Group Photo: Participants at the BIAWE Project Validation Workshop

Group Photo: Participants at the BIAWE Project Validation Workshop

The COMESA Federation of National Associations of Women in Business (FEMCOM) organized a three day validation workshop from 9th – 11th July, 2015, in Nairobi to endorse the report on the BIAWE feasibility study, to develop and validate the revised implementation plan for Phase II of the BIAWE Project.

BIAWE which stands for Business Incubator for African Women Entrepreneurs is an initiative that is aimed at supporting the growth of women entrepreneurs in Africa. The project was conceptualized following numerous studies and field experiences that have shown varying degrees of challenges encountered by women in their entrepreneurial operations.

The forum was attended by officials from NEPAD, COMESA Secretariat and FEMCOM including representatives from the four selected incubation centres in Burundi, Kenya, Sudan and Swaziland to enhance the stakeholder buy-in and support for the Phase II activities of the Project.

Since April 2013, FEMCOM has been coordinating the implementation of the BIAWE project and has carried out the desk review and initial situational assessment of the existing business incubation facilities in the eight pilot countries; Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Malawi, Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. FEMCOM also conducted an in-depth/feasibility study, which assessed the possibility of upgrading and strengthening the four existing/identified incubators, enhancing their capacity to enable them provide full business incubation services to women entrepreneurs, and establishing and strengthening networks of business incubators in the COMESA region.

Addressing the participants, the Chief Executive of FEMCOM, Mrs Katherine Ichoya, stated that BIAWE is one of the projects that will truly contribute to the economic empowerment of women in the COMESA region as it will formalize women in business and enable them to have sustainable projects.

The Director of Gender and Social Affairs, COMESA, Mrs Beatrice Hamusonde encouraged participants to link the planned incubators to gender mainstreaming as a way of mainstreaming gender in the private sector.

Head of Gender Programmes in NEPAD, Ms. Ndeye Rosalie Lo, stated that this validation workshop is the most critical step in the implementation of the BIAWE Project as it is moving towards the final design of the project including the division of labor and resources amongst the four selected Business Incubation Centres.

The two year project is funded by the NEPAD Spanish fund. Its ultimate goal is to contribute to employment creation and poverty reduction through the increased survival and growth of women-led enterprises. Its specific objective is to provide business incubation services to women entrepreneurs in three sectors: agro-processing, handicrafts and ICT.