The Association of Organisations of Mediterranean Businesswomen

AFAEMME Publishes the Current Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face in the Mediterranean Area


Barcelona, Spain -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/13/2013 -- The fifth annual Mediterranean Women Entrepreneurs Forum held in Barcelona, organized by AFAEMME (Association of Organizations of Mediterranean Businesswomen), in collaboration with ASCAME (Association of Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation, brought new light on the role that women entrepreneurs play in economic productivity and innovation.

The conclusions from the event that took place on November 22, 2013, in the framework of the VII Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders, underline the important opportunity for Mediterranean women entrepreneurs to network and to learn more about how women-owned enterprises are developing in countries such as Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Monaco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

Among the institutional representatives who participated in the Forum there were the Vice President of the Government of Catalonia, Joanna Ortega; the President of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation, Miquel Valls; the Councilor for Women and Civil Rights of the Barcelona City Council, Francina Vila; the President of the Women Entrepreneurs Committee of ASCAME, Najoua Attia; the Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Fathallah Sijilmassi; and the President of AFAEMME, Helena de Felipe.

During the event, the Presidents of several associations of women entrepreneurs in the region shared their point of view about the existing economic outlook.

In the Euro-Mediterranean countries, the financial crisis has had a strong impact on everyone, but it has especially affected women in the promotion and growth of their businesses. It is noteworthy that in Albania, 70% of small businesses are led by women. In contrast to that, statistics from Greece show that 42% of the female labor force believes that starting a business would pose a risk to the stability of their families. In Italy, only 30% of companies are led by women. Malta has the lowest percentage of women entrepreneurs among European countries. In Turkey, women-owned businesses represent only 7% of the total, and about half of the female population does not consider owning a business to be a realistic career option.

In the southern Mediterranean, the Arab Spring has sparked interest in female entrepreneurship. In Egypt, 33% of the loans granted by the Egyptian Social Fund have been conceded to women entrepreneurs. In Lebanon, the government is encouraging the training of young women entrepreneurs. In Algeria, 65% of university graduates are women, but only 6% of business owners are women. In Morocco, more than 98% of women-owned companies are microenterprises, and in 2000, the government passed a plan for promoting women entrepreneurship, which was also recognized in the country’s new constitution. In Tunisia, the latest political developments have enhanced the role of women in the economy but women often still self-limit their visibility. In Libya, several women are leading businesses, but their names do not appear in official records. However, the number of women on Boards of Directors of the biggest Libyan companies has doubled in the last years. In Palestine, the Israeli economic blockade particularly inhibits the commercial sector, where Palestinian businesswomen are more involved. In Syria, businesswomen are mainly active in the textile sector, the restaurant/food industry and the medical services sector, but most of the enterprises have transferred their resources to Jordan and Lebanon.

The presidents of the member associations of AFAEMME attending the event in Barcelona represented over twenty countries. During the conference, at AFAEMME’s Annual Meeting, four new organisations were accepted for membership. They joined the 40 current members. New members are: AIDDA, the Association of Italian Entrepreneurs and Business Owners; ONE, the Entrepreneurs Association of Bosnia & Herzegovina; W@WITALIA, the Entrepreneurs Association of Biella, Italy; and LWB, the Entrepreneurs Forum of Libya.

The President of AFAEMME, Helena de Felipe, summarized the conclusions of the Forum in three main points: 1) the financial sector has to be more “women friendly”, with specific products for women and the ventures they want to create; 2) there is still a need of continuous encouragement of gender policies that contribute to the eradication of stereotypes; and 3) the economic and political crisis in the Mediterranean is an opportunity for establishing an economic common ground on which women are allowed to play a more active role in overall commerce.

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About The Association of Organisations of Mediterranean Businesswomen (AFAEMME)
The Association of Organisations of Mediterranean Businesswomen (AFAEMME) ( is a federation of businesswomen associations which was launched in 2002 in Barcelona (Spain) and which currently comprises 41 member organisations from 22 Mediterranean countries. AFAEMME is a coordinator of European and Mediterranean business and gender equality projects and ground-breaking research, a networking platform for businesswomen and women entrepreneurs from all over the Mediterranean and a Euro-Mediterranean lobby organisation.