“We have faith in you, and we have faith in Africa, but we think Africa will grow more sustainably if women are full partners in that growth,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a group of women entrepreneurs from 36 African nations at a luncheon in their honor October 3.
The second African Women’s Entrepreneurship Exchange Program (AWEP), brought 40 business owners to the United States for three weeks of professional development training and the opportunity to interact with American business executives and policymakers. “If women are empowered to work, to build businesses, to have access to credit, to have an ownership interest in the land that they farm and the crops that they harvest, to be given a chance to compete, we know that women will make a huge contribution,” Clinton said.
She noted that AWEP was launched just a year ago but is already showing results. A 2010 participant from Liberia raised seed money to establish a business incubator that is helping more than 300 Liberian women start businesses.
A woman 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.
The Obama administration, Clinton said, is committed to creating entrepreneurship opportunities for women, who “hold the key to economic growth in Africa, just as they hold the key to economic growth around the world.”
She encouraged nations to change the laws that prevent women from realizing their full economic potential. And she told the AWEP participants, “You have to be engaged in helping us know how best to help you, because, at the end of the day, we want you to succeed and we know your success will breed many more successes.”
“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,” she said.