$50m fund launched for women entrepreneurs in the developing world

The director general of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, unveiled a $50 million fund on Sunday to assist female entrepreneurs in developing countries in expanding their exports through the digital economy. The announcement preceded the 13th ministerial conference of the WTO scheduled to commence on Feb 29 in the United Arab Emirates. Okonjo-Iweala, in collaboration with the Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani al-Zeyoudi, emphasized that the “ground-breaking initiative… reflects our joint dedication to empowering women”. “We require transformative solutions to address the financial challenges faced by women,” she remarked. The fund aims to support women-led businesses in developing nations in embracing digital technologies and enhancing their online visibility. Zeyoudi pledged $5 million from his country towards the women’s fund, stating that “this initiative enables us to honor the invaluable contributions of women entrepreneurs and women-led enterprises globally, acknowledging their pivotal role in fostering economic development”. “While women constitute half of the world’s population, they only contribute 37 percent to the global GDP,” he noted. Also present at the announcement was Saudi Arabian Minister of Commerce Majid al-Kasabi, who hailed it as a “significant achievement” and affirmed his country’s unwavering commitment to promoting female empowerment. Okonjo-Iweala highlighted that during her interactions with female entrepreneurs, “a recurring theme among them is the necessity for adequate financing to expand their businesses and leverage the vast opportunities in global trade”. The United Arab Emirates has pledged a total of $10 million to three WTO trust funds: the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), and the Women Exporters in the Digital Economy (WEIDE) Fund. This generous donation, announced by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, during the 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi, will benefit developing members and least-developed country (LDC) members. Expressing gratitude for the UAE’s contribution, DG Okonjo-Iweala stated: “I am deeply appreciative of the UAE’s generous donation of USD 10 million to the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the EIF Trust Fund for LDCs, and the Women Exporters in the Digital Economy Fund. This demonstrates their unwavering dedication to promoting sustainable and inclusive trade. This timely contribution not only strengthens our joint efforts to improve fisheries sustainability, facilitate trade for least-developed countries, and empower women entrepreneurs, but also showcases the UAE’s crucial role as the host of MC13, where such initiatives can thrive and have a significant impact on a global level.”

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