After a one-year-long work of platform construction and information upload, the new continental women’s platform was launched recently, during the Global Gender Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The platform is intended to connect 50 million African women in business across 38 African countries.
The portal (www.womenconnect.org) and mobile application (50MAWSP) come to solve the information issue that African women in business face when it comes to accessing available information on financial and non-financial services.
In a joint media address that followed the launch of the platform, the Tripartite EAC-COMESA-ECOWAS told journalists that sub-Saharan Africa hosts close to 13 million formal and informal, small and medium-sized enterprises with one or more women owners, but only 16-20 percent of the women entrepreneurs are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions to scale up their businesses.
The platform hosts information on where to access capital, how to run a business, access training resources, get mentorship, access markets and many more relevant categories of information.
“This information is expected to help women create business opportunities and thus empower them economically”, press conference panel said.
This initiative is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and implemented by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The audience appreciated the initiative but expressed concerns about who was the target group of the platform since it is technology-based and when many women in Africa don’t have access to smartphones.
“I don’t think we need to have everything in place to dream big in Africa,” Vanessa Moungar, Director of Gender, Women and Civil Society Department in the African Development Bank said. I know many projects that are running well in Africa from which the World can learn from, she added.
Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of the Productive and Social Sectors, disclosed that the implementing partners were executing many other projects in parallel.
“This platform is one project among many others. As we work towards women empowerment, we are also working in energy, infrastructure, industry, health, and many other sectors to ensure the effectiveness of our interventions,” said Hon. Bazivamo.
The 50 Million African Women Speak platform is now up and running; it initially uses English, French and Arabic languages.