ABU DHABI: The director general of the World Trade Organ­isation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Sunday launched a $50 million fund to help female entrepeneurs in developing countries to export more using the opportunities offered by the digital economy.

The announcement came ahead of the 13th ministerial conference of the WTO which opens on Feb 29 in the United Arab Emirates.

Okonjo-Iweala, speaking alongside the Emirati Minster of State for Foreign Trade Thani al-Zeyoudi, said the “ground-breaking initiative… embodies our collective commitment to empower women”.

“We need catalytic solutions to solve the financing issue that women face,” she added.

The fund will help businesses run by women in developing countries to adopt digital technologies and increase their online presence.

United Arab Emirates donates $10m to support WTO initiatives

Zeyoudi said his country would contribute $5 million to the women fund, adding “this initiative allows us to celebrate the invaluable contribution of women entrepreneurs and women led businesses around the world and to recognise the critical role they play in driving economic growth”.

“While women are one half the world’s population, they only contribute 37 per cent to the global GDP,” he said. Also at the announcement was Saudi Arabian Minister of Commerce Majid al-Kasabi, who called it a “milestone” and said his country was “dedicated” to supporting female empowerment.

Okonjo-Iweala said that in meeting female entrepeneurs, “a common refrain among them is the need for adequate financing to scale their businesses and to tap into the vast opportunities of global trade”.

UAE’s total $10m donation

The United Arab Emirates is contributing total $10 million to three WTO trust funds: the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), and the Women Exporters in the Digital Economy (WEIDE) Fund for the benefit of developing members and least-developed country (LDC) members. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced the donation during the 13th Ministerial Conference in Abu Dhabi.

Welcoming UAE’s contribution, DG Okonjo-Iweala said: “I am profoundly grateful for the UAE’s generous contribution of USD 10 million to the Fisheries Funding Mechanism, the EIF Trust Fund for LDCs, and the Women Expor­ters in the Digital Economy Fund, which underscores their steadfast commitment to fostering sustainable and inclusive trade.

This timely donation not only bolsters our collective efforts towards enhancing fisheries sustainability, facilitating trade for least-developed countries, and empowering women entrepreneurs but also exemplifies the UAE’s pivotal role as the host of MC13, where such

initiatives can flourish and make a tangible difference on a global scale.“

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2024

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