Women and the Changing Face of Entrepreneurship in Africa

Woman and Africa Profile Line Art with Harvard Widener Library Background.


Dear Friends,

We write to inform you that we are postponing the upcoming conference on Women and the Changing Face of Entrepreneurship in Africa (originally scheduled for April 2-3, 2020). According to the most recent Harvard University policy regarding travel and campus restrictions due to COVID-19, we are unable to host this conference next month. We plan to reschedule the conference to October 2020 to adhere to this policy.

Harvard is closely monitoring the outbreak, and the new coronavirus website is frequently updated with guidance and resources for students, staff, and faculty on campus and abroad, including guidance for incoming visitors to campus. The travel policies and campus restrictions will be in effect now through at least April 30th. We apologize for any inconvenience caused including for any travel arrangements that have already been made. The health, safety, and well-being of everyone is our top priority.

We will be in touch soon about the new date of the conference and look forward to having this important conversation with you about large-scale female owned and/or operated businesses. This reality disrupts the conventional understanding of African female entrepreneurs as operating largely in the informal sector and in small- and medium-scale enterprises. We see this as a timely and critical conversation that has the potential to shape not just scholarship at Harvard and other research institutions, but also to influence policy makers and government leaders in the years to come. It is with this in mind that we remain committed to hosting the event at a future date when Harvard has determined that it is safe to do so.

If you have any further questions about this change, please do not hesitate to contact us at africa@harvard.edu.




Conference Agenda


Day 1

2:00pm            Registration

2:30pm            Welcome and Introductory remarks

2:45pm            Keynote Address - Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

4:00pm            Panel One: Africa’s HighGrowth Women Entrepreneurs Driving Social and Economic Development


Day 2

8:30am            Registration

8:45am            Welcome remarks

9:00am           Panel Two: Large-Scale Women Entrepreneurs and Africa’s Job Creation   Challenge

11:00am          Panel Three: Women Entrepreneurs Adding Value to Africa’s Commodities


2:00pm            Panel Four: Leveraging the Digital Economy to Open Pathways to Economic Growth for Africa’s Women Entrepreneurs

4:00pm            Panel Five: Strengthening Policy Frameworks, Funding and Networks to Advance Africa’s Women Entrepreneurs

6:00pm            Closing Remarks

Panel Details

Panel One (Plenary Session): Africa’s High-Growth Women Entrepreneurs Driving Social and Economic Development. Here we seek to understand factors for the rise of high-growth women entrepreneurs, pathways that can facilitate their international expansion, and how we can support the next generation of high-growth entrepreneurs.

Panel Two: Women Entrepreneurs Meeting Africa’s Massive Job Creation Challenge. This panel is an important corrective to the prevailing picture of African women enterprises as small or medium scale. In agriculture, digital, artisan enterprise, fashion, and services, Africa’s women entrepreneurs are creating large-scale businesses. Securico Security Services in Zimbabwe employs 4,000 employees and is the largest employer of women in Zimbabwe outside of government. How do we support scale up, sustain and replicate such large-scale endeavors?

Panel Three: Women Entrepreneurs Building Business to Tackle Africa’s Commodity Trap. We seek to understand the trend of women entrepreneurs creating newer, more dynamic, and higher value agro-products such as chocolate, beauty products, botanicals, teas, and coffees. African women have entered into mining and have set up successful diamond cutting and polishing businesses.

Panel Four: Leveraging the Digital Economy to Open Pathways to Economic Growth for Africa’s Women Entrepreneurs. How do we solve the connectivity gap and create opportunities for Africa’s women and girls to be part of a more inclusive digital world? How do we provide access to digital technologies that allow Africa’s women to benefit fully from the goods, services, and capital available across online markets? How do we leverage emerging technologies and business models to remove longstanding barriers to women’s economic opportunities in poor countries?

Panel Five: Strengthening Institutional and Policy Frameworks, Funding and Networks to Advance Women Entrepreneurs. How can policy formulation promote and elevate women’s entrepreneurship as a priority for African economies? How do we overcome the funding gap? How can we design banking products and offerings that African women entrepreneurs need? How do we strengthen corporate governance and legal frameworks to guide women entrepreneurs to on the international scene?


RSVP form to be posted soon!


Accomodation to be shared soon!



Lionesses of Africa
Lionesses of Africa creates impact by growing the next generation of women entrepreneurs across Africa. By supporting women to achieve their start-up dreams, we empower them to generate economic prosperity, to improve their communities, and to become game-changers Africa needs to solve pressing socio-economic problems.

London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG)
London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) is a global financial markets infrastructure business. Its diversified global business focuses on Information Services, Risk and Balance Sheet Management and Capital Formation. The Group supports global financial stability and sustainable economic growth by enabling businesses and economies to fund innovation, manage risk and create jobs.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)
Established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) in 1958 as one of the UN's five regional commissions, ECA's mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa's development. UNECA plays a dual role as a regional arm of the UN and as a key component of the African institutional landscape, ECA is well positioned to make unique contributions to address the Continent’s development challenges.

Empower Africa
Empower Africa was founded out of a vital need to create significant international awareness and impact during a unique window of opportunity to uplift Sierra Leone. Their business network enables established and emerging businesses to connect, partner, and create long term value with Africa-based projects. Empower Africa liaises with government, major corporations, and investors to deliver deal flow and research across our network. Empower Africa believes that business, trade, and investment, will enhance the quality of life in Africa and the human capital potential.