In preparation for the 39th Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) pre-summit meeting themed, “the implementation of the AfCFTA: Breaking trade barriers of African women and youth to ensure their inclusion”, the GIMAC Peace and Security cluster, which includes, ACCORD; the Women’s International Peace Centre (WIPC); and Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), hosted a Pre-Consultation Meeting on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a driver of continental Peace and Security. This pre-consultation meeting which took place virtually, on 1 February 2023, brought together thematic experts, practitioners and women peacebuilders to unpack the capacities of African women to maximise AfCFTA opportunities and break trade barriers.
Launched on 30 May 2019, the AfCFTA provides a unique opportunity for countries in the region to competitively integrate into the global economy, reduce poverty, and promote inclusion. If successfully implemented, the agreement could lead to a 10% increase in wages and contribute to closing the gender wage gap due to larger increases for unskilled workers and for women. Similarly, employment gains are expected in agriculture and agro-food processing where women represent half the labour force.
With this background, the meeting discussions included an information session on the AfCFTA agreement; how the AfCTA agreement has affected informal women cross-border traders in Africa; and a case study on the role of women peacebuilders in post – conflict recovery economic efforts, with a specific focus on the Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET). Some of the challenges identified during the discussions included limited knowledge of trade regulations and procedures; sexual harassment of women, corruption and extortion at the borders; and inadequate gender friendly infrastructure or poor sanitary facilities. In contrast, noted opportunities included the production of high value commodities and products for the continental market such as textiles, cotton for textiles, tea, rice, etc., and a focus on high return crops such as organic cotton.
Recommendations included the need to establish new or to capacitate existing consulting firms to train local women from small medium enterprise companies, and the need to raise the awareness of small-scale farmers and other local women cross border traders who are unfamiliar with the trade markets.
The discussions allowed for clarity on the AfCFTA agreement’s potential to transform the economic trajectory of African economies through shared prosperity and poverty reduction. If fully implemented, the free trade area, will lead to greater peace, stability, and sustainable development, and has the potential to be a peace and security response intended to facilitate the economic and political integration of Africa.