Trade policy for women took an international leap with the Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment endorsed by over 120 countries at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference of December 2017. The Declaration firmly acknowledged the importance of incorporating a gender perspective into the promotion of inclusive economic growth.

With the launch of trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in January 2021, expectations are high with regards to expanded business prospects for women-led businesses. With the AfCFTA, informal, micro and small enterprises can be integrated into continental markets and thus break barriers that have so far mitigated growth as they strive to penetrate foreign markets.

In light of this, a Townhall meeting with the theme ” Buenos Aires Declaration: Pathway to Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria ” was held at the National Center for Women Development in Abuja on the 14th of December 2021.

At that meeting, Nigerian women demanded that governments in Nigeria and across Africa, collaborate and ensure that WMSMEs participate equitably and inclusively in the African continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA) currently being implemented.

The Town Hall Meeting, organized by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative (WADHI) with support from the Nigerian Export Promotion Council’s (NEPC) Export Expansion Facility Programme (EEFP) was convened to create awareness and start a discourse on how best Nigerian women can benefit from the newly implemented AfCFTA.

The Minister of State for Industry Trade and Investment, Amb. Mariam Katagum who was represented at the event by the Director of Commodities, Kaura Irimiya, stated that AfCFTA offers unparalleled opportunities for capacity building and access to markets and that businesses (WMSMEs included) will benefit from easier processes and opportunities in the overseas market. That as Nigeria strives to expand economic growth and move from recovery to prosperity, investing in women’s economic empowerment sets the compass in the right direction.

The Convener of Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative (WADHI) Mme Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia, said the Townhall meeting was important, as women do more cross border trading, but have less access to credit, land and skills. Thus, they need to be given equal opportunity to maximize their full potential in trade and other economic activities, arguing that women had the capacity to provide the required solutions for nation building. She further added that, as an outcome of the Townhall, women groups will work to ensure that all identified trade gaps were effectively addressed