Home Transport & Logistics AfCFTA To Empower Women in Trade, Address Gender Inequality

AfCFTA To Empower Women in Trade, Address Gender Inequality

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… as WISTA explores AfCFTA’s investment opportunities for women
… unveils annual Magazine
… honours notable women with awards

 

By PEARL NGWAMA

 

The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) yesterday got further endorsement by women in the Maritime Industry who gathered at a Business Luncheon to discuss on the inherent investment opportunities for women in the all important Agreement.

Under the umbrella of ‘Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), Nigeria, experts in the Industry x-rayed the opportunities in and strategies women can apply to appropriate the gains of the Agreement.

The Luncheon themed; ‘The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA): Investment Opportunities for Women in Trade,’ revealed that AfCFTA would empower women in trades, address gender inequality and create more employment for women, among other advantages.

 

Speaking at the event, WISTA’s Nigeria President (1994 to 1998), Barrister Funmi Folurunso, noted that women make up over 60 per cent of the population on the Africa Continent.

 

Also noting that women play a significant role in trade in Africa and are essential to the success of leveraging any business, she said women will benefit from the agreement by improving their access to trade opportunities and stimulating wage gains about 10.5 per cent.

 

She said: “The AfCFTA can boost women’s roles in jobs across different sectors like the agricultural sector. In agricultural jobs, AfCFTA can expand markets for exports and widen opportunities available to women.

 

“With increased industrialisation and diversification, the AfCFTA can benefit women’s manufacturing and wage employment in manufacturing industries.

 

“Higher skilled jobs will also become more available and accessible to women. In addition, significant benefits are present for women entrepreneurs.

 

“Regional value chains support smaller women-owned businesses. The chains allow larger firms to use smaller women-owned businesses as suppliers of AfCFTA creating new owned businesses. The chains allow larger firms to use smaller women-owned businesses as suppliers.”

 

Continuing, she said empowering women in the AfCFTA project also addresses the gender gap. “The purpose of the She Trades Project is to support women-owned businesses so that they can experience the free trade benefits under AfCFTA,” she pointed out.

 

She explained that “the project focuses on capacity building, networking and advocacy as a means to achieve this.

“The project works with more than 50 women’s business associations to raise awareness of prioritising women in terms of AfCFTA and discuss recommendations for prioritising women as well as policy advocacy strategies.

 

“It also works to provide a platform for women’s business associations to work with each other as well as policymakers.”

On addressing gender inequality, Folurunso revealed that AfCFTA, intends to harness its full potential and promote trade gender empowerment in Africa.

 

According to her, women are key stakeholders in the development of the African economy under AfCFTA, consisting of 70 per cent of informal traders.

 

She further said that AfCFTA also recognises the importance of gender in trade relations in Africa by stating the importance of incorporating gender inequality in the context of trade and the economy.

 

“A method of fighting gender inequality in Africa is through gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming is defined as, “a process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned actions, including legislation, policies or programmes in all areas and at all levels.

 

“Strategies like gender mainstreaming are addressed and applied in several countries’ with AfCFTA National Implementation Strategies.

 

“Implementation of further gender gap-related policies can strengthen the impact that the African Continental Free Trade envisages,” she explained.

 

 

In her goodwill message, the President, Women in Maritime (WIMA), Hajia Bola Muse, commended the theme for this year’s luncheon saying it was important in the light of the recent happenings in Africa and also a roadmap to achieving economic growth and sustainable development without lagging behind.

 

“Hence, it is paramount we make deliberate investment in African shipping, trading and logistics. Only then will African economies be positioned to play a key role in creating, utilising and investing the revenue that comes from these industries in Intra Africa trade.

 

“The theme has also captured the role women play in nation-building and bringing the best out of the AfCFTA.

“In Nigeria, women clearly have the potential and ability to maximise the many opportunities this agreement brings and we must promote discussions in that direction.

 

“We must take actions to ensure that, young women are encouraged to join the shipping, trading and logistics Industry; and also make the journey into these industries a smooth one by improving access to funds and guidance from networks.

 

“Times are changing as we are in the digital age so we must not ignore the speed of the changing times. Instead, we will continue running all sectors of our economy with the aid of technology,” Muse said.

 

In her address, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation by Dr. Magdalene Ajani, pointed out that as African economies struggle to manage the impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic, the ‘Trade Agreement’ is expected to provide an anchor for long-term reform and integration policy, geared towards reduction in trade cost, growing manufacturing sector, lowering the gender wage gap, providing new job opportunities and increasing decent employment opportunities especially for women.

 

Quoting the United Nations Economic Commission statistics for Africa, she said women account for 70 per cent of informal cross-border traders in Africa.

 

“The tariff reduction, non-tariff barriers elimination and other trade facilitation measures in the Trade Agreement provide an opportunity for more women traders to access the market and operate through the formal channels which will help eliminate their vulnerability to harassment/violence that is rampant in the informal sector,” she said.

 

Ajani stressed that it is important for Nigerian women to leverage the opportunities provided by the new ‘Trade Agreement’ with a view to enhancing our participation and expanding our frontiers in the Maritime Industry/Trade Sector.

 

She emphasised the need for a coordinated capacity development for women to achieve a continuous improvement in career progression and productivity level in the Maritime/Transport Logistics Industry.

 

The Permanent Secretary urged that the focus should be on enhancing technical skills to enable effective participation in the domestic and regional value chains while taking advantage of the opportunities offered by global value chains.

 

Coming from the perspective of ‘no woman, no nation,’ the President General, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade (Prince) Adeyanju Adewale, stated that the theme of the event aptly captures the rising concern and call for increased women participation in the world of work and in Trade.

 

He noted that for over three decades Trade has been the engine of poverty reduction and to continue to sustain this template the right policies must be put in place.

 

The Labour Leader added that Trade can expand women’s role in the economy and in consequence decrease inequalities with men and thus, create for women more and better employment opportunities.

 

Adeyanju harped on the need for policies that could help women maximisse trade benefit which according to him includes removal of trade barriers that pose hindrance to women’s access to opportunities.

 

He said “Research has shown that Trade creates better jobs for women: Trade increases women’s wages and increases economic equality: thus, in developing countries, women make up 33 per cent of the workforce as they are more likely to be formally employed in a job with better benefits, training and security.

 

“Of note is the well established fact that targeted policies can help women maximise the benefits of trade. These may include removing trade barriers that impede women’s access to education, financial services, and digital technologies.

“I stand here today in solidarity as I acclaim that no woman, no nation.”

 

The CEO ‘Le Look,’ Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa, who commented on her personal journey on International Trade, said it all entails integrity, honesty, consistency and hard work.

 

She stressed on need for branding and standard saying you must know what they want in the Country you are going as well as the right transport mode (Air, Sea) because the logistics is very important.

 

Speaking at the plenary session, Managing Director/CEO, STARZS Investment Company Limited, Mrs. Iroghama Obuforiba, stressed that it is not just about women knowing the investment opportunities embedded in AfCFTA for them but understanding these opportunities and how to tap into them.

 

She urged women to approach Trade from a business sense leveraging on the so much available developmental funding from Nigeria Export Import (NEXIM) Bank, Bank of Industry (BOI) and others.

 

Obuforiba harped on applying the right technology to support the business as well as forming collaborations and partnerships with like-minded people that have the right values.

 

She said: “Don’t just trade, we want to develop and build, approaching Trade with a business sense so you’ll be appreciated and not because you’re a woman but because you’re bringing value.

 

“Also have the right strategies; look at what the African countries are importing and begin to export them. So it’s not just identifying the opportunities but understanding what they are.”

 

Earlier in her welcome speech, President of WISTA, Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke, said WISTA aims to be a major player in attracting more women to the Industry and supporting women in management positions.

 

She said the theme of the Luncheon was in line of its objective of showing that there truly is a need to empower women, increase the number of women in all cadres of the Trade and Shipping Sector as well as confirm that women are capable and willing to take on these roles.

 

Among the numerous benefits, Ezeoke, noted that the Agreement recognises access to wider markets, regional value chains and digital trade, thus, enabling women to benefit from the agreement by improving their access to trade opportunities and stimulating wage gains by up about 10.5 per cent.

 

She said it will close the gender gap in access to finance and empower women’s participation in e-commerce and digital trade solutions among other benefits.

 

Bringing the event of the day to a close, General Secretary, WISTA Nigeria, Mrs. Chizoba Anyika, urged women to rise up and make indelible marks.

 

“Don’t be recognised because you’re a woman but because you’re skilled, you’re bringing something to the table. Let it be because you are bringing value, let it be because you’re making impact,” she advised.

 

 

 

The high light of the event was the launch of WISTA Magazine targeted and presentation of awards to all the past presidents of WISTA Nigeria and some other women of influence in the Industry, including the Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.

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