Updated: May 19
The African Chamber of Commerce is a membership-based organization with the goal of helping local small businesses in our community to thrive. We do this by promoting business success and building economic development within the African business community in Colorado. We advance racial equity and opportunity and meet people where they are.
Chamber-supported businesses receive technical assistance, business planning, energy assistance, and more. We facilitate business linkages between members and African Businesses, provide access to capital and finance, promote marketing opportunities, and partner with workforce development programs that help with job creation and retention.
The African Chamber of Commerce along with other groups that serve communities of color have been adversely affected by the pandemic. At the height of the pandemic, we were unable to reach out to many members of our community. Many businesses had to cut back their workforce because of reduced demand for their services. They experienced significant income losses and are yet to recover. When the federal aid finally arrived, there were substantial barriers for our members to apply for financial support- the applications were not translated into relevant languages for African immigrant communities. We even faced these financial hardships and had to cut down on the number of staff.
The Chamber had to shift some of our areas of focus and support to better meet the needs our businesses and community were experiencing. At the beginning of the pandemic, we provided food to businesses in need, and held town halls to help people know where to go to apply for unemployment insurance, and other assistance. As things progressed we began working with local health departments to ensure folks in our community are vaccinated and well as informed about the COVID virus.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that a majority of those affected by COVID are members of communities of color. Even though members of our community are more exposed to COVID-19 and its variants, language and cultural barriers, and fear or distrust of government or health systems, still hinder some from taking the vaccines.
We worked to address this by providing culturally relevant vaccine sites to increase the vaccine rate in our communities, we knew that not everyone had the technology needed to register, and not all of the materials were translated into Arabic, Amharic, Tigrinya, French, Oromo, Somali, and other relevant languages. We created a dedicated phone line so that individuals could call and learn about where they could receive their vaccine or get tested.
The African Chamber had to substantially shift the focus of our organization to meet the new needs of the community we serve. We held the first equity COVID-19 vaccine clinic and received no funding to do this necessary work. Since then we have received some funding for COVID support but this is not our mission and long-term goals, we want to be able to support businesses in the way we were created to do. Infrastructure grants would allow us to provide the technical support needed to ensure businesses are set up correctly, have an online presence which means websites, and be funding ready should other financial resources become available.
We must continue to ensure resources are reaching the communities that have been hit the hardest amid the pandemic and need the greatest help to bounce back.