African Women's Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Follow-on Training

In partnership with the U.S. Embassy Dakar, ExxonMobil, and the U.S. Department of State, Vital Voices provided a follow-on training and development program for participants of the 2010 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) on March 10-12 in Dakar, Senegal.

The goal of the AWEP program is to increase the integration of African businesswomen into the global economy through training, increased trade relations and business activity with U.S. businesses and the U.S. Government. The recent follow-on training was an effort to support women’s economic empowerment, an essential driver of the prosperity of Africa.

The objectives of the follow-on training included:

  • Providing a forum for sharing of effective strategies for business growth (i.e. scaling up)
  • Providing an opportunity for networking amongst AWEP participants and the sharing of their follow-on activities and business successes to date
  • Inspiring women toward greater AGOA utilization with first-hand testimonials and dialogue with women who have succeeded under AGOA
  • Facilitating the development of Action Plans to encourage the AWEP alumni to continue their efforts in business and in women’s economic empowerment. Vital Voices will monitor the implementation of these action plans and their participation.

The AWEP participants were businesswomen, entrepreneurs and business advocates from 13 Francophone and Lusophone African countries. This was the second of two follow-on trainings, the first took place in Abuja, Nigeria in December 2010.

In her remarks at the program, Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau said: “The [AWEP] training is just one example of how the United States Government is trying to help our African partners – and particularly women entrepreneurs – make more effective use of AGOA’s wide-ranging free trade provisions.”

The training included sessions on supply chain management, understanding AGOA, the diversity of the U.S. market, and the role of businesswomen’s associations in improving the economic environment. Technical expertise was also provided by representatives of the USAID West Africa Trade Hub, and by successful women exporters in Senegal. Participants also received feedback on their products from the experts and the facilitation team. Lastly, AWEP participants enjoyed networking opportunities with businesswomen and policymakers from across the country at a reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat.

Participants expressed appreciation for the depth and practical applicability of the training. “These trainings have given me the important tools to scale up my business, manage my supply chain, and to help other women,” said one AWEP alumna. “I believe that this training was very necessary and extremely valuable to my business, so that one day I can start to export through AGOA.”

One participant successfully secured an order for her products, and committed to increase her production capacity. “I will maximize my production, as thanks to Vital Voices I now have an order for 300 Mauritanian veils.”

We are committed to continuing its partnership with the State Department and AWEP Alumni to empower women to succeed in global business.


About AWEP:

Remarks by Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, at the 2010 AGOA Forum on U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation, Washington, DC, August 3, 2010:

“These are talented, creative women who are leading businesses, making jobs available, seizing economic opportunities. The State Department is sponsoring this program because we know from experience across the world that women-run small- and medium-sized enterprises that are in the formal economy provide a major boost to a country’s GDP. Women can drive social and economic progress, and in the process, lift up themselves, their families, and their communities if they have the opportunity and the tools to participate…So we are working to help more women entrepreneurs participate in international markets and take advantage of AGOA’s benefits.” 

The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) is an on-going initiative launched in July 2010 at the 2010 United States/sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (AGOA Forum). AWEP, which was organized by the Department of State (DOS) Economic, Energy and Business Bureau and coordinated through the DOS International Visitor Leadership Program, brought together 34 businesswomen from AGOA-eligible countries to the U.S. for trade and advocacy-related training and to attend the AGOA Forum. AWEP provided attendees with the opportunity to meet and network with U.S. policy makers, companies and industry associations, U.S. and African civil society, non-profit organizations advocating for women’s economic opportunities, multi-lateral development organizations, and business alliances. The program was also substantially supported by USAID and the DOS Africa Bureau. The follow-on trainings for AWEP alumni were implemented by Vital Voices Global Partnership, with sponsorship from ExxonMobil’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative.