Background of AWEP

AWEP-Lís Ambassador Rugie Barry (5th from R) and her Team post for photo with CHEVRONís Supply Chain Manager, Mr. Weaver after the signing ceremony
AWEP-Lís Ambassador Rugie Barry (5th from R) and her Team post for photo with CHEVRONís Supply Chain Manager, Mr. Weaver after the signing ceremony
Photo Credit: MOCI

AWEP was an initiative of the US Government through Secretary of States, Hilary Clinton in Lusaka, Zambia in 2011 to help strengthen African women entrepreneurs to build their capacities so that they contribute to the economic development of their countries. Upon her return from the Lusaka’s Conference, AWEP- L’s Ambassador Ms. Rugie Barry, with strong support from the Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Liberia, Hon. Miata Beysolow launched the Liberian Chapter on March 8, 2012 in Tubman-burg, Bomi County, Liberia. It is a not-for-profit organisation (NGO) dedicated to the development and support of women entrepreneurs in all sectors of business and industry throughout Liberia.


AWEP-L is being founded, organized and run by volunteers - Liberian business women who wish to share their experiences of building their own enterprises with other women seeking to enter into a business field.  It was established in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Liberia, in support of its efforts to promote entrepreneurship and to strengthen the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise throughout the country. 


Studies have shown that there is a correlation between entrepreneurial activity and economic growth. Moreover, entrepreneurial activities by women is more likely than those of men to increase the sustainability of a country’s economic growth as women have a greater tendency to reinvest their earnings for the benefit of their family, in priority areas such as nutrition, health and  education.  More women in Liberia own and run their own business (53%) compared to sub-Saharan Africa average (29.1%).  Therefore, a program aimed specifically at improving female enterprises in Liberia will bring social returns and drive inclusive and sustainable growth of Liberia's economy.     


The goal of AWEP-L is to increase substantially, the capacities and wealth of women-driven enterprises in Liberia. This goal will be accomplished through advocacy, capacity building, and establishment of a strong business development support and business mentoring network for women entrepreneurs.


AWEP-L’s goal and vision are from the backdrop that women have played a major role throughout the history of Liberia. In the private sector, they comprise 54 percent of the labor force in both the formal and informal sectors and carry out more than 80 percent of trading activities in the rural areas in addition to fulfilling daily household chores.  Women were also crucial in bringing peace to Liberia, as evidenced by the recent awarding of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize to 2 Liberian women: the President, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Roberta Gbowee; yet, Liberian women remain among the most disadvantaged.  They are disproportionately clustered in the least productive sectors, with 90 percent employed in the informal sector or agriculture.  Their predominance in the informal economy translates into low productivity, meager earnings and exposure to exploitation.  Illiteracy rates among women aged 15-49 are particularly high (60 percent) and 42 percent of Liberian women have never attended school. 


For those engaged in enterprise, 98.9% of women entrepreneurs run small businesses (ie. less than 10 employees).  The incomes that these women earn from their businesses sustain households and ensure investment in education and health for families. 
While Liberian women entrepreneurs have the ambition and drive needed to succeed and grow their business, they do not always necessarily have the tools to do so. 


For Liberia, it is critical that the country harnesses the economic power of women and include them in the economic process to catalyze dynamic social and economic development. 


In recognition of the need that exists, the Ministry of Commerce in partnership with AWEP-L’s Ambassador Madam Barry established Liberia's chapter of the African Women's' Entrepreneurship Program to provide much need service to these women entrepreneurs. 
AWEP-L intends to use the existing public and private sector support programs, leverage relationship with women economic groups, and the pool of technical, management and financial assistance available locally and regionally, to organize essential business development assistance to women operators in targeted industrial and commercial sectors to enhance economic returns and sustainability of AWEP-L activities and to create greater economic opportunities for women.


Activities Focus


AWEP-L is a member-based organization focused on the following sectors:

 

  • Textiles and apparel
  • Art and craft
  • Specialty food 
  • Fishery
  • Cassava
  • Palm oil
  • Cocoa and coffee.     

In the first three years, AWEP-L focuses on supporting and creating opportunities in:

 

  • International Trade, especially, Export Businesses.   Liberia has a small domestic market, with low purchasing power.  More women are looking to export opportunities regionally and beyond to drive growth in their businesses. 
  • Food Processing Industries.  Many women are already engaged in the agricultural sector in Liberia and adding value to their produce through processing.  More women are looking to expand their competitiveness and capacity in this area.   AWEP-L will work to link local farmers to local manufacturers and producers who can add value to the goods for sale in the local, regional as well as the U.S market.

 

Approach


AWEP-L’s approach is to draw up programs in consultations with relevant ministries and agencies and other enterprise-support organizations, to jointly deliver training and support activities for its member businesses with the view to enhancing their: 

 

  • capacity to engage in international trade and to manage their businesses
  • access to credit for international trade
  • development of marketing skills (including, buyer/ seller management services)

Key Activities

 

  • Business management : Improve competitiveness of members through training and facilitating technical assistance on production, market development and expansion, and to realize Best Business Practices to meet local and international standards.
  • Credit access: Facilitate activities that can enhance members' access to capital for equipment and inputs from financial institutions.
  • Marketing: Working with the West Africa Trade Hub located in Ghana; create essential linkages of local suppliers with buyers at the local and international levels (including participation in trade show to show case "Made in Liberia" products)