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Collaboration commits R18m to upskill female entrepreneurs in STEM

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 18 Dec 2023
The new programme will open up new opportunities for female entrepreneurs.
The new programme will open up new opportunities for female entrepreneurs.

The International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Initiative has renewed its partnership with the UPS Foundation, in efforts to create economic opportunities for female entrepreneurs in the digital economy.

According to a statement, the strengthened alliance, marked by a $1 million (R18 million) grant over three years, will see the two organisations create pathways for female entrepreneurs to succeed in business, through digital skills training, trade-related training and mentorship programmes, to boost their chances for success in the digital economy.

TheSheTrades initiative centres on empowering women engaging in international trade by helping to create a women-inclusive fairer business ecosystem.

The UPS Foundation offers tools, information and networks that will help female entrepreneurs connect with potential customers online, by offering technical skills training, mentorship andinvestor opportunities through its partner network.

Since its inception in 2019, the “SheTrades and UPS Women Exporters Programme” have collaborated on a programme to work towards narrowing the economic gap for women entrepreneurs.

According to the companies, the programme implemented tailored and export-oriented technical assistance, fostering the public-private ecosystem to better support women-led businesses and facilitated their market and investment linkages.

To date, the programme has directly impacted over 17 000 women with trade-related technical assistance, created 192 jobs for women, and facilitated over $3.72 million in new business and investment opportunities.

Entering its next phase which takes place from 2024 to 2027, the programme will pivot to a digital-centric approach, to empower women entrepreneurs and young women, particularly in Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Africa, according to the organisations.

The programme will also focus on expanding access to essential digital tools and platforms, ensuring women entrepreneurs are well-equipped to thrive in an increasingly digital business landscape.

“The UPS Foundation is proud to build on our partnership with ITC SheTrades by committing $1 million to a renewed strategic focus on empowering women to succeed in the digital economy,” says Nikki Clifton, president of social impact and community engagement at the UPS Foundation.

“Whether it’s tapping into e-commerce and digital payments or harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and automation, we look forward to working with the ITC to help more women entrepreneurs around the world access and benefit from an increasingly digital global business landscape.”

Part of the funding will go towards significant efforts to cultivate young women as future leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and other male-dominated fields, providing them with the required skills and resources to enter the field, adds Clifton.

Additionally, the programme will aim to strengthen the institutional ecosystem to enhance women’s digital fluency and foster partnerships with market and financial institutions.

This will open up opportunities within digital value chains, including positioning women as potential suppliers to key partners. By bridging the gender-digital gap, the programme aims to spur inclusive growth and job creation in the focus regions.

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director at the International Trade Centre, adds: “Our collaboration with The UPS Foundation is equipping women entrepreneurs with the practical skills they need to sell their products across the world, and as we shift to focus on sharpening digital skills, more women will have the tools and resources they need to succeed in trade. Both ITC and The UPS Foundation see this partnership as a monumental leap towards achieving gender equality, digital inclusivity, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.