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Ghana proudly holds the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs across 57 other countries composing 46.4 per cent of businesses and confirming the notion of women being the backbone of African economies.
However, very little reap the rewards of entrepreneurship: a recent World Bank survey found that in 90 per cent of economies they surveyed, there was at least one legal impediment to women’s economic participation. This ranged from the ease of registering a
company to the ability to inherit assets. So how can African businesswomen reverse these tendencies and fully thrive not only in their local economies but also globally?
Addressing barriers to trade:
Enabling women entrepreneurs to thrive starts by first understanding, in addition to the common challenges faced by entrepreneurs, those specific to women with just a few of them consisting in harder access to funding, ownership of land and cultural expectations amongst others.
If women played an equal role in labour markets as men, as much as $28 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. To address the issues faced by women-owned businesses, the International Trade Centre (ITC) – whose core missions are to improve the
competitiveness and scaling of businesses so Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can tap into international markets – launched the SheTrades Initiative in 2016, creating an ecosystem of integrated solutions to empower women economically through trade and investment.
Solutions such as increasing women’s business skills to reduce the knowledge and skills gap as much as possible through free online courses via our SME Academy portal, coaching, workshops and mentoring.
Out of the SheTrades Initiative came SheTrades in the Commonwealth, aimed at connecting one million women to international markets by 2020 and creating economic growth and job creation (across four countries being Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Bangladesh) with the help of institutional partners and targeted at inspiring businesswomen.
Afrodesiac Worldwide – how a Ghanaian brand went global:
Despite initial growing pains, the SheTrades initiative is now delivering results and impacts for women entrepreneurs. Take for example Chiedza Makonnen (pictured). She is the founder of Afrodesiac Worldwide, a Ghanaian fashion brand and a SheTrades entrepreneur.
Following participation in training provided by several SheTrades partners, Makonnen was exposed to international platforms and has since conquered the European market with her contemporary Afro-Urban style clothing line.
Makonnen’s business philosophy is also aligned with the thinking behind the SheTrades initiative. For her, it is imperative to contribute to the manufacturing industry in Ghana. A fully 80 per cent of the fabrics used in her production are produced in Africa and 99.9% of those suppliers are women artisans working in impoverished areas. Growing her business means that she contributes to improving livelihoods in her local community as well.
Makonnen started her business with a few female employees at the micro-production level. As a SheTrades beneficiary, she was able to receive support, which enabled her to scale up her production and employ more people. More importantly, Makonnen is now helping ITC scale up its SheTrades activities in Ghana, ensuring that more women entrepreneurs can follow the trail that she has blazed by tapping into her business networks and being enabled to access credible financial institutions.
Finding success through technology:
A globalised world not only means easier trade relations between countries but also means a shorter time to reach audiences from across the world and this from the tip of one’s fingers thanks to technology.
Indeed, although a gender divide remains in access to technology in Africa, a push for stronger connectivity will enable greater inclusion of women in international trade. Several of the women entrepreneurs SheTrades is working with are found in the digital sector or are using technology to scale up their enterprises.
For ITC too, digital technology has proved invaluable to roll out the SheTrades initiative, ensuring high impact with low costs. It makes it easier to work with partners, establish networks of women entrepreneurs, and disseminate knowledge, tools and frameworks related to the SheTrades objectives.
Women entrepreneurs have quick access to eLearning courses, business and investment opportunities and tailored capacity-building activities. And through the SheTrades web and mobile app, buyers that previously found it hard to identify eligible women suppliers are now making new business connections.
On the right track:
In a nutshell, great strides are being made to increase women’s participation in trade and we trust with the adequate business export knowledge, support and networks, Ghanaian businesswomen will tremendously grow their businesses from subsistence to global drivers of growth.
To date, the SheTrades initiative has successfully generated $80 million in export value opportunities for women entrepreneurs globally and hopes to achieve as well through SheTrades in the Commonwealth Ghana. The SheTrades initiative will continue to
allocate a part of its resources to embracing challenges and promising high-impact solutions, basing its interventions on what is the core of the initiative’s work: engagement with and between the public and private sectors to ensure the best for women entrepreneurs.
Shari-Julianne Hammond is an international development professional with cross-sectoral expertise in government affairs, women’s empowerment, strategic communications, stakeholder engagement and project management. In her current role with the International Trade Centre, she advocates for women’s stronger access to international markets; connecting Ghanaian women to opportunities through SheTrades in the Commonwealth.
To learn more and join the SheTrades in the Commonwealth, Click Here