Despite being the
second fastest growing region after East Asia, South Asia is
one of the least integrated regions in the world with limited
economic cooperation amongst the eight countries comprising
the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Other than domestic constraints, non-tariff barriers (NTBs)
are some of the most important factors responsible for the
low-level of intraregional trade.
NTBs also negatively impact the development of mutually
beneficial regional value chains and production processes of
regional markets, which are now increasingly attractive for
diversification given the noticeable dip in the demand for goods
and services in other markets.
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are recognised as an
important source of employment and poverty alleviation
especially for women across countries in the region.
Women-led/owned/dominated MSMEs constitute a major source of
formal and informal sector employment for women in South Asian
countries. However, the average growth rate of Women-owned
micro, small and medium enterprises (WMSMEs) is significantly
lower than the average growth rate of MSMEs run by men.
In South Asia only eight to nine per cent of small and medium
sized enterprises (SMEs) are owned by women compared to 38 to 47
per cent of the same in East Asia, Central Asia and Eastern
Europe. It is worthwhile to strengthen their participation in
the regional markets while leveraging their existing and
potential roles in the creation and strengthening of regional
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