CEO, African Sustainable SME Export Trade Solutions (ASSETS)
After a highly successful career as a Translator/Interpreter, which culminated in her working for ECOWAS Fund for Cooperation Compensation and Development, Lome, Togo (now ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development) for 5 years, Ms Shade Bembatoum-Young returned to Lagos in October 1989. In January 1992, she made her first public presentation: “Export within the ECOWAS Sub-region – A Broad Overview of Problems and Prospects” at the UAC of Nigeria PLC Management Conference held in Cotonou, in June 1992, she presented a paper on “Export Marketing in the ECOWAS Sub-region” and in 1994, she prepared a report for Nestle Foods Nigeria Plc on “Intra-ECOWAS Trade and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme”.
During the past 26 years Ms Bembatoum-Young has gained recognition as a strong advocate of non-oil and non-traditional export, intra-ECOWAS trade, and of fighting poverty in Africa by creating sustainable livelihoods for African women and men, through the development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Exports. Throughout this period, as a Coach and Mentor, she has assessed and developed the export potential and capacity of numerous small and micro enterprises in Nigeria, because as she attended Trade Fairs, Exhibitions and Investment Forums within the ECOWAS Sub-region and beyond, it soon became clear to her that Nigerian MSMEs and craftspeople were not receiving the technical assistance, or financial support they required, and were therefore at a disadvantage compared with their counterparts in many ECOWAS countries when it came to producing export-quality items.
Ms Bembatoum-Young, who has been a member of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 1992, has served on the Council of the Chamber since May, 2000. In October 2003, she was one of the 200 women from 75 countries chosen as members of the Global Braintrust of Quantum Leaps Inc, (formerly Project Tsunami), a U.S. non-profit, in recognition of her pioneering efforts to assist African women entrepreneurs in accessing the global market. In December 2008, she was installed as a Fellow of the Institute of Export of Nigeria, in recognition of her contribution to the development of the Export Sector in Nigeria.
Ms Shade Bembatoum-Young represented Nigeria at the AGOA Civil Society Forum in Washington D.C. from 5th-7th June 2006. She had been selected by the US Civil Society Coalition, organisers of the Forum. She was also invited to testify at a Hearing of the Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations of the U.S. House of Representatives, on 8th June entitled, Removing Obstacles for African Entrepreneurs. Her testimony highlighted the supply-side constraints which prevent many Nigerian SMEs from exporting to the US, despite the zero duty access granted under AGOA, and she spoke at length about the importance of capacity building.
‘Part of the solution would seem to be to “package” and “groom” SMEs, especially those with export potential, in such a way that they become more attractive business propositions to banks. On the other hand, the banking sector in Africa needs to be properly educated to enable it to fully comprehend the role it should be playing in assisting entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. Right now, African banks often do not realize that they are “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” when they turn down loan applications from export oriented SMEs’ Excerpt from paper presented by Shade Bembatoum-Young during the June 8, 2006 hearing.
African Sustainable SME Export Trade Solutions (ASSETS) was established recently by Ms Shade Bembatoum-Young to provide services and promote activities that assist micro, small and medium scale enterprises to assess and improve their capacity to play a meaningful role in the development of the Non-Oil Export sector in Nigeria, in order to reduce poverty, create jobs, and accelerate sustainable and inclusive economic development.