The Africa Continental Free Trade Area offers a sustainable and workable path towards the socio-economic liberation of the continent should its ideals and protocols be administered to the letter.
It also provides an excellent opportunity to bridge the economic gender gap.
The call to action then will be for African policymakers to design gender-specific interventions which can positively impact cross-border trade and unlock the economic opportunities of this laudable continental initiative.
“Otherwise, we risk widening the gender gap even further,” trade expert Ziad Hamoui of the Borderless Alliance shared as a panelist on a UNECA-BUSA Conference on the theme “Leveraging AfCFTA to boost women’s economic empowerment”.
Tackling the perennial lack of suitable infrastructure for cross-border trade and transport, including access to adequate areas for goods handling or storage, passenger movement, health, security and sanitary facilities were other concerns that trade expert raised.
“It doesn’t need to be a top-class joint border post or nothing, but it can be fit for purpose, easy to maintain and sustainable, depending on available resources,” he added.
In most African economies like Ghana, women form the backbone of trade and commerce.
A Borderless Alliance research on cross-border trade in 2017 revealed that an overwhelming majority of trade is carried out by small, informal, women traders, many of them lacking minimum organizational skills to form networks or associations.
As a result, their trade volumes go unnoticed, along with their pleas, while the real cross-border trade flows remain largely under-reported.
To be able to promote the cause of women-owned businesses in the single continental market, respective governments must push gender-responsive policies that will give the necessary support to their trade.