The Acting Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the United States of America in Benin, Stéphanie Arnold, officially launched the Grand Fair of the 2021 edition of the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Week in the conference room the sailor in Cotonou on March 10, 2022. Organized by the network of African Women Entrepreneurs AWEP-Benin, the fair was an opportunity for 120 women entrepreneurs to showcase the small businesses they created and developed. This year’s fair was one of the highlights of a program called Academy of Women Entrepreneurs Week (AWE Grow-Up Week) was launched on March 8, 2022 with the support of the United States Embassy. The AWE Grow-Up Week, launched in celebration of International Women’s Day, features career talks, mentoring sessions and other networking activities to celebrate participants’ success.
Throughout 2021, 120 women entrepreneurs from five departments in Benin participated in the AWE program, sponsored by the US Department of State. These women were selected in June to participate in the program in Abomey-Calavi, Porto-Novo, Savalou, Bohicon, Parakou and Tanguiéta. The AWE Grow-Up week was held in Cotonou to wrap up the experience and also allow participants from diverse backgrounds to connect to create a large network of former AWE program beneficiaries.
During the AWE Grow-Up Week, Ismène Ahamidé Zoumenou, President of AWEP-Benin, led the 120 young entrepreneurs to conferences and site visits with her team. Thus, the young women followed presentations by representatives of various networks such as the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN), the Women’s Energy Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEE), the Women’s Energy Investment (WIFUND), as well as the Benin business. Participants also had the opportunity to learn about opportunities offered by technical and financial partners such as the Embassy of the United States of America, the German Cooperation (GIZ), the SGI Benin scholarship, the SUNU insurance company, the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and the Demographic Dividend Project ( SWEDD Benin) and the European Chamber of Commerce of Benin (EUROCHAM).
The women entrepreneurs also had the opportunity to visit eight companies and institutions, including the computer school EPITECH, the government institution of innovation and education SEME CITY, the industrial complex DONGACO, the incubator-accelerator BTECH SPACE, the administrative and real estate services company MALAIKA, the agri-food company BISKARA, the clothing brand GRETTA LUCE and the specialist solar energy company ISMAT ENERGY. They also visited the Investment and Export Agency (APIEX), as well as the industrial area of Glo Djigbé.
A gala dinner was held on 11 March 2022 at the Majestic Room in Cadjèhoun, in the presence of Minister of Energy Dona Jean-Claude Houssou and Minister of Industry and Commerce Shadiya Alimatou Assouman. During this dinner, the 12 best idea carriers among the 120 participants of the AWE week presented their pitch. Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, Stéphanie Arnold, joined the Minister of Energy and the other authorities present in cutting the cake.
On March 13, 2022, US Embassy Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher Helmkamp joined Ismène Ahamidé Zoumenou for the close of the 2021 edition of AWE Grow-Up Week.