Zimbabwe: Women Challenged to Grab AfCFTA Opportunities

The International Trade Centre (ITC) has implored women entrepreneurs in Southern Africa to expand their business opportunities, taking advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a Harare trade forum heard this week.

Organised 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.

Themed looking at “Trade Beyond Covid-19: Demystifying the AfCFTA for Zimbabwe/Southern Africa women-led MSMEs”, the discussions, among other issues explored business opportunities the US$3,4 trillion AfCFTA market can offer.

In 2015, the Africa Union heads of state paved way for the AfCFTA through the adoption of Vision 2063: The Africa We Want.

January 1, 2021 marked the date when the AfCFTA became operational. Fifty-four countries have signed the agreement and 34 have ratified and deposited instruments of ratification with the AU Commission.

The AfCFTA will have a market of about 1,3 billion consumers with GDP of US$3,4 trillion.

Given the current Covid-19 situation, 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,” ITC deputy executive director Ms Dorothy Tembo said.

“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.”

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade David Musabayana, underscored 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 Mr Musabayana.

ZimTrade chief executive Mr Allan Majuru, believes the agreement opens possibilities for the continent.