ITC’s SheTrades Initiative Launched in Rwanda

Rwanda’s First Lady launches SheTrades Rwanda, with mobile-phone giant MTN announcing support for the initiative, offering free downloads and training

The Rwanda edition of the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades initiative was launched in Kigali by First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame. During the launch mobile-phone provider MTN Rwanda also announced it would be offering women entrepreneurs free downloads and free browsing of the ITC SheTrades mobile application. Launched in September 2015, the SheTrades Initiative will connect one million women to markets by 2020.

Chief Executive Officer Bart Hofker of MTN Rwanda said his Company would help promote the SheTrades app throughout the Company’s media platforms and activities and would also provide training for women entrepreneurs on issues ranging from doing business online to using technological applications. 

“We aim to harness the potential of Rwandan women entrepreneurs and enhance the growth of women-owned businesses to scale up and access markets,” Mr Hofker said. “We are committed to connecting 2,000 women to markets by 2020 as we believe this is an urgent necessity for inclusive economic growth.”

The announcement by MTN Rwanda was welcomed by ITC Executive Director Arancha González, who said that the Company was setting an example for others to follow. “It is only by combining government policies with private-sector actions that we can achieve our goal of connecting more women entrepreneurs to markets,” Ms González said. “We need big companies to lead if we are to achieve women’s economic empowerment. And when MTN makes a commitment to women like it has today, the impact is far reaching.”

Mr François Kanimba, Rwanda’s Minister for Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs, said: “The SheTrades movement will advance women’s economic empowerment by creating enabling environment that allow them to participate in the global markets economy.”

The launch of SheTrades Rwanda on 22-23 March brings together representatives from government, academia and the private sector to commit to actions that support women’s entrepreneurship and help them overcome barriers, including growing their businesses and accessing global markets.

Another major commitment made at the SheTrades Rwanda launch came from New Faces, New Voices, a pan-African advocacy group for women in finance, that announced that it establish a new Women Investment Fund and help connect 3,000 women entrepreneurs to markets. 

Held in conjunction with SheTrades launch the Mitreeki East Africa-India Partnership sessions, a series of workshops for women entrepreneurs, explore how women entrepreneurs can develop their businesses with a view to internationalise. These will bring together women entrepreneurs from across East Africa, as well as several international speakers.

The SheTrades initiative, launched in 2015, aims to connect one million women entrepreneurs to market by 2020. Through the Initiative, ITC provides support to women entrepreneurs through seven pillars: championing quality data; promoting fair policies; supporting women’s participation in government procurement as well as in corporate procurement; promoting access to financial services; and supporting women ownership rights. These form a guide for policymakers and businesses to achieve greater gender inclusiveness in trade which is part of ITC’s effort to help UN member states achieve Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to empower all women and girls.

Donors include United Kingdom’s Department for International DevelopmentFinland’s Ministry of Foreign AffairsAustralian AidTradeMark East Africa and Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.