Photo: Ivanka Trump’s final stop in Africa was in Abidjan, where she spoke at a summit of female entrepreneurs. (E. Sarai/VOA)
VOA News – Esha Sarai
ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST —Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald’s Trump’s daughter and senior White House adviser, spoke Wednesday to a summit of women entrepreneurs in the Ivory Coast.
“Societies that empower women to succeed are more peaceful and more prosperous. And this is evident in all the research that we see,» Trump told an auditorium full of female business owners, community organizers, politicians and students.
Her appearance at the Women Entrepreneurs Financial Initiative (WeFi) summit in Ivory Coast was Trump’s last stop on a four-day tour of Africa to promote a $50 million initiative signed by her father in February that is aimed at encouraging women’s employment in developing countries.
“We launched WGDP, the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, in February of this past year. It is the first ever whole-of-government approach to women’s economic empowerment in the developing world, and the goal is to empower 50 million women by 2025,” she said at the summit.
The WGDP is one of many international funding projects that will work with the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank to distribute money to projects throughout the continent.
Backbone of African economies
“It’s very known that women form the backbone of African economies … yet they’re very much marginalized in terms of their access to most productive resources, from land to finance to acquiring information,” Vanessa Moungar, director of Gender, Women and Civil Society at the African Development Bank, told VOA.
Moungar gave the example of one specific program, Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), which was developed to bridge the gap between men and women in how they gain access to capital.
The summit touted successful businesswomen speakers and panels, mixed with representatives like Moungar to discuss the potential of women in business on the continent.
Change for the better
And many left the conference feeling inspired about their future.
“From what I’ve heard today, I do believe that things are going to change for the better,” Tatou Dembele, who owns the food marketing company Ivorian Food, told VOA.
“I believe that there is a strong will to help women in their own businesses. I believe this is the most important thing and we need to focus on that, whether or not we receive or might receive so much money or less money,” Dembele added.
$2 million for cocoa
Earlier Wednesday, at a cocoa farm about 100 kilometers from Abidjan, Trump announced a $2 million commitment to help women in Ivory Coast’s cocoa industry.
Speaking at Cayat, a cocoa cooperative in the town of Adzopé, Trump said the $2 million, promised by USAID and private chocolate companies, would go toward savings associations, which are a popular way for businesswomen to gain capital in the West African country.
Cayat is an example of one company that was able to grow through use of a savings association. It is a company, however, in an industry largely run by women, but where women are still outearned by men.
“Oftentimes women are left out of the decision-making process. Women do a lot of the work, but women often don’t have the ability to own land,” Tim McCoy, vice president of country relations for the World Cocoa Foundation, told VOA.
“So what we’re seeing here is a change in that and an example of women really taking responsibility and exercising really amazing leadership,” he added about Cayat.
“Thanks for allowing us to highlight a best-in-class example,” Trump told an audience of Cayat employees after touring the facilities Wednesday.
Trump was received warmly both in the town and the cocoa cooperative. Dozens of people wearing shirts with Trump’s photo lined the streets to greet her.
“We are ready to work with them,” Adingra Yawa, a Cayat employee, told VOA after Trump’s announcement. “We want our children to be able to go to school. We want to be happy like other women.”