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Trade Tuesday For Women In Business: Africa Rising

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”

  • African Proverb

I spent my birthday week in Capetown – at the World Economic Forum, Africa.  It was great to be back in my favourite African city, and even more exciting to participate in the Forum For Africa. I led a focus group discussion as part of a session – “Innovate, Integrate & Empower for Inclusive Trade In Africa” – organised by the Global Alliance For Trade Facilitation.  We explored the challenges that women traders in Africa face when accessing foreign markets and worked as a team to identify possible solutions that the Alliance can utilise across the continent.

A common thread ran through the entire week, a discussion about the African Continental Free Trade Area, and with it was a constant refrain – Africa rising…

The agreement establishing the African continental Free Trade Area entered into force on 30th May 2019 & its operational phase was then launched on 7th July 2019. Trading under the Agreement will begin on 1 July 2020.

AfCFTA will bring together the 55 African Union member states covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, a growing middle class and Gross Domestic Product of more than US$3.4 trillion.

It will be the largest free trade area.

The AfCFTA has 3 key objectives;

  • Create a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of business persons and investments and thus pave way for establishment of custom unions.
  • Expand intra African trade via better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization and facilitation and instruments across Africa.
  • Enhance competitiveness at industry and enterprise level via exploitation of opportunities for scale production, larger market access and enhanced reallocation of resources.

As I listened to the panel discussions, participated in the workshops & attended the events running alongside the forum, it struck me that indeed this is a pivotal time for the continent.  One would be naïve to believe that it will all be smooth sailing – the road ahead will be tough & with many challenges & obstacles to overcome.

The journey to lifting the barriers that have for decades divided the continent, and sometimes pitted countries against each other, will only be successful if the benefits from trade expansion are inclusive, leaving no one behind. AU members will need to take deliberate steps as they design their roadmap to implementation to ensure gender-sensitive policies and targeted complementary measures, to ensure that women benefit equally from the trade opportunities.

The success of the agreement requires a paradigm shift – a collective movement at a time when the rest of the world is looking inward.

It’s not a magic bullet, neither will it work overnight – but by increasing the intra-continental trade, the AfCFTA could prove revolutionary, potentially lifting millions of Africans out of poverty, extending life expectancies, and improving living conditions.

Mucha Mlingo

President, OWIT Nairobi

Founder, PTS Africa

At OWIT Nairobi, we have a vision to empower women to transform communities through global trade. We are committed to creating opportunities for women to connect to global markets. As a Business Support Organisation, we work closely with our members to ensure access to the necessary tools to build businesses that can go global.

For more information about OWIT Nairobi – visit our website, www.owitnairobi.org

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