By Sami Zaptia.
London, 30 January 2017:
USAID and MEDA’s Libya Women Economic Empowerment (LWEE) programme’s success led to its expansion to the whole of Libya and its extension to a second phase from 2014-2017, after the great success it had enjoyed in its first phase between 2012-2014, organizers informed Libya Herald.
They report that they are among the first programmes in Libya to offer business development training and the first to systematically target women and encourage them to move forward economically.
Despite the challenges of working in Libya, they report, the project was able to achieve its target of training hundreds of entrepreneurial women on fundamental business and personal self-development skills. The business courses included six basic materials; principles of economics, entrepreneurship, small businesses, leadership, and administration, in addition to marketing principles.
Originally the programme was budgeted and designed on a small scale in Phase I (2012-2014). However, shortly after training started in Tripoli, it was clear that the demand and need was high in other locations in Libya. As a result, working through local partners’ networks, the program was expanded to other cities to reach the eastern and southern regions of the country.
Phase two (2014 -2017) of the LWEE programme will continue to work with women-owned and managed businesses in urban and rural areas by enhancing business networks, market linkages, developing web enabled and SMS technologies, sustainable business and financial training programs, and tools for increased access to finance.
The program will focus on three main areas of activities in Phase two that include Women Business Empowerment. This will work with existing women-owned business networks within Libya and in the MENA region, facilitating the creation of new networks with the objective of strengthening linkages between M/SMEs and more established businesses.
Virtual Business Incubation Services will strengthening the capacity of providers of business development services to address the needs of M/SMEs, with a particular focus on women entrepreneurs, through a range of virtual business incubation services.
Innovative Access to Finance Framework will explore alternative methods of financing such as private sector corporate social responsibility initiatives, value chain financing, and crowd funding.
Phase one and two also implemented a business plan competition for which hundreds of women applied from all over Libya and which awarded matching grants ranging from 5000 – 30,000 LD to a total of 21 entrepreneurial women to start-up or expand their businesses.
In 2015, MEDA conducted an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) & Gender survey with more than 400 Libyan women across Libya, the results of which showed 97% of the respondents as having internet access mainly through mobile devices and that though their ICT skills were minimal women were not reluctant to go online and learn more in order to improve their knowledge and skills and help grow their businesses.
This led the Libya Women Economic Empowerment project team to think about adapting the instructor-led business development training previously offered between 2012-2014 into a self-guided course which MEDA, together with D2L, a global learning technology leader, is piloting since September 2016.
This is a unique education partnership in Libya that will allow thousands of female and male entrepreneurs across Libya to have access to business education courses in Arabic online. This Virtual Business Incubator (VBI) on the Brightspace Learning Platform so far, includes: financial strategy, business planning and sales and customer service development courses.
The platform’s design works across a wide variety of devices and can provide both online and offline content for use in low-connectivity environments. It is an interactive mini-distance learning program that does not consume a lot of bandwidth and which is continuing into 2017.