Women entrepreneurs urged to take up African Free Trade Area opportunities

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Female-owned businesses have been urged to take advantage of the huge opportunities presented by the African Free Trade Area agreement. (AfCFTA).

This as the Norton Rose Fulbright – African Women in Leadership Summit was held in Sandton, Johannesburg, on Tuesday, to commemorate Women’s Month.

Experts say the AfCFTA offers ample opportunities in every sector for women to grow their businesses on the continent.

Projected continental benefits

The African Free Trade Area Agreement is expected to boost intra-African trade by 52.3% by 2025.

This agreement is also anticipated to increase Africa’s income by up to 450-billion dollars by 2035.

Founder and CEO of DLO Energy Resources Group, Linda Mabena-Olagunju, says this agreement gives black women entrepreneurs in South Africa like herself an opportunity to expand their businesses despite the country’s multitude of challenges such as load shedding, the water crisis, and dilapidated infrastructure amongst others.

Mabena-Olagunju says the agreement will pave the way in which trade will be done with ease across the continent.

“The Africa Free Trade Agreement presents as an opportunity for women to expand their businesses. So, if you look at my business as an example, we’re in the energy sector. We own one of South Africa’s largest wind farms, right? And we are a dominant force as a women-owned organisation. However, South Africa is a market of only 60 million people. So if you’re going to scale your business, you need to start looking at how do you do business outside of South Africa with your fellow African counterparts and trading electricity in those areas. What the Africa Free Trade Agreement presents is an opportunity for us to actually be able to do this because it is putting women at the forefront by saying ‘women in Africa, try and scale your businesses beyond your domestic market.’ We’re trying to make it easier for the movement of goods, we’re trying to make it easier for the ease of trade amongst Africans.”

Additional benefits

A new World Bank study, released in collaboration with the AfCFTA Secretariat, found that African countries could enjoy additional benefits from the agreement such as an increase in foreign direct investment, both from within and outside of Africa.

According to the Financial Sector Outlook Study 2022, the South African investment and asset management industry has seen steady growth in consumer numbers, investment activity and assets under management.

Dalphine Govender, Co-founder at Perpetua Investment Managers, says this industry is an ever-changing one that needs to work on benefitting society’s needs.

“The financial industry is not just about growth and sometimes greed, but actually about the benefit of society. And so, one of the biggest shifts that’s occurring in investments is this shift to stewardship – a responsible approach to taking care of money, and I think individuals have come from feeling much more strongly about how important that mission is…”

The trade agreement promises broader economic integration, investment, more jobs and reduction in poverty rates in Africa.

It could also bring higher-paid, better-quality jobs, with women expected to receive the biggest wage gains.