2017 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Participants Showcase their Products at Meridian

2017 AWEP participants in the home goods and crafts sub-group volunteering at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico

On Monday, July 10, 2017 Meridian International Center was honored to welcome the participants of the 2017 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) in Chicago, Illinois. 30 international visitors representing 27 nations from across Africa converged on Chicago to open their program and examine the principles of successful entrepreneurship. Launched in 2010 in conjunction with the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), AWEP addresses topics such as U.S. business practices and African access to U.S. markets; integrating African women into the global economy; and funding access for commercial expansion in Africa. Leading actors in economic development and social advocacy in their home communities, the program’s alumnae have created thousands of jobs and established more than 20 women’s business associations across the Sub-Saharan region. Meridian is proud to work with the U.S. Department of State’s IVLP to implement this program.  Read more about the impacts of AWEP on the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State website here.

While in Chicago, the entrepreneurs received a briefing on the U.S. federalist system of government, were inspired by a keynote address on women's entrepreneurship from YJT Solution's Founder and CEO Ms. Linda Maclachlan, and spoke with Luxe Bloom's Founder and CEO Ms. Shelley Rosen about her path to entrepreneurship. After an intensive Communications and Marketing workshop facilitated by Think, Inc., the entrepreneurs had the opportunity to share their work in an AWEP Product Showcase where they displayed their wares for a lively Chicago audience.

On the following day the participants were split into their respective sectors including Agriculture, Fashion, and Home Goods/Craft and sent to their respective "city-splits'. The itinerary will take them to cities including respectively Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; New Orleans, LA; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Each of these sectors will reunite for a few days of programming in New York, New York. A separate group of North African participants will be travelling from Chicago to Los Angeles, California and Miami, Florida before reconvening with the rest of the entrepreneurs in Washington, DC.

In Washington, the entrepreneurs learned how to sustain AWEP chapters that had formed through the program, secure capital with guidance from Ms. Stephenie Foster of Smash Strategies, and utilize best practices for business branding from Ms. Rahama Wright of Shea Yeleen Health and Beauty, LLC. They were also able to discuss relations between their nations and the U.S. with State Department officials and meet with Congressmember Karen Bass (Democrat - California, 7th District) to learn about AGOA. On Thursday, July 27th, the participants took part in an "Access to Capital" workshop session that included small group discussions with experts from the SBA, USAID, and the World Bank among others. Later that day, Meridian hosted a product showcase on its campus, and the photos can be seen here. Following a closing session the next day, the visitors returned home to apply what they had learned to their own work.



International Visitor Leadership Program, U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State

Project summary

2017 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Participants Showcase their Products at Meridian | July 2017
Number of Visitors: 30
Regions: Africa, Near East and North Africa
Countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo - Kinshasa, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls, Entrepreneurship
Program Areas: Global Leadership, Diplomacy
Partners: NGOs, Private Sector, Public Sector