- Taking place for the 7th time, the UfM Women Business Forum is a yearly regional platform that offers female entrepreneurs and women-led businesses a unique opportunity to take their businesses to the next level. In these last four editions, the UfM Women Business Forum has benefited from successful cooperation with UNIDO.
- The entrepreneurial gender disparity in the MENA region remains extreme as only 5% of businesses are led by women compared to the global average of between 23% and 26%. These numbers show the immense potential for growth as well as the evident need for change
- This year, the Women Business Forum focused on the theme of “Women in Industry and Innovation”, acknowledging the significance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This industrial paradigm shift opens the doors to a world of opportunities, as well as unique challenges for women entrepreneurs in the MENA region, who still often find themselves concentrated in the service sector.
- The 2023 edition of the Women Business Forum took place in Tunisia to celebrate the outcomes of the UfM’s UNIDO-supported “Promoting Women’s Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the MENA region – PWE” Project and of its pilot project in Tunisia aiming to boost access to market of female entrepreneurs in the bio-cosmetic value chain
11-12 October, 2023, Tunis. This year’s edition of the Women Business Forum, co-organised by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), addressed the pivotal role of women entrepreneurs in the MENA region amidst the emerging industrial and digital transformations.
It was conducted through a full-day conference, training and brainstorming sessions, as well as a field visit organised with the support of Euro-Mediterranean Arab Association (EMA) to witness the successful experience of Actifs Précieux, a start-up founded by Hajer Derouiche, one of the beneficiaries of the UNIDO PWE project in the bio-cosmetic value chain.
It examined the impact of Industry 4.0 on women in manufacturing and related sectors, while also strategizing ways to empower women economically and foster their leadership skills in the Industry 4.0 era.
Additionally, the forum discussed models and good practices for enabling women to assume leadership roles in innovative fields like AI, Energy, Circular Economy, ICT, and Digitalisation.
The event brought together various high-level attendees from the Tunisian government, international donors and the EU Delegation to Tunisia, as well as different regional and national stakeholders, and female entrepreneurs from across the MENA region. There were 150 participants at the event in person in Tunis in addition to a hundred guests who followed it online.
As the EU Commissioner Helena Dalli pointed out, “there is a large consensus on the policies to pursue for women’s economic empowerment, highlighted also in the UfM Ministerial Declaration on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society, that was adopted last October.” She also highlighted “Innovation Space”, the EU-supported pilot project in Jordan that fosters the digital skills of 130 women in women digital centres.
UfM Secretary General Nasser Kamel added that “women have always been at the heart of our mission at the Union for the Mediterranean”, stressing that “the active partnership between the UfM and UNIDO – launched several years ago with the UfM Label granted to the PWE project in 2015 and followed by the trilateral cooperation within the PWE pilot project in Tunisia in 2020 – has become a successful binomial as we have implemented concrete actions, learned from them and also sought to up-scale them at regional level”.
UNIDO Deputy to Director General Ms Fatou Haidara argued that “through strategic partnerships, we disrupt ‘business as usual’ and bolster our actions to accelerate women’s economic empowerment. We are therefore proud of our steadfast collaboration with the Union for the Mediterranean and praise its stewardship in advancing the regional policy dialogue on gender and women’s economic empowerment.”
The forum offered a comprehensive agenda, emphasising collaboration and empowerment. It included a multi-stakeholder session for policymakers, women’s business associations, and entrepreneurs to exchange ideas and tackle common challenges related to Women in Industry and Innovation and how the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) can foster women’s economic inclusion in the MENA region.
The takeaway session “Connecting the dots” reported on both the Training on Gender and Industry organised by UNIDO involving representative of Ministries of Industries and Women as well as Women Business Associations from the MENA Region and the brainstorming workshop organised by the UfM to address the key challenges faced by women in the tech industry and explore potential solutions to tackle these issues. The participants included women entrepreneurs in the tech and Industry 4.0 sectors, incubators, and women business associations.
Two round tables gathered women entrepreneurs, executives, advocates, international decision-makers, and sector experts for insightful discussions. They focused on essential digital skills and innovative approaches for fostering inclusive and sustainable development as well as on the challenges and opportunities faced by women entrepreneurs in the digital era.
Furthermore, in continuation of UNIDO’s PWE INDUSTRY’ELLE pre-incubation and IDEA incubation programs’ pitching contests, an awards ceremony was held to acknowledge and celebrate promising young women entrepreneurs in the fields of industry and innovation.
The two-day event also fostered networking opportunities and B2B sessions with the support of Business Country Desk Platform developed by BusinessMed for connections and collaborations.
A full report of the two-day event will be circulated in coming weeks.