At an event titled “Making Trade Score for Women” held at the WTO on May1, 2023, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and FIFA President Gianni Infantino emphasized the role that football and international trade can play in empowering women. The event was opened by Ambassador Clare Kelly of New Zealand and Ambassador George Mina of Australia, who looked forward to their countries’ hosting of the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup in July. The event also included the unveiling of the 2023 Women’s World Cup official trophy.
In her opening remarks, Director-General Okonjo-Iweala said that the 2023 Women’s World Cup is projected to generate USD 220 billion, presenting a significant opportunity to connect African cotton producers to the football value chain and promoting women’s economic empowerment. The WTO and FIFA will build on their memorandum of understanding signed in September 2022 to work together to achieve this goal, she added.
The Director-General placed significant emphasis on the objective of increasing revenue for the Cotton-4 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali) and Côte d’Ivoire in the highly profitable global sports apparel market. She called for greater investment in these countries to enhance their cotton and textile sectors and to help them move up the value chain.
The Director-General highlighted the complexity of the cross-border football value chain, which encompasses various WTO rules concerning goods, services and intellectual property. She also drew attention to profitable areas of the value chain, such as trade in audio-visual services and trade relating to copyrights and trademarks.
“Services trade is the fastest growing sector, growing at 8% per annum since 2005. How can we grab a bigger slice of that trade in digitally delivered services? Africa, for instance, has less than 1% of total digitally delivered services trade,” she said. “There is a lot of money involved in intellectual property. I´d like us to think how developing countries can monetize some of these intellectual property rights in the football economy,” she added.
Despite the significant economic value of football, it has not been distributed equitably to producers in developing countries, particularly women, the DG said. She highlighted the WTO’s efforts to use trade as a means to empower women and strengthen the trading capacity of small businesses and developing economies, in particular through the ongoing partnership with FIFA, the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and African Export-Import Bank.
“Europe accrues the lion’s share of the value generated by the USD 220 billion plus global football economy. We can and must do more to connect women to new markets and to remunerative opportunities in high value goods and services. My hope is that developing country members are taking a bigger slice of this economy in 10 years, at least 50 % of the economy compared to the current 30 %,” she said.
Mr Infantino outlined the crucial linkages between trade and the sports economy, pointing to the tremendous potential for it to create more value for developing countries. FIFA’s cooperation with the WTO on the Cotton-4 initiative is part of this work to unleash that potential, he said.
Mr Infantino emphasized the importance of the upcoming Women’s World Cup, which constitutes a crucial aspect of FIFA’s global strategy to invest ambitiously in women’s football.
“We had a very successful Women’s World Cup in France in 2019, with 1.2 billion viewers all over the world, and more than 1 million in the stadiums. This shows the magnitude of this event. The next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will be even bigger than that, with 2 billion viewers,” he said.
Mr Infantino added: “FIFA has tripled the prize money from the last World Cup in 2019 — it was USD 50 million; we are now at USD 152 million. In 2015, before my arrival at FIFA, it was ten-times less — USD 15 million.”
He continued: “If we manage to grow the football economy in the world to half of what Europe is doing, we’re talking about a half-a-trillion economy almost, globally. And this is absolutely feasible based on how the game is developing all over the world. But I think what is more important than that is we want to see the game developing, and women’s football, women’s empowerment, is a very significant part of that. The Cotton-4 initiative is also a simple but concrete action which will be an example to many.”
FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy Ceremony
A special ceremony was held to unveil the Women’s World Cup trophy, marking the Geneva leg of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy Tour.
Ambassador Clare Kelly of New Zealand said the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will be the single biggest sporting event New Zealand has ever hosted, highlighting the nation’s firm goal of improving women and girls’ participation in sports and in the wider economy and society. “Today’s event highlights the steps women are taking in business and government to leverage the connection between sport and the trade and economic value chain for the benefit of our communities,” she said.
Ambassador George Mina of Australia reaffirmed Australia’s unwavering commitment to the rules-based trading system. “That commitment also plays into what we can bring through sport. Trade has ensured that Australians have access to the best sporting equipment, that it’s cheap and available, and that our services are open and enable the movement of people associated with sport,” he added.
The President of the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry Robert de Kock also participated in the ceremony.
More information about the trophy tour can be found here.
Transformative effects of football
At a session entitled “One woman’s journey to World Cup winner”, Anja Mittag of Germany shared her personal experiences of overcoming numerous challenges to reach the pinnacle of her profession.
“Winning the World Cup is not just a success. It’s a lot of work and a lot of tears. It was a long road. But in the end, every minute was worth it,” she said.
In a separate session, Didier Drogba, an international player from Côte d’Ivoire, voiced his strong support for using football and sports to give opportunities to women and girls. “We share the same passion for football and for sports in general, and our role as ambassadors of the game is to make it a more inclusive world,” Mr Drogba said.
HRH Princess Reem Bint Abdullah Bin Mosaad Al Saud described her role in developing the Saudi women’s football team, highlighting the country’s ongoing efforts to become a leading player in the sport. She said: “Obviously, social inclusion is a big priority but it’s important to acknowledge that sport has huge economic value.”
Three female CEOs from Africa discussed the opportunities and challenges associated with the cotton value chain and women’s social inclusion. They also discussed how their businesses could benefit from the growth of football while promoting sustainable practices.
Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, presented the organization’s multiple initiatives dedicated to providing specific technical assistance to African women entrepreneurs.
In conclusion, Ambassador Ahmad Makaila of Chad spoke on behalf of the Cotton-4 countries. He commended the WTO and FIFA’s joint efforts to support African cotton and women’s empowerment. “We have faith in their capacity to promote the integration of our economies into global actions and look forward to strengthening the fruitful corporate collaboration with the WTO and FIFA,” he said,
The full programme of the event can be viewed here.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.