Encouraging women to undertake and contribute to the development of society is at the heart of the objectives of the Awa Prize, a unique initiative of the Belgian development agency, Enabel, adapted to the regional context of partner countries, including Morocco. Lamisse Kandil, project manager, tells us more about it.
Launched in 2022 at the request of the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation, the Awa Prize aims to highlight the work of talented entrepreneurs across the various partner countries of Belgian cooperation, in particular Morocco, Benin, Burkina Faso , Burundi, Guinea, Jordan, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Uganda, Palestine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania.
In this context, the project manager Lamisse Kandil, gives in an interview to MoroccoLatestNews her ideas concerning female entrepreneurship, its approach, the difficulties encountered but also more details on this international competition and its objectives.
Who is Lamisse Kandil and what is her role?
I was born in Paris, my mother is Moroccan and my father is Lebanese. Basically, I am an agrifood engineer specializing in malnutrition. I was making products against malnutrition and against diabetes in West Africa and I was setting up small production units. So I lived for ten years in West Africa, between Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, but never in Morocco, for the moment.
For personal reasons, I returned to Europe and there, I work with the Belgian Development Cooperation and I take care of everything related to women’s entrepreneurship in 20 countries, including Morocco. I come from the private sector and I see clearly that sometimes you have to be very pragmatic, very quick and that all the bureaucracy, the long sentences, the long speeches, it is not necessarily accessible for women or men who come from rural areas or who have not necessarily had access to education.
So that’s why I have this approach and I’m happy that my management follows this approach of being very pragmatic, of being very hands-on, and of connecting people. We really try to have an inclusive dimension. There, for example, we’re going to pass everything we do in Arabic, for Morocco in Darija and for Palestine and Jordan in literal Arabic. During the event, we tried to translate everything into the Amazigh language so that people really feel included.
These issues of inclusion are also in my somewhat multicultural profile, because honestly, when you have a Lebanese dad and a Moroccan mom, when they speak Arabic, they don’t understand each other so it takes a lot of patience and finding a system d.
In October, Enabel launched this international competition for women entrepreneurs in its first edition. How was the Awa Prize born and what is its differential factor?
The Awa Prize is a project initiated by the Belgian Minister for Cooperation and executed by Enabel, the Belgian cooperation and development agency in 20 countries, including Morocco, Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia. This project was born from the observation that women entrepreneurs are not sufficiently highlighted and their support is often generic.
However, every woman is different and has specific needs. This project consists of an international competition and the implementation of events, awareness, training, networking around entrepreneurship. Its differential factor is that we are in 20 countries, and that everything we do is adapted to the regional context. The support is made to measure and everything is done with the agreement of the entrepreneurs.
Who can participate in this competition? What are the criteria ?
To participate in this competition, you must have a registered business for at least 1 year. Be a woman and be active in one of the partner countries. Emphasis is placed on how enterprise and the creation of opportunities can have positive impacts on the entrepreneurial community.
As an entrepreneur, what are the brakes and difficulties that can hinder the development of women project leaders?
There are many obstacles and difficulties. In general, seven obstacles have been identified: access to funding, information, training, personal development, family constraints and pressures (events are often in the evening. So when you are a mother or live at his parents’ house…it can be complicated), the difficulties of networking and, it’s still taboo, but gender-related violence.
How do you help these women to undertake and promote female leadership?
We try to work on all these axes, by setting up events and partnerships in the countries. Today, we have set up a partnership around women’s entrepreneurship with a management school, ISGA. Together, we try to show that training is access to entrepreneurship and employability. It’s important, when you’re in so many countries, to be with partners from different backgrounds to enrich the dialogue and try to have an impact.
The choice of ISGA was natural, it is an international school that supports its students in business creation, via an incubator. This Moroccan model will then be shared in other countries to show the richness of pan-African exchanges. It must be recognized that Morocco is a land of opportunities and that we Moroccans are the economic engines of our country and of the continent. Entrepreneurship is the sharing of experiences, the most beautiful as well as the less successful.