Empowering Women-Owned SMEs from Sub-Saharan Africa: A US Market Entry Case Study

Introduction:

This case study delves into an innovative mentor training program aimed at equipping women-owned Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) from Sub-Saharan Africa for successful entry into the competitive US trade market. We uncover the artisans’ transformative journey, the strategic program objectives, and the measurable impact of the initiative.

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Background:

Focusing on businesses run by women artisans in rural areas, this program addressed critical operational and scalability challenges. It underlined the significance of mentorship for achieving sustainable business growth.

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Program Objectives:

The mission was clear: prepare six artisan brands for their US market debut, notably at the prestigious NY NOW trade show, an integral part of TFO Canada’s “Making Trade Work for Women in Sub-Saharan Africa” initiative.

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Implementation Strategy:

Commencing with a series of virtual meetings, the program provided customized mentorship in key areas: product design, brand development, marketing techniques, price structuring, and effective communication with potential buyers tailored for the US marketplace.

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Remarkable Outcomes:

With a 90% success rate, the SMEs made significant strides in refining their design, branding, and marketing strategies. The integration of cross-cultural storytelling became a powerful tool, leading to wholesale orders and establishing new business connections within the US market.

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Key Lessons Learned:

  • Collaborative Synergy: Strong partnerships among SMEs, consultants, and NGOs were instrumental.
  • Strategic Preparation: Clearly defined objectives were essential for market entry readiness.
  • Customized Mentorship: Tailored advice and support markedly improved program efficacy.
  • Adaptability: The ability to navigate challenges was key to ensuring trade show success.
  • Market Readiness: In-depth training in market entry factors was critical for preparedness.
  • Storytelling Impact: Authentic narratives engaged buyers and significantly increased sales.

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Conclusion:

This case study illustrates the effective preparation of women-owned SMEs from Sub-Saharan Africa for the US trade market, highlighting the vital role of meticulous planning, cooperative efforts, and flexibility. The program’s success lays a solid foundation for future projects designed to elevate SMEs in the global marketplace.

TFO Canada - Making trade work for women in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Empower Your Mission with The ISII:

Join us in our commitment to the growth of SMEs on an international level. The lessons from this program demonstrate the effectiveness of strategic partnerships, innovative methodologies, and dedicated mentorship.

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Partner with The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII):

Learn how The ISII facilitates impactful leadership and organizational growth through digital storytelling, strategic alliances, and innovation. Collaborate with us to forge global social impact ecosystems that will propel SMEs forward.

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Take the Next Step:

If you are a mission-driven entity, social entrepreneur, or investor seeking to generate a worldwide impact through SME training and brand development, we invite you to partner with us. Together, we will unleash the full potential of SMEs, crafting meaningful narratives and fostering significant impact.

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About Dondrill Glover, Author / Special Projects / Senior Partner Consultant, The International Social Impact Institute®

Dondrill Glover, our esteemed Senior Partner Consultant at The International Social Impact Institute®, and the founder of Vision Voice Values, stands at the forefront of global social impact. Her work in curating transformative events such as Global Women’s Voices, Fairtrade Federation, and the International Buyer Breakfast showcases her commitment to leveraging the power of collaboration and storytelling to drive meaningful change. Dondrill’s initiatives, closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aim to infuse purpose into artisan installations, bringing to light the intricate stories behind each creation.

Through her extensive collaborations with organizations like Aid to Artisans, TFO Canada, and the World Bank, Dondrill has played a pivotal role in amplifying the voices and crafts of artisans from over 50 countries. Her dedication to fostering sustainable growth and empowerment within the artisan community exemplifies the core mission of The International Social Impact Institute®. Together, we strive to create a world where social entrepreneurs, artisans, and organizations can thrive, driven by the collective pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable future.

 

Tech-Infused Journeys: Digital Empowerment for Artisan Women in Africa – Ethiopia

In the rich tapestry of Ethiopia’s cultural heritage, a new thread is being woven, intertwining traditional artisanship with the fibers of digital technology. The third installment of our series, “Tech-Infused Journeys,” focuses on the resilience and innovation of Ethiopian women overcoming gender-based economic challenges in the digital age.

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Gender Equality and Economic Challenges in Ethiopia

Women in Ethiopia face significant obstacles in achieving economic parity. High unemployment rates, unequal pay, and limited advancement opportunities are barriers that persist despite their critical role in the informal private sector. The World Bank’s assessment paints a sobering picture of the economic impact of these disparities, which amounted to a staggering $3.7 billion GDP loss in 2019 alone.

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The Promising Horizon of Economic Growth

Yet, hope is not lost. The IMF’s projections indicate a robust economic recovery, with an expected GDP growth of 6.1% in 2023. Such growth is fertile ground for addressing the systemic gender inequalities that hold back the potential of Ethiopia’s workforce.

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Spotlight on Resilience: Women Entrepreneurs at the Forefront

Meron Seid, Founder of Meron Addis Ababa, utilizes her laptop and mobile to manage her brand, navigate market disruptions, and maintain a digital presence on social media platforms. She represents the new wave of digital artisans who are reshaping the marketplace despite the challenges of inconsistent internet connectivity.

Leather Exotica, another beacon of Ethiopian craftsmanship, led by a team 80% comprised of women, champions sustainable leather production, job creation, and ethical practices, demonstrating the profound impact of women in leadership roles within traditional industries.

Meron Seid, Founder of Meron Addis Ababa
Meron Seid, Founder of Meron Addis Ababa

 

Hosena Getahun, Founder of Ze’el Clothing, faces technological hurdles in rural Ethiopia. Despite slow internet affecting e-commerce and communication, her brand stands as a testament to the resilience inherent in Ethiopian businesses, merging cultural attire with modern fashion sensibilities.

Hosena Getahun, the founder of Ze'el Clothing
Hosena Getahun, Founder of Ze’el Clothing

 

Digital Empowerment and National Initiatives

Genet Abegaz, Founder of ABKA Leather, may face difficulties with certain technologies like Zoom and LinkedIn, but her dedication to learning and adapting is a prime example of the ethos driving Ethiopia’s artisan sector forward.

Dondrill's Articles for The ISII
Genet Abegaz, Founder of ABKA Leather

In a landmark event, Ethiopia hosted its inaugural expo dedicated to women-owned businesses in 2023. The Business Women Expo, alongside training from ITC’s NTF V Ethiopia Tech, empowered entrepreneurs to expand their digital skillsets and networks.

The government’s Digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy is a bold step toward the fourth industrial revolution, embracing AI and IoT technologies to propel the nation into a future of digital prosperity.

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In Conclusion: A Brighter Tomorrow Led by Women Entrepreneurs

Ethiopia stands on the precipice of change, with artisan women like Meron Seid, Hosena Getahun, and Genet Abegaz leading the charge. Their stories of overcoming economic and technological barriers are more than narratives of personal triumph; they are blueprints for inclusive growth and societal advancement.

Support these trailblazing women by following their journeys and connecting with them to contribute to a more inclusive future.

Follow them on Instagram:

Together, with The International Social Impact Institute, let’s empower communities, transform lives, and embrace the collective journey toward a more equitable and digitally empowered Africa.

 

Partner with The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII)

Discover our mission to maximize impact through innovation and partnerships at The ISII Services.

 

About Dondrill Glover, Author / Special Projects / Senior Partner Consultant, The International Social Impact Institute®

Dondrill Glover, our esteemed Senior Partner Consultant at The International Social Impact Institute®, and the founder of Vision Voice Values, stands at the forefront of global social impact. Her work in curating transformative events such as Global Women’s Voices, Fairtrade Federation, and the International Buyer Breakfast showcases her commitment to leveraging the power of collaboration and storytelling to drive meaningful change. Dondrill’s initiatives, closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aim to infuse purpose into artisan installations, bringing to light the intricate stories behind each creation.

Through her extensive collaborations with organizations like Aid to Artisans, TFO Canada, and the World Bank, Dondrill has played a pivotal role in amplifying the voices and crafts of artisans from over 50 countries. Her dedication to fostering sustainable growth and empowerment within the artisan community exemplifies the core mission of The International Social Impact Institute®. Together, we strive to create a world where social entrepreneurs, artisans, and organizations can thrive, driven by the collective pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable future.

Tech-Infused Journeys: Digital Empowerment for Artisan Women in Africa

Embark on an enlightening journey into the lives of artisan women from Lesotho, Ethiopia, and Uganda as they overcome challenges in the digital age. Discover how these resilient women harness technology to empower their communities, and unlock new sustainable growth opportunities. This series advocates for a sophisticated ICT agenda to capitalize on technology’s transformative impact, showcasing stories of resilience, progress, and innovation at the crossroads of tradition and digital innovation.

Uganda’s Artisan Women: Bridging the Digital Divide

In Uganda, women lead 38.4 percent of businesses, a global benchmark only surpassed by Botswana. Despite their significant contribution to the GDP, women entrepreneurs face hurdles in accessing critical resources. The story of Anne Kabahuma, Founder of Tooro Gallery, highlights the pivotal role of technology in enabling women to work remotely, manage their businesses, and connect with global markets, albeit with challenges.

Tooro Gallery: Empowering Women through Handcrafts

Tooro Gallery’s mission to uplift communities through income-generating craft projects exemplifies the integration of traditional skills with modern technology. By focusing on handcraft training and innovative design, the gallery not only fosters sustainable livelihoods but also navigates the complexities of digital connectivity in rural Uganda.

Navigating Connectivity Challenges in Rural Uganda

Kabahuma shares insights into the difficulties faced by artisans in Uganda, from internet disruptions during elections to the high cost of data and the lack of infrastructure in rural areas. These challenges underscore the necessity for more robust digital infrastructure and affordable access to technology for women entrepreneurs.

Uganda’s Digital Landscape: Progress and Setbacks

With 30.55 million mobile connections as of January 2023, Uganda’s digital penetration is growing. However, internet shutdowns and political unrest pose significant barriers to uninterrupted digital access. Despite these challenges, government initiatives and partnerships aim to extend internet services and improve connectivity across the country.

Government Initiatives and Digital Transformation Goals

The Ugandan government’s digital transformation agenda, aiming to significantly increase internet access and government services online by 2040, marks a hopeful stride towards comprehensive digital inclusion. This ambitious plan seeks to connect households, SMEs, and institutions to the internet, ensuring that technology serves as a cornerstone of development and empowerment.

Supporting Artisan Women in the Digital Age:

As technology continues to evolve, it presents both opportunities and challenges for artisan women in Uganda and beyond. Their resilience and adaptability in leveraging digital tools for sustainable development and empowerment underscore the vital role of innovation in driving social change.

Founder Anne Kabahuma
Founder Anne Kabahuma

Take Action: Empower Artisan Women

Join us in supporting the journey of these inspiring artisan women. By engaging with Tooro Gallery on Instagram @toorogallery, you contribute to a brighter, more inclusive future. Your support helps these artisans overcome digital barriers, enabling them to thrive in a global marketplace.

Partner with The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII):

Discover how The ISII empowers leaders and organizations to maximize their impact through digital storytelling, strategic partnerships, and innovation. Our commitment to creating global social impact ecosystems is the cornerstone of our work. Visit The ISII Services to explore how we can collaborate to drive sustainable change and empower communities worldwide. Together, we can amplify our efforts to support SMEs, artisans, and social entrepreneurs on the global stage.

 

About Dondrill Glover, Author / Special Projects / Senior Partner Consultant, The International Social Impact Institute®

Dondrill Glover, our esteemed Senior Partner Consultant at The International Social Impact Institute®, and the founder of Vision Voice Values, stands at the forefront of global social impact. Her work in curating transformative events such as Global Women’s Voices, Fairtrade Federation, and the International Buyer Breakfast showcases her commitment to leveraging the power of collaboration and storytelling to drive meaningful change. Dondrill’s initiatives, closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aim to infuse purpose into artisan installations, bringing to light the intricate stories behind each creation.

Through her extensive collaborations with organizations like Aid to Artisans, TFO Canada, and the World Bank, Dondrill has played a pivotal role in amplifying the voices and crafts of artisans from over 50 countries. Her dedication to fostering sustainable growth and empowerment within the artisan community exemplifies the core mission of The International Social Impact Institute®. Together, we strive to create a world where social entrepreneurs, artisans, and organizations can thrive, driven by the collective pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable future.

Tech-Infused Journeys: Empowering Artisan Women in Africa

Embark on an enlightening journey into the lives of artisan women from Lesotho, Ethiopia, and Uganda as they navigate the digital age’s disruptive challenges. This series explores how these resilient entrepreneurs leverage technology to empower their communities and drive sustainable growth. By delving into their stories, we call for an advanced ICT agenda to harness technology’s transformative power, spotlighting resilience, progress, and innovation at the tradition-technology nexus.

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Mobile Technology: A Lifeline for Artisan Businesswomen

In the scenic landscapes of Lesotho, the vibrant streets of Uganda, and Ethiopia’s bustling markets, a unifying factor among artisan businesswomen is their reliance on mobile technology. For many, their mobile phone is not just a tool but their business’s lifeline. This reliance underscores mobile technology’s role in empowering women entrepreneurs, making it essential for economic empowerment and gender equality in developing countries.

Lesotho’s Leap into 5G and its Impact

Lesotho’s pioneering role in launching Africa’s first commercial 5G network exemplifies significant strides towards digital empowerment. Despite gender disparities, Lesotho’s women show remarkable progress in education and entrepreneurship, highlighting the digital divide’s bridging and the potential for technology-driven business growth.

Highlighting Artisan Success Stories

  • Libuseng Visser and Pasa Productions: Libuseng’s journey with eco-friendly pencil manufacturing in Lesotho showcases how technology, even in its basic form, can revolutionize traditional industries and contribute to environmental sustainability.
  • Mekhoa Rosinah Makhele and M.M. Bedding & Curtaining: Mekhoa’s story illustrates the challenges of internet connectivity for entrepreneurs in Lesotho. Despite these obstacles, her dedication shows how critical technology is for accessing markets and financial services.

The Digital Divide and the Call for Action

While technology offers immense opportunities, the digital divide remains a critical barrier. With nearly half of Lesotho’s population offline, there’s a pressing need to improve digital access and affordability, ensuring that everyone, especially women entrepreneurs, can benefit from the digital economy.

Support Artisan Women and Promote Inclusivity

Join us in supporting artisan women by spreading awareness and connecting with brands like Pasa Productions and M.M. Bedding & Curtaining on social media. Your support can champion tradition, technology, and empowerment for a more inclusive future.

photo of Founder Libseng Vissar
Founder Libseng Vissar
Photo of Founder Mekhoa Rosinah Makhele
Founder Mekhoa Rosinah Makhele

Empower and Partner with The International Social Impact Institute® (The ISII):

Join us at The ISII to unlock the transformative power of collaboration, driving the impact of organizations and leaders committed to social change. With our expertise in digital storytelling, strategic partnerships, and innovation, we offer the tools and support essential for navigating global market complexities and fostering sustainable growth. Discover our comprehensive services designed to empower communities worldwide and create lasting change. Together, we can amplify our efforts to support SMEs, artisans, and social entrepreneurs, extending our reach across global social impact ecosystems. Visit The ISII Services to explore how we can collaborate towards a more empowered and connected world.

 

About Dondrill Glover, Author / Special Projects / Senior Partner Consultant, The International Social Impact Institute®

Dondrill Glover, our esteemed Senior Partner Consultant at The International Social Impact Institute®, and the founder of Vision Voice Values, stands at the forefront of global social impact. Her work in curating transformative events such as Global Women’s Voices, Fairtrade Federation, and the International Buyer Breakfast showcases her commitment to leveraging the power of collaboration and storytelling to drive meaningful change. Dondrill’s initiatives, closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aim to infuse purpose into artisan installations, bringing to light the intricate stories behind each creation.

Through her extensive collaborations with organizations like Aid to Artisans, TFO Canada, and the World Bank, Dondrill has played a pivotal role in amplifying the voices and crafts of artisans from over 50 countries. Her dedication to fostering sustainable growth and empowerment within the artisan community exemplifies the core mission of The International Social Impact Institute®. Together, we strive to create a world where social entrepreneurs, artisans, and organizations can thrive, driven by the collective pursuit of a more equitable and sustainable future.