The Story of AWEC Year 1

April 18, 2019

When the first AWEC Live Session was held in April 2018, the program was new and both staff and cohort members were unsure of what to expect. The goal of the program was clear – to provide a 12-month, high-touch leadership and management training program that empowers women from across Africa and the diaspora with the skills and network needed to establish and grow their businesses.

After a year, we can say that we achieved this and much more.

AWEC, which stands for African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative, has blossomed into a pan-African community of entrepreneurs, experts, and allies who empower, support, and encourage one another.

In our first call for applicants, we:

  • Received more than 2,000 applications from African women around the world
  • Invited only 200 (less than 10%) of these women to take part in the program
  • Achieved representation from 39 African countries and more than 30 industries, including agriculture, education, fashion and beauty, healthcare, and professional services

Our Innovative Program Model

Most of the AWEC experience is delivered  through online and remote learning methods, facilitated by leading-edge technology. This fast-paced and rigorous curriculum is wrapped in a program design that relies on collaboration and mutual engagement for success. The core program components are:

  • Monthly live sessions led by global business experts and academics
  • One-on-one mentoring by senior business professionals
  • Monthly individual applied learning assignments and quarterly team projects
  • Peer network and feedback through peer reviews and peer sessions
  • Biannual in-person leadership summits hosted in Africa

Our cohort members responded to these learning and network-building opportunities with overwhelming enthusiasm, resulting in an 88% average monthly engagement rate. Moreover, 78% of the cohort, or 155 cohort members, received a certificate of completion, compared with a 13% average completion rate for online courses.

Our Impact

According to our end-of-year, self-reported survey results:

  • 75% of cohort members experienced revenue growth
  • 62% increased the quality of their peer network
  • 69% enhanced their understanding of business strategy
  • 69% now have better access to quality mentoring
  • 229 new jobs were created
Kigali Leadership Summit

Women of this cohort have overcome business and personal struggles, filled in their knowledge gaps, welcomed new friends into their circles, built a diverse network, celebrated triumphs, mourned failures, and gained a deep level of confidence beyond their expectations.

Atinuke Smith, a cohort member from Nigeria, summarized her experience: “AWEC has been a phenomenal encounter. After running my business for 25 years I am able to have another level of paradigm shift. It has prepared me for the boldness to reinvent myself and take my business for the next level. I am resolving to scale up!!!”

The AWEC Alumnae Network launched in March 2019 will enable cohort members to continue to learn, collaborate, network, and grow their businesses.  

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