UNIDO ITPO Tokyo held the online webinar “Learning from Entrepreneurs in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Gender Inclusive Business Development” on July 26, 2022. Since 2021, UNIDO ITPO Tokyo has organized a series of webinars focusing on gender equality to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal 5 “Gender Equality” and Goal 9 “Industry, innovation, and infrastructure.” This event was the third in the series, following two events held in 2021. To discuss business from a gender equality perspective, three entrepreneurs working in Africa and contributing to women’s empowerment in their respective companies were invited as speakers. A total of 125 people participated in this event from around the world.
During this event, we heard from Ms. Chizu NAKAMOTO, COO of Ricci Everyday , Co., Ltd., a company that sells bags and other products made from local materials in Uganda; Ms. Regina HONU, CEO of Soronko Academy , which provides ICT education to women and youth in Ghana; and Mr. Koichi SATO, CEO of SUCRECUBE JAPON INC., which conducts projects to provide electricity and internet in non-electrified villages in Senegal.
Following the speakers’ brief presentations of their company’s initiatives to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in their entrepreneurship activities, Mr. Ferda GELEGEN, the Deputy Head of UNIDO ITPO Tokyo, moderated a panel discussion in which the three guests exchanged opinions and knowledge on the following questions.
- How can Japanese companies contribute to gender-responsive business development in Africa?
- Why should businesses include gender-based strategies in their plans, and how?
- What values and advantages do they see in collaborating with women?
During the panel discussion, Ms. Nakamoto pointed out that poverty-stricken women in Africa face a precarious life in the informal sector, and “they need support to move into the formal sector where they can have greater stability.” Further, she stressed that her company had been continuously assisting women, especially single mothers, employing about 20 living in urban areas of Uganda to improve their living conditions.
Alternatively, Ms. Regina emphasized that companies can innovate by combining women’s and men’s perspectives in business. In this vein, she highlighted the importance of companies creating a work environment where women can remain active. Examples include improving maternity and paternity leave policies, providing equal pay practices, and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace so that women can continue to play an active role in development initiatives. On the other hand, Mr. Sato pointed out that the key to success in business in Africa, lies in strong collaboration between people from different backgrounds, cultures, and gender perspectives, as well as people with start-up mindsets and ability to adjust to new challenges.
Lastly, as suggestions to UNIDO, the entrepreneurs noted that “it is precisely in male-dominated environments like the industry sector that we need more conscious efforts to include women’s perspectives,” adding that “local circumstances and perspectives should be considered during technology transfer,” by interviewing women on the ground to have a deeper understanding of their needs and concerns and accordingly design, plan programs, and projects to fulfill those requirements.
You can watch the recording of the event below;
Date/time: 17:00 – 18:30 (JST) on 26 July 2022
Language: English/Japanese (Simultaneous interpretation)
17:00 Opening & Introduction
Ms. Asmao Diallo, MC, and Intern UNIDO ITPO Tokyo
(Ph.D. Candidate, Doshisha University, Graduate School of Global Studies)
17:05 – 17:35 Presentations from Entrepreneurs in Africa
17:35 – 18:25 Panel discussion and Q&A
Mr. Ferda GELEGEN, Deputy Head, UNIDO ITPO Tokyo
Ms. Chizu Nakamoto
Ms. Regina Honu
Mr. Koichi Sato
Ms. Asmao Diallo