Accra, GHANA— Marking Global Entrepreneurship Week, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan delivered remarks on November 17, 2020 at the graduation ceremony of the U.S. Department of State’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) second cohort. Hosted by the Embassy’s implementing partner, the event took place at the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center located in the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration.
AWE follows the DreamBuilder course developed by the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. This online program provides flexibility to budding women entrepreneurs, who follow the course at their own pace, with supplemental sessions facilitated by experienced women entrepreneurs and subject matter experts in finance, marketing, and logistics. AWE provides online education resources, fosters networks that support access to mentorships, and connects women through existing U.S. government exchange programs. Participants from the second AWE cohort included entrepreneurs from the agricultural, food and beverage, cosmetics, personal care, and textile sectors.
During the ceremony, Ambassador Sullivan applauded the 48 cohort members and encouraged them to remain resilient and determined saying, “All of us here today know how much women business owners, both in the informal and formal sectors, contribute to and drive Ghana’s economic prosperity. In addition to boosting economic growth, investing in women produces a multiplier effect because women reinvest a large portion of their income in their families and communities.”
AWE is a part of the U.S. Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, a whole-of-government effort to advance global women’s economic empowerment, established in February 2019. Since the program’s inception, 78 Ghanaian female entrepreneurs have completed the AWE program. AWE was a pilot program in 2019 in 26 countries, including 10 in Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Since then, the program has expanded to over 50 countries and has trained over 7,000 women. For more information about the State Department’s AWE program, please visit www.eca.state.gov/awe.
Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan’s As Prepared Remarks
at the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Cohort Two
YALI RLC Rooftop, GIMPA Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 10:00am-12:00pm
I’m so glad to be with you today. I know that this is the first opportunity for us to be together, and for all of you to meet each other in-person, so it really is a special occasion.
Today’s ceremony is also well-timed, as this week marks Global Entrepreneurship Week. Global Entrepreneurship Week includes the participation of millions of entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, and educators across 165 countries. It’s wonderful to celebrate with all of you, as you mark this important step in your entrepreneurial journeys.
Last year, I was honored to launch the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) right here on the GIMPA campus with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Marie Royce. Later in the year, I was honored and delighted to speak at the graduation of the very first cohort.
AWE is the State Department’s flagship program supporting the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP). W-GDP aims to reach 50 million women worldwide – including all 48 of you!
Over the past year, we’ve all developed new ways of working during a global pandemic. AWE is truly the right program for this moment – an online training program designed for busy women entrepreneurs. I can think of no other group better equipped to adapt to the new normal with such determination, resilience, and creativity.
As the motto of AWE Ghana states, you are “women without limits!”
Over the past two months, you’ve gone beyond “survive” to “thrive,” completing both the online Dreambuilder course and the fully virtual facilitated sessions as you mastered online interactions and training. You’ve gained new skills and learned how to use new tools to create and grow your businesses, raise capital, and network with other successful business owners.
I wonder how many of you felt confident when you signed up for AWE that you would be able to complete a 100% online course. At times most of us, including me, have had to “fake it ‘til you make it” as we gained experience and grew professionally.You stepped up to a challenge, and that is exactly what AWE is designed to do – to help women all over the world overcome challenges and fulfill their economic potential. To become “women without limits!”
Since the onset of the global pandemic, I’ve heard inspiring stories of resiliency and innovation in my interactions with alumni of U.S. government- sponsored exchange programs, including AWE. Early on, I met virtually with several women entrepreneurs to see how they were managing business with COVID-19. The problems they faced were unlike any they had ever expected when they jumped into the business world. I heard about challenges such as learning to re-open a workplace with fewer workers due to social distancing protocols while striving to meet the same deadlines and production figures. These women demonstrated their strength not by becoming discouraged, but by adapting and taking a strategic approach.
I’m confident that you will also rise to the challenge of this moment. I know that you all had to develop business plans as part of the Dreambuilder course. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to think about expanding your business during a pandemic. But I also know that our current global crisis does present opportunities, for those who approach the situation with an innovative and energetic mindset.
Among our AWE cohort two participants, we have caterers, fashion designers, skin- and hair-care producers, delivery providers, agricultural producers, food processors, and clothing manufacturers, to name just a few! I can’t wait to see how you all rise to the challenge of creating new ways to do business in our changing world.
All of us here today know how much women business owners, both in the informal and formal sectors, contribute to and drive Ghana’s economic prosperity. Investing in women produces a multiplier effect because women reinvest a large portion of their income in their families and communities, thereby boosting economic growth.
These concepts are at the heart of the AWE program. To succeed, you need focused time dedicated to professional growth and improving your businesses. As any busy working woman can attest, time is a precious commodity.
I commend you, our AWE Cohort Two participants, for taking the time and investing it where it counts – in yourself and your future! I’m confident you will see this decision pay off Before too long, if you haven’t already.
I offer my special thanks to the Embassy’s partner in implementing the AWE program, the YALI Regional Leadership Center team, under the direction of Dr. Shola Safo-Duodo. Shola, I remember when you and your team launched AWE last year; you should be proud of the way your hard work has lifted up so many women and led to job creation.
The United States Embassy is also grateful to the powerful network of alumnae: women entrepreneurs and business leaders who have devoted their time to facilitate the Dreamweaver courses. These are your “elder sisters” and “aunties” who have collaborated with Shola and the RLC team to guide you through the course, sharing their experiences and knowledge along the way. These women represent a range of U.S. government exchange programs, notably the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, the Fortune Women’s Mentoring Program, the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and, of course, AWE Cohort One participants.
We at the Embassy are fortunate to be able to offer support to women entrepreneurs, though exchange programs, seminars, networking opportunities, small grant funds, and training programs like AWE.
We look forward to continued collaboration and partnership with you and your networks to inspire and motivate other women to achieve economic independence.
To the AWE Cohort two graduates: I salute you all! You have an opportunity to model how powerful women business leaders and entrepreneurs can become the driving force for boosting the prosperity of your communities, and ultimately of your nation.
Thank you for your kind attention. You are awesome. Ayikoo to all of you!