Gaborone — Improving women's access to trade opportunities not only facilitates their economic freedom but also expands countries' productive capacities.
Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Mr Molebatsi Molebatsi said this in Gaborone Tuesday at a national consultations workshop towards development of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Women in Trade Protocol.
Mr Molebatsi said it was exciting to witness growth of women's businesses and their participation in trade which would in turn contribute to attainment of the national agenda.
He said government had acceded to several trade agreements such as AfCFTA for the purpose of improving access to markets and cheaper raw materials.
The agreement offered a great opportunity to Botswana's businesses across many sectors, as it would create a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of business persons and investment, he said.
Mr Molebatsi said AfCFTA, which came into implementation in January, was the most significant milestone in the continental integration agenda and remained the largest free trade area since the formation of World Trade Organisation (WTO).
"As you are all aware, the agreement covers a market of close to 1.27 billion population and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over 3.4 trillion US dollars, across all the 55 member states of the African Union," he said.
He said there were ongoing efforts to remove all trade barriers in Africa citing the newly-opened Kazungula Bridge with its one-stop service for ease of movement.
Mr Molebatsi said in recognition of the important role women played in informal cross-border trade, the 13th AU extraordinary summit decided to develop the AfCFTA women protocol.
The protocol should be used to advance the empowerment of Africa's women, one of the most important objectives of Agenda 2063, he said.
The assistant minister said the workshop, organised by UNDP, came at the right time when his ministry was in the process of creating a conducive environment for investment promotion as well as sustainable industries and trade development aimed at diversifying and growing the economy.
Without diversification, he said, past development successes remained fragile as the economy became vulnerable to external shocks which was always the case whenever world demand for diamonds declined.
Therefore, initiatives aimed at facilitating growth and diversification of the country's exports were extremely dear to the ministry and government, he said.
In her welcoming remarks, UNDP resident representative, Ms Jacinta Barris said the national consultations were to provide a platform for women to voice their trade-related needs and interests in the context of AfCFTA.
The consultations were therefore an important element in making the protocol's development participatory, inclusive and responsive to the needs and priorities of women.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>