About APEC and the PPWE
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum created to address trade and regional integration issues for economies bordering the Pacific. The 21 members of APEC are called economies since APEC is focused on trade and economic growth issues, or issues that affect trade and economic growth. You can learn more about APEC here: http://www.apec.org/About-Us/About-APEC.aspx
APEC also aims to ensure that all residents of APEC can participate and contribute to a growing economy, and APEC economies have technical cooperation projects that support inclusive growth. Within APEC, the Policy Partnership for Women in the Economy (PPWE) aims to ensure that women also benefit from economic integration among APEC economies. The PPWE has five priority areas in women’s economic empowerment that you will see throughout this website. These five priorities guide the work that the PPWE does:
- Access to capital and assets, including through such sources as land and personal property, participation in the workforce, and financial services;
- Access to markets, including markets for goods and services produced by woman-owned enterprises;
- Skills, capacity building, and health, so that women are physically capable of a range of economic pursuits and are prepared for these pursuits both educationally and technically (because of its focus on entrepreneurship, the WE-APEC review did not the address the health aspect);
- Leadership, voice, and agency, through which women are able to contribute as professionals, and leaders in the private and public sectors;
- Innovation and technology, so that women have the same opportunities as men to access and participate in development and implementation of scientific advances and new technologies.
A PPWE study found that the lack of women’s entrepreneurial networks in APEC is a barrier for growth for woman-owned businesses in the region. Thus, the PPWE created the Women’s Entrepreneurship (WE-APEC) initiative, which is focused on connecting women entrepreneurs to each other, to the private sector to access the vast range of goods and services available from woman-owned enterprises, and to government services that help businesses grow. Launched in 2014, WE-APEC’s first undertaking was to compile information and highlight best practices about how women entrepreneurs in each APEC economy are served, supported, and strengthened through business networks, private sector initiatives, and government services.
WE-APEC focuses on the entrepreneurship ecosystem - the community of inter-related actors and service providers around women entrepreneurs of all kinds, including micro-enterprises, SMEs, large companies, lenders, business associations, suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, government agencies and so on that are or support entrepreneurs. Each of these actors plays a role in the delivery of a specific product or service. Each obtains services or products from others. The individual parts rely on each other to grow stronger. The WE-APEC initiative aims to help the main institutional service providers within this ecosystem that support women entrepreneurs—business networks, private sector initiatives and government services—share experiences and best practices, and develop connections that can help entrepreneurs access new markets and increase international trade.
WE-APEC’s key actors: entrepreneurs, business networks, private sector initiatives, and government services
The PPWE identified these entities as the main actors in the ecosystem of entrepreneurship. And specifically for business networks, private sector initiatives, and government services, we see these entities as current or future service providers to women entrepreneurs, but they each provide services differently. Below are our definitions.
Business networks include any group or pursuit that links associates and acquaintances—or even perfect strangers—with the objective of strengthening opportunities for doing business or supporting women’s economic empowerment. Business networks have traditionally taken the form of women’s business associations, broad-based chambers of commerce, and professional groups. More recently, business networks are launched from the Internet, using technology to create opportunities in information-sharing, marketing, training, and more. For microenterprises and small businesses, social media has proven to be critical for building awareness of goods and services. Business networks serve all kinds of actors—entrepreneurs, service providers, managers, and non-manager professionals.
Private sector initiatives, for the purpose of WE-APEC, encompass efforts by corporations and other private institutions to help women entrepreneurs or women in business generally. The WE-APEC review of each economy found scores of domestic companies, multinational firms, private universities, nonprofit organizations, and similar groups that have established projects or initiatives aimed at serving women in business. To private companies, women represent a business opportunity—as potential clients, customers, buyers, and sellers. In addition, many companies target women’s entrepreneurship as a matter of corporate social responsibility. This approach typically blends the business-case for reaching out to women with the company’s desire to be perceived as a positive corporate citizen.
Across APEC, governments vary significantly in how they deliver services to entrepreneurs. For the purposes of WE-APEC, we considered a service a government service if it is primarily funded by the government of an economy, even if a non-governmental entity was providing the service. We found that governments target women’s entrepreneurship in different ways, such as loan guarantee programs; connecting domestic enterprises to trade opportunities; leadership programs for women; contests and scholarships that highlight the accomplishments of women in business; and training for women in entrepreneurship or nontraditional professions. Although business networks and private sector initiatives tend to borrow from experiences in other economies—in fact, many are formally connected through regional and international organizations and firms—each of the 21 domestic governments of APEC is unique in terms of policy priorities, competing demands on resources, and administration of public services.
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WE-APEC’s target audience
We see WE-APEC as a resource for members of the above named groups – entrepreneurs, business networks, private sector initiatives or government services - to share best practices, connect to each other, and open up new opportunities.