Former Colorado House Speaker sees business in Africa

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He is better known as the young and dynamic politician who was a member of the Colorado House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008 and also its speaker from 2005 to 2008. His name is Harlan Andrew Romanoff.

iDE

A Small Farm in Zambia

He ran for the U.S Senate in 2010 but lost to Michael Bennett in the primaries. In 2010, he took a job with Colorado-based non-profit, International Development Enterprises (iDE) as a senior advisor, a title Romanoff said he “invented” to attach to himself.

Currently, iDE operates in 14 countries in South East Asia, Central America and Africa, according to Romanoff.  Recently the organization was selected as the winner of the Wharton school’s inaugural Barry and Mary Lipmann prize for its “innovative, market based water, sanitation and hygiene projects.”

As part of his work, he has traveled to many countries in West Africa, including Ghana, Mali, and Burkina Faso where iDE is helping people “increase their income and climb out of extreme poverty.”

What is quite interesting, as we’ve learned, is Romanoff’s poignant perspective about African entrepreneurship based on his travels in that part of the world. It is probably what the average person in America does not know about Africa. The organization, iDe, sees business people in Africa, not diseases and misery, according to Romanoff.

At an April 19 event held at the Daniels Fund in Denver, and presenting to members of the Rotary Club, Romanoff wasted little time blasting the mentality of Americans who still look at Africa as a land of misery and disease.  Here is piece of what he said:

“I suspect a lot of Americans still look at Africa as a place of no return, a place for which they can see no possible return on their own investment, they look at Africa as a basket case, a land of misery and disease and death. They see victims of extreme poverty or perhaps in the kindest moments, Americans might look at the continent of Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, as the beneficiaries of their generosity, folks to whom we might toss a few dimes of charity in return for the feeling of goodwill that comes with it.”

To the contrary, he sees Africa differently:

“At iDE, we look at Ghana and Mozambique and Zambia as lands of entrepreneurs. We see business people who are struggling just like us to support their families and improve their incomes and increase their quality of life,” Romanoff said.

Stephanie Cox, iDE’s VP for Africa operations, presenting after Romanoff, bolstered the arguments, stating that “Africa is actually a continent of promise.”

Listen to Andrew Romanoff and Stephanie Cox here.

 

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