FAO and International Trade Centre renew commitment to empower women agrifood traders in African Continental Free Trade Area

FAO and International Trade Centre renew commitment to empower women agrifood traders in African Continental Free Trade Area

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Phase II of joint programme doubles investment, expands to two new countries, and introduces component on women’s access to finance

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) SheTrades Initiative have launched Phase II of the EWAT programme: Empowering women and boosting livelihoods through agricultural trade: Leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Spanning across four countries, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa, the EWAT programme was developed in 2021 with the objective of promoting women’s participation in the AfCFTA, and increase their access to capacity building and higher-productivity activities, capitalizing on the new opportunities in regional trade created by the AfCFTA agreement.

As the programme transitions into its second phase, two new countries will be targeted, Senegal and the United Republic of Tanzania, and a component on women’s access to finance will be piloted in Ghana and Nigeria.

“We are excited to see the programme’s growth and how it is reaching out to more women’s organizations and decision-makers in different countries and at different levels. The programme is a great demonstration of our technical efforts to support inclusive agribusiness development in collaboration with regional partners and the AfCFTA Secretariat,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa.

“The AfCFTA has the potential to transform African economies and the livelihoods of millions of people – if it is accessible to everyone. To deliver on its promise, the voices of women, particularly those in the agrifood sector, must be reflected in every step of implementation. The EWAT programme, now in its second phase, is

designed to deliver on this transformational agenda by harnessing the expertise of FAO and ITC,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of ITC.

Building on achievements and learning

Throughout Phase I, the EWAT programme focused on mapping and analysing priority regional value chains, developing and disseminating policy recommendations and building the capacity of formal and informal women producers, processors, entrepreneurs and traders. Through three in-person capacity building events, 160 women involved in the agrifood sector were trained in Malawi, Ghana and Nigeria. Topics covered during these trainings included available tools and resources to simplify trade under AfCFTA, rights of traders when using border posts, gender-based violence, harassment and corruption in cross-border trade, among others.

 In Ghana, women reported a 45 percent increase in awareness of the benefits of the AfCFTA, 69 percent had an increase in knowledge on company registration for exporting, and 55 percent increased their knowledge on food safety. Participants declared being eager to use the knowledge acquired to expand business opportunities in the region as well as having sufficient knowledge to comply with the standards and procedures that will allow them to seize the opportunities created by the AfCFTA. The success of the trainings will contribute to the continuation of the programme’s capacity building efforts in 2023.

The programme also made significant progress in the production and dissemination of knowledge. While there has been a growing body of literature on women’s participation in trade, few studies have done to better understand the potential challenges and opportunities available to women – particularly those in the agrifood sector – under AfCFTA. Meaningful data and insights have been collected and disseminated on the nature of women’s participation in the soybean and fisheries value chains, and considerations on how to make these value chains more inclusive. In addition, four policy briefs have been drafted with recommendations on increasing the gender-responsiveness of trade facilitation, non-tariff measures, barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary standards. Over the next 12 months, FAO and ITC will use the knowledge produced through these studies to promote the engagement of women in the selected value chains as well as their expansion into continental markets.

The programme also aims to increase the competitiveness of women-led micro, small and medium enterprises in the agrifood sector through upgraded business plans, improved business readiness and increased access to finance by leveraging on the development of gender-responsive financial services in collaboration with selected financial institutions.

Phase II will capitalize on results achieved and lessons learned in the past 12 months by supporting the engagement of more women’s groups and organizations in the upcoming negotiations and implementation of the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade. The programme will also continue working with women entrepreneurs and traders and women business associations in the agrifood sector who have benefitted from trainings throughout Phase I, to further enhance their skills to successfully engage in regional value chain development and trade within the AfCFTA.

The AfCFTA spans over 54 countries and supports a market of over 1.4 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of USD 2.5 trillion and growing. While the new free trade area presents a ground-breaking opportunity to boost Africa’s share of global trade and achieve the goals of Agenda 2063, such objectives can only be accomplished if the implementation of the agreement is fair and inclusive. Currently, women entrepreneurs and traders in the agri-food sector in Africa face challenges related to working in the informal sector, complying with legal requirements, and accessing market information, training, and finance, among other issues.

The EWAT programme is a solid representation of FAO’s ongoing efforts to mainstream gender equality in regional agricultural sector policies and programmes while promoting concrete opportunities for boosting women’s livelihoods and capacities in value chains and agribusiness in the continent. The programme also builds on ITC’s SheTrades Initiative and One Trade Africa programme. The SheTrades Initiative works to foster more inclusive business and policy ecosystems and increase the competitiveness of women entrepreneurs and women producers and connect them to markets, and the One Trade Africa programme works to empower, enhance and enable small businesses to access business opportunities in Africa.

Source: FAO