Economic governance: African Women's Engagement in Trade Agreements

Economic governance: African Women's Engagement in Trade Agreements

How are trade agreements formulated, and who exactly is involved in the negotiation processes? These are the questions addressed in this short documentary, produced by FEMNET with support from Trust Africa. It highlights some of the challenges African women traders experience (especially Kenya, Egypt, Zambia, Rwanda & Uganda), and captures some the best practices that gender lobby groups or governments at regional and national levels are using to successfully mainstream gender in trade arrangements. It also discusses the gaps that hinder the mainstreaming of gender in trade agreements.

The Common Market for Eastern Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the American Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) are some of the trade agreements signed by African nations to help facilitate regional and global trade. When one looks at who is involved in agreements such as these, it is clear that there are very few women’s voices in negotiations. The arguments are gender blind, because they do not address women’s needs. The lack of focus on the informal sector and small-traders in AGOA, for instance, disproportionately impacts women’s opportunities.

Lack of information and accessibility to trade opportunities hinders women’s participation in cross-border trades, with associated fees beyond the means of many women traders. Other challenges include the logistic costs of cross-border trade, and the lack of financial capital available to women. Women-focused conventions and finance mechanisms can help, but they need to be well communicated to women traders. Providing opportunities for home- or village-scale cottage industries, and protecting their intellectual property, is also important, and can directly contribute to reducing poverty. The documentary concludes by saying that women have to be active participants in economic and trade agreements and mechanisms.