Two years ago, I sat across a café table from WEConnect International President Elizabeth Vazquez, both of us envisioning an opportunity to increase the number of women-owned businesses in Africa and Asia. Our shared mental model featured enhancing the diversity and optimization of corporate value chains by making it easier for buyers to find self-registered and certified women’s business enterprises in key emerging markets.
“Women are at least partial owners of 31-38 percent of all private businesses in the formal economy and get less than one percent of the money spent on suppliers by large corporations and governments.”
Globally, women are at least partial owners of 31-38 percent of all private businesses in the formal economy and get less than one percent of the money spent on suppliers by large corporations and governments. If women are to play a more powerful role in building strong communities and sustainable economies, women entrepreneurs need:
- clear incentives to move from the informal sector to the formal sector;
- access to the right networks;
- technical support to developing their capacity for growth, and generating wealth and jobs as business owners; and
- visibility in the market to tell their stories so that more women will consider business ownership as a viable road to success.
With The Rockefeller Foundation’s support, WEConnect set out to expand its efforts in Chile, India, Mexico, and Peru to Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and South Africa. In Nigeria, WEConnect Academies in Abuja and Lagos were launched along with ‘meet the buyer’ events with ExxonMobil in four cities that put over 300 new businesses in direct contact with WEConnect International.
These efforts were further bolstered by a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment to advance women-owned businesses in new markets. The Rockefeller Foundation joined WEConnect International, Vital Voices, and a host of other public and private sector partners to collaborate across the small and medium enterprise development lifecycle to address critical areas of need, with each partner focusing on the specific interventions likely to yield the best long-term results.
And now, just two years later, the collaboration has eclipsed its goals.
Partners committed to track and measure at least US$1.5 billion in combined new money spent by commitment-makers on women-owned businesses based outside the U.S. between 2013 and 2018. The actual total expenditure at the end of 2014 exceeded US$3 billion.
Partners also committed to implementing supplier readiness initiatives, including targeting, mentoring, and certifying at least 15,000 women-owned businesses based outside the U.S. between 2013 and 2018. By the end of 2014, the total number of women had surpassed 40,000.
This is an auspicious beginning for the CGI commitment’s global collaboration, and these achievements in building a reporting infrastructure will enable partners to continue to track and measure the spend with women-owned businesses and other underutilized groups of suppliers.
This global collaboration and its singular focus to support women’s business enterprises is fundamental to a winning formula for inclusive economies.