PhiLab Interview: Kerlande Mibel, President-Founder of the International Black Economic Forum

Blog, Quebec Hub

Kerlande Mibeldetains a graduate diploma (DESS) in the Management of Organizations from Université de Laval. She launched Zwart Communication, a communications agency that specializes in the marketing of diversity. For ten years, she worked in the economic development, employability and entrepreneurship of women. As an economic development professional, Kerlande Mibel was the instigator of Montreal’s Défi de l’entrepreneuriat au fémininand the Journées de l’entrepreneuriat féminin des professionnels en développement économique. In 2015, she founded theInternational Black economic forum. Kerlande Mibel has sat and sits on various Boards, including that of La Tohu, Big Brothers and Sisters of Canada and of the Fondation de l’Office municipal et d’habitation de Montréal.

Lynda Rey (LR): How would you define the role and mission of the International Black economic forum (IBEF)?

Kerlande Mibel (KM): The IBEF was created in 2015 out of my strong belief that Black African and African-descendent populations, whatever their origins may be, can and must take ownership of their economic power. It is an apolitical organization that is fully dedicated to the economic development and enrichment of African and African-descendent people. The IBEF is an innovative platform for collaboration between individuals, organizations, elected officials and businesses to find sustainable solutions to the issues and economic problems that Black populations face, both on the local and international scale. It is a space for reflection on the winning conditions for Black people to be able to generate wealth, innovate and act as an economic force within society. Our mission consists of accelerating Black people’s generation of wealth, and in consequence, reinforcing their economic participation. For us, the more African and African-descendent Black communities become economically strong, the stronger society (Quebecer or other) will be. However, the focus is placed on the individual as a driver of change.

LR: How do you identify the issues upon which you respond?

KM:Black communities are confronted with multiple and complex issues. During the 2015 edition of IBEF in Montreal, the 150 people present identified nine broad issues, including innovation in education, technologies, access to property, single parenting and the ways to build influence for oneself in the different decision-making spheres. In order to respond to these issues, we work in different areas

  • Promoting economic autonomy of both local and international Black populations.
  • Engaging Black people on the economic issues that concern them.
  • Mobilizing different actors concerned by these problems and issues in order to catalyze the economic progress of Black people.
  • Proposing pragmatic solutions to the economic issues that affect local and international Black populations.

LR: Over the past few years, what significant evolutions can be highlighted?

KM: The 2018 edition of IBEFwas a call for Black communities to unite, to learn from businessmen and businesswomen as well as seasoned professionals, and to connect, exchange and collaborate in the creation of prosperous collectives! High-calibre guests accompanied participants in the development of their ideas.

This event brought together entrepreneurs, professionals, academics, students, researchers, officials from three levels of government, speakers and community organizers. Over twenty Black communities were represented. Representatives of five countries participated in IBEF’s activities.

  • The launch of the International Black economic forum.
  • First edition of the unconference Accélérer la création de la richesse des Noirs(Accelerating Black wealth creation).
  • The launch of the Alliance économique des Noirs(The Black economic Alliance).
  • First edition of the International Black economic forum.
  • First big Conversation économique (Economic conversation).

As a catalyst, we created an immersive and collaborative environment, that stimulated participants towards the search for solutions; and especially, towards taking action to implement high-value-added strategies.

This forum is meant to be a space that favours success in business for these communities and mainly aims to find the means to allow Black people to climb up the corporate ladder and make a place for themselves in the business world.

 It also consists of a space to find, collectively, solutions adapted to the realities of Black communities both here and elsewhere, and to take action towards the creation of prosperous communities. Our process fits within a rationale of social justice and economic development. The importance of these issues was reinforced by the United Nations’ proclamation which declared the period from 2015 to 2024 as the: “International decade for people of African descent”.

We were granted with the year’s “Entrepreneur Support Award” by Startup Canada, both on the level of Quebec and Canada. It is a prize awarded to organizations who show excellence regarding the promotion of Canadian entrepreneurship through their leadership, innovation and influence.

LR: How does IBEF take part in the perspective of social transformation regarding empowerment? What is their role in the chain of actions that are undertaken?

 KM: As a promotion and recognition platform, IBEF aims for the economic improvement and empowerment of Black populations, and, in this sense, fits within a pure empowerment rationale through three main messages.

  • Reminding others of the importance of wealth creation within Black communities beyond stigmas and prejudice. It is important that we change the narrative associated with these communities, who are also constituted of rich people. Within them, we find millionaires, multimillionaires, but our communities are not prosperous. Can we not take this intelligence, all this talent in every sector of society and put them at the profit of Black communities and build economically strong collectivities? With all the existing talent, we cannot allow ourselves to be in a wait-and-see rationale. We must be proactive.
  • For all of those who want to invest and invest themselves, put them in contact with Black people who have succeeded economically. This networking is maintained beyond the holding of events.
  • Contributing to the economic development of Quebec society as a whole.We believe that by contributing towards building prosperous Black communities, the gains are for society as a whole. For example, let us consider poverty pockets in Montreal. The difference between the unemployment rate for locals and that of immigrants, particularly Black people, is higher in Montreal. Our activities also inspire other communities that wish to move in the same direction. For us, the transfer of knowledge between communities is of great importance for social and economic progress.

LR: Can you tell us about IBEF’s funding?

KM: IBEF is mainly funded thanks to equity and contributions from private donors. IBEF also benefits from gratuities offered by private businesses.

LR: Episode (a consultant firm) has recently published a study on the trends of Quebec’s philanthropic market. One of the conclusions is the ever-growing potential in terms of donations from new immigrants. What are your thoughts? What are your reactions to this announcement?

 KM: I think immigrants are philanthropists at their core. According to the National survey of donations, volunteering and participation (NSGVP), conducted in 2010, immigrants who made donations gave 554$ on average, compared to 409$ for those born in Canada. In addition, these people significantly contribute to their country of origin’s economy through money transfers. While we don’t recognize them as such, they are true philanthropists who absolutely correspond to the principle of donation of self, which is at the heart of philanthropy. They don’t receive any returns, other than being the solidarity they demonstrate towards the members of their family who have remained abroad.

The donation potential of new immigrants would materialize itself even more if organizations would question themselves more on the interest of new immigrants to invest in their organization. What would they gain and how would it benefit their communities? The contribution of immigrants, be they new or not, must be recognized.

Translation by Katherine Mac Donald