Zambia has just completed hosting a follow-on conference to the highly successful 2010 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) that took place in conjunction with the 2010 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. This year’s conference, hosted by Zambia’s 2010 AWEP Alumna, Sylvia Banda, took place in Lusaka, Zambia from June 8-10, alongside the 2011 AGOA Forum. First Lady of Zambia, Thandiwe Banda, served as leader of the conference.
The three-day conference focused on training on U.S. import requirements, access to finance, and advocacy. Speakers included representatives from the U.S. Government, Government of Zambia, and Zambian private sector. Secretary Clinton and Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer also spoke at the AWEP conference.
African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program
AWEP was established in 2010 under the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), the premier professional exchange program at the U.S. Department of State. The women of the 2010 AWEP visitors program were accomplished entrepreneurs and leaders of small and medium–sized businesses in Africa. Many of their companies engage in exporting under the terms of AGOA, while others are working to increase their export capacity and establish business relationships with U.S. partners. All are leaders in their communities and many are active members of women’s business organizations in their countries.
Following the inaugural AWEP in 2010, follow-up activities continued in Africa. Some activities, hosted by Vital Voices and sponsored by ExxonMobil, included training opportunities and mentoring programs for the AWEP alumnae businesswomen. Another emphasis of follow-up programs was advocacy on eliminating discrimination against women in business and providing greater opportunities and support for Africa’s businesswomen.
This year, a new group of African businesswomen will travel to the United States from September 20 through October 7 for another AWEP IVLP. They will meet and network with U.S. policy makers, companies and industry associations, civil society groups, non-profit organizations advocating for women’s economic opportunities, multi-lateral development organizations, and business alliances.
Empowering Women Entrepreneurs
AWEP aims to empower African women entrepreneurs to become part of their national and global business network by:
Increasing opportunities for women to use the AGOA program
Expanding opportunities for exports and U.S. investment in sub-Saharan Africa
Recognizing and expanding the roles women play as advocates for changes in laws, regulations, customs, and incentives that support women in businesses in their countries
Instituting a follow-up program so that participants, in their role as community leaders, can pass on what they learn