African Union (AU) Chairperson and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has highlighted the importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) as a tool to help advance the empowerment of women.

Ramaphosa was opening the AU Heads of State and Government virtual sessions.

He says the Free Trade Area Agreement could help facilitate economic freedom for women.

“The treaty is more critical than ever, we must use it to advance the empowerment of Africa’s women, one of the most important objectives of agenda 2063. Improving Africa’s women’s access to trade opportunities not only facilitates economic freedom for women, but also expands the productive capacity of countries. The AfCFTA must facilitate greater trade opportunities for women and focus on removing tariff barriers to trade,” says Ramaphosa.

AU Heads of State, Government meet virtually:

Ramaphosa says women’s participation in the continental economy must be strengthened by ensuring there is greater public procurement earmarked for women-owned businesses.

He says sufficient support must be given to women-owned SMMEs and cooperatives in both local and regional economies.

He says an AU Protocol on Women in Trade should be considered to give effect to its intentions.

“The AfCFTA will boost intra-African trade, it will promote industrialisation and competitiveness and contribute to job creation, and it will unleash regional value chains that will facilitate Africa’s meaningful integration into the global economy,” says Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa says improving women’s access to trade opportunities not only facilitates economic freedom for women, but also expands the productive capacity of countries.