Author: Campo, Jacquelyn
Date published: October 1, 2011
There are two main roadblocks to increasing women's share of international procurement, though neither is easy to address. First, women entrepreneurs who want to sell their products or services to multinational corporations (MNCs) often do not know what, precisely, MNCs require. Second, although many MNCs are eager to procure from women vendors, they do not have the means to find them - particularly in countries where the government lacks statistics on women-owned businesses. Even when the buyers and sellers do connect, the sellers may need technical assistance to meet the requirements of international corporations.
The first Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum (WVEF) was held in Chongqing, China in September 2010, initiating a 10-year strategy to address these barriers, The forum was hosted by ITC, the Chongqing Municipal Government, the Chongqing Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Commission, and WEConnŽct International, and was organized in partnership with the China Association of Women Entrepreneurs, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, the International Women's Coffee Alliance, SPINNA and Quantum Leaps, UK AID and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported the forum.
The event was part of the strategy of the Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors, which was formed in September 2010. The goal of the platform is to increase the share of goods and services procured from women by corporate, government and institutional buyers. The common message from corporate members, which include Walmart, Accenture, Marriot International, Boeing and IBM, is that they need assistance in identifying the vendors in least developed and developing countries. They also said that many women-owned businesses would need various types of training to raise their products1 or services to international standards.
Attended by more than 250 women entrepreneurs, including over 100 from China, the WVEF also assembled representatives from 55 large corporations as well as trade support institutions, which are critical to skills training for women-owned enterprises.
Virginia Wong, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet China, gave the keynote address, and panel discussions included 'Why Buy from Women Vendors: The Business and Development Cases', during which H.E. Marlene Malahoo Forte, Minister of State for the government of Jamaica, spoke about her government's commitment to sourcing from women.
'We have to invest in women to alleviate poverty and to grow our economies, and one means is through trade,' Malahoo Forte said. 'Governments need to set the example by em suring a certain percentage of procurement comes from women.'
Two half days were devoted to buyer mentor groups in seven areas: agribusiness, construction, automotive, information technology, textiles and apparel, coffee and trade facilitation. In these sessions, vendors had the opportunity to develop one-to-one relationships with buyers and hear about the process from their point of view. During the forum, companies committed to nearly US$ 15 million in transactions.
"The next step is for ITC to work with its partners to enable these and other women business owners to meet buyers' requirements,' said Patricia Francis, Executive Director of ITC. 'That capacity building could include training in areas such as meeting quality standards, meeting packaging and labelling requirements, or how to participate in a tender process.'
WVEF will take place again in 2012, continuing the long-term strategy for increasing the number of women, and women-owned businesses, in international trade. As Francis said, "Through the Platform, we can help liberate the powerful economic force that women represent, so they can take their equal place alongside men in the global economy.'
Jacquelyn Campo, Trade Forum Editorial