Harare, November 21, 2013-The United States Embassy is supporting the launch of the Zimbabwean Chapter of the African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) this Thursday in Harare. The group will work to expand and support Zimbabwean women in business as well as assist them export goods and services to other countries, including the United States.
“I am excited to see the launch of this AWEP chapter in Zimbabwe,” said Ambassador Bruce Wharton ahead of the launch. “I have often said that Zimbabwe’s strongest resource is its people – and this is a perfect example of those resources in action. I am confident that these women, who have taken initiative not only to start their own businesses but to contribute to the Zimbabwean economy, will make impact the future of the Zimbabwean economy.”
Similar AWEP chapters have been established in countries such as Nigeria and Zambia. Sylvia Banda of Zambia, Pan African AWEP Chairperson, is expected to attend the launch ceremony which will also be attended by senior government officials from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development; and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
Barbara Rwodzi, CEO of House of BarRue Knitwear, a successful business that exports handmade garments, is founding chairperson of the AWEP chapter in Zimbabwe. She visited the U.S. through the AWEP exchange in 2012. “The main theme for the launch and the Zimbabwe chapter is to capitalize on providing “opportunity” for women in business. We believe as AWEP that once women are given an opportunity to succeed, they will do so,” she said. “AWEP believes in expanding women’s role in shaping national business climates and leading the way in social reform. We aim to transform Zimbabwean communities through business achievements.”
AWEP was established in July 2012 by the United States’ Department of State through international exchange programs involving American and African women. The program identifies and builds networks of women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa who own and run small and medium scale businesses.
Since its establishment, four Zimbabwean women have participated in the program and form the core of the group that is establishing a Zimbabwean chapter. They, along with four other participants from other U.S. exchange programs such as the Fortune/State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Program, form the founding committee for the chapter.
Participants to the AWEP exchange programs travelled to the U.S. for three weeks where they met business leaders, policymakers, companies and industry associations, non-profit groups advocating for women’s economic opportunities, and multilateral development organizations. The annual exchange program coincides with the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum when held in Washington, DC, and is designed to help the entrepreneurs build business alliances, develop advocacy and communication skills, network, identify resources to advance women’s entrepreneurship, and take advantage of opportunities for U.S. partnerships through AGOA.
Trade between Zimbabwe and the United States continues to blossom with Zimbabwe recording a trade surplus in seven of the last nine years. According trade data from the United States Department of Commerce, Zimbabwe imported $53 million worth of goods from the United States while the United States purchased $52 million of goods.