©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

FAO-IAFN Women’s Accelerator Mentorship Programme for Women-led SMEs in Africa

Women entrepreneurs working in food and agriculture drive sustainable development and play a critical role in building more inclusive and prosperous societies. They create jobs, improve household incomes and bring in a wealth of benefits beyond economic growth. 

But despite their significant contribution to the agriculture sector, rural women typically find themselves in disadvantaged positions. Compared to men, they tend to face more restricted access to productive resources and assets, capacity development, financial services and social protections. 

Gender equality and women empowerment is central to FAO’s mandate to achieve food security for all and reduce rural poverty. Ensuring gender equality and empowering women operating within the agrifood systems presents a unique opportunity to make sure that women-owned businesses are actively contributing to the agrifood systems transformation we are calling for.

That's why in 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN) joined forces to launch a pilot Accelerator Mentorship Programme to support women entrepreneurs in addressing the key challenges and constraints they face in their businesses. The programme supports African women-led Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agrifood system, providing them with the tools and resources necessary to grow their enterprises and adapt to an ever-changing marketplace.

Programme Objectives

The main objective of the jointly-led Accelerator Mentorship Programme is to foster a selected number of women entrepreneurs in Africa with one-to-one mentorship with a panel of experts who are leading women entrepreneurs from around the globe, using a structure through which participants can interact and learn from the expert panel, as well as to provide them with access to knowledge and tools necessary to grow their enterprises and adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. 

Specifically, the programme aims to provide selected women entrepreneurs with:

  • One-on-One Mentoring: Each mentee is paired with a mentor through a matchmaking programme. This mentor is a leader/ expert in their area of action and provides personal guidance and consultation for the duration of the programme.
  • Capacity development and tools: Tailor-made training to enhance hard skills. Each participant is expected to complete 2 mandatory courses and select at least 2 of the optional courses, according to her interests, needs and priorities. In addition, participants have access to a wide range of knowledge products and tools.
  • Workshops & Interaction with Global Leaders: Through joint workshop sessions with experts in the field, participants have access to knowledge exchange sessions, peer learning and networking with each other as well as with invited experts allowing for interactive moments. FAO and IAFN also provide guidance and dedicated workshops on how to access finance, such as on the development of business plans and/ or bankable proposals. These workshop sessions is recorded and made available to participants if they have missed a session and/or would like to refer to them subsequently. At the end of each workshop, there is an interactive time with business leaders and mentors.  

"I am eternally grateful for this mentorship programme, the courses and the occasional meetings. I am transformed as an individual and Savanna Circuit teams are equally benefiting from my exposure."

                                                                           (Emmastella Gakuo, Co-founder and director of operations at Savanna Circuit)


"I am privileged because I believe in the power of mentorship, for I know mentorship is transformational. John Crosby says, ‘Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction’. And that’s the experience I had with my mentor through the support of the FAO-IAFN accelerator mentorship programme."

                                                                           (Fatou Manneh, Founder of Jelmah Herbella)

Previous editions: 2022-2023