The World Economic Development Forum (WEDF) kicked off in Rwanda on the 15th, September 2014; this being the first time the high‐profile event is held in Africa.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Geneva based International Trade Centre (ITC), the convener of the forum, which aims to boost competitiveness by empowering SMEs.
According to top officials of the ITC, the choice of Rwanda for hosting the forum this year was very intentional; “Rwanda is a leader in business forum, cutting red tape, creating an investment friendly climate, economically empowering women and developing its small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), much of what ITC stands for.”
The two day event which ends today will see top business leaders, policy makers, heads of trade support institutions and international organizations from around the globe meeting to agree on ways to boost inclusive sustainable development via trade, increase employment and economic growth, and multiply the number of SMEs worldwide.
At the start of the event themed “SMEs: Creating Jobs through Trade,” ITC’s Executive Director, Arancha Gonzalez, delivered some striking opening remarks to welcome the participants at the Roundtable of the Global Platform on Sourcing from Women Vendors.
Explaining why the Roundtable was part of the forum in Rwanda, he said the following; “This is not a symbolic gesture. It is a reflection of the growing importance of Africa in the global economy. And in Rwanda no less, a country that has the highest representation of women in parliament in the world, and is one of the most dynamic economies in Africa.”
He further emphasized the need for a focus on “women‐owned SMEs” giving three facts to substantiate his position. First off, he revealed that young women make up a significant portion of the total global unemployment figure.
Secondly, he noted that women‐owned enterprises in the U.S employ more people than the largest 500 companies combined and that SMEs as a whole provide up to 80 percent of the employment opportunities available today in Sub‐Saharan Africa. His concluding point was a corroboration of research findings suggesting that women invest up to 90 percent of their earnings in their families and communities compared to just about 40 percent by men.
Seeing the massive contributions that can potentially come from today’s women, he called for broad based partnerships between the private sector, governments, industry associations, international organizations and civil society to provide the necessary resources for women for the further empowerment of women.
As the WEDF sees more events and discussions today, new insights and policies to further boost the number and contribution of SMEs are expected.