US government to empower 50 million women entrepreneurs in Africa, other countries

In Africa, only five per cent of women occupy the position of Chief Executive Officers of organizations, despite the fact that businesses which have most women on their boards have an operating profit of 20 per cent higher than industry average, according to Ms Marie Royce, the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States.

To change the narrative and empower more women in Africa, the US has initiated the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs(AWE) to support women entrepreneurs around the world to attain their full potentials.

“One of my greatest priorities is to empower women in the economy. Last year alone our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, (ECA) committed over $25 million and we reached over 150,000 women around the world. The programme is specifically designed to empower women and girls,” the Assistant Secretary said.

AWE is part of the US Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, a government effort established in February 2019 to advance global women’s economic empowerment.

The goal is to reach 50 million women in the developing world by 2015.” We think that women are perfectly the most untapped resources in the developing world,” she said.

AWE aims to provide online education resources, foster networks that support access to mentorships, and connect women through existing exchange programmes. “Our goal is to teach, train and mentor women around the world to become successful entrepreneurs,” Ms Royce said.

The initial cohort according to the programme design, will feature women in 26 countries, including 10 from Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Delivering the keynote address to 40 exchange programme alumni from various countries at an alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (TIES) on women’s entrepreneurship on Wednesday in Accra, the Assistant Secretary addressed issues regarding mentorship, access to capital, business expansion best practices, and overcoming barriers to women in business.

The seminar was themed: “Strengthening Business and Trade for women entrepreneurs in Africa.”

Alumni TIES are regionally focused gatherings for past participants of US government sponsored exchange programmes. Participants will have opportunities to explore issues of shared value, receive training, and collaborate with fellow alumni to implement projects in their local communities after the seminar.

They will also have the opportunity to learn how to create and sustain better business climates for women through business development and trade, develop strategies for overcoming disparities in income and opportunity for women in business and entrepreneurship in Africa.

Alumni also, have the opportunity to apply for grants up to $10,000 to focus on how to navigate financial systems for expanding women led businesses, access to markets and market information, technology solutions and skilled networks, as well as strengthening women’s capacity to enter and succeed in the workplace.

Ms Royce is optimistic that the amount for the grant could be increased if some private partnerships who have expressed interest do come on board to support.

“It could expand if we get some private partnerships happening, we already have some companies that have expressed interest and i think that could also grow our cohort size,” she said.

A minimum of about 30 beneficiaries will be selected for the grant.

Meanwhile, the Assistant Secretary who traveled to Ghana from June 24 to June 26 on Monday met with the Minister of Tertiary Education, Prof. Kwesi Yankah to reaffirm the US government’s goal to facilitate partnerships among American universities, as well as expand academic opportunities for Ghanaian youth to study in the United States.

She also met with heads of public and private university administrators, and private sector representatives to deepen educational linkages between the United States and Ghana to further strengthen women’s economic empowerment.

By: Asabea Akonor

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