Inaugural AfCFTA women and youth conference underway in Dar es Salaam
The Tanzanian government is currently hosting the inaugural conference on women and youth in trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), billed to last between September 12th – 14th, poised to position women and youth as drivers of intra-African trade.
Themed ‘Women and Youth: The engine of AfCFTA trade in Africa’, the conference is being hosted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial hub, under the patronage of President Samia Suluhu Hassan of the United Republic of Tanzania cum AfCFTA Champion for Women and Youth in Trade, with high-profile political and business leaders from across the continent in attendance.
Mr Wamkele Mene, secretary-general of the AfCFTA, while giving the opening remarks said the conference would explore strategies to effectively position youth and women at the center of the economic benefits of the AfCFTA, by expanding their markets within and beyond the continent, asserting that over 60% of Africa’s GDP is driven by women and youth led SMEs.
“Through our partnership with Afreximbank, we have established the AfCFTA Adjustment Fund, the Bank has approved a US$1 billion dollar facility to operationalise the Fund and address the challenge of inclusivity, to ensure smaller economies equally benefit from the trade agreement, notwithstanding the fact that Africa contributes less than 3% to global GDP as our input to international trade is 2.1%.
“We are not as competitive as we should be and that is because, for many decades, we have been fragmented and operating on the basis of the small capacity of national economies and thus have not sufficiently leveraged the large potential that the continent has. With 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of $3.4tn projected to rise to about $8tn by 2025, if we do not aggressively implement the AfCFTA, we could still remain merely a continent of hope,” Mene stressed.
The AfCFTA chief said Africa was capable of being globally competitive but lacks the capacity for value addition and industrialization, noting that a World Bank projection showed that steady implementation of the Agreement would see 100 million Africans lifted out of poverty, 75 million others out of extreme poverty and the continent’s GDP rise by over $450bn, just as intra-African trade would be boosted by over 80% all by 2035. “The most immediate beneficiaries of this projection are SMEs led by women and youth but that feat cannot be reached unless the continent is integrated, putting women and youth SMEs at the center.”
Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the deputy chairperson of the AU Commission, said Agenda 2063’s Aspiration 6 seeks to create a prosperous Africa which is people driven, relying on the potential of the populace, particularly that of women and youth, pointing out the fact that the AfCFTA as one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063, would be critical to fostering a people-driven and inclusive development agenda.
Nsanzabaganwa described the conference as a manifestation of the highest level of political commitment towards ensuring no one was left behind, adding that access to financial products which would allow women and young people the opportunity to build and scale up their businesses under the AfCFTA market was particularly key to promoting their inclusion.
“It is with this imperative in mind and in line with the 2020 – 2030 African Union Decade of Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion that the Women and Youth Financial and Economic Inclusion (WYFEI) Initiative was framed as an accountable partnership to unlock US$100bn financing for at least 10 million African women and youth entrepreneurs by 2030. The initiative also seeks to secure the increased representation of women and youth in leadership positions and also further partnerships to increase women’s and youth participation in public procurement amongst other benefits,” the AUC deputy chief said.
Dr Nsanzabaganwa therefore called on African governments to complement continental efforts to foster women and youth inclusion in trade under the AfCFTA. “We have to be intentional and deliberate in our approach to implementation of policies and programs that enable women and youth to leverage opportunities offered by the AfCFTA, the AUC remains committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that the FTA delivers on its promises of development for all.”
In recognition of the dominant and strategic role of women and youth in trade in Africa, the Dar conference is part of a series of continent-wide consultations with women and youth that will culminate in the AfCFTA’s Protocol on Women and Youth. The Protocol aims to provide practical solutions to the multitudes of persistent challenges being faced by women in young people involved in both formal and informal trade across the continent.
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