Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. David on the Occasion of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs Graduation J. Young

Remarks by U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. David J. Young
Academy for Women Entrepreneurs Graduation
Lusaka, Zambia
July 16, 2020

(as prepared for delivery)

Good afternoon.  My name is David Young, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy.  I am so pleased to join you this afternoon to hear about your experiences in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program, and the difference that this training has made as you build and expand your businesses.

On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I wish to congratulate all of you for successfully completing the program, even amid the unexpected challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Your achievement demonstrates your exceptional ability and commitment to contribute to the development of this country.

I’m sorry we can’t have this graduation in person.  Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve all had to adjust our ways of life and how we conduct our day-to-day business.  I hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and adapting to this new normal.

I would like to take a few minutes as I begin to urge you all to continue following the preventative measures recommended by the Ministry of Health that will limit the spread of COVID-19.  We are already seeing a surge in cases in Zambia, and projections show that cases will continue to rise quickly for the next several months.  It is important that we continue to wear masks in public, that we observe the physical distancing recommendations set forth by the Ministry of Health, and that we listen to our health experts as the pandemic continues.

And so, while I know that having a virtual graduation may be a little disappointing to some of you hoping to celebrate together in person, I would like to applaud you for taking the steps necessary to hold this event safely and responsibly.  We are all in this together.

One of the challenges posed by COVID-19 has been the terrible impact on economies around the world, including here in Zambia.  This fact just reinforces the importance of entrepreneurship and the role you play as graduates of this program.  Entrepreneurship remains the key component to a thriving economy and to creating jobs and prosperity.  For this reason, we will continue to support entrepreneurship and Zambian entrepreneurs through our work at the Embassy.

As you all look back on the journey you have just completed, I hope that the practical tools, knowledge, networks, and mentorship you gained in this program have already begun to help you achieve your dreams.  This is particularly important because women’s participation in the economy is critical to creating jobs, fighting poverty, and developing families and communities.

As your businesses grow, I also encourage you to work with the Ministry of Commerce to take advantage of its AGOA utilization strategy.  AGOA, or the African Growth and Opportunity Act, provides trade preferences for duty-free entry into the United States for certain goods. The Commerce Ministry can help you better understand and comply with U.S. regulations and requirements, and develop a better sense of the quality and sustained delivery and service levels that American customers.

I also want to thank mentors and facilitators for their dedication to the training.  Your business expertise and guidance are critical to the success of this program.

Special thanks to our implementing partners, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Access Center, also known as WEAC, and BongoHive for working tirelessly to ensure the conclusion of this pilot phase of AWE despite the COVID-19 disruptions.

As we move forward, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Embassy, in partnership with WEAC, will soon announce the official launch of AWE round two.  This second phase will expand the program beyond Lusaka and include entrepreneurs from Ndola and Kitwe on the Copperbelt.  We are excited to take life-changing knowledge, tools, and resources to more women entrepreneurs in Zambia.

Congratulations again on your successful completion of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program!