Celebrating Partnerships for Launch of Africa's WECREATE Centers

Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
AWEP Showcase
Washington, DC
August 6, 2014

Thank you. And my special thanks to Michelle and Ambassador Sasae for your words and your partnership with us on these exciting new programs.

We all believe in supporting women’s economic empowerment. Of course we do. But belief can only take us halfway there. Partnerships make it possible for us to reach that goal. So tonight we are here to celebrate partnership – every person, every organization – both public and private – that worked together to make those three AWEP-WECREATE Centers possible.

I am proud to say that my bureau – the Economics and Business Bureau or “EB” – through the WECREATE program was one of those partners. We joined with other bureaus and programs at State …. And we assembled partners across the public and private sectors —all with their own diverse skills and assets …. With governments such as Japan …. With private partners such as Caterpillar, Inc. and the Caterpillar Foundation…. We are able to create the changes we wanted to see.

You know, I often hear from friends who always say, “You know, the State Department… it’s such an alphabet soup … all those acronyms!” And I always tell them: “Acronyms are our way of saving time so we can get on with the real business of diplomacy.”

But tonight, I think we have time to tell you what AWEP stands for. It stands for the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, and they do incredible work for women across Africa.

AWEP – in turn – is a partnership between USAID and all the bureaus and offices in State that make it possible. I’m talking about my colleagues at the Africa Bureau … the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs …. and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Initiative – or GWI. And of course, that partnership continues with our many missions in Africa.

When AWEP combines with WECREATE, and when they join with Caterpillar Foundation, Caterpillar Inc. and the Government of Japan, that partnership power helps us make real change in Africa.

So please, let’s take a moment to give everyone a hand.

Thank you.

I’d like to take a moment – as I often do at EB – to highlight the contribution of someone whose willingness to be innovative helped us all move forward. Her name is Tanya Hiple and she is a Franklin Fellow who joined us a little more than a year ago as a volunteer with our Global Entrepreneurship Program. Tanya’s an entrepreneur in her own right. She helps startup companies build their businesses – and nonprofits diversify their revenue streams.

She looked at the work we do to support women entrepreneurs and she asked herself:

How can we use the assets we have, and expand our public-private partnership circle, to do even more for women?

She partnered with Sean Griffin at Startup Cup, an organization that helps build entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world, to develop the WECREATE model. And through EB’s partnership with the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), Secretary’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan (S/SRAP) and the US-Pakistan Women’s Council (USPWC), they will be launching the first WECREATE Center in Pakistan in November.

WECREATE Centers will be a safe space where women can meet, gain practical advice from mentors, network, and have access to a number of resources you need to grow a business. Additionally, the Center will also run sessions for men and boys about the economic benefits of empowering their wives, sisters and mothers as entrepreneurs.

In Africa, we will be taking the WECREATE model and putting it together with AWEP’s extensive chapter and alumni network, so we can further leverage our work – and do even more for women entrepreneurs.

To all those partners, once again, thank you for what you have done to support women entrepreneurs across the world’s fastest growing continent. And Tanya, thank you for what you did, not only for women entrepreneurs around the world – but for your country.

Thanks to all of you and your commitment to women’s economic empowerment, we can help aspiring entrepreneurs like Sombo. She’s a young woman from Zambia who – last year – spoke about her ambitions.

She said: “I am a young woman who wants to conquer the world. I am a young woman who believes that I can add to the development of my continent and of course my country and my community and my family.”

What’s so powerful about those words are her clarity of vision, intensity of purpose and the courage to dream.

We all recognize that it’s essential for women to play an active role in their respective economies. They are the key to growth and prosperity. And you always want to back a winner.

In Africa, women entrepreneurs are winners – by definition. Not only do they face the same barriers any businessman would face, they must also deal with all the gender, cultural and societal discrimination that they face as women. And as women in their private lives, those barriers are there all over again.

But as countless studies and statistics confirm, empowered women don’t just help themselves. They lift their families – making sure their children eat healthy food, go to school, and productive citizens. They also network with other businesswomen, so they can share best practices and build stronger regional networks. As they move forward, they lift communities, and strengthen economies; even continents.

They’re winners. So supporting them – as we often say at the State Department – isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. As I mentioned, statistics bear this out.

In 2012, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reported that 126 million women in 67 of the world’s economies started business ventures, generating millions of jobs and contributing substantially to their domestic gross domestic product. This is in addition to the 98 million women already running established businesses.

That’s why we’re committed to empowering them and building the kind of partnerships we are celebrating tonight.

The AWEP-WECREATE Centers will train entrepreneurs as mentors in their communities, so they can support and train other entrepreneurs. It will support and complement the incredible work that AWEP does by providing more resources and tools to build capacity. And it will provide export development and promotion for AWEP-WECREATE entrepreneurs.

The State Department and Caterpillar Inc. and the Caterpillar Foundation will supply funding for the three African centers – and the Government of Japan will bring inkind training. I am particularly interested to see how the Japanese Kaizen method – in which constant and incremental improvement is stressed – will complement those efforts.

The Centers will launch 563 new startups, create 7,206 new jobs, certify 915 female mentors and coaches, train 97 female entrepreneurial champions, mentor and train 6,075 women entrepreneurs and propel 725 existing women entrepreneurs to the next level. Additionally, the program will train 105 “Agents of Change” men and boy champions of women entrepreneurs.

Our goal is simple: to use sustainable models to empower local communities to harness their economic potential through entrepreneurship.

If you know anything about the AWEP chapters, you know about their success stories. They have shown courage, tenacity and determination. And I am honored to pay them tribute tonight.

I’d also like to encourage everyone to take a moment and visit the trade booths of the AWEP companies exhibiting here today. They have brought some impressive new trade and investment opportunities and I encourage you to meet with them to learn more about their products and services.

So thank you for listening. And please join me in celebrating the amazing success and partnerships we have shared with you tonight. May there be many more AWEP-WECREATE Centers in the years to come, so we can support many more women like Sombo.

Thank you.