Good morning! I am pleased to be here today with you for the launch of the fifth annual Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) organized by the U.S. Mission and implemented in partnership with Ascend Studios.
I would like to recognize our amazing partner for this program Ascend Studios and its head, Inya Lawal, who is an alumna of the Fortune-U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership program. Thank you, Inya, for all your hard work!
I would also like to commend the mentors and trainers who will be part of this year’s program, most of whom are alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. Thank you for using your skills and expertise to contribute to the growth of Nigeria.
Finally, I want to congratulate the 120 women entrepreneurs that were selected for this prestigious program. You should be very proud of yourselves as there were over 16,000 applicants. Congratulations!
In 2019, the U.S. Department of State established the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs to provide women entrepreneurs with the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch and scale successful businesses. By promoting women’s economic opportunities and ensuring that women have the capabilities and resources needed to participate in the economy, the AWE program directly supports the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. Since its inception, AWE has trained over 25,000 women in more than 80 countries.
AWE uses a hybrid model that combines online training with mentoring, facilitation, and in-person workshops. The platform we use is DreamBuilder, which was developed through a partnership between Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and global copper mining company Freeport-McMoRan.
I am proud to share that since 2019, we have had four cohorts of AWE in Nigeria helping 770 businesswomen. That’s 770 businesswomen across Nigeria who are equipped with new skills and a strong network and who are taking their businesses to new levels, creating jobs, and contributing to economic growth.
One example is Uzo Igweike, AWE alumna and founder of Loom Craft Chocolate, started her business in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that the program’s “curriculum gave her the tools she needed to effectively organize her business.” Today, her business has expanded from producing three flavors created in her home to 19 flavors made at the Loom Chocolate Factory in Abuja.
Women’s empowerment and economic integration are key to Nigeria’s long-term economic development. When women are economically empowered, they re-invest in their families and communities, producing a multiplier effect that spurs economic growth and contributes to global peace and stability.
In Nigeria, according to National Economic Council, there are more than 37 million micro, small, and medium scale enterprises which account for 84 per cent of the jobs in the country. Additionally, they account for 48.5 per cent of the gross domestic product. Entrepreneurs have a key role to play in Nigeria’s economic development by creating jobs that will lead to a more productive and secure Nigeria. Women entrepreneurs specifically are a growing market force, serving as a critical source of innovation and job creation and fueling economic growth.
Through programs like AWE, our two countries are working together towards a peaceful, stable, and prosperous future for Nigeria.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making this program a success. And to the women entrepreneurs, please take what you learned here to grow your business, improve your lives, and contribute to the growth of Nigeria.