By: Jean Mugabo
Hundreds of local women traders and exporters will benefit from a new programme under TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) that seeks to promote trade and support women-owned businesses in the region.
The $19.5 million (about Rwf14.7 billion) Women and Trade programme will benefit about 25,000 businesswomen in Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda over the next six years, the trade facilitation organisation said in a statement last week.
While launching the first phase of the $4.5 million project in Nairobi, Kenya last week, Frank Matsaert, the TMEA chief executive officer, said the programme seeks to increase incomes and improve livelihoods for women traders and support women-owned enterprises through capacity building, addressing trade barriers and advocacy for policies that will create an enabling environment for them to thrive.
Matsaert challenged regional governments and private sector to provide a conducive environment for women to trade, arguing that women inclusion is important to enhance the region’s business competitiveness.
“It is, therefore, important to continually advocate for balanced frameworks and policy change that will nurture the growth of women in cross-border trade,” he said in the statement. Matsaert said the first phase of the project will run for a year, with the $15 million second five-year phase expected to be launched in 2017.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Amb Amina Mohammed, lauded TMEA’s commitment toward increasing women participation in regional trade, saying women involvement in business is key to success of EAC regional integration.
“Empowering women creates a positive multiplier effect on poverty reduction, economic growth, government revenues and employment creation. As government, we are keen to see the successful integration of the region and an overall functional free-trade area for the continent but this cannot happen without the labour of women,” Mohammed said.
In Rwanda, TMEA supports Pro-femmes Twese Hamwe, an umbrella organisation of women NGOs, to mobilise women to form co-operatives through which they can collectively import and export across the region. According to the statement, Pro-femmes will soon receive additional funds from TMEA. Three years ago, TMEA extended over Rwf150 million grant to the organisation.
TMEA’s women and trade programme in Rwanda has enabled women to increase revenue, and are now able to afford medical insurance and fees for their children.
TMEA will work with local groups to implement the programme that seeks to significantly contribute to women traders’ knowledge on EAC trade and export procedures by December 2016. It targets a 10 per cent growth in revenues of the targeted women exporters and traders; and a 30 per cent increase in the use of formal trade systems by the targeted women cross-border traders, as well as the adoption of policies, regulations or practices that support an enabling environment for women.
Funded by the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the project will also engage officials at 12 EAC border posts in policy dialogue and capacity development initiatives, Matsaert said.