Addis Ababa, December 31, 2018 (ECA) – Communications must play a crucial role in building awareness on the gender implications of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the accord as a whole, participants to a recent Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) workshop on trade and gender agreed.
Panellists and participants agreed for example, that whenever the ECA and its partners organized big events, they should also arrange dedicated sessions on gender. The ECA’s upcoming Africa Trade Forums, they agreed, offer a perfect platform for this. In each of the forums, a women’s business roundtable should be organized to ensure the push against barriers facing women in trade are taken down.
The AfCFTA is one of the milestone trade policy developments in Africa which is expected to change the way Africa does trade and catalyze transformation in a way trade policy has not done before and political will, they added, was also crucial for its successful implementation.
“If the AfCFTA is to be different and transformative it will need to benefit everyone and be an inclusive agreement. This must happen through empowering those who haven’t accessed the market before to do so, including women,” said ECA’s Heini Suominen, the project leader.
Women-owned businesses tend to focus on local and national markets due to various barriers in accessing export markets hence the need to ensure the gender sensitive implementation of the AfCFTA, the participants agreed.
“The AfCFTA will have a number of implications and effects and there is a need to be able to understand how these will impact women,” added Ms. Suominen.
Particpants also agreed that to scale-up AfCFTA impact, there was need for coordination through a network for the exchange of information. The ECA is planning a continental training on the AfCFTA for journalists to influence and advocate for the AfCFTA, which should reflect the gender lens.
Participants agreed, among other things, that a Champion was needed to advocate for gender considerations in the AfCFTA.
In his remarks, ATPC Coordinator, David Luke, said the ECA will continue to work with its partners on initiatives that can be carried out in support of member States.
The workshop, which was a hit at the recently-held inaugural Intra African Trade Fair (AITF) in Cairo, Egypt, focused on the theme; Working together for gender-sensitive implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area: The role of Regional Economic Communities.
Discussions focused on four key issues; structures and frameworks needed for gender mainstreaming in RECs in the AfCFTA context; programmes and initiatives that RECs are carrying out in support of Member States; role of women entrepreneur networks in RECs; and internal REC issues that need to be addressed such as data collection.
The intention is to produce a report summarizing what was learnt from the REC missions structure around these four main issues.
The workshop was complimented by a session under the theme; ‘Empowering African women and youth in the new AfCFTA era – Making AfCFTA a reality for women and youth’, which wasalso hosted by the ECA.