Afghanistan’s image in the news media is often shaped by negative stories focused on security and political challenges. What is often not highlighted are a number of successes, achieved over the past several years, in shaping the country’s economic policy and democratic governance. These reforms have improved the business enabling environment and made a positive difference in the lives of small business owners whose livelihoods depend on a predictable and efficient regulatory environment.
Women entrepreneurs are increasingly important participants in the new global economy. In many emerging free-market economies and newly democratic countries, women comprise a significant — and sometimes dominant — portion of the business infrastructure, not only in the informal and small business sector, but in corporate ranks as well. Yet their participation on the management of business overall and the making of public policy is still hindered by lack of adequate gender representation, legal, institutional and cultural barriers, and traditional societal practices.
For over 30 years, CIPE has been working to strengthen democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market oriented reform. CIPE’s program for women focus on empowering them as entrepreneurs and encouraging their full participation in civil life and policymaking with the goal of building democracy that delivers for all.
In honor of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, CIPE hosted a Google Hangout with a distinguished panel of women leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss how women’s economic participation could be advanced globally. The panel featured Selima Ahmad, founder of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI); Lina Hundaileh, Chair of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Association (YEA) in Jordan; and Lucy Valenti, President of the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN). Discussant and moderator were CIPE Program Officer Maiko Nakagaki and Research Coordinator Teodora Mihaylova.
BWCCI founder Selima Ahmad received the Oslo Business for Peace Award earlier this year.
Watch CIPE’s Google Hangout on women’s entrepreneurship, which discusses BWCCI’s work.
While still a poor country, Bangladesh is an economic success story in terms of its economic outlook and expanded employment opportunities for women. In recent years, economic growth has averaged 6 percent annually and a vibrant, export-oriented garment sector has generated employment opportunities for urban women. Bangladesh has achieved food self-sufficiency and significantly reduced poverty, “putting the country on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals.”
CIPE began working with the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) in 2006 with two objectives in mind. First, CIPE would provide training and technical assistance to the board and staff to ensure that the chamber focused on member needs and attained financial sustainability by growing its dues-paying membership. Second, CIPE encouraged BWCCI to shift from training individual entrepreneurs to pursuing policy advocacy to remove legislative and regulatory barriers to the equal participation of women in the economy.
BWCCI’s work expanding economic opportunities for women and promoting greater involvement of women in the policymaking process strengthens participatory democracy. Women comprise more than half the population and women-owned businesses generate employment and contribute to Bangladesh’s economic growth. Addressing the specific policy concerns of female entrepreneurs expands the inclusiveness of the democratic process and enhances female representation in the country’s economic and political institutions.
This weekend the world celebrated 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall — the physical symbol of a divided continent. The Berlin Wall created artificial boundaries between societies, scarring Europe’s economic and political development for generations. The Iron Curtain defined where freedom ended and repression began.
The adoption of good governance practices is beneficial to listed companies, unlisted companies, and family-owned enterprises.
Good governance practices strengthen companies by building relationships among investors, boards of directors, managers, and employees. Implementing corporate governance guidelines allows businesses to obtain capital at lower cost, enhances business strategy, and attracts the best human capital.
Corporate governances also promotes competitiveness in the marketplace and is an antidote to corruption. Effective corporate governance also helps ensures the integrity of business operations and strengthens the rule of law and democratic governance by promoting values of accountability and transparency.
In the last decade, Pakistan has experienced a sizeable increase in the number of unlisted companies, particularly family-owned organizations. These enterprises form the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and growth; the need for corporate governance guidelines for these particular types of companies has never been greater. Instituting good governance practices is particularly effective in overcoming the challenges many family-owned enterprises face.
CIPE partnered with the Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance (PICG) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan to assess sectoral needs and develop the Corporate Governance Guide for Family-Owned Enterprises, the first guide of its type in Asia.
To learn more about the benefits of instituting good governance practices for family-owned enterprises and how one Pakistani company improved its governance and its performance, read the latest case study from the forthcoming collection of Strategies for Policy Reform.
Teodora Mihaylova is Research Coordinator at CIPE.
A public-private dialogue session with Senegalese President Macky Sall.
The private sector is a key actor in efforts to promote economic growth, reform the business climate, and strengthen democratic policymaking worldwide. Businesses possess the know-how to analyze economic conditions and identify obstacles and opportunities for growth, while governments have the means to pass business-friendly legislation.
From a democratic point of view, a vibrant private sector contribution to dialogue expands participation in policymaking and civic engagement in governance, improves the quality of business representation, and supplements the performance of democratic institutions.
The latest case study from the forthcoming publication Strategies for Policy Reform discusses CIPE’s experience assisting the advancement of policy dialogue in Senegal that supports market-oriented reforms and private sector development.
As Senegal’s largest, most representative and well-organized business association, l’Union Nationale des Commerçants et Industriels du Senegal (UNACOIS) has played a key role in the country’s policymaking process by engaging the government in public private dialogue. At regional and cross-regional dialogue sessions jointly organized by UNACOIS and CIPE, UNACOIS members identified the nation’s complex tax code and high tax rates for SME operators as a major cause of informality in the SME sector. With CIPE support, UNACOIS developed an evidence-based policy paper on tax reform, held public-private dialogue meetings with relevant stakeholders, and presented these recommendations to government officials.
Read about UNACOIS’s successes in reforming the Senegalese Tax Code, establishing a mechanism for regular, ongoing public-private dialogue, and reducing informality here.
Teodora Mihaylova is Research Coordinator at CIPE.
Corruption is a systemic problem that plagues many transitional countries across the world, rooted in weak rule of law and lack of private property rights. Not only does corruption erode trust in public institutions, such practices also hinder economic growth and weaken democratic governance.
The corruption challenge can be addressed by building responsive institutions that offer basic assurances of private property rights and ensure law and order. CIPE programs address the root causes of corruption through a multi-pronged approach. CIPE programs mobilize the private sector to raise anti-corruption standards and advocate for reforms; streamline regulations and reduce implementation gaps to limit opportunities for corruption; improve corporate governance to strengthen firm-level integrity; facilitate collective action to level the playing field and coordinate company efforts; and equip small and medium-sized enterprises to resist bribery and meet the requirements of global value chains.
Two recent case studies, described below, show these CIPE approaches in action.