One group of people who stand to benefit significantly from the AfCFTA are women, particularly those involved in trade. Women have long played an important role in the economic development of Africa, with many engaged in small-scale cross-border trade. However, women have historically faced significant barriers to participating in formal trade, such as lack of access to finance, limited business skills, and discriminatory laws and regulations.
The AfCFTA has the potential to address some of these barriers and promote greater participation by women in formal trade. For example, the Agreement includes provisions to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers, which could make it easier for women entrepreneurs to access markets and grow their businesses. Additionally, the AfCFTA establishes a protocol on the free movement of people, which could help women traders to move more freely across borders and expand their business networks.
Moreover, the AfCFTA recognizes the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment for economic development. The Agreement includes a chapter on gender, which commits signatory countries to promoting women’s full and equal participation in the economy, including in trade. This chapter also calls for measures to address gender-based barriers to trade, such as discriminatory laws and regulations, and to support women entrepreneurs through access to finance, business development services, and other forms of support.
However, while the AfCFTA holds great promise for women in trade, there are also challenges that needs to be addressed. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of data on women’s participation in trade, which makes it difficult to design effective policies and programs to support women traders. Additionally, the informal nature of much of women’s trade means that they may not be able to fully benefit from the provisions of the AfCFTA, which are designed primarily for formal trade.
Another challenge is that female entrepreneurs face challenges in accessing finance, including high-interest rates, collateral requirements, and limited access to financial services. Governments and development partners can support women’s access to finance by creating targeted financing mechanisms, such as credit guarantee schemes, microfinance programs, and venture capital funds.
To address these challenges, it is important for governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to work together to collect data on women’s participation in trade and to design targeted interventions to support women entrepreneurs. This could include initiatives to provide women with access to finance, business training and mentoring, and other forms of support to help them grow their businesses and participate more fully in formal trade.
In conclusion, the AfCFTA represents a significant opportunity to promote greater gender equality and women’s empowerment in trade in Africa. By reducing trade barriers, promoting free movement, and addressing gender-based barriers to trade, the Agreement has the potential to support women entrepreneurs and promote greater economic growth and prosperity for all African nations. However, to fully realize this potential, it is important for stakeholders to work together to address the challenges facing women in trade and to design targeted interventions to support their participation in formal trade. By doing so, the AfCFTA can create new opportunities for women entrepreneurs and traders to grow their businesses, create jobs, and drive economic growth on the continent. Women’s economic empowerment can also help to reduce poverty, promote gender equality and create more inclusive societies. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that women have access to the resources and support they need to participate fully in the AfCFTA and the wider economy.