Roshni Mooneeram's Opening Speech

Trade+Impact Summit, Ifrane, Morocco
Monday 19th September

Ladies and Gentlemen good morning. And very warm welcome to the opening of the first ever Trade+Impact summit. I am Roshni Mooneeram and I will be your MC for the three days of conference.

It is a great honour for Mauritius to open Trade+Impact and to welcome hundreds of participants from across 25 countries. Coming from Mauritius means that, like many of you, I carry a number of legacies, multiple Asian legacies, multiple European legacies. But first and foremost I stand here with my feet firmly grounded in Morocco, as a proudest daughter of Africa. An Africa rising and keen to build bridges within, keen to partner within, keen to partner across with the Middle East, Europe, the US. On Dignified Terms.

I was offered this assignment by the directors of Trade+Impact after my TED Talk in May this year. In my TED Talk, I advocated for a 4th wave feminism that is about bridge-building at the highest humanitarian, economic, political and spiritual level. 

I took some time to understand deeply the raison d’etre of Trade+Impact and its objectives. I have come to understand that Trade+Impact is creating the key conditions that will allow women from Africa to be architects of their own lives and those of their communities.  Trade+Impact is advocating for action that has the potential to change the course of history. 

There are 4 main strengths which bring me to officiate for Trade+Impact

First, the people. This platform brings together an extraordinary set of talent.

- Leading entrepreneurs, designers for their incredible talent and their heart.
- Social enterprise exhibitors
- Global and African Buyers for whose support we are so grateful.
- Social Impact Investors for investing where it matters
- Country Impact Ambassadors from across the world. 
- African and Middle East Govt officials who make powerful partners in implementing progressive policy.
- Last but certainly not least, Women’s Associations across Africa and the Middle East who do tremendously empowering and nurturing ground work. Women who often remain invisible. Well, Women’s Association of Africa and Middle East, you are not invisible today.

Secondly, the focus. The pioneering element to Trade+Impact is not just that it focuses on women-led social enterprises across Africa and the Middle East, but that it focuses on increasing the impact that those enterprises have on their communities. 

Thirdly the border-crossings. The underlying Theme is “Women Beyond Borders”. This is a huge selling point to me. Women social entrepreneurs from over 25 countries are gathered here today to grow, learn and share, regardless of colour, religion, race, or resources. It is when we work in partnership, as my colleague Sophie Otiende from Kenya, says so eloquently, that we achieve great things, not in silos. Partnership remains the key word. It is only when all key players come together, including government, that we can work towards innovative solutions and their implementation. 

Fourthly, the comprehensive approach. The platform supports women social entrepreneurs through the 5 pillars to trade – (1) investment, (2) learning, (3) connection, (4) personal development and (5) increased impact on themselves and their communities. 

Trade+Impact seeks to create an enabling environment so that such businesses can thrive. When women led social enterprise thrives, whole communities thrive too. And that is because when women have an income, they reinvest in themselves and in their children's welfare. For all these reasons, Trade+Impact is a game changer for Africa and the Middle East.

I’ll come back to the number 1 strength of Trade+Impact, the people it succeeded to attract and bring together. You will be privy to the extraordinary and unique talents of speakers, strategists and artists all gathered in one multidisciplinary conference. You will be impressed by the passion, the values, not just the technology but the humanity behind the products. You will be awestruck by art designed with African pride as an expression of culture and heritage. You will be mesmerized by craft that is organic and by fashion that is humanitarian. You will be inspired by the growth of some of the enterprises from modest beginnings to phenomenal global success. 

So, …. ladies and gentlemen, we are not here simply to buy and sell. We are here because we all have the same dream for real change in the world. Because we understand that at the very heart of this dream, lies the economic opportunities that we are able to create for women in Africa and the Middle East. We are here because we are catalysts for change…. No less. Because we are willing to go beyond dreams and beyond theory to take action today. We are here to build necessary bridges between social enterprise and its impact on whole communities. We are here to honour the energy, power and intelligence of women to contribute to the next stage of planetary evolution…. No less.

I have a special word of thanks to the Moroccan Govt which is hosting the first international Trade+Impact. The Moroccan Government has explicitly shown over the past years its support for women economic empowerment. It is building lasting partnerships for the advancement of women entrepreneurs in Africa and the Middle East. We will hear more of these initiatives from Moroccan Government officials this morning.

Trade+Impact is also supported by the Al Akhawayne University of Ifrane. A globally oriented university with an incredibly ambitious mission statement : to nurture its students to become a global force for change. This is how. The University of Al Akhawayne has invested in a

- a cutting edge liberal arts curriculum with global influences, 
- it has grown to become the national capital of e-learning in Morocco, 
- it nurtures in its students a sense of community service, requiring 60 hours of community service from its students.

The motto of the university is ‘We are greater than the sum of our parts’. Does that not make a fitting motto for the opening of Trade+Impact?

Ladies and gentlemen, can we give the University of Al Akhawayne a warm round of applause.

I would like to bring my opening speech to an end with this reflection. It is said that we are not simply born in Africa but that Africa is born in us. It is today an ambitious Africa that is incubating within each one of us present here in this room. The kind of bridge we build today and at the end of the summit will determine the future. 

I wish you an open hearted, productive conference and trade expo. And may this journey take us to local, regional and global partnerships that put strategies, tools and networks at the service of women entrepreneurs. 

Thank you.