The U.S. Embassy in Cameroon launched the first edition of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program on Thursday, October 26 in Yaounde.
This initiative by the U.S. Department of State, implemented in nearly 100 countries since 2019, aims to provide women with the knowledge, networks, and access they need to start or grow successful businesses.
In Cameroon, the program will be implemented in partnership with Cameroonian businesswoman Valérie Neim, founder and CEO of Brazza Transactions, a company specialized in wealth and asset management, and a former participant in the U.S. government-funded International Visitor Leadership Program.
In this inaugural cohort, 50 Cameroonian women aged 18 to 30 were selected from over 400 received applications, according to Mary Daschbach, the Chargé d’affaires a. i. of the U.S. Embassy. This represents 50 projects in various sectors such as agriculture, textiles, cosmetics, digital technology, e-commerce, and fishing. The program aims to teach participants fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship and financial management to strengthen their capacities as entrepreneurs. The three-month training will be conducted online, with mentoring and in-person facilitation.
Women entrepreneurs in SSA are an essential driver of economic growth. However, on average, they collect profits 34% lower than their male counterparts. They have lower turnover and employ fewer individuals, mainly due to gender-specific constraints, according to a World Bank study published in March 2019. The financial institution estimates that by alleviating the specific barriers they face -such as helping them acquire the right skills -governments can not only create a conducive economic environment but also enhance the benefits of private sector development. In 2022, about 350,000 SMEs were identified in Cameroon, with 37% led by women and 42% having women in managerial positions, according to statistics from the Ministry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), Social Economy, and Handicrafts (Minpmeesa).