Trade and Investment Facilitation

To share the preliminary findings of the survey on Women in Trade (WIT) Knowledge Platform 2020-2022, the Mekong Institute (MI) conducted a virtual multi-stakeholders’ workshop on March 3, 2022. The workshop was attended by representatives from business associations, chambers of commerce, export promotion agencies, women entrepreneurship associations, exporting companies, research institutions, and policy-makers.

The three-year research project is led by the Trade Facilitation Office (TFO) Canada with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). MI serves as the regional partner in Asia, leading the research in Cambodia and Vietnam, and the Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa Nigeria focusing on four African countries of Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Senegal. 

Research background

While introducing the project, Mr. Madhurjya K. Dutta, Director of Trade and Investment Facilitation Department of MI, shared the goal of the research project, which is “to establish a knowledge platform that will serve as a tool to fill important gaps related to the collection, storage and analysis of gender-disaggregated sector-specific trade and employment data.” 

The knowledge platform will contain solutions to enable women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from developing countries to benefit from international trade opportunities which can be used by both the private and public sector at country, regional, and global levels.

Mr. Dutta emphasized that this will contribute in strengthening local research capacity to carry out evidence-based research in the area of women in trade, specifically identifying and promoting best practices for women’s economic empowerment through job creation and contributing to sustainable and inclusive growth.

Survey highlights

Dr. Yiagadeesen Samy, Professor and Director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) of Carleton University from Canada, presented the preliminary findings of the SMEs survey conducted in 2021 in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Some of the key findings from the survey are as follows:

  • Based on the responses from the SMEs participating in the survey, the production value in the last 5 years is significantly higher in the service sector, followed by agriculture and then manufacturing. This result is true for both exporting and non-exporting SMEs surveyed.
  • Average salaries of both male and female workers are higher in exporting SMEs compared to those of non-exporting SMEs. Moreover, a higher proportion of exporting SMEs provide benefits to their employees compared to non-exporting SMEs.
  • A higher percentage of exporting SMEs in the agricultural sector reported that women-owned/led companies face more difficulties than men-owned/led companies in trade. The challenges facing women-led SMEs in trade include the lack of knowledge on accessing trade information related to export licensing procedures, certificate requirements, and international market information.
  • The key gender-specific barriers that women employers reported include safety concerns to travel abroad for sourcing international buyers, time constraints for business development activities due to greater time spent on managing household matters, and the gender norms that limit the women’s self-confidence and risk taking to penetrate the international market.

Following Dr. Samy’s presentation, there was a Q&A session where the workshop attendees asked questions as well as provided feedback on the survey findings. Moreover, Dr. Bouba Housseini, a representative from IDRC, also provided expert feedback and technical inputs for the qualitative study including the information gap to focus on, the questionnaires, and the identification of the respondents.

The research team will incorporate the feedback received from the workshop into the qualitative research implementation.

Next steps

In order to complement the survey findings, the project will conduct a qualitative study, comprising of focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KII) in Cambodia and Vietnam. The qualitative research will further explore in-depth insights as well as capture any information gaps from the survey findings. 

The 3rd round of multi-stakeholders’ consultation will be organized to present the findings from both the qualitative and quantitative analyses and to propose key policy recommendations.

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