Building on the successes of the high-level roundtable dialogue on Expanding Gender-Responsive Investment Initiatives for Economic Sustainability held in the Nigerian Permanent Mission House, New York, on the 20th of June, 2022, USAfrica Trade & Business Network and it’s expo planning committee extended an invitation to WADHI and our network of WMSMEs to the 4th Edition of the USAfrica Business Expo Week.
The Expo held physically and virtually from 12th-22nd September, 2022, at the U.N. Headquarters, New York City. With the theme: Facilitating Export-Import Opportunity for US-Africa MSMEs for Sustainable Development Under the margins of the 77UNGA, the event provided a platform for off-takers and investors to connect with indigenous businesses looking to sell into retail stores and e-commerce platforms in the United States. It also sought to ensure maximum participation of MSMEs groups, Women’s networks, Governments, Agencies, Businesses, and organizations.
Key Expo activities included: AFCTA: Unlocking Africa’s Potential in The Post Covid-19 Era, Doing Business in Africa Country Spotlight Series, One-on-One International Business Consulting for MSMEs, US Trade & Investment Policies in Africa (AGOA and Prosper Africa), a physical/virtual side exhibition, and a visit to the New Jersey State Mall.
As a follow-up to activities in preparation for the Global Gender Investment Summit under the WADHI/EEFP Multi-Stakeholder Gender and Economic Growth Series, a high level roundtable dialogue on Expanding Gender Responsive Investment Initiatives for Economic Sustainability was held in the Nigerian Permanent Mission House, New York on the 20th of June, 2022.
In attendance virtually and in-person were participants drawn from the city of New York, Asia, the Nigerian Permanent Mission NY, CEDAW State Parties, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and various women groups.
The event was accompanied by a side exhibition within the Permanent Mission and was held to facilitate engagement with ministries and key partners in the economic empowerment drive for Nigerian and African women. The aim was to demonstrate affordable indigenous products, commodities, and innovation (including the Kowgo Application supported by the Herbert H. Humphrey Alumni Grant and the resulting Arahah market) realized through multi-sectoral initiatives.
The Roundtable also sought to explore business partnership opportunities that could leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) to boost manufacturing, agriculture, technology, ecommerce, trade and export hereby, fulfilling the aspirations of the Buenos Aires Declaration of 2017.
“The Nigerian Women have called on the National and State Houses of Assembly to set in motion modalities to domesticate the Buenos Aires Declaration to ensuring that the Legislative Agenda and African Continental Free Trade Agreement AfCFTA provide economic growth opportunities for all regardless of gender.
The domestication, they said, would enable women to benefit from the projected N75bn annual retail market and other business prospects it offers.
The demand among other significant issues were discussed during the “Multi-stakeholder Policy Dialogue Realizing the Buenos Aires Declaration: Policy and Legislative Reforms for Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria,” which took place on Monday in Abuja.
They also demanded for the review of existing laws to provide clearer legal framework for the public and private sectors to promote the UN Global Compact Women Empowerment Principles, WEPs, especially relating to gender and procurement in Nigeria.
They further asked the government institutions and regulatory agencies to work together and synergize to reduce double burden on MSMEs and harness the productivity of women who constitute over 65% of the informal sector across value chains.
They said government and financial institutions should end the rhetoric on financial inclusion for women by simplifying and concretizing women’s access to financing especially for WMSMEs as women have accessed less than 12% of financial credit due to bureaucratic and other barriers.
They appealed to relevant MDAs to provide practical steps and guidelines to eliminate unfriendly visa processes, reduce GBV and other forms of exploitation that impedes trade and movement of goods and facilitate access to foreign markets for WMSMEs.
On her part, the Convener of Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative WADHI, Mrs. Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia advocated for the creation and implementation of policies and legal frameworks that will expand women’s opportunities and lead to teir economic empowerment at the national and regional levels.
According to her, “The reasons why we are here is because there are gaps in our legislations. There are gaps in our policies. And we cannot do much when the legal framework is weak neither can we do much when the policies are not right.
“We are gathered here today to ask questions: Why are those policies not working for women? What do we need to do to make those policies work better?
“70% of workers in health and social sectors are women. But in the age of artificial intelligence; age of digital economy, we have robotics now. They are preparing robots to take over the work of women who are care givers.
“If that’s what’s in the oven, how are the laws protecting the women? How can we push the change of the transition from this kind of the economy so that women do not suffer?”
Speaking earlier, the Director-General of National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Professor Abubakar Sulaiman said the Buenos Aires declaration (2017) on women, trade and economic empowerment committed its signatories to collaborate on making trade and development policies more gender-responsive.
Sulaiman added that the legislatures had an important role to play in ensuring the implementation of those agreements and also in addressing challenges that women and women-led businesses, faced in trade agreements, noting that gender mainstreaming in free trade agreements was becoming an increasingly common practice.
Also, while declaring the event open, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said that women have an important role to play in trade.
Lawan, who was represented by Sen. Sa’idu Alkali (APC-Gombe), called for more support for women engaged in various trades.”
Trade policy for women took an international leap with the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment endorsed by over 120 countries at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference of December 2017. The Declaration firmly acknowledged the importance of incorporating a gender perspective into the promotion of inclusive economic growth.
With the launch of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021, expectations are high with regards to expanded business prospects for women-led businesses. With the AfCFTA, informal, micro and small enterprises can be integrated into continental markets and thus break barriers that have so far mitigated growth as they strive to penetrate foreign markets.
In light of this, a Townhall meeting with the theme ” Buenos Aires Declaration: Pathway to Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria ” was held at the National Center for Women Development in Abuja on the 14th of December 2021.
At that meeting, Nigerian women demanded that governments in Nigeria and across Africa, collaborate and ensure that WMSMEs participate equitably and inclusively in the African continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA) currently being implemented.
The Town Hall Meeting, organized by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative (WADHI) with support from the Nigerian Export Promotion Council’s (NEPC) Export Expansion Facility Programme (EEFP) was convened to create awareness and start a discourse on how best Nigerian women can benefit from the newly implemented AfCFTA.
The Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Katagum who was represented at the event by the Director of Commodities, Kaura Irimiya, stated that AfCFTA offers unparalleled opportunities for capacity building and access to markets and that businesses (WMSMEs included) will benefit from easier processes and opportunities in the overseas market. That as Nigeria strives to expand economic growth and move from recovery to prosperity, investing in women’s economic empowerment sets the compass in the right direction.
The Convener of Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative (WADHI) Mme Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia, said the Townhall meeting was important, as women do more cross border trading, but have less access to credit, land and skills. Thus, they need to be given equal opportunity to maximize their full potential in trade and other economic activities, arguing that women had the capacity to provide the required solutions for nation building. She further added that, as an outcome of the Townhall, women groups will work to ensure that all identified trade gaps were effectively addressed
An initiative to ensure financial inclusion, and access to savings and loans has been launched for women-owned businesses and other vulnerable persons involved in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Abuja.
The innovation known as Kowgo application, was powered by the Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative (WADHI) and version 2.0 sponsored by the HHH Alumni Impact Award Grant.
It was gathered that the application which is accessible on google play store is designed to enable women business owners and SMEs access loans and keep business records.
Speaking during its official launching at the ACCI arena, along Abuja Airport Road, at the weekend, the ACCI President, Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, said the Kowgo application would help women via digital applications at their market and revolutionalise how women do business.
DAl-Mujataba, who noted that the initiative is a partner in progress with the ACCI, explained the application would facilitate wider content to the outside world.
Also, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Promotions Council, Segun Awolowo, who was represented at the event, noted that the council is ready to work towards successful deployment of the application into the market space.
Similarly, the Commonwealth Women Business Network team that joined virtually also lauded the innovation, acknowledging it is a testament to increasing roles played by women in the society.
The commonwealth team added that women are fast rising around the world, showing resilience, saying that Kowgo app is an audacious action and a big development in the society.
On her part, WADHI Convener, Esther Eghobamien Meshelia, promised to work constantly round the clock to ensure more incorporation for women and women businesses, as the application encourages financial inclusion and ensures market access.
According to her, “WADHI is aimed at accelerating socio-economic growth through empowerment of women, girls and vulnerable groups.
“The initiative was established to help provide appropriate platforms and management systems that support, harness and expand development opportunities that enable beneficiaries to progressively grow their entrepreneurial capacities.”
Other speakers at the event ranging from foreign embassies, traditional leaders, corporate sector leaders, to government agencies, among others lauded the initiative while promising support for efficient utilisation of the innovation.
WADHi conducted the first of the KOWGO financial and digital connectivity training for 120 women and men under the New Era of Progressive Development People’s Initiative (NEPDPI) in Bwari Area Council Abuja with a view to helping them use innovative technology to upscale their small scale businesses. The audience included farmers, tailors, petty traders and artisans.