If you have the numbers – there is no law you cannot change

The African Women in Agribusiness Network are working for a better business climate for women entrepreneurs in East Africa and also starting in Southern Africa. A policy platform was established and produced in 2013 with representatives from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Since then the work has continued, sometimes slow and sometimes moving very fast.

The vision for AWAN is to be a dominant voice advocating for a competitive business environment for African women in agribusiness. Which will be achieved by ensuring women’s Agribusiness is recognized, informed, and involved in policy formulation and implementation at national and regional levels. The dominating issues has been on access to finance, inclusion of women entrepreneurs and especially in agribusiness in decision- making processes, better and clearer market regulations and information and awareness about the important role that women in agribusiness has in in East Africa.

Progress in numbers

Progress has been achieved using the network and the networking. The increased numbers and strength of the AWAN women is the key factor but also the realization that it is good to find cooperation with other organisations that are sharing the same goals.

Some of the successes are cooperation with other organisations in all three countries. This cooperation has meant that AWAN has been recognized, are been able to contribute and influence the process. Amongst these cooperation are UWEAL (Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association), KEPSA (Kenya Private Sector Association), EAWiBP (East African Women in Business Platform), Tanzania Bureau of Standards and Tanzania Ministry of Trade.

In all three countries the membership has increased during the past two years as well as the awareness amongst other organisations about AWAN and what they are and what they do. AWAN is becoming the go-to organisations when dealing with issues on East African Women in Agribusiness.

Moving on improving both skills and opportunities

During June and July AWAN and CTS worked hard to create the market access activity of Spicy Kitchen. Unfortunately no women were selected from Tanzania since the lacked the proper certifications. The hindrance for the Tanzanian women wanting to export are on capacity, certifications and to obtain both national standards and license for exports. To ensure success in coming events the Tanzania chapter has initiated cooperation with the Tanzania Bureau of Standards as well as the Ministry on Trade. They are advocating for the process to be simplified so that when a woman seeks information about standards and license to trade and export she can go to one agency/department rather than having to go too many. As well as for a closer cooperation working for women to export.

All three chapters has started to work on access to finance through both through activities and through advocating with other organisations.

Newly created AWAN-ZIM are formulating their action plan on policy. The main issue for them is on access to finance and value addition for their products as well as being able to sell to their own domestic market. Women lack the know-how and possibility to get their product to the market and to gain the money.

Next year will see the realization of the concrete action plans on going forward created during the AWAN-CTS advocacy communication workshop in Kampala in December of 2014. The focus lies on becoming more visible, influential and the platform for women in agribusiness.

Elizabeth Thande, chair of the Kenya chapter, put it simply as: “We have the strength in numbers – If we have the numbers there is no law we cannot change!”

For more information contact sofie.wikander@chambertrade.se