Women defeating trade obstacles in Africa

8 March 2015
ITC News
ITC programme helps thousands of African businesswomen trade better and more

Overcoming barriers and getting access to international markets is often a steep challenge, especially if you are running a business in a developing country. For women business owners, these challenges can often seem unsurmountable – even more so if you are in Africa.

To help African businesswomen overcome the challenges they face, the International Trade Centre (ITC) in 2005 launched its ACCESS! Programme. From the beginning the programme set out to provide women with a more solid base from which they could increase their share of national, regional and, ultimately, international markets.

By building their capacity to trade and their economic empowerment, the programme has been contributing to poverty reduction and improving the standards of living for the ACCESS! participants, their families, and their communities. So far, more than 3,000 businesswomen in 19 sub-Saharan countries have benefited from the programme and been trained on how to improve their export opportunities.


In 2014, Namibia became the twentieth country to join the ACCESS! platform. Moreover, it is the first country to have 100% self-funded the programme, underlining the effort the country places on improving the role of women in trade.

According to Tjekero Tweya, Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, ‘ACCESS! is an inclusive and strategic response to constraints faced by Namibian business women who are seeking to export to regional and international markets’.
So far 21 trade experts have been certified through Training of Trainers workshops and are now providing to support to Namibian businesswomen, helping overcome constraints in their effort to trade in goods and services. And several of the Namibian businesswomen are already seeing the effects of the training through increased and smoother exports.

By identifying the separate business model of each participant, ACCESS! provides solutions to the women-owned businesses on overcoming barriers trade. This is done with national focal points, such as the Namibia Trade Forum.

Beyond Africa

The success of the ACCESS! programme in promoting women entrepreneur ship in Africa has ensured that ITC has been able to gain political support and funding for expansion in sub-Saharan Africa. That success in now being expanded to other regions of the world, including in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East, to ensure that even more businesswomen can overcome obstacles to trade.

And that has the potential to create a ripple effect that will allow for – not only the economic empowerment of more women – more children to go to school, more benefits for local communities, and an increase in national exports.

In addition to creating employment and increasing export revenues through maximised trade opportunities, many of the women participating in the ACCESS! Programme have reinvested their benefits into communities, creating a ripple effect of economic and social benefits.

Learn more about the ACCESS! programme.