The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is conducting national launches of a digital platform specifically designed to address the information needs of women in Africa.

The first launch kicked off in Zimbabwe on 20 August 2020 and today is launching in the Seychelles. COMESA will be rolling out the 50 Million African Women Speak platform (50MAWSP) in 14 Member States between August and November 2020 largely through virtual means owing to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The platform seeks to economically empower women by providing a one-stop shop for a wide range of financial and non-financial services that women need to start and grow successful businesses such as where to access financial services, how to create business opportunities online and where to access training resources.

It is jointly implemented by COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and is funded by the African Development Bank.

According to the COMESA Director for Gender and Social Affairs, Beatrice Hamusonde, the platform, which is also available as an app, is timely and the perfect response for the region’s women to turn to as they deal with the social and economic challenges which have resulted from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The 50MAWSP digital platform is giving women-owned businesses a lifeline as we embrace a new normal where businesses, whether big or small, are moving online,” she added, emphasizing that the platform will give women an opportunity to showcase their products and connect with a market of millions across Africa, in addition to leveraging opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and mentorship as part of a dynamic online community of entrepreneurs.

The COMESA Secretary General H.E Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe described the initiative as “a very practical way of speaking to the general agenda of empowering women,” with its business resources and custom-built social networking features already attracting thousands of women and connecting them to do business with each other and share experiences in ways that were previously not possible.

Following the two national launches scheduled this August, 12 more launches will be held in Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan and Tunisia.

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