The 2022 cohort of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) South Africa program celebrated their graduation last week.
AWE is an initiative of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and supports the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, driving business growth and prosperity for women and communities in more than 80 countries worldwide.
The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to South Africa has been partnering with AWIEF to implement the program in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and Pretoria.
In this fourth edition of the program, 110 participants were selected from more than 1,000 applications to join the AWE 2022 cohort, bringing the total number of South African women entrepreneurs who have received training, mentorship, and support to more than 400 since 2019.
At the 2022 graduation ceremony held on-site in Pretoria and virtually across the country, Anne Linnee, Consul General at the US Consulate General in Durban, said: “It is a huge privilege to celebrate this graduation of the fourth cohort of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs or AWE and it’s just a huge honour to recognise and welcome all of the graduates into our burgeoning and growing alumni network.
“I’d like to thank our program implementing partner, Irene Ochem and the AWIEF team. Programs like this are only possible with strong dedicated partners with whom we can build a shared vision of success that results in celebrations like this one.”
AWIEF CEO Irene Ochem said: “We are proud to have once again partnered with the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to South Africa to implement the AWE program, empowering young women not only with requisite knowledge and skills they need to own and manage successful businesses of their own, but also personal development and growth.”
Ochem told the graduates: “The program has given you the tools for successful entrepreneurship, a robust network of support, including follow-on opportunities, potential funders, and a vast network of like-minded entrepreneurs across the country. It is now up to you to exploit this incredible opportunity and transform yourselves and your businesses into the economic powerhouses you are destined to become.”
Durban-based entrepreneur Felicity Maduna said: “What an honour to be part of the AWE class of 2022. I applied for this training initiative in hopes of finding business mentorship, learning how to scale my service-based company and access to a network of women who know what it is like to build a business from the ground up. I found these and more. I can now confidently pitch my business, the problem I solve, and my value proposition. I can also confidently call myself an entrepreneur.”