Last weekend I attended the AGOA conference at the African Union Conference Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. AGOA (The African Growth and Opportunity Act) is a legislative act passed by U.S. Congress in 2000 in efforts to stimulate economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. It was great bumping into friends, who all make things in Africa, like Sammy, Sara Abera from Muya, Linda from Zanaa, and Abai from Zaaf.
This is the second AGOA conference I have attended, the last being in Accra, Ghana, in 2007. So much has changed for Africa since then.
Today Africa has six of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and one-third of Africa’s countries have GDP growth rates of more than 6 percent, according to the African Development Bank. No longer is Africa doomed and in despair, but rather quite the opposite: It’s a land of immense opportunity, and the world needs Africa more than ever.
After attending a few talks in the main hall, I found out that upstairs in the “small conference room” big things were being discussed at the AWEP (African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program) conference, titled “Queen of Sheba: The Entrepreneur.”
As the weekend went by I found myself sneaking into their meetings instead of attending the AGOA discussions. It was so inspiring to hear such amazing African women discuss issues, from social media to access to finance for women, and coming up with innovative solutions and ideas like accepting jewelry as collateral for a loan.
Photo: Courtesy of Yodit Eklund