The European Business Council for Africa

Report of a session organised by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat (AfCFTA Secretariat) on September 28, 2022, as part of the WTO Public Forum 2022: Towards a sustainable and inclusive recovery.

This session discussed the approach to the AfCFTA protocol on women. It assessed the effectiveness of relevant provisions in existing trade agreements, and identified possible gaps in the lead up to the adoption of the protocol to support Africa’s sustainable and inclusive recovery. Given women’s predominance as entrepreneurs and traders, the expected benefits of increased intra-African trade pursued by the AfCFTA will only be possible with women’s full participation. The landmark decision to include an AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade presents an opportunity to further apply a gender lens, in line with existing approaches to gender mainstreaming in the AfCFTA to ensure gains are widely distributed.

During discussions, panellists underlined the importance of gender-inclusive trade policy in addressing women's challenges, as well as the need for gender mainstreaming in national and regional implementation strategies. Among some of the identified common challenges faced by women were lack of access to finance, knowledge gaps arising from difficult access to trade information, discrimination and harassment, as well as lack of training on fundamental trade rules and mechanisms.

It was emphasised that private sector participation in trade negotiations is a must, and that public-private dialogues are critical for gathering inputs, proposing solutions, and encouraging capacity growth. In the context of the AfCFTA, private sector participation can help overcome hurdles women face, increases critical trade-related interactions, and help craft sound legal frameworks which ensure opportunities for women.

In particular, conscious efforts should be made to include women entrepreneurs in national and regional trade policy mechanisms. Towards this end, it was suggested that focused gender-integration training could be provided to government personnel, and that criteria should be defined for identifying women entrepreneurs' associations to be integrated into trade-related mechanisms.

On the panel were Nadia Hasham, Trade Policy Expert, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); Halima Noor Abdi, Senior Trade Expert, AfCFTA Secretariat; Amany Asfour, President, Africa Business Council; Amrita Bahri, WTO Co-Chair for Mexico; Gender and Trade Law Expert, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); Aminata Assome Diatta, Ministre du commerce et des PME, Gouvernement du Sénégal.

Please read the full report here