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Women entrepreneurs call for better access to finance

Alongside this women-focused flagship event, the Forum, which is being held in Dubai, also hosted a ministerial panel on the importance of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, known as MSMEs, for post-COVID recovery. . The discussion also highlighted the power of Africa’s young generation as crucial in attracting future foreign investment in the development of the continent.

Farida Al Awadhi, President of the UAE Businesswomen’s Council, speaks during the panel discussion on the rise of women’s entrepreneurship at the Global Entrepreneurs Investment Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates .

May Arab women shine

Addressing the panel on uplifting women’s entrepreneurship, Farida Al Awadhi, President of the Emirates Businesswomen’s Council, said: “Unfortunately, women in the Middle East and Arab countries have been undermined or the media have distorted”.

Sonya Janahi, CEO of RA’EDAT Arab Woman Portal, agrees and adds, “Arab women have been unparalleled in many fields, but unfortunately there is a lack of international knowledge. [about what they are doing]. So, let’s focus on letting Arab women shine, creating opportunities together to work and collaborate, and let’s focus on how to train and develop women so that their entrepreneurial journey can also be a investment journey.

However, all participants agreed that in order to boost entrepreneurship and achieve gender parity in the business world, women need to have more opportunities and better access to finance, with the aim of putting women female entrepreneurs on par with their male counterparts.

Engage women in the conversation

“There are many initiatives to bridge this gap, but we are not there yet,” said Dr. Louiza Chitour, program manager for HealthTech, Plug and Play Abu Dhabi – a CSR initiative that helps female founders on a global scale to obtain funds and to prosper in their businesses.

“So it’s more important for us to be involved in these conversations about investing – how to get women to invest, how to educate them – to give them the confidence that they can be part of this investing world too. which eludes us.”

Session moderator and chair of the International Women Entrepreneurs Challenge, Ibukun Awosika, pointed out that the challenges of being a woman in the world of entrepreneurship are even more difficult for African women entrepreneurs.

Speaking later to UN News, he said: “There are challenges based on our cultural system, there are challenges common to all entrepreneurs, men and women, based on our infrastructure, our finances [systems]the perception of a woman versus a man, and sometimes opportunity and limitation.

Although there have been significant achievements in recent decades, the socioeconomic disadvantage of women is still reflected in widespread gender inequalities in labor income, access to productive resources such as credit cards and assets, education, freedom to practice a profession and access to finance. .

Ibukun Awosika, Chair of the International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge, speaks during the panel discussion on enhancing female entrepreneurship at the World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum in Dubai.

Ibukun Awosika, Chair of the International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge, speaks during the panel discussion on enhancing female entrepreneurship at the World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum in Dubai.

Addressing Unequal Power Dynamics

Jessica Neumann, investment and technology promotion expert and gender focal point at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said the agency is finalizing its e-learning course on investing and training from a gender perspective.

“We decided to design [this] virtual e-learning course with free access to really stop focusing on women and trying to fix them because we are beyond the conversation about what women should do to raise money for the company, and rather raise awareness [about] the [unfair] power dynamics that exist in the financial sector,” she explained.

UNIDO, she continued, has long focused on gender analysis “and in every project we do, we look at power dynamics to determine where women are being left out, and we take measures and measures to ensure that they also benefit from our projects. So this time we’re not doing another women’s accelerator, we’re now talking to men and trying to get them to understand that there’s real business in investing in women.

Government support was seen as crucial to achieving gender parity and having more women running their own businesses.

As President of the Emirates Businesswomen Council of UAE, Farida Al Awadhi summed up: “Yes. We can do it. But the journey is much faster if governments put rules, regulations and policies in place to support women.

Ministerial Panel: Taking Small and Medium Enterprises Seriously

The provision of government support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also echoed among speakers during the ministerial-level discussion on Tuesday.

Panelists included: Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, UN Under-Secretary General and Director General of the Africa Risk Capacity Group (ARC), Dr Ahmed bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi; Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises of the United Arab Emirates; and Dr. Abdul Rahim Younes Ali Minister of State, Economy, Development Planning and International Cooperation of Chad.

The ministerial panel highlighted the role of SMEs in the development of the global economy, especially at a time of multiple serious global challenges. With the pandemic creating unprecedented disruption to global economies and labor markets at all levels, supply chains coming to a halt and lockdowns leading to the forced closure of many businesses, it is no surprise that SMEs were the hardest hit.

Mr. Diong spoke about the challenges Africans face in terms of investment and what needs to be done to support small and medium enterprises on the continent.

He added that in addressing the SME sector in Africa, one thing that all agreed on was that 80% of jobs on the continent are provided by African SMEs. “It is therefore imperative to take small and medium-sized enterprises seriously.”

The UN official highlighted some of the challenges facing small and medium enterprises on the African continent: firstly, access to markets, he said, noting that “it is not possible to ‘establishing projects in the absence of markets’; second, to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to access financing; and third, to provide the necessary resources for capacity building.

Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the Africa Risk Capacity Group, speaks during the ministerial-level discussion that focused on providing support governmental to small and medium enterprises, the second day of the Entrepreneurship and Investment Forum in Dubai.

Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the Africa Risk Capacity Group, speaks during the ministerial-level discussion that focused on providing support governmental to small and medium enterprises, the second day of the Entrepreneurship and Investment Forum in Dubai.

Africa: the continent of investments for the future

After the session, Dr. Abd al-Rahim Younes, Minister of State, Economy, Development Planning and International Cooperation of Chad, told UN News that Africa is the “continent of ‘future investment’ and noted that young people accounted for more than 60 percent. hundred of the population. This massive cohort of young people was now beginning to set up businesses or find work in the private sector.

He underlined that African governments are supporting young people, whether through local, regional or international funding, and pointed out that the continent is rich in natural resources such as water, oil, minerals and all sources of energy.

“Chad has more than 120 million head of cattle and more than 25 million hectares of arable land, as well as newly discovered oil deposits, in addition to gold in large quantities. We look forward to the future and [the] investments that will come from Arab, European and Asian countries,” he said.

Economic empowerment of Arab women

The conclusion of the workshop on advancing women’s entrepreneurship also saw the graduation of a number of Arab women entrepreneurs from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, who were trained on how to develop, support and develop their projects.

This training course, titled “Arab Women’s Economic Empowerment”, was delivered virtually online by UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office.

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