Thank you for inviting me to speak at this event. I am pleased to be part of this exciting journey to kick-start the National Capacity Building workshop organized by the African Women Entrepreneurship Partnership Program (AWEP) Botswana Chapter, especially in my second home, Maun. I am excited to see the Chapter is forging ahead in empowering women entrepreneurs across the country to compete in international markets.
As some of you may be aware, AWEP is a trade and investment flagship program initiated by the U.S. Department of State in 2010 as a professional exchange program. In partnership with USAID, AWEP provides professional networking, business development and trade capacity building opportunities for networks of prominent female entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa.
The catalyst for the creation of AWEP was to combat the lack of participation of women in AGOA, the African Growth Opportunity Act. AGOA and the Generalized System of Preferences together offer unilateral tariff-free access to approximately 7,000 export categories. We are very pleased that Batswana exports to the U.S. under AGOA increased by over 50% in recent years and we hope this trend will continue to rise.
Last winter Botswana AWEP alumni spearheaded the formation of a local chapter aimed at growing production capacities of women to export goods and services, especially in the fields of arts and crafts, agro-business, apparel and textile, hospitality and tourism, and cleaning services. With Embassy support, AWEP members traveled here to Maun, Kasane, Francistown and Selebi-Phikwe last November to create awareness of their work and garner interest for future engagements aimed at increasing exports by Botswana’s women-owned businesses through AGOA, and other markets.
For every year since the creation of AWEP the U.S. Embassy has been able to send participants to the United States for a period of 2-weeks on a professional exchange called the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). In March 2016, the Embassy provided technical expertise to AWEP leadership through training on governance and media engagement. I am proud that my government is making this investment in the Botswana Chapter and I look forward to seeing an increase in Botswana products made by women reaching the U.S. market.
As President Obama said, “where entrepreneurs succeed, their countries succeed.” And it is because of the importance of entrepreneurship that we are working very hard to support Botswana’s entrepreneurs by providing them access to markets and capital, and offering them mentor-ship and networking opportunities. With that, I declare AWEP-Botswana Chapter National Capacity Building Workshop officially open and I wish you fruitful deliberations. I urge women entrepreneurs together with their various business advocacy networks and the Botswana Government to use this chapter to grow their businesses and take advantage of AGOA to export to the U. S. and elsewhere.
Thank you and PULA!