Skip to main content

agonzalez3_David TalukdarNurPhoto via Getty Images_women sellers David Talukdar/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Helping Women Crack the “Export Code”

As the world commemorates this year's International Women's Day, there can be no doubt that significant progress has been made worldwide toward achieving gender parity. But until the barriers blocking women's access to global trade are removed, that goal will remain out of reach.

NEW YORK – When I first met the Accra-based fashion designer Chiedza Makonnen in 2014, her sales beyond Ghana were minimal. Yet today, Makonnen’s brand, Afrodesiac Worldwide, is featured on the red carpets of Hollywood and the stages of the Essence Festival in New Orleans. Because Makonnen cracked the “export code,” her company has scaled up production, tripled its staff, and vastly expanded its media profile. 

Cracking the export code means overcoming the notion that businesses owned and managed by women cannot be global, because meeting the standards required for cross-border trade is too challenging and expensive. It is widely assumed (albeit not stated outright) that women-owned businesses are riskier and therefore less attractive to investors. But just as women 50 years ago burned their bras to destroy a symbol of oppression, women today must remove the barriers preventing them from trading freely in the global economy.

To be sure, on this International Women’s Day, women in many countries are better off and enjoy more opportunities than their mothers and grandmothers did, owing to significant improvements in access to education and health care. But major gaps remain, and, given the slow and uneven pace of progress, there is no room for complacency.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

Help make our reporting on global health and development issues stronger by answering a short survey.

Take Survey;
  1. bildt69_DELIL SOULEIMANAFP via Getty Images_syriansoldiermissilegun Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

    Time to Bite the Bullet in Syria

    Carl Bildt

    US President Donald Trump's impulsive decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria and allow Turkey to launch a military campaign against the Kurds there has proved utterly disastrous. But a crisis was already inevitable, given the realities on the ground and the absence of a coherent US or Western policy in Syria.


Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions