AFCFTA: Be gender sensitive, minister tasks Africa

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Maryam Yalwaji Katagum, has called on all African countries to be gender sensitive in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), saying this would boost women’s businesses in the region.

Katagum made the call in Abuja while speaking at the 2nd edition of the African Women Trade Conference (AWTC) 2022, organized by the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) Nigeria, in collaboration with sister chapters OWIT Nairobi, Zimbabwe and South Africa with  theme, “Positioning African Women for the Next big Opportunity in the Regional and Global Marketplace.”

Represented by the Director of Commodity and Export Department- Suleiman A. Audu, she described women as the drivers of the African economy, calling for synergy and cooperation among all Africans regardless of background to be gender sensitive in the implementation of the AfCFTA if it must attain its desired goal. 

She said; “With the launch of trading under the AfCFTA in January 2021, the expectations are high as relates to the expanded business prospects for women-led businesses, which will unlock the potential for African women to grow their businesses from micro to macro enterprises. 

She noted that the agreement establishing the AfCFTA recognizes the need to build and improve the export capacity of both formal and informal service suppliers, with particular attention to micro, small and medium size enterprises in which women and youth actively participate.

“Through the AfCFTA, Informal and micro and small enterprises will be integrated into the continental markets breaking the barriers these businesses constantly encounter as they try to penetrate more advanced regional and overseas markets,” she said.

According to her, Women, account for 70 per cent of informal cross-border trade in Africa, stressing the need for them to be well positioned to tap into regional export destinations and use regional markets as stepping stones for expanding into overseas markets. 

“By reducing tariffs and with simplified trading regimes for small traders, AfCFTA, makes it more affordable for informal traders to operate through formal channels. which offer more protection by addressing the vulnerabilities women in cross-border trade.

“In preparation for gender inclusion in national AICFTA strategies and policies Companies have to invest in women directly by integrating gender policies and practices with global diversity: Women’s personal safety when determining working conditions and hours,” she said.

She further called on banks to set up gender desks with a view to go the extra mile in identifying and prioritizing targets of potential women borrowers as a platform for ascertaining and providing financial empowerment.

She also called on the African Development Bank (ADB) to support women-led Farmers Based Associations (FBAS) and MSMEs to promote agriculture in certain African countries.

“Greater efforts need to be made to provide women with access to technical education and on-the-job training. Targeted entrepreneurship training can help women entrepreneurs grasp the opportunities that open markets create and calibrate their businesses toward those opportunities through creativity and innovation,” she urged.

Earlier during a panel discussion, Expert in cross border Trade, Flora Agbiji Ndifon, lamented that the cross border communities lack infrastructures and are being abandoned to the mercy of only custom officers, stressing the need for government to pay attention to the development of these communities. 

In her welcome remarks,  OWIT President Nigeria, Blessing Irabor-Oza, said the Africa Women Trade Conference was established to contribute to existing narratives on facilitating the integration of African Women owned businesses in regional and international markets, and the global value chain.

“This years theme promises to deliver robust deliberations on the gender dimensions of critical issues such as assess to finance,” she said. 

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