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Belgium promotes open & free enterprise amongst women in Africa & the Middle East

Awa award

The Awa Prize helps women entrepreneurs with their projects.

On 26 January 2023, four young female entrepreneurs received their Awa prizes from Her Majesty Queen Mathilde and Belgium’s Minister of Development Cooperation Caroline Gennez. The prizes were the result of a competition aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship amongst women in Africa and the Middle East.

Why entrepreneurship in Africa?

Belgium’s strong affinity to free enterprise dates back to the 19th century. Not only was it one of the first European countries to join the Industrial Revolution, it was also very open to cross border trading. This openness to collaboration with partners across the world continues today. Belgium also has close links to Africa. While trade and population movement has been a primary driver for the country’s strong affinity to North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Belgium is also a vocal supporter of regional cooperation through the African Union. 

Belgium is also committed to supporting female entrepreneurship, particularly as it is an important route to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While women are more likely than men to be entrepreneurs in Africa – women make up 58 % the continent’s self-employed population – they are likely to earn lower profits than men.

The Awa Prize

The Belgian development agency Enabel has established the Awa Prize to promote women entrepreneurs in Africa and Middle East. The Awa Prize, open to women from the 14 partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation, plus Mauritania and Jordan, will be awarded annually from 2023 to 2026. 

Even though four promising female entrepreneurs will receive funds to help their project, the goal is to encourage entrepreneurship across the region. In this way, Belgium wants to show populations that open and free enterprise can be synonymous with social success, personal development and positive effects on the community, without upsetting the family balance.

To support the Awa Prize, many events are being organised at the local and international levels in order to raise awareness for men and women about the opportunities that women’s entrepreneurship can create. It is hoped that these events will encourage progress both on gender equality and improved living standards across the continent.