Leadership Summit Accelerates AWEC Community

October 9, 2019

“AWEC is powerful.” This was the common refrain as 150 members of the 2nd AWEC Cohort who gathered at the annual Leadership Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. For Nykita Diggs, the founder of a Liberian creative agency called Creative Afrik, “AWEC has been a catalyst for change and growth.” 

She’s not the only one who feels this way. For many of the participants, the Summit offered a unique learning opportunity, as it is not common to see a pan-African assembly of African women entrepreneurs of all ages, backgrounds and experiences. It was also an opportunity for AWEC participants to deepen relationships with the Teaching Assistants (TAs), Mentors, and team members whom they have built relationships with over the last six months, as well as expand their networks to include business experts, investors, and AWEC alumnae who spoke at the Summit.

“It was amazing to meet experts, TAs and my team mates. I have been wowed by my growth and that of my sisters,” says Brenda Kateera, the founder of Charisma Bookstores in Kigali, Rwanda. 

Demystifying Failure and Celebrating Camaraderie

“I was always scared of failure but the women at this Summit has given me confidence and [encouraged me to] learn from my failures,” says Sarah Amani from Malawi, the founder of Quick City, a women’s and children’s retail business. 

As a society, we don’t often speak openly about failure, which perpetuates the myth that successful businesswomen are born that way and are unwilling to help others. We sought to reverse this thinking by opening the Summit with a panel of African women entrepreneurs sharing stories of their lowest moments and providing practical tools on how to succeed in the face of failure. 

From the heartfelt story of Miranda Naiman, founder of Empower Limited in Tanzania to the longevity of the 14-year-old public relations business that Irene Kiwia built despite facing down obstacles, the session demystified failure and presented an opportunity for women to see their failures as a necessary path to growth. 

“My failure first aid kit would include my faith, family, friends, network and lots of podcasting,” said Beverley Agbakoba – Onyejianya, Founder of Lagos Tigers Football Club in Nigeria. As an alumna of the AWEC programme, Beverley provided insight into how the 12-month training empowered her to identify the patterns in her failures and discover new business opportunities.

This message resonated with the participants who have come to realize that having a strong network of peers can serve as a lifeline when the entrepreneurial journey gets rough. 

Learning from Experts, Building Networks

Every panel, Learning Lab workshop, and small group session was an opportunity for participants to connect with their peers and learn from experts. From honing their negotiating skills to discussing industry challenges that were shared from Senegal to South Africa, Summit participants were present and focused throughout the intensive 2-day experience. 

They benefited from the expertise of our presenters and speakers, including:

  • Gordon Adomdza, Associate Professor, Ashesi University
  • Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya, Founder, Little Tigers Football Club 
  • Yetunde Anibaba, Professor, Lagos Business School
  • Bright Asiimwe, Founder, La Top Shopping Point
  • Tara Fela-Durotoye, Founder and CEO, House of Tara International
  • Fannie Gondwe, Founder, Perisha Agro and Packaging Enterprise 
  • Ejiro Jakpa, Founder, NicNax Granola
  • Irene Kiwia, Founder and CEO, Frontline Media Management Africa
  • Andreata Muforo, Partner, TLcom Capital
  • Dr. Sabetha Mwambenja, Country Director, World Business Angels Investment Forum
  • Natalino Mwenda, Founder and CEO, Rasello
  • Miranda Naiman, Founder and Managing Director, Empower Limited
  • Carolina Rodriguez, Founder and CEO, Dilucidar

By the end of the Summit, we heard numerous first-hand stories of how AWEC has impacted their lives and businesses – pushing them to fix their finances, inspiring them to do business across borders, and refining their business concept to a more viable, focused product or service. The common thread that tied each of these experiences together could be summed up with a statement from our keynote speaker, Tara Fela-Durotoye, Founder and CEO of House of Tara International, the largest beauty company in West Africa, “AWEC is going to change Africa.”

The Journey Continues

Participants in this Leadership Summit left Dar es Salaam empowered to take bolder steps and meet future challenges with confidence. It is often said that the future of Africa is female and the Summit is a testament to this. Cohort member Nykita Diggs offered this advice to prospective applicants: “Every African woman in business needs to apply to AWEC. The program is intensive and you will be working, but the fruit of your labor will be very sweet.” 

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