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May 2, 2022

A Spotlight on The First Annual COMFWB Southern Sub-Regional Summit

The COMESA Federation of Women in Business (COMFWB) Eswatini Chapter, being the Chairperson of the COMFWB Southern Block, hosted the inaugural annual COMFWB Southern Subregional Summit in the region of Manzini, Eswatini. The event, which was held from the 28th to 30th April 2022, at eSibayeni Lodge, Mastapha, brought together COMFWB Chapter representatives/chairpersons from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Eswatini; as well as government officials, private sectors stakeholders, and development partners from Eswatini and the regional block.  The summit was originally planned to take place in 2020 following the virtual Annual General Assembly in August 2020 where it was agreed that COMFWB should be grouped into 5 sub-regional groupings namely the Southern, Eastern, The Horn of Africa, Northern, and the Indio-ocean countries.

The event was officially opened by the Honourable Minister of Commerce, Industry & Trade, Senator Manqoba B Khumalo, who represented His Excellency the Honorable Prime Minister of Eswatini, Cleopas Dlamini. In his keynote address, the Minister took time to appreciate and celebrate the milestones of the Eswatini Chapter, which have been achieved through the continuous support of the Majesty’s Government; the COMFWB Secretariat, and development partners. Some of the notable achievements are:

  1. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade allocated an office to the COMFWB Eswatini chapter which is located at the Manzini Trade Hub that was constructed through financing assistance from the COMESA Secretariat. The office is managed by a liaison officer who was hired by the COMFWB Secretariat. the allocation of an office at the Manzini Trade Hub;
  2. Mobilizing of businesswomen at the Tinkhundla level by empowering them to venture into businesses and grouping them according to their business sectors such as (agri-business, handicraft, construction, and cross-border amongst many others). This is done in partnership with the Republic of China on Taiwan under the Capacity Building programme for grassroots level women.
  3. COMFWB Eswatini partnered with Montigny, one of the largest timber companies in Southern Africa, by being included in the company’s procurement system.

Regional partnerships have the potential of being a game-changer for our women entrepreneurs in the region and beyond

“Regional partnerships have the potential of being a game-changer for our women entrepreneurs in the region and beyond,” he said, highlighting the confidence the Kingdom of Eswatini has that strategic investment is key to economic growth and it is for that reason they are working tirelessly on providing an enabling business environment to create jobs and contribute to the growth and development of the economy. He concluded his address by challenging all the COMFWB Chapters to implement the  50 Million African Women Speak Project and the SOKOKUU E-Commerce trade platform.

The CEO of the COMFWB Secretariat, Ruth Negash, shed more light on the SOKOKUU E-Commerce trade platform, especially on how COMFWB is collaborating with the African e-Trade Group (e-trade) in the implementation of the SOKOKUU Africa, an online platform in the COMESA region. The SOKOKUU (Swahili word meaning big market) platform will enable traders to conduct cross-border trade using ICT as a tool to minimize physical barriers. The African e-Trade Group through the SOKOKUU will ensure that women, youth, and SMEs are empowered and enabled to connect and trade with each other. In the first year, Ae-Trade Group plans to recruit over 30,000 employees of which more than 50% will be women and youth to manage the platform. SOKOKUU will help in reducing some of these market promotion and logistical challenges faced by women by enabling women to trade from the comfort of their homes and offices. The beauty of the platform is that it is an African-wide digital market space where African traders will use their national currencies to trade.

The CEO also touched on the Business Incubation for African Women Entrepreneurs (BIAWE), a program being run with the support of the AUDA-NEPAD and the Kingdom of Spain. The program is being run in four countries namely Eswatini, Burundi, Kenya, and Sudan in three sectors; namely textiles and handcrafts, agro-processing, and ICT. According to Ms. Negash, the BIAWE program is aimed at addressing some of the challenges and barriers mentioned earlier that businesswomen are facing in Africa.

The COMESA Federation of Women in Business (COMFWB) Eswatini Chapter, being the Chairperson of the COMFWB Southern Block, hosted the inaugural annual COMFWB Southern Subregional Summit in the region of Manzini, Eswatini. The event, which was held from the 28th to 30th April 2022, at eSibayeni Lodge, Mastapha, brought together COMFWB Chapter representatives/chairpersons from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Eswatini; as well as government officials, private sectors stakeholders, and development partners from Eswatini and the regional block.  The summit was originally planned to take place in 2020 following the virtual Annual General Assembly in August 2020 where it was agreed that COMFWB should be grouped into 5 sub-regional groupings namely the Southern, Eastern, The Horn of Africa, Northern, and the Indio-ocean countries.

The event was officially opened by the Honourable Minister of Commerce, Industry & Trade, Senator Manqoba B Khumalo, who represented His Excellency the Honorable Prime Minister of Eswatini, Cleopas Dlamini. In his keynote address, the Minister took time to appreciate and celebrate the milestones of the Eswatini Chapter, which have been achieved through the continuous support of the Majesty’s Government; the COMFWB Secretariat, and development partners. Some of the notable achievements are:

  1. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade allocated an office to the COMFWB Eswatini chapter which is located at the Manzini Trade Hub that was constructed through financing assistance from the COMESA Secretariat. The office is managed by a liaison officer who was hired by the COMFWB Secretariat. the allocation of an office at the Manzini Trade Hub;
  2. Mobilizing of businesswomen at the Tinkhundla level by empowering them to venture into businesses and grouping them according to their business sectors such as (agri-business, handicraft, construction, and cross-border amongst many others). This is done in partnership with the Republic of China on Taiwan under the Capacity Building programme for grassroots level women.
  3. COMFWB Eswatini partnered with Montigny, one of the largest timber companies in Southern Africa, by being included in the company’s procurement system.

Regional partnerships have the potential of being a game-changer for our women entrepreneurs in the region and beyond

“Regional partnerships have the potential of being a game-changer for our women entrepreneurs in the region and beyond,” he said, highlighting the confidence the Kingdom of Eswatini has that strategic investment is key to economic growth and it is for that reason they are working tirelessly on providing an enabling business environment to create jobs and contribute to the growth and development of the economy. He concluded his address by challenging all the COMFWB Chapters to implement the  50 Million African Women Speak Project and the SOKOKUU E-Commerce trade platform.

The CEO of the COMFWB Secretariat, Ruth Negash, shed more light on the SOKOKUU E-Commerce trade platform, especially on how COMFWB is collaborating with the African e-Trade Group (e-trade) in the implementation of the SOKOKUU Africa, an online platform in the COMESA region. The SOKOKUU (Swahili word meaning big market) platform will enable traders to conduct cross-border trade using ICT as a tool to minimize physical barriers. The African e-Trade Group through the SOKOKUU will ensure that women, youth, and SMEs are empowered and enabled to connect and trade with each other. In the first year, Ae-Trade Group plans to recruit over 30,000 employees of which more than 50% will be women and youth to manage the platform. SOKOKUU will help in reducing some of these market promotion and logistical challenges faced by women by enabling women to trade from the comfort of their homes and offices. The beauty of the platform is that it is an African-wide digital market space where African traders will use their national currencies to trade.

The CEO also touched on the Business Incubation for African Women Entrepreneurs (BIAWE), a program being run with the support of the AUDA-NEPAD and the Kingdom of Spain. The program is being run in four countries namely Eswatini, Burundi, Kenya, and Sudan in three sectors; namely textiles and handcrafts, agro-processing, and ICT. According to Ms. Negash, the BIAWE program is aimed at addressing some of the challenges and barriers mentioned earlier that businesswomen are facing in Africa.

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