Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu is rallying African decision-makers for a continental protocol specifically addressing the protection of women from harassment and other obstacles to complement the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
President Suluhu, who is also a champion of AfCFTA, says the continent must prioritize girls’ education in addition to removing barriers preventing women from cross-border trade.
“As our employees approach regional or international markets, they encounter too many permits, licenses and other such requirements. If all of Africa works to remove all these non-tariff barriers, business will grow everywhere,” she said.
The Tanzanian leader addressed a gathering of African women leaders in Dar es Salaam last Monday, where they prepared a roadmap for the AfCFTA protocol on women and youth in trade.
Participants agreed that women and youth need to be prioritized as key drivers of intra-African markets under the AfCFTA, and they tasked governments to enact better laws and policies to make this possible.
The Protocol on Women and Youth in Commerce aims to increase the engagement of women and youth in cross-border businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises in sectors such as agriculture, textile manufacturing, tourism services, informal trade and professional services.
The protocol is one of several under the AfCFTA that will be based on regulatory cooperation between member states, using their own national laws and institutions, rather than blanket harmonisation. Other protocols of a similar nature concern trade in services, investment, competition, protection of intellectual property rights and digital commerce.
AU Commission Deputy Chair Monique Nsanzabaganwa urged governments, central banks, commercial lenders, women and youth networks and donors to “sign up” to the AU’s Initiative for Financial and Economic Inclusion of Women and Youth, which aims to to provide $100 billion in funding for at least 10 million African women and young entrepreneurs by the end of 2030.
The initiative also aims to increase the representation of women and young people in leadership positions and in public procurement.