Abuja, Oct. 12, 2023:The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has calld for inclusive policies to support women and youth entrepreneurs to accelerate trade development in Africa.
This is contained in a statement issued by the communication department of the ECA.
The ECA’s Principal Regional Advisor for Regional Integration and Trade Division, Brendah Phiri-Mundia during the 14th African Congress for Women Entrepreneurs and 4th COMESA Federation of Women in Business Forum in Addis Ababa.
She said women and youth, have revolutionised entrepreneurship in Africa and they are better positioned to boost trade through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The congresses theme is “ Economic Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Promotion for Women and Youth and support of MSMEs for realising AfCFTA and Regional Integration in line with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Phiri-Mundia said the congress took stock of progress on tackling challenges in accessing economic opportunities faced by women and youth across the African continent.
She said that the AfCFTA which came into force in May 2019, could advance the global and continental goals on gender equality and women empowerment.
According to the ECA advisor, the full implementation of the free trade area will increase the value of intra-Africa trade to US$195 billion by 2045.
She said this was compared to the base line of US$113 billion recorded in 2020.
“Women have made an undeniable impact in the entrepreneurial landscape with research indicating that Africa alone has more entrepreneurs than other regions for both females and males.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurs globally with approximately 26 per cent of female adults involved in entrepreneurial activity.
“The ECA’s 2021 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report estimates that reducing gender inequality will boost African economies by US$316 billion,”she said.
Phiri-Mundia said Africa’s youth was a potent force for innovation and economic development with incubators, accelerators and government initiatives helping young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality.
She said the ECA recognised the potential of women and the youth in business development and was providing support to Member States across the continent.
She said the support was geared towards the development of gender-responsive and inclusive policies and context-specific interventions to drive women and youth empowerment within the continental integration agenda.
“Support is being provided for gender mainstreaming in national and regional AfCFTA implementation strategies, capacity building of women’s business associations and MSMEs.
“To ensure they also take advantage of the opportunities under the AfCFTA.
“However, the challenges faced by both women and youth entrepreneurs cannot be ignored,” Phiri-Mundia added.
She acknowledged the access to start-up financing, skills development and mentorship promoted by various Women Business Associations and development partners to overcome the challenges faced by women and the youth.
She said ECA had also stepped up its efforts to contribute to addressing the complex issue of collecting gender disaggregated data to support better policymaking and evidence-based advocacy across the continent.
Phiri-Mundia said these efforts include a joint project with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe.
She further said it would develop a coherent approach to measuring the impact of trade on gender equality using official statistics and building on the existing statistical data and capacity of countries..
She then called for collective action to amplify collaboration in initiatives that address multiple barriers faced by women and youth.
The advisor said such barriers financed literacy and digital finance, apprenticeships especially in male-dominated sectors, digital skills training and profitability information across sectors.
She said ECA was keen to deepening its partnerships and work towards a future where every woman and youth entrepreneur in Africa not only achieved their aspirations.
“But also transform their dreams into impactful, sustainable enterprises.