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US VP Harris announces Thunderbird at ASU, Department of State partnership in support of female entrepreneurs

Harris announces five-year, public-private partnership during African trip

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaking in Africa behind lectern
March 29, 2023

As recently announced by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs are launching a new five-year, public-private partnership in support of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program.

As part of this partnership, Thunderbird is offering courses in its Francis and Dionne Najafi 100 Million Learners Global Initiative to all academy participants and alumni, at absolutely no cost to the learner.

The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program is currently implemented by 20 U.S. missions in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs expects the academy to expand to an additional four African countries: Cameroon, Eswatini, Lesotho and Somalia.

“We must be intentional to make progress in three key areas: the empowerment of women, digital inclusion, and good governance and democracy," Harris said during the announcement. “All of which are a focus of my visit to the continent and going forward, and all of which have the potential to create even more innovation.

"Innovation that will unlock new jobs, new industries and exponential growth. So let us agree, women around the world must be able to fully participate in economic, political and social life, and they must be able to participate equally, including in leadership roles. It is a key to maximizing global growth and opportunity.” 

Harris made the announcement in Africa during her recent travels to Accra, Ghana, to build on the December 2022 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.

Through this collaboration, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Thunderbird will provide additional resources for Academy for Women Entrepreneurs participants and alumni to complete advanced entrepreneurship courses to further develop their skills.

The partnership helps Thunderbird move closer to its goal of reaching 100 million learners — 70% of who will be women and young women. It also supports the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Thunderbird’s shared priorities of promoting gender equity, economic opportunity, entrepreneurship and education.

“When you provide women entrepreneurs with the tools to start and grow small businesses and social enterprises, you invest not only in the woman, but also in her family, employees, community and country,” said Sanjeev Khagram, director general and dean at Thunderbird. 

The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs is a collaborative initiative between Thunderbird and the U.S. Department of State. Now operating in nearly 100 countries, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs established the academy as an exchange program in 2019 to provide women entrepreneurs the knowledge, networks and access they need to launch or scale successful businesses.

The program utilizes the DreamBuilder platform, an online training program developed by Thunderbird and the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation in 2011. To date, the academy has empowered an estimated 25,000 female entrepreneurs around the world with the skills they need to reach their full economic potential. 

“We are grateful that our partnership with the ECA and our generous supporters, Freeport-McMoRan and Francis and Dionne Najafi, allows us the opportunity to advance the future prosperity of African women," Khagram said.

This public-private partnership aligns with the United States National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality and the U.S. Strategy on Global Women’s Economic Security by promoting women’s leadership and expanding education and economic development opportunities for underserved communities in the countries where the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs is offered.

More information can be found at

Top photo: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in Ghana, Africa. Photo courtesy U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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