The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) have launched the second phase of a programme to empower women and boost their livelihoods through agricultural trade. This, in an effort to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The programme aims to promote women’s participation in the AfCFTA and increase their access to capacity building and higher-productivity activities, capitalising on the new opportunities in regional trade created by the AfCFTA agreement.
The programme spans six countries, including two new countries, Senegal and the United Republic of Tanzania. A component on women’s access to finance will be piloted in Ghana and Nigeria.
Throughout its first phase, the programme focused on mapping and analysing priority regional value chains, developing and disseminating policy recommendations and building the capacity of formal and informal women producers, processors, entrepreneurs and traders.
The second phase aims to increase the competitiveness of women-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the agri-food sector through upgraded business plans, improved business readiness, and increased access to finance by leveraging gender-responsive financial services in collaboration with selected financial institutions.
Under the first phase of the programme, quantitative and qualitative studies were performed on two of Africa’s priority value chains – fisheries and soybean-poultry – to promote inclusiveness. In addition, four policy briefs include recommendations for gender-responsiveness in trade facilitation, non-tariff measures, barriers to trade, and sanitary and phytosanitary standards.
“We are excited to see the programme’s growth and how it is reaching out to more women’s organisations and decision-makers in different countries and at different levels. The programme is a great demonstration of our technical efforts to support inclusive agribusiness development in collaboration with regional partners and the AfCFTA Secretariat,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, assistant director-general and regional representative for Africa at FAO.
“The AfCFTA has the potential to transform African economies and the livelihoods of millions of people – if it is accessible to everyone. To deliver on its promise, the voices of women, particularly those in the agrifood sector, must be reflected in every step of implementation. Now in its second phase, the programme is designed to deliver on this transformational agenda by harnessing the expertise of FAO and ITC,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director at the ITC.
The second phase will capitalise on results achieved and lessons learned in the past 12 months by supporting the engagement of women’s groups and organisations in the upcoming negotiations and implementation of the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade.
It will continue working with women entrepreneurs and traders and women business associations in the agri-food sector who have benefitted from trainings during its first phase to further enhance their skills to successfully engage in regional value chain development and trade within the AfCFTA.
In Ghana, women in the fisheries sector reported a 45% increase in awareness of the AfCFTA benefits, with 69% and 55% having a better understanding of registering their company for exporting and food safety respectively. Participants also expressed greater confidence in complying with standards and procedures.
“This programme is critical in addressing the numerous barriers that women face in the agrifood sector, and the achievements under its first phase demonstrate its effectiveness in creating positive change. We are confident that this next phase will continue to have a significant impact on the lives of women entrepreneurs and traders in Africa,” said Coke-Hamilton.