The ECOWAS Commission has combined efforts with the International Trade Centre (ITC) SheTrades Initiative to launch the ECOWAS – ITC SheTrades project. Jointly organized by ECOWAS, ITC and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the event was attended by representatives from ECOWAS, ITC the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), and the Federation of Business Women and Entrepreneurs (FEBWE), as well as National Women Business Associations.
Data shows that across West Africa, women’s economic activity tends to be concentrated in subsistence activities, and in informal and non-tradable sectors of the economy. Through this project, ECOWAS and ITC will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) trade provisions and implementation mechanisms open equal markets opportunities for women and men.
This project will roll-out the tools and resources of ITC’s SheTrades Initiative to provide targeted support and technical expertise to women in business at a regional level. Through it focus on export readiness, this new joint project will empower women entrepreneurs to be competitive actors in AfCFTA trade ecosystems.
In her remarks, H.E Finda Koroma, Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission stated that: “With the entry into force of the AfCFTA and the start of trading under its regime in January 2021, new trading opportunities are open for women traders in the region. These opportunities should unlock our potential in numerous sectors and develop value chains for which our region has comparative advantages. To this end, Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) need to be accompanied with adequate tools and resources in order to enable them increase their competitiveness and take advantage of export markets on the continent and beyond”.
“Through these trainings, women entrepreneurs across ECOWAS member states will be able to leverage networks of women’s associations and tap into new markets and trading opportunities. The trainings will give the women the knowledge and skills needed to assess the viability of trading within AfCFTA regulated markets for their product and then proceed with confidence if they choose to upgrade their business. These new commercial opportunities and access to markets will have considerable knock-on effects for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment including reducing poverty, and creating decent jobs”, said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, ITC Executive Director.
This latest series of in-person bootcamps on export readiness will be initially rolled-out in Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Benin and Togo, and there will be complimentary online trainings that will be offered in English, French and Portuguese for women entrepreneurs and Women’s Business Association members across the ECOWAS region.
ITC will work with ECOWAS and other major stakeholders to realise a series of export readiness bootcamps and online trainings; these practice-oriented trainings will provide women with the tools needed to position themselves as competitive exporters and traders within the AfCFTA. In parallel, ITC will also work with institutions to support women in trade by mainstreaming gender into trade policies.
The programme builds on ITC’s SheTrades Initiative work to increase the competitiveness of women entrepreneurs and women producers and connect them to markets, and foster more inclusive business and policy ecosystems as well as ITC’s One Trade Africa programme to empower, enhance and enable MSMEs to access business opportunities in Africa.
The launch was followed by the first Steering Committee Meeting of the ECOWAS – ITC SheTrades Project which is composed of the ECOWAS Commission, the Federation of Business Women and Entrepreneurs (FEBWE), ITC and GIZ. The meeting, which was chaired by Mr Kolawole SOFOLA, Acting Director of Trade at the ECOWAS Commission, adopted the 2022 Action Plan of the project.