The now-operational African Continental Free-trade Area (AfCFTA) provides policymakers with a new opportunity to empower women farmers, promote gender equality, increase productivity and ensure food security across the continent. Following a short delay due to COVID-19, the trading bloc came into effect at the start of 2021. By removing tariffs on goods traded within the continent, improving border processes, and smoothing regulations and processes, AfCFTA will facilitate the growth of intra-African trade, which remains extremely low compared to other regions. Importantly, we believe it could promote gender equality as it removes barriers to trade that disproportionately affect women. For the time being, a significant portion of intra-African trade is informal and agriculture based. Rural women play an important role in this value chain. The formalisation and expansion of intra-African trade will lift economic growth rates and provide a much larger internal market for Africa’s agricultural producers. Over time, we expect that Africa will progress from being a net importer of food to being self-sufficient, and ultimately a net exporter. The continent has massive untapped potential in the sector. In fact, as much as 60% of the world’s uncultivated land is in Africa, with between 480 million and 840 million hectares of unused agricultural land that could be used to increase production by up to three times the current output, provided that ‘climate-smart’ production methods are employed.
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