Speaking in Dar es Salaam earlier this week, Deputy Secretary General of the EAC who is in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Christophe Bazivamo said the portal which is already designed, targets to enable women entrepreneurs exploit the over a billion continental market.
Bazivamo pointed out that through the 50 Million African Women Speak Networking platform project, the EAC Secretariat received over U$3.52 million grant from African Development Bank (AfDB) to implement the three year project for the period 2017/20.
“The grant among other things is also aimed at educating governments, financial institutions and not-for-profit organizations on the importance of empowering women entrepreneurs through easy access to finance,” the EAC Deputy Secretary General said.
Wilson Muyenzi who is the 50MWS Project Coordinator from EAC Secretariat, clarified that the main objective of the portal is to enable women entrepreneurs from the region to communicate directly and share information and exploit Africa’s largest post independence market covering 38 countries.
“Our findings together with AfDB shows about 54 per cent of the EAC region’s population are women whereby 65 percent of them engage in agribusiness and trade. Bringing them together through this platform means a lot for the continent’s economic destiny,” said Muyenzi.
According to him, there are about 950 million women from the 38 countries where the project is being implemented out of which 500 million are entrepreneurs with at least 10 percent are being targeted.
“Access to finance by women has been a challenge. We started by educating banks and other financial institutions on the importance of lending women especially entrepreneurs and we are now sure that they are going to support them,” the 50MWS Project Coordinator added.
He pointed out some of the major challenges being faces as low smartphone penetration in the EAC bloc although data on exactly how many women have such handsets to access the portal as, remain unavailable.
“There is no data that specifically state the number of women and men owning smartphone in the region,” Muyenzi lamented.
In its recent report, AfDB stated that limited access to financial services hold back women in financial inclusion asserting that up to 2015 there was a gap of U$42 billion for women financing in Africa.
Juvenal Ndimurirwo, Director of Finance at EAC Secretariat, said the project covers all major blocs in Africa, namely; Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the EAC which have been allocated a U$13.8million by AfDB.
“This is a good opportunity for women in business in respective economic regions to penetrate markets.The platform targets at both providing financial and non-financial information to women entrepreneurs for them to interact and grow their businesses,” Ndimurirwo said.
The 50 Million African Women Speak Networking project is a $13.2 million initiative of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), the East African and Southern Africa Common Market (COMESA), and the Eastern African Community (EAC).