Vanessa Erogbogbo is a private sector development specialist with a focus on gender, trade and entrepreneurship. She is the head of the Women and Trade programme and the Chief of the Sustainable and Inclusive Value Chains Section at the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Life and education
Vanessa Erogbogbo was born in Kampala, Uganda and lived in several countries. She later moved to England and holds a dual citizenship to Uganda and the UK. Erogbogbo received a MBA from the London Business School, a MSc Information of Technology from Loughborough University and a B.Eng (with Honours) in Civil Engineering also from Loughborough University.
Before her current position at the International Trade Centre, where she has worked since 2011, she had worked for the International Finance Corporation, the Standard Chartered Bank, and as an entrepreneur. She currently resides in Geneva, Switzerland where the International Trade Centre has its headquarters.
Erogbogbo currently works at the International Trade Centre.
Women and trade
The International Trade Centre's mission is to foster inclusive and sustainable economic development, and contribute to achieving the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. ITC works towards creating ‘trade impact for good’. Erogbogbo is the Chief of the Sustainable and Inclusive Value Chains Section and head of the Women and Trade Programme at the International Trade Centre, which is a joint agency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN) and projects the idea of inclusivity and sustainability to aid the efforts in creating economic development that is sustainable. At the ITC, she oversees a team of people that, together, strategize and develop connections that can be brought to women through the #shetrades agenda. Erogbogbo oversaw the creation of #shetrades when it was launched in 2015. The #shetrades initiative has the mission to “Champion quality data; Enact fair policies; Secure government contracts; Strike business deals; Enable market access; Unlock financial services; and Grant ownership rights”. The SheTrades initiative connects the private sector and institutions that support trade through government power to benefit women and increase female participation in export trade.
Countries that oppress the participation of women in the market are often worse off and have lower GDPs than if they were to include female participation. In addition to this, women often care for their family and will make sure that household income is wisely used (ie. giving children access to education), which makes women exemplary candidates for economic support as it will benefit more than just one individual. Together, these reasons attribute to the reason #shetrades exists, which is a movement that Erogbogbo leads towards a sustainable means for women to access markets.
Sustainable and inclusive value chains
Erogbogbo oversees Sustainable and Inclusive Value Chains as the chief of this section of ITC. The section ensures that MSMEs benefit from trade by working with all stakeholders to embed sustainability and inclusiveness in value chains. The section comprises two large programmes on sustainability, and trade and gender, and supports mainstreaming of these concepts across ITC’s portfolio. The section has a range of projects working with multiple stakeholders, and has developed tools and methodologies for analysing markets and policies, strategic and operational research, assessing national trade performance, trade competitiveness and linkages between trade and development prospects.
The “Trade for Sustainable Development (T4SD) programme (T4SD) focuses on three objectives. First, it aims to provide comprehensive, accessible and comparable information on voluntary standards. Second, it aims to assess the effects of conventional and sustainable trade and production practices on socio-economic development and the environment. And third, it provides technical assistance for SMEs to build their capacity and knowledge to implement green business practices.
The SheTrades Initiative aims to connect 3 million women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses to markets by 2021 through partnerships to build their skills and link them to trade and investment opportunities. SheTrades influences change across seven pillars of action requiring public and private contributions: championing gender disaggregated data collection; enacting gender sensitive trade policies; facilitating access of women to public procurement; supporting women connect to supply chains; enabling market access; facilitate women’s access to finance; granting ownership rights. The initiative is supported by a digital platform (web and mobile app) for women entrepreneurs to connect to buyers, investors, and new markets.
Erogbogbo was a co-author, along with Ester Eghobamien and Elizabeth Pimentel, of the Gender Responsive Investment Handbook: Addressing Barriers to Financial Access for Women’s Enterprise. This work aligns with much of the #shetrades movement Erogbogbo pursues in that it addresses the issues of women not having the same access to markets that men do and the stunting of economic growth that can cause for the overall wellbeing of prosperity. Besides this, she has also written several pieces on her Women and Trade programme and other works to bring awareness to marginalization of women in developing worlds. She has written an article addressing the issue that addresses the gender gap that is driven further apart by the exclusion of women from African countries.
Media and conferences
Erogbogbo has led a talk at TEDx LausanneWomen to introduce some of her favorite success stories in woman-owned businesses and how more can be done to drive this empowerment and lead the future economy.
Erogbogbo has participated in numerous speaking engagements on the topic of women and trade, including the WTO public forums that are broadcast on the WTO website. In 2016, Erogbogbo was a panelist with moderators Katherine Hagen and Caitlin Kraft-Buchman with the topic “Women’s Economic Empowerment and Trade: Contributing to the Deliberations and Recommendations of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment” all on inclusive trade. When addressing systemic constraints of sustainable development and gender equality as a trade issue, Erogbogbo explains that there is not one great reason for the supply side constraints nor one easy solution but that the transition from development community leading the way of the involvement of the private sector (which is key in resource accessing) is important in providing markets to women. In addition to this, women are already entrepreneurs but they either do not have the opportunities presented to them the same way men would have or even when they do they, they do not have the skills to access these opportunities because of a lack of knowledge and education on the issues. Erogbogbo supports the leveraging of technology access to women so that women can cross barriers and access markets with less resistance. The ITC has made efforts to create an app to make entering and accessing markets easier for women. The following year, Erogbogbo acted as the moderator for the 2017 WTO public forum sessions.