Catalysing the Participation of Women-Owned Businesses in Intra- EAC Trade through Evidence-based Policies and Programmes

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1 Catalysing the Participation of Women-Owned Businesses in Intra- EAC Trade through Evidence-based Policies and Programmes INSPIRE. EMPOWER. DEVELOP a. Introduction Equal access to economic opportunities by both women and men contributes to growth in countries economies and better development outcomes. Globally, women enterprises comprise about a third of all enterprises and contribute significantly to employment generation and socioeconomic development therefore affirming that increased investment in economic advancement of women is smart economics. 1 While the same is true for East African Community (EAC) Partner States, the World Economic Forum (2012) Gender Gap Index (GGI), which measures countries gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities, shows that EAC Partner States still have a lot of work to do with respect to ensuring equal access to resources and opportunities for both women and men. More specifically, women lag behind in terms of access to opportunities and resources and this evidenced by prevailing gender gaps, in amongst others, education, health, political participation and decision making, wage and employment as well as participation in trade. Trade and economic integration is an important component of the integration strategy of the East African Community (EAC). The Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC recognises the importance of the effective participation of women in trade and development activities of the Community. The Treaty provides, for facilitation of women towards this goal, in various provisions such as Chapter 22 which acknowledges the role of women in contributing towards the process of socio-economic transformation and sustainable growth as well as Article 121 and 122 which 1 EABC/EAWiBP. Regional Research on Barriers Faced by Women-Owned Businesses (2013).

2 commit EAC Partner States to promote the imperative role of women in socio-economic development and in intra-eac trade respectively. Depsite these policy pronoucements, business women in the region continue to face challenges which constrain growth and expansion of their businesses. It is against this backdrop and with the aim of ensuring evidence- based policy advocacy on busienss women issues, that the East African Business Council (EABC) through the East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP) commissied a regional Study in October 2012, to document barriers faced by women-owned business. Some of the specific objectives of the the Study included; analysis of trade-related regulatory and legal framework at national and regional levels, analysis of gender-specfic profiles and behaviours among business women that might them from growing their firms and financing gap of women-owned businesses, including perceived risks assessement by financial institutions. A total of 87 stakeholders from across the EAC region were consulted for this Study. These included: women business owners, national and regional associations, networks or apex bodies of business women including associations and groups of Women Informal Cross Border Traders (WICBTs), women chambers of commerce, women in agribusiness, women in trade in services; financial institutions (including banks) and intermediaries (other Micro Finance Institutions- MFIs), women self-help groups and cooperative association in various sectors to gather their views on barriers affecting women businesses. The following outlines the key validated findings, recommendations and policy advocacy messages emanating from the Study. Page 2 of 10

3 b. Key Study Findings and Recommendations The table below outlines the Key Study findings and recommendations. Key Findings Ineffective Implementation of Frameworks: Although at the regional level key legal and policy documents acknowledge and provide for equal participation of women and men in social and economic development, there are limited roadmaps, resource commitments and implementation efforts towards achieving the same. Commit Adequate Resources to Gender Equality and Put in Place Clear Roadmaps: EAC Partner States need to commit adequate sources towards the cause of achievement of gender equality and equity. The resources should seek to facilitate activities such as: platforms for sharing market information; At the national level, importance of gender equality and pursuance training on entrepreneurship skills; mentoring; of gender equality is widely acknowledged in the Constitutions, networking; business incubator services; guarantee fund, however clear roadmaps and resources on the achievement of the revolving microfinance funds, campaigns on the same are missing, and gender equity remains a challenge in all EAC Partner States countries. importance of gender equality and equity as well as showcasing business women talents and success stories. The EAC Secretariat should take a lead in the harmonization of gender mainstreaming policies and strategies to across EAC for more synergy and coherency in the implementation of these frameworks. Gender Neutral and Discriminative Legal Frameworks: In Reform Laws and Policies and Ensure they are Evidence Burundi, legal frameworks are discriminative against women. The inheritance Law in Burundi provides wives with no protection, and Based: The Republic of Burundi should urgently review the Code

4 it is reportedly impossible under the current legal framework for a daughter to inherit land. Culture can impose additional constraints on women, making simple business meetings and networking a challenge. Although the country has a national gender policy, there is no evidence of its implementation. Key trade related policies and protocols are gender neutral and therefore do not address specific challenges encountered by women entrepreneurs. Analysis of the EAC trade legal frameworks, raise the concern as to whether the trade policies and practices as advocated for by EAC and as pursued by Partner States have gender dimensions. Trade policies and practices have different effects and outcomes on men and women, particularly in the African economies, because of the differences in the roles, responsibilities, rights and opportunities that society assigns to men and women. Further different outcomes of trade policies could be observed because of the gender inequalities existing particularly due gender based inequalities in access to economic opportunities and production assets. (EABC/EAWiBP. Study Report. Pg16) of the Person and the Family and The Penal Code, Cultural and Inheritance Law which presently discriminate against women. EAC Partner States should embark on reforming all traderelated legal and policy frameworks (including trade facilitation policies and programmes) by mainstreaming gender concerns. EAC Partner States and the Secretariat should gather entrepreneurship, trade and investment data which is sex disaggregated. This data should inform development and reform of laws and policies. Page 4 of 10

5 Women-Owned Businesses Small and Slow to Grow: Women businesses profiles in EAC can be categorised into three categories: very small, Small and medium enterprises (SMES) and large scale businesses. Majority of women businesses are in the very small businesses category and are characterised as having limitations in: education, business development and management skills, limited access to operation premises and limited access to credit. Challenges affecting women businesses in EAC region include: family obligations, limitations of investment and business related confidence, women risks averse behaviour, culture, limitations on aggressiveness, approval and negative attitute from spouses, stigma associated with certain businesses, illitracy and low education level, poor or limited business development and management skills, societal mindset, lack of freedom and independence, descrimination, harassment by adminstration and the general more conservativeness behaviour of women. Develop and Implement National and Regional Programmes aimed at Growing Women-Owned Businesses: Through national and regional plans of action, encourage and facilitate women to progress: from micro/small to medium and large enterprises; from subsistence/ small-scale agriculture to profitable agribusiness and agri- processing industries; from Informal to Formal. Through East African Women in Business Platform (EAWiBP), EAC Secretariat should establish and fund a bi-annual regional business directory of women-owned businesses. EAC Secretariat should establish a regional business incubation center targeting business women and youth. This should aim to support innovations on new products and services and strengthen capacity on business development skills. Training needs of women and youth entrepreneurs should be ascertained before designing and implementing this initiative. EAC Secretariat and Partner States should promote more interfacing between themselves and women entrepreneurs Page 5 of 10

6 (through regional and national associations) to better address issues that promote their growth, competiveness and productivity. EAC Secretariat and Partners States should develop mentorship programmes, organize trade fairs and exihibitions, business tours and missions with the view of improving market access and encouraging business linkages and networking. EAC Secretariat and Partner States should support acquisition and knowledge transfer of modern technology and methods for women-owned businesses to improve efficiency of operations and consequently reduce costs. EAC Secretariat and Partner States should create awareness on the benefits of registration and promote simplification and harmonisation of the process. EAC Partner States should promote women-owned business in supply chains and government tendering. EAC Secretariat should strengthen cross-border dispute resolution mechanism through the expansion of East African Court of Justice (EACJ) jurisdiction on the matter. Page 6 of 10

7 Inadequate knowledge on EAC s Trade Regime and Regulatory Frameworks: There is inadequate knowledge by business women of laws, regulations and requirements related to cross border trade, including the provisions of the EAC s Simplified Trade Regime and Regulatory Framework. Increase sensitisation on EAC s Trade Regime and Regulatory Framework: EAC Secretariat should enhance awareness, through different programmes and interventions, on regional trade regimes, rules and regulations and provide women businesses with information on new markets. Awareness could also cover the laws and regulations related to business and trade both at the national level and regional levels. This should be in a language easily understood by business women in the region. Partial Inclusion of business women in trade negotiations and policy development: Governments are increasingly including women as a part of delegations on trade negotiations but there is limited trickle down of such information to the very small and SME business women entrepreneurs. Enhance Inclusion of Business Women in Policy and Negotiations Fora: EAC Secretariat and Partner States should enhance business women participation in public-private dialogues as well as regional and national Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) Monitoring and Elimination Framework and Common Market Implementation Framework. EAC Secretariat and Partner States should adopt a zero- Page 7 of 10

8 Existing challenges in access to affordable credit and financing: Demand for financial services by women businesses in EAC is high. There is an existing financial infrastructure providing financial services and other products specifically for women businesses at an individual or a group level. The infrastructure is composed of: banks, MFIs (both formal and informal) and self -help groups. Main challenges for accessing credit by business women include: lack of collateral, illiteracy, limited innovativeness, unregistered businesses, domestic problems, multiple borowing, and lack of well identified business premises. Illiteracy, diversion to other family needs and interference by husband are the main challenges affecting effective utilization of credit by women business owners. Financing gap for women businesses exists with respect to: business tolerance to non-participation of business women in trade policy fora. Business women must be part of EAC Secretariat and Partner States delegations to key meetings. EAC Secretariat at and Partner States should embark on Enhancing Financial Inclusion of Women- Owned Businesses: Establish a regional financial facility at the East African Development Bank that will extend affordable credit and other financial services such as guarantees to womenowned businesses. Gender sensitivity training targeting commercial banks should also be spearheaded by the latter Bank. The governments of Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, like in Kenya and Rwanda, could consider setting up women enterprise fund to provide business and trade related credit to women entrepreneurs at lower interest rates. Financial institutions lending to women businesses should consider providing start-up capital credits. They should also consider expanding the credit ceiling depending of Page 8 of 10

9 start-up capital, access to larger credit sizes for expansion of businesses for SMEs whose financial needs exceed the MFIs lending ceilings, and credits at affordable interest rates. the size of the business, to enable women business to expand and thus grow their businesses. Partner States, through their Central Banks, should pass a regulation to ensure commercial banks and MFIs disaggregate their loan portfolio according to sector, level of business and sex. Page 9 of 10

10 c. Summary of Key Policy Advocacy Messages EAC Secretariat and Partner States should: Commit Adequate Resources to Gender Equality and Put in Place Clear Roadmaps. Reform Laws and Policies and Ensure they are Evidence Based. Develop and Implement National and Regional Programmes aimed at Growing Women-Owned Businesses. Increase sensitisation on EAC s Trade Regime and Regulatory Framework. Enhance Inclusion of Business Women in Policy and Negotiations For a. Enhance Financial Inclusion of Women-Owned Business by especially establishing a regional financial facility at the East African Development Bank that will provide affordable credit lines and other financial services such as guarantees for women owned businesses. Page 10 of 10

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