The International Trade Centre (ITC) has announced that the trade between commonwealth countries estimated to be about $700 billion in 2015 is expected to hit $1 trillion by 2020.
The Senior Adviser, Empowerment, ITC, Nicholas Schlapher, explained that the opportunities that abounds in the commonwealth market are limitless, pointing out that ITC would be working across commonwealth countries including Nigeria to provide solutions on policy issues specifically to help drive women in business.
According to him, ITC would be providing technical assistance to Nigeria’s agricultural, power and service sectors, stressing that agriculture is key to drive economic growth in Nigeria considering the huge role it plays by contributing over 20 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing 45 per cent of the population.
Schlapher at a press conference on She Trades, a commonwealth initiative aimed towards creating trade impact for goods by fostering the inclusive and sustainable development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), stated that the She Trades project expected to run till March 2020, is aimed at increasing economic growth and job creation in commonwealth countries by enabling women owned businesses to trade more.
He said: “She Trades is our newest project and the reason we are focusing on commonwealth countries is due to the shared values, the similar legal systems of institutions within commonwealth countries, there is really a potential for increasing trade relations and as a result of this, the cost of doing trade between commonwealth States is approximately 19 per cent lower than other countries.”
“We are here to support women businesses and to make them more competitive in international value chains. We are going to be working across four countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Bangladesh to support 20,000 women in businesses that will generate investments to a value of £28 million by 2020. Nigeria is very fortunate to have Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) as ITC’s primary partner,” he said.
He noted that women’s participation is essential to unlock the potentials of all countries around the world and to achieve the UN sustainable development goals.
In his words, “Over the last quarter of the century, trade has moved billions of people out of poverty, but however the benefits of trade have not been evenly distributed with women left behind. Trade by women enterprises can drive the economic inclusion of women. It is really necessary for us to help women entrepreneurs to internationalize which would help to drive overall economic growth, job creation, prosperity and human development.”
He said overall in Nigeria, there are limits to women’s economic participation where only about 16 per cent of businesses are owned by women, a figure he said is a bit less compared to the global average of 38 per cent.
Also speaking at the event, the Executive Director, NEPC, Olusegun Awolowo, said in a bid to meet the SDGs on gender equality, the council in collaboration with the She Trades commonwealth project is partnering to make women businesses significant contributors to the country’s economy.
He said the partnership would focus on integrating women into the economic fabric of Nigeria through connecting them to global trade, stressing that women are the backbone of all economies.
He stated that commonwealth states have the unique opportunity to trade lower costs within the extensive commonwealth network, saying that by leveraging the commonwealth advantage and the critical link between trade and gender, commonwealth can position itself at the forefront of promoting sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development.
He observed that Nigerian women supply approximately 70 per cent of agricultural labour, 50 per cent of animal husbandry related activities and 60 per cent of food processing, but yet have access to only 20 per cent of available agricultural resources.