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In Mali, a fair to showcase women entrepreneurs

In Mali, the latest report of the National Institute of Statistics places the unemployment rate at around 10.6% (2015), and reveals that women are the most affected. Inequality between the sexes was mentioned as a cause, according to the report. Even more disturbing, a handful of women with entrepreneurial ventures are facing enormous difficulties which cause them to throw in the towel because of lack of support. It is on the basis of this observation that young women decided to create an association « Entrepren’Elles », launched on November 17, 2016, because « we must join forces to advance together », according to President Aminata Bocoum, who after five years spent at Orange-Mali, launched the Festival du Bazin. « There’s nothing complicated in starting a business. It is necessary to believe in it, to associate with someone who knows about it, to rely on co-contracting », adds Mamadou Sinsy Coulibaly, president of the National Council of Employers.

 From Thursday 25th to Monday 29th May 2017, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fair (Feminia) will take place, organized by Image Groupe, a communication company evolving in events management and printing. Its director, Drissa Coulibaly, known as « Idy », answers’s questions about this fair, which will allow women entrepreneurs to exhibit their products and services.

Drissa Coulibaly – Why this idea of a women’s entrepreneurship fair?

Drissa Coulibaly: The idea of ​​organizing a fair was born out of a number of observations. First, we understood that entrepreneurship is much more associated with the masculine than with the feminine. We want to reaffirm the idea that women can also undertake on the same basis as men. Then, we noticed that women entrepreneurs of Mali lack a visibility, meeting, exchanges for their activities space. This fair is going to be a space of promotion, and above all of visibility for these women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs from Mali travel extensively in the countries of the subregion to participate in fairs and exhibitions. Our women also had to have their own event so that the others would come to discover the best they have produced at home. What will happen during this fair?

Drissa Coulibaly: During these 5 days, there will be exhibitions and sales. To this end, we have put at the disposal of the women, all sectors combined (agro-business, trade, mode & style..) the stands allowing them to come to expose their products and services. There will also be conferences on topics related to women’s entrepreneurship. They aim to reinforce the capacities of these women in terms of training, information on entrepreneurship. There will be panels on the support and training of women entrepreneurs, on eco-entrepreneurship, on women’s entrepreneurship and home. There is an association of women entrepreneurs « Entrepren’Elles ». Are they associated with the organization of the fair when we know that they were planning to organize a similar event?

Drissa Coulibaly: We learned the existence of this association since the beginning of our initiative. Since then, we have sought to associate women’s groups with the organization. We were able to talk with a member of the association, who put us in touch with the president. But our calls were in vain. At the time, she was not in Bamako. Even if they do not participate in the organization, it is certain that members of the association will take part in this fair. What are the difficulties women entrepreneurs face in Mali?

Drissa Coulibaly: Entrepreneurship in Mali is not easy, especially for a woman. There is first of all the social and cultural weight to be taken into account. So many constraints that women face. To this must be added access to finance, to the market and supporting problems in terms of training.

Boubacar Sangaré

Translated by Mahaitou Ibrahim Maiga