The Government will continue to facilitate the capacitation of budding women entrepreneurs as part of efforts to ensure they benefit from the vast export opportunities availed by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a senior official has said.
The AfCFTA was operationalised on January 1, 2021 and will have a market of about 1,3 billion consumers with GDP of US$3,4 trillion.
Speaking during a Harare forum by International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the Organisation of Women in International Trade (OWIT) in Zimbabwe, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni acknowledged the crucial role women from across the region play in their respective economies, yet still lagged behind due to lack of access to markets and information.
The AfCFTA, however, addresses such challenges providing a vast market place and Minister Nyoni said Government will ensure women are not left behind in this great initiative. As such, efforts will be made towards making their products and services competitive on the regional market.
“This initiative creates more opportunities for women to market their products and services. Access to market opportunities has been one of the major challenges SME women face but this initiative takes care of such challenges.
“The AfCFTA has provided an unmatched opportunity for exports and Government is fully supportive of this and will facilitate capacitation of women MSMEs to ensure they benefit as well,” she said.
Trade Law Centre executive director Trudi Hartzenberg — said while the AfCFTA avails vast opportunities for exports, it was imperative for women to understand the benefits are not automatic as women need to understand trade protocols, access to information and trade agreements for instance.
She said: “Some of the terminology is technical and needs to be simplified. Women entrepreneurs also need to understand consumer demand at a particular time.”
Minister Nyoni however indicated that the Government, through her Ministry had lined up various programmes to support the budding entrepreneurs such as training, standardisation, demystifying customs procedures as well as providing information relevant for the export process.
She added the forum had come at an opportune time during international women’s month in which various women issues- their success stories and challenges from across sectors are highlighted.
In a separate interview, entrepreneur Cecilia Sewera, who is into detergents making since 2017, said more still needs to be done to see total emancipation of women and their participation in mainstream economic activities.
She said topics on women empowerment should be on the agenda not only in March but awareness should run throughout the year to achieve equity and equality.
“Women’s month should be to measure the progress made and reflect on the initiatives put in place throughout the year to see if we are yielding results.
“Those women who have made it should also play a leading role in uplifting others. Schools and universities should also have programmes that encourage and give young girls exposure to the business world,” she said.
It is estimated that the SME sector employs 76 percent of the working population and 57 percent of that are women.