Women entrepreneurs from East Africa put spotlight on EAC regional trade barriers

On May 27-28 the regional government of Gävle together with several other stakeholders, including Chamber Trade Sweden, hosted a successful Business EAC Nordic Investment and Trade Forum. The conference was held to create and strengthen sustainable business between the Nordic countries and countries in East Africa. The conference enabled business meetings and networking between Nordic and Swedish companies in areas like manufacturing, infrastructure, transports and logistics, financial and consultant services, energy, agriculture and tourism. Harmonisation within the EAC region was also a key topic for discussion and debate and CTS had the opportunity to invite our partners from East African Women in Business Platform and African Women in Agribusiness Network to the conference as speakers. Both organisations put the spotlight on the barriers within the EAC region which especially affect the cross border regional trade for SME-run women business. The informal sector is an important part of trade within the EAC region. One important conclusion was that the EAC governments need to work harder at facilitating trade for the small women driven informal businesses so they can grow and become formalized. These businesses are a pivotal part of growing the private sector and economy in East Africa. Trade Mark East Africa and the East African Business Council were also represented at the conference.

Advocating for women entrepreneurs – AWAN addresses the EAC

One of the companies invited to take part was AWAN member (and head of Kenya Chapter) – CEO of PJ Flowers Mrs. Elizabeth Thande. As a grower, an exporter and a woman entrepreneur Mrs. Thande knows the obstacles there are for women in business within the East African Community.

Elizabeth shared her story – the success as well as the challenges she has faced as a woman entrepreneur. In order to address the challenges and to share her success Elizabeth became involved in the Kenyan chapter of AWAN. AWAN has developed a policy advocacy platform and guidelines for issues affecting Kenyan and East African Women in Agribusiness with the aim of enabling them to be competitive in the regional and international markets.

To address the issues of the women entrepreneurs in agribusiness

AWAN has within the Kenya chapter together with Tanzania and Uganda chapters and the East African secretariat developed a policy platform.

On the country level AWAN wants to make the following possible

  • Investing in infrastructure to reduce transport time for approval and dispatch to the market.
  • Giving AWAN members and other small scale women agribusinesses access to cold storage facilities. Tied to this, government should for instance promote community certified premises, e.g. incubators, for cold storage.
  • Advocating for a proper and strong monitoring system and dispute resolution mechanism to ensure the implementation of harmonized and mutually recognized rules and standards in the EAC, so that businesses can make use of their legal right to trade freely across the borders.
  • Advocating for a stronger and broad based awareness campaign addressing issues of regional cross-border trade targeting the Government border employees (harassment and awareness issues)

Especially in Kenya AWAN are focusing on providing the women entrepreneurs with

  • Access to Affordable credit
  • Reduced costs of inputs
  • Infrastructure- for example working on introducing solar batteries to replace expensive electricity needs for our operations
  • Proper organisation of open markets – allocation of resources for development of comfortable markets. Structuring of the open markets and moving women from informal market to formal business.

 AWAN sees the need to introduce changes on the East African Community- LEVEL

To address these issues in the regional level

  • We need to share in information – such as market information
  • We need to increase the level of knowledge on Trade tariffs an  Non-Technical barriers
  • We need to create Harmonisation –through Standardisation and regulations so that we can all have one standard

What the conference will result in remains to be seen – however it is clear – to the EAC, to the representatives from various parliaments and to the representatives of private sector organizations and companies that women are the force to be reckoned with and that the inclusion of women will benefit all.

More about AWAN on their website www.awanea.com and on twitter @AwanAfrica

For more information about or cooperation with AWAN in East Africa contact Sofie Wikander, sofie.wikander@chambertrade.se

For more information about CTS cooperation with the East African Women in Business Platform contact Charlotte Kalin, charlotte.kalin@chambertrade.se