The third annual Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference which commenced thursday at the Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa, is expected to end today. The conference, according to the organisers, promises to ignite fundamental changes in Africaâ€™s socio-economic landscape. The theme of the conference is â€˜Equity, impact and inclusive growth towards Agenda 2030 and a sustainable African futureâ€™.
AWIEF has its sights firmly set on the economic empowerment of women, who have historically been side-lined and disregarded in predominantly patriarchal and tribal societies.
â€œIt is naive to think that we can transform Africa leaving the women behind,â€ states Irene Ochem, AWIEF Founder and Director. â€œYou cannot ignore over 50 per cent of the population of a continent and hope to harness and exploit its full potential. It is imperative that we overturn traditional mindsets and customs to promote inclusivity in business and industry, tapping into the immense untapped resources offered by women. We need to turn women from being job-seekers into job creators, becoming entrepreneurs and businesswomen.â€
The AWIEF conference will bring together the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem, including business experts, stakeholders and policy makers. The programme covers the whole business and industry spectrum, from education to innovation and technology, from e-commerce to agriculture and food security, and from infrastructure to finance, procurement and the â€œcreative economyâ€, which embraces such sectors as fashion and design.
Ochem explains that the programme has been designedmainly on an interactive, panel discussion model, so that the expertise and creativity of participants can be given maximum free rein.
â€œWe have over 40 extremely high-powered speakers and presenters who come from vastly different backgrounds and countries, and who have achieved notable success by overcoming challenges that would daunt the less determined,â€ she says. â€œThey have immeasurable expertise to bring to the fore to devise solutions for the challenges we face.â€
Confirmed ministers and dignitaries participating in the event include: Esperance Nyirasafari, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion of Rwanda; Jean A. N. Kalilani, Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare of Malawi;Nyasha Chikwinya, Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development of Zimbabwe; Elizabeth Thabethe, Deputy Minister, Department of Tourism of South Africa; Patricia De Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town; Cecilia Julin, Ambassador of Sweden to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia, Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria; Trine Skymoen, Ambassador, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria â€“ Republic of South Africa and Botswana, Madagascar and Namibia;Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Mrs Leah Tutu of Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation;Mathabo Gail Makenete, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Lesotho, and Vanessa Moungar, Director, Gender, Women and Civil Society of the African Development Bank,CÃ´te dâ€™Ivoire.
As a build-up to the conference, the AWIEF launched a Growth Accelerator Programme in August, sponsored by Mazars, to assist 15 female entrepreneurs from South Africa with business modelling and growth strategy required to scale and to get their businesses â€œinvestment readyâ€.
The 2017 AWIEF edition will feature the AWIEF Awards on 6 October to honour and celebrate excellence and outstanding women entrepreneurs in seven different categories. The Awards will feature Norwegian Ambassador Trine Skymoen as Keynote Speaker, popular TV and Radio Personality ShadoTwala as MC, and multi award-winning musician LoyisoBala in entertainment.
Partners and sponsors for AWIEF 2017 include: theAfrican Development Bank, Shell South Africa, City of Cape Town, Old Mutual, South African Tourism, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), WESGRO, Mbekani Group, Shimansky, Ethiopian Airlines, Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, Mazars and UN Women.
Channel Africa is AWIEF 2017 Broadcasting Partner.