About Martin

Martin’s international career in International Development spans 10 years. He has led teams across Kenya, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, South Africa and Somalia in developing regional communications strategies. More recently, he has been featured among 50 communications experts in the continent contributing to Africa’s socio-economic rise.

COMESA, EAC and ECOWAS launch networking platform to connect 50 million African women in business

50 Million African Women Speak platform provides information on starting and growing a business, and has a social networking feature for women entrepreneurs to learn from and do business with each other 

Kigali, Tuesday, 26 November 2019 – A digital platform specifically designed to address the information needs of women in business and connect them via a custom-built social networking tool was launched today in Kigali, Rwanda.

The platform, known as 50 Million African Women Speak, was unveiled during the Global Gender Summit taking place in the Rwandan capital. It primarily seeks to help economically empower women by providing a one-stop shop for a wide range of financial and non-financial services that women need to start and grow successful businesses.

The initiative which is accessible at www.womenconnect.org is implemented by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It will allow women in 38 African countries to find information on running businesses, accessing financial services, create business opportunities online and access training resources, ultimately contributing to their economic empowerment.

I certainly believe that the creation of this platform is a very practical way of speaking to the general agenda of empowering women. I think a lot has been said and now we have come to a stage where we have practical initiatives such as this one,” said COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe.

Through a robust social networking functionality that has been embedded in the platform, women will have opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, mentoring and sharing information and knowledge, connecting via the web-based platform or through the 50 Million African Women Speak mobile app. The platform is touted as having the potential to unleash a dynamic online community of women entrepreneurs whose business activities transcend borders.

Sixty five percent of the traded commodities in the East Africa region come from agriculture—a sector that employs 80% of women. This platform will help this big part of our population to expand markets and get new opportunities,” said Hon. Christophe Bazivamo, EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors.

The 50 Million African Women Speak platform also obtained a ringing endorsement from ECOWAS’ Commissioner in charge of Social Affairs and Gender, Dr Siga Fatima Jagne who said: “At the level of ECOWAS, this platform perfectly fits within the scope of the programme on gender strengthened in 2005 by the Authority of Heads of State and Government through the adoption of the Gender Policy Document.

The platform comes at a time when Sub-Saharan Africa hosts close to 13 million formal and informal small and medium-sized enterprises with one or more women owners. Yet, only 16-20% of women entrepreneurs are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions to scale up their businesses.

In addition, with a financing gap for women entrepreneurs across business value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa  estimated at $42 billion by the African Development Bank, the 50 Million African Women Speak platform stands out as an unique solution to provide information on available financial products specifically designed with women entrepreneurs in mind.

Funded by the African Development Bank, the platform aims to connect at least 50 million women across the African continent. It is also expected to contribute to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for women and youth empowerment.

“I am very excited that it is technology-based because this is one of the issues we are trying to advance to make sure that we leverage on technology to have smart solutions that are reaching far more people. It collapses the distance so you can have someone sitting in Kenya or Malawi talking to someone in West Africa and sharing experiences,” COMESA Secretary General Ms Kapwepwe added.


Read More

The Politics of Climate Change and its Implications on Africa

Burgeoning dystopian prophecies, literature and accounts of climate change by an array of actors, including UN agencies, national governments, security pundits, scholars and development NGOs, insinuate climate change has entered the realm of politics which posits that it triggers violent conflict. Even though the African continent contributes only about 3% to global greenhouse gas emissions,

Read More

Martin Namasaka on studying Disruptive Strategy at Harvard Business School (HBS)

This week, I received my certificate of Disruptive Strategy with Clayton Christensen delivered by Harvard Business School. This journey was fraught with special circumstances such as lots of traveling across Africa in between the course. During the course, I was delivering a regional strategy for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the

Read More

The Role of Communicators in Africa’s Development

By Martin Namasaka Africa’s economic pulse has undoubtedly been the new consensus in the 21st century, infusing the continent with a new commercial vibrancy. This has been illustrated in a growing strand of influential development literature and international journals demonstrating newfound optimism about Africa’s development trajectory. For instance, The Economist’s Mea Culpa (correcting its previous assessment of a “hopeless

Read More

Communications as a Strategic Management Function

It’s simple: strategic communication is at the centre of everything. You can’t execute a strategy if you can’t communicate about it. Even so, communications in international development is not a strategic management function. Instead, its position in relation to strategic planning is mostly an afterthought, a cost rather than an investment. I challenge this misconception

Read More

Is Africa’s growing population a threat to the Sustainable Development Goals?

Martin Namasaka argues that exploiting the stalled fertility transition to meet the SDGs in African countries is contingent on improving public health and educational institutions and promoting the informal and agricultural sectors. Recent estimates of Africa’s population indicate that in less than three generations, 41% of the world’s youth will be African (Ibrahim, 2012). Proponents of

Read More

Financial Sector Development in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

In this article, Martin Namasaka argues that while infrastructure development and peace-building efforts are key prerequisites to address fragile states vulnerability issues, building an inclusive financial sector, as part of a well-coordinated effort between development partners, offers the promise to bring fragile states back on the path of financial stability and growth. “We have resources, perhaps

Read More