Networking Event for Women Entrepreneurs Links Businesses and Buyers in Haiti
The second annual Networking Event for Women Entrepreneurs showed that interest among buyers and suppliers continues on the rise as Haiti’s business community seeks out customers and the international community looks to buy local goods and services. The event was sponsored by Building Markets, the new name for Peace Dividend Trust!
More than 60 businesses attended the event on March 28 at the Hotel Montana, many with brochures or samples of their products and services. Representatives from nongovernmental organizations circulated from table to table explaining their procurement needs and processes, and listening to pitches from women entrepreneurs with businesses ranging from office supplies to hardware stores, engineering services, cleaning products, and handicrafts .
Officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs voiced their support. Digicel came looking to strengthen the participation of women in its next Entrepreneur of the Year initiative. The Association Nationale des Femmes d’Affaires d’Haiti—an organization of women entrepreneurs recently established with support from Building Markets—outlined its plans to promote local products.
Media coverage included a major article in Haiti’s leading newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, four television broadcasts, and reports on numerous radio stations. “Exchanging business cards, identifying market opportunities, the women entrepreneurs spent the day talking business,” read Le Nouvelliste article.
Participating NGOs included Architecture for Humanity, Catholic Relief Services, Chemonics, Croix-Rouge Française, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, UMCOR, and Viva Rio.
“Our primary goal is to re vitalize the economy of Haiti, and that’s why we’re here,” said Henri Dupont from Architecture for Humanity (pictured above with an entrepreneur). “You can tell the business people here are eager to do business. They just don’t always know the ropes in working with international organizations.”
Marie Pascale Théodate of the Ministry of Commerce noted that while women entrepreneurs are active in small-scale commerce in Haiti, they remain a minority in the productive sectors. The result, she lamented, is that “the contribution of women entrepreneurs to the creation of wealth and value-added in the Haitian economy remains weak.”
Théodate gave tribute to the women entrepreneurs in attendance for “affirming their creativity and their emancipation in the face of the heavy financial, economic and family burdens they have to deal with on a daily basis.”
For Agnes Zamor of Groupe Optimum, a firm that provides social services and health-related products, the Building Markets event represented an opportunity to focus on specific potential buyers. Since attending Building Markets training on the contracting procedures of NGOs, Zamor has started submitting bids but has yet to land a contract.
“This event enables us to talk directly with the NGOs that interest us, the ones that are looking for what we have to offer,” she explained.
Of the 3,500 businesses registered on the Building Markets–Haiti website, 912 or 25% are managed or owned by women. Thirty percent of the total number of employees of the 3,500 registered firms are women. The Building Markets–Haiti website can be accessed at http://haiti.buildingmarkets.org.