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    African Businesswomen Get Access to Trade


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2006

    © D. Girard Team Ethiopia prepares the implementation strategy of the ACCESS! programme.

    Women entrepreneurs benefit from targeted assistance to expand their businesses internationally through this award-winning programme.

    The creative skills, innovative spirit and sheer determination of African businesswomen are evident in the businesses they have created. However, for the most part, they deal exclusively in local markets and limited sectors. To expand their businesses internationally, they need access to markets, training, information and networks. A joint ITC-Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFOC) programme, "ACCESS! for African Businesswomen in International Trade", is helping to meet their needs.

    ITC's experience in working with women exporters and would-be exporters has shown that they face unique challenges to doing business internationally. Yet it also found that many businesswomen are social entrepreneurs who combine a drive for export growth with a commitment to developing their communities. For ITC, it makes good business sense and good development sense to encourage women to build their businesses. For these reasons, it conceived a specific initiative to support women entrepreneurs, which aimed at addressing some of the typical constraints they face.

    Overcoming isolation

    The challenges to exporting faced by associations of African businesswomen and their members include limited access to finance and export business training; limited participation in sector strategy and business development; limited demand from local supply chains; and lack of support in the creation of market linkages abroad. Cultural traditions and family obligations can also hold women back from playing a more prominent role in economic life.

    As a result, many women are isolated in micro-businesses or those in the informal sector. Few belong to larger, "mainstream" business networks such as chambers of commerce and they are seldom invited to export meetings where they could obtain information and business contacts. The outcome is that African businesswomen can lose confidence in their ability to "go global" and succeed.

    ITC and TFOC launched the ACCESS! programme in September 2005, after more than a year of design and development. It targets African women entrepreneurs who have already attained a fair level of management competence and are actual, emerging or potential exporters. By building international trade skills and providing practical advice and guidance, the programme helps African businesswomen take on new markets.

    "I came out of the ACCESS! programme armed with a compass. A compass that has to date served as a vital guide. I am more knowledgeable and confident as I explore another dimension of business - that of international markets," says Rose Aziz, a Tanzanian exporter and ACCESS! trainee in November 2005.

    Local partners implement

    Trade promotion organizations and other support institutions act as focal points to help implement the programme locally. These organizations are chosen for their demonstrated commitment to the development and support of women in trade, but are not exclusively women-oriented. In the case of South Africa, the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry/Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the focal point and enhances programme outreach at the national level.

    The programme has three components: training; mentoring; and a web portal.

    The training component takes participants through 22 modules covering key aspects of international trade, such as global value chain, market research, Incoterms (international commercial terms), contracting and legal aspects, transport or cash flow management. The modules are available in English, French and Swahili. A Portuguese version will be released soon.

    Under the supervision of two Regional Lead Trainers, national teams of trainers participated in multi-country "Train the Trainers" workshops. National teams are now delivering training sessions in their own country, having adapted the modules to suit local audiences. They have trained more than 200 businesswomen to date and ITC expects that more than 600 women will have been trained by the end of the pilot programme in 2007.

    A number of workshop participants have also had access to expert advice and guidance under the mentoring component. This resulted in boosting production capabilities, developing export price lists or improving their export strategies.

    One example came from South Africa's focal point. "Mymona Nassiep of Afri-Mystique Cosmetics (Pty) Ltd was in the throes of signing an international trade deal with a company in Taiwan," reports Joan Warburton-McBride. "Through mentoring provided by ACCESS!, the contract of sale was rewritten to ensure that the best interests of the company were taken into account."

    Provided by either local successful exporters or the ACCESS! trainers, the mentoring component proposes up to 70 exercises and templates found in an Exercise Kit and can cover subjects as different as export strategies, negotiations with buyers, preparing for trade missions and trade fairs, export pricing and technical issues such as freight and packaging.

    The ACCESS! web portal, the third element of the programme, is becoming a comprehensive source of export information, tools and assistance for African businesswomen in trade. Launched in October 2005, the web site is a channel for companies to promote their capabilities online by allowing them to register their profiles and add pictures of their products. This networking tool helps connect businesswomen, their associations and other trade support institutions. Programme participants and trainers are encouraged to network with each other, share best practices and even develop partnerships.

    Participants at the first training
    workshop in Douala, Cameroon are
    introduced to the international trade cycle.
    © ITC/S. Turrel

    A businesswoman proudly exhibits
    handicrafts at the first export training workshop in Uganda.
    © J. Musoke

    Growing demand

    ACCESS! is part of the Programme for Building African Capacity for Trade (PACCIA/PACT), funded by the Canadian International Development Agency under the Canada Fund for Africa.

    In October, the ACCESS! programme won the Canadian Award for International Cooperation in the Gender Equality category. The award recognized the programme's achievements in supporting economic growth among women-owned businesses in developing countries.

    The ACCESS! programme is already in place in ten countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uganda. Mozambique will become the 11th beneficiary country in the first quarter of 2007. Based on the positive results achieved in other countries, Tunisia joined the programme on a self-financing basis. Other African countries have expressed a strong interest and the two executing agencies, ITC and TFOC, are currently working to expand the programme in other regions of the world, such as the Middle East.


    For more information on ACCESS!, contact Sébastien Turrel, ITC Trade Promotion Adviser, at turrel@intracen.org or visit http://www.womenexporters.com  for information on local events, articles and success stories.