Women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) face many barriers in finding resources to help them launch and grow successful businesses. But increasingly, governments, investors and multinational companies are recognizing how vital it is to empower women around the world.
According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, gender parity would lift the economy by nearly a third by 2025. That means putting reforms in place to level the playing field could enrich countries and communities around the world.
In addition to reforms, women business owners need the right tools to launch their businesses on a global scale, according to Dr. Ashraf Mahate, the chief economist for trade and export market development at Dubai Exports.
Dr. Mahate spoke with UPS about why Dubai Exports and the International Trade Centre launched SheTrades in the MENA region.
How does SheTrades empower women-owned businesses?
The real power of the SheTrades MENA initiative is meeting other female entrepreneurs and gaining the knowledge and confidence to export.
Since SheTrades MENA launched in February 2018, it’s provided capacity building to more than 1,000 female entrepreneurs, bringing training and mentoring to women business organizations from Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal. SheTrades MENA also helps women exhibit their products and build online marketing and sales channels.
One young woman attended our two-day workshop on starting and growing a business through exporting. She didn’t know how to set up a business and didn’t even have a solid business idea.
By the end of the workshop, she had built the courage to start her business, and a month later, was exhibiting at a local event.
Why did Dubai Exports partner with UPS?
First of all, UPS is an expert in the field of logistics, shipping, moving goods and supply chain solutions. Secondly, the company is a global partner of the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. So it made perfect sense to partner and team up here in Dubai.
Together we help women entrepreneurs overcome barriers to exporting or increasing their exports — from sharing cross-border e-commerce trends to learning how to build a packaging strategy of their goods to understanding customs regulations and complex logistics concepts.
How can women entrepreneurs in the area scale their businesses to go global?
It helps when entrepreneurs start out with a global mindset. For example, Camel Soap Factory, a company here in Dubai, started at the kitchen table of a woman named Stevi Lowmass, and now exports to a number of countries from the region to Asia.
From its inception, the company thought beyond the UAE and developed strategies in association with Dubai Exports to capture an ever-increasing global market.
We help women revisit their products and services to ensure their businesses can satisfy the demand from new global customers.
This may also involve up-skilling employees so they’re able to meet new challenges.