Supporting Women Entrepreneurs
The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) East Africa Trade Hub (EATH) works to build sustainable capacity for competitive regional and international trade in East Africa. To instill lasting impact, EATH places a heavy emphasis on ensuring women are an integral part of its activities. This is especially apparent in EATH’s work with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The East Africa Trade Hub (EATH) provides technical assistance to African firms and governments to enhance their competitiveness in global markets and helps African businesses take advantage of trade opportunities available under AGOA via an East and Central Africa Global Competitiveness Hub (EATH). The Trade Hub has built strong working relationships with its regional partners to expand export opportunities and to promote increased inter-regional trade.
Since 2009, the East Africa Trade Hub has facilitated over US$125 million in exports to the U.S. through AGOA and has assisted 200 firms to grow their export business and gain market access in the U.S. Of the 200 EATH-supported firms, 30 percent are women-owned businesses.
“I get inspired to see women starting businesses and looking at men not as competitors but as partners,” said Nancy Gitonga, CEO of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program’s (AWEP) Kenya chapter.
AWEP is a U.S. Department of State program that targets African women entrepreneurs to promote business growth and increase trade through AGOA. AWEP was launched in July 2010 by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. AWEP encourages African businesswomen to become leaders in their communities and drive social and economic growth in Africa.
Since 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has provided incentives for African countries to become more globally competitive by making economic and commercial reforms. The main incentive is the opportunity to export goods, from a list of nearly 6,400 qualifying items, to the U.S. without paying import duties.
Click here to read the full Trade Hub brief.
Since 2009, the EATH has supported the activities of five AWEP chapters – Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Examples of individual women entrepreneurs and firms with whom EATH has worked include:
- Viva Bedi – entrepreneur, owner of Viva Africa and industry mentor
- Wambui Njogu and Carol Wahome – partners in Moo Cow Kenya fashion design house and mentors to East African designers
- Fikirte Addis of Yefikir Designs, Ethiopia – winner of the Origin Africa Fiber to Fashion 2011 Designer Showcase
- Invisible Children MEND program – a woman owned collective that makes handbags and satchels, made up of women who were formerly abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army
- Indego Africa – home décor and fashion accessories, Rwanda
- Wrap Up Africa – apparel, home décor and fashion accessories, Uganda
- Letha Sandison (CEO of Wrap Up Africa and Friends of Africa board member), recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010 for her work in providing livelihoods to families of Ugandan cancer victims
- Gahaya Links – apparel, home décor and fashion accessories, Rwanda. Women employed by Gahaya Links have learned new skills as part of the company’s rigorous training programme. Proceeds from the baskets have helped over 18,000 children go to school.
- Flotea Massawe – Marvelous Flotea, Tanzania. Massawe is the Ambassador and Chairperson of AWEP Tanzania Chapter.
- Doreen Mashika – Zanzibar – Mashika now has contracts with Eileen Fisher and Edun
- Mohazo Collection – high-end home furnishings and accessories from Kenya. Owner Zohra Baraka is chairperson of AWEP Kenya