- The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is the largest regional economic community (REC) in Africa, with a combined population of more than 560 million people in its 21 Member States, and a combined GDP over USD 600 billion. Although a primarily trade-focused regional bloc, gender equality and economic empowerment of women are part of COMESA’s priority areas to enhance sustainable socio-economic development in the region. The work of COMESA on gender equality and women empowerment is supported by the Treaty, Gender Policy, and the African Union Agenda 2063 and Global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development among others.
- The East African Community (EAC) is a regional intergovernmental organization with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. Its six Partner States are: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Uganda. The EAC is home to 172 million citizens, of which over 22% is urban population. With a land area of 2.5 million square kilometers, it has a combined Gross Domestic Product of over US$ 172 billion (EAC Statistics, 2017).
- The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was established on May 28 1975 by the treaty of Lagos. ECOWAS is a 15-member regional group with a mandate of promoting economic integration in all fields of activity of the constituting countries. The member countries which make up ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’ Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.
- As a continent, Africa has high rates of entrepreneurship, with many countries having almost equal participation between men and women. Women business owners in the African context, however, face gender-specific barriers such as limited access to information and networking opportunities, lower levels of education and business training, weak property rights that deprive them of collateral and tangible assets, legal barriers that impede their economic activities and cultural barriers that discourage women from thriving as entrepreneurs. The consequence is that women have challenges accessing financial and non-financial services and so the size and growth of their businesses suffer.
- In September 2016, COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly implement a project called the 50 Million African Women Speak Networking Platform Project (50MAWSP) to address some of the challenges experienced by women in business in their member/partner States and Africa as a whole with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB). The three RECs coordinated by COMESA jointly implemented the project. Implementation of the project kicked-off in June/July 2017 after the recruitment of project staff.
- The objective of the project is to contribute to the economic empowerment of women through the provision of a digital networking platform to enable women to access information on financial and non-financial services.
- The 50 Million African Women Speak Platform was developed and made available through womenconnect.org for women and services providers to use in November 2019. The platform provides women with a basic information service on aspects such as how to start/register a business, as well as opportunities to access information on business training, mentorship, affordable financial services/products and locally-relevant business information, while allowing them to build their networks, benefit from peer-to-peer learning and create knowledge communities, in their countries and across borders. Ultimately, as the name suggests, it is expected that the Platform will be used by approximately 50 million women on the African Continent.
- The project is implemented in 38 countries belonging to COMESA, EAC and ECOWAS. Thirty-six participating countries have set up a Country Team made up of representatives from the public and private sectors as well as civil society to spearhead national project activities. Specifically, the country teams are comprised of representatives from the ministries responsible for Gender, Trade and ICT among others; institutions responsible for enterprise development, financial institutions, women associations and membership-based entities working with women in business. The country teams are supported by national project focal point persons in the project host ministries and, National Content Developers. It is this structure at the national level that works in tandem with the regional bodies (COMESA, EAC and ECOWAS) to generate content for the platform, as well as sensitize the targeted users about the platform’s existence and benefits.
- At continental level, the platform was officially launched in November 2019.National launches in all COMESA/ECOWAS Member States and EAC Partner States are planned, as a sub-component of a broader drive to create awareness about the platform and encourage users to sign up and access the services.
- The project is expected to end on 31st December 2020 as stipulated in the grant agreement between AfDB and the RECs. It is against this background that COMESA in collaboration with EAC and ECOWAS wishes to hire the services of an individual consultant to conduct an assessment of the project and draft an independent project completion report (PCR).
Click on the link below for more details.
- EOI – Multinational – Project Completion Report 50 Million African Women Speak Networking Platform Project (50MAWSP) – COMESA (2 downloads)
Post expires at 3:00pm on Monday October 5th, 2020