Stakeholders in the commerce and industry subsector say the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will promote rapid industrialization in the Africa continent.
The collectively made this known at the opening of a two-day workshop organised by the Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) and Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), with support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the European Union, adding women could market their products, drive industrialization if they had access to enough information on AfCFTA.
In his remarks, the treasurer, Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) and 1st deputy president, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Otunba Dele Kelvin Oye said women in the ECOWAS region must take advantage of AfCFTA to promote their businesses and connect for business opportunities in other African countries.
He said the workshop was aimed at empowering women in business and building their capacities to trade by understanding their roles in the deepening of regional and continental economic integration.
Oye also said FEWACCI had made women economic empowerment a priority because they were the major actors in the drive to achieve regional and continental integration and by virtue of their population and skills, adding the association was also determined to address gender imbalance with respect to the SDG 5, which strives to empower women by formulating inclusive policies and involving them in the economic transformation of Africa.
He said the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play an important role in the development of the economy of a country by providing productive employment particularly for women, low skill workers and youths, generating income and reducing poverty, pointing out that though women in Africa make up about 58 per cent of business owners within the region, according to a world bank report, women entrepreneurs across sub Saharan Africa had continued to earn lower profits than men (34 per cent less on average).
“Investing in women is not only a moral imperative, it is good for business. Promoting gender equality has the potential of adding $13 trillion to Global Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030. However, women are less likely than men to own formal micro, small or medium enterprises. Also, women-owned businesses are less likely to grow or have employees and have been more heavily affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 41 per cent of female micro and small firms have closed. The barriers to women-owned businesses are multidimensional and often interlinked,” he further stated.
He assured stakeholders of FEWACCI’s commitment and readiness to work with any other organization aimed at promoting regional and continental economic integration.
The president ACCI, Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar said there was an urgent need for Africa to invest in its women and youth as they are key factors to the development of our economies.
Abubakar who was represented by the vice president in charge of women development of ACCI, Barr. Oby Nwosu also said investing in women and youth could not be achieved with business-as-usual attitude, adding Africa needed to ambitiously focus on investing on its women to leverage on their potentials as the most productive agents of our growing economies.
He further revealed that the chamber had also established a hybrid platform for women to sell their goods through the Arahah Hybrid Market Place where women could have access to information, network, sell and buy goods.
The president added with the recent signing of AfCFTA agreement which sought to create a single market for goods and services, in order to deepen the economic integration on the African continent, the essence of the Arahah Farmers Market was to prepare our women MSMEs for the global market.
The president of Egyptian Business Women Association (EBWA), Dr. Amany Asfour who participated virtually spoke of the need to continue to talk on how women all over could trade with each other in the spirit of AfCFTA as well as the need to increase inter-Africa trade.
Asfour who lauded the efforts of ACCI in its support for Nigerian women in business also said African women must promote their commodities in the Africa market by adding value and making African products strong in the global world, adding “we all have raw materials but how to transform them is an issue we must look at to promote what we have.”
The director-general of ACCI, Victoria Akai in her closing remark expressed deep appreciation to the leadership of UNECA, European Union, FEWACCI, ECOWAS, the presenters and panelists at the two-day sensitisation workshop
A statement by ACCI media/strategy officer, Olayemi John-Mensah, quoted Akai as saying the interaction was the beginning of a vibrant and beneficial relationship that would go a long way for women to benefit from AfCFTA.