Namibia: Paving Ways for Women in Trade Through AfCFTA

To provide a platform for women to voice their needs and interests regarding trade in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Namibia last week held a national consultation for the AfCFTA protocol on women in trade.

In a virtual event, the economic advisor at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Wilmot Reeves said the aim of the consultation was to understand the export profile (sectors) in which women are engaged in cross border trade and to identify broader value chains linked to the export profile.

"The objective here is to explore specific interest or sectors in which women would like to expand within the intra-African trade market, and to identify the bottlenecks women face in trade, and which require resolution," explained Reeves.

Reeves added that they aim to identify a category of trade measures whose implementation will uniquely support the capacity of women exporters to maximise opportunities and benefits presented in the AfCFTA.

He further indicated the key thematic areas for women include manufacturing, agriculture and agro-processing, technology and innovation, creative industries, professional services, trade facilitation, trade policy, and informal cross border trading.

The overarching objective behind the AfCFTA is the elimination or reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers amongst the 54 countries that agreed to be members of the bloc by providing a single market for goods and services, facilitated by movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration and prosperity.

To identify key challenges and issues and required policy interventions to maximise women engagement, an entrepreneur Hilya Herman, who owns PH Niche Investments CC gave her testimony, emphasising the need to direct entrepreneur education and training skills for the youth and women.

PH Niche Investments CC is a business focusing on de-bushing, wood harvesting, and charcoal production, creating about 20 direct jobs. Herman stated that her economic impact is the "enhanced agricultural land productivity in the areas of crop production, hay harvesting, and livestock husbandry".

She identified the trading challenges as access to finance and markets beyond borders, selling price barrier, buyers in South Africa only wanting to work with agents, retailers want products with barcodes.

Herman added that there is a delay in operationalisation as well as high labour turnover.

"Opportunities we are looking at is to access markets such as in Europe and Middle East among the biggest markets. Embassies should promote local products overseas for economic growth and foreign currency earnings," she said.

On the same occasion, Sam Shivute, NamRA CEO, said Namibia has many cross border traders that lack information on trade customs and in this regard, NamRA is committed to stakeholders' engagements to raise awareness.

According to Shivute, the engagements will focus on classification and valuation processes and he encouraged women to take advantage of the free trade agreement to achieve structural contribution and help develop the local economy.

Meanwhile, on the same occasion, SACU secretariat Lerato Ntlopo urged SACU member states to implement capacity building initiatives for female traders to qualify as cross border traders for them to benefit from many government programmes. "This will increase states' investment opportunities among many benefits." -mndjavera@nepc.com.na

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