By Chaz Kyser
West African women seeking to do business beyond their borders gained special insight during a May 28th webinar hosted by the Trade Hub titled “Exporting to the U.S. Duty-Free & Partnering with the Trade Hub: Keys to Success for Women-Led Businesses.”
More than 200 women joined the 2-hour session, including members of the Borderless Trade Network (BTN); African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program, West Africa Chapter; and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, who helped promote the event.
The idea for the webinar stemmed from the president of the BTN, Olori Boye-Ajayi, learning about the Trade Hub’s mission and focus on helping West African business owners take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). First enacted in May 2000, AGOA allows many goods and products produced from Sub-Saharan Africa to be exported duty-free to the United States. The Trade Hub’s AGOA team provides technical assistance to help businesses navigate AGOA procedures and regulations.
As BTN was founded in part to help women in Africa realize and take advantage of opportunities to export to the U.S. and other international markets, Boye-Ajayi was keen for the Trade Hub to host a webinar.
“A small business owner is more likely to report 6 to 7 times more losses than a medium or large company, as most of their sales are derived from the domestic market,” Boye-Ajayi said. “This is why AGOA was a no-brainer as a business lifeline for us to introduce our women too.”
In addition to learning key facts about AGOA and U.S. FDA requirements for foods during presentations by Kara Diallo, the Trade Hub’s AGOA Specialist, the women also learned about co-investment opportunities through Frantz Tavares, a Public-Private Partnerships Consultant. Many of the participants were unaware of possibilities to become co-investment partners with the Trade Hub or to secure funding for projects through the recently launched Virtual DealRoom.
A special feature of the webinar was a presentation led by Chioma Adiele-Okpara, the Trade Hub’s Gender & Social Inclusion Manager. She discussed why the Trade Hub promotes equal access to opportunities and outlined the Trade Hub’s strategies to ensure projects supported both include and empower women.
This webinar marked the 20th one led by the Trade Hub’s AGOA team but was a first for its focus on women-led businesses. Given the excitement surrounding the event, evident from the strong notes of appreciation posted in the webinar’s chatbox, more such webinars are sure to follow.
“There was much enthusiasm for this webinar and I am already receiving requests to host similar ones,” said Diallo. “One participant noted that we helped remind her that there is ‘so much money on the table, so many opportunities for me now.’ We hope all our webinars leave participants more knowledgeable about exporting to the United States and excited to start that journey.