August 17, 2016


Jean Chawapiwa, Executive Director of WEConnect International in South Africa, was invited to the 14th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) event in Nairobi, Kenya, as a judge in its 5th Empretec Women in Business Awards (E-WBA) competition. Selected from 50 nominations from 23 countries, the winners in this competition were announced at the E-WBA awards ceremony on 21 July 2016 at the World Investment Forum which took place during the 14th UNCTAD event.

Chawapiwa was nominated as a judge in this competition by WEConnect International, an organisation that helps women-owned businesses succeed in global value chains. She has headed up WEConnect International in South Africa since 2015. WEConnect International identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women’s business enterprises based outside of the U.S. that are at least 51% owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with multinational corporate buyers.

The Empretec Women in Business awards were started in 2008 by UNCTAD as part of the Empretec initiative to support women entrepreneurs in response to the continued gender-based challenges and inequalities, which women face in business. Chawapiwa says, “There was stiff competition among the finalists this year, who are selected based on three criteria: innovation, leadership and impact in the community.” Finalists come from diverse sectors such as fashion, media health care, cosmetic industries, education and construction and communication. Finalists were all graduates of UNCTAD’s Empretec programme which offers entrepreneurship training in 37 countries and managed by UNCTAD and its national partners.

The winner of this year’s E-WBA competition was Tran Thi Viet who runs a company called Viet Trang Handicraft, which is focused on making and selling basket-woven goods using materials such as seagrass, corn leaves, banana leaves, and bamboo. The company now exports to the European Union and has 250 employees. Other winners in the competition were Argentinian Mariana Andrea Nallim, CEO and Founder of RECICLARG, who won the green prize for her innovative approach to recycling in Argentina. The Social Prize was awarded to Fatou Saine Gaye, CEO and Founder of Gaye Njorro Hair Plus which offers training and equips young people with skills in The Gambia. The fourth winner was Gladys Ileana Ramos de Orellana who won the public vote. She owns Bhoga, a company in Guatemala that makes use of cereals, dried herbs and pure vegetable oils as ingredients in 100% natural cosmetics.

The 14th UNCTAD event took place from 17 to 22 July 2016, and culminated in the completion of two crucial documents that will guide the mandate of the agency for the next four years. The two documents are Nairobi Maafikio and Nairobi Azimio; these documents aim to ensure fair trade between developing countries.

UNCTAD is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly, established in 1964 to promote trade, investment, and development in developing countries. Headquartered in Geneva, UNCTAD has 194 member States as well as numerous intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and other observers.

The quadrennial ministerial Conference is the highest decision-making body of UNCTAD. It is widely attended by stakeholders in development including Heads of State and Government, Ministers and representatives of governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and the private sector. It sets UNCTAD’s mandate and work priorities and, thanks to its design of formal and informal sessions, facilitates dialogue on the world’s key and emerging issues affecting the global economy, discusses policy options and formulates global policy responses.

The Conference included high-level round tables on key issues in the international economic debate. Informal thematic side events are also held with the aim to promote interactive discussions on development issues. The World Investment Forum and a Commodities Forum, which are an integral part of the Conference, bring together thousands of business and government representatives to advance developing countries’ participation in these sectors.

For more on Empretec go to http://empretec.unctad.org/