Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan’s Remarks – AS PREPARED
at the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Cohort Three
GIMPA Executive Conference Center,
Thursday, July 29, 2021 10:00am-12:00pm
It’s great to be back here at GIMPA to recognize another cohort of AWE graduates. I want to thank Academy of Women Entrepreneurs Director Ms. Shola Safo-Duodo for her tireless and committed leadership of this AWEsome program and for her inspired mentorship to women entrepreneurs, from which I’m certain you have all benefitted.
It’s incredible to see how the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs has grown – from 30 women in the inaugural cohort, to 48 in cohort two, and now our strongest cohort yet of 100 AWEsome women. The expansion shows the demand for this type of training and is a testament to the success of its graduates.
One of the top priorities of the U.S. government is the promotion of inclusive economic growth, and increasing trade and investment between the United States and countries in Africa. Entrepreneurs like you are central to that effort.
We aim to support and develop entrepreneurs, because we know you can be powerful engines for economic growth and job creation. Women entrepreneurs have the drive, the talent, and the commitment to start and grow businesses, but often don’t get the same opportunities or the same support that men receive.
That’s where AWE comes in – to break down barriers that are holding women back and make economies stronger for everyone. I want to highlight the success of two Cohort One AWE graduates who unlocked even more opportunity as recipients of U.S. African Development Foundation, ADF, grants. The first is Ms. Patience Owusu, owner of Peema Naturals, a shea butter hair and skin care products company. Patience started the company in her home, using a kitchen mixer. Thanks to AWE, she was eligible to compete for a ADF small grant that has allowed her to procure industrial-grade processing equipment, a delivery van, a large inventory of raw shea and other ingredients, and fund production safety and quality control training for her and the new staff she’s been able to hire. Now she has an eye on export opportunities.
The second woman is none other than Ghana’s Mushroom Queen, Fafape Ama Etsa Foe. Through AWE, she sharpened her marketing skills to promote mushrooms as a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to meat and also received an ADF grant. Fafape is using her grant to train 60 mushroom cultivators on post-harvest processing to dry and preserve mushrooms. The ADF funds will also subsidize machines for vacuum packaging and labeling, and trainer fees on food safety and ideas for value-addition, such as kebabs, jerky, and mushroom seasoning.
These are just two examples among many AWE graduates who have embraced the vision of “AWE – Women Without Limits.” I know that each of you will achieve success in your own right, and my team looks forward to hearing how you grow your business. We have seen the benefits multiply, as when women succeed, children are educated, and communities thrive.
You should feel proud of your accomplishment in completing this course amidst all the competing demands on your time and energy. Truly, our resilience has been tested since the onset of the pandemic nearly one and a half years ago, and we continue to have to adapt to the new reality to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. The United States is taking a leading role in the global pandemic response through our return to the World Health Organization, our support to the COVAX Facility, and our provision of vaccines bilaterally to Ghana and other countries via COVAX and the African Union. As President Akufo-Addo mentioned in his July 25 address to the nation, 1,229,670 million doses of US-provided Pfizer vaccine will arrive in Ghana soon.
The United States continues to collaborate with partners, government, and the private sector to meet healthcare needs and economic concerns. As entrepreneurs, and frankly, as women, you’re already familiar with juggling multiple complex challenges simultaneously. Our hope is that AWE has strengthened your resolve and support network so that even in the face of adversity, you’re able to seize opportunities that emerge.
Examples of this include AWE alumnae, women entrepreneurs like you, who seized the moment and quickly adapted their business skills to different industries when the pandemic hit. One woman, who realized that fashion was not going to be as a high priority during lockdown, pivoted to working in the more essential grain production and supply, meeting a critical food security demand for staples when borders were closed. Another woman, who owns an interior design business, quickly seized upon the opportunity to attract clients by adapting their homes to provide telework spaces.
Yet another, a fitness guru, moved her coaching to an online platform when she couldn’t lead trainings in person. She now has a global clientele! The pandemic won’t be the last time you are tested as entrepreneurs, and you’ll draw on the skills and knowledge – and networks – you’ve gained from AWE to meet evolving demands for the rest of your careers.
Secretary Blinken has commented that “entrepreneurs have a critical role to play in building dynamic, innovative economies that create opportunities for people.” That means jobs for the teeming youth population. Our U.S. mission goals include promoting such opportunity through programs like AWE, because your increased economic opportunities increase Ghana’s overall economic success.
Your success is Ghana’s success, and we are proud to support you to become Ghana’s next cohort of dynamic entrepreneurs, business leaders, and economic influencers. I’m delighted to celebrate with you today your momentous achievements so far. It doesn’t end here… I trust the certificate you receive today symbolizing your new skills and renewed determination to succeed, will inspire you to greater heights.
Congratulations, AWE Cohort Three graduates!