BY SAMUEL NABWIISO
COMESA will start conducting national launches of a digital platform known as the 50 Million African Women Speak (50MAWSP) Project specifically designed to address the information needs of women in business in the region.
According to statement from COMESA, the trade bloc will roll out the Platform in 14 Member States between August and November 2020 largely through virtual means owing to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The launches are tentatively scheduled to kick off in Zimbabwe followed by Seychelles on 25 August.
The platform which Is accessible at www.womenconnect.org primarily seeks to economically empower women by providing a one-stop shop for a wide range of financial and non-financial services that women need to start and grow successful businesses.
It is jointly implemented by COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and is funded by the African Development Bank. Continentally unveiled during the Global Gender Summit in November 2019 in Kigali, Rwanda, the platform enables women in Member/partner States of COMESA, EAC and ECOWAS and other African countries to find information on how to run businesses, where to access financial services, how to create business opportunities online and where to access training resources.
Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe has described the initiative as a very practical way of speaking to the general agenda of empowering women with its business resources and custom-built social networking features already attracting thousands of women and connecting them to do business with each other and share experiences in ways that were previously not possible.
According to the Director for Gender and Social Affairs, Ms Beatrice Hamusonde, the platform, which is also available as an app, is timely and the perfect response for the region’s women to turn to as they deal with the social and economic challenges which have resulted from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The platform will give women an opportunity to showcase their products and connect with a market of millions across Africa, in addition to leveraging opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and mentorship as part of a dynamic online community of entrepreneurs.
Following the two national launches scheduled this August in Zimbabwe and Seychelles, 12 more launches will be conducted in Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan and Tunisia. The first 50MAWSP national launch in the COMESA region was held in Zambia in February this year.