WOMEN AND TRADE: How AfCFTA Can Empower Women Entrepreneurs

ICC, UPS, Tralac, and West Blue join forces to provide women entrepreneurs in Africa with the resources to digitise their operations


ICC, UPS, Trade Law Centre (Tralac), and West Blue Consulting today announced a partnership to support women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.

The partners will offer capacity building programmes and tools, including co-developed trade and information portals called “e-Trade Hubs,” advocate for enabling public policy, and create electronic guidelines to help women entrepreneurs scale-up and digitise their businesses.

Building off the recent launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the partnership will help women-led SMEs expand their operations to new marketplaces in Africa and around the world. Through the establishment of the “Women Traders in the AfCFTA” working group, the partners will collaborate with interest groups, trade associations, and other stakeholders in the region to support women-led SMEs and entrepreneurs in the region. Working with leaders from government, business, and civil society, the partners will develop policy recommendations to ensure that women-led SMEs benefit from the AfCFTA.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women entrepreneurs, with the World Bank reporting that about 60 percent of women-led SMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa have lost all sources of income. In this context, the partnership will provide women entrepreneurs with support to outlast the current crisis and equip them with the resources to expand their businesses to new markets.

 “The economic, social, and health consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have unequally impacted the lives and livelihoods of women business owners everywhere,” said ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO.“We are extremely proud to partner with UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting to level the playing field in Africa and provide women entrepreneurs with the required resources to digitise their businesses. Women-led businesses are the backbone of their local economies – we can’t afford to leave them behind.”

Research shows that only 1 out of 5 businesses that exports is led by a woman. At UPS, we’re moving our world forward by helping women-run businesses maximize their participation in trade through public-private partnerships that provide policy recommendations and support with knowledge sharing and building skills,” said Penny Naas, President of UPS International Public Affairs & Sustainability. “We commit significant time and resources to. Our partnership with the ICC, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting will offer exporting workshops for women entrepreneurs and to advocate for enabling environments that pave the way for African women’s success.”

“The AfCFTA provides a significant opportunity to empower women entrepreneurs and to promote Africa’s digital transformation,” said Trudi Hartzenberg, Executive Director, Tralac. “The adoption of digital trade solutions for the AfCFTA will address many border management challenges that disproportionately impact women traders. Tralac is very pleased to collaborate with ICC, UPS and West Blue Consulting to support digitisation of women’s businesses to enhance their competitiveness in the AfCFTA and global markets.”

“Digitisation will play a significant role in the successful implementation of the AfCFTA and the COVID-19 recovery plans globally,” said Valentina Mintah, CEO and Founder of West Blue Consulting. “The adoption of solutions by women in business and trade, will ensure benefits such as an increased ability for women to work from home whilst raising families; improved global market access, employment opportunities and a shift of women from the informal sector to the formal. We are delighted to partner with ICC, UPS and TRALAC to provide the needed skills training, trade information and tools via the eTradeHubs portal www.etradehubs.com.”

The partnership will be supported by ICC’s Centre of Entrepreneurship, a pioneering initiative to prepare and mobilise the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world. With regional hubs in Istanbul and Beirut, ICC will announce future hubs in Africa and South America in 2021, and the hubs in Africa will be used to implement the partnership’s programmes and reach out to SMES across the continent

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