Africa Women Innovation
& Entrepreneurship Forum

AWIEF is a pan-African non-profit organisation which nurtures and actively
promotes women innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa.


AWIEF is a pan-African women economic empowerment organisation which nurtures and actively promotes women innovation and entrepreneurship through its development programmes, accelerators, and networking events, including the annual AWIEF conference, exhibition and awards.

AWIEF’s mission is to foster the economic inclusion, advancement and empowerment of women in Africa through entrepreneurship support and development.

Year Founded
Conference Participants to date
African countries represented
AWIEF Programmes alumni​

Meet our 2020 speakers

AWIEF 2020 had a stellar lineup of experts, thought leaders, policymakers, researchers, investors and women entrepreneurs from across Africa and beyond.


7th Africa Women Innovation And Entrepreneurship Forum


02 - 03 December, 2021

#AWIEF2020 Conference was sponsored by:


AWIEF hosts the fourth cohort of her growth accelerator

AWIEF Growth Accelerator Programme

Applications are invited from dynamic and innovative female entrepreneurs for the AWIEF Growth Accelerator 2021 cohort.

The AWIEF Growth Accelerator is designed to support the unique needs of early-stage and high growth-oriented women-led ventures with business modeling, growth strategy training, corporate advisory, mentorship, networks, and access to strategic partnerships. The accelerator provides capital-raising support for growth, scale and sustainability. It builds women’s entrepreneurial leadership capacity, connects them with appropriate sources of capital and helps them scale…   

eCommerce Capacity Development Programme for Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa

The High Commission of Canada in South Africa has partnered with AWIEF to run an eCommerce Capacity Development Programme for Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa. Funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), the activity will enhance market access for women entrepreneurs through building knowledge, capacity, and skills in digital channels. 40 South African women entrepreneurs will be provided with technical learning, training, and mentoring support on how to start, grow and scale eCommerce businesses.

AWE South Africa 2020

The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is an initiative of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) as part of the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative designed to empower 50 million women worldwide by 2025 to fulfill their economic potential, and in doing so, create conditions for increased stability, security, and prosperity for all. AWE’s mission is to support the growth of women entrepreneurs by equipping them with the practical skills, resources, mentorship, and networks needed to create sustainable businesses. The 8-month-long AWE South Africa program is implemented in partnership with U.S. Embassy in Pretoria.

Green Energy Startup Incubator & Accelerator

AWIEF has launched a new initiative “Enterprise Development for Women-Owned Ventures in Green Energy” and is pleased to announce a Startup Incubator and Accelerator programme. The 12-month programme is funded by the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), and will support 70 women involved in renewable and green energy production in two African countries – Malawi and Nigeria.

LeadTech Incubation Program

AWIEF partnered with Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), Morocco  to launch LEADTECH INCUBATION PROGRAM.  Despite Africa being one of the fastest growing technology markets in the world, women’s participation in the technology sector remains considerably low. LeadTech is a continental program to support promising and innovative women-owned or women-led digital startups in Agriculture, Biotech, Education, Environment, Finance, and Health.


New AWIEF Community


Senior Vice President and Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, VISA

Aida Diarra joined Visa as SVP & Head for Sub Sahara Africa in November 2018. In this capacity, she overseas Visa’s business operations in fifty countries and seven offices in Sub Saharan Africa. Her focus is on digitizing cash, driving wider digital acceptance, and promoting financial inclusion in the diverse markets of the region.

Aida is a recognized leader in the financial services and digital finance industries, having previously led Western Union’s Africa portfolio. She has a Master Business Administration (MBA) in International Business & Management from the University of Hartford, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from American Business School.


Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Switzerland to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini,Lesotho, Mauritius and Namibia

Véronique Haller is the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Switzerland to South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mauritius and Namibia since February 2019. From Mai 2017 to January 2019, she was the Counselor to the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr Alain Berset. She in particular advised him on foreign policy and presidential matters. Prior to joining the President, she was the Chief of Staff to the State Secretary in the Federal Department of foreign affairs. From 2013 to 2016, she was the Director of the Office of Human Rights Policy in the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs’ Division for Human Security (DHS). In this role, Véronique lead the Department’s bilateral and multilateral policy to promote respect for Human Rights.She served as Legal Counselor and Deputy Head of Political Affairs at the Swiss Embassy inWashington, D.C. from 2010 to 2013 where she handled a range of international law issuesand US bilateral relations with Russia, Africa and the Western Hemisphere and was thePermanent Observer of Switzerland to the Organisation of American States. During her time

in Washington D.C., Véronique spent 8 months working with the US Department of State as a Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellow. From 2005 to 2010, Véronique served in the Office of theLegal Adviser in Bern, dealing with International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights issues. In particular, she was a member of the Swiss Delegation in the Oslo Process, which led to the adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. From 2004 to 2005, Véronique served at the Swiss Embassy in Sarajevo.Prior to joining the Swiss Foreign Service, Véronique worked as Legal Manager with InfrontSports and Media on the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan and Germany and as tax consultant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Zurich.Véronique is a graduate of Anglia Law School (UK) and Zurich University Law School. She speaks French (mother tongue), German, English and Spanish. Aida is a recognized leader in the financial services and digital finance industries, having previously led Western Union’s Africa portfolio. She has a Master Business Administration (MBA) in International Business & Management from the University of Hartford, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from American Business School.


Senior Director and Full Professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management

Professor Landry Signé is a world-renowned professor and leading practitioner who has won more than sixty prestigious awards and distinctions from four continents for his academic, policy, business, and leadership accomplishments, receiving as well the fastest reported tenure and promotion to the highest rank of full professor in the history of United States universities, for a scholar who started at an entry-level position in his discipline. He is a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development Program and the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, a full professor and founding senior director of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Globalization 4.0 Initiative at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies. He is also the chairman of the Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity, senior adviser to top global leaders (presidential, ministerial, and C-suite levels), and author of numerous books, including Unlocking Africa’s Business Potential: Trends, Opportunities, Risks, and Strategies. He was selected as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader for “finding innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues,” and his work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, CNBC, Forbes, the Hill, and Harvard International Review, among others.


Broadcast Anchor/TV Presenter

Multiple award-winning Broadcast Anchor, MC, Motivational Speaker and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Leanne Manas, is a renowned leader on the South African media circuit. From Oprah Winfrey to Nelson Mandela, Leanne has interviewed an impressive range of public figures, heads of state, thought-leaders and local and international celebrities. She has also been at the forefront of bringing South Africans some of the biggest News stories over the last 2 decades.

She is instantly recognisable as the face of Morning Television as anchor of Morning Live, a hard-hitting news broadcast that she has been hosting since 2004.

Leanne also runs her own Communication Company, Manas Life, that specialises in Media Training, Motivational Speaking, Panel Hosting and MC work. Leanne draws on her decades of Live TV news experience to help companies excecutives deliver key messages effectively. Her comprehensive course trains corporates to bring out their best during interviews – on- camera or off – and effectively teaches them to deliver critical messages credibly and convincingly.


Regional Director East and Southern Africa
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

Sara Mbago-Bhunu is the Director of IFAD’s East and Southern Africa Division. Mbago-Bhunu brings to IFAD rich work experience spanning more than 20 years in the agriculture sector across Central, East and Southern Africa. She has worked on agriculture policy and sector reviews, value chain development, access to agricultural finance, social enterprise models and the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises in peri-urban and rural areas. She has also led and managed teams in other development organizations in the design of development projects and capacity-building programmes. 

Prior to joining IFAD, Mbago-Bhunu worked at the World Bank as a Senior Agricultural Economist for the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo, based in Kinshasa. From 2013 to 2016, she served as Country Director for SNV-Netherlands Development Organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mbago-Bhunu holds a Masters in Business Administration from Maastricht School of Management, Netherlands, and a BSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of Reading, United Kingdom.


Editorial Director, Middle East & Africa
The Economist Intelligence Unit

Pratibha provides the intellectual leadership necessary to ensure that The EIU’s analysis and forecasts for the Middle Eastern and African markets are the most insightful available to international decision-makers. Pratibha’s deep knowledge and regional experience means she frequently chairs and speaks at conferences in Africa, the Middle East and Asia on subjects such as the business case for Africa, the impact of low oil prices for the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), global food security, urban sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Pratibha leads The EIU’s Middle East and Africa team and is also the overall manager of the other regional teams. Pratibha has many years’ experience ensuring that The EIU’s forecasts and analysis for countries’ economies are closely integrated with our global macroeconomic outlook, with the analytical skills and the regional expertise required to diagnose problems and devise viable solutions.

Pratibha has an MSc and a BSc in economics from the University of London. She also holds an MA in area studies from SOAS, University of London.


Arielle for Africa LTD

Edith Njage is a Social and Serial Entrepreneur based in Africa. She holds a MSc in International Business (Disruptive Innovation) and an MSc in Finance, both from HULT International Business School. Edith also holds Bachelor of Business Administration (Finance) and a Bachelor in Business Management (Economics).

She is a Mentor to 3,656 young people in Africa as the Director of Westlands Job Creation LTD which has managed to create 11,000 jobs in 12 African countries.

Edith is the Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa LTD which aims to create 113,000 jobs in Africa through disruptive business models, mentorship and funding for entrepreneurs. They are currently working with entrepreneurs in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.

Edith is also the Co-Founder and CFO of Creative Brain Academy which provides a career control center to keep millennials lifelong employable. Founded in the Netherlands and present in 40 developed countries, moving to developing countries this year.

She is the Country Representative for Invicta Ventures which funds social impact projects with up to $1 Billion.

She has been awarded an associate member title of Business Executives; worked with over 70 cultures and has spoken on different platforms around the world.


Executive Director, DALBERG GROUP

James Irungu Mwangi is the Executive Director of the Dalberg Group, an advisory firm that focuses on inclusive and sustainable growth. James leads integration and innovation across Dalberg’s five core businesses, which together employ over 600 staff in 25 locations across the globe, including 11 countries in Africa. James founded Dalberg’s presence in Africa in 2007, and previously served as Global Managing Partner of Dalberg Advisors from 2010 to 2014. He currently serves on the boards of Old Mutual, The Skoll Foundation and One Acre Fund. He holds an honours degree in Economics from Harvard University, was previously with McKinsey & Company, and is a Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow (2009), a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum (2013), and a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Aida is a recognized leader in the financial services and digital finance industries, having previously led Western Union’s Africa portfolio. She has a Master Business Administration (MBA) in International Business & Management from the University of Hartford, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from American Business School.


Founder & Host
The Flip Africa

Justin is the Founder of The Flip – a podcast, newsletter and community exploring more contextually relevant insights from entrepreneurs changing the status quo in Africa. He is also an investor in Rally Cap Ventures, an angel community investing in emerging market fintech. A native New Yorker, Justin has been living in South Africa since 2017

Toyin F. Sanni

GCEO, Emerging Africa Capital Group and President CIIA

In 2017, Toyin was declared the All African Businesswoman of the Year at the CNBC/Forbes Africa AABLA Awards and the Nigerian CEO of the Year by the Pearl Awards Board. She is an Investment Banker and Author with over 30 years’ experience. Prior to founding Emerging Africa, she was Group Chief Executive Officer at United Capital, Plc. She is a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers, Fellow, Chartered Institute of Secretaries, Fellow, IAPM, Member, Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments, UK and President, Association of Corporate & Individual Investment Advisers, Nigeria.She holds a first Degree in Law from the University of Ife, a Master’s Degree in Law from the University of Lagos and has attended the CEO Program of the Lagos Business School, and Executive Programs of the New York Institute of Finance, the Wharton School and Harvard Business School.Toyin is passionate about developing leaders and women and is the Founder, Women In Finance, Nigeria and WIFNG UK. She serves as Co-Lead / Ambassador for the Africa CEO Forum in Nigeria and on the Boards for Women Working for Change and Transcorp Plc, amongst other Boards. Aida is a recognized leader in the financial services and digital finance industries, having previously led Western Union’s Africa portfolio. She has a Master Business Administration (MBA) in International Business & Management from the University of Hartford, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from American Business School.


Executive Director
Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI), USA

Monica Delores Hooks built her career at Sony Music Entertainment with front line P&L experience in Product Management, International Marketing and Business Affairs roles; then in entrepreneurship with business development roles in new media, entertainment and technology startups. She has over 20 years of expertise in content marketing and brand management focusing on projects and brands driven by youth culture and social influencers. As Executive Director of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, Ms. Hooks is responsible for innovation policy, entrepreneur workforce programs, financial capacity building, as well as entrepreneur retention and development as it pertains to women’s entrepreneurship throughout the City of Atlanta.

Ms. Hooks is also Founder and CEO of m-oracle LLC d/b/a The Marketing Oracle, a marketing innovation agency offering strategy and market research. m-oracle LLC is a graduate of the City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) inaugural class and winner of the 2017 Microsoft Innovation Bots and Cognitive Services Award. The Marketing Oracle’s mission is to connect business, media, technology and culture.

Ms. Hooks is a graduate of Georgia Public Schools and received her bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in Government where she earned the Dean’s Award. She has an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. She is currently co-lead for the Atlanta Chapter of Black Women Talk Tech, a member of the public service organization, Delta Sigma Theta Inc. and Radcliffe Presbyterian Church located in Atlanta GA.


Managing Director (SAP Africa)

Cathy was appointed Managing Director of SAP Africa in March 2018. She is the first ever female executive of an emerging markets market unit in SAP’s history.

Cathy started her career in the insurance industry as an application developer. She also spent three years in the UK, consolidating her expertise, and held a number of executive roles for European and global markets, specialising in the outsourcing services business. Overall, she has more than 25 years’ experience in the IT industry, working for major industry players like IBM and Cisco.

She joined Cisco in 2015, and as Managing Director, led Cisco’s go-to- market sales and digital transformation strategies for sub-Saharan Africa.

Prior to her tenure at Cisco, Cathy spent 23 years with IBM, where she held various leadership roles in IT service delivery, HR and sales.

Salma Okonkwo

Founder, Blue Power Energy

Salma Okonkwo is the founder of Blue Power Energy, an alternative energy conglomerate developing a $200m solar farm project in Northern Ghana. Blue Power has installed 40MW of solar capacity and manages a utility-scale solar energy project in Bolgatanga, Ghana. Prior to Blue Power, Salma built UBI Group, a billion-dollar conglomerate in Ghana’s downstream oil and gas downstream sector. UBI Group is the only Ghanaian company to date to fully integrate its operations across the value chain of the downstream petroleum sector.Salma is currently the Managing Director of UBI Petroleum; Founder and Chairwoman of Puma Energy Ghana; Founder and Board Member of Blue Star Exploration; and Ghana Country Director for Sahara Energy. Outside of her work in Energy, Salma runs Mother’s Heart Foundation, a charitable organization that provides accommodation, clothing, food, healthcare and education for its beneficiaries.

Ononuju Irukwu

Head, Private Banking

Ononuju Irukwu is an Investment Management Professional with over 2 decades of experience in Investment Management & Personal Banking with responsibility for developing and managing client portfolios. She is currently the Head of Private Banking at FBN Bank UK, a First Bank of Nigeria subsidiary with a focus on Nigerian and West African High Net worth individuals.

She was the Managing Director, Chapel Hill Denham Management Limited a leading Investment Management Company in Lagos, Nigeria, until 2018, where she managed Nigeria’s first Women focused Mutual fund, the Women’s Investment Fund (WIF). She has a broad-based experience in both Personal Banking and Investment Management having spearheaded product development in several leading institutions in Nigeria.

Ononuju is passionate about financial literacy and is committed to ensuring the investing public is well informed and prepared to plan, invest and grow their assets during their working life. She wrote a personal wealth column with ThisDay Newspapers Nigeria for over 6years and speaks regularly at seminars and conferences for women and youth entrepreneur groups.

She is a former Chairperson, Channels Working Group of the Financial Inclusion Technical Committee, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)2016-2018 and a former President, Fund Managers Association Of Nigeria(FMAN), 2018. She is an Honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Nigeria (CIBN), an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments, UK and the Chairperson of the UK Chapter, Women in Finance Nigeria.


Head: Energy Finance

Amith Singh is a MCom graduate and a Chartered Accountant (South Africa) with a TGM from Insead.

Amith is currently the Head of the Energy Finance team of Nedbank CIB, which is one on the most successful Energy teams in Africa. He is a specialist transactor in the African Power sector for most of his professional career.

He has structured, negotiated and banked transactions across numerous geographies and technologies. He has led the Energy Finance team to be one of the leading Renewable Energy project financiers in the South African Renewable Energy Program and many strategic Power Projects in Africa.

Amith has strong energy sector experience and holds significant relationships with world leading Independent Power Producers.


Policy Advisor to UN Women
East and Southern Africa Region

Nidhi launched her profession as an investigative reporter with the Zimbabwe International News Agency and BBC Africa Service before joining the Women and Development Program at the Commonwealth Secretariat, London. In 1997, she established an independent consulting practice based in Toronto,, to drive e-commerce and the networked economy with women’s entrepreneur groups, delivering e-training through groups like ASAFE in Cameroon. An agrarian economist by training, consulting took Nidhi to diverse communities where she conducted critical assessments of land use, extractive industries and plantation economics.  Her focus is on local food security; digital access and competencies and policy advocacy to address climate change. In the past decade, Nidhi developed Gender Equality policies and certification processes for the ITU, the Gold Standard, the UN Convention on Biodiversity and the Green Climate Fund.

Nidhi volunteers in community development, accumulating many years of governance experience. She was chair of Ontario Nature, chair of Toronto’s Planet in Focus film festival, Board member and vice-chair of OXFAM Canada, and was appointed to the Board of the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority by the Ministry of Environment in Canada. She is  currently a board member of Canada’s Sustainability Network.


Coordinator, Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA)
African Development Bank (AfDB)

Esther Dassnou manages the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) an initiative of the AfDB to reduce the USD 42 Billion access to finance gap for Women SMEs in Africa. Prior to joining AfDB, Esther led the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) work on advancing women’s access to finance via banking and the insurance sectors. Esther worked with insurers across Africa and Asia to help insurers in de-risking women owned SMEs and providing better coverage for women’s daily risk. Esther also led the mainstreaming of IFC’s women’s access to finance through the organization’s SME Banking program. As of the end of 2019 the program had reach $ 2 Billion in investments to Commercial Banks to be on-lent to women SMEs. Esther is the co-author of SheforShield: Insure Women to Better Protect All a groundbreaking report articulating the business case for the insurance industry to address the needs of women as clients, employees, entrepreneurs and leaders. Esther was also a lead author of the reports, G20 – Access to Finance for Women MSMEs and Women-owned SMEs: A Business Opportunity for Financial Institutions; which for the first time sized the access to finance gap for women SMEs in developing markets.


Hyasintha Ntuyeko is a social Entrepreneur who challenged her status quo some 10 years ago.
She founded Kasole Secrets company ltd, which innovate solutions to the Menstrual Health Crisis and does it in 3 ways: –

  1. Developing and selling innovative Glory sanitary napkins embossed with bamboo charcoal
  2. Providing Menstrual Health education which includes boys and men. These initiatives are funded by proceeds from business; We strongly believe on our mission in improving menstrual experience for women and girls in Africa
  3. Encouraging Menstrual Health Innovation within communities by partnering with Local and International organizations. Social Impact is at the center of everything we do

As part of giving back, Hyasintha has been running the Hedhi Salama (‘safe menstruation’) campaign, and pioneered the celebration of International Menstrual Hygiene day at the National level in Tanzania.

Towards her contribution to the wellbeing of women /girls of her country, Hyasintha has become an icon and the most inspirational youth in Tanzania, She has received number of awards National and International. Including Trail blazer, Cherie Blaire Foundation Alumni, Mandela Washington Fellow, Women Exchange Venture, AWIEF young entrepreneur of the year, Global Good Fund Fellow, Stars’ in global Sex and Reproductive health and Duke-Unicef Social Innovation – Accelerator program

She was also recognized as the “QUEEN OF POWER 2016” one of the most respectable award in Tanzania.

Visit her work at