Culture, roots and business

Karen helps lower class youngsters to become entrepreneurs.

An inverted funnel. It is the portrait of the participation of Afro-descendants in the personnel of the 500 largest companies in Brazil. In executive positions, in 14 years, the slice never reached the timid mark of 5%. It contrasts sharply with the 57.5% of black apprentices in the entry level of these companies.  In order to help change this picture, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has implemented a pilot program in Brazil to support Afro-entrepreneurs, pursuing the goal of increasing their participation among large groups in the country.

“Brazil has 70% of the black population in Latin America. There are 11 million Afro-descendant entrepreneurs. It was clear that the program had to start with Brazil. It works by training entrepreneurs so they can develop a business plan and then raise funds from investors” explains Luana Garcia, a specialist in Social Development at the IDB’s Gender and Diversity Division, explaining that there is no financial contribution to the business.

Inova Capital, implemented in Brazil at the end of last year, will receive US $ 500,000 in investment by the end of 2017, and already has a portal on the internet. It selected 30 Afro-entrepreneurs from all over Brazil – three of them from Rio – in partnership with Endeavor, Anjos do Brasil and Key Associados. The filter to join the group called for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, businesses of high potential for growth and with social and environmental impact.

Marina Ferro, executive director of Ethos’s board, says that advances in the inclusion of black  professionals are very slow in Brazil, mainly due to the lack of corporate policies with this focus:

“The hierarchical bottleneck for black professionals is a real problem. We see an upsurge, with very little improvement. We work with a focus on public policies and best business practices, encouraging companies to adopt a business model that favours the generation of employment with social inclusion.”

She points out that the percentage of companies with specific policies is very low. Only 3.9% of the 500 largest companies have some affirmative action to increase the presence of Afrodescendants in their staff, and 11% have some policy to raise the presence of women. Among the 548 executive directors of these companies in 2015, only two were black women.

More than half (53.92%) of the Brazilian population is made up of afro descendants – or 110.46 million people in 2015, according to the IBGE -, however, they amount to just over a third of the Companies. In entrepreneurship, however, they are majority.

Entrepreneurs of Reafro
Entrepreneurs of Reafro


Sebrae data show that between 2003 and 2013, the number of business owners in Brazil rose 10% to 23.5 million. In that period, the share of black entrepreneurs rose from 44% to 50% of the total, while that of whites shrank from 55% to 49%. Greater access to higher education and earning income, as well as the appreciation of Afro-Brazilian culture, contributed to this expansion.

This is the case of Carioca Karen Franquini, 25, one of those selected by Inova Capital, who was a Prouni scholarship holder and graduated in production engineering from PUC-Rio. After graduating, she had difficulty entering the job market because she had no other specialization nor an English course.

“I started researching credit programs to supplement my studies, and I saw that it was a demand from other low-income graduates. As I did entrepreneurship training at the undergraduate level, I decided to create a company that would help give scholarships and insert low-income young people into the market” she says.

Ganbatte was born – a Japanese term that means “do your best” – which currently offers professional training, online job training courses, acting as a career coaching . The business is still not sustainable and operates in the house of the young entrepreneur, who uses a space from RioCriativo, an incubator of the State Department of Culture, in the Center, for meetings. With the support of the IDB, it is expanding the operation.

João Carlos Nogueira, general coordinator of the Rede Afroentreendedores Brasil (Reafro), emphasizes that the labor market situation is a reflection of the conditions of blacks and browns in the country:

“Afro-Brazilians historically have less access to education and qualification, but it is a changing picture. Barriers to racism, however, still prevent a leap in business.”

Created in 2015, Reafro, in partnership with Instituto Adolpho Bauer (PR), conducted a study to identify the profile of these businesses, the difficulties faced and the main demands.

“All are looking for training, business opportunities, consulting, access to credit lines, which is what we want to provide when establishing the network” says Nogueira, who plans to jump from the current 1,500 members to 150,000 in five years.

It was the immersion in the values ​​of Afro-Brazilian culture that led Elaine Rosa, a 28-year-old woman from Pavuna, to create event producer Rainha Crespa in 2014.

“I was in a process of transition with my hair. I wanted to have it more natural, Afro and could not find channels of exchange face-to-face. This has been pulling discussions on several fronts. And then i came up with the idea of Crespa Fair, an ethnic trade fair that has a consolidated market in São Paulo” she says.

Elaine transferred the office of Rainha Crespa and the team of seven to nine people to the space they will occupy this week in RioCriativo after winning the Rio City Hall award:

“The Youth Networks Agency gave us the first financial incentive to hold the fair. We are creating different formats to price the fair. And we have already been able to pay wages, although they are not yet in market values”

The average income of black business owners was R$ 1,246 ($380) per month in 2013, equivalent to 1.8 minimum wage. It is less than half of the average income of the white entrepreneur, of R $ 2,627 ($810), or 3.9 salaries.

Carla Teixeira, coordinator of the Sebrae Community project, whose work focuses on empowering black culture among entrepreneurs focused on this profile of public and business, is concluding a survey on the Afro fairs in the Rio Metropolitan Region.

“The research overthrows the idea that Afro-entrepreneurs have a few years of study and start business out of necessity. In the case of fairs, they have created to reinforce the importance of black culture in society and most have high school or higher” – she explains.  “It is important that they network, grow, diversify the profile of employees and expand opportunities.”

Hamilton Henrique da Silva, one of those selected by IDB, from São Gonçalo, created the Saladorama, to increase the consumption of healthy foods in communities and, at the same time, generate income.

“I realized that the culture of consuming healthy food in the communities was lacking, mainly because of the false idea that it is expensive. So I created a mixed salad assembly business for delivery and learning platform. Each nucleus has its own cultivation of vegetables and staff. We have trained more than 200 black girls from communities” – he says, which already has five project cores in four states.

Alyne Jobim, who was also selected by the IDB program, opened the company to Integrare Consultoria two years ago, focused on the selection and insertion of people with disabilities in the labor market:

“Diversity modifies the corporate environment, aggregates points of view, stimulates innovation. Inclusion by gender and race also brings these benefits.”

Carlos Monteiro is a Brazilian citizen, graduated in Business Administration by the Catholic University of São Paulo. He lives in Odense, Denmark with his Danish Wife, Cathrine, and their half Danish /Brazilian daughter Ines Marie. You are very welcome to be in contact him at any time.
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