A unique experience, the Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE), created in 2004 in Addis Ababa, has supported nearly 6,000 women entrepreneurs on their export endeavors. Interview with Nigest Haile, Founder and Executive Director of Cawee, Member of Women in Africa (WIA) Initiative council.
It is a unique concept in Africa: The Center for African Women’s Economic Empowerment of, now the Center for Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE), is a government organization. Established in 2004 in the Ethiopian capital, surprised by the Ministry of Commerce, it aims to promote Ethiopian women entrepreneurs, paying particular attention to exporting companies, or export potential. To carry out its mission, the organization offers comprehensive support ranging from capacity building to access to financing. In other words, the keys to access to entrepreneurship for women in Africa.
Support for women entrepreneurs throughout the value chain
This initiative is led by Nigest Haile, Founder and Executive Director of CAWEE. After working for twenty-three years, including fifteen at the head of the Women’s Department, within the Ethiopian Ministry of Commerce, she proposed the establishment of an ecosystem favorable to the emergence of female entrepreneurship. Her approach expresses her recurrent observation of the challenges women face, particularly in her country. “We are working with SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the middle class, which need to be consolidated to conquer the international market. Microcredit is still too small for her and, in general, they do not have access to traditional financing channels,” recalls Nigest Haile. “We have targeted several sectors such as agribusiness, services, and we support women throughout the value chain.” CAWEE also allows them to participate in international events where they will have access to potential customers. “In August, for example, we will take part with them in a meeting on agribusiness in Copenhagen. It is worth recalling that some of them have never exported. We help them improve their presentation to the donors, prepare their proposal, have business cards, and launch a website. An essential tool that will help them to access the regional and international market.”
Create a competitive class of women entrepreneurs on the global front
In fact, CAWEE supports women entrepreneurs in five sectors: stones and jewelry; decoration (basketry, carpets); textile (spinning, weaving, dyeing); leather and agro-food (coffee and honey). Eligible entrepreneurs have access to technical training, legal advice, mentoring. With fifteen members, CAWEE has, since its inception, accompanied over 6,000 women. Some of them were able to export their products. “CAWEE’s vision is to create a competitive class of women entrepreneurs on the global front. In addition, thanks to its status as a government organization, the initiative has established partnerships with national institutions to find solutions to the problems faced by women entrepreneurs.”
4,000 potential beneficiaries in 2018-2019
The ambition is to reach 4,000 potential beneficiaries in 2018-2019, with an impact seven to nine times greater, in their families and their communities and income sometimes multiplied by three for some.
Member of the “Women in Africa” (WIA) Initiative council, Nigest Haile emphasizes the interest of this type of international platform that allows to “connect women”. “I work in my country to meet our needs, with other women. You just need to be ready to work!”
Creation of a commercial bank for women
Since the launch of CAWEE, Nigest Haile has embarked on another ambitious project: the creation of a commercial bank for women in Ethiopia. “This is not tailored made for women but its products will be adapted to the needs of women.” After successful experimentation in Ethiopia, the project could be replicated on the continent. Has South Africa already adopted it.