A new Pan-African networking platform to connect 50 million African women in business was launched in Kigali on November 26, at the ongoing Global Gender Summit.
The 50 Million African Women Speak (50MAWS) is a web and mobile-based application expected to directly impact 50 million African women and create fair waged jobs for young people from the increased business activities and capital flow.
The platform will allow women in 38 African countries to find information on how to run business, accessing financial services, create business opportunities online and access training resources, thus ultimately empowering them economically.
The platform has two main sections; a resources area with information that business women need, like business registration processes, legal aid, financial services, among others.
And a networking area for women entrepreneurs to connect with, learn from and do business with each other. Here, women can have one-on-one interactions, they can create their own posts and market their products, and they can create topics for discussion on areas of interest, among others.
Priscilla Ruzibuka, a Rwandan female entrepreneur who founded Ki-pepeo Kids Clothing, in a panel discussion talked about the challenges women are likely to face when they are starting their own businesses.
“I have noticed that the challenges most of us are facing, is accessing that information that will help us go to the next level. Most of the channels used to give out this information are not accessible to women, especially those with humble backgrounds,” she said.
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 per cent of the women entrepreneurs are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions to scale up their businesses.
The platform’s 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).
Mary Makoffu, the EAC Director of Social Sectors, said the platform has other relevant stakeholders who make sure that the use of ICT in enabling women to get financial literacy, digital literacy, management training and sharing information is made possible.
“At national level, we are working with the Government ministries responsible for gender, the youth, ICT, trade and finance”, she said.
Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC Deputy Secretary-General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, explained how the platform is used and the impact it will have.
“The platform will be a community of mentors, advisors, and role models, who will help inspire many other women on the continent and beyond. The platform will help reduce the burden that our women carry, when they have to do unpaid work in the homesteads, and conduct business at the same time.”
The 50 Million African Women Speak platform is now running and is used in English, French and Arabic languages.