Kenyan woman shows T-shirts at trade show
Two women speak next to jewelry display case

Growing networks of African women entrepreneurs through ITC SheTrades Hubs

25 October 2023
ITC News

Connecting women-led businesses creates new opportunities. An innovative collaboration among the ITC SheTrades Hubs brought together eight entrepreneurs from Mauritius and 100 from Kenya to learn from each other and find new markets.

The trade mission, which ran from 17 to 19 October, gave the entrepreneurs a chance to learn about each other’s markets. The first session looked at navigating Kenyan and Mauritian markets, featuring representatives from the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

Participants also shared experiences with trading regionally through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and across the world. In a panel discussion, representatives from the Organization of Women in International Trade Kenya, a Kenyan accessories and home décor business, and a Mauritian services business shared firsthand experiences with exporting.  

A speed networking session brought in potential buyers and Kenya-based corporations including Safaricom. A training session unpacked export-related soft skills and business planning. During the training, they evaluated their market competitiveness and developed new business strategies.  

Joanna Curpanen, who runs a home décor business in Mauritius, said the interactive sessions will support her to navigate the Kenyan market.  

’I attended this event to gain new perspectives for my business. I met with potential partners I could work with to connect to potential buyers. It is easier when we partner with someone in the targeted country,’ she said. ‘I returned to Mauritius empowered and energized. I plan to return to Kenya soon to finalize some business deals.’ 

Absa Bank Kenya Business Club hosted a customer feedback event which aimed to improve access to finance. Participants showcased their products to attendees and networked with potential buyers. 

They also visited Ubunifu Association Kenya – which supports handicrafts, textiles and apparel, and jewellery businesses – to learn about its business strategy and experiences.  

‘I connected with our Mauritius counterparts and got insights into their country. Standing in my shoes, I've gained confidence and I feel validated as a woman in business, equipped with knowledge and support from the SheTrades Kenya Hub. Most events are just about optics, but this one was genuinely interactive and allowed us to thrive,’ said Lulu Kimbio-Mbugua, a Kenyan woman entrepreneur in the beauty sector. 

The Mauritian delegation visited two Kenyan businesses: Anjiru which makes textiles and home décor, and Lamu Nuts which makes flavoured peanuts and cashews. This visit gave a stronger understanding of local market requirements from Kenyan entrepreneurs themselves.  

Bolstering regional market connectivity is a key part of how ITC SheTrades hopes to unlock markets for women entrepreneurs of its SheTrades Hub network. Through such trade missions, hubs can facilitate joint activities that open opportunities for women to access new markets. 

The ITC SheTrades Kenya Hub is hosted by Absa Bank Kenya. The Economic Development Board Mauritius hosts the ITC SheTrades Mauritius Hub. 

The trade mission was organized in collaboration with the SheTrades Commonwealth+ Programme, which is funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. 

About ITC SheTrades Hubs 

ITC SheTrades Hubs are decentralized platforms through which the SheTrades Initiative delivers in-country interventions. Administered by local institutions, SheTrades Hubs help increase the sustainability of the Initiative’s in-country interventions by promoting local ownership through a participatory approach and alignment with national and sectoral priorities. They also aim to improve the business support ecosystem and facilitate the development of a community of partners to enable women-led businesses to trade.