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Supporting women in Africa.

Women entrepreneurs across Africa are generating employment and adding value to exports in innovative ways, yet they face a host of challenges, such as limited access to export training, market information and finance, in addition to other barriers women face in the business environment.

Since 2007, the International Trade Centre's (ITC) ACCESS! Export Training Programme has been dedicated to addressing these limitations by strengthening the competitiveness of more than 2,800 women exporters. It does this through a network of more than 60 certified national trainers, four certified lead trainers and a comprehensive training package of 32 modules, available in both French and English. Furthermore, ACCESS! works to build the capacity of trade support institutions such as trade ministries, chambers of commerce and women's business associations to support them.

ACCESS! has grown to be a recognized programme in Africa, helping women exporters in 20 different countries to reach their full economic potential and thereby contributing to long-term poverty reduction and improved standards of living. The following case studies highlight just a few of the many women entrepreneurs in Africa who have benefitted from the support of ACCESS!. They describe how these women have successfully managed their businesses in the face of considerable challenges and how ACCESS! has helped give them a competitive edge in world markets.

In addition to generating employment and export revenues, many of these women have spearheaded the development of new sectors in their respective countries. Examples include ecotourism in Ethiopia, agriculture in Chad and food processing in Ghana. What is also shared among these women is their commitment to sustainable business growth that benefits consumers, communities and the local environment.

Women entrepreneurs say the ACCESS! programme has given them visibility and courage to overcome the barriers and tackle new international markets through the knowledge, confidence and networks gained. Several participants say the technical support they received through the export training and the tailored business counselling programmes have led them to restructure their businesses to optimize efficiency performance and maximize the opportunities to trade regionally and internationally.

The current phase of the ACCESS! programme and its related export development services for women-owned businesses will be gradually expanded outside the African continent in 2013. ITC is working on similar initiatives for other regions and hopes that women entrepreneurs who have benefitted from the programme will share the knowledge and experiences they have gained. That way, the sustainable businesses these women operate and the legacy of ACCESS! will continue to improve opportunities for other businesswomen in years to come.


As Sebastien Turrel, a Senior Trade Promotion Officer in ITC's Office for Africa, says: 'We have to make sure we leave a strong legacy so that activities will continue beyond the lifespan of the programme. It's there, it's working and it's country-driven.' Certainly, the demand for innovative products and the ingenuity and tenacity of African women remains, and they are ready to meet the challenge.

The ACCESS! programme was developed and implemented with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency under the Programme for building African Capacity for Trade, and in close collaboration with public and private partners in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States. ITC is now adapting the programme to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs in other regions of the world, such as in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia. For more information, please visit:


Trade Forum Editorial
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Title Annotation:ITC SPECIAL
Author:Shaw, Nic
Publication:International Trade Forum
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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