Zambia aims to connect 1m women SMEs to international markets

FILE PICTURE: Informal trader Rose Mhlanga who sells fruit speaks to The Citizen about the challenges she faces since returning to trading. Picture: Supplied.

Women are a little over half of the population in Zambia, yet they are under-represented in some of the country’s most profitable sectors. 

At least 10 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) owned by women globally account for 80 percent of jobs created by these kinds of businesses, but women are still marginalised despite their immense contribution to society, the International Trade Centre (ITC) said on Monday.

But Zambian women-owned SMEs are set to get a much-needed boost through a targeted initiative aimed at connecting more of the country’s women-owned businesses to international markets.

Zambia’s Vice-President Inonge Wina, speaking at the launch of the Zambia chapter of the SheTrades initiative on Monday, said that the socio-economic status of Zambian women will now change for the better as part of the country’s efforts to empower women-owned SMEs which is also highlighted by the National Development Plan.

“The factors that have contributed to hinder women are multiple and multifaceted. Some hinge on cultural practices and perceptions and others are related to lack of access to means of production. At the bottom of this all lies patriarchy,” Wina said.

“Women should [also] learn to appreciate and support each other at all cost. In international trade and all levels, there may come a time where meeting supply deadlines will require an input from your fellow women traders and entrepreneurs. Let us hold each other’s hands as we develop.”

The SheTrades initiative aims to connect one million women to market by 2020 and rallies stakeholders around the world to work together on seven actions to address trade barriers and create greater opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

Women entrepreneurs in Zambia will have the opportunity to improve their competency through tailored in-person and online training workshops, and mentoring sessions. Working alongside the country’s ministry of commerce, trade and industry, the initiative will also conduct a data-mapping survey on women entrepreneurs to identify their specific needs.

Arancha González, executive director of the ITC, said that women were a little over half of the population in Zambia, yet they were under-represented in some of the country’s most profitable sectors.

“For example, the most recent numbers suggest women capture only 33 percent of employment in services and 4.12 percent of employment in industry. I also note that limited access to finance, low rates of asset ownership and lack of sex dis-aggregated data have been and continue to be particularly important bottlenecks for Zambian women in business,” González said.

“SheTrades is eager to support Zambia in this regard and together with you will advocate for a conducive business environment for women entrepreneurs, provide women entrepreneur’s access to the skills and support systems required to run successful businesses, and connect women-owned enterprises to local, regional, and international markets.”

The ITC is a United Nations trade and development agency that is fully dedicated to supporting the internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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