Federation of National Associations of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa (FEMCOM) is a COMESA institution, established in July 1993 with the endorsement of the Authority made up of Heads of States and Governments of the COMESA member states, under Article 155 of the COMESA Treaty.
FEMCOM has National Chapters in all the 19 COMESA member states namely Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A Woman in Business Unit was created in 1991 by COMESA to be a catalyst in spearheading the integration of women in regional trade and development. In July 1993, COMESA created FEMCOM which is French for National Associations of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa. It was recognized by the Authority composed of Heads of State and Leaders of Government with a focus on the COMESA acronym treaty on Women in Development and Business. From 1991 until March 2009 the FEMCOM interim secretariat was nested in the Gender and Social Affairs Division located in the COMESA Secretariat.
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COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit in 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya recommended the need for FEMCOM institution to be a stand-alone entity. Consequently, FEMCOM established its own secretariat in Lilongwe, Malawi in April, 2009 with the generous support by the Malawian Government.
FEMCOM was founded on the idea that regional economic integration cannot be seen to have succeeded without the full involvement and equal participation of women in business. Its mandate is embedded in (i) the Treaty establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA, under Article 155 – Women in Business; (ii) FEMCOM Charter, which mandates FEMCOM to “act as a forum for the exchange of ideas and experience among women entrepreneurs; an instrument through which the appropriate portion of COMESA Women in Development Programmes shall be implemented; a forum for network among women entrepreneurs and, an instrument for encouraging women to set up or expand existing enterprises.”
The relocation from COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka, Zambia to Lilongwe, Malawi in April 2009 set the stage for the formal institutionalization of FEMCOM and provided an impetus for the operationalization of its various programmes and activities with the generous support by the Government of Malawi as well as strong encouragement from the COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit in Nairobi in 2008. This development truly enabled FEMCOM to be a stand-alone COMESA entity, whereby its instrumental role in facilitating business linkages for its primary beneficiaries – women in business in Eastern and Southern Africa – through enhancing their capacities was reaffirmed and fostered than ever before.
FEMCOM rests on a solid foundation of legal and institutional legitimacy: its mandate or charter is embedded in the Treaty establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, COMESA, under article 155 – Women in Business:
“Role of Business in Women”
Having recognised the importance of women as a vital economic link within the chain of agriculture, industry and trade, the Member States agree to:
- increase the awareness of Women in Business issues at the policy level;
- create an enabling environment for the effective participation of women in Common Market trade and development activities;
- promote special programmes for women in small and medium-size enterprises;
- eliminate such laws and regulations that hinder women’s access to credit;
- initiate changes in educational and training strategies to enable women to improve their technical and industrial employment levels through the acquisition of transferrable skills offered by various forms of vocational and on-the-job training schemes; and
- recognise and support the Federation of National Associations of Women in Business established to promote the effective participation of women in the Common Market trade and development activities.”
FEMCOM Secretariat continues to ensure strategic collaboration with the Gender and Social Affairs Division of COMESA and dedicates itself in enhancing its institutional capacities.