Coca-Cola Vice President for East and Central Africa, Debra Mallowah has today emphasised the critical contribution and participation of women in the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and called for the identification of opportunities that will catalyze their entrepreneurship. Speaking at the virtual Womens’ Empowerment Conference on AfCFTA organised by the COMESA Business Council (CBC) in partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Mallowah lauded the new trade opportunities that the trading area will provide especially in priority economic sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and services where women can play.
“Women will need to be supported to exploit these opportunities in diverse ways, and importantly, they also must be intentional in leveraging opportunities that AfCTA provides, said Mallowah.
“The one great thing that large companies like Coca-Cola can do is to influence the ecosystem of smaller companies around them and help them realize their dreams. Large companies can be the engine of the train that helps all the small companies move forward through sharing world-class best practices, local sourcing of raw materials to the extent possible, and creating a market for their finished goods and services,” she added.
On digital financial inclusion for women, she urged all involved including women entrepreneurs themselves, to be intentional in transitioning small and medium scale enterprises to e-commerce. Beyond just going digital or online to market their products and services, businesses must also be ready to financially transact online across borders. The Covid-19 pandemic has made this even more critical now than ever, and the women must be ready to be part of this transition.
She commended the COMESA Business Council for thinking ahead and leading the initiative of enabling digital financial transactions already. “If we unlock this opportunity now and have the 21 Comesa Business states covered as a start, we would have set a good foundation for not just our women entrepreneurs, but businesses in general, to connect and transact across regions/borders more effectively through for example harmonized mobile money and banking platforms that enable one to easily transact across Africa with favourable rates/policies.”
“Women empowerment is something we take seriously at Coca-Cola. Our experience has shown us that access to markets and finance are some of the major critical components defining women’s success in their business endeavours. This high-level conference, was educative, informative and inspirational to all aspiring and current businesswomen.”
Participants at the conference came up with proposals, measures and possible initiatives to improve compliance with market access requirements by SMEs to enable them to participate in the AfCFTA.
Other speakers at the conference which was chaired by Sanda Uwera, the CEO CBC included Peninah Ngategize, CEO, Kika Farms, Uganda; Sabine Mensah, Deputy CEO of AfricaNenda; Emily Mburu, Director, Directorate of Trade in Services, Investment, IPR and Digital Trade, AfCFTA Secretariat; Temitope Iluyemi – Senior Director, Global Government Relations- Africa, Procter & Gamble; Maureen Sumbwe – CEO, Zambia Federation of Women in Business and Natalie Jabangwe – Group Digital Executive Officer, Sanlam.