“Women working across borders together could really change the face of the marketplace for key products like moringa, coconut, shea butter and more. They could help each other with processing, packaging and sales into international markets. And with the open borders, they don’t need to be in the same country to all benefit. Women in Uganda and Tanzania can link into networks in Kenya and benefit from their experiences in reaching product standards, and then potentially work together to fulfil orders and share resources.” That’s the opinion of Nancy Gitonga, regional coordinator with the East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP). It is also the basis of their EAC-GIZ IIDEA project, which is looking to overcome trade barriers for women across the region and help them create viable markets for key products.
Today’s health care and alternative remedies market is booming globally, with more consumers looking for sustainable and healthy products. Hibiscus, moringa, coconut, baobab, shea butter, and various spices are exactly the sort of products being recognised for their health and wellness properties. All are grown and produced in East Africa, and are most often traded by women. Informal trading routes are seeing some of these products crossing borders already, but often at the local marketplace level these products have not been processed to a high level, are not packaged well, and are not capitalising on their real value.
“Using moringa as a prime example, this is a product which is gaining a reputation for its health benefits, and can also be used in so many different ways to target different audiences – moringa oil, moringa powder, soap, toothpicks. Women growing moringa can work together to develop these products to a high standard and collectively target sales to high end markets both in Africa and internationally. Health food shops, supermarkets, boutique stores selling local products”, argues Nancy Kitonga.
Women are often disadvantaged in business and trade, through cultural and societal barriers which see them unable to access information about international standards and reach larger markets which could really see their products reach their full potential. EAWiBP plans to build capacity and connect women across the region, to share experiences around trade and help boost each other up to reach more lucrative markets and properly capitalise on their range of in demand products.
EAWiBP 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: ©EAC-GIZ/East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP)