The selected stories demonstrate how women entrepreneurs in Africa have successfully managed their businesses in the face of considerable challenges and how the support of a well-targeted programme like ACCESS! can give them the edge they need to be more competitive in world markets.
In addition to generating employment and export revenues, many of these women have spearheaded the development of new sectors in their respective countries. Some examples include eco-tourism in Ethiopia, plant-based products with pharmaceutical qualities in the Republic of Congo and Benin, eco-textiles in Uganda and one-stop solutions for outfitting hospitals with medical equipment from South Africa.
What is also shared among these women is their commitment to business growth that benefits consumers, communities and the local environment. In Tanzania, Joyce Mbwette commits Foot Loose Tanzania Handicrafts to a triple bottom line, generating profits while caring for the environment and safeguarding workers' rights. In Kenya, Margaret Komen could have dropped chili exports in favor of higher profits non-native crops, but Mace Foods is determined to keeping the sector, the farmers and the indigenous seeds on solid ground. Ruffine Koukoui's commitment to non.harm nature and consumers has led her to patent toxin-free cosmetics of award-winning quality. Samrawit Moges has made her business ventures in Ethiopia community-centered and this in turn has motivated communities to care for their natural environment. In Congo, Josephine Bouanga's research has led to the patenting of nutritional beverages that enhance health and well-being.
Women entrepreneurs say the ACCESS! programme has given them visibility and courage to overcome the barriers and tackle new international markets, through the knowledge, confidence and networks gained. Several women business leaders say the technical support they received through the export training and the tailored business counseling programmes have led them to restructure their businesses to optimize efficiency performance and maximize the opportunities to trade regionally and internationally.
ITC offers its heartfelt thanks to the women entrepreneurs who generously offered their time and agreed to share their personal stories, as well as the ACCESS! Focal Point Institutions for their usual outstanding collaboration in the process.