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Digital Inclusion

Orange, UN Women support digital inclusion in West Africa

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Pan-African telecoms operator Orange and UN Women are joining forces to support digital inclusion and economic empowerment for women in rural West Africa.

They are collaborating on UN Women's "Buy from Women" initiative, which gives women living in rural areas access to digital technology and new market opportunities, but also provides information, weather warnings and digital financial services. This initiative helps boost the productivity and income of businesses and farms run by women.

"Buy from Women" has already been implemented in ten countries across the world and Orange will be collaborating in Liberia and Mali. Other African countries where the project is running or is about to launch include South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire.

In addition to the financial assistance given to the project to bolster these initiatives, Orange and the Orange Foundation will offer unique technical expertise, their network and their existing infrastructure in digital skills, technologies and digital inclusion.

"Women's economic empowerment is a crucial element for UN Women. It is also more broadly a major driver of emancipation and a means of safeguarding women's human rights. 'Buy from Women' is a flagship initiative that opens up a full range of possibilities for women living in rural areas who are often not familiar with technology, to support them in the driving role they can play in favor of sustainable development," said Fanny Benedetti, executive director for UN Women France.

Success stories

In Mali, the initiative has already helped 1,500 women to market and sell their products including shea nuts, cereals, vegetables, jewelry and hygiene products and given them access to online training. The partnership with Orange in Mali will now also offer technical, financial and human resources to expand the offering and assist an additional 400 women.

In Liberia, adaptation of the "Buy from Women" platform to the local context is almost complete. A pilot project with women's cooperatives working in the cassava and cereal value chains has already proved successful and over time, this initiative and its developments plan to help support 1,200 rural women across the country.

Two Orange Foundation Women's Digital Centers (WDC) in Liberia are also training women, who are not familiar with new technologies, to use digital tools and platforms and will help specifically with digital knowledge for the "Buy from Women" platform.

"As the leading continent for female entrepreneurship and in the front line against the climate emergency, Africa's resilience is an incentive to pursue the partnership between Orange and UN Women to improve conditions for women in rural areas with the help of digital tools," said Elizabeth Tchoungui, executive director for CSR at Orange and deputy chair of the Orange Foundation.

The initiative aims to help support women's resilience to disasters in rural areas – with improved risk coverage, weather forecasting and warnings and advice on how to adapt farming with climate change.

It is also focusing on women's access to renewable energy in rural areas – this includes financing of pay-as-you-go solar systems and building women's skills in the energy sector.

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*Top image source: Technology woman photo created by wirestock - www.freepik.com.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

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