Building a Pan-African Network

November 18, 2019

Online and in-person peer networking is one of the core components of AWEC, connecting women entrepreneurs across the African continent and diaspora. Time and again, we hear stories of how they never imagined having sisters in other countries. 

Through these connections, participants have gained advice on hiring, brand development, financial management, and other topics.  They have also shared the joys and trials of their personal lives from weddings to the birth of children to moving across the country and across the world.

Here are a few of their stories:

The Power of Family 

AWEC has a powerful network that brings together not only entrepreneurs but also family members.

Fatsani with Karen Sippel, Managing Director of AWEC

Cohort 1 participant Fatsani Dogani runs TaSanni, a clothing line in the United States which sources its materials from Zimbabwe and Malawi. Fatsani spent the year with AWEC solidifying her business model and beginning the search for a business partner. She partnered with her fellow Cohort 1 member, Moline Katiyo-Mayhew of HB Designs, to produce a fashion line. 

Fatsani clearly valued her AWEC experience because she recommended the program to the entrepreneurs in her family and four of them are members of Cohort 2!

  • Sarah Amani, Fatsani’s sister, who owns Queen City, a clothing retailer for women and children in Blantyre and Lilongwe, Malawi 
  • Tuji Chizumila, Fatsani’s mother in law, runs an etiquette training center out of Arusha, Tanzania.
  • Daphne Kasambala , Tuji’s cousin, is the owner of Sapelle, a UK based e-commerce platform that retails African apparel, textiles, and handcrafts from around the world
  • Talitha Mpando, Daphne’s niece, is the creative director of Avec Amour, a custom tailoring service in Blantyre, Malawi

These five women are spread across five industries, four countries, three continents, and two cohorts but they are tied together by their family bonds and their AWEC experience. 

The Power of Networking

We bring together the current AWEC cohort to learn from experts and build their network during an annual Leadership Summit. While attending their cohort’s Summit, many participants connect over shared challenges while learning new strategies and honing new skills. 

One example is Tanyada M. a member of Cohort 2, explains that “exposure to women from various backgrounds and businesses was a highlight. It made it easier [to] connect with someone face to face or solidify a relationship.”

Mary Helda with her Peer Group in Cairo, Egypt

Throughout the program year, participants meet, collaborate, and bond online as well. When they start their AWEC year, many do not anticipate that the relationships they cultivate through their Peer Sessions and team projects will result in concrete friendships, partnerships and support systems. 

Mary Helda, founder of Roaring Doves, a social enterprise based in Uganda, observes that the most beneficial part of the AWEC program has been through the monthly Peer Sessions: “We always share knowledge, our challenges and share solutions to the problems we are having. I enjoy these sessions because I know I am not alone and I have people that I can count on. We are on this journey together.”

The Power of Mentorship

The lack of mentorship, particularly from other successful female entrepreneurs, is one of the gaps that AWEC sought to fill when we designed this program over two years ago. Throughout the program year, participants have an AWEC Mentor who helps them address challenges and enact change in their business. 

For many, this mentoring relationship has made all the difference. And for some, it has inspired them to pay it forward by mentoring others in their company, their community, and other AWEC cohorts.

The informal mentoring relationship unfolding between Nadine Hocter of Cohort 1, who runs Sheer Bliss, a corporate and mobile massage business in South Africa, and Trish Moeketsi – Njogu, who owns Tumi Wellness, a mobile wellness business in Kenya, is an example of how cohort members and alumnae are teaming up to support one another. 

Although they are 4,000 kilometers apart, Nadine, who has been in business for over ten years, has helped Trish host her first corporate event and advise her on key business issues.

Nadine shares that mentoring Trish has been, “a heart warming experience that is made possible because of AWEC. I am so proud of her for going ahead and being brave and doing it!”

Similarly, Trish says that Nadine gave her the confidence to proceed:  “[My business] would have remained a future goal that I was still looking for the courage to take on. You have no idea how this [relationship] has uplifted me.”

To help AWEC continue to empower and connect entrepreneurs like Tanyada, Mary Helda, Fatsani, Sarah, Tuji, Daphne, Talitha, Kundai, Nadine, and Trish, please consider making a donation here to support AWEC’s mission. 

AWEC is a 100% donor-supported program operated through The Center for Global Enterprise, a US-based nonprofit organization. All donations go directly towards the AWEC program, ensuring that African women entrepreneurs continue to grow their businesses and improve their communities.


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