How is it possible to integrate immigrants in a new Country, valorise their skills and passions, providing them with tools and resources to start-up businesses? The Building Integration Through Entrepreneurship (BITE) project has tried to answer these questions.
BITE is a program financed by the EU Commission to favor the integration in EU countries of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa by accompanying them in creating businesses characterized by positive social and environmental impacts in their country of residence and country of origin.
The program has been organized by a consortium of organizations composed of Etimos Foundation, Municipality of Milan, E4Impact Foundation, ISMU Foundation, ERFC, and INTEGRA. The partners’ cooperation enabled to spread the program in three critical European Countries: Italy, Sweden, and Greece, which allowed about 100 participants from more than 15 African Countries to be reached.
The program officially ended on the 15th of October 2020 with the international Webinar “Migrant Entrepreneurship: stories and practice on how to unlock hidden potential for EU economies”. During the event, the most innovative migrants business ideas (born during the project) where presented and stakeholders were invited to replicate the project approach through the BITE toolbox on migrant entrepreneurship.
The Webinar was also the occasion to talk about the project structure, that focused on three main phases. First, the program provided entrepreneurial knowledge through a practical course characterized by mixed teaching tools: frontal lessons, case studies analysis, class discussions, working groups, students’ presentations, and special guests. Particular attention was paid to raise awareness of entrepreneurs on the environmental and social issues and how to transform them into business opportunities to stimulate the building of inclusive businesses with a positive impact. At the end of the first phase, the entrepreneurs developed a business model that documented all their businesses’ aspects.
Second, the program measured and monitored the activities that accompanied the entrepreneurs in the start-up phase and guided them out of the challenges they eventually faced. This phase of the project focused on financial advice (e.g., balance sheet, cash-flow analysis) intending to identify entrepreneurs’ financial needs and develop a financial plan, including economic forecasts.
Third, the program connected entrepreneurs with a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem to facilitate access to resources and markets. In this vein, network events have been organized in which entrepreneurs had the chance to present their business projects to a pool of consultants, investors, and service providers.
During the BITE program, entrepreneurs proved to have strong attention toward social and environmental issues. Moreover, they demonstrated the vision to grow and scale the business idea moving beyond a self-sustaining logic. Accordingly, it was also recognized that entrepreneurs often intended to establish commercial relationships between European and African countries to exploit business opportunities.
As this project demonstrates, entrepreneurial training to migrants favors integration and is functional for the economic development of their countries of origin through the creation of job opportunities and sustainable remittances flow. Moreover, the host countries benefit from the valuable impact of a new class of entrepreneurs and the interational commercial links they establish.