Namibian women entrepreneurs; distinguished invited guests; ladies and gentlemen; members of the media: Good afternoon.
I confess that I am a little intimidated to be giving a speech to a group of high-powered businesswomen who have just completed three days of training in persuasive communication and public speaking. Maybe when I finish you can tell me what I could have done better!
In spite of the intimidation factor, it is a real pleasure for me to be here today to congratulate you for taking one more step in pursuit of your entrepreneurship goals by completing this Persuasive Communications Workshop for Women in Business.
As many of you know, supporting economic growth in Namibia is a policy priority for the United States government and for the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek. We’re proud to have been able, in collaboration with our partners in the Namibian government and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, to make this workshop a reality. I am particularly pleased that we and our colleagues at the USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub had this opportunity to support AWEP as it helps women in business overcome the obstacles to their full participation in growing Namibia’s economy.
American support for Namibian businesswomen is by no means new. A number of you have previously participated in the annual AWEP International Visitors Leadership Program in Washington, D.C. Many of you have also been obliging enough to brief visit official visitors from the U.S. about the opportunities and challenges that exist for women in business in Namibia.
Around the world, and perhaps particularly in Africa, women hold the key to unlocking economic growth. Reducing the gender gap – in education, health, politics, and the economy – increases economic competitiveness, market access, and participation, and does so in ways that can benefit all Namibians.
But I don’t need to tell all of you how important communicating effectively in business is for any growing economy – you wouldn’t be here today if you didn’t already know the value of effective communication skills in business.
When he visited Kenya last year, President Barack Obama spoke about the difficulties faced by women in business, not just in Africa but around the world. You constantly run up against traditional attitudes and old-school ways of thinking: the antiquated notion that women don’t have what it takes to lead or create a business. I can imagine that more than a few of you have also had the experience of pitching an idea that lands on deaf ears, only to hear the same idea be warmly embraced when pitched by a man.
The best response to that kind of thinking is the example that all of you are setting for the current and future generations. That’s why encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship is now and will remain a key part of America’s engagement in Namibia.
We believe that improving communications skills and techniques in the business sector is fundamental to promoting economic growth, creating jobs, and increasing the living standard for Namibians. The practical skills and techniques you’ve learned this week are designed to help you attract new clients, to negotiate deals, and to take your businesses to the next level. I look forward in the coming months to hearing about your successes.
Let me close by repeating my congratulations to you and to AWEP for recognizing the pivotal role women can play in transforming society by owning, running, and operating small and medium businesses, and by becoming voices for social change and economic empowerment in Namibia.