The African Regional Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched a new publication that advocates for women empowerment under the seizing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The new publication ‘Seizing The Opportunities Of The African Continental Free Trade Area For The Economic Empowerment Of Women In Agriculture’ warns, however, that if women’s inclusion is not prioritized, the AfCFTA could exacerbate existing gender disparities and discrimination, as well as worsen the situation of women engaged in trade and agriculture.
With the potential to contribute significantly to poverty reduction, job creation, and food security, the AfCFTA will disrupt existing trading patterns and formalize markets, thus limiting women’s access and further relegating them to less profitable value chains.
“Women must not be left behind,” said FAO Senior Gender Officer Clara Park. “It is of pivotal importance that we create ecosystems of support that enable women to access opportunities created through the AfCFTA and reinvigorate our efforts to address existing gender inequalities in access to and control over land, services, technology, markets, and knowledge. We need to bring women and their organizations to the decision-making table,” she said.
Around 85 percent of economic activity in Africa is conducted in the informal sector where women account for nearly 90 percent of the informal labor force. Many rural women also sell goods and agricultural produce through informal trade channels and cross-border trade.
The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement establishes the largest free-trade area in the world. The single market aims to enhance intra-African trade, facilitate investment, improve continental economic integration, and boost African countries’ competitiveness in the global market.
Some of the many benefits women can reap by trading under the AfCFTA include moving up the value chain, leveraging networks of women’s associations, upgrading their businesses, and tapping into new markets.