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What Does The African Continental Free Trade Agreement Hold For Women?

Agnes Opus sells cereals in Busia, the border town between Kenya and Uganda. This is her lifeline through which she caters for her immediate family’s needs from school fees to housing and medical care and support to her extended family. While she dedicates all her energy and time to this work which she loves, she struggles to meet all her needs. She faces many non-tariff barriers including harassment by officials and unclear and ever-changing information on trade requirements. Agnes’ challenges are not unique to her. They represent the plight of millions of women across the continent engaged in cross-border trade. They have expectations that the Women and Youth in Trade Conference and the adoption of a Women and Youth protocol by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), will make it easy for women to trade. The conference is expected to come up with practical solutions and legislation that governments and other stakeholders must take to implement the protocol, but more importantly, to ensure women can benefit from the AfCTA. This is mission critical. The continent has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs globally with approximately 26% of female adults involved in entrepreneurial activity contributing between US$250 and US$300 billion to African economic growth in 2016, equivalent to about 13% of the continent’s GDP.