Africa - America Women's Economic Forum & Trade Expo
In-Depth Concept

The African Union declared 2015 as the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063, and adopted the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa – 2024 to boost the participation of women as key contributors to Africa’s growth and development in science, technology and innovation.  To accommodate the continuation of American higher education institutions’ support to this and similar initiatives, international partnerships are essential to addressing critical science and engineering problems. In the global context, U.S. researchers and educators must be able to operate effectively in teams with partners from different national environments and cultural backgrounds.

With a particular focus on the STEM-based manufacturing and agriculture growth for underrepresented women in Africa and its sub-regions, the 3rd Annual Africa - America Women's Economic Forum & Trade Expo (AAWEF), a collaboration involving the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College, the Access Bank (Lagos, Nigeria), and the Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University,  proposes to offer a series of workshops focused on catalyzing a higher level of international engagement in the U.S. science, arts,  and engineering community; and a trade expo to provide a real-world opportunity for the women entrepreneurs to sell their products.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets ambitious global goals, demanding unprecedented actions and efforts across multiple interconnected social, economic and environmental issues. Science, technology and innovation (STI) must play a central role in the achievement of these goals. The United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, with the aim of both promoting full and equal access to, and participation in, science for women and girls, and further achieving gender equality and their empowerment. 

To meet this aim and the expansive sublayers anticipated in the intercontinental goals, more effective communication and intentional engagement is needed to identify and suggest ways to work together to address key challenges in the developing world in a manner that advances the respective interests and objectives.

More than 60% of all employed women in Africa south of the Sahara work in agriculture. Yet the region’s women farmers often reap a meager harvest, not because of inclement weather or poor soil quality, but because of their gender – or, more specifically, because of a dense web of laws, policies, programs, and customs that put them at a significant disadvantage.  As of the 2013 reporting from the African Scientific Institute (ASI) – a U.S. based non-profit organization representing an international network of scientists, engineers, technologists, and health professionals, as well as young people aspiring to enter the world of science and technology – Africa had only 35 scientists and engineers per million inhabitants, compared to the 4,103 for the United States.

 

The proposed workshop will serve as a launch pad for more innovative programs focused on STEM-based agricultural and manufacturing collaboration and capacity building to improve trade relations between Africa and the United States with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.   The workshop data compiled and the anticipated research findings will develop and transfer capacity to national and local users in Africa and the United States who influence decision-making.

The collaborating partners, the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College, the Access Bank in Lagos, Nigeria, and the Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University, propose a 2-day forum of workshops to be held at Rollins College in Winter Park (FL), wherein African and American engagements focus on addressing the infrastructure and resource-based barriers that have historically impeded rigorous research, innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship across the two continents.  The following goals and objectives are targeted through the workshop delivery and follow-on activities:

 

  • Inaugurate a mechanism whereby African women in manufacturing, agriculture and other entrepreneurial endeavors will connect and exchange with their American counterparts through the Africa-America Women's Economic Forum-Sustainable Trade and Innovation Conversation;
  • Begin building sustainable innovation focused economic relationships between Africa and America through networking and education for women entrepreneurs;
  • Foster trade relations between Africa and America leading to access to global markets by Women Entrepreneurs with an emphasis in STEM, manufacturing and agriculture;
  • Provide a space for African and African-American women to collaborate and innovate for advancement of entrepreneurial initiatives in STEM, manufacturing and agriculture that positively impact their communities and nations

 The anticipated outcomes will include:

  • Establishing a network between African and American entrepreneurs and innovators leading to a marketplace portal;
  • Providing a "Thought Leadership and Exchange of Information Platform" that will economically empower women; and
  • Through the Trade Expo, at the ZORA! -- Outdoor Festival of the Arts, creating access to global markets for African and American Women Entrepreneurs - leading to economic growth and job creation on the Continent.

The proposed forum will focus on facilitating and enabling improvements in the status of women of color in STEM via inter- and intra-connected systems of support and education.  Between 40 million and 160 million women globally may need to transition between occupations by 2030, often into higher-skilled roles. Women face pervasive barriers that will need targeted support to move forward in the world of work.

Held at the "Preserve in Eatonville" in  Zora Neale Hurston's hometown, Eatonville (FL), the Outdoor Festival of the Arts presents intergenerational arts and culture programming to tens of thousands who travel from around the State of Florida, and from across the United States, and from around the world.  In addition to the Africa - America Women's Trade Expo Pavilion, 2022 offerings will include a fine arts walk, crafts booths, an international market place, Main Stage performers, a make-and-take tent for K-4 students, an international food court, The Urban Nerd Con Pavilion, a ZORA! STEM Activity Hub, and international food court, and "MUCH MORE!"

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