Not business as usual:Developing Palestinian exports

Alhijaz chocolate factory in Anabta, West Bank - © Romain Desclous for UNDP/PAPP

Funded by Canada, a UNDP project supports Palestinian small and medium enterprises in the West Bank to increase their exports potential and access new markets

Highlights

  • Membership to PalTrade increased from 164 to 229 small and medium enterprises, all exporters or with potential to export
  • 80 companies received expert business advise and recommendation to support their export, 10 of these companies managed by women
  • 19 certified Trade Advisors, including six women – the only such certified advisors in the region
  • In 2014, PalTrade activities directly contributed to USD 45 million in Palestinian exports
  • According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, female labour force participation rates remain relatively low at 19.4%, compared to 71.6% for males.
  • Over 97% of Palestinian enterprises are Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). 63.5% of women-owned SMEs sell their products informally in local shops in the villages or towns where they live, while only 2.7% export their products outside the State of Palestine

Mahdi Hassan, General Manager of Emirates Delights in Ramallah is proud of the challenges he overcame to gradually become one of the biggest exporter of Palestinian date palm. “Medjool date, grown in Jericho, is renowned for its taste, and we exported nearly 700 tons last year”, ten times more than when the company started in 2008.

“But it is not just about profits,” he says, “it is how we ensure farmers also benefit from our exports to new markets”. The increased export of Palestinian dates by Mahdi’s company meant that the small farmers he relied on could sell more of their production to meet international demand. With increased demand came increased prices: “we now buy our dates at twice the price than a few years ago, for a product that local farmers could not sell before. We see it as our social commitment to the Jericho small farmers, to share our opportunities and help their income,” Mahdi said.

Like 79 other Palestinian small and medium enterprises, Emirates Delights benefited from the support of PalTrade, the Palestinian Trade Centre, and UNDP to increase its exports potential and access new markets for their products.

“In a situation where the Palestinian economy is dramatically affected by the adverse consequences of occupation, we must address the economic empowerment of communities to improve livelihoods, achieve economic growth, reduce unemployment and poverty”, says Roberto Valent, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator. “Successful Palestinian exports to regional and international markets will promote employment opportunities and strengthen the role of women in the development of a sustainable private sector,” he says.

With USD 5.5 million financed by Canada, the UNDP project for Export Development in the West Bank aims at developing the capacities of Palestinian small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), especially women-owned companies, to become more competitive and develop export and employment-generating potential, resulting in economic growth and improved livelihoods for the Palestinian people.

To achieve this objective, UNDP partnered with the International Trade Centre (ITC) to enhance the effectiveness of PalTrade in responding to the export development needs of Palestinian businesses. 19 PalTrade staff and business consultants graduated from an internationally recognized certification programme, enabling them to implement enterprise diagnostics, assist export strategies or provide technical assistance to Palestinian SMEs.

Nibal Awwad is one of the six women who graduated from the Certified Trade Advisers Programme (CTAP). “We are the only ones in the Middle East with this certification,” she said, “and I now feel empowered as a woman: I can now support any SME and provide the right advice to help them develop their export potential,” she said. “The SMEs I have helped, while they were surprised to see a woman come as an adviser, have become familiar with my presence and have understood the value of the advice they have received”.

For Ma’moun Nazzal, Export Development Manager at PalTrade, “the certification changed the way PalTrade looks at business and exports: it now allows us to support the companies to have successful export of quality products”. For SMEs, the impact is positive: “they have seen their production improve and their income increase”.

In Qaliqiya, Fatima Al-Jada, Manager of Al-Hana company, knows the value of PalTrade support: what started in 1987 with one-sewing-machine and a dream of becoming a businesswoman is now a reputable company that employs over 300 employees, mostly women, to produce clothing and textile products. Her achievements and contribution to her community won her the Palestinian Exporter of the Year 2015 award. “To me, this award represents the pride of the journey so far and the encouragement to continue. It really is the recognition that women are fully part of the elite of Palestinian trade”.

PalTrade provided Fatima with trainings on negotiation and pricing, as well as encouraged and accompanied her in developing promotional materials or improve the packaging of her products. She also took part in international trade fairs, where PalTrade organised the Palestinian pavilion.

Hanan Taha, Chief Executive Officer of PalTrade, recognizes the impact of the project: “in 2014,” she says, “PalTrade activities were estimated to have directly contributed to USD 45 million in Palestinian export”. “The project supported positive changes at PalTrade and developed the skills and capacities of our staff to formulate and implement export development strategies”. “Between the initiation of the project and its end, PalTrade membership increased from 164, from private sector and including traders, to 229, all exporters or with potential to export”.

“Our new strategy puts gender at its core, to reach women and make sure they can benefit from our services and take part in events to promote their products, to develop their capacities, to inform them of new opportunities and connect them to markets,” she says. “PalTrade was the first organization from the private sector in the State of Palestine to develop a gender audit and to implement all its recommendations, from internal, human resources and policies, to practices”.