Irene Ochem
The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) has resulted in numerous strategies which could have a big impact on the influence of African businesswomen and entrepreneurs on the continent’s socio-economic environment.

More than 500 delegates, 60 speakers and 40 exhibitors took part in the event last month.

AWIEF founder Irene Ochem, who will be the guest speaker at the next Breakfast with the Cape Times, said: “There was active and energetic participation at each session, with positive and constructive contributions from delegates who came from every facet of business and government.

“Among initiatives already in the pipeline are a continent-wide business directory with a database of African women entrepreneurs, and plans for a digital community of women entrepreneurs, an online resource for e-learning and capacity building, providing comprehensive support and business models to help young entrepreneurs.”

Ochem described the event as “an awesome convocation of people for a specific purpose. And not just any people, and not an insignificant purpose.”

The conference theme was “Equity, impact and inclusive growth towards Agenda 2030 and a sustainable African future”.

Stakeholders from the entrepreneurship ecosystem and government gathered to find ways of dismantling roadblocks getting in the way of the development of women-led businesses.

Among these hurdles were gender stereotypes and difficulties in gaining access to finance, education and training, and markets.

Vanessa Moungar, director of gender, women and civil society at the African Development Bank, Côte d’Ivoire, emphasised the need for governments to develop good regulatory frameworks that would create appropriate environments for women entrepreneurs.

Zizipho Nyanga, chief executive of Old Mutual’s Masisizane Fund, added that women entrepreneurs should benefit from both social and financial returns.

They should, she said, become mentors and role models who could inspire and motivate others.

Ten South African women entrepreneurs who had participated in AWIEF’s Growth Accelerator Programme, pitched their businesses to the audience of business leaders, investors and governments.

The Cape Times breakfast will be held at the Southern Sun, Newlands on November 15. Tickets cost R180 and are available online at