The United States (US) State Department, Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), Case Foundation and Mara Foundation have partnered to launch the Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa initiative, which aims to help female entrepreneurs grow their startups and reach new markets.
The new initiative was announced at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Kenya over the weekend, and serve as an exchange and mentorship programme for high-potential women entrepreneurs across the continent.
The pilot programme will test the validity of the concept, leveraging well-established networks in more than 35 countries to scale it rapidly across Africa.
“One of the things we’ve learned about promoting entrepreneurship is that mentoring can go a long way, especially when mentors can speak from first-hand experience about how to overcome similar challenges and navigate similar environments,” said Catherine Russell, US ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues.
“That’s why we’re launching a programme that will connect women entrepreneurs in Africa with mentors right here in the region.”
The Xchange will filter and select four female founders, who will each spend one month in other African cities to develop their business more rapidly through collaboration and access to a new entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“The Women’s Venture Xchange offers a more relevant and effective opportunity for emerging women entrepreneurs in poorly supported ecosystems in Africa,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of the GEN.
“It allows them to learn from peers and mentors within Africa’s more mature startup communities rather than from another distant continent.”
Jean Case, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Case Foundation, said mentorship and strong networks played a critical role in any entrepreneurial journey.
“We are excited about the role this programme can play in expanding the untapped potential of women entrepreneurs and expanding an African network of future world changemakers,” she said.
The entrepreneurs will be supported by Mara Mentor, the GEN community and other partners while in a host city. The two host cities for the pilot programme will be Nairobi, Kenya, and Kampala, Uganda.
“Africa is full of promising young and women entrepreneurs who don’t lack ideas – they lack opportunities,” said Ashish J. Thakkar, founder of Mara Group and the Mara Foundation.
“I had access to these opportunities as an entrepreneur learning the ropes in East Africa and I want young entrepreneurs to have even more which enable them to build thriving businesses.”