Women entrepreneurs are meeting in Nairobi to explore strategies that would see them step up their participation in business across East Africa.
“This conference on women provides a platform for engagement to address the challenges and opportunities for accelerating inclusion of women in entrepreneurship,” said East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism CS, Ms Phylis Kandie, on Thursday.
She was speaking to hundreds of female entrepreneurs from the region who are meeting at the KICC in this year’s second East African Community (EAC) Conference on the role of women in socio-economic development.
“At the EAC level, we are keen on increasing market access for women in business through the removal of barriers to trade, reduction of the time to market, market access, and enhancing competitiveness of our products.”
The two-day event is set to encourage women to capitalise on the recent EAC single customs territory, regional strategy for promoting women in socio-economic development, financial access for women, as well as mentorship opportunities.
The women are set to achieve the milestones through training on product development, creating networks, as well as leveraging on technology to boost their enterprises regionally.
The forum brings together the private sector, non-governmental organisations, women entrepreneurship associations, among other entities with a view to sharpen women skills on leadership and business.
“Empowering women is not philanthropy, it is not charity. It simply is smart politics and smart economics,” said Dr Richard Sezibera, the EAC Secretary-General.
Dr Sezibera said that it is impossible to implement effective programmes for socio-economic development without allowing the full participation of women.
“We are free to show the rest of the world that we can do it on our own, and in doing so, we shall achieve long-term, sustainable change and attract passionate women and men in the global marketplace,” said the Deputy Speaker, National Assembly, Dr Joyce Laboso.
Dr Laboso urged partner states to adopt policies that seek to empower women in business such as 30 per cent access to government tenders, the Women Enterprise Fund, as well as Uwezo Fund among others in Kenya.
“Achieving gender equality is more than 50-50 representation. It also about recognising and respecting the rights of women, offering them equal opportunities to participate in the socio-economic and political development of their countries,” Dr Laboso said.
The EAC delegation at the conference included Ms Dorothy Tuma, chair East African Women in Business, Ms Lilian Awinja, the acting Executive Director, East African Business Council, as well as Ms Mary Makoffu, EAC Secretariat.