PRIME Minister Kassim Majaliwa has called for deliberate efforts to address the obstacles that prevent women and young people from seizing the opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
PM Majaliwa said women and youth face many structural and cultural challenges that sometimes prevent them from benefiting directly from business opportunities in AfCFTA.
He identified the obstacles as access to capital and business loans with concessional terms, technology, lack of accurate business information and opportunities, failure to meet product standards and low salaries.
The Premier made the remarks while representing President Samia Suluhu Hassan in the three-day conference on women in trade that commenced yesterday in Dar es Salaam.
“It is crucial to discuss how women can participate in AfCFTA and give direction for business development,” he said.
The PM said the Heads of State were aware of the challenges facing young people and women in African countries. Thus, during their meeting last December, they ordered the secretariat to prepare a specific protocol on women and young people in business to strengthen participation and reach all beneficiaries.
“We must make plans on how to use AfCFTA to enable every woman who decides to enter business to be successful. In order to ensure that no one is left behind in participating and benefiting from free opportunities, the meeting of heads of state of the African Union decided to expand the strong participation of stakeholders through the business fund to facilitate and enable young people and informal traders to be included in the official system and enable them to grow and benefit from AfCFTA opportunities,” said Mr Majaliwa.
He explained that in the East African Community (EAC), member states have tried to remove such barriers and thus contributed to the growth of trade.
However, the full implementation of the AfCFTA agreement will determine the future success of the whole of Africa if the existing opportunities are used properly and effective strategies are in place to engage all women and youth in the commercial opportunities available through the AfCFTA agreement.
He said the AfCFTA provides a big opportunity for the private sector to be a catalyst for development but warned that countries must ensure that they remove all trade barriers to ease business.
Mr Majaliwa asked the secretariat to discuss and present a plan on how to address the challenges facing women and children to President Samia Suluhu Hassan so that she can present them to the heads of African states.
AfCFTA Secretary General, Mr Wamkele Mene, said progress has been made in the development of the protocol for women, youth, and trade.
Ministers for Trade will trade concrete ties towards its conclusion, which will be presented later in February 2024 to the assembly of heads of state and government for their adoption.
Statistics show that 90 percent of all businesses in Africa are small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and 60 percent are owned by women, which account for 80 percent of job creation and contribute to 40 percent of Africa’s combined GDP. Therefore, it is important to know that the protocol for women and youth in trade positions the African continent for women in business to benefit through economic development.
“This is an opportunity for governments to eliminate barriers in trade, particularly those faced by women and youth,” Mr. Mene said.
The Minister for Industry and Trade, Dr Ashatu Kijaji, said the AfCFTA will enable the group to benefit from business opportunities available in the agreement.
“Women are at the heart of business and have been an important catalyst in the development of the world economy, so they need to be included to take advantage of the opportunities provided under the agreement,” Dr. Kijaji said.
The conference attracted more than 700 participants, including women leaders from Africa and outside the continent at the level of Prime Ministers, Heads of various International Institutions, Celebrities, Ministers in charge of the business sector and gender issues with women, youth, and business people.