african-women-entrepreneur-program
Last week, Washington welcomed 30 small and medium-sized female business owners from 27 countries in Africa, who are participants in the African Women’s Entrepreneur Program (AWEP). Every year, 30 female entrepreneurs are invited to the U.S. to attend professional development meetings and network with U.S. policy makers, companies, industry associations, nonprofit groups, and multilateral development organizations. For the past two weeks, the women have traveled throughout the U.S. to meet with scores of professionals in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.

The visit marks three years of success for AWEP, which was launched by the U.S. Department of State in July 2010. The program is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that works with African women entrepreneurs in several main focus areas. AWEP supports the Presidential Policy Directive on U.S. strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa by operating on two parallels: it spurs economic growth and trade by involving female entrepreneurs in the sector, and promotes opportunity and development throughout the continent for women and youth.

The Department of State acknowledges that supporting growth in Africa is economically and politically vital; doing so opens up trade to U.S. markets and creates positive business environments both at home and abroad. In addition, AWEP helps to empower women in their respective countries; in Africa, women are the backbone of communities, and by enabling them to utilize their economic power, the program is helping to reduce the gender gap in education and improve health, political participation and economic inclusion.

The women in the program include Mame Diene from Senegal, whose organic cosmetics and nutraceuticals company, Bioessence Laboratories, employs almost 4,000 people. The visit to Washington enabled Ms. Diene and her peers to discuss business growth and female empowerment in Africa. When the women return to their countries, they join AWEP chapters where they can connect with other successful businesswomen; by building networks, the initiative is enabling these women to become voices for social advocacy in their communities.

AWEP is a prime example of U.S. commitment to foreign investment in developing regions. Globally, women constitute 50% of the global population and 40% of the global workforce, yet they own just 1% of the world’s wealth. By providing a platform from which women can effectively run their own businesses, AWEP is resulting in positive economic, social and political changes that are beneficial for the U.S. both abroad and at home.

– Chloe Isacke
Sources: DipNote, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State

senegal-nutrition-health
Over 925 million people are currently undernourished worldwide, and 3.5 million children under the age of five die from malnourishment every year. The problem is especially prevalent in Eastern Africa, where 23 million children will grow up stunted and likely permanently impaired. Most diets in these areas consist of simple grains and very few fruits and vegetables which contain key nutrients that are needed for proper mental and physical growth.

In the past, poverty alleviation efforts have been focused on increasing the quantity of food produced by farmers, rather than the quality. But recently, more attention has been paid to what kinds of foods are reaching those in poverty , and how the crops can help them not just survive, but actually improve their quality of life. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has created a unique plan for making nutritious foods a possibility for farmers to grow, and for consumers to buy.

The Marketplace for Nutritious Foods, which was started up with a $2.1 million grant from USAID, is up and running in both Kenya and Mozambique, with plans to go to Tanzania as well. The Marketplace works by searching for businesses that can provide affordable nutritious foods upon receipt of help from the organization in the form of funding for seeds, technical assistance, business support and networking opportunities. After receiving numerous applications, GAIN selectively chooses organizations that fit the program, and gives them everything they need to get nutritious foods to the consumers. The final product, which is anything from dairy products to sweet potatoes, is fully nutritious and reaches the local markets at an affordable price for the public to consume.

As a result, the public is not only given more access to nutritious foods, but the farmers also gain an opportunity for income. The Marketplace provides the incentive farmers need to produce the healthy foods necessary for the population to thrive.

– Emma McKay

Sources: USAID