Enacy Mapakame-Business Business
National trade promotion body, ZimTrade’s NEXT She Exporter, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, is expected to grow female entrepreneurs and contribute to Zimbabwe’s competitiveness on both regional and global markets.
This also comes as Zimbabwe looks at taking advantage of the trade opportunities presented by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
In light of the wider trade opportunities brought about by AfCTA, ZimTrade has underscored the need to also capacitate women businesspeople and ensure that they also play their role in growing trade.
With the NEXT She Exporter programme, the key objective is to provide female entrepreneurs with relevant market information and develop their export capacity through training, technical interventions, and mentorship.
This unique export development program leverages the benefits of various types of knowledge sharing formats in building capabilities of local women in business.
It will also address one of the biggest hurdles faced by women in exports which is access to markets, and the program intends to increase market linkages and networking opportunities for women and to stimulate community-based-growth through entrepreneurship development across the country.
“What is important going forward is ensuring that actual opportunities are made available to women, particularly around economic areas such as production, manufacturing, and value-addition.
“Launched in March 2022 at a grand event benefiting women in business, the aptly named program: NEXT She Exporter, is a first of its kind export development program targeted at identifying women in business and developing them to meet the demands of trade in export products and services.
“The programme is targeted at businesses that are wholly female owned, or women hold at least 51 percent shares of the business,” said ZimTrade.
Following a call for expression of interest to participate in the programme, the selection process for women-businesses who will embark on the year-long programme has been concluded and the initial training sessions started in the last week of June.
This call made in 2015 by former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is a reminder that inclusive economic growth requires creating an enabling environment where both men and women can perform to the best of their abilities.
The voices are becoming much louder and the evidence is clear that empowering women economically will improve the livelihoods of people and contribute to poverty reduction with unprecedented margins.
The International Trade Centre (ITC) notes that women play a major role in the global economy because they “invest more in their families than men do, in areas such as education, health and nutrition, creating a secure foundation for the future of their families and communities.”
Considering this contribution, ITC concludes that “empowering women economically, especially through their involvement in trade, creates job opportunities for everyone.”
This is true for Africa where women reportedly make up most players in African trade through buying and selling of various products across sectors and borders and through the delivery of services that support economies.
The participation of women in critical economic activities, export business included, is thus crucial for the development of African economies.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) many women earn their income from informal cross-border trade, characterized by small-scale, “subsistence” trading activities. Because these small-scale transactions add up, they account for a significant share of regional trade in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the range of 30 percent to 40 percent.
It is also estimated that between 70 percent and 80 percent of African informal traders are women.
Although their commercial transactions fall outside the formal economy, they are widely permitted since they are a source of livelihood for families and contribute to the food security of the most fragile communities.
It is set to cater for all sectors with the exception of mining, fuels and electricity and has a special focus on services as a means to increase the number of women in the exportation of services.
With NEXT She Exporter, the programme will cater for women entrepreneurs in various sectors of the economy with the exception of mining, fuels and electricity and has a special focus on services as a means to increasing the number of women in the exportation of services.
According to the trade promotion body, there will be a one-on-one mentorship with seasoned female business leaders.
In addition to the mentorship, the NEXT She Exporter will include technical interventions from local and international experts who will conduct thorough in-depth technical analysis and help entrepreneurs determine best practices in achieving technical and operational efficiency in their businesses, with a biased focus on meeting export market standards.