Founder and chief executive of the African Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum, Irene Ochem at the Cape Times Breakfast. The Cape Times, in partnership with Argon Asset Management, held its monthly breakfast at the Tsogo Sun Hotel in Newlands. Ochem was the keynote speaker. Picture: Henk Kruger/ ANA

JOHANNESBURG - Twenty two women from various African countries have been selected as finalists for awards honouring female entrepreneurs and innovators.

Non-profit organisation Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) on Thursday announced the contenders for the awards which will be spread across eight categories, namely young entrepreneur, social entrepreneur, empowerment, lifetime achievement, tech entrepreneur, agri entrepreneur, creative industry and global brand.

AWIEF works to promote excellence in entrepreneurship and innovation in female-owned businesses across all sectors and in all African countries.

"Women-owned businesses are a vital part of our African economy and the women of Africa are our most valuable, untapped resource," founder and chief executive Irene Ochem said in a statement.

"Each year the entries to the AWIEF awards grow in number and this response signifies the importance of recognising and celebrating women in Africa for their achievements and contribution to Africa’s economic and sustainable development."

Ochem said the number of businesses owned by women on the continent was rising, contributing to the fact that seven out of 10 of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa.

"Africa is rising and we must make sure the women of the continent, the backbone of our communities and our families, are given the opportunities to rise as well," she said.

The finalists were rigorously assessed in terms of the sustainability of their businesses and the documented or prospective impact on community development and the economy.

"Given the huge number and quality of the nominations received this year for the AWIEF awards, I must say that female entrepreneurship is strong and thriving all across African countries," said Ochem.

The winners will be announced on October 30, at the conclusion of a two-day conference and exhibition in Cape Town.

- African News Agency (ANA)