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    Changing Mindsets with ACCESS! to Markets

     

     
     
    International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2007, © International Trade Centre

    © J. N. Musoke Export training is helping businesswomen in Uganda reach new markets.

    Targeted programmes help women exporters get the assistance they need.

    I would like to speak on behalf of the women entrepreneurs that I have been representing for the past three or four years. The reality is that we are very small, we work in isolation and we produce numerous products.

    How do we change our smallholder mentality to embrace regional and international trade? Our products are now facing competition at the local level because the market has been liberalized. We are seeing a lot of products similar to our own because we operate mainly in the handicrafts sector. How do we put our products on the regional and international markets? How do we change our products to suit international and regional markets? How do we stop working on our own?

    I can give you an example of what the ITC-TFOC ACCESS! programme has been able to do. The association member I am thinking of is a fruit and vegetable exporter. She told us her main problem was that she gets orders, "but I lose them because I don't have the ability to supply at the volume wanted". After the ACCESS! training, she realized she couldn't possibly do it on her own. "I need help," she said. She then took the initiative to find partners from non-traditional export countries: Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Dubai (originally she was just selling to the European Union and the United States). The entrepreneurs nurtured the network themselves. The help does not necessarily have to come from the association.

    One key aspect of the ACCESS! programme is that it creates awareness about export trade. But we want to go beyond awareness and focus on market access challenges: quality, finishing, standardizing, finding niche markets, specializing. We are looking for programmes that focus on development, on innovation and on branding, to build the capacity of enterprises to export in big quantities and with good quality.

    Transforming an SME [small and medium-sized enterprise] into an export-led company is possible. It is possible through mentoring and through providing financial resources for them. But it takes time and resources and confidence to turn a woman entrepreneur's small business into an export-led business. Often they are not willing - or they don't have the resources available. And we need more than one year to complete these programmes. To see tangible results you need more than four years if you are going to take a woman through training, motivation and confidence building to be able eventually to participate effectively in the international market.

    Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association

    ACCESS!

    ACCESS! (for African Businesswomen in International Trade) is part of a five-year programme jointly executed by ITC and the Trade Facilitation Office Canada (TFOC) to build African capacity to trade.


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