In March 2012, the Export-Import Bank of China (China Eximbank) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced that an approximately $1 billion investment fund to promote sustainable economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) would be operational this year. The joint project will invest in the public and private sectors and focus primarily on infrastructure, projects on energy and natural resources, and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
At the root of sustainable development is the notion that economies can still grow without endangering resources and the environment for future generations. However, although discussions about economic resources and the environment dominate the spotlight, the central role of future generations, or youth, in driving that notion and identifying related solutions is often relegated to the background.
Leslie Forman grew up in Silicon Valley, California, as the daughter of two serial startup veterans. She lived in China for several years and worked in diverse industries, such as advertising, consulting, corporate social responsibility and education. In 2011, she moved to Chile to take part in Start-Up Chile—a government-sponsored entrepreneurship program.
Given her unique background, Leslie has a coveted window into many worlds. She recently shared some valuable insights related to her entrepreneurial experiences and vision to connect Chile, China, California and beyond.
Please find the original text below, submitted in Portuguese.
Brazil’s black community faces many social and political problems, but a lack of economic opportunities is what most prevents this population from climbing the income ladder. According to Brazil’s National Association of Collective Black Entrepreneurs (Associação Nacional dos Coletivos de Empreendedores Negros, or ANCEABRA), the majority of Afro-Brazilians are in the informal workforce because of a lack of opportunities in the formal sector. Many Afro-Brazilians also face difficulty in opening legitimate, lasting businesses, with ANCEABRA reporting that only 3.8 percent of Afro-Brazilians identify professionally as entrepreneurs.
Why are Afro-Brazilians unsuccessful as entrepreneurs? Three factors are at play: a lack of societal encouragement to become entrepreneurs; family members without any history in creating their own enterprises; and, above all, the persistent difficulty of accessing capital. Brazil also has never had a public policy that sought to specifically promote black-managed enterprises.
This systemic problem presents a form of “black invisibility” in the business sector. This invisibility stands in stark contrast to Brazil’s position as one of the top-five countries in terms of entrepreneurship. Brazil’s enviable ranking puts it ahead of several enterprising European countries—yet most of these Brazilian enterprises are neither started nor managed by Afro-Brazilians.
But there’s more to this great challenge. A survey by the Ethos Institute showed that female Afro-Brazilians comprise only 0.5 percent of the top corporate executives of the 500 largest companies in Brazil. Our country, which proudly presents itself as a multicultural and multiracial nation, is ranking behind nations with similar ethnic compositions.