President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. [Photo/ Courtesy]

With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) poised to generate potential gains of up to $450 billion according to the World Bank, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) in Nairobi, in collaboration with OWIT Nigeria and OWIT Zimbabwe, are partnering to support African women entrepreneurs to participate in intra-regional trade.

Speaking during the Africa Women Trade Conference organized by the two organizations on November 25 and 26, Aissatou Diallo, ITC Senior Coordinator for the AfCFTA and Least Developed Countries, said that trade under the AfCFTA would drive larger gains in earnings for businesswomen.

Themed ‘Empowering Women in Intra-Africa Trade’, the conference encourages women entrepreneurs to trade cross continentally, taking advantage of the AfCFTA’s enormous potential for trade within the regional and continental markets. The conference further focuses on Africa’s investment opportunities while creating an opportunity for women entrepreneurs and business leaders to meet with investors.

Supported by ITC’s One Trade Africa programme, the two-day hybrid event, with 200 participants on-site and 1,000 joining virtually, brings together traders, government agencies, financial institutions, investors, small businesses and local eco-system partners.

Experts attending the conference say it is critical to establish what the AfCFTA means for women in terms of their participation in cross-border trade, value chains and public procurement from the onset. They also underscore women and youth are key stakeholders in continental economic development, as Africa’s informal sector accounts for 85% of the continent’s total economic activity; and while women account for 90% of the labour force in the informal sector, making up 70% of the continent’s informal traders.

OWIT in Nairobi, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, are collaborating to serve as a strategic response to strengthening the capacities of African women entrepreneurs at all levels across the continent. They will work together to empower women in developing new and innovative approaches to intelligence, including competitive intelligence to trade beyond their borders.

During the event, Caroline Gathii, President of OWIT Nairobi, said, “we are honoured to partner with ITC through the One Trade Africa programme on the Africa Women Trade Conference which is the first of its kind in the region. The conference provides a platform for connections, collaborations, and exchange of ideas between Africa states. Together with ITC we will seek to explore avenues of increasing intra-African trade among women in the region.”

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