Why women entrepreneurs should not be left behind in building back our economies

Kigali, 20 August (ECA) - Women in business have a big role to play in a post-COVID 19 Africa and could significantly reduce the continent’s high dependence on imports of essential food, medical and pharmaceutical items, said UN Economic Commission for Africa's Mama Keita in a virtual meeting organized by the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes.

The regional virtual dialogue made a call to address the economic and social challenges met by women and girls as a result of COVID 19 pandemic, with a focus on Economic Empowerment of Women and their Effective Participation in Peacebuilding in the Great Lakes region

Ms Keita, the Director of ECA in Eastern Africa, presented the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 in the Great Lakes Region emphasizing how reduced economic activities stemming from lockdowns, curfew as well as disruption in international trade affected the region. She appealed for innovative policies and initiatives that could make a difference for women.

“As we are building back our economies after COVID and are seeking to turn vulnerabilities into opportunities, let us recall that intra-Africa trade is still very low at less than 20 per cent and that Women entrepreneurs have a big role to play in boosting this, said Ms Keita.

Mr Huang Xia, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the region also acknowledged the disproportionate and negative impact of the pandemic on women and girls, especially in the economic sphere, and stressed the need to place women at the centre of all response initiatives.

The role of women entrepreneurs was also highlighted by Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board. She underlined that empowering women is a pathway for achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms Akamanzi explained how women with sound and innovative business projects in Rwanda are supported to acquire startup capital in financial institutions through Guarantee and Grant facilities. 

 “Today, [in Rwanda], women entrepreneurs head more than 42 per cent of enterprises. They contribute 78 per cent in cross border trade, and Cross border trade contributes 30 per cent to GDP”, explained Akamanzi.

Participants at the e-meeting discussed the ability of women to be agents of change for socio-economic transformation, affirming that when we bolster the economic development of women, the welfare of their families is also affected.

The meeting was held held on 28 July and attracted remarkable women entrepreneurs from East Africa, government and UN officials as well as representatives of Regional Economic Communities.  


Issued by:

The Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa

UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)