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Boosting women's economic empowerment with AfCFTA'

17 Mar 2021 at 14:46hrs | Views
THE International Trade Centre (ITC) has urged women entrepreneurs in Southern Africa to expand their business opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The free trade area — which was operationalised in January this year — is expected to improve Zimbabwe's exports into the rest of the continent in a market with a combined GDP of about $3,4 trillion.

Speaking during the Harare Forum this week, ITC highlighted the rise of existing gender inequalities, affecting women's access to resources and equitable economic opportunities.

"It is a well-known fact that women's empowerment creates ripple effects that boost growth and make countries more competitive internationally and also improve other complementary factors, such as health and education. Despite these evident gains, women entrepreneurs and women-led business face greater challenges, such as limited financial literacy, access to finance and business networks, and even constraints due to social norms," Dorothy Tembo ITC Deputy Executive Director said. image.png

Organized in collaboration with the Organisation of Women in International Trade (OWIT) in Zimbabwe, the high-level trade forum is part of ITC's One Trade Africa programme – AfCFTA Dialogue Forums.

Looking at "Trade Beyond Covid-19: Demystifying the AfCFTA for Zimbabwe/Southern Africa Women-led MSMEs", the event's discussions promoted ownership of the agreement among the region's participants as well as engaged women and youth-owned small firms in seeking out the potential business gains the AfCFTA can offer.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Deputy Minister, David Musabayana, underscored the government's recognition to prioritise women's economic empowerment in achieving the country's economic growth.

"For women traders and entrepreneurs, including micro-entrepreneurs to benefit from expanded trade under the AfCFTA, government will scale up existing trade-related technical assistance for women and youth-owned SMEs to help them improve their capacity to trade," said Musabayana.

The AfCFTA involves the easing of trade restrictions for trade in goods and services among the rest of African countries.

Allan Majuru, ZimTrade's chief executive, said the agreement opens tremendous possibilities for the whole continent.

"There are vast opportunities in African markets. We have no doubt that with the right support Zimbabwean companies will perform well across all markets in the continent. Our engagement with ITC and other stakeholders will discuss intra-Africa trade opportunities as well as find solutions to challenges faced by Zimbabwean companies," Majuru said.

Private-sector representatives called on policymakers in the region to accelerate digital transformation programmes, such as e-commerce, as they seek to align both national and regional trade strategies.

Other stakeholders included the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council, the Senior Advisor to the AfCFTA Secretary-General, the head of delegation for the European Union to Zimbabwe and International Trade in Zimbabwe.

The resulting Harare Declaration asks all stakeholders to align with global best practices, common trends and opportunities for a successful AfCFTA.

The Forum also included mini-workshops on key trade topics such as exporting within the AfCFTA and increasing intra-Africa transactions through e-commerce.

Southern Africa and Zimbabwean exporters, especially women and young small businesses owners, were encouraged to tap into the opportunities available in other African markets as well as improve their competitive edge.

Source - Mayibongwe Moyo
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