The International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) Zimbabwe will host a trade forum on 16 March to explore how the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can help empower women entrepreneurs in Southern Africa.
The event is part of ITC’s “One Trade Africa” programme that supports women and youth entrepreneurs in taking advantage of the AfCFTA.
“To be able to fully gain from the AfCFTA, African entrepreneurs, particularly women-led businesses, need to understand how this historic agreement can directly benefit them. The Harare forum will generate trust in the Agreement as well as establish a sense of ownership to ensure its long-term sustainability,” says Aissatou Diallo, ITC Senior AfCFTA Coordinator.
The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council and the country’s trade development and promotion agency – ZimTrade, will join the event, titled ‘Trade Beyond COVID-19: Demystifying the AfCFTA for Zimbabwe/Southern Africa Women-led MSMEs’.
The forum will provide an opportunity for women entrepreneurs in Southern Africa to develop new trade roadmaps for their businesses. Due to COVID-19, 30 delegates will gather in Harare while participants from the sub-region, key speakers and panellists will join virtually.
Tshengi Ndlovu, president of OWIT-Zimbabwe expressed her eagerness for women and youth in the region to reap the benefits of the AfCFTA. “We applaud the addition of the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth and we look forward to working closely with the government in ensuring that they benefit from the opportunities that come with the AfCFTA,” she says.
The event will also include mini-workshops on key trade topics. The sessions will look at exporting within the AfCFTA – a new ITC training programme, using e-commerce to expand business opportunities and increasing intra-Africa transactions as well as identify gaps in policy and monitor progress through an ITC tool – SheTrades Outlook.
ITC estimates the share of women-owned companies participating in international trade at 20%. Additionally, an estimated one billion women are unable to participate in the global economy. In developing countries, about 36% of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are said to be partially or fully owned by women.
This is why ITCis committed to building women entrepreneurs’ capabilities to trade and to take advantage of the African single market. The event will culminate with a call to action from small businesses highlighting key areas of intervention for women-owned businesses in Southern Africa within the AfCFTA context.
MSMES make up more than 90% of all businesses in economies across the continent with women comprising of almost 60% of Africa’s self-employed workforce. Scaling up intra-Africa trade is a game changer and is set to transform the continent’s economy, with countries trading under the AfCFTA since January 2021.
This is a milestone for Africa, taking a bold step beyond regional integration for cross-continental trade. In Zimbabwe, the government has been urging MSMES to position themselves for lucrative export opportunities under the AfCFTA. The country has one of the most vibrant small business sectors in Africa, which plays a critical role in job creation.
About ITC’s AfCFTA Dialogue Forums:
The AfCFTA Dialogue Forums organized by ITC provide a range of information, awareness-raising and training activities for the private sector, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). The dialogues promote full understanding of the AfCFTA for MSMEs to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by the large African single market. The forum gathers key policymakers and stakeholders around regional economic communities to unpack the the AfCFTA. More information is available here: https://www.intracen.org/One-Trade-Africa-Programme/
About the AfCFTA:
The AfCFTA Agreement was signed on 21 March 2018. As of 5 February 2021, 36 African Union (AU) member states had signed and deposited their ratification instruments with the AU Commission chairperson. This has fast-tracked the longstanding efforts by the individual, regional economic communities in facilitating regional economic integration between the 55 AU member states.
The AfCFTA seeks to create a single, liberalized market for goods and services, facilitated by the free movement of persons across borders. Fully implementated, the AfCFTA is expected to contribute to building Africa’s structural transformation and reshape markets and economies across the region. More information is available here: https://www.africancfta.org/