Address by ITC Deputy Executive Director Dorothy Tembo at World Trade Centre Mumbai’s Global Economic Summit, 27 March 2017

27 March 2017
ITC News

The sixth edition of WTC Mumbai’s Global Economic Summit, from 27-29 March in Mumbai, is dedicated to the theme Women’s Empowerment: Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Capacity Building.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the invitation to be here.

It is a pleasure for me to be in India, being one of, if not, the fastest growing major economy in the world. 

Many foreign companies are setting up their facilities in India on account of various government initiatives like 'Make in India'  and the 'Digital India'initiative. Initiatives such as these with an aim to boost the manufacturing sector of Indian economy is expected to increase the purchasing power of an average Indian consumer, which would further boost demand, and hence spur development, in addition to benefiting investors.

India has also experienced rapid growth and development in the past years in many spheres.

Yet though economic growth has improved living standards, India, which has the largest number of poor in the world, still struggles to lift its 1.2 billion populations out of poverty.

We must ask ourselves why this is and more importantly what can be done to improve the odds for those living in extreme poverty and what is the role of women in all this.

The starting point of drivers of the economy rest in its resources and in particular its people. The more productive societies and the people therein is the better our economies will do. And recent body of research has gone a step further to show linkages between productive economies and diversity and inclusion. In a population such as India where 49 percent of its 1.3 billion people population are women - gender diversity and women's empowerment is an important consideration.

And it is worth noting that gender equality has proven positive effects on per capita income, economic growth and national competitiveness. Recent evidence indicate that global gender parity could increase the global GDP by up to $28 trillion by 2025. Specific to India, Mckinsey estimates that mending the gender gap in India could boost GDP by as much as 60 per cent by 2025.

Empowering women can be an economic game changer for any country and especially one the size of India. Better economic opportunities for women boost economic growth-creating a bigger pie for everyone to share, women and men alike. To put it differently: if you discourage half the population from fully participating in the labor market, you are essentially behaving like an airline pilot who shuts down half his engines in mid-flight. Sure, your plane will likely continue to fly, but it would be such a risk.

Women's economic empowerment is not a matter for policy, business action or social change alone. All have a role to play. That is why the International Trade Centre has launched "SheTrades", a global initiative to leverage actors and partnerships across the world to connect one million women entrepreneurs to market by 2020.

SheTrades spells out seven areas in which governments, the private sector and civil society groups can pledge to remove obstacles holding back women-owned businesses. From repealing discriminatory laws and sourcing more from women-owned businesses to ensuring that they can access credit and connect to foreign buyers, these are just some of the important actions that could be taken.

More specifically, SheTrades Global Actions speak to:

1. Quality Data: Data collection, analysis and dissemination related to women's economic participation remains scarce. It is essential to collect and analyse data in order to craft policies that harness a valuable but largely untapped resource in procurement and global value chains.

2. Fair Policies: In developing countries, a legal framework re-enforces inequality of women that impede women economic participation in trade. In 155 economies women do not have the same legal rights as men, women face higher barriers to starting a business. We need to support women's economic participation by enshrining it in laws and policies.

3. Government Contracts: Accounting for over 30% of GDP in developing countries, and trillions of dollars of annual spend, women-owned businesses receive only a small share. Adopting transparent and women inclusive procurement policies can promote the participation of women-owned businesses in public procurement markets.

4. Corporate Supplier Diversity: Supply chains offer a unique opportunity for companies to impact economic development. Inclusive sourcing is a key pillar of sustainable procurement. But the economic case for having an inclusive supply chain is not well understood globally.

5. Market Access: Women face greater obstacles in setting up and growing their businesses. Access to global markets will enhance women's owned SMEs productivity and ability to benefit from their economic participation.

6. Financial Services: Women owned SMEs often cite access to finance as one of the major constraint on their business operations growth.  According to the FinScopeRwanda report 2016, women's access to formal financial services increased from 36.1 percent in 2013/14 to 63 percent in 2016. But there is need of higher penetration of financial services in rural areas where most of the women still does have access to bank accounts.

7. Ownership Rights:  Ownership rights are fundamental to women's business capacity and Public Institutions needs to address policies and reforms in this direction. 

On top these seven areas for action, SheTrades also has an interactive dimension - the SheTrades web and mobile app for women-owned businesses to register and become verified women-owned companies so that buyers interested to find women suppliers have ready access. [click to show the app on screen].  The SheTrades app has easy to use swipe functionality and is based on HS code classification and services categorisation to enable buyers to find women entrepreneurs.

Today, SheTrades is pleased to announce our newest SheTrades Champions - India's very own World Trade Centre Mumbai and All India Association - both of whom have signed up to become verifiers of women-owned enterprises keen to use the SheTrades web and mobile business networking platform.

Working together, I am sure that we can continue paving the way for India's "bold economic growth". There are already commitments to connect over 800,000 women to market so we are already past the halfway mark for the original SheTrades 1 million women to market target.

 I look forward to working with you to deliver on this and much more.

 Thank you.