Editor's Comment

SheTrades initiative: Game changer

THE recent launch of SheTrades Zambia Chapter aimed at promoting the economic participation of women is a game changer and just what the country needs to leapfrog its women empowerment efforts.
The initiative, which is under the framework of the International Trade Centre (ITC), targets to connect one million women entrepreneurs to the global market by 2020.
It has been widely recognised that women-owned enterprises can be an effective driver for economic inclusion in trade.
According to ITC data, exporting firms owned by women earn more, employ more people and pay higher wages.
ITC surveys also indicate that 10 million small and medium enterprises owned by women account for 80 percent of jobs created by SMEs around the globe.
It is therefore proven that enabling more women to participate in trade and improving the performance of micro and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) can translate into increased trade, productivity and competitiveness.
Government recognises that women, who comprise over 50 percent of the country’s population, can be a good catalyst for economic growth.
Government has put a premium on women empowerment and a number of programmes are being implemented under the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Zambia Development Agency and the Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission.
Government also revised the National Gender Policy in 2014 to provide a framework for implementation of gender related programmes.
The National Development Plan also enlists capacity building and women empowerment as a key priority in advancing national economic development.
Despite Government’s commitment to gender equality and women empowerment, there is certainly a lot more that needs to be done to get women entrepreneurs to a place where they are fully empowered to turn economic wheels.
It is a known fact that women entrepreneurs continue to be inhibited by various challenges, including lack of access to financial services and capital, lack of access to the market and limited skills and production capacity.
As noted by Vice-President Inonge Wina, it will be almost impossible for Zambia to attain the status of a prosperous middle-income economy by 2030 if women still lag.
It is however good that Government has not relented in embracing initiatives with the potential to accelerate the women empowerment agenda as evidenced by the recently launched SheTrades Zambia Chapter.
The fact that Zambia is the first country in southern Africa to launch this high profile programme is evidence of Government’s commitment to women empowerment and gender equality.
SheTrades Zambia will work towards mentoring women entrepreneurs and equipping them with the requisite skills and market information to facilitate their linkage to viable trade and investment opportunities.
This is indeed a great opportunity to link those women entrepreneurs with capacity to export to the international market.
The chapter will also strengthen the productive capacities of women entrepreneurs in the agriculture and textile and clothing industries to produce high quality products that meet the international standard.
Now that the SheTrades Zambia Chapter has been launched, it is up to the women entrepreneurs themselves to utilise the platform and derive maximum benefits.
With such a platform in place women have no excuse for failing to make it to the global market.
The cross-border traders who are mostly women should take advantage of the initiative to expand and transition into formal businesses.
As advised by the Vice-President, women need to move out of their comfort zones and begin to explore and aim high to realise their full potential.
“Unless you step out, you will not be able to exploit your potential and no amount of support without your commitment can yield results,” Mrs Wina said.
SheTrades platform does not entail everything will be given to the women on a silver platter. A lot of hard work is required. However, there will be support in terms of building capacity, creating linkages and providing a favourable business environment.
The Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, the Zambia Development Agency and other stakeholders should act on First Lady Esther Lungu’s appeal to help women entrepreneurs to improve their products and secure markets and contracts at national, regional and global levels.
Through SheTrades, there is no valid reason why Zambia should not raise a class of entrepreneurs who will own multinational companies as well as be linked to the global supply chain.

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