Ten Woman Entrepreneurs Win MWEC Awards

MWEC Winners
You might remember this first article and this later article about the Mekong Women’s Entrepreneurship Challenge (MWEC) which began last year.

Ten women entrepreneurs were announced as winners of the Mekong Women’s Entrepreneurship Challenge (MWEC) last Tuesday, with US$10,000 to be awarded to each successful entrepreneur for improving and expanding their businesses. The Mekong Women’s Entrepreneurship Challenge is a competition for highly motivated women who own small to medium sized businesses and are eager to expand. It is sponsored by the World Bank, and is implemented by the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise Promotion Department and the Emerging Markets Consulting (EMC) group. The contest is part of a broader programme also covering Cambodia and Vietnam, with the project intended to facilitate the expansion of female-owned business throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion. Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce’s SME Promotion Department, Mr Soutchay Sisouvong, said the project is not only important to supporting female-owned businesses but also to promoting gender equality in society.

“More women are encouraged to be part of the business sector, so the government emphasises the promotion of female entrepreneurs,” he said. The number of female-owned businesses is increasing significantly, especially in the production sector, Mr Soutchay said, but we still need to increase the number of female entrepreneurs throughout the country. “When it comes to quantities, about 2 percent of the population is engaged in female-owned businesses and we still face several challenges when compared to neighbouring countries.” Mr Soutchay said Laos will participate in the Asean Economic Community in 2015, so the requirement for capacity improvement is considerable in order to compete with other countries in the region. “This project highlights the great talent of female entrepreneurs but a wide range of support is needed, especially in finance, business techniques and consultancy to enable them to become stronger in business operations,” he said. Mr Soutchay said he believed these women would play an essential role in contributing to the nation’s socio-economic development.

EMC’s Senior Consultant, Mr Hetal S. Patel, said MWEC and Supporting Talent Entrepreneurial Potential and Success (STEPS) are the World Bank’s sister projects working in Laos to empower entrepreneurs, especially women. “STEPS targets young entrepreneurs who have plans to start or expand a micro business while MWEC works with established women-led small and medium enterprises who want to grow their business,” he said.

The programme is sponsored by Information for Development (infoDev), a global grant-giving programme within the World Bank, and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. During the first round of the selection process, EMC received 133 applications and selected 25 finalists to participate in a threeday workshop on innovation, competitiveness and creativity.

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Vientiane Times, Vientiane Today
February 27, 2012