In a major boost to facilitate market access, participation and presence, trade missions of businesswomen to Commonwealth countries were announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Business Forum in Malta by the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network, an accredited organisation focused on women’s economic empowerment recognised by 53 governments. Commonwealth Businesswomen Multilateral Trade Missions will be organised with Ministries of Trade and Industry.
The missions have two linked aims: firstly to facilitate international market access, linkage and business collaboration for women entrepreneurs (including via the internationalisation of SMEs) and women corporate executives, and secondly to develop consortia of women entrepreneurs in global value chains to support collaborative contracting for procurement tenders from multilateral development banks and governments.
The outgoing Commonwealth chair-in-office through Sagala Ratnayake, Minister of Law and Order and Southern Province Development in Sri Lanka, announced the first mission at the CHOGM Business Forum on November 26, which will be to Sri Lanka on March 6 to 12, 2016 to coincide with a major Investor Forum being organised with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. This will be followed by missions to Jamaica (to link to the 2015 National Export Strategy and Expo Jamaica on April 14 to 17); a Joint Mission to Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa (including procurement opportunities for Commonwealth Games Durban 2022) in August; a Joint Mission to Samoa and Tonga (coinciding with the 11th Commonwealth Women Affairs Ministerial Meeting) in September; and Pakistan (during the 10th WEXNET, the largest Pakistan exhibition for women entrepreneurs) in December 2016.
Arif Zaman, executive director of the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBW), said: “The trade missions will be innovative and impactful in three ways – with participants coming from several countries going to a single country – all drawn from Commonwealth countries – so leveraging the Commonwealth economic effect which the Commonwealth trade report launched during CHOGM highlights; and with all participants being women entrepreneurs or women corporate executives, so addressing the significant under-representation of women on trade missions. We will be closely tracking orders and deal flow and monitor any barriers along the way and have agreed to share outcomes with UNCTAD and Commonwealth Secretariat colleagues.”
The Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBW) encourages, enables and embeds economic empowerment through outcomes across the ‘3 Ts’ of trade, talent and training that are measurable, impactful and – crucially for a community of a billion women across five continents – scalable.
CBW is responsible for the Women in Business Programme of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), the apex organisation representing private sector businesses within the Commonwealth and the only institution with a remit to promote intra-Commonwealth trade and investment. CBW also works closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the inter-governmental body of the Commonwealth. It sits on the main governance body on gender for the 53 Commonwealth Governments and on the Leadership Group for the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). It works with regional partners across all five continents of the Commonwealth in Asia, the Pacific, Africa the Caribbean and Europe.