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Afrocosmo Development Impact, Maryland USA LLC (ACI)

Who We Are

Our Background

Small and medium enterprises ( SMEs) especially those in the informal sector hire about 80 percent of the work force in most African nations and are the backbone of the continent’s economic development.

As of 2019, globally, there are 9.4 million female owned SMEs in over 140 nations, but Africa is the only continent where more women than men are entrepreneurs. Women traders participate in 74% of SME informal transboundary trade in most African nations. Females also comprise more than 50% of the SME work force. Given their high representation in this sector, there is an urgency to strengthen their capacity and access to financial, technical capital and business, trade and other relevant legal knowledge.

SMEs also comprise more than 50% of the services sectors ( in most African nations) but only 8% of the manufacturing sector.  Reason for higher labor representation in the services sector than in manufacturing sector is partly because the former does not require high skills than the manufacturing sector. Therefore, most unskilled and uneducated female workers make an honest living in the informal, small and medium enterprise sector through hawking their products on street corners. But the ban on street hawking in most African nations which had good intentions of protecting their human safety and environmental aesthetics also had bad consequences of forcing some of them (e.g. enterprising female hawkers) into unemployment and desperation, including survival tactics of crime and/or sex trade.

Women are not the only ones suffering from immense fragility, but African youth are also having similar experiences. In 2015, Africa’s youth comprised 226 million (about 20%) of Africa’s 1.1 billion population. In 2019, 75% of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion is below age 35. By 2050, 2 of every five children will be born in Africa (World Economic Forum, 2020). The continent has a youth bulge and by 2050, Africa’s youth population (18 to 35 years) is predicted to be more than 800 million. But most of the youth are marginalized and excluded from the employment and economic development process. 60 % of them (youth) are either unemployed or underemployed. 

Most African nations also have very high levels of inequality in the world ranging from a GINI coefficient of 0.43 to as high as 0.62. Africa is still the poorest continent in the cosmos with about 250 million families living at less than $2 a day.

COVID19 and lockdown measures have worsened such economic disparities and fragility of “survivalist” SMEs, including businesses owned by young and older females and youth. Protectionist policies and limited medical and food supplies chain has undermined exports to African nations. But these challenges create opportunities for African nations to develop strategies to strengthen the capacity of small and medium enterprises to manufacture and trade in African-value-added goods and services, including medical supplies, agrarian and other goods and services. It also creates an opportunity for private and public sector partnerships to help enable incentivization, formalization and productivity of SMEs.

African nations must also use impactful, inclusive and integrated approaches and move beyond long-term untargeted and unaccountable financial aid dependency to develop trade and investment relations based on mutual interest and equal partnerships across national boundaries.

In post COVID 19 era, SMEs, including African entrepreneurs should formalize, form joint trade and investment partnerships, have adequate access to technical and financial capital, expand, scale up and operate across their national boundaries. Countries should capitalize on the goals of the 2019 African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) which came into effect in May 2019 and was to be operational in July 2020. But COVID 19 delayed the starting date until January 2021. The goal of the AfCTA is to create a single market worth $2.5 trillion for 1.2 billion African people to engage in intra-African trade in goods and services.

Our Purpose

The purpose of Afrocosmo Development Impact, LLC is to provide quality,  impactful and innovative advice and solutions to trade, investment and economic  development problems of small medium enterprises and public institutions in  African nations, including AFCTA member nations 

Our Vision

Afrocosmo Development Impact, LLC aims to provide quality support that will close inequality gap, create wealth, improve SME formalization and productivity and achieve inclusive and sustainable development in African nations.

Our Mission

To provide quality and innovative advisory, transactional, due diligence and capacity building/utilization services to small and medium enterprises and public institutions in African nations so as to enable the countries to create wealth, close inequality gap and achieve impactful and sustainable economic development in African nations.

Background

Small and medium enterprises especially those in the informal sector comprise more than 75% of the informal sector in Africa and are the backbone of the continent’s economic development. But they are still an unproductive sector that is stifled by inadequate technical and financial capital. Protectionist policies of medical suppliers has increased health and food insecurities, including scarcity of medical and food supplies. It has created an urgency for Africa to provide develop strategies to strengthen the capacity of its small and medium enterprises to manufacture and trade in African value added goods and services, including medical supplies, agrarian and other goods and services. COVID 19 worsened the plight of SMEs who were already in a vulnerable economic situation. In post COVID 19 era, SMEs, including African entrepreneurs should formalize, form joint trade and investment partnerships, have adequate access to technical and financial capital, expand, scale up and operate across their national boundaries.

Delivering quality, sustained, inclusive and innovative impact in Africa.

Meet CEO

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Val Okaru-Bisant

Valentina or Prof. OB has over 15 years of high-level advisory & work experience in economic development, business, trade, water and gender sectors. She is the CEO & Founder of Afrocosmo Development Impact, LLC, a company with a mission to achieve impactful, inclusive and long term sustainable development through delivery of quality advisory due diligence, research, match-making, training and advisory services to small & medium enterprises & governments in trade, investments and development space. Val is also an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America & taught for several years at the George Washington University, the Elliott School of International Affairs, Washington DC. She has over 15 business and scholarly publications & has private sector & World Bank experience. She also moderates & presents her research at many high -level meetings & conferences. She was one of the pioneering members of Jean-Roger Mercier’s initial World Bank project environmental review team that categorized and reviewed project compliance with Bank procedures. She & her team started the process of formulating World Bank operational policies, including OP 7.50 (international waters), OP 4.01 (environmental assessment and OP 4.12 (involuntary resettlement). She & her World Bank team (Pauline and Mike) also monitored & supervised the $300 multi-donor financed RUSAFIYA water supply project & within the framework of the project, they introduced the concept of community based participation to World Bank management (as referenced in Maggi Black, Learning What Works, A Twenty Year View on International Water & Sanitation Cooperation). Her 2011 published law review article also spearheaded the concept of corruption risk insurance coverage which some prominent Banks adopted in their portfolios.

Val has:

1) a Doctor of Science of Law from Stanford Law School - Stanford University, where she was a recipient of a fellowship grant award from the Morrison Institute for Population and Resources Studies & from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation;

2) a Masters in International Relations from Tufts University, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy;

3) a Master of Laws from the London School of Economics; and

4) a Bachelor of Laws (Honors) from University of Jos. She also has a Certificate in French language from the C.A.V.E.L, University of Nice.
She is a licensed attorney with bar admissions in the United States (Connecticut) and Nigeria. Val is on the advisory committee and board of several organizations.

She is also an Editorial Board member of the Journal of Environmental Economics, Business Perspectives, Ukraine.

 

Valentina Okaru-Bisant (Val) has advised, taught and written extensively on trade and investments as a means to achieve African industrial and economic growth because she believes that humanitarian relief in form of financial aid can and has helped African nations to service unforeseeable natural, health and economic disaster. Long term and untargeted financial aid can create consultancy services and jobs in donor countries, but can also result in worsening accountable and corruption in recipient nations, undermining African democratic processes; weakening the social contract between African elected official and their constituents; overburdening tax payers in those donor nations and undermining human capital development in recipient nations.

 

For Val’s Research Publications visit Blogs

Board of Directors

RoseAnn M. Rotandar

RoseAnn M. Rotandar

RoseAnn M. Rotandaro, an impact investor, international philanthropist and corporate attorney in Silicon Valley, advises social entrepreneurs and nonprofit program leaders on local and global initiatives. Ms. Rotandaro founded The Village Link (“TVL”) www.thevillagelink.org, a nonprofit organization, which currently operates in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Prior to TVL, Ms. Rotandaro co-founded the law firm VLP Law Group (“VLP”) and served as its president. Prior to VLP, she served as general counsel, in charge of all legal affairs, at BenefitStreet, a financial technology company. Ms. Rotandaro practiced corporate law with the firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, California counseling clients in corporate transactions such as venture financings, mergers and acquisitions.

Ms. Rotandaro graduated from Stanford Law School In 1995. Prior to practicing law, RoseAnn taught school and worked on community development initiatives in Alaska, China and West Africa.

Frank Samolis

Frank Samolis

Frank Samolis has substantial legal, policy and procedural expertise in bilateral/regional trade agreements, having represented several sovereign entities in free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the US, including active engagement on legislative matters for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the implementation of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement, the Uruguay Round of GATT trade negotiations, the North American Free Trade Agreement, extending MFN status and securing PNTR for China, Trade Promotion Authority, and enhancing Caribbean and African trade benefits.

His has represented foreign sovereigns or foreign multinationals from Asia, Europe, Central and Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, in addition to US companies seeking expanded market access in major export markets. Frank was previously counsel to the Subcommittee on Trade of the Committee on Ways and Means, US House of Representatives, as well as selected by the US Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce to an Industry Trade Advisory Committee. Frank co-chairs Squire Patton Boggs’ International Trade Practice, leads the firm’s India Practice, and is a leader of our Colombia Desk within the Latin America Practice.

Robert Madsen

Robert Madsen

Robert Madsen is a macroeconomist who advises financial institutions, corporations, and governments on international developments. He recently completed a project on impact investing and corporate governance for a $10 billion institutional investor and two studies on global demographic trends and their implications for, respectively, a $140 billion investment group and a security consultancy. He speaks frequently on international affairs at Stanford University and other fora.

From 1997 to 2013, Dr. Madsen wrote the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Japan Country Reports and contributed to that company’s analysis of China, broader East Asia,and the world. He also did substantial modeling of national debt sustainability, the future of Chinese GDP growth, and other topics amenable to quantitative analysis. Before joining MIT in 2004, he was a Fellow at Stanford University’s Asia Pacific Research Center, Asia Strategist at Soros Private Funds Management, and a limited partner and advisor to the Robert M. Bass Group on its investments in Japan. Still earlier, as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company he focused on international finance, the EPC industry, and Overseas Chinese business networks in Southeast Asia.

Cianna Bisant

Cianna Bisant

( Youth Board Member )

Cianna Bisant is the founder of People for people non profit company, a fund raising and outreach organization. She is also a 2019 summer associate.. at JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley. She is a student of music and computer Science at Columbia University, New York, USA. She enjoys reading, music and mountain climbing.

Eliot Bisant

Eliot Bisant

( Youth Volunteer )

Eliot Bisant is a student at a high school in Clarksville, Maryland and volunteers with Afrocosmo Development Impact, LLC, Maryland. He loves playing travel and recreational sports, including baseball, basketball and soccer. He is also an avid chess player.

Testimonials

Frank Samolis

Frank Samolis

Val is a gifted and experienced international lawyer, with expertise in international economic development, particularly in Africa. She has a sharp legal mind, and is an eloquent speaker on international issues. Her legal skills are superb,and she is also a dedicated mentor for her students.

June Lin

June Lin

I have known Valentina for over 25 years. Ever since we met at Stanford Law School. A specialist in her field, she has always impressed me with her intelligence, integrity and passion for life.
She has been a great friend and mentor to me. And she has inspired me with her drive to solve problems and help others.

Meera Eaton

Meera Eaton

I have known Dr. Okaru-Bisant since 2015 when I took her Development Policy and Practice course at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University during my master’s program. Her course broadened my horizons on development issues and allowed me to view development from a macroeconomics vantage point. Dr. Okaru-Bisant is a very passionate lecturer. She engages students and strongly welcomes diverse opinions on the topics in the classroom. Her intense critical thinking allows students to understand both sides of the issues and she encourages students to take well-informed positions backed by course materials. After attending her course, I was extremely motivated to learn more about corruption and governance issues and how these issues impede international development. She has helped me gain a great deal of knowledge on governance issues and international institutions.

Monzima Haque

Monzima Haque

Professor OB taught us the course titled ‘Development Policy and Practice’ during spring 2016. Despite the complexity and diversity of the issue itself, Professor OB made the class seem like a piece of cake where students across the world could confidently share and embrace their cultural and developmental experiences. Her passion and attention towards the needs of the students have been my guide for self development of interpersonal skills. Her level of knowledge and diverse research experiences made the class an excellent academic experience.

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