The United States and Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) have announced the 2023 Academy for Women Entrepreneurs. The programme is open to young women between 21 and 35 in South Africa, Lesotho, and Eswatini. 

The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, launched in 2019 as an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has helped over 25,000 women across the world grow their businesses and learn digital skills. It aims to promote economic growth and prosperity and empower women to build better futures for their families and communities.

This year, the South African cohort will select 140 participants to join activities in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Maseru, Mbabane, and Pretoria. With this expanded 2023 cohort, the total number of women entrepreneurs trained through the U.S. Mission to South Africa and AWIEF partnership will surpass 550. This year, the opportunity is open to women from neighbouring countries, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Selected participants will get access to AWIEF Community, which provides ongoing peer learning and support, expert-facilitated hybrid business management training and mentorship sessions, as well as free delegate passes to the 2023 AWIEF Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, among others. Interested women can apply here.

Africa has more female entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the world, with women making up 58% of the continent’s self-employed population. However, women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa continue to earn lower profits than their male counterparts and have access to less funding, making it difficult for women-owned SMEs to grow. There is a $42 billion gender funding gap across Africa, costing the continent about $92 million per year. 

Irene Ochem, founder and CEO of AWEIF, shared that the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program has been a huge success in South Africa so far. “It has empowered enterprising young women not only with the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch and scale successful enterprises but also with personal development and growth. We are excited to be continuing in our role as implementing partner and extending the impact to women in Lesotho and Eswatini.”

AWIEF is an award-winning women’s economic empowerment organisation that provides women entrepreneurs in Africa the support needed to grow their businesses. Their mission is to foster women’s economic inclusion, advancement and empowerment through entrepreneurship support and development. 

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