Women, girls wary of AU free trade cross border pact
Women, girls wary of AU free trade cross border pact
Modern Ghana | 13th February 2023
By Henry Neondo
Ahead of the African Union Summit of Heads of Government and State slated to discuss African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), leading African women and girl specialists have raised concerns on the impact the pact may have on women and girls who trade across borders.
At the 39 Gender Is My Agenda (GIMAC) Youth Summit event Sunday February 12, women and youth warned that the African free trade area pact may further marginalize women and girls. “We need to operationalise AfCFTA, make it practical by removing the systemic and structural barriers and start challenging the trade regimes that make it impossible to navigate the boarders.
Our focus as women in trade should not be just on cross border trade but also on the macro level systems we need to engage central banks, customs unions and office of the registration among other partner stakeholders. ACFTA shouldn’t just be looked at in one economic dimension but the social, political and environmental aspects matter as well,” said Memory Kachambwa, the Executive Director, of The African Women’s Development and Communications Network.
Her Excellency Madame Bineta Diop , the African Union Commission’s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security however called upon the African leaders to ensure peace within and between countries. She said the youth, particularly girls would want to take advantage free trade area pact would bring, but without peace and security, this won’t happen.
“The youth are the leaders of today and can transform Africa if engaged in the trade discussions. AfCFT wont’ neither make sense for women, girls, and the youth nor be beneficial to the African people without peace and stability for trade,” she said.
Speaking with the same tone, the African Union Youth Envoy Chido Cleo Mpemba said, “the success of AFCTA will depend on inclusion of the youth because they constitute over 60% of the continents populations” She reiterated that, “The youth are not passive recipients but they are also agents of change and are critical actors in the AfCFTA discussions”.
In addition, Jill Anami, from the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) said that, “We should strive to support a gender-inclusive economic development by strengthening the mobility of women across the African continent,” “Meaningfully engaging youths in the AfCFTA includes giving skills, resources and an opportunity to participate in trade beyond borders.
The GIMAC space is important as it is in itself a solution to the high unemployment rates,” Karen Ondwasi, Chairperson, GIMAC Young Women Network Their views come at a time when African youth are facing numerous challenges; including but not limited to unemployment. Whereas the AfCFTA proposes a free access to commodities, goods, and services among all 55 African Union nations the extent to which this will impact the youth needs to be reviewed, perhaps through the feminist lenses of feminist like Fatimah Kelleher an independent women’s rights, social justice professional, activist and author of a report on AfCFTA that was published by FEMNET.
Kelleher views equalities between nations will be felt within nations by the least privileged in disproportionate numbers and by women in particular. She also emphasizes that, “The question of what goods and services will be fully liberalised, phased, or restricted by each country is the critical factor within the negotiations. Agriculture particularly, presents a challenge for women across the continent as competition is opened-up on many similar crops between nations.”
Kelleher noted that in Nigeria for example, rice, groundnuts, and palm fruits are all key crops that women process and trade-in as finished or semi-finished products. Competition from a stronger producing country in these products would have a detrimental impact on women’s livelihoods and could warrant being declared sensitive based on gendered considerations.
Similarly, competition that affects key subsistence crops farmed by women – from plantains and tubers in Uganda to beans and other pulses in Tanzania – could also have gendered impacts given that women also supplement their incomes by selling any surplus they have either at the farm gate or local market. The gender activists particularly will demand the African Union to give special attention to Article 6 of the Pact that urges Member States commit to “ensuring the active promotion and protection of all human rights for women and girls including the right to development by raising awareness or by legislation where necessary.
The 39 GIMAC event in Addis Ababa is organized around six thematic clusters reflecting the main themes addressed in the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) SDGE. Each of these clusters, have one to three organizations designated as focal points depending on the organizations’ area of interest and/or expertise including Youth, Women and Girls Living in Rural Areas and the Elders. GIMAC also has regional focal points to ensure that the interests of all the areas in Africa are represented.