Business Development and Social Inclusion in Brazil

Adolescent girls in Brazil UN Women / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Incubadora Afro Brasileira is an organization that challenges the deep-rooted problem of social and economic exclusion of African descendants by providing business training for African-descendant entrepreneurs in Brazil. Giovanni Harvey, founder and director of Incubadora, and program economist Dalton Franco led a discussion at the Inter-American Dialogue on October 19, 2007. Harvey and Franco were introduced by Ambassador Larry Palmer, president of the Inter-American Foundation, and Dialogue president Peter Hakim, both of whom praised the Incubadora’s work.

Incubadora’s mission is to provide technical assistance to people who have been marginalized from the business world for reasons of race. According to Franco, “There is this notion that blacks should not have certain jobs because they are not qualified for them.”

Incubadora currently works in approximately 20 cities in Brazil. “The project has expanded significantly,” explained Harvey. “We started with only one incubadora and now we have three.”

There is high demand for the training provided by Incubadora. “We currently have three and a half applications for every spot offered,” said Harvey. “It is a rate comparable to a university course.”

What makes Incubadora stand out from other business training organizations is that 75 percent of the businesses it serves are in the informal sector. “We were looking for the black entrepreneurs,” said Franco, “and we found them in the informal sector.” The organization seeks to move these businesses into the formal economy, but recognizes that high taxes and a slow and complicated state bureaucracy are formidable obstacles.

Incubadora provides training and technical assistance to entrepreneurs who would otherwise not have access to such resources. “We have to recognize that entrepreneurial capability is not equal to the level of one’s education. People with little education can accomplish great things if they are given a chance,” said Harvey.

According to Harvey, Incubadora is playing a role in reversing the cycle of poverty, “People in the middle-age group have been able to secure their retirement through Incubadora. This has contributed to ending the cycle of poverty because poor kids usually have poor parents.”

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