The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office for Africa has launched a new brief that supports seizing the opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), for the economic empowerment of women in agriculture
The publication was launched on the International Day for Rural Women which is celebrated every year to honour women and girls living in rural areas.
AfCFTA holds the potential to contribute notably to eliminating poverty, creating jobs, and improving food security. However, the new publication ‘Seizing the opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area’, warns that AfCFTA could worsen existing gender disparities and deteriorate the condition of women engaged in trade and agriculture, their inclusion is not prioritised.
The AfCFTA will change existing trading practices and formalise markets which could preclude women’s access and further relegate them to informal and less lucrative value chains.
“Women must not be left behind. It is of crucial importance that we create ecosystems of support that enable women to access opportunities created through the AfCFTA and reinvigorate our efforts to address existing gender inequalities in access to and control over land, services, technology, markets and knowledge. We need to bring women and their organisations to the decision making table,” said FAO senior gender officer Clara Park.
The publication makes recommendations relevant to stakeholders across the trade sector, including strategic partnerships to develop innovative solutions and policy recommendations. This will ensure that the implementation of the AfCFTA agreement will provide opportunities that benefit women, build the capacity of women and their organisations so that they are involved in Africa’s trade environment and understand what the AfCFTA agreement entails, and engage the private sector to connect with women’s groups involved in agricultural value chains.
Women’s key role in Africa’s food production and trade
Around 85% of economic activity in Africa is conducted in the informal sector where women account for nearly 90% of the informal labour force. Some of the many benefits women can reap by trading under the AfCFTA include moving up the value chain, leveraging networks of women’s associations, upgrading their businesses, and tapping into new markets.
FAO is working with partners to unlock the potential of trade and seize the opportunities of the AfCFTA for rural women.