African Women's Entrepreneurship Program
African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that targets African women entrepreneurs to promote business growth, increase trade both regionally and to U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), create better business environments, and empower African women entrepreneurs to become voices of change in their communities.
Partners with the U.S. State Department for 2012-2013 include the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, ExxonMobil Foundation, Intel Corporation, and the Vital Voices Global Partnership.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women invests in women entrepreneurs by providing them with the skills, technology, networks, and access to finance that they need to become successful small business owners. In June 2012, The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women partnered with AWEP to offer mentors who provide business counsel and support via scheduled teleconferencing for 20 AWEP alumnae. The mentorship program is a year-long commitment by both parties and includes biweekly teleconferences. During these virtual meetings, partners develop several skills such as effective target-oriented business plans and marketing strategies.
Intel - The State Department and Intel have created a partnership focusing on entrepreneurial and digital literacy training for women in AWEP chapters. Through this collaboration, the State Department will facilitate implementation of the Intel® Easy Steps program as part of its strategy around women’s empowerment and economic development. The initiative provides adult women learners training to improve social and economic self-sufficiency through digital literacy. Specifically, Intel is working with participating AWEP chapters and their affiliated Community Business Organizations to conduct a “train-the-trainer” program, developing the capacity of AWEP chapter staff to deliver the Intel Easy Steps program to local women. These efforts will expand opportunities for women to acquire digital literacy skills and increase their ability to use technology in the startup and operation of a small business.
Vital Voices - The partnership between the State Department and Vital Voices will highlight AWEP as a model for other results-oriented, SME-focused public-private partnerships. Specifically, this Vital Voices program identifies high-potential, women-led businesses throughout sub-Saharan Africa and provides a robust program of leadership and enterprise development support to help the businesses thrive, in part due to increased integration into local and global supply chains. To this end, the Vital Voices training program partners with AWEP alumnae to strengthen their own businesses, expand revenues, generate high-value jobs, foster innovation, and contribute to the kind of broad-based sustainable economic growth that improves the quality of life for families throughout the region.
Globally, women make up 50 percent of the global population, 40 percent of the global workforce, yet only own about 1 percent of the world’s wealth. Given the opportunity, women invest the majority of their income into their families and communities, but unfortunately most women experience unnecessary barriers that limit their ability to fully participate in the economy.
In Africa, women are the backbone of communities and the continent’s greatest potential to unlocking economic growth as they provide the majority of labor with the least amount of resources. Reductions in the gender gap in education, health, political participation, and economic inclusion will result in an increase in the continent’s economic competitiveness.
Through the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), the U.S. Department of State seeks to dismantle the obstacles to business opportunities and economic participation that African women face. Launched in July 2010, the initiative identifies and builds networks of women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa poised to transform their societies by owning, running, and operating small and medium businesses, and by becoming voices for social advocacy in their communities.
The AWEP network includes more than 120 alumnae with small- and medium-size enterprises (SME) in the agri-business, food processing, textile, fashion, home accessories, and other sectors. AWEP alumnae can work with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s three regional trade hubs in Botswana, Kenya, and Ghana (and its satellite in Senegal) to increase their companies’ international export competitiveness and intra-regional trade. The State Department also works with the private sector to secure targeted public-private partnerships that stimulate business growth, create better business environments, and increase the trade capacity of the SMEs. Partners for 2012-2013 include the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, ExxonMobil Foundation, Intel Corporation, and the Vital Voices Global Partnership.