Magazine article International Trade Forum

Accessing Export, Accessing Opportunity: In Tunisia, the ACCESS! Programme for African Businesswomen in International Trade Is Paving the Way for Women Artisans to Export Their Products

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Accessing Export, Accessing Opportunity: In Tunisia, the ACCESS! Programme for African Businesswomen in International Trade Is Paving the Way for Women Artisans to Export Their Products

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by women seeking trade support services in Africa, ITC developed the ACCESS! programme in 2005 with the goal of providing greater participation of African businesswomen in international trade.

Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, the programme provides exporter training, business counselling, business information and networking. It has already worked with over 600 female entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

In 2006 Tunisia became the 11th country to implement the ACCESS! programme, with the financial support of La Maison de l'Exportateur-Tunisie (Tunisian exporters' house), through the Fonds d'Acces aux Marches d'Exportation (Fund for Access to Export Markets).

The pilot project in Tunisia

Following the success of six training workshops that reached more than 60 businesswomen, ACCESS! Tunisia has already extended its core training and business counselling activities and developed targeted microcredit support for its clients.

Two groups of micro-entrepreneurs, each comprising ten artisans from Tozeur in the south and Kef in north-western Tunisia, have benefited from additional and special training in product innovation in the handicraft sector. This pilot project allowed the participants to better understand international market trends and to create market niches, develop prototypes and test the receptiveness of foreign markets.

Trainees learned to develop apparel and homeware collections that met international trends both in fashion and in the standards of quality expected in developed country markets. They began working with a whole new range of colours, patterns and fabrics, which gave them much greater potential to export their products than they had had previously. The women were also assisted in developing new marketing tools such as samples, price lists and promotional catalogues.

International market response

In autumn 2008, once the collections were considered ready to be sold overseas, two key market contacts visited the groups. …

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