Leaders meet at Expo 2020 Dubai to discuss scaling up women-led small businesses in Africa

  • 18 October 2021

The Women Traders in the AfCFTA, a partnership formed by ICC, UPS, Trade Law Centre (Tralac), and West Blue Consulting, met at Expo 2020 Dubai to support women-led SMEs in Africa.

Launched in February 2021, the partnership offers capacity building programmes and tools, including co-developed trade and information portals called “e-Trade Hubs,” advocates for enabling public policy, and creating electronic guidelines to help women entrepreneurs scale-up and digitise their businesses.

The one-day event brought together AfCFTA entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders – both in-person and virtually – to discuss shared challenges, obstacles, and success stories. Taking place on October 16, 2021, the event offered a platform to celebrate inspirational development journeys, showcase innovative products and services, and create new network opportunities for upscaling businesses and entering new marketplaces.

Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International, Cooperation and Managing Director, Expo 2020 Dubai United Arab Emirates, and Abdulaziz Al Nuaimi, Assistant Undersecretary for Commercial affairs and regulations, Ministry of Economy United Arab Emirates, delivered keynote addresses on the importance of creating a regulatory and policy environment that enables women entrepreneurs in Africa to thrive.

ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said:The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of women business owners in across Africa. Given that 58% of all MSMEs in Africa are women-owned, we need to do everything in our power to ensure that they are provided with the tools and resources to outlast this crisis and fortify their operations for the future. We look forward to continuing our work with UPS, Tralac, and West Blue Consulting to design and implement the enabling environments for digital access that will make technology truly work for all.

Laura Lane, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at UPS said: Through our purpose- driven partnerships, we are working to make women’s economic empowerment a priority for post-pandemic global economic recovery. Both the future of Africa and global trade depend on providing these entrepreneurs and innovators the tools they need to realize their business dreams. UPS – with its unique expertise and global reach – has a significant role to play in supporting women’s economic empowerment. Beyond creating greater business opportunities, UPS is also using our Women Exporters Program UPS to advance market reforms that will provide expanded trade opportunities for all.”

“The AfCFTA is key to Africa’s post-COVID recovery and economic transformation. The Agreement addresses many non-tariff barriers, including cumbersome customs processes and regulations that impact women specifically,” said Trudi Hartzenberg, Executive Director, Tralac. “The Protocols on Women and E-Commerce, which are still to be negotiated, are key to ensure that the AfCFTA trade governance agenda contributes meaningfully to women’s economic empowerment in a competitive digital economy. tralac, in partnership with West Blue Consulting, ICC and UPS, will continue to support Africa’s women entrepreneurs to achieve the development goals of the AfCFTA.”

Valentina Mintah, CEO and Founder of West Blue Consulting said: “After months of collaboration, West Blue Consulting is extremely pleased to be joining ICC, tralac, and UPS for the first ever in-person meeting of the Women Traders in the AfCFTA. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers and business leaders must to step up to enable the digitalisation of women-led MSMEs in Africa. These businesses are the backbone of local economic development throughout Africa, and as such, every effort must be made to support their digital growth as we work together towards a global and resilient recovery from the pandemic.”

The Women Traders in the AfCFTA partnership is 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.