The 50 Million African Women Speak (50MAWSP) platform was unveiled Friday 9 October in Antananarivo, Madagascar making the country the fourth COMESA Member State to launch the digital networking platform.
The national launch of the platform was presided over by the Minister for Population, Social Protection and Advancement of Women, Hon. Michelle Bavy Angelica at an event held through a hybrid arrangement where a limited number of local participants gathered physically at the launch venue were joined virtually by several invited guests.
COMESA’s high-profile participation was led by Secretary General Ms. Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, with Assistant Secretary General Amb. Dr. Kipyego Cheluget and high-profile representatives from the African Development Bank also among those in attendance.
Chief Guest Hon. Bavy said the platform was living up to its name by giving women an avenue through which to speak to each other.
“The 50 Million African Women Speak platform takes on its full meaning thanks to the interaction of millions of African women beyond geographical borders and language barriers, which allows them to exchange and learn, to build relationships, to flourish and to be inspired by the opportunities offered,” she remarked.
She commended COMESA and the AfDB for their support over the last two years which has made it possible to realize the platform.
The COMESA Secretary General Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe noted that the platform was being unveiled at the perfect time as businesses move online.
“We are all aware that our countries now operate against the backdrop of economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. While this devastation has spared no one, it is undeniable that women have suffered worse than their male counterparts,” Ms. Kapwepwe noted.
She said, however, that the platform was a practical initiative to immediately redress this situation.
“The 50 Million African Women Speak platform brings to life the adage that every dark cloud has a silver lining. While the pandemic might have devastated and ultimately marked the unfortunate end of some business activities as we previously knew them, it has imposed upon us the requirement to embrace a new normal where our marketplaces are online and our business engagements are virtual.,” the Secretary General said.
She urged Malagasy women to take advantage of the platform to connect with other businesswomen in Madagascar as well as the COMESA region, and to use it to showcase their goods and services.
Ms. Kapwepwe thanked the funding partner, African Development Bank for the financial support which has made the 50 Million African Women Speak Project possible in 36 countries across the COMESA, EAC and ECOWAS regional blocs, as well as the Government of Madagascar for its support in implementing the initiative. She urged the government to devote the required resources to ensure its sustainability.
The 50 Million African Women Speak platform aims to facilitate a dynamic and engaging exchange of ideas among women entrepreneurs, using in-built social media functionality to connect them with one another in ways that will foster peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and the sharing of information and knowledge within communities, and access to financial services and market opportunities between urban and rural areas, and across borders and between countries.
Owing to the pandemic, national launch events of the platform will be held either virtually or as a hybrid of virtual and conventional launches. Launch events in 11 other COMESA Member States are planned. The next launch is scheduled for 15 October 2020 in Eswatini.