Unlocking Opportunities for African Young Women Entrepreneurs in the AfCFTA


Women entrepreneurs

How can the Africa Continental Free Trade Area deliver for young African women entrepreneurs? In the high-level policy dialogue “Unlocking Opportunities for Young Women Entrepreneurship in the AfCFTA”, held virtually on 8 February 2021, the African Union Commission in collaboration with UN Women, UNECA, UNCTAD and the Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) called for women’s involvement in all continental and regional discussions related to the implementation of the AfCFTA.

The dialogue identified the key issues, challenges, and entry points to accelerate the implementation of gender equality and the empowerment of women through the AfCFTA. The need to invest in young women’s economic empowerment and skills development was identified as one of the most urgent and effective means to drive progress on gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth on the continent.

AUC expressed the Commission’s commitment to streamline young women’s economic empowerment across its departments. It also emphasised its key role in supporting Member States take into account the barriers faced by women and young women in trading in their national strategies and policies on AfCFTA.

UN Women underlined the urgent need to address barriers to women’s entrepreneurship activities which are mostly undervalued in the national GDPs of African economies. Further emphasis was made on the need for accelerating steps to unlock young women’s potential to contribute to the continent’s growth and prosperity through scalable initiatives such as the AUC-UN Women-ITU led African Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI) to address the gender digital gap and enhance innovation and entrepreneurship. 

UNECA outlined six critical actions that have to be prioritized for women to benefit from the AfCFTA, and presented strategic recommendations aimed at ensuring that women entrepreneurs are effectively empowered in the AfCFTA Implementation.

Programmes such as CAWEE’s ‘Boosting Intra-African Trade: Women Taking the Lead’ aimed at helping women entrepreneurs leverage the benefits of the AfCFTA was also amongst the promising practices discussed in the webinar. A youth representative underlined that a combination of entrepreneurship capacity building, digital skills, technical assistance and other mechanics will “leapfrog” women’s businesses and increase women entrepreneurs’ participation in the AfCFTA.

The importance of a continued partnership and collaboration within AUC’s departments as well as with civil society organizations, UN agencies and other development partners was emphasised throughout the dialogue. UN Women reaffirmed its continued commitment to broker transformative partnerships including with the AU, the UN system, women’s organizations and other key strategic stakeholders to ensure that women’s economic empowerment remains a central consideration in all efforts.

The dialogue was attended by 114 participants, bringing together experts and officials from the AU, AUC, ECA, UN Women, ITC, UNIDO, UNCTAD, the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), associations of African women entrepreneurs, civil society organizations including CAWEE and FEMNET, development partners and young African people. 

Read the full report here