Celebrating Black Women Entrepreneurs in Trade

This year, in honour of Black History Month, the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) hosted an  event on February 28, 2023, to recognize the achievements of Black women entrepreneurs in trade in partnership with Africa Trade Desk and Export Development Canada (EDC). This event highlighted the successes, challenges and unique experiences of exporting Black women-owned businesses based in Alberta, Québec and Ontario.

Increasing trade opportunities and strengthening international trade is good for the economy and cultural relations between Canada and foreign markets. However, despite the progress that have been made in the export industry, many diverse women entrepreneurs still face obstacles when attempting to access global markets.

“We know that women-owned businesses encounter more gender discrimination, sexism, unpaid work, the responsibility and burden of care of all parts of society,” Myriam Francisque, the national lead for inclusive trade and Black and racialized exporters at EDC, said. “We know that the Black and racialized community is encountering, again, systemic discrimination, racism, lack of trust, and lack of relationship with financial institutions, lack of personal community.” Considering these factors, it is important for the government and organizations to create programs and opportunities for women entrepreneurs. Fortunately, financial institutions and corporations are aware that diverse women entrepreneurs need more access to knowledge, resources, and capital, and many of them are working towards inclusive programs for these entrepreneurs.

Panel discussion with four exceptional entrepreneurs

Pictures of the two co-hosts and the four panelists during the webinar. It includes Susan Namulindwa (Africa Trade Desk), Myriam Francisque (EDC), Emma Todd (MMH Blockchain Group), Evelyne Nyairo (Ellie Bianca), Ingrid Agbato (Coo-Mon Accessoires et Cultures), and Karima-Catherine Goundiam (Red Dot Digital / B2BeeMatch).

The session featured

Women entrepreneurs face obstacles to financing and they do not always know where to go for information or to whom to turn. Panelists described their journeys and sources of inspiration, information and support. Emma Todd mentioned that she found out about EDC’s Inclusive Trade Investments Program (ITIP) from a friend who is also an entrepreneur. ITIP is a matching program for investments that supports Canadian exporting businesses owned and led by women, and Indigenous and Black entrepreneurs. It is a great program for those who are looking for the capital they need to start or expand their businesses. 

Although there are many resources available today for Black women entrepreneurs, there is still a lot of work to be done to build a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We need to challenge these corporations,” Evelyne Nyairo said. “If you are talking about equity, if you are talking about inclusion, what does it mean to you, and what effort are you going to make?” Nyairo said, while also highlighting the importance of including Black women in conversations that affect them and giving them equal access to resources.

The panelists also provided great advice during the discussion, which was related to the importance of building a good community and a support network. Women entrepreneurs need to join relevant associated organizations such as the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT), chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and relevant associations to obtain support, advice and information. Being surrounded by a supportive community allows women entrepreneurs to help each other, learn from each other and grow on their entrepreneurial journeys.

For Black women, entrepreneurship is a passion and a way to respond to the needs of their communities. Despite the challenges they face with long-standing systemic issues, Black women are building remarkable businesses and continue to inspire and pave the way for the next generation of leaders. In fact, WEKH’s 2022 State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada report shows that Immigrant-led firms are almost twice as likely to export, at 16.6% compared to 10.4% for Canadian-born women. 

About Africa Trade Desk

Africa Trade Desk’s objective is to highlight and increase bilateral trade between Canada and the countries of Africa. They organize events, conferences and trade missions to share the opportunities about Africa’s growing markets.

About Export Development Canada 

Export Development Canada (EDC) is an export credit agency that helps Canadian companies grow and succeed in the global markets. They also aim to address the challenges that women and equity-deserving groups are facing by supporting and helping them grow their businesses in the Canadian market and abroad.