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UNCTAD enhancing the participation of women entrepreneurs in LDCs

Summary

UNCTAD conducts forum, which brought together experts from governments, non-governmental organizations and academia, as well representatives of women’s and business associations and women entrepreneurs, examined the impact of recent multilateral trade agreements, women’s relative inability to access technology and obstacles to obtaining credit.

Lack of training, education and adequate credit were among the formidable challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the world’s poorest countries, speakers said today at a forum on women’s entrepreneurship at the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries.

During the discussion on opportunities for women entrepreneurs in the global market, speakers noted that women entrepreneurs in least developed countries (LDCs) faced formidable and pervasive challenges that could make it difficult for them to adapt to the changing opportunities presented by globalization. The multilateral trading systems — such as the Cotonou partnership agreement with the African, Pacific and Caribbean Group (ACP) and the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) — were not gender neutral. Rather, they had had a negative impact on women’s lives and the sustainability of their enterprises.

The key was obtaining solid knowledge of those systems and how they related to the international market, as well as the impact they had on local economies, speakers stressed, as was acquiring basic economic and trade literacy. Capacity- building initiatives under both agreements should be designed to respond to the known constraints women faced. There must be a paradigm shift away from the traditional ways of doing business, a speaker stressed. This would help to reduce poverty.

The panellists included: Yolette Azor Charles, Permanent Mission of Haiti to the European Union; Vijay S. Makhan, Deputy Secretary-General, Organization of African Unity (OAU has since been superseded by the Africa Union); L. Hendricks, Deputy Minister for Trade of South Africa; and Catherine Mwanamwambwa, Vice-President of the Zambian Association for High value Crops. Koffi Adoboli, former Prime Minister of Togo, chaired the panel.