Women The Key To Unlocking Economic Emergence

Empowering Women of Côte d’Ivoire at the 7th WIEF Regional Online Marketing Workshop by Sharon Chang

Today, empowering women entrepreneurs is the key to economic growth, political stability, and social transformation. Empowerment increases the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.

More than ever before, today’s women want more choices and control in their lives. They want to create their-stories, they want to rewrite their destinies.

In Africa, women represent half of the African population. According to the latest study by the Roland Berger consulting firm, 65 percent of the wealth of the African continent is produced by women entrepreneurs. In sub-Saharan Africa, women produce 80 percent of the continent’s agricultural commodities and represent 70 percent of the continent’s agricultural force. 24 percent of African women aged between 18 to 64 have started a business (compared to 17 percent in Latin America, 12 percent in North America, and 8 percent in Europe and Central Asia). In just a few years, it has become the first continent of female entrepreneurship. But unfortunately, only 8.5 percent are salaried.

Despite these facts, African women still face many inequalities, particularly in terms of access to employment, remuneration and overall access to economic resources.

As women walk the streets of Abidjan selling their wares, it’s hard to believe Ivory Coast has one of the world’s widest gender gaps.

With severe inequalities in school, as well as access to healthcare and jobs, the United Nations ranks French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy 155 out of 159 countries when it comes to gender equity.

“Ivorian women earn on average half as much as men”

According the World Bank, women in Côte d’Ivoire earn, on average, half of what men do, mainly because they are less educated, spend several hours a day cooking and caring for children, and lack access to finance, equipment and commercial networks.

Supporting female entrepreneurs could boost the country’s economy by at least USD6 billion, or a third of the country’s current revenues, the Bank says.

“We have huge potential here, the challenge is convincing men that they have a vested interest in gender parity,” says trade ministry official Ahmed Diomande.

“Economic power is in women’s hands,” said Salimata Porquet, a former politician who fought successfully for gender equality at work to be included in Ivory Coast’s 2016 constitution.

As Ivory Coast’s vast, informal economy is largely run by women, authorities and business leaders are keen to help them make the leap to better-paying, regulated businesses with training and access to credit.

The government is working to reduce the gender gap by using a USD9 million loan from Morocco to fund SMEs run by women entrepreneurs

In April recently, WIEF Businesswomen Network (WBN), the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) and Côte d’Ivoire Ministry of Trade, Industry and Promotions of SMEs co-organised the 7th WIEF Regional Online Marketing Workshop in Abidjan.

This is a joint programme of assistance for Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries to aid their women entrepreneurs to expand their businesses using digital marketing platform.

WIEF Businesswomen Network

WBN is an initiative of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation. WIEF Businesswomen Network (WBN) economic empowerment programmes has benefited women entrepreneurs from more than 25 countries. Its objective is to enable businesswomen to access relevant entrepreneurial resources, share ideas and experiences and network with other prominent women entrepreneurs around the world.

These programmes have created valuable international network among women in both the Muslim and non-Muslim countries.

Since 2012, WBN has conducted online marketing workshops in Malaysia, Kenya, Indonesia and Morocco. The workshops offer women a platform to gain knowledge and skills in the adoption of ecommerce.

Islamic Centre for Development of Trade

ICDT was set up in 1983, with its headquarters in Casablanca. It is a subsidiary of the OIC and, is responsible for trade and investment promotion among the OIC member countries.

Its objectives are:

  • To encourage regular trade exchanges among the OIC member countries
  • To promote investments to develop trade flows
  • To promote products and expand
  • To assist OIC member countries in trade promotion and international exhibitions
  • To extend assistance to member countries enterprises and economic operators

As to date, ICDT has liberalise trade and eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, promote trade and investment by holding specialised and multi-sectoral Islamic Trade Fairs and, organise forums and B2B events for exporters and importers in Asia, Africa and the Arab regions.

ICDT has greatly contributed to the cause of empowering women economically. Since 2014, ICDT has collaborated with WBN to conduct workshops training to educate women entrepreneurs in digital marketing.

Nearly three hundred women entrepreneurs from more than twenty OIC countries have benefited from these workshops.

7th WIEF Regional Online Marketing Workshop

In the 7th WIEF Regional Online Marketing Workshop, thirty-five women entrepreneurs from micro to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Côte d’Ivoire and neighbouring countries learned ways to grow their businesses in a creative and innovative manner using online tools.

With the rapid advancement of technology, it is vital for women to upskill and deepen their knowledge to meet the challenges in this new digital economy.

Using a digital marketing platform, these women entrepreneurs can promote their products and services in a more affordable and effective way compared to traditional marketing.

For this workshop, OIC Trade Map and Wits software is included in the training syllabus. The OIC Trade Map and Wits software help participants to find online markets, trends, list of companies in their respective trades and products’ tariffs.

The four-day workshop was conducted by trainer Mr El Hassane. He is the founder and CEO of ‘Guidelines’ and ‘Moving Africa’.

El Hassane commented: “It is not easy conducting such workshops because the participants come from all walks of life and they have different levels of understanding and knowledge. But seeing their determination and perseverance to learn, it’s a joy.”

At the workshop, the participants learn web presence and website development; Internet marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques; social media marketing tools and strategies; and online business productivity and monitoring tools.

As part of the initiative, the Ministry of Ecommerce sponsored thirty-five Acer laptops to the participants.

Business Today speaks to a few of the participants to hear their views for attending the workshop:

Madame Coulibaly Alimata née Fofana, who works at the Secretariat in charge of the Promotion of SMEs says, “We partners with Banks to assist the SMEs which require financing. At the workshop, I can learn to build a website to provide more information on market access and loan financing to the women entrepreneurs.

Madame Diabate Kouyate, an entrepreneur says, “My company Dynamic Technology was started in 2012. I provide services and installation of energy saving products. The only way I promote my business is going door-to-door or through Facebook.  At this workshop, I will be able to learn how to build my own website. With the website I can expand my business easier.

Madame Kane Safiétou, who runs a Women Association says, “We as women faces many hardships. My objective is to promote education among women, improve their social and economic outlook. At this workshop, I can learn website development. Using this tool, I can promote all the services my association provides to the women who need the assistance. My association gives out loans to women to help them start a business.

On the fourth-day of the workshop, Business Today also had the opportunity to speak to Madame Karelle Atsain, an influencer for the workshop.

Karelle Atsain is an activist and blogger. She founded a startup, Digital Bank, in January 2019.

Karelle says, “During school days, I always wanted to improve women’s social and economic standing in society. Even today, going into the field of digital technology is for men but I want to promote and engage women to this field.”

“I want to inspire the women here by sharing my story. Women also need to support each other as they advance in business. If we’re able to share our experiences, then we can inspire each woman to do their part.

These days, many women are interested in digital technology. In my blog, the women can use my platform to promote their business. The women here have the commitment but insufficient knowledge, so this workshop is good training for them to learn,” Karelle adds.

“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women” – Barack Obama, 44th US President



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