Professor Jākobsone Bellomi Launches "She Rebuilds the World" Project
Ieva Jākobsone Bellomi, a management professor in JCU’s Frank J. Guarini School of Business, recently returned from Namibia and Zambia, where on October 18, 2022, she launched the first ever Latvian development cooperation project in Africa. The lead of the project is the Latvian diaspora organization #esiLV, of which Professor Jākobsone Bellomi is a founder and board member. The extensive two-year project is financed by the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the scope of the Latvian development cooperation foreign policies framework, and implemented in cooperation with the Riga Business School, the Namibian Embassy in Helsinki, the Zambian Embassies in Rome and Stockholm, as well as national partners on the ground – Business Financial Solutions in Namibia and Zambian Development Agency.
The project, which aims to empower girls and women through entrepreneurship in Africa, is called ‘She Rebuilds the World.’ The idea is to make the business and corporate world more inclusive and stakeholder focused. The project has three main complementing aims: first, during the bootcamp weeks in Windhoek and Lusaka in October, the aspiring young female entrepreneurs worked on finding solutions to problems on which they will continue to work in teams next year to earn a certificate on entrepreneurship. The program will be held online from January to April 2023 by the Riga Business School, where 60 Namibian and Zambian girls and women will be able to build their international networks by studying and working together with students from the Riga Business School. This North-South link is the second aim of the project. North-South cooperation should not only be on the high political agenda between the European Union and African Union, but it should also be the basis of cross-continental cooperation at the individual, companies, and NGOs level.
The third aim of the project is related to building a business environment that supports entrepreneurship at the national level. #esiLV diaspora experts from the World Bank, OECD, academia, and the corporate world, in parallel with the bootcamp activities in Namibia and Zambia, also held a series of workshops on transition economy policies, sustainable economic development, country branding, and women leadership and empowerment. More than two hundred national experts, government and municipalities representatives in Windhoek and Lusaka got involved in dialogue and brainstorming on how to make the national business environments more competitive, inclusive, and supportive for young entrepreneurs.
Informal economy, and lack of skills and financing are the issues that need to be addressed to achieve economic and social transformation in Africa. Across the African continent, women are more involved in informal economy, and are thus exposed to economic and physical hardships. The governments should build a safe environment for women to transition to the formal economy. The founders of the project ‘She Rebuilds the World’ hope to assist African countries in this effort with their knowledge and experience.
The project will be finalized in May 2023 with the students of the program presenting solid business plans and pitching their business ideas to potential investors.
Professor Jākobsone Bellomi believes that the project can have a very positive impact on participants and their countries. Though entrepreneurship is usually considered as a path to wealth, Zambian girls, for example, were mostly concerned with social problems and the best entrepreneurial ideas to solve them. For example, one of the groups were working on finding the best solutions for the traditional problem in Zambia where girls as young as eight from poor families are traded in marriage for dowry to provide subsistence to their parents’ family. These girls then become mothers themselves with no knowledge of how to take care of a newborn and having lost the opportunity to return to school to complete their education. The young African entrepreneurs, together with the Riga Business School students, will try to come up with entrepreneurial solutions to tackle social issues like these. As Mr. Andris Pelss, State Secretary of the Ministry of Latvia, acknowledges: “We are convinced that the project will not only make a significant contribution to the promotion of the advancement of women’s entrepreneurship in Namibia and Zambia, but it will also serve as a springboard for wider activities implemented by Latvia in the African continent.”