APEC Leaders have long acknowledged the importance of including women as equal partners and beneficiaries of economic growth and prosperity, including as entrepreneurs. In 2014, APEC ministers committed to the development of an Asia-Pacific regional women’s entrepreneurship network to help women in all 21 APEC economies expand their opportunities to participate in regional trade and economic growth. The Women’s Entrepreneurship in APEC initiative (WE-APEC) represents a shared vision to support women’s entrepreneurship, empower governments to better support these entrepreneurs, and provide an opportunity to share ideas, tools, and best practices so that women can establish and grow their businesses.
The WE-APEC initiative sets the stage for understanding and growing a shared ecosystem of support for woman-owned enterprises across APEC’s 21 economies. The first undertaking under WE-APEC was a report that compiled information and highlighted best practices about how women entrepreneurs in each APEC economy are served, supported, and strengthened through business networks, private sector initiatives, and government services. The draft report was presented and potential activities of the WE-APEC initiative were discussed at a two-day working session on June 23-24, 2015. The final report was presented at a workshop on September 15, 2015, on the margins of the WEF, where the WE-APEC platform in its beta form was formally launched.
This year, the U.S. will continue to build upon the successful launch of the WE-APEC initiative, focusing on two work streams: Building Connections and Capacity Building, which are described in greater detail below.
The Building Connections component will create or build stronger connections between women’s business networks, private sector, and governments to create a stronger ecosystem to support women’s entrepreneurship. The WE-APEC platform – a website – will facilitate these connections and provides dynamic and searchable access to the data compiled in the WE-APEC report as well as a mechanism to connect governments, private sector and networks with each other to identify partnership opportunities for growth and increased competitiveness. Through the initiative, governments will be able to learn best practices from throughout the region, and private sector and network actors will be able to identify opportunities for collaboration with governments to reach entrepreneurs that could benefit from increased market access. Since its launch on September 17, 2015, the platform has been running in a beta form. In order to continue to improve the scope and usability of the website, the U.S. will work with economies to 1)review the information on the portal and expand the number of service providers represented in the WE-APEC directory and 2) select a representative from each of the targeted audiences (government, private sector/entrepreneurs) that will complete a survey and provide feedback on the applicability of the website, in order to move to a beyond the beta version. Finally, the U.S. anticipates it will submit a proposal to the PPWE in 2016 for the development of a regional steering committee structure for WE-APEC, under the PPWE and with representation of all 21 APEC economies. Each economy would submit its point of contact based on identified roles and responsibilities for committee. Additional proposed details for consideration will follow in advance of the PPWE meeting.
The Capacity Building component will help economies improve or expand their domestic infrastructure of services to women entrepreneurs, based on their review of their economy profile in the WE-APEC report. We hope that economies will hold domestic consultations in order to expand the impact of the WE-APEC platform and get buy in from their domestic stakeholders. To equip economies to hold these consultations, the U.S. will develop some basic communication materials that economies can use in the domestic consultation process- to articulate the value of WE-APEC across target audiences. In addition, the U.S. hopes to work with 1-2 developing economies and support them in the initial consultation process. This support will help specific economies who are prioritizing women’s entrepreneurship to build domestic awareness on the WE-APEC platform, disseminate information and get buy in from domestic stakeholders regarding the WE-APEC website.
As part of this work, the U.S. will hold a half-day event on the margins of the WEF in Lima, Peru, to specifically look at the initiative, update on progress made to date, and focus on capacity building efforts underway in economies and how communication and outreach tools can be utilized at the economy-level to ensure that all stakeholders within member economies maximize the potential of the directory and information, networking potential of the WE-APEC initiative. The event will target both private sector representatives as well as government attendees to the WEF.
We anticipate that the proposed activities above will help to ensure ownership of WE-APEC and deepen its impact in the region. The United States is also looking at leveraging regional and global partnerships to strengthen the reach of the initiative this year.