African ‘Her’story: Women entrepreneurs

Women all over the world deserve a lot of credit.  But I would argue that women in the developing world, especially Africa, deserve the most recognition.  To conceptualize the struggles and the hardships African women have to face on a daily basis is unimaginable. You’ve got to hand it to them—they’re strong women.

In my African studies classes, I’ve learned about African women entrepreneurs who manage to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, so to speak, and have started amazing organizations and have been the breadwinners of their families—something considered to be almost impossible in African society.

Forty women entrepreneurs representing 36 African nations were honored for their entrepreneurial dedication by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday.  The participants are part of a two-year-old program called the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Exchange Program (AWEP).  Sponsored by the State Department, the program is three weeks long and includes lectures and workshops that help women start their own businesses—and it guarantees that the U.S. will be a stable trade partner with their organizations.

According to allAfrica, last year, a

“participant from Liberia raised seed money to establish a business incubator that is helping more than 300 Liberian women start businesses. A women from Senegal brought agribusiness leaders to Washington to learn about public-private partnerships. A business leader from Tanzania set up a network of 1,000 Tanzanian women business owners and negotiated with Macy’s department stores to sell her textile designs and fabrics.”

This was the product from just one year of this program.

As I’ve eluded to in other posts, I have become somewhat skeptical of American “assistance” on the African continent.  AWEP, however, doesn’t strike that same resentment.  To give the women an opportunity to make a difference in their community and become leaders and role models for the next generation of strong African women is something truly inspirational.

Secretary Clinton remarked in her address that

“There will be young men and women who will have a better future because of what you do because of the jobs you create, the businesses you start, the growth you inspire, and the results that will benefit the entire world.”


AWEP is a product of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which was enacted in 2000 to inspire African countries to open their markets.

To learn more about AWEP, “like” its Facebook page and read more about it on its blog.  The State Department’s website also has more information and pictures of the events.

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