Apia (ESCAP news) – The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the Government of Samoa, today launched a new project to support the growth of women entrepreneurs as a strategy for poverty reduction, social well-being and sustainable economic growth.
The five-year project titled ‘Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ aims to create an enabling policy and business environment that enhances women entrepreneurs’ access to capital through innovative financing mechanisms as well as increasing their use of ICT and digital solutions. The project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.
“The increasing number of woman entrepreneurs in Samoa is exciting and ESCAP stands ready to work with the Samoan government to maintain momentum. Women entrepreneurship empowers women and girls to take charge of their futures. It must be central to our effort to achieve gender equality in Asia and the Pacific,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Alisjahbana on the occasion.
Currently, 24 per cent of women in Samoa are estimated to be involved in entrepreneurial activities. Yet, women entrepreneurs still face many obstacles to starting and operating their businesses. Access to finance is limited – 47 per cent of Samoan women report they find it difficult to get loans. Additionally, many women do not wish to start or formalize their business because they lack knowledge of the complex registration and tax procedures. Identifying and overcoming these various barriers will be key to catalyzing women’s entrepreneurship in the country.
The formal launch of the project in Samoa was officiated by Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Hon. Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Mr. Iosefa Maiava, Head of Office, ESCAP Subregional Office for the Pacific; Ms Simona Marinescu, United Nations Resident Coordinator and H.E. Mario Bot, High Commissioner of Canada to New Zealand.
“Promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls is the most effective approach to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and for maintaining international peace and security,” said H.E. Mario Bot, High Commissioner of Canada to New Zealand. “Tackling the unique challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Samoa and across the Asia-Pacific region requires innovative approaches. Canada is pleased to be supporting the project and its efforts to support women-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in growing their businesses, including improving their access to innovative financing mechanisms and new technologies.”
“Samoa supports the aim of the project in support of the growth of women entrepreneurs as a strategy to reduce poverty. However, it is imperative that the assistance is extended first to those entrepreneurs that need it the most,” shared Hon. Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa ahead of the launch event.
As part of the innovative financing initiatives under this project, ESCAP and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) launched a Women Fintech MSME Innovation Fund earlier this year. Samoa’s SkyEye was selected as one of the 10 winning innovative business models with its mobile marketplace app that will provide rural women MSMEs with a market for their produce. “SkyEye identified the need for a local Payment Gateway to facilitate e-commerce transactions for Women-led MSMEs and the development of Samoa’s digital economy at large. We are privileged to take on the task to develop such a solution and appreciate the support from ESCAP and UNCDF both financially and technically to deliver this project successfully for the benefit of our community,” said SkyEye Chief Executive Officer Sam Saili.
The launch is being followed by a national consultation on integrating women’s needs and considerations into policy and other initiatives supporting entrepreneurship, financial inclusion and enabling environment – including ICT solutions – for businesses. Some 50 policymakers, MSME representatives and other stakeholders are expected to participate.