In a bid to eradicate the scourge of poverty and boost women contribution to economic empowerment, the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) have signed an agreement for the establishment of a €1 million ($1.2 million) Business Incubator for African Women Entrepreneurs (BIAWE) in the sub-region.
The pact was signed by the President of ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, and Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency Ibrahim ASANE Mayaki at the African Union (AU) Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The facility which was provided by Spain through NEPAD-Spain Fund for empowerment of African women; will be implemented for two years.
According to Ouedraogo, the business incubator project is aimed at eradicating poverty and contributing to economic empowerment of women. He noted that the project will also provide capacity building, technical assistance and financial support to emerging rural women entrepreneurs, who face constraints that make it difficult to sustain their businesses.
This will be done by providing grants for rural African women with business ventures in agriculture. ECOWAS said the incubator project will provide a guarantee fund for rural women entrepreneurs in Africa so that they can receive support from banks and financial institutions in the areas of loan processing of agricultural produce and market for the sale of this produce.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and ECOWAS are the two regional economic communities leading the implementation of the project. The project will be tested in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone, and if successful, extended to other member states of the community.
“The proposed business incubator project is, therefore, a regional strategy to enhance economic opportunities of rural women within ECOWAS countries,” Ouedraogo explained.
The project is intended to support initiatives in economic capacity building for women, promote rural entrepreneurship and develop agricultural resources.
Ouedraogo asserted that the commission as the implementing authority for the project, would use its existing close-working relationship with institutional structures in member-states to ensure that the business incubator not only meets a variety of economic, socio-economic and policy needs, but to also secure the commitment of the community to ensure sustainability of the project.
He affirmed that one of the most demographic phenomena facing many countries in West Africa is the predominant representation of women in agriculture and other rural industries, with women producing more than 50 percent of food.
Meanwhile, the Ambassador of Spain in Ethiopia, Miguel Fernandez-Palacios, who was present at the signing of the agreement, commented that the implementation of the project is a new proof of Spanish commitment with African continent to empower women as well as improve on their situation in all fields by promoting gender equality, increase their capacity and autonomy.
In a related development, Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and African Development Bank (AfDB) Donald Kaberuka, will be addressing participants at the Second African Women Economic Summit, in Lagos, Nigeria.
The program will run from the 12th – 14th of July.