AfCFTA Diaries: Data Relevance, Women and Youth Engagement
PREMISE The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement is aimed at de-fragmenting the African market and establishing a single continental market for goods and services. As such it presents a chance to serve as a vehicle to support the achievement of the Social Development Goals (SDGs). Since the adoption of the 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 169 specific targets in 2015, inclusive economic growth and investment in rural infrastructure and agricultural extension services, are at the forefront of the policy making process. Both the SDGs and the AfCFTA place major attention on the prevention of restrictions and distortions in agricultural markets and timely access to market information, communication technology, infrastructure investment, sustainable jobs, sustainable industrial development and technological progress. While the former operates on the policy level, the latter engages national government on binding regulations and trade agreements. To further investigate the crosscutting elements connecting the AfCFTA and the SDGs read AfCFTA, key to supporting SDGs, –DWL
The Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a legal instrument – an agreement among the African Union Member States to create a single market for trading. But the AfCFTA represents much more than that.
The AfCFTA recognizes the importance of women and youth in trade in Africa and their integral role in leveraging the full potential of the agreement. The agreement explicitly outlines gender equality as an objective as part of its framework, thereby highlighting the AfCFTA’s commitment to empowering African women. The newly included Protocol for Women and Youth in Trade acknowledges this.
The Assembly of the African Union Thirteenth Extraordinary Session held on 5 December 2020, committed to broaden inclusiveness in the operation of the AfCFTA through interventions that support young Africans, women, and Small and Medium Enterprises as well as integrating informal cross border traders into formal economy by implementing the simplified trade regime.
The Heads of State and Government recognised the role of women and Youth in facilitating regional economic integration among their Member states and requested the AfCFTA Secretariat in collaboration with Member States to develop a Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade.
The Protocol will constitute a significant step in the process of continental integration and address issues of women and young people in the implementation of the continental free trade agreement.
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement represents a major opportunity for countries to boost growth, reduce poverty, mainstream youth and broaden economic inclusion
One of the pathways for the AfCFTA agreement is driven towards creating economic empowerment and capacity building opportunities for Women and Youth in trade.
According to McKinsey, African Women contributed 33 percent of the continent’s collective GDP in the year 2018. This is a great improvement from previous years, as there have been reforms in structures that previously impeded the rights of women to contribute effectively to the economic climates of their various societies.
The introduction of the African continental free trade area has garnered interest from African Women groups within the continent and the diaspora
One of such groups is the African Women in Trade network (An Africa/Diaspora Network).
This network seeks to indulge women in the public and private sector in areas around trade policy, provision of opportunities in trade and creating a platform for regional integration.
The women in trade group has been involved in a number of capacity building initiatives.
This year; they partnered with the Kenyan Chamber of Commerce, Rwanda Chamber of Commerce and some key private sector players like Jumia Africa to dialogue on key partnership areas for the benefit of Women traders in Africa.
The evaluation from the dialogues and partnerships with these organizations led them to launch a series of targeted programs which seeks to focus on trade capacity building, highlight strategic investment opportunities and convene consultations for women in each of the 54 African member states.
Through this initiative they have reached and consulted women in five African member states, with Ghana set to be the sixth destination and Rwanda the seventh destination.
To further boost engagements, they also recently created a chatroom on clubhouse with a current membership of about 500 people.
Re-affirming the statement of H.E Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA secretariat on youth inclusivity in the AfCFTA during his engagement with UNDP, he emphatically stated that
“The implementation of the agreement will provide more jobs for youth, more opportunities and a larger marketplace for youth-led start-ups”
There has been a lot of engagement in that regard from youth within the continent and the diaspora.
African youth account for 60% of the continent’s population.
It is also projected that in 2050, Africa’s abounding youth population will account for a quarter of the world’s population.
This hugely signifies that Africa is the next frontier for development.
This presents a daunting task for the current generation of African youth to ensure that a good foundation is laid for future generations to leverage on.
The introduction of the continental free trade agreement presents a perfect opportunity for African Youth to properly leverage on.
In this regard, there has been a great deal of engagements and implementations on the youth front.
From building intergenerational dialogue platforms to building policy advocacy communities.
The AfCFTA Youth Forum, an independent youth-led intergenerational organisation was formed to empower youth to be at the forefront of the decision-making process.
In line with their mandate, the AfCFTA Youth Forum has organised events and provided advocacy platforms to effectively engage youth on their role within the context of the agreement.
Through convening weekly webinars and inviting key experts to dialogue on relevant fields like the creative sector, trade, industry, peace and security.
The knowledge shared in these webinars and social media engagements have impacted thousands of Young Africans across the continent and the diaspora.
The constant evolution of technological tools has provided opportunities for many youth, more especially those in strategic positions in both government and international capacities to engage, consult and dialogue in topics of interest within the frontiers of the agreement.
The introduction of Clubhouse, a social media platform that utilizes voice as a means of communication has provided the opportunity for these individuals to host and join Yo
uth-led policy advocacy conversations and dialogues on the AfCFTA agreement.
One of such people utilizing the clubhouse platform for fruitful AfCFTA engagements is Mr Daniel Aryee, a young Ghanaian currently working as Digital Consultant at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO).
Through his initiative of hosting weekly conversations together with a line-up of field experts, over 1,500 people from all over the continent and the diaspora have been engaged on topics like Trade Remedies, Intellectual Property Rights and E-Commerce.
This and many other youth and women-led initiatives signal a positive domain for the future of the agreement, as we gradually see the barriers of sectionalism losing hold of its grip in exchange for integration and inclusion.
Twitter: Afcfta_ZLECAF Secretariat
Daniel Nii Dzormor Aryee
Digital Consultant at UNIDO and AFCFTA Youth Advocate