A woman in sub-Saharan Africa is passionate. She's smart. She's innovative. Often times, however, she's not given the chance – or the right tools – to take her ideas and turn them into a way of life. Through a $1 million investment from Caterpillar Inc. and the Caterpillar Foundation and an investment from the U.S. Department of State, the opening of the first of three women's business centers in sub-Saharan Africa has taken place to provide assistance to help women entrepreneurs. This first center is located in Zambia; a center in Kenya and another in West Africa will open at later dates.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of State's African Women's Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) and the Women's Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) project, these women's entrepreneurship centers will advance gender equality and address entrepreneurship skill barriers faced by women and girls. This investment in the centers marks the first ever private-public partnership between the U.S. State Department, Caterpillar and StartUp Cup, an organization that provides global end-to-end solutions for accelerating entrepreneurial ventures, creating jobs and building local and regional entrepreneurship ecosystems. StartUp Cup will be the implementing partner managing the centers.
"The Caterpillar Foundation is focused on building sustainable, thriving communities around the world," says Caterpillar Foundation President Michele Sullivan. "These centers will help put women on the path to prosperity by helping them develop the skills they need to run successful businesses and become economically self-sufficient. Our hope is that these centers are more than just brick and mortar buildings, but rather a place for families to go for the skills and resources they need to flourish. These centers can help families become stronger, because when we invest in women and girls, the men and boys in a community will also benefit with additional opportunities. Only together can we tackle the root causes of poverty. When economies grow, everyone benefits."
StartUp Cup estimates more than 7,000 jobs will be created in the next two years due to these centers, which will provide programs focused on financial services, startup and small business loans, networking and access to technology. Mentoring will also be a component of the programs, developing more than 600 mentors and coaches for women.
The Caterpillar Foundation continues working to alleviate poverty worldwide, including on the African continent, through a series of investments. Since 2010 alone, corporate social innovation has driven the Caterpillar Foundation to invest $30 million in African programs that address access to clean water, energy, empowering girls and women and microfinance, as well as food and shelter.