Statement by ITC Executive Director at Launch of SheTrades in Kigali, Rwanda
Your Excellency First Lady,
Honourable Minister of Trade, Industry and East African Affairs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be back in Kigali and would like to thank Her Excellency the First Lady for joining us at this SheTrades launch. I also thank the governments of the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, and Australia as well as Trade Mark East Africa for their support. Because it is through our partnership for women's economic empowerment that we can achieve scale and impact.
What better place than Rwanda to launch SheTrades? This is a country that values the contribution of women to the economy and to society and it is ready to act through a mix of opportunities, equality and government leadership. It is therefore no surprise that Rwanda ranks 5th in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Index.
But sustaining the efforts requires continuous investments, starting with education and skills building of girls and women, including in the field of STEM, essential to compete in the '4th industrial revolution'.
It also requires addressing the very high concentration of women working as self-employed or in the informal economy as well as women-owned SMEs. When these women move into higher value added sectors and earn a better income, or even just an income, they contribute to a more robust domestic growth, to a more competitive economy and to a faster reduction of poverty.
This is what SheTrades is about. A global initiative to address seven set of barriers faced by women in business bringing together governments, businesses and civil society. From access to credit, to discriminatory trade policies or more inclusive public and corporate procurement.
With one goal: to help connect one million women to markets by 2020.
And through one tool, the SheTrades.com, an online platform and mobile app helping women network and connect with each other.
At the launch of SheTrades Rwanda today we want to collect your commitments towards this goal. We want to know what you are ready to pledge to support and connect more women to our economies.
But this not just about Rwanda. In today's world of instant communications and networks of value chains it is no longer just about one country. This is about the wider East African region as well. A regional integration movement such as the EAC is only as strong as its weakest link. Progress made in Rwanda has positive impacts on Kenya. Progress made in Tanzania has positive impacts on Burundi. Progress made in Ethiopia can help Uganda.
An important part of regional success is also in connecting with other regions and economies to create trade and investment links, support transfer of knowledge and technology and build tangible and sustainable South-South partnerships.
This is why as a contribution to SheTrades I am delighted to launch the Mitreeki East Africa - India Partnership, a platform under ITC's SITA programme where East African and Indian women come together to share knowledge, experiences and best practices with the overall objective to foster growth of women entrepreneurship.
Through Mitreeki - a combination of the Sanskrit and Swahili words for friendship: Maitreyi and Urafiki - we commit to
- improve the capacity of women managers and entrepreneurs in East Africa through commercial knowledge and technology with counterparts from India
And this brings me to my last point. Underlying this initiative is "connectivity", leveraging the digital technology to help connect the unconnected. Through e-solutions and e-commerce, we can help connect the women in business to markets.
This is why we applaud the investments made by Rwanda to harness the power of 'E' to drive trade costs down. ICT infrastructure including fiber optic and 4G LTE, mobile telephony systems, E-signature and much more is helping create new opportunities for Rwandan SMEs.
This is why ITC will continue to work with Rwanda together with other partners such as the German GIZ and private companies such as DHL to build the softer skills and infrastructure needed to ensure SMEs break into markets. We hope to see the pilot digital platform "Made in Rwanda" get to scale soon.
Friends, today is not just about women. It is never just about women. It is about the collective - men, women, the youth, the government, the business community, civil society, media, academia and regional and international organizations - making a commitment to ensure that she.can.trade.
So, what is your commitment?
Thanks a lot for your attention and looking forward to working together.