AWIEF goes live with USAID-funded program to improve SMEs’ Investment and Export Readiness

One hundred entrepreneurs from nine Southern African countries logged in on Monday for the launch of an e-Learning course aimed at increasing the investor and export readiness and competitiveness of their businesses.

The program is an initiative of the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) in partnership with the USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (USAID TradeHub) and fully funded by USAID.

The 100 participants of the ‘Enhanced Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Investment and Export Readiness Through a Digital Platform’ program and were selected from the 9 targeted countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia, and were either already exporting or interested in exporting products to South Africa and/or to the United States.

The majority of the entrepreneurs are operating in what has been identified as priority industry sectors for exporting ie Agriculture, Agro-processing, Textiles, and Apparels, with 73% of the participating SMEs women-owned/-led and 27% men-owned/led.

The objectives of the comprehensive 8-week course, which is being implemented through the AWIEF Community digital platform, are to: (a) increase exports from the Southern African countries to South Africa; (b) increase exports from the targeted Southern African countries to the US, leveraging AGOA; and (c) support firms seeking specific trade-related technology transfer (e.g., labelling, branding, laboratories).

AWIEF Founder and CEO, Irene Ochem says: “We are very excited to have won this project funding from USAID and to be partnering with USAID TradeHub. SMEs are the power engines of Africa economies and represent the bulk of all businesses in Africa. This program is about supporting Southern African entrepreneurs to expand their businesses by accessing new markets and trading beyond their borders. It is also important for SMEs to leverage the huge opportunities offered by AGOA to enter into international trade with the US.”

Ms Ochem told the participants at the launch of the programme on Monday, “Currently 41% of you are exporting either regionally or internationally and 59% are not yet exporting. However, after participating in this programme we are looking forward to seeing 100% of you exporting either regionally or internationally.

“We look forward to working with you and trust that you will find benefit in the programme to help you expand your business and unlock access to global markets.”

Nico Christoforou, Finance and Investment advisor for the USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (USAID TradeHub), added: “Congratulations on being just on 12 percent of the original applicants. That means you have our belief, and we trust that you’ll be able to achieve through these learnings what very few people will be able to. This places a huge responsibility on you, and we believe that you will succeed.”

When asked what they expected from the course, one of the participants Miloane Mokhobo from Lesotho said: “I am looking forward to learning two things from this course. Firstly, to be investment ready and secondly how to access the US market.”

While Rose Matarise from Botswana said: “Knowledge is power, I am here to be knowledgeable about the different aspects of business and to be able to mentor others in my region.”

We wish our participants well on their journey to becoming investment and export ready! 3, 2022.

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