There is an African proverb that says “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, if you educate a woman, you educate a community.” Over the past few years, the world is slowly realising the veracity of this statement and Africa is not to be left behind. The Africa Entrepreneurship Program is one of the paths being opened up for female entrepreneurs in Africa through the U.S. State Department which started it in July 2010 through the African Growth and Opportunity Act which promotes and fosters trade between Africa and U.S.
Globally, women make up half the world’s population but only contribute to about 1% of its wealth. AWEP seeks to fill in that gap by “providing professional networking, business development and trade capacity building opportunities for networks of prominent women entrepreneurs across Sub-Saharan Africa” as is quoted in their mission statement. Additionally, AWEP encourages business leaders to reshape their societies by owning, running, and operating small and medium-sized enterprises and becoming voices of social advocacy in their communities.
Since its inception, the organization has a network of over 1,600 women, 22 chapters across Africa, 154 alumni across 48 countries and entrepreneurs who have created over 17,000 jobs. This enormous outreach has been achieved through a number of ways such as holding leadership conferences and seminars, trade and business capacity building trainings and events geared towards export promotion. The crown jewel of the organization is the opportunity for these female African entrepreneurs to go for short-term visits to the U.S. in order to get first-hand experience and activate long-lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Furthermore, they attend professional development meetings and network with U.S. policy makers, companies, industry associations, non-profit groups, and multilateral development organizations, share best business practices, discuss common challenges and learn about the global economy and factors that lead to long-term business growth. This is done through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) which is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Approximately 30 African women get to go on these visits each year for a period of 3 weeks. These professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.
There is no application for AWEP. Participants are chosen annually by the staff at U.S. embassies across Africa based on their entrepreneurial accomplishments and potential to advance relationships between their country and the United States. For more information, including information for investors interested in the AWEP program, please contact: AWEP@state.gov.
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