Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies. This was said by the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Ms Elizabeth Thabethe during the Women's Entrepreneurship Conference held in Milan, Italy.
Deputy Minister Thabethe is currently leading a delegation of business women on an outward mission which started in Netherlands.
"The department has made a commitment to support women in their drive towards greater economic empowerment and to ensure that women in business are actively supported through incentives, information sharing, trade missions, improved access to finance, business support, and where appropriate other opportunities," said Thabethe.
She said the department is continuously challenged to review and address bottlenecks from various government policies that have unintended consequences on women empowerment.
"The National Strategic Framework on women economic empowerment emphasise the critical role that the department must play in ensuring that women are given access to international markets. Part of this commitment is to ensure fair representation of women in trade missions," added Thabethe.
She urged Italian investors to explore opportunities in South Africa and to consider opportunities for greater co-operation in infrastructure, agro-processing, energy, human capital and training.
The Vice President of the International Trade Commission at the European Parliament Ms Cristiana Muscardini, said South Africa is an important partner of the European Union and will remain its leading trade partner for years to come.
"We need to form cooperation and partnerships between small medium enterprises in both countries mainly focusing on women empowerment and skills transfer. There are a number of projects that are already in place in some parts of Africa which needs to be revisited so that it can benefit the whole continent," said Muscardini
Thabethe will later in the week meet with the Deputy Minister of Economic Development in Italy Mr Massimo Vari to look at avenues for cooperation at bilateral level in the promotion of trade and investment relations between South Africa and Italy with particular focus on women.
Total trade between South Africa and Italy increased from R22.8 billion in 2009 to R32.7 billion in 2011 while imports increased by 75% from R10.3 billion to R17.8 billion during the same period.