A transformative Continental Free Trade Area requires inclusion of women

Addis Ababa, 1 November 2017 (ECA) - A group of experts met in Addis Ababa for the 2017 edition of the continental workshop on trade and gender under the theme; “The role of regional economic communities in supporting gender sensitive implementation of the Continental Free Trade Area”.

The workshop was organized by the African Trade Policy Centre of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in conjunction with the 10th Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration.

In his opening remarks, David Luke, the Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre, noted that the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) was an ambitious project.

The CFTA is expected to significantly boost intra-African trade and accelerate structural transformation on the continent, said Mr. Luke.

However, it will be necessary to ensure that the benefits are shared, and this includes paying special attention on gender equality in the CFTA process.

“Too often we still hear the claim that trade policy is gender neutral, while we know that the benefits and costs of trade are not equally distributed between men and women. When we do discuss women in trade, the discussion remains limited to the patterns observed – such as the fact that many informal traders are women – rather than the causes of these imbalances," he said.

The meeting called for explicit gender language in the CFTA to ensure political commitment and a legal basis for action on gender equality in the context of the agreement.

It was suggested that Regional Economic Communities (RECs) could use their status as intergovernmental bodies to develop regional common positions and frameworks to support implementation.

The meeting also highlighted the role of development partners in supporting building capacity in gender mainstreaming, including through improved gender statistics.  

The experts agreed that the understanding of the links between trade and gender equality was often missing on the continent.

Many initiatives had been introduced to promote the role of women on trade, but effective implementation remained an issue. Going forward, they agreed, implementation and monitoring of outcomes from agreed initiatives should be prioritized.

Workshop participants included representatives from the RECs, United Nations agencies, the African Union Commission, member States, civil society and private sector. A representative of the Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa also attended.

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826
E-mail: eca-info@un.org