KEPSA Foundation in collaboration with the Executive Office of the President of Kenya and Business Women of Egypt 21 (BWE21) held the first North meets East, Women in Business conference on the 6th and 7th September 2019, at the Trademark Hotel Nairobi. The conference brought together businesswomen from both North and East of Africa with the intent to build new partnerships, collaborations and further, explore business opportunities across both regions.
KEPSA Deputy CEO, Ms. Rachel Muthoga, welcomed the delegates and noted that the conference presents an opportunity for the women in business to network and strengthen the trade relationship between Kenya and Egypt. Such a relationship, she added, would, in turn, create long-term ties between East Africa and Northern Africa, which would consequently improve trade and business ties between the two regions.
KEPSA CEO, Ms. Carole Kariuki, whilst speaking at the conference noted that women empowerment is crucial in accelerating social-economic transformation in any nation as well as contributing to the achievement of the majority of the goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She noted that KEPSA has over the years worked with the Government of Kenya to bring about major policy shifts, which have in turn substantially helped to implement significant measures to address the challenges faced by women doing business in Kenya. Additionally, and related to the objective of the Women in Business Conference, Ms. Kariuki stated that KEPSA had recently through its Gender and Youth Sector Board, held a Supplier Diversity Summit in May of 2019 to promote the inclusivity of women in Public and Private Sector supply chains.
Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, Hon. Prof. Margaret Kobia noted that the conference is timely and creates a platform to share experiences in the trade. She emphasized that women’s voices must be heard especially when it comes to trade adding that even as women curate business ideas, they should think big and think bold.
Ms. Anne Mutahi, Senior Advisor to the Kenyan President on SME Development at the Executive Office of the President, said that growth of economies in Sub-Saharan Africa is improving by 6-7% and the trickle-down effect is evident across Africa and also in Kenya. By 2020, she stated, there will be 150 million middle-class citizens and in 2025 the number will have grown to 225 million in Africa. This will be fuelled by the growth in private sector investment, and this presents a big market for business. She said that the mandate for this conference, therefore, is to have a proper channel of doing business through developing linkages and encouraging connections. Moreover, she added that there is a need to profile businesses, especially in small and medium enterprises for networking purposes. M/s. Mutahi also emphasized that Egypt has a strong business standing higher than Kenya coupled with the strong cost-effective models which Kenya should leverage on. She concluded by saying that as a major outcome of the said conference she hopes for stronger partnerships amongst Kenya with Egypt and the rest of the Maghreb countries
President, Business Women of Egypt (BWE 21), Dr. Yomna El Sheridy, stated that Africa has been trading a lot with the rest of the world and not with itself and thus the solution for this is Intra Africa trade. However, she said to improve bilateral discussions, the Private Sector would need to come together to push for trade ties. She appreciated the need for the two countries to collaborate and do business together to enable the economic empowerment of women. She also lauded the conference organizers for creating are an opportunity for women to learn from each other and looked forward to future partnerships within Africa and invited delegates to Egypt in February 2020 for a trade conference.
Vice Chair KEPSA and Managing Director Isuzu East Africa, M/s. Rita Kavashe, speaking on Women’s Leadership and Participation in the Private Sector, highlighted that in the corporate world, there is a significant improvement of women in leadership though there is still a long way to go. M/s. Kavashe emphasized on the need to have more forums concerning women I business not only to create business linkages but also to share insights and ideas on how women can progress together to promote women’s leadership.
Egyptian Ambassador to Kenya, H.E Amb. Khaled El Abyad noted that women are key to economic sustainability and empowerment in any country. He also added that Egypt is key on Intra- Africa trade and especially with Kenya.
KEPSA trustee, M/s. Gloria Ndekei noted that KEPSA has previously worked with other associations to advocate for a better business environment and it is up to women, especially from the said forum, to advocate for their rights. She concluded by encouraging the delegates to continue working together to create a sustainable relationship between Kenya and Egypt.