2018 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Participants Display Business Smarts at Product Showcase

Ms. Justine LAMAH of Guinea, Founder of WELKEMA Exports, and Ms. Amina Azia OURO AGORO of Togo, Director of Minagro Group.

"For brave women made by other brave women." This is the motto of South African handcraft and jewelry designer Katherine Mary Pichulik whose self-titled business, Pichulik, was one of over 20 African women entrepreneurs who participated in a product showcase on the campus of Meridian International Center in Washington, DC.

Held on July 13, 2018, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Meridian was honored to host the second annual AWEP Product Showcase as part of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP). Launched in 2010, AWEP is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative designed to introduce Sub-Saharan African businesswomen to American approaches to leadership, business growth, forging networks, and becoming voices of change. During this time, the State Department and Meridian have hosted over 260 African women leaders as part of AWEP, designing study tours that examine the principles of successful entrepreneurship.

Over 75 leaders across global and local business, diplomacy and development, food and trade policy, retail and fashion, attended this year’s AWEP Product Showcase to engage and network with the 22 women entrepreneurs from 13 Sub-Saharan African countries. Featured speakers included Ambassador Jennifer Galt, who serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary within the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Thomas Genton, Director of the Africa Bureau’s Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The showcase was the culminating event of the 2018 participants’ first week of the program in Washington, where the entrepreneurs met with policy makers and local entrepreneurs.

Overflowing with different agricultural products that ranged from honey to plantain chips as well as medicinal ointments, handmade crafts such as leather bags, canvas art and accessories, the AWEP Product Showcase highlighted the diversity of industries among the participants and their shared entrepreneurial spirit. South African designer Katherine Mary Pichulik said that one of the greatest benefits of AWEP is, despite the variety of sectors represented, “we’re all sharing in similar issues and a shared experience.” She continued, “Women are better in numbers and in community, and having that cross-pollination and dialogue, I think, is also starting to open my mind around the gaps as well as the potential.”

Meridian Trustee Laurie Fulton, who has engaged with AWEP participants year after year and still keeps in touch with previous participants, reflected on the impact of the program. She highlighted AWEP’s ability to give the women entrepreneurs not only attention but real opportunities for networking, such as the Product Showcase, as well as learning from each other and the professionals they met throughout the week. Ambassador Fulton further elaborated, "the Product Showcase is a wonderful opportunity to see the creativity of women once they’ve been given the opportunity to become entrepreneurs. What’s so interesting is to see how they develop their small business into medium-sized businesses."

Project Sponsors

International Visitor Leadership Program, U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Project summary

2018 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Participants Display Business Smarts at Product Showcase | July 2018
Number of Visitors: 22
Number of Attendees: 75
Regions: Africa
Countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Zimbabwe
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls, Business and Trade, Entrepreneurship
Program Areas: Exchanges, Convening
Partners: NGOs, Private Sector, Public Sector