Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children

Friends of Orphans and Vulnerable Children
What could be better than an Ethiopian welcome, FOVC style?

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Divine Appointment with Andreas Widmer (a post by Dave)


Last summer, I devoured an excellent book on economic development in developing countries. The book was In The River They Swim (and if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it). I was particularly impacted by selected chapters written by Andreas Widmer. Andreas is a successful entrepreneur and businessman who is now running the Seven Fund. Despite his business successes, Andreas is often more noted for his duty as body guard to the Pope, which was an experience that helped to shape his strong faith and values today.

Last Tuesday, I had the honor of sharing breakfast with Andreas while I was in Boston. Andreas' faith and vision are contagious. I was delighted to find that I had much in common with him (sans serving as a body guard to the Pope, of course). As many of you know, I have struggled recently with a growing desire to apply my business experience and skills to help develop scalable business opportunities in Africa. For a few moments, I was able to live vicariously through Andreas' charisma and his recounting of encounters with African business people who are building sustainable and scalable business models despite little or no access to capital. He also shared about his program, Pioneers of Prosperity, which seeks to fill the gap that exists in developing economies between microfinancing (e.g., Kiva.org) and traditional bank financing.
Microfinance is a good vehicle to help lift those in extreme poverty (i.e., people who can't afford to feed themselves or their families) up to subsistence poverty (i.e., they can afford a means to eat and barely survive). Traditional bank financing is viable for multi-national corporations wishing to expand into developing economies, but traditonal bank financing isn't available to small and medium-size businesses wishing to start-up and grow. In developing countries, there is little to no access to venture financing, so local entrepreneurs can't access capital to build and grow sustainable and scalable businesses. 

Think about it: Over 90% of businesses in the United States are small and medium-size businesses, and they employ over 70% of the workers. In the United States, small and medium-size businesses are the growth engine of our economy. Yet, in most developing nations, the share of small to medium-size businesses as a percent of total businesses is in the single digits, if that. In other words, these developing economies don't have the engine that powers economic growth.  Andreas is working feverishly to develop solutions to problems like this. This is something I aspire to do as well.

I have no idea where it may lead, but this was one of those encounters that I cannot deny was orchestrated by God.

God has blessed me with few encounters in life as rich as this one and I look forward to how He might use it in the future. If nothing else, God connected me to a devout follower and brother in Christ who inspired me to make the best use of the time, talent and treasure God has given me. I pray that I will get the opportunity to use these gifts in service to the people of Africa.

Andreas, thank you again for your time and I look forward to what God has in store for both our futures.  God bless you!

2 comments:

SDR said...

You should touch base with Danielle Marquis. She just moved back to upstate NY and got a job teaching in the SUNY Albany school of business. Her new boss is really interested in exploring microfinancing of small businesses in Ethiopia.
Shawn

Derek and Betsy said...

Dave- I envy your writing skills. You have a real talent! I will keep your opportunity in my prayers...DW