The regional secretariat of the Federation of National Associations of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa (FEMCOM) has been launched in Lilongwe by the Malawi President Her Excellency Madam Joyce Banda.

“I am excited that Malawi will host the FEMCOM secretariat, an initiative which I have personally been associated with for a long time. This occasion is a milestone for the COMESA region and my Government in our efforts to promote women entrepreneurs and Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) for economic growth and development in the region,” said President Joyce Banda while presided over the ceremony held on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at the Bingu Conference Centre in Lilongwe.

“I have directed that ten acres of land in Lilongwe be allocated for the construction of the FEMCOM business complex which will host enterprise development facilities, business incubation centers and science and technology facilities,” President Banda said when she handed over the title deed to the COMESA Secretary General, Sindiso Ngwenya.

The lease agreement was signed a day prior to the launch by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Mrs Ivy Luhanga on behalf of the Malawian government while Mr Ngwenya and FEMCOM Executive Director, Mrs Katherine Ichoya signed on behalf of COMESA. The land is situated along the Kamuzu International airport road.

President Banda appealed to COMESA to accelerate the process of making the women economic empowerment fund functional so that women in the region can start accessing affordable credit.

“Women in the region cannot wait any longer,” the President said. “Poverty continues to rob them of their dignity. Some women still sleep on an empty stomach and poverty has continued to make some children drop out of school. I believe together as a region we can do more. Let us make the women economic empowerment fund functional.”

She singled out for commendation the COMESA Simplified Trade Regime (STR) which she said has enhanced women’s participation in regional integration activities and has helped turn informal trade into formalized trade. She also mentioned the COMESA Cluster programme as having helped women improve their trade.

Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya thanked the Government of Malawi for its generous donation of land to COMESA. In this regard he called on FEMCOM national chapters to spearhead resource mobilization in their countries to support their operations and development.

“We need to start the process of designing the new Secretariat as soon as possible which should be ready by next year. Resource mobilizing should start now,” Mr Ngwenya said.

FEMCOM is one of the COMESA institutions and was established in 1993 to develop women entrepreneurship in the region and beyond through programmes that promote, encourage and serve the needs of women and their businesses, working in smart collaboration with relevant partners. The Secretariat is based in Lilongwe, Malawi.