On the occasion of the International Women’s Rights Day, Ecomnews Med interviewed Jihen Boutiba, Secretary General of BUSINESSMED, the Mediterranean Union of Business Confederations. What are the main obstacles for women to start a business? How does BUSINESSMED act for gender equality?
Only 30 to 37% of companies are owned by women in the southern Mediterranean countries. “The spirit of entrepreneurship has developed among women in recent decades, but they are still far from having access to the same markets as men” explains Jihen Boutiba, Secretary General of BUSINESSMED, the Mediterranean Union of Business Confederations.
“We are witnessing a shift in societal perspective, towards a vision in which women are seen as the driving force behind economic development and job creation. Several studies show that companies run by women perform better on average than those run by men.
There are many obstacles to entrepreneurship: “There is a lack of access to financing due to the impossibility of providing guarantees, there is also a lack of access to appropriate training, many institutional limitations, a lack of access to formal and informal entrepreneurial networks that are often male-dominated, and finally a lack of infrastructure that can help women entrepreneurs flourish. »
According to the latest mapping conducted by Business Med on the level of digitalization of organizations and companies run by women on a sample of 200 managers from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia, it appears that 50% have no visibility on the Internet and 68% say that digitalization has enabled them to open new markets. “This shows that digitalization is not a solution if it is not accompanied by effective government policies at the level of the countries of the southern Mediterranean region.
The actions of BUSINESSMED
“Gender is a cross-cutting priority in our strategy and the actions that BUSINESSMED is carrying out. “The Mediterranean Union of Business Confederations organizes webinars and online training to promote the role of women in leadership positions and enable women entrepreneurs to acquire new skills.
The Business Country Desk (BCD), a regional initiative designed by BUSINESSMED and implemented within the framework of a project co-financed by the European Union was presented online on January 12, 2021. The Business Country Desk platform will provide free digital services to SMEs through three main services: Partnerships, Business Helpdesk and Matching tool.
“It is a way to overcome some of the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs. For example, the platform facilitates access to informal and formal networks, the creation of partnerships and the matching with other companies in the region. However, digital infrastructure is still a prerequisite and unfortunately in some regions there is not even internet access, so rural women cannot yet be reached”.
In addition, the Union of Mediterranean Confederations of Enterprises (BUSINESSMED) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of Mediterranean Businesswomen’s Organisations (AFAEMME) which aims to strengthen the Euro-Mediterranean business ecosystem and support the social and economic development of economic actors. The two organisations will work together to implement an action programme that includes the exchange of knowledge and best practices, contributing to possible joint projects and raising awareness by giving visibility to each other’s actions, publications and other initiatives.
A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with Womenpreneur-Initiative, a Belgian non-governmental organisation aiming at strengthening the place of women in the entrepreneurial scene, in the fields of technology and innovation and in society in general.