Across Africa, much like the rest of the world, women face unique challenges in starting and growing their businesses, according to panelists at a recently held webinar as part of the lead-up to the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8).
The Asia External Representation Office of the African Development Bank (AfDB), co-organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa's Development (AUDA-NEPAD) and supported by the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai) hosted the online symposium, "Solidarity of Women Entrepreneurs in Africa and Japan".
The webinar was held on 27th May 2022. By sharing their experiences and opinions on how they started their businesses, how they succeeded in their businesses, and how they overcame difficulties, six women entrepreneurs from Japan and Africa built a network and encouraged future women entrepreneurs to boldly take on the challenge of doing business in Africa. More than 250 audiences attended the webinar.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Takashi Hanajiri, Head of the Asia External Representation Office, AfDB mentioned the AfDB's support tools for women entrepreneurs and shared powerful messages from the AfDB President and senior female executives to inspire and encourage women entrepreneurs. The messages included AfDB believes that to truly achieve the empowerment of women it is necessary to consider access to productive resources in terms of assets, financial and technical services, and their agency in terms of control of resources and profits, capabilities, self-confidence, and decision-making power.
Moderator of the symposium, Prof. Mieko Ikegame said the symposium presents a unique opportunity for African and Japanese women entrepreneurs to share their experiences, create networks and learn from each other.
In the three thematic sessions, Food & Agriculture, Fashion, and Digital/Green, one female entrepreneur from Japan and one from Africa took the floor in each session to deliver a presentation and discussed what motivated her to start own business, what made her business unique, and how she overcame difficulties. The six entrepreneurs pointed out that entrepreneurial opportunities for women are further complicated by administrative, ethnic and patriarchal social structures that make it difficult to cultivate business networks and identify appropriate business mentors. In conclusion, Prof. Ikegame emphasized that this kind of exchange should be encouraged in a sustainable manner and not remain as one off event.
As a commentator, Ms. Neima Ferreira, Principal Business Development Officer in the Gender, Women, Civil Society department of AfDB, introduced the 50 Million Africa Women Speak (50MWASP) platform which was established in 2019 to improve the ability of women entrepreneurs to expand their business network and access information on financial and non-financial services for their business growth.
To spark opportunities for entrepreneurs including women entrepreneurs in Africa by filling financial, technological, and skill gap, the UNDP Regional Bureau Director for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa said UNDP is developing Timbuktoo, an initiative that seeks to raise 1 billion dollars in start-up capital and to work with governments to set up the conditions necessary for innovation for the African Continental Free Trade Area to thrive. “I invite the Government of Japan and all partners present, including Keizai Doyukai, the African Development Bank, AUDA-NEPAD and Japanese companies to rally behind Timbuktoo and advocate for the need and opportunities of women entrepreneurs and capitalise on TICAD8 as a platform for public-private partnership, co-investment and business-to-business networking,” she concluded.
Presentations by the speakers can be downloaded below.
Master of Ceremony
- Taeko NAGAYAMA, Africa Project Team, Keizai Doyukai
- Mutsuo IWAI, Chairman, Africa Project Team, Keizai Doyukai; Co-chair of Japan Business Council for Africa; Chairman of the Board of Japan Tobacco
- Ahunna EZIAKONWA, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, UNDP
- Takashi HANAJIRI, Head of Asia External Representation Office, AfDB
- Fati N’zi-Hassane, Head of Human Capital and Institutions Development Programme, AUDA-NEPAD
- Moderator: Prof. Mieko IKEGAME, Special Adviser to the CEO of AUDA-NEPAD
Session 1, Food and Agriculture Sector
Session 2, Fashion Sector
Session 3, Green/ Digital Sector
・Mitsue KURIHARA, Vice Chairman, Keizai Doyukai, Chairman of the Board, Value Management Institute, Inc.
・Ahunna EZIAKONWA, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, UNDP
Taeko NAGAYAMA, Africa Project Team, Keizai Doyukai