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    World's Poorest Countries Integrating Trade and Development Policy


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3-4/2008, Interview with Dorothy Tembo, Executive Director, EIF Secretariat 

    Dorothy Tembo

    The Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries (EIF) brings together six international agencies to help least developed countries integrate trade capacity building in national development strategies.

    Today, 33 countries have carried out studies to confirm the main trade constraints. These studies are a foundation for policy priorities, and less than five touch on gender-based trade constraints. Dorothy Tembo, Executive Director of the EIF Secretariat, reflects on women's changing involvement in trade.

    F: Since you've been involved in trade policy, what are the biggest changes you've witnessed in women's involvement in trade?  

    DT: I see the formation of women trade and business organizations, taking a lead on advocacy of issues of interest to women in trade and engaging policymakers. These organizations have also become part and parcel of the national, regional and multilateral consultative mechanisms.

    F: How does your homeland, Zambia, fare in your assessment? 

    DT: Zambia, like many African countries, has felt the effects of not fully valuing the role of Zambian women in trade and the opportunity they offer in contributing towards poverty reduction. Much of Zambia's population remains female-dominated, and women run a large proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). For a long time, the Government failed to recognize their importance and provide the right policy framework and incentives to give them a greater role in economic activities and developmental programmes.

    This situation has changed in the last few years, with several programmes and activities being implemented or under implementation. A major step was the introduction of the Gender Unit, housed at Cabinet Office, which was subsequently followed by creating a Gender Ministry with a full Cabinet Minister. Following the institutionalization, a gender policy was drawn up and mainstreamed into the Fifth National Development Plan.

    In the last two years the Government has been working on a Citizens' Economic Empowerment Scheme, which includes specific resource allocations for women and vulnerable groups.

    While a tremendous effort has been made on the policy side, a lot remains to be addressed in ensuring that the policies are translated into action. In addition, the budget allocations for trade-related activities have to match.

    © ITC  Guide in Hand

    F: What do you see as the greatest barriers to more women entering trade and export businesses? 

    DT: Lack of financing due to collateral demands and lack of information on the demand and requirements of export markets. This is compounded by supply-side constraints in relation to increasing productivity and consistency in quality.

    F: What strengths do you think women can bring to the trade environment? 

    DT: They form the majority in a number of countries and have exhibited business acumen. The potential for expansion of trade, especially in areas that involve women, is very much there. Women can contribute through trade to poverty reduction efforts. Furthermore, in a number of the developing countries, particularly the southern African region, which I am more familiar with, most households are headed by women and as such there is a likely spill-over of benefits that would accrue from trade.

    © ITC  EIF Group Photo with Pascal Lamy

    F: What international policy changes would you like to see to support more women-owned SMEs? 

    DT: I would like to see a situation that takes into account the special circumstances of small firms and provides supportive administrative and incentive structures that lead to expansion of women-led enterprises.

    It may not always be feasible to put in place women-specific procedures or regulations. Even where this is not the case, the general approach should be that it makes it easier for small businesses to thrive.

    F: What are the women trade success stories in your country? 

    DT: Women of Zambia have recognized the power of, and need for, collective bargaining. This is a major success, as it has resulted in the formation of a number of women's associations that enhance the advocacy efforts and engagement with the policymakers. As a result there are more women participating in trade activities, as members of the National Working Group on Trade, Sectoral Advisory Groups on commerce, trade and industry, and agriculture, and the Zambia Development Agency Board of Directors. Women have now been given an opportunity to participate in policy decisions and advance their interests.

    However, a lot still needs to be done to build capacity to understand the various trade negotiating issues and their impact in order to facilitate an appropriate response and articulation of their interests.

    F: What international and national organizations are making the furthest inroads in helping women in trade? 

    DT: There are a number of institutions that are working towards furthering women's inroads in trade. I have been closely associated with ITC, the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the UN Industrial Development Organization.

    F: What is the future, as you see it, for women in trade? 

    DT: If given all the necessary support, women have a great chance of succeeding in trade. They have in the past shown resilience in the most challenging situations and succeeded in penetrating some of the most difficult markets. After all, they are in the majority in most of the countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

    © ITC  EIF (from the left) Tembo,
    Pholsena, Francis, Lamy

    F: What are the expected high points for delivery in 2009? 

    DT: Working with all the key partners of the Enhanced Integrated Framework to commence implementation of the tier one and some tier two activities. Tier one is aimed at enhancing capacity of the National Implementation Units and undertaking some mainstreaming activities, including the preparation of tier two projects. Tier two projects address themselves to the production and supply-side of capacity-building interventions.

    F: What are the long-term objectives of the Enhanced Integrated Framework? 

    DT: The overall goal is to support integration of least developed countries into the global trading system in order to contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development. This is to be achieved through providing support towards mainstreaming of trade into development strategies.


    Dorothy Tembo joined the secretariat of the Enhanced Integrated Framework as Executive Director in 2008. She brings firsthand experience and understanding of its implementation, having served as Zambia's Chief Trade Negotiator and Director of Foreign Trade for the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and Zambia's Focal Point for the Enhanced Integrated Framework.

    Ms Tembo has analysed international trade and development issues related to her native region of south-eastern Africa and the Multilateral Trading System as a whole. Her consultancy experience for other inter-governmental and private sector institutions includes trade negotiations, economic integration, economic environmental reviews, trade and industrial policy and investment, as well as administering trade-related technical assistance programmes.