The Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) Secretariat has been urged to implement gender-sensitive policies within its programmes as they are critical to hasten the success of the largest free trade area in the world.
According to panelists at the Women in Trade Forum organised by the African Chamber of Trade and Investment, in partnership with the Centre for African Legal Studies at the University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA) Law School, there are some gender-sensitive policies and programs in the AfCFTA document but its implementation has been a challenge so far.
The panelists said many of the women-owned businesses that need to take advantage of the policies either have little or no knowledge about them or are incapacitated to take advantage, even though they form over 70 percent of businesses on the continent.
Speaking on the theme: Navigating the Contours of Trade for Women in an AfCFTA era, the Founder and Executive Director of Pan-African Business Women Association, Yavi Madurai said: “We have got a situation on the continent where we have regulations, laws and policies for women but there is little commitment from the member states to monitor and ensure women get what is due them.
With over 60 percent of women on the continent being illiterates, how are we communicating the policies and programmes designed for them? Are we putting them in books which we know they cannot read?
What are some of the things we should be looking at in terms of not just creating policies, laws and regulations but creating an enabling environment and government capacitating themselves to reach the women including the 70 percent who form part of the informal sector that provides 80 percent of the continents profit,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Enterprises Agency (GEA), Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, said her outfit, anticipating the challenges, has begun to support women-owned businesses to formalise and standardise, as it would be the first step to reaching external markets.
“Formalisation of women businesses is critical to taking advantage of the AfCFTA. This would aid the businesses to become more competitive as their goods and services would meet standards accepted globally. The GEA has already begun helping in this area.
With the aid of our partner, we have begun helping businesses with a lot of focus on women-owned businesses to get the right certification from the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA). These are the key institutions that see to standardisation and certification in Ghana. We are doing this to help the businesses prepare and take advantage of AfCFTA.”
On her part, Corporate Lawyer at K Damoyi and Associates, Khuluwiwe Damoyi, a legal consultancy in South Africa, said there should be proper regulation systems of the informal sector. For her, the regulation must see to formalisation as well as aid the enterprises to grow. There should also be a means to constantly monitor and build the capacity of women-owned businesses.