Let Women Trade: AfCFTA Policy Makers Urged

Kigali, Rwanda, 20 November – A transformative African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) requires the full inclusion and participation of the continent’s women, says Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Deputy Executive Secretary, Giovanie Biha.

Speaking Tuesday night at a high-level roundtable dinner on “Harnessing the AfCFTA for Gender Equality” that was co-organized by ECA and TradeMark Africa (TMA), Ms. Biha said continental integration was pivotal to Africa’s economic transformation, but it could only be done with the full inclusion of women, both in the formal and informal sectors.

She said the signing of the AfCFTA in March 2018 set the stage for the integration of the African continent into a single market.

“It is crucial to ensure that all its citizens, especially women, are involved in the continental free trade area implementation,” said Ms. Biha, adding the AfCFTA will open new opportunities for women, and help them integrate more fully into productive, high-paid sectors of the economy.

She said economies with better opportunities for women were more competitive and would benefit more from openness than economies that were less friendly to female participation.

“Enhanced opportunities for women lead to improvements in human development outcomes, poverty reduction and accelerated rates of economic growth,” she added.

TMA Chief Executive Officer, Frank Matsaert, for his part, said, “Research has shown that if women’s paid employment were raised to the same level as men’s, the pa capita income of 15 major economies would rise by 14% by 2020. Our work across East Africa is driven by this fact, and the realization that trade has no gender. Trade is everyone, and therefore trade policies should consider gender specific outcomes. Establishing clear links between trade policies and women’s economic empowerment will result to better livelihoods for families and reduced poverty levels. We are working closely with East African governments to ensure women are key players of trade initiatives.”
Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives of Uganda, said “When it comes to women crossborder traders in the region, we need to simplify and make applicable the sophisticated global agreements and trade policies that foster regional integration.”

ICE2018 is being held under the theme: Implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area in Eastern Africa: From Vision to Action.

The signing of the AfCFTA in Kigali marked a momentous occasion in trade policy discourse in Africa. The agreement seeks to create a single market for goods, services, facilitated by the movement of persons in order to deepen the economic integration of the African continent. Experts say Africa’s women have a big role to play in unleashing the continent’s full potential through the AfCFTA.

Contact : Didier Habimana, ECA (+250 788 493 377 –, Anne Mbiruru, TradeMark Africa (
The subregional office for East Africa serves 14 countries: Burundi, Comores, RD Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.