I am so happy to be here. And so happy to see all of you here as well, and thank you so much, Mrs. Banda, for those very important words and for the kind introduction and for supporting this exceptional program.
We are so pleased to be launching the Zambian Chapter of AWEP, which stands for African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program. And we know that many people have contributed to this beginning so successfully here in Zambia, and I want to thank Sylvia Banda, who has been at the heart of this effort from the very beginning. I also want to thank my team, led by Ambassador Melanne Verveer.
I notice there are a few familiar faces from when we met last summer in Washington, so it is good to see you again and it is good to see everyone here, who is committed to really empowering women entrepreneurs throughout Africa.
Now, at meetings – (applause) – at meetings like this one of the AGOA forum, we hear a lot of ideas tossed around. But I think the very best ideas come from the people who are actually starting and running the businesses in Africa. And I know very well that many women throughout Africa are businesswomen who face obstacles, who persevere, who persist against those obstacles. And we want to help you, so I’m thrilled that AWEP has gained so much momentum and signed up so many new members.
In my speech in a few minutes, I’m going to speak specifically about what we can do and why we need to make it easier for women to start and grow your businesses. I’m also going to talk about you, if you don’t mind. I want to make sure everyone here, all the commerce ministers, the trade and industry ministers, the prime ministers, everyone, knows how important your work is.
And I’m going to announce in a few minutes that the United States will continue to support AWEP. Last year’s event in Washington was such a success – (applause) – and again this year in Lusaka. We are going to have a commitment that I will announce in order to help you exchange ideas, learn from each other, support each other. I understand the Zambian women are hosting their sisters from other countries, and we want a network of women entrepreneurs across Africa, because I am convinced we will raise the incomes and the standards of living of people throughout the continent because of what you do.
And I’ll have some examples of that in my formal remarks, but I wanted to come and just thank you, to see you again, and to wish all of you well, but to express great appreciation on behalf of the United States for what you do every day to help people have a better life. That’s what it’s all about. Business is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end, to be able to educate children, to be able to have a better home, to be able to provide healthcare, to build economies and create more opportunities. And you are living examples of that.
Thank you for showing me some of the – (applause) – products that you have produced, and let’s go out singing as I leave to go to the AGOA forum, because that always puts me in a great mood when I hear African women sing. (Laughter.) Thank you all and God bless you. (Applause.)
# # #