Young entrepreneurs and Ye! Community members take the stage at the WTO Public Forum 2021
The Public Forum is the WTO’s largest annual outreach event, providing a unique platform for stakeholders to come together and debate issues related to trade and development topics. This year’s Public Forum took place on 28 September - 1 October under the theme “Trade Beyond COVID-19: Building Resilience”, looking at how the multilateral trading system can help build resilience to COVID-19 and future crises.
The International Trade Centre (ITC) through its Ye! Community and the GreenToCompete Initiative, together with the Permanent Mission of Finland in Geneva came together to organise a panel discussion on “Youth ecopreneurs - Innovating to build back greener”.
Two young female entrepreneurs spoke on the panel: Caritta Seppa, Co-founder and COO at Tespack Finland and Jane Nakasamu, Founder of Greenbelt Energy Zambia and 2021 SEED awardee. Other speakers on the panel included Kasia Weina, Founding Partner & Director at Evergreen Labs Vietnam and Mr Ville Skinnari, Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Finland.
Caritta emphasised that the pandemic offered a great opportunity to innovate and to make an effort to find more local suppliers that may have previously been overlooked. Doing business virtually rather than through travel and on site visits has optimised many of their processes and given them additional time to focus on new initiatives.
Jane reported that the pandemic accelerated the efficiency with which her business was able to connect to customers digitally. She also said that COVID-19 and its global impact shed further light on how urgently we need to act on the climate crisis in order to avoid another global disaster. “Doing good is good for business”, emphasised Jane in advocating for a more community-centred approach to business.
In addition, the Public Forum’s high-level panel on “MSMEs and COVID: Enhancing Resilience” featured Ye! Community member Mechi Amaah, who has been part of the community since 2020 when she won a video competition for young African innovators organised by ITC and YALDA. Mechi is the founder of Black and Natural Cosmetics in Cameroon and has benefited from ITC training and coaching following her win.
At the WTO Public Forum, Mechi spoke alongside ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton, H.E. Ambassador José Luis Cancela and Olusegun Awolowo, CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council and President of the ECOWAS TPO Network, among others.
Coke-Hamilton praised Mechi for weathering the storm of the pandemic with her business and finding new approaches to staying afloat. Mechi explained that she decided to diversify her products and to look at new alternatives for sourcing raw materials locally when importing from Nigeria became challenging. Difficulties with acquiring packaging also meant that Mechi’s business decided to switch to producing shampoo bars, reducing the environmental impact of the products further.
We look forward to many more events where youth entrepreneurs can champion their solutions alongside policy makers and other ecosystem stakeholders.
Missed these sessions? You can view the recordings here: