise in Kenya where Mungai is based.

Ted worked with Fellow Edward Mungai (Kenya ’16) to invest in a Mexican company that recently expanded into the Kenyan market with low-cost biodigesters that convert manure and farm waste into biogas and fertilizer. In Chile he partnered with Fellow Roberto Guerrero (Chile ’07) to extend Beneficial’s first loan in that country.

To learn more about Beneficial Returns, click here.

Change & Innovation, Prosperity

Revolutionizing the Nigerian agricultural sector

Nigeria

Mezuo Nwuneli  (Nigeria ’15) is co-founder and managing director of Sahel Capital, a private equity firm focused exclusively on the Nigerian agribusiness sector.  Nwuneli is a 2015 Global Fellow and explored agricultural finance, private equity and the use of technology to minimize post-harvest loss. His goal is to increase Sahel Capital’s capacity to tailor financing to small and medium sized agribusinesses and farmers.  Since his fellowship, Nwuneli has continued to work to help Nigeria reach its agricultural potential by increasing investments into businesses around Nigeria and doubling Sahel Capital’s investment funds from $33 million to $66 million in just two years.

With a population of close to 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Despite its exponential growth over the last thirty years, Nigeria continues to import a large amount of certain food products due to the predominance of small scale farming and limited access to equipment and technology.  It is against this backdrop that Nwuneli used his fellowship as an opportunity to learn different farming practices, understand private equity in the agribusiness setting and also gain access to technological trends in the industry, in an effort to make Nigerian farming more productive and spur economic growth.

As one of the five major food and agriculture private equity firms operating in Africa, Sahel capital has steadily raised its profile by tripling its investment team and investing in three additional businesses.  Nwuneli also said that the wide exposure and knowledge gained during fellowship continues to inform his work by providing a frame of reference and larger appreciation for the varying techniques and changing landscape of farming in the American market.  From visiting farms in rural America to meeting with industry leaders at an agribusiness private equity conference in New York, Nwuneli said that the breadth of perspective offered by the fellowship was vital, even where some of the information did not directly transfer to the Nigerian market.

Nwuneli also indicated, that thanks to the fellowship, he was also inspired to create Sahel Management Training, a two-year program that offers nine month internships for college graduates. The internship offers experiences with some of the top portfolio companies in Nigeria and intensive training and guidance at the head office in Lagos. Beyond these activities, Nwuneli has expanded his influence in economic policy in Nigeria through talks he has given to high level government officials and other policy makers who have sought his insight into the agribusiness sector.

Though the economic downturn of 2016 and other events have posed challenges in the Nigerian market, Nwuneli is optimistic in his ability to continue to drive growth and to achieve his ultimate goal of poverty reduction and economic development through investment in agriculture. With invaluable ideas and networks forged during his Eisenhower Fellowship, Nwuneli has maintained consistent growth of Sahel investments, which he hopes will revolutionize the Nigerian agricultural sector.

Featured: Jennifer Hashley (USA ’16) with Nwuneli in Nigeria.

 

Written by: Chioma Azi, Program Officer

Change & Innovation, Prosperity

An architect of career advancement for Rwandan women

Rwanda

Shivon Byamukama (Rwanda ’16) is deputy chief executive officer of Babylon Health Rwanda (Babyl), a digital healthcare provider headquartered in London, England. Byamukama is a 2016 Fellow from the Africa Regional Program and examined women’s leadership and capacity building in business, and sought to expand her social enterprise LegalBiz, which focused on providing women with free legal tools and guidance to help them launch successful businesses. Since fellowship, Byamukama has become a leader in women’s mentorship in the business sector.

At the time of her fellowship, Byamukama worked as the company secretary and head of corporate affairs at the Bank of Kigali, Rwanda’s largest bank. The fellowship provided her with valuable insight into how to develop leadership skills and channel them into pathways for career growth for women.  Byamukama indicated that while she had been considering making a transition in her career to pursue more senior opportunities in banking, the information gathered and connections made during fellowship gave her the passion to venture out into a new direction and seek a senior role with Babyl Health.

Rwanda is one of the top countries globally in terms of gender equality, yet women still face challenges in terms of having equal access to mentorship and leadership development opportunities that are critical to a woman’s career success and advancement according to Byamukama.  With the help of the fellowship, Byamukama created strategies that she has since implemented through programs that she is running to help women prepare and excel in their businesses and career advancement. She has expanded her women’s mentorship program and added a workshop series led by field experts.  She has also ventured into youth-related mentorship programs.

Byamukama says that the fellowship journey also reinforced the importance of network building and development. This concept forms a key part of her work not just as deputy chief executive officer but as a leading architect of women’s career empowerment in Kigali. Byamukama continues to collaborate with her fellow Fellows to enhance her own knowledge base of tech and its interweaving into the health sector.  She remains excited about the opportunity to go global with Babyl and is well positioned to help Rwandan women reach new heights.

byamukama

 

Written by: Chioma Azi, Program Officer

Change & Innovation, Prosperity

Tech entrepreneur drives social impact

Sri Lanka

Harsha Purasinghe (Sri Lanka ’14)

As a young technology-focused entrepreneur, Harsha Purasinghe was instrumental in initiating and leading a unique social innovation in the aftermath of an Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.  He developed “DEWN – Disaster & Emergency Warning Network” in collaboration with Dialog Axiata – Sri Lanka’s leading mobile operator. At present, it is being used by the government of Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center for mass dispatch of disaster and emergency warning messages through multiple technology channels to alert citizens via text message.

His commercial software venture Microimage HCM is a leader in Digital HR technology. He intends to take the product to global market towards becoming the leader in Mid-Market Human Capital Management. He also led the company to build broadcast automation solutions which is used in Sri Lanka and some of the regional media networks.

And though he had already made major contributions to the field of technology commercially, he wanted to expand his personal interest towards driving social impact. After returning home from his fellowship, he brainstormed ideas with like-minded friends who are working towards creating the social impact ecosystem in the country. Eventually he appeared as an impact investor in a reality TV show for social entrepreneurs. The TV show enabled him to educate the broader public on the concept of social entrepreneurship while giving potential entrepreneurs a chance to access seed funding.

In addition, he partnered with Nathan Sivagananathan (Sri Lanka ’15) on the recent launch of a Colombo-based accelerator hub that will house 700 seats. A portion of the seats will be dedicated to entrepreneurs who are designing businesses that have a positive financial, environmental and social impact. He is exploring further partnerships with Fellows especially in the Asia Pacific region, in addition to Fellows in his home country of Sri Lanka.

Listen here to learn about his many endeavors.

harsha purasinghe