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Academy for Women Entrepreneurs 4th Graduation Ceremony
April 27, 2023

Remarks by United States Ambassador to Zambia Michael C. Gonzales
 at the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs 4th Graduation Ceremony
held at Women’s Entrepreneurship Access Center (WEAC) Zambia Office, Lusaka
Wednesday, April 26, 2023

(As prepared for delivery – April 26, 2023)

Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Honorable Elias Mubanga,
WEAC Executive Director Nambula Kachumi,
CEOs and representatives of banks and other partner organizations present,
AWE participants,
AWE mentors,
members of the press,
ladies and gentlemen:  Good morning!

This is the first graduation ceremony for the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program that I am attending since my arrival in Zambia as U.S. Ambassador.  It is truly a special honor for me to join you this morning to celebrate the achievements of the AWE program, and most importantly, to welcome the 180 Zambian entrepreneurs who participated in the fourth phase of the training.

Since the U.S. Embassy launched AWE in 2019 in partnership with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Access Center, the program has experienced phenomenal growth.  From the initial 100 women entrepreneurs who were enrolled into the program in Lusaka only, the program has now expanded to Ndola, Kitwe, and Livingstone.

We now have more than 600 innovative women entrepreneurs who have benefited from the AWE program in the four cities.  This is outstanding!  I am so excited to see this group here today join the other women entrepreneurs who have graduated from the program.  On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I wish to congratulate all of you for successfully completing your training.  Let’s give these women a big round of applause.

The United States is strongly committed to advancing Zambia’s inclusive economic transformation – and women play a vital and growing role in that process.  AWE remains a relevant and important tool in promoting women’s economic empowerment.  As U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said during her historic visit to Zambia just a few weeks ago, “My visit has convinced me more than ever that we must all, around the globe, appreciate and understand the importance of investing in African ingenuity and creativity.”  And a few days prior to that, in Ghana, she announced $1 billion in public and private sector investments to support the empowerment of African women.

It is a simple fact that when you empower women, you are empowering your country, your society, your community, and your family.  The practical tools, knowledge, networks, and mentorship that you all have gained from this program are an investment in your future and the future of Zambia.

Your determination to succeed reinforces the important role that entrepreneurship plays in creating a thriving and sustainable economy.  For this reason, the U.S. Embassy will continue to support Zambian entrepreneurs through initiatives such as AWE and other programs.

As you continue on your entrepreneurship journey, I encourage you to explore other opportunities and partnerships outside AWE to help achieve your dreams.   Identify and create business connections with your fellow AWE graduates, alumni of other U.S. exchange programs, and other entrepreneurs.  Keep learning and collaborating.  Don’t work alone – expand your business networks!

As you seek to grow your businesses, I also encourage you to work with the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises Development to take advantage of all the opportunities available for small and medium sized businesses.  And I want to thank you again, Honorable Minister, for being here today.  Your presence here shows the strength of the U.S.-Zambia partnership and symbolizes our common effort to create jobs and economic growth in Zambia.

The AWE program has come a long way in Zambia.  It has had tremendous success, and it continues to grow.  This is not only because of the determination of the women entrepreneurs like yourselves, but also because of the hard work and inspiration of so many friends and partners.

I want to give a special thanks to our partner WEAC for your continued leadership and dedication to ensuring the program’s successful implementation over the past four years.  Sometimes the road has been bumpy, but the WEAC team has remained resilient and focused to this day.  Thank you so much Nambula and your tremendous team.

I also would like to thank the AWE mentors, coaches, and facilitators for your commitment to these women entrepreneurs.  Your business expertise and guidance have been critical to the success of this program.

Thank you also to our colleagues at the U.S. African Development Foundation, who are providing seed funding to AWE graduates, putting them one step closer to achieving their business goals.  Your support has been outstanding.

And thank you to the banks and other private sector partners that have shown interest and come on board to help sustain the AWE program for the long-term.  We are so appreciative of your support.

As we celebrate our new AWE graduates today, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Embassy, in partnership with WEAC, is launching the application process for the fifth phase of the AWE program in Lusaka, Ndola, Kitwe, and Livingstone.  We want to continue building on the successes of the AWE program by expanding this economic empowerment opportunity to as many women entrepreneurs as we can in Zambia.

Once again, congratulations to all our graduates today on your successful completion of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program!