PUBLISHED ON April 11th, 2024

Take advantage of the AfCFTA to grow your businesses, women told

THE Organistaion of Women in International Trade (OWIT) Zimbabwe Chapter has called on women-led businesses to be more innovative, efficient and produce products that are of good quality so as to be competitive under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

AfCFTA is an ambitious undertaking that brings together 1,3 billion people in 55 African countries to create the world’s largest free trade area as measured by the number of participating member States.

Its objective is the creation of an integrated market for the trade in goods and services and the free movement of people and capital.

OWIT Zimbabwe Chapter in partnership with Ecobank Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Women Affairs Community Small to Medium Enterprises Development on Friday hosted the second edition of the Open Market Day and Exhibition for Women Entrepreneurs on Friday in Bulawayo.

The second edition of the event which ran under the theme: “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress” comes after successfully hosting the first one in October last year in Harare.

In an interview on the sidelines of the event, OWIT Zimbabwe Chapter president and founder of House of Organic Foods, Ms Buhlebenkosi Nyathi said they were all about creating access to international markets, value chain and finance for women.

“That is why we have decided to have the second edition in Bulawayo where participants got a chance to network with other business people and hear about all the great initiatives that the Ministry, we as OWIT and Ecobank have in store for them.

“Women-led businesses should take advantage of such platforms that provide them with the tools and knowledge to elevate their businesses to new heights so that they can also capitalise on the AfCFTA, a vast regional market that is a major opportunity for Zimbabwe to diversify exports, grow faster and attract foreign direct investment (FDI),” she said.

Ms Nyathi said Zimbabwe’s exports of processed foods, agriculture, and manufacturing stand to gain the most in terms of exports to AfCFTA partners supporting the development of intra-regional value chains.

Ecobank Zimbabwe board member, Mr Promise Ncube said women continue to face a myriad of challenges in accessing finance needed to improve and expand their businesses.

“Their inability to sometimes provide strong or bankable business plans means financial institutions are not able to fully appreciate their business and why they require financing. They are seen as high risk because they cannot provide collateral and guarantees.

“A good number of women entrepreneurs are not able to articulate their dreams and what they need to achieve these dreams. All this has meant that they have limited access to finance,” he said.

He said Ecobank recognises the strategic importance of women on the continent and the need to continually support them to reach their full potential.

Mr Ncube said in developing Ellevate, they made time to understand the needs of women, what they really require from their bankers, and came up with practical solutions that will help bridge the identified gaps.

Ellevate by Ecobank, a women-focused programme, is designed to address the unique challenges faced by women-owned and women-led businesses, providing them with accessible banking services and the financial support necessary to grow and sustain their enterprises.

“Our value proposition offers women businesses an end-to-end partnership in which they can gain access to both financial and value-added services. Women businesses under the Ellevate by Ecobank banner not only enjoy differentiated financial solutions but value-added services in the area of training and capacity building,” he added.

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