By Akanimo Sampson
More than 40 female entrepreneurs from the Balkan Peninsula attended the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) eTrade for Women master class in Skopje, North Macedonia.
UNCTAD kicked off its eTrade for Women master class series to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries and economies in transition build the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the digital economy.
The class was led by Nina Angelovska, the nation’s finance minister and co-founder of the e-commerce platform Grouper.mk.
Ms. Angelovska was recently appointed as an advocate of UNCTAD’s eTrade for Women initiative to increase women’s participation in the digital economy, an arena where female players are still greatly outnumbered.
On average, women hold less than 35% of jobs related to information and communications technology. In the United States – the world’s largest e-commerce market – just 6% of IT entrepreneurs are women.
“I’m committed to inspire other women, to show them that if they embrace digital technologies the sky is limit”, Ms. Angelovska said last week when the class took off.
The master class, a cornerstone of UNCTAD’s initiative, was her first opportunity as an advocate to inspire more women to follow in her digital footsteps.
“When I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey, I set out to change the e-commerce industry in my country”, she said, adding that when Grouper.mk opened in 2011, less than 1% of North Macedonians shopped online.
“Now I want to use my story to change the global e-commerce landscape.”
Adding, she said: “Without more women digital entrepreneurs, e-commerce growth cannot benefit everyone, and it cannot help fight poverty effectively.”
For the master class, Ms. Angelovska was joined by instructors from companies such as Booking.com and Seos.si.
Sessions cover the ins and outs of growing an online business, such as search engine optimization and social media marketing, and how to turn raw data into digital intelligence.
But the participants also learnt how to voice their concerns to government officials so that new policies affecting e-commerce make it easier for women to do business online.
“Overall, the eTrade for Women initiative wants to promote women’s digital economic empowerment”, said Torbjörn Fredriksson, in charge of UNCTAD’s ICT policy section, adding, “one way to do this is to inspire more women digital entrepreneurs. The other is to give women digital entrepreneurs a bigger voice in policymaking.”
UNCTAD organised the master class with the finance ministry and the Macedonian E-commerce Association.
The association’s Secretary-General, Victor Stojkoski, says they believe that a better future for North Macedonia can be created “by embracing digitalisation and becoming a smart society.”
In integral part of building such a society, he says, is helping women entrepreneurs build the digital knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
The master class in North Macedonia will be followed by similar sessions in China, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico and Rwanda, delivered by the other six UNCTAD eTrade for Women advocates.
The eTrade for Women initiative is financially supported by the Dutch government.