Women in the ECOWAS region have been encouraged to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to promote their businesses and connect for business opportunities in other countries.
The Treasurer, Federation of West African Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), Mr. Dele Kelvin Oye gave the charge at a two-day workshop organised by FEWACCI and the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), with support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the European Union.
The AfCFTA is an initiative to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, paving the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union.
Oye said if women have enough information on AfCFTA they would leverage it to market their products across the region and in the global market.
He explained that the workshop was aimed to empower women in business and build their capacities to trade by understanding their roles in the deepening regional and continental economic integration.
He said FEWACCI had made women economic empowerment a priority because they are the major actors in the drive to achieve regional and continental integration and by virtue of their population and skills.
He added that the development is further aimed towards addressing gender imbalance with respect to SDG 5, which strives to empower women by formulating inclusive policies and involving them in the economic transformation of Africa.
He said: “We prioritised women economic empowerment because we observed that the area has been ignored over the years: although developing countries are working on ‘women educational empowerment but only a few have come to realise the immense importance of women economic empowerment and the subsequent impact it has on a country’s economy.”
He said small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) play an important role in the development of the secondmy of a country by providing productive employment particularly for women, low skill workers and youths, generating income and reducing poverty.
He said women in Africa make up about 58 per cent of business owners within the region, according to a world bank report, but women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa continue to earn lower profits than men – about 34 per cent less on average.
He said: “Investing in women is not only a moral imperative, but it is also good for business. Promoting gender equality has the potential of adding $13 trillion to Global Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030 However, women are less likely than men to own formal micro, small or medium enterprises.
“Also, women-owned businesses are less likely to grow or have employees and have been more heavily affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 41 per cent of female micro and small firms have closed. The barriers to women-owned businesses are multidimensional and often interlinked.”
On his part, the President of ACCI, Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar said there was an urgent need for Africa to invest in its women and youth as they remain critical factors to the development of the economies.
Represented by the Vice President, Women Development, ACCI, Oby Nwosu, Abubakar said investing in women and youth cannot be achieved with business as usual.