DRIVE

EABC pushes for growth of women businesses in the region

Calls for open borders and cross-border markets for women to trade.

In Summary

•Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the cash flow of businesswomen at a greater scale compared to businessmen, as most of them are SMEs.

•They compose 76% of informal cross border traders in the EAC region.

East African Women in Business members pose for a photo during a breakfast meeting on December 11, 2020/
East African Women in Business members pose for a photo during a breakfast meeting on December 11, 2020/
Image: COURTESY

The East African Business Council (EABC) is pushing for more benefits to women in the region's economies.

On Friday, over 50 women in business were empowered to tap into the East African Community (EAC) Common Market of 177 million consumers, with access to information being among the key drivers.

Speaking during a breakfast forum, EABC board director Mary Ngechu said women should boldly tap into the opportunities availed by the EAC regional integration by engaging in cross borders trade and value addition.

She emphasized that access to finance and low level of knowledge on cross border trade regulations and opportunities are among challenges facing businesswomen in the region.

According to the regional apex body, Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the cash flow of businesswomen at a greater scale compared to businessmen, as most of them own Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs.)

They compose 76 per cent of informal cross border traders in the EAC region.

This is due to measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus in the region such as lockdown, curfews, restrictions on the free movement of cargo and persons.

“In this new norm women should adopt digital tools and technologies such as e-commerce to upscale their businesses,” said Ngechu.

The forum saw women share their experiences on realigning their business models to tap into new opportunities such as manufacturing face shields, soap, adopting online and social media stores and digital payments.

With the commencement of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on January 1, 2020, East African women should be empowered on the regulations and new market opportunities availed by the continental market of 1.7 billion people, EABC notes.

The East African Community and African Union have been urged to come up with a continental simplified trade regime for the highly exported goods by women from the EAC region to the continent, which will enhance market access.

Complex tax regimes and Non-Tariff Barriers continue to hinder women to engage proactively in cross-border trade forcing them to use informal routes, EABC notes.

It has since called on the EAC partner state to come up with simplified and gender-sensitive Covid-19 measures; allow free movement of people and opening up borders and cross border markets.

This, it says, will boost intra-EAC trade and the resilience of women-owned businesses.

With support from TradeMark East Africa, the EABC champions trade and gender issues under its flagship platform, the East African Women in Business Platform, which brings together businesswomen from all the EAC partner states.

Its mission includes positioning and catalyzing participation of women in the EAC integration process.