To ensure inclusive outcomes under the AfCFTA, women entrepreneurs must be at the heart of support to Africa’s private sector. Around a third of African MSMEs are owned by women. These enterprises are more likely to have lower sales and annual turnover, less employees, and smaller size than those enterprises owned by men. Women’s economic activities tend to be concentrated in the informal, subsistence and non-tradable sectors. When it comes to trade, women lack information on market requirements and procedures, and have lower access to networks and capital. Trade-related administrative procedures and red tape are also particularly burdensome for women due to time poverty, poor access to gender-sensitive infrastructure, and discriminatory practices at the border.
In recognition of these challenges, in April 2021, the AfCFTA Secretariat announced that it will develop a dedicated Women and Youth Protocol to introduce binding commitments that will support women and youth to take advantage of the Agreement. The 1st Inaugural AfCFTA Conference on Women in Trade is scheduled to take place in 2022 to review the findings and guidance of ongoing stakeholder discussions on the Protocol.