The Comesa Federation of Women in Business (COMFWB) was established in July 1993 in Zimbabwe with the endorsement of the Authority which is made up of Heads of States and Governments of the COMESA member states.
COMFWB rests on a solid foundation of legal and institutional legitimacy with its’ mandate embedded in the Treaty; establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA, under Article 155 – Women in Business and Article 154- Women in Development.
The institution’s objectives are set out at Article 4 of the COMFWB Charter thus:
To promote programmes that integrate women into trade and development activities in Eastern and Southern Africa: in particular, in the fields of industry, trade and services, agriculture, fishing, energy, transport and communications, natural resources and mining, with the main objective of improving the economic conditions of women in the sub-region as well as increasing the awareness of women in development and business issues at the policy level.
COMFWB draws its mandate from (i) the Treaty establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA, under Article 155 – Role of Women in Business; (ii) Article 154- Role of Women in Development (iii) COMFWB Charter, which mandates COMFWB to “act as a forum for the exchange of ideas and experience among women entrepreneurs; an instrument through which the appropriate portion of COMESA Women in Development Programmes shall be implemented; a forum for network among women entrepreneurs and an instrument for encouraging women to set up or expand existing enterprises.”
Execution of these mandates is undertaken through its constituent National Chapters.
COMESA Treaty: ARTICLE 155
Role of Women in Business
1. Having recognized the importance of women as a vital economic link within the chain of agriculture, industry and trade, the Member States agree to:
- increase the awareness of Women in Business issues at the policy level;
- create an enabling environment for the effective participation of women in Common Market trade and development activities;
- promote special programs for women in small and medium-size enterprises;
- eliminate such laws and regulations that hinder women's access to credit;
- initiate changes in educational and training strategies to enable women to improve their technical and industrial employment levels through the acquisition of transferable skills offered by various forms of vocational and on-the-job training schemes; and
- recognize and support the Federation of National Associations of Women in Business established to promote the effective participation of women in the Common Market trade and development activities.
2. The Federation of National Associations of Women in Business shall be represented at the Consultative Committee and be represented at the meetings of the Technical Committees of the Common Market.
3. Implementation activities pursuant to the provisions of this Chapter shall be submitted to the appropriate Technical Committees depending on the technical items under consideration.
COMESA Treaty: ARTICLE 154
The member states agree that women make significant contribution towards the process of socio-economic transformation and sustainable growth and that it is impossible to implement effective programs for rural transformation and improvements in the informal sector without the full participation of women, To this end, the Member States shall through the appropriate legislative and other measures:
- Promote the effective integration and participation of women at all levels of development especially at the decision-making levels;
- Eliminate regulations and customs that are regulations and customs which prevent women from owning land and other assets
- Promote effective education awareness programs aimed at changing negative attitudes towards women;
- Create or adopt technologies which will ensure the stability of employment and professional progress for women workers; and
- Encourage and strengthen institutions which are engaged in the promotion and development of labor-saving devices aimed at improving the productive capacity of women.
COMFWB Charter: PURPOSE
The Federation undertakes to:
- To serve as representative body and a link between members and COMESA Secretariat, the COMESA Policy Organs, other sub-regional, regional and international organizations, whose aim is to promote trade and development;
- To represent its members at meetings of the COMESA technical committees;
- To represent the interests of members at all relevant platforms with the primary objective of promoting their business interests;
- To promote the establishment, in the Member States, of enterprises owned by women either wholly, or in joint venture, with partners from within the sub-region or outside the sub-region, including the expansion of existing enterprises owned by women;
- To promote sub-regional and regional networking among women and enterprises owned by women to facilitate accessibility to resources and generate increased support in the Member States for enterprises owned by women;
- To act as a sub-regional facilitating body to identify and sensitize governments of the COMESA on the needs of members and also on strategies for achieving women’s full integration into national and sub-regional trade and development activities;
- To promote programme activities at national level similar to the COMESA WIB Programme activities; and
- To encourage women from various business backgrounds to participate in programme activities of the federation through their national associations.
According to the COMFWB Charter, associated membership is open to sub-regional, regional and international organizations of women with similar goals or development institutions concerned with integration of women into development activities.
As one of the COMESA Institutions, COMFWB has its members, associations of women in business from 20 member countries of the COMESA region.
However, 1 additional country, Somalia, remains to join as COMFWB Chapter. The following constituent national associations:
- Burundi - Burundi Women Entrepreneurs Association (AFAB)
- Comoros - Women Entrepreneurs of Comoros
- Djibouti - COMFWB Djibouti
- DR Congo - CNFE
- Egypt - Egyptian Business Women Association (EBWA)
- Eritrea - COMFWB Eritrea
- Eswatini - COMFWB Eswatini
- Ethiopia - COMFWB Ethiopia
- Kenya - Federation for Women Entrepreneur Associations (FEWA)
- Libya - COMFWB Libya
- Madagascar - COMFWB Madagascar
- Malawi - COMFWB Malawi
- Mauritius - National Women Entrepreneurs Council (NWEC)
- Rwanda - COMFWB Rwanda
- Seychelles - COMFWB Seychelles
- Sudan - COMFWB Sudan
- Tunisia - Chambre Nationale des Femmes Chefs 'Entreprises (CNFCE)
- Uganda - Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL)
- Zambia - Zambia Federation of Associations of Women in Business (ZFAWIB)
- Zimbabwe - COMFWB Zimbabwe
COMFWB offers its members and partners a wide range of benefits which include:
- Represent issues of women in business at policy level with the Government machinery
- Chapters are supported to network with other chapters and international Associations
- Linkage to COMESA institutions for technical services and projects
- Access to wider, harmonised and more competitive market
- Link with financial institution for access to finance
- Access to cross border trade facilitation
- Have access to Technical expertise
- Have access to Market information
- Have access to first-hand available project finances
- Have support to the development of Strategic Plans for Chapters
- Business Management capacity building workshops
- Supported to undertake advocacy on issues critical to performance of Business
- Consultation and mentorship support to running a chapter
- Support and advise to mobilize resources locally