AGOA and Professional Exchange


Since 2000, the United States has promoted economic growth and development in Africa through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a preferential trade agreement with eligible sub-Saharan African countries. AGOA legislation provides member countries with the most liberal access to U.S. markets apart from countries or regions with which the U.S. has a Free Trade Agreement. The U.S. commitment to deepen economic relations with sub-Saharan Africa has facilitated investment, created business linkages, and unlocked opportunities for entrepreneurship in the region.


AWEP women are accomplished entrepreneurs and the owners and leaders of small- and medium-sized businesses in Africa. Through AGOA, AWEP entrepreneurs can better access U.S. markets to expand their businesses and increase trade capacity both regionally and internationally. Many of their companies engage in exporting under the terms of AGOA, while others are working to increase their export capacity and establish business relationships with U.S. partners. All are leaders in their communities and many are members or leaders of women’s business organizations in their countries.

Annual AGOA Forum

Every year, the United States and AGOA member countries come together to discuss issues of economics, trade, and investment at an annual AGOA Forum. During the Forum, AWEP entrepreneurs can participate in meetings and networking opportunities with U.S. policy makers, companies and industry associations, U.S. and African civil society, nonprofit organizations advocating for women’s economic opportunities, multilateral development organizations, and business alliances. The women will also have the opportunity to interact with African ministers of trade, finance, and agriculture during the AGOA Forum.

Additionally, alumnae of the program host a side event during the Forum that showcases the women’s expanding businesses, entrepreneurial abilities, and capacities for trade and investment. The AWEP event enhances the program’s visibility among investors, members of civil society, U.S. policymakers, and African ministers.

AWEP Professional Exchange

The State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) professional exchange is AWEP’s primary program tailored to introduce AWEP participants to U.S. business leaders, policymakers, industry associations, nonprofit organizations, and multilateral development organizations. These annual three-week exchanges coincide with the AGOA Forum when hosted in Washington, DC; and are designed to help the participants build business alliances, develop advocacy and communication skills, identify resources to advance women’s entrepreneurship, and take advantage of opportunities for U.S. partnerships through AGOA.