The International Trade Centre (ITC) has called for economic and trade policies that specifically work for women under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement.
ITC Executive Director, Ms Arancha Gonzalez, made the call on Tuesday during a session, ‘SheTrades Global 2019’, at the ongoing World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
She said that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement would not achieve its goals if it did not work for women.
The event was part of the activities marking the 2019 Africa Industrialisation Week, which opened on Monday, jointly sponsored by the ITC, the African Union, the government of Ethiopia and other development partners.
The theme of the 2019 Africa Industrialisation Week is: ‘Positioning African Industry to supply the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) market.’
Ms Gonzalez harped on the central role of the women in achieving successful implementation of the AfCFTA protocols and objectives.
According to her, AfCFTA has the potential to change the trading landscape of Africa and boost intra-Africa trade by more than 50 per cent.
“However, if policies are going to work, they need to work for everyone — and that includes women.
“For this reason, in the past two days, ITC, the AU Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa have worked with more than 40 women business associations.
“These associations represent one million African women entrepreneurs and producers.
“We have been working with them to develop priorities to shape an AfCFTA that works for women.
“We will continue the discussion into 2020 by bringing together women and trade policymakers,” she said.
The News Agency reports that the ITC, on Monday, also met with ‘SheTrades’ partners; including those from the private sector and the funders community.
NAN also reports that the purpose of the meeting was to craft a vision and a plan of action for scaling stakeholders’ collective action across the entire spectrum of trade.
This includes agriculture, manufacturing, services and digital economy.
During her presentation, Gonzales said that there were more than 1,100 registered delegates from 95 countries.
She expressed satisfaction in the variety of committed stakeholders united around the goal of increasing women’s participation in trade and the economy.
“We are here to propose innovative solutions, take stock of progress, share experiences and best practices, and accelerate the greater inclusion of women in trade,” she said.
Part of the highlights of the session were presentations by the First Lady of Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi, and the Commissioner for Trade and Industry of the AU Commission, Mr Albert Muchanga.
Chair emeritus, East Africa women In Business, Ms Dorothy Tuma, amongst others, also had presentations.
The speakers, underlining what women wanted under the AfCFTA, urged for clear commitment to the agreements as well as special roles of the women; beyond mere mentions.
They also called for accountability, more specific gender affirmation, some sectors dominated by women and access to greater opportunities for women.
Other demands included special accommodation for women and adoption of universal best practices of free trade areas.
Meanwhile, through the ‘SheTrades’ Initiative, Gonzales said the ITC was building women’s skills sets and helping them to add value to their products and services.
She said the global body was also preparing women to meet and formalise deals with new investors and buyers.
Gonzales added that ITC also provided unique opportunities for networking, sharing of best practices and access to role models.
Gonzales listed examples of success stories to include women-owned businesses like Mafi Mafi in Ethiopia, Eclectic Chique in Nigeria, Botlab Software in Kenya and Travium Honey Supplies in Zambia.
Edited by Oluwole Sogunle
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