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Trade Tuesday For Women In Business: Adjust Your Sails

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

~ Jimmy Dean

The digital revolution is changing the world of trade and commerce at all levels and women’s participation as entrepreneurs in the growing wave of eCommerce could enable them to leapfrog into equal participation & benefit for their empowerment

e-Commerce can contribute to women’s empowerment & circumvent the challenges that women in business face, allowing them to sell their products online. Building the e-Commerce ecosystem will be key to allowing women entrepreneurs to access markets and grow their business, thereby employing more women, as data shows that firms run by women tend to employ more women.

According to UNCTAD, global e-commerce sales grew 13% in 2017, hitting an estimated $29 trillion. A similar surge was seen in the number of online shoppers, which jumped by 12% and stood at 1.3 billion people, or one quarter of the world’s population.

Though most internet buyers purchased goods and services from domestic vendors, the share of those buying from abroad rose from 15% in 2015 to 21% in 2017. The growth was driven mainly by an increase in the United States. As a result, cross-border business-to-consumer (B2C) sales reached an estimated $412 billion, accounting for almost 11% of total B2C e-commerce ­­– a 4% hike on the previous year’s numbers

Whilst having the best conditions for e-commerce to thrive doesn’t always translate into actual online sales across Africa, it is a start.

‘68% of internet users in European Union countries made online purchases in 2017 compared to 13% in Africa. Increasing that number to 50% in Africa could translate into 77 million additional online shoppers and more than double of current revenues’

~ Yomi Kazeem

Women in business across the African continent can take advantage of this digital revolution and grow revenues from online trade. Whereas the growth in online purchases has been driven by the United States, opportunities exist to increase intra-Africa trade.

In a session, “Digitalization and the realization of the African Continental Free Trade Area for digital transformation in Africa.” at UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2019, Ajay Kumar Bramdeo, the African Union’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva highlighted the fact that “e-Commerce has the potential to lift intra-African trade from the current rate of 18% and to boost Africa’s share of global trade, currently estimated at less than 3%… Digitalization has the potential to lead not only to Africa’s digital transformation, but also to serve as a catalyst for the continent’s overall structural transformation,”

In light of this, a number of initiatives, platforms and networks for women to harness the power of eCommerce have been launched over the last few years, aimed at creating greater opportunities and access for women across the globe. One of these platforms is the eTrade for Women initiative.  The platform aims to support women involved in e-commerce in developing countries by collecting, nurturing and showcasing the experiences of successful women leaders, providing them with opportunities to network, as well as a forum to make their voices heard in policy processes both domestically and internationally.

Women can be empowered by increased participation in e-commerce, providing them with new business opportunities that can help increase their participation in domestic and international trade.

Leveraging digital technology to empower women’s businesses, including small businesses, can help drive economic growth and create jobs.  

With love,

Mucha Mlingo

President, OWIT Nairobi

Founder, PTS Africa


At OWIT Nairobi, we have a vision to empower women to transform communities through global trade. We are committed to creating opportunities for women to connect to global markets. As a Business Support Organisation, we work closely with our members to ensure access to the necessary tools to build businesses that can go global.

For more information about OWIT Nairobi – visit our website, www.owitnairobi.org

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