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Remarks at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit Youth + Women Event
July 25, 2015

Catherine M. Russell
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues
2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit
Nairobi, Kenya
July 24, 2015

As prepared

Hi everyone. Welcome to the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit Women + Youth Day. Before I begin, I’d like to thank our partners who made today possible, particularly Under Secretary Stengel and his team. I’d also like to thank the Government of Kenya for hosting us, and for a very warm welcome.

It’s wonderful to be here with such a tremendous group of entrepreneurs. Each of you represents the big ideas and the drive that will shape the future of communities, countries and economies around the world. You are the leaders who can tackle local challenges, create big solutions, and drive economic growth for your country. That’s why we’re here today – because we want to partner with you, and we want to celebrate you as the next generation of entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneur at this Summit has tremendous potential. What we see in country after country, and industry after industry, is that women and young people have the ideas and the passion to start businesses. What’s often missing is the confidence or the connections or the conditions that are needed to take an idea or a business to the next level.

Our hope is that you can find the ideas, suggestions and support that will help you with the challenges you face every day. That investor who can help finance the next stage of your business? She’s here today. That mentor who can help you envision your business in five years? He’s at this Summit. And that government official or development expert who needs to hear about the barriers you’re facing is here too. We’re all here to support you. And I personally am here to let you know that we believe in your ability to grow your businesses, change your communities, and make the world a better place.

I’m also here to talk to the investors and government officials, who in many ways are critical to entrepreneurship and growth. My message to them is simple: don’t let outdated perceptions get in the way of a good business investment. Because at the end of the day, that’s bad for business. That’s one of the many reasons why the United States cares about promoting these entrepreneurs who are all too often overlooked or underserved.

But today isn’t only about bottom lines for investors and businesses. It’s also about better lives for individuals and societies. As business owners in your communities, you help create jobs. These jobs create stable communities. And these stable communities contribute to global peace and prosperity.

That’s why the United States is committed to supporting entrepreneurs with new ideas and new ways of addressing problems. President Obama said it best: “I believe that entrepreneurs like you can make the world a better place, one idea at a time. You are going to be how change happens – one person, one step, one business, one city, one country at a time.”

President Obama’s words illustrate our fundamental belief that entrepreneurship has a tremendous capacity to change the world. And we’re proud to support women and young people, with initiatives like regional networks, programs, exchanges, and more. For example, our African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program is a platform for programs to connect women to credit and build their capacity. And, through wPower, we work with women entrepreneurs in clean energy. Women right here in Nairobi are building a market for clean energy technologies to both lift women out of poverty and address climate change.

Today I’d like to announce three new initiatives that will continue our work to promote entrepreneurship.

First, we’re learning from you. We worked with the GES and GeoPoll to create a pre-summit survey so you could tell us about your business and what entrepreneurship development looks like in your country. We wanted to know what programs have helped you succeed and what paths will help others move forward. Your answers will help us build better programs for the next generation of entrepreneurs. And your input doesn’t have to stop here. Over the next few days, I hope you’ll take a look at the data, work with your colleagues to develop innovative ideas to some of the challenges, and continue to share your feedback with us.

One of the things we’ve learned about promoting entrepreneurship is that mentoring can go a long way, especially when mentors can speak from first-hand experience about how to overcome similar challenges and navigate similar environments. That’s why we’re launching a program that will connect women entrepreneurs in Africa with mentors right here in the region. The Women’s Venture Xchange – Africa will use mentorship and market access to help promising women entrepreneurs launch and grow their own businesses. Thanks to our partners—the Global Entrepreneurship Network, the Case Foundation, and the Mara Foundation—we will be able to pilot this program here in Kenya and also in Uganda.

Finally, we have an exciting announcement. At last year’s Summit in Morocco, someone asked why we weren’t doing more for artisan businesses. That’s a good question, especially when you consider that artisan activity is often the second largest employer in developing countries, and that the artisan market generates $34 billion a year. Hundreds of thousands of people in the developing world participate in the artisan sector, and many of them are women. This sector not only creates livelihoods for communities around the world. It also preserves a society’s cultural heritage and uniqueness that we cherish.

Yet the artisan sector is often ignored or overlooked. That’s why the State Department developed a global partnership called the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise. The Alliance works to promote, connect, and expand opportunities for the artisan sector. This September, the Alliance will begin a global campaign to tell the story of artisans—and we want you to be a part of it.

So today the Alliance, with State Department support, is launching the Artisan Enterprise Multimedia competition. We’re calling on artisans, artists, and supporters from around the world to submit photos, videos, mural designs, and essays that capture the creative beauty and economic impact of the sector. We will bring finalists to the Alliance’s campaign launch in Washington this fall, and the winner will receive a $1500 cash prize, along with the chance to have their work globally recognized. This is an opportunity to tell the story of artisans and their role in the economy. You can go to www.allianceforartisanenterprise.org to learn more and apply.

With that, I’d like to close with several points that I hope you’ll keep in mind this weekend. First, make the most of today and the rest of the Summit. Consider this your opportunity to pitch your ideas, demonstrate your passion, show off your talents and tenacity. Second, bring others along. Yesterday, I visited the Alliance School for Girls where I met the future leaders of Kenya. They are smart, driven and talented. What they need is what you need — people to believe in them and help them thrive. Third, know that you are here because we want you to succeed.

You understand the issues facing your community, and you know how to solve them. We want to support you in your efforts. I look forward to talking with you about how we can work together. Thank you.