On March 10, 2023, CIPE was thrilled to join the Amhara Women Entrepreneurs Association (AWEA) and the Amhara Chamber of Sectoral Associations (ACSA) in Bahir Dar as they led the Amhara Regional Business Coalition to launch a regional business agenda at a public-private dialogue event. The regional business agenda identifies major issues facing frequently underrepresented members of the business community, like women and youth entrepreneurs, micro-enterprises, and informal sector businesses. The coalition, led by AWEA and ACSA, brought together business associations, civil society groups, and business owners to develop the agenda. The public-private dialogue event, sponsored by Dashen Bank, NIB and Bank, Awash Bank, brought together 134 people, including representatives from the Amhara Trade and Market Development Bureau, Amhara Revenue Bureau and the Amhara National Regional State Labour and Training Bureau.
Business agendas are a type of advocacy tool that aggregates policy recommendations from across an economic community and communicates solutions to policymakers. They are based on research and consultations with businesses and community members about the biggest challenges they face as well as opportunities to address these challenges through policy and regulatory change. The three priority areas for change highlighted by the Amhara regional business agenda include:
- Increasing access to credit by revising collateral requirements, in part by extending loan pay-back periods, revising the collateral estimation methodology to accurately value properties used as collateral, and designing credit products and services for women;
- Removing barriers to owning and leasing land and workspaces, in part by incentivizing small businesses to “cluster together” to access workspaces and land from the municipalities, regulating the price of municipality-owned land, and controlling illegal actors (e.g. brokers) in the land market; and
- Increasing the efficiency of the business registration and business services; in part by establishing a one-stop center for business registration and business services, decentralizing decision-making within the kebele administration, and training front-line public servants on gender issues, and the role of women in the economy to prevent gender-based discrimination.
Public-private dialogue is a process of collective action where representatives of the business community develop and validate common policy solutions, present their recommendations to policymakers, and then advocate for the adoption of the recommendations. Even without a business agenda, public-private dialogues can take many different shapes and can include roundtables, consultation meetings, and workshops that allow representatives from the business community to participate in the policy process in collaboration with the public sector. The public-private dialogue event, and the work of the Amhara Regional Business Coalition, is a critical step in the advocacy process. As a result of the event, several banks committed to changing their policies to support businesswomen and frequently underrepresented members of the Amhara business community. These commitments include the following:
- The Development Bank of Ethiopia agreed to develop mechanisms for financing MSMEs without collateral;
- Dashen Bank pledged to approve loans without collateral if businesswomen apply for credit in groups and originate feasible project ideas;
- Nib Bank committing to considering houses made of wood and mud owned by businesswomen as collateral;
- Nib Bank expressed its intention to sign an MoU with the Amhara Women Entrepreneurs Association (AWEA) to provide credit to AWEA’s members with an interest rate between 7% to 9%.
The Amhara Regional Business Coalition will be following up on the commitments made during the event in the coming weeks and months. The CIPE Civic Engagement Hub is thrilled to see CIPE partners leading constructive conversations with policymakers and financial institutions to make it easier for underrepresented members of the Amhara business community to establish and grow their businesses.
This initiative was supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) through its Empowering Marginal Economic Actors program with CIPE, Initiative Africa, and the Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI). The program focuses on supporting the representation of women and youth entrepreneurs and SMEs in the informal economy in economic reform processes.
To read the complete Amhara Regional Business Agenda click here.