Keeping Your Business in Mind

Women challenged to take advantage of AfCTA opportunities


As the world celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th, it emerged that fewer women than men are taking advantage of the trade and economic opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an African Union Agenda 2063 initiative that is expected to be a key driver for Africa’s continental structural transformation and industrialization.

As a result, there is a need to consider implementation in a way that increases women’s economic participation and assists them in integrating more fully into high-paying sectors of the economy.

“In this regard, to advance the objective of gender equality under the AfCFTA Agreement as a potential force for inclusive economic growth and transformative change, there needs to be a concerted effort by member States to mainstream gender into AfCFTA,” said Pamela Anyango, the Principal trade development officer, state department for trade during a workshop in Nairobi aimed at looking for ways to make the AfCTA work for women.

Furthermore, despite significant integration developments in the EAC and the potential of the AfCFTA agreement to transform lives on the African continent, awareness levels and knowledge on how to take advantage of the agreement have been very low amongst private sector players who are its primary beneficiaries. According to the forum, the level of awareness and knowledge among women in the EAC is even lower.

This implies the need for a coordinated approach between the public and private sectors in implementing AfCFTA, as well as the need to raise awareness of the potential benefits, opportunities, and challenges presented by the AfCFTA among key actors/stakeholders in the public and private sectors, including women traders.

The East African Community (EAC) secretariat, in collaboration with GIZ Tanzania, has therefore partnered with TradeSmart Consult Ltd to hold a series of workshops, webinars, and awareness creation activities to address the information and knowledge gap among urban and cross-border women in the EAC. These meetings are taking place in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“The main goal of this project is to create awareness and provide knowledge on how to take advantage of the AfCFTA to women traders in the EAC,” said Anyango.

On March 21, 2018, forty-four (44) African countries signed the AfCFTA Agreement in Kigali, Rwanda. The Agreement went into effect on May 30, 2019, after receiving the required 22 ratifications. As of October 2021, 54 African countries had signed the AfCFTA Agreement, and 38 had deposited their instruments of ratification with the AUC Chairperson.

Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda have ratified the Agreement, and the rest of the EAC Partner States have agreed to do so.

The primary goals of the AfCFTA are to: ‘create a single market for goods and services, facilitated by movement of persons, to deepen the economic integration of the African continent and in accordance with the Pan African Vision of “An integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa” enshrined in Agenda 2063’1; and to ‘promote the attainment of sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development, gender equality, and structural transformation of the State Parties’.

This is an acknowledgement that gender mainstreaming in the AfCFTA is improving women’s capacity to participate in the economic and trade opportunities provided by the AfCFTA Agreements and is critical to the transformation of the African continent.

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