The U.S. Department of State has selected Minata Kone of Burkina Faso as June’s International Exchange Alumni Member of the Month. Throughout June, Kone’s inspiring leadership as a female West African entrepreneur will be recognized on the International Exchange Alumni website, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ official website for the more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide. Recognizing alumni are a vital voice in promoting our foreign policy goals, the Alumni Affairs Division confers this award on an outstanding alumnus or alumna who positively build on their exchange experiences.
Kone, an alumna of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program 2012 African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which emphasizes women’s access to economic opportunities, elevated the role of women in her community. Her motivation and determination has served as an example for girls to continue their education. Living the mission of AWEP, Kone defied the norms of male-dominated Sub-Saharan Africa and built a thriving cashew business. Not satisfied with simply owning her own business, Kone overcame the logistical difficulties of operating in a developing country to secure a contract as a cashew supplier to Costco, a leading U.S.-based international retailer.
During her time in the United States, Kone met with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who encouraged her to work with local organizations to bring greater prosperity to her community. Taking this message to heart, Kone returned home to create even greater opportunities for her community. She partnered with Costco to provide training to help local cashew farmers improve their cashew crops. As a result the producers were able to access the international marketplace and to build bridges between American and Burkinabé entrepreneurs. Additionally, when the time came to expand her business, Kone used the opportunity to hire more women, resulting in a workplace now composed of 95 percent women.
To learn more about Minata Kone, visit the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ International Exchange Alumni website at https://alumni.state.gov/featured-alumni/member-month.
Media Contact: ECA-Press@state.gov.