Women businesses need help to mitigate Covid-19 challenges

Mr Frank Matsaert says TradeMark East Africa is working on a number of challenges.  

A trade support organisation has called for the revision of the Simplified Trading Regime to enable cross-border women traders participate more.

In a report released last week, Ms Sheila Kawamara Mishambi, the Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) executive director, said the impact of Covid-19 on cross-border women traders across East Africa had mostly been immense forcing closure of at least 64.2 per cent of women-owned businesses. 

The Simplified Trading Regime supports small-scale traders to benefit from simplified customs document and simplified certificate of origin, under which goods that originate from member countries and whose value does not exceed $2,000 (Shs7.3m) per consignment, qualify for duty-free entry in the respective markets. 

Ms Kawamara said stakeholders and government must find ways through which they encourage cross-border women traders to form cooperatives that will enable them conduct structured trade. 

This, she said, will enhance resilience, growth and sustainability of cross-border women traders. 

Through cooperatives, Ms Kawamara noted, women will benefit from economies of scale by buying cheaply, paying less on logistics, accessing better markets as well as getting support to adopt electronic commerce. 

She also noted that cross-border women traders are unable to individually adopt e-commerce but can ably do so if they work in groups, adding that e-commerce is going to be the new normal.

The report, which was produced by EASSI in collaboration with TradeMark East Africa, found that Covid-19 and the resultant closure of borders, had dented cross-border women businesses with trade falling by at least 97.3 per cent. 

This, the report noted, had pushed a number of women out of business, resulting into closure of at least 64.2 per cent of women-owned businesses.

While presenting its strategy - Gender Strategy II (2020/23) - which seeks to facilitate gender-responsive trade, empower women to trade gainfully and take up opportunities, Mr Frank Matsaert, the TradeMark East Africa chief executive officer, said they want to ensure that they help women to develop differently by ensuring gender equity. 

He said they would focus on resolving some of the key challenges limiting women owned micro, small and medium enterprises growth in trade. 

TradeMark East Africa, according to Mr Frank Matsaert is working on a number of challenges, among which include, restrictive regulatory regimes, access to finance, gender insensitive customs border management, lack of information on trade and markets, harassment and corruption. The new strategy, he said seeks to impact 200,000 women traders across the region.


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