“As a girl, it has not been easy,” says Mary Kariuki, a Tanzanian businesswoman who runs one of the most successful safari companies in the country. When she told her father she had been raped, he beat her and threw her out of their home. “I was taken in by an auntie. My mom agreed to take care of my boy, so I could go to school.”
Another woman in the film started with just one sewing machine and she now runs a textile company. “Women must recognize that they need their freedom, and they must also educate their husbands that they are equal to them and they have the right to run their business.” These incredible stories are important to hear because, in Africa, women make up the majority of small farmers producing important crops like rice, maize and cotton. Hundreds of thousands of women cross African borders every day to deliver goods between neighboring countries, (it is estimated that informal cross-border trade is a source of income for 43 percent of the continent’s population). And an-ever growing number of women are setting up their own businesses to export goods or provide professional services. However, women face many additional barriers to participation, including lack of access to education, training and resources, the burden of time-consuming domestic responsibilities, difficulties in taking out loans and registering their businesses, and greater vulnerability to violence, harassment and corruption. But, as the film shows, change is happening and successful businesswomen are blazing a trail. The World Bank’s report offers a number of recommendations to help African governments recognize the role that women play in Africa’s trade; ensure that rules and regulations are fair, open and transparent; and design policies and interventions in a way that helps level the playing field.