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Export business costs women higher than men

  • Published at 05:27 pm January 25th, 2020

IFC-BUILD joint study finds  

The cost of doing business in the export sector is higher for women entrepreneurs than their male counterparts due to high cost of obtaining licences and certificates through regular channel, shows a survey. 

The survey was jointly conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, and the Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD). 

The survey report is titled ‘Challenges of Trading across Borders Facing the Women Traders of Bangladesh: Recent Findings and Way Forward’.

According to the survey, male entrepreneurs prefer using unofficial intermediary or brokers where women entrepreneurs prefer lawyers or professional services firms to obtain licences or certificates.

Woman importers need more time to avail Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms (RJSC) certificate, industrial import registration certificate (IRC), coefficient certificate and bill of lading while women exporters need more time to obtain letter of credit (LC), cash incentive, generalized system of preferences (GSP) certificate, certificate of origin, says the study. 

The woman-owned enterprises (WoEs) face cost 3.3 times higher than the male entrepreneurs in engaging intermediaries for getting export registration certificate (ERC).

The survey also states that availing trade licence and its renewal require WoEs to pay more undocumented charges than men entrepreneurs. WoEs bear undocumented expenses more for getting export-related licences.

WoEs are less competitive in the context of using digital mechanism of obtaining licenscs and certificates related to export and import, the survey finds. 

Despite that the number of woman entrepreneurs has been rising over the years in both export and import sectors, they face challenges like limited access to export related offices and digitalized services.

The survey was conducted during February-March last year to measure the time, costs and process requirements and as well as document the barriers of business of WoEs and compare it with those faced by male entrepreneurs.

It is reflected in the survey that the number of WoEs increased during the period of 2005 to 2015 because of friendly environment.

BUILD Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ferdaus Ara Begum told Dhaka Tribune: “In view of the above, it was found that WoE faces severe legal and regulatory constraints and a survey in this respect can be conducted to understand the  actual situation."

Private Sector Specialist of IFC Nusrat Nahid Babi said there were special help desks for the women traders in many government and non-government organizations and such effort was needed in this sector also.

BUILD and IFC were willing to work jointly with the government to find out and solve the challenges of women traders, she added. 

Commerce Ministry Additional Secretary Sharifa Khan said according to the constitution there was no scope of discrimination between men and women. 

She also said RJSC should be fully automated so that entrepreneurs could get benefit easily. 

The survey recommends certified and qualified lawyers or professionals to provide services to the WOE and SMEs; simplification and time-bound L/C process from the banks and financial institutions; simplification of cash incentive providing process; chamber or association membership certificates; reduction of additional time and costs for availing government incentives; capacity building, disaggregated data of women exporters; abolition of hidden charge, reduction of lead-time; acceleration of seasonal financing; reducing the number of guarantor requirement for woman entrepreneur; active help desk; supporting behavior from the concerned officials; New HS Code to eliminate HS code related problems; and simplification of the process of acquiring bond licence.

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