International Trade Centre (ITC) is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations. Headquartered in Geneva, ITC is the only agency within the UN system that offers trade-related technical assistance (TRTA) and works towards creating ‘trade impact for ‘good’.
ITC’s Supporting Indian Trade and Investment for Africa (SITA) is a South-South Trade and investment promotion initiative that focuses on building trading and investment linkages between East Africa and India. SITA aims to improve the competitiveness of select value chains: Textiles and Apparel (T&A), Pulses, Spices, Sunflower Oil and Leather of five East African countries (the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Uganda, the Republic of Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania) through the provision of partnerships with institutions and business from the Republic of India. SITA is funded by the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
VISION: To foster entrepreneurship among women in East Africa
The Mitreeki Partnership was launched as part of the SheTrades Rwanda in March 2017 to build a platform for African women to share ideas, knowledge, experience and best practice with Indian and international experts. The initiative is facilitated and sustained through an online community of practice, training workshops and networking opportunities. Business linkages have been created regionally and between East Africa and with India by bringing industry players together. Mitreeki fulfills SITA’s aim to ensure women participate equally in its initiatives.
Mitreeki is a platform where African and Indian women come together to share business ideas, knowledge, experience and best practice, facilitated and sustained through communities of practice, training and networking. Business linkages will be created regionally and between East Africa and India by bringing industry players together. Working with local women’s associations, ITC has already brought together more than 200 entrepreneurs to participate in the three facets of Mitreeki: communities of practice, networking and training.
In East Africa, women entrepreneurs face barriers to growing their business, mainly lack of capacity, knowledge and trading opportunities. Access to appropriate and useful technology and to affordable finance are crucial elements for building capacity. Indian expertise is a silver bullet for developing knowledge and skills, including technical solutions and attracting investment. South-South Cooperation with India also represents a sleeping giant in terms of trading and investment opportunities, including as suppliers of technology. In this reflection, SITA conceived of the Mitreeki model, providing wrap-around support and context-specific classes, trainings, mentoring and coaching to talented entrepreneurs, on: production, pricing, brand identity, producing a cohesive collection, marketing, media, distribution models, financial management, business administration and sustainability.
As well as one-to-ones and group trainings, Mitreeki also promotes personal development by fostering networking connections among women entrepreneurs. The Mitreeki ‘Communities of Practice’ are peer-to-peer networks, initiated and sustained by SITA, which help women entrepreneurs realize the potential they harbour within themselves to become more confident. Lastly, Mitreeki course leaders also connect women to entrepreneurial opportunities as and when they arise.
The inclusive Mitreeki course is run by ITC experts from the East African Fashion Industry, who have identified the hallmarks of a successful fashion brand. There have been four rounds of Mitreeki since it was first launched in 2017; the most recent edition ran from July 2020 to February 2021.