The We-Fi Initiative: The Importance Of Connecting Women Entrepreneurs & Global Buyers in Bangladesh

A capacity building program has been launched to enhance women entrepreneurs’ ability to do business with large buyers. The program is funded by World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)- Bangladesh project to support WSMEs advancing in profitable supply chain. WEConnect International and North South University will implement this multi-pronged capacity building program.

World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), Wefi Initiative, World Bank, Bangladesh, women entrepreneurs, North South University, virtual ceremony
The virtual ceremony brought together key stakeholders to present the initiative’s overarching goal – enabling WSMEs to connect and do business with local and multinational corporations committed to expanding inclusive sourcing throughout their value chains. The overall program is named as Corporate Connect. Specifically, the Capacity Building training aims to inform and educate the WSMEs about potential opportunities, train them for capacity development and subsequently connect them to corporations for business generation.

“Economic participation and representation of women businesses in the corporate supply chain will benefit large companies through inclusive growth as well as enhance women entrepreneur’s ability to provide quality services” said Hosna Ferdous Sumi, Private Sector Specialist, Word Bank.

The capacity building program will include a 20-hour Advanced Training Program, a pitch training and finally support to establish linkages between WSMEs and buyers through business matchmaking events. Corporate representatives will also take part as resource persons in the training program.

“I am confident that we will succeed in making the connections that benefit both buyers and women suppliers,” said Elizabeth A. Vazquez, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International. “We will work closely with North South University to share business intelligence and training to those WSMEs seeking both networking opportunities with procurement departments and insights into how to navigate the complexities of corporate value chains.”

North South University will bring its decades of academic and practical experience to the project through an in-depth supplier readiness training program for WSMEs seeking to deepen their skills, enhance their networking opportunities with procurement departments, and grow their insights into how to navigate the complexities of corporate value chains.

Over the next three years, Corporate Connect aims to train over 700 women to be supplier-ready and to work with at least 40 large companies to enhance their supplier diversity efforts. Furthermore, in collaboration with the Small-and-Medi Enterprise Foundation (SMEF) Bangladesh, the project is developing a national supplier database to facilitate business connections between WSMEs and corporations.

In the last decade, women have made tremendous strides in Bangladesh by stepping out of the house and participating in the economy. Yet out of the almost 8mm businesses in Bangladesh, 99.93% of which are MSMEs, a mere 7.2% of those are women-owned and operated (ADB 2016). With Bangladesh’s GDP expected to grow by 6.8% in 2021 and 7.2% in 2022, enabling more women entrepreneurs market opportunities will provide the opportunities necessary to accelerate economic growth despite the barriers that have grown more daunting during the pandemic.