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U.S. Embassy Supports Entrepreneurship in Zambia
June 30, 2021

The United States Embassy in Zambia has been actively promoting entrepreneurship to meet our goal of sustained, broad-based, and inclusive economic prosperity in Zambia.

We see entrepreneurship as a practical means to stimulate local economic growth, create jobs, and reduce poverty. The ability to turn an idea into reality through a small business or new venture empowers people to tackle pressing personal, family, community and national problems.

The U.S. Embassy provides support to Zambian entrepreneurship through a variety of programs and events to promote business skills development, mentorship, business-to-business connections and partnerships, and facilitate access to opportunities, resources and networks. Some of the programs that we have supported in the past and/or continue to support include the following:

Zambia Entrepreneurship Summit

Held annually in Lusaka since 2015 in collaboration with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Access Center (WEAC, formerly WECREATE) and other partners, the summit brought together investors, entrepreneurs, resource providers and international and Zambian development agencies for a full-day program to explore business deals, partnerships, access to capital, business discussions, and networking. Participation was free. Between 2015 and 2019, attendance progressively increased with over 1,000 entrepreneurs, investors, development agencies, government representatives, and members of the public attending the 2019 summit in addition to more than 620, 000 people who watched the event live on Facebook. Information about the Zambia Entrepreneurship Summit was circulated on U.S. Embassy and WEAC’s social media platforms, local media, and other communication channels. Due to COVID – 19, ZES has not been held since 2019.

Academy for Women Entrepreneurs

Launched in 2019, this is an entrepreneurship training and mentorship program supported by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to advance women’s economic empowerment around the world. More than 700 women in Zambia have participated since the AWE program launched. The women have been empowered with the skills they need to start and grow their businesses. As a U.S. government exchange program, AWE connects women with U.S.-style learning and expertise to advance business acumen and build stronger ties among women entrepreneurs. Under the first phase in 2019, 100 women entrepreneurs were recruited in Lusaka through an open call to participate in the program implemented by WEAC and BongoHive. A total of 87 women from the first phase in Lusaka successfully completed their AWE training. AWE provides participants with free access to online and in-person business training facilitated by business mentors and coaches in order to obtain the knowledge, networks, and practical tools needed to start and grow their businesses. Nine participants from the first project each received $25,000 seed funding from the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) following a competitive review of their business plans. In the second phase of the program launched in October 2020 and implemented by WEAC, AWE expanded outside Lusaka and included 150 women participants from Lusaka, Kitwe, and Ndola. One hundred and forty (146) of the 150 participants successfully completed this second phase, six of whom received $10,000 each in seed funding from USADF. Over the last two years, the United States has provided over 5 million kwacha ($285,000) in seed grant funding to AWE participants through USADF. The funding addresses financing shortfalls, which remain one of the most significant challenges for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs in Zambia. This investment is part the U.S. government’s belief that advancing gender equity and equality is fundamental to every individual’s economic security, safety, and health. In line with the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, supporting women to succeed in entrepreneurship is essential to economic growth and development; democracy and political stability; and the security of nations across the globe. The third phase of AWE was launched in August 2021 and recruited 180 women entrepreneurs in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, and Livingstone. This phase was also implemented by WEAC in partnership with Copperbelt Innovation and Technology Limited. The fourth phase of AWE, also coordinated by WEAC, recruited 280 women entrepreneurs, and was implemented in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, and Livingstone. Under phase five of AWE, WEAC will recruit 100 women entrepreneurs in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, and Livingstone and the program will run from April 2023 through February 2024.

Professional Exchange Programs

The U.S. Embassy identifies and nominates promising young Zambian entrepreneurs to participate in business leadership training through U.S. professional exchange programs, including the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Mandela Washington Fellowship, and International Visitor Leadership Program. Since 2014, more than 50 Zambians have participated in the Business and Entrepreneurship track of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program. We also have entrepreneurs that took part in regional TechCamps and the YALI Regional Leadership Center in Johannesburg, South Africa. These training opportunities are fully paid for by the U.S. government and will continue to be a cornerstone of U.S.-Zambia relations. You can learn more about our exchange programs here.

American Spaces Entrepreneurship Events and Programs

Our American Spaces in Zambia (comprising American Center Lusaka located at U.S. Embassy Lusaka, the American Corner at NIPA main campus in Lusaka and the American Corner at Copperbelt University (CBU) in Kitwe) are free public spaces that provide additional continuity and engagement on entrepreneurship with our Zambia audiences. American Spaces host free entrepreneurship talks, presentations, workshops and other activities for the benefit of youth, women, students and other Zambians interested in entrepreneurship. Our American Corners at NIPA in Lusaka and CBU in Kitwe offer MakerSpace programs to help build innovation and entrepreneurial skills among young Zambians. Other current entrepreneurship programs include “Small Business Academy for Youth Leaders” at American Corner NIPA and CBU, which seeks to empower female university students with leadership and business skills as they prepare for future careers. The program is run by She Entrepreneur, an NGO focused on young female entrepreneurs, with American Spaces grant support. With American Spaces/U.S. Embassy grant support, NGO Benchfilms Zambia is running “Be the Boss,” an entrepreneurship program for creative professionals to help them translate their skills in art, music, design, film, and culinary arts into businesses through mentorship and networking. The program is conducted at American Corner NIPA. In addition, Copperbelt Innovation and Technology Limited, with Embassy grant support, runs techpreneurship camps that provide key technology skills to young entrepreneurs and create economic opportunities in the tech space in partnership with the American Corner CBU. To learn more about American Spaces programs and resources, click here.

In Zambia, entrepreneurs have an essential role to play in this country’s development. Their successful businesses are a central facet in diversifying and expanding Zambia’s economy, an economic goal of the “New Dawn” Government of the Republic of Zambia. Entrepreneurship can also create a culture in which innovation and creativity are valued and lead to original solutions to life’s challenges.