The moderator for Investing in women entrepreneurs: Enabling women's economic participation for sustainable growth and rural development will be Mr Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). He will be joined by panellists from the International Trade Centre, European Investment Bank, Kati Farms Uganda and Plateforme Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d'Afrique Centrale.
Worldwide, some 8–10 million formal small and medium enterprises are fully or partially owned by women. Rural women, in particular, run more and more of their own enterprises. Yet most of these are concentrated in informal, micro-size, low productivity and low-return activities, and women face particular challenges in expanding and entering into new and more lucrative markets.
Women's agribusinesses need enabling and gender-responsive policies, services and business environments to get rolling and to reach their potential. Entrepreneurs benefiting from training and skills upgrading in management, marketing and technical skills are more equipped to transition from informal to formal operation. Above all, women must have equal access to assets and services, and to spheres of dialogue and organising at national and global levels.
Finance for women entrepreneurs is one especially pressing need. Women, and rural women in particular, face a lack of appropriate financial products, information and collateral. Often they rely on some combination of microfinance institutions, cooperative organisations and other revolving capital funds, and moneylenders. Most of these offer relatively small amounts at high interest rates, and with some sources, the consequences of default are severe.
More than men, women in agribusiness are slowed down by low rates of land ownership, unfavourable norms and regulations, and a lack of policies and programmes to support and encourage their entrepreneurial undertakings. Gender inequalities limit their access to and control over resources they need to create a sustainable enterprise.
Towards equal access
Fortunately, reforms to lending have entered policy agendas in many countries, as financial institutions work on designing products such as non-collateral-based lending, asset leasing, or embedded financial services in buyer contracts. This is just one side of a much-needed policy turn towards empowering women entrepreneurs.
The lessons of success
The Sustainable Development Goals have clearly announced that the empowerment of women is a necessity for sustainable development and inclusive growth. This is confirmed by successful female-led businesses around the world, which contribute to development both locally and globally, even if their contributions are too often overlooked. At the European Development Days, we will celebrate women's successful ventures in agribusiness, and the winning approaches and best practices that have enabled them.
Vanessa Erogbogbo, Head of Women and Trade Programme, International Trade Centre (ITC)
Heike Rüttgers, Head of Division, Development & Impact Finance, EIB
Lovin Kobusingye, Managing Director, Kati Farms, Uganda
Marie-Joseph Medzeme Engama, Expert on agricultural value chains, PROPAC, Central Africa
Michael Hailu, Director, CTA