Strengthening women-owned businesses in Central America – online market potential

The International Trade Centre (ITC) recently launched the project: ‘Central America: Linking women business enterprises (WBEs) with the global gifts and home decoration market’, which focuses on helping these enterprises access international e-commerce opportunities. Funded by the European Union (EU), the initiative aims to strengthen and enhance the export competitiveness of WBEs in Central America so they can take advantage of the EU Central America Association Agreement, which aims to increase trade between the two regions.Alongside work to improve product quality and design, the project prioritizes the development of new business opportunities through e-commerce channels. This project is designed to accompany a group of women producers through all the barriers associated with preparing for, listing and selling products online.Targeting trainingIn 2019, ITC will lead a team of coaches across six Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Grouped by region, training will occur in four sessions, supported by local coaches. Beginning in late 2018 in El Salvador, the training will start with understanding online market potential and selecting key products and markets. Later steps will build on this understanding by developing attractive content for online product listings. The producers will receive support in listing products on marketplaces and complying with payment requirements. The physical world remains important to build trust between buyers and sellers. The project will study how leading producers may present their goods at trade fairs – complemented with online promotion.The global handicraft market is booming: according to online research firm Research and Markets, the sector is expected to grow more than 11% per year over the next five years (Source: Handicrafts Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2018-2023, June 2018).Central America is a rich source of a diverse range of craft based goods. Each country has a significant population of producers, generally women, who take inspiration from indigenous cultures and contemporary influences. By assisting WBEs to digitize their products and sell online, this initiative aims to connect producers to international markets, with a particular focus on the EU.In 2016, ITC conducted a survey with a sample of 200 micro and small enterprises in the Central American craft sector. The results revealed that although 80% of the people working in this sector were women, they own only 25% of businesses. Thus, by focussing on connecting women producers to online markets, the project seeks to provide economic opportunities for these women and ultimately address the gender imbalance.By strengthening the value chains of small and medium-sized enterprises, improving trade and investment support institutions, and promoting and mainstreaming inclusive trade, this project also contributes to ITC’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan as well as the following Sustainable Development Goals: Gender equality (SDG 5), Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), and Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17). Read the original article here