Despite numerous challenges, women in the EAC are making inroads in business and trade, and with the growth of technology across the region, introduction of some on ground support, there is now the possibility of help to franchise businesses and set up in multiple countries. But the offering of a new online and offline platform acting as a one stop shop of help for women traders, means the possibilities for expansion are growing even more.
Women in Technology Uganda (WITU), through EAC-GIZ IIDEA, is setting up an Intra-Regional Trade Development Hub specifically for women traders, in the first instance in Kenya and Uganda. Supporting Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) with a website which will also act as a sales platform will facilitate women traders to set up a physical presence in their country, or find a partner who can help distribute their products. “It’s all about connections and finding the right links to get started. We see it as a really holistic approach, guiding women entrepreneurs every step of the way in their journey towards cross border trade and business growth,” says Barbara Birungi Mutabazi, WITU’s Executive Director.
“Fostering entrepreneurship and helping with all the groundwork to ensure women traders have everything they need for success is the basis of this project. We will be providing information about cross-border trading, legal support, tax support, market research, office space, business development training. And then when they are finally at a point to properly launch, we will help facilitate introductions to stakeholders to help create a market and get established.”
There are many successful women owned Ugandan businesses with potential. With the help of WITU, they can now look at the possibility of expanding their business across the border into Kenya through a franchise model. Spreading their products to new markets, creating employment for young people and building a brand which can spread beyond just Kenya but across the whole EAC.
“Targeting high growth businesses in a range of industries – from technology to fashion designers, cosmetic companies and finance organisations – it’s all about creating the right environment for success and bringing skills and expertise to already driven women, who, with the right help and push, can take advantage of all the opportunities the EAC now offers.”
WITU is a partner in the EAC-GIZ IIDEA project. IIDEA incubates small-scale regional integration projects which are proposed and implemented by civil society and private sector across East Africa. IIDEA provides technical and financial support to innovative projects across East Africa that highlight and contribute towards East African integration.
Photo: ©IIDEA/Women in Technology Uganda (WITU)