Multi-Stakeholder Policy Dialogue: Realizing the Buenos Aires Declaration- Policy and Legislative Reforms for Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria

Multi-Stakeholder Policy Dialogue: Realizing the Buenos Aires Declaration- Policy and Legislative Reforms for Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria

As a follow-up to the Townhall meeting with the theme “Buenos Aires Declaration: Pathway to Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria”, this multi-stakeholder policy dialogue was held to stimulate relevant stakeholders, including the private sector to think innovatively on how to catalyze access to financial, trade, technology, and market opportunities especially for women.

“The Nigerian Women have called on the National and State Houses of Assembly to set in motion modalities to domesticate the Buenos Aires Declaration to ensuring that the Legislative Agenda and African Continental Free Trade Agreement AfCFTA provide economic growth opportunities for all regardless of gender.

The domestication, they said, would enable women to benefit from the projected N75bn annual retail market and other business prospects it offers.

The demand among other significant issues were discussed during the “Multi-stakeholder Policy Dialogue Realizing the Buenos Aires Declaration: Policy and Legislative Reforms for Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria,” which took place on Monday in Abuja.

They also demanded for the review of existing laws to provide clearer legal framework for the public and private sectors to promote the UN Global Compact Women Empowerment Principles, WEPs, especially relating to gender and procurement in Nigeria.

They further asked the government institutions and regulatory agencies to work together and synergize to reduce double burden on MSMEs and harness the productivity of women who constitute over 65% of the informal sector across value chains.

They said government and financial institutions should end the rhetoric on financial inclusion for women by simplifying and concretizing women’s access to financing especially for WMSMEs as women have accessed less than 12% of financial credit due to bureaucratic and other barriers.

They appealed to relevant MDAs to provide practical steps and guidelines to eliminate unfriendly visa processes, reduce GBV and other forms of exploitation that impedes trade and movement of goods and facilitate access to foreign markets for WMSMEs.

On her part, the Convener of Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative WADHI, Mrs. Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia advocated for the creation and implementation of policies and legal frameworks that will expand women’s opportunities and lead to teir economic empowerment at the national and regional levels.

According to her, “The reasons why we are here is because there are gaps in our legislations. There are gaps in our policies. And we cannot do much when the legal framework is weak neither can we do much when the policies are not right.

“We are gathered here today to ask questions: Why are those policies not working for women? What do we need to do to make those policies work better?

“70% of workers in health and social sectors are women. But in the age of artificial intelligence; age of digital economy, we have robotics now. They are preparing robots to take over the work of women who are care givers.

“If that’s what’s in the oven, how are the laws protecting the women? How can we push the change of the transition from this kind of the economy so that women do not suffer?”

Speaking earlier, the Director-General of National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), Professor Abubakar Sulaiman said the Buenos Aires declaration (2017) on women, trade and economic empowerment committed its signatories to collaborate on making trade and development policies more gender-responsive.

Sulaiman added that the legislatures had an important role to play in ensuring the implementation of those agreements and also in addressing challenges that women and women-led businesses, faced in trade agreements, noting that gender mainstreaming in free trade agreements was becoming an increasingly common practice.

Also, while declaring the event open, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said that women have an important role to play in trade.

Lawan, who was represented by Sen. Sa’idu Alkali (APC-Gombe), called for more support for women engaged in various trades.”

Credit: Alabidun Shuaib Abdulrahman

Buenos Aires Declaration: Pathway to Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria

Buenos Aires Declaration: Pathway to Inclusive African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation in Nigeria

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

WADHI unveils Kowgo App for women, SMEs in Abuja

WADHI unveils Kowgo App for women, SMEs in Abuja

An initiative to ensure financial inclusion, and access to savings and loans has been launched for women-owned businesses and other vulnerable persons involved in Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Abuja.

The innovation known as Kowgo application, was powered by the Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative (WADHI) and version 2.0 sponsored by the HHH Alumni Impact Award Grant.

It was gathered that the application  which is accessible on google play store is designed to enable women business owners and SMEs access loans and keep business records.

Speaking during its official launching at the ACCI arena, along Abuja Airport Road, at the weekend, the ACCI President, Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, said the Kowgo application would help women via digital applications at their market and revolutionalise how women do business.

DAl-Mujataba, who noted that the initiative is a partner in progress with the ACCI, explained the application would facilitate wider content to the outside world.

Also, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Promotions Council,  Segun Awolowo, who was represented at the event, noted that the council is ready to work towards successful deployment of the application into the market space.

Similarly, the Commonwealth Women Business Network team that joined virtually also lauded the innovation, acknowledging it is a testament to increasing roles played by women in the society.

The commonwealth team added that women are fast rising around the world, showing resilience, saying that Kowgo app is an audacious action and a big development in the society.

On her part, WADHI Convener, Esther Eghobamien Meshelia, promised to work constantly round the clock to ensure more incorporation for women and women businesses, as the application encourages financial inclusion and ensures market access.

According to her, “WADHI is aimed at accelerating socio-economic growth through empowerment of women, girls and vulnerable groups.

“The initiative was established to help provide appropriate platforms and management systems that support, harness and expand development opportunities that enable beneficiaries to progressively grow their entrepreneurial capacities.”

Other speakers at the event ranging from foreign embassies, traditional leaders, corporate sector leaders, to government agencies, among others lauded the initiative while promising support for  efficient utilisation of the innovation.

The training on Financial & Business Management for NSF Beneficiaries & Other WMSMEs via Upgraded KOWGO

The training on Financial & Business Management for NSF Beneficiaries & Other WMSMEs via Upgraded KOWGO

The training on Financial & Business Management for NSF Beneficiaries & Other WMSMEs via Upgraded KOWGO App was organized by Women Arise Development and Humanitarian Initiative WADHI with support from Hubert H Humphrey Alumni Impact Award on Friday 9th April 2021 at DBM Plaza, Wuse zone 1, FCT-Abuja.

Available data shows that women in Nigeria contend with stiff barriers and are often locked out of economic opportunities as they own less capital and productive resources than men. As such, it became imperative to promote and actively support women’s formal financial inclusion and thus bridge the gap in the digital market economy. To this end, WADHI’s committed to women’s inclusion in the financial and digital market economy developed KOWGO, the mobile application designed to bridge the digital divide, providing information on financial literacy and online business support for women

To this end, the one-day training aimed to bridge the digital divide and get women to engage with the KOWGO App and become visible in online marketing, covered such topics as, Value & Purchasing Power of Money, Unpacking Challenges to Effective Business Management, Using Financial & Business Support Institutions for Savings & Credit, Digital Trading/E-commerce and Practical on Navigating & Using the KOWGO App as well as Action plans & priorities for applying new digital knowledge & skills.

The training became imperative a year after the intervention of the Survival Fund Scheme by the Federal Government of Nigeria, occasioned by the need to reduce the effect of Covid-19 pandemic on especially women vulnerable MSMEs, as lessons learnt show that a good number of women who accessed this loan lack technological skills and a knowledge of the digital market economy which the post Covid-19 world demands.

The training was attended by over 60 participants ranging from hairdressers fashion designers and caterers.



The second edition of the Arahah Farmers Market in 2021, held on Saturday 27th March 2021 at the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry complex. This month’s edition was unique as it was one event marking the end of the one month celebrations of the International Women’s Day in Nigeria. It was also unique in the sense that it was the first Arahah Farmer’s Market graced by the Honouable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen OFR KSG.

Other dignitaries at the market were the representative of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Dr Anthonia Akpabio, the newly inaugurated President of the Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Dr Al-Mujtaba, the Director General, ACCI Ms. Vicky Akai, the Vice President Agriculture ACCI and the Vice President Women Development of the ACCI. Others are members of the Ministerial Technical Committee on Private Sector, the Chair of the Committee and Convener of WADHI, Ms Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia, as well as the Chair, Economic Empowerment Sub-Committee, representatives of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, department of Commodity and Export under the GICED Initiative of the Ministry as well as the Director, Business Development, NEXIM Bank, Ms. Stella Uko-Ettete.


Speaking the President of the Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry said, the Education of the woman is key to eliminating the Almajare system in Nigeria. He pledged the support of himself and his Executive Committee to the Market.

The Vice President Agriculture, Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the Farmers Market Initiative is in line with the focus of the ACCI under it’s Agricultural plan. He stressed that the Chamber will provide Transport Facility that will bring women farmers & entrepreneurs from their farms to the market and thus improve their income. He also maintained that the Chambers will give all the facilities required to move the market forward and also help with pricing. That the Market will cover the surrounding regions, so that what they are farming or producing can be brought to the market.

The Convener WADHI and Chair of the Ministerial Technical Committee, Ms Esther Mshelia, said the Arahah Market is anchored by the Economic Empowerment Committee and aimed to enable us know better the challenges women face in the Market place and the need to connect women to the global market. That Nigerian women we’re not visible at the Commonwealth market which hosted over a thousand buyers and sellers last year. Therefore the Arahah Market will serve as a grooming and capacity building ground for MSMEs especially women.


Rev Tina Bawa, who stood in for the chair, Sub-Committee Economic Empowerment, highlighted the need to connect women to the virtual market, so as to break the monopoly of middlemen and exploitative off-takers

The representative of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and head, GI CEDI, said the Ministry has signed an MOU with the Women Arise Development Initiative (WADHI) who are serving as consultant on this project. She commended the Consultant for building the capacity of women and for carrying women along.

The Head, Business Development, Nexim Bank. Said that, women participate in all processes of export but are not found at the aggregation or direct export stage. That the bank has developed a women and youth export Facility to encourage more women aggregators and exporters. She said the facility is at a single digit currently until February 2022 when it will go back to 9% interest rate. To address some of the issues with collateral, the facility is opened to cooperatives and women owed associations involved in export.

To strengthen their collective pull, women can create an alternative financial security by registering their moveable assets like jewelries with the collateral registry and get the certificate to access financial capital from the bank. She said there is also the warehousing arrangement, especially for commodity traders, where the bank lay hold on stock and pay discounts upon export payment. With all these structures, she said women have little or no excuse to give in the area of accessing finance. She reiterated that the present administration has empowered women in the financial sector.

She noted that the Minister of Finance is a woman and we have over five women who are chairmen and Members of Boards of Commercial Banks. We also have women on board every financial development institution in Nigeria. Hence, the need for a dialogue session with all-female Managers, Chairmen or Directors of Commercial and Development Banks to have structures that will encourage women to have direct and cheap access to finance. She reiterated the support and need to stop Police roadblocks on Market days as this practice affects prices of commodities due to financial demand on them by the Police. Thus, the Police should provide security for our market women at no cost as they are also agents of the government.

The Director-General of the Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Vicky Akia, said that at the ACCI, women have very strong support from Men. That the Management of the Centre has three women and two men. Highlighting the four centres of ACCI, as Business Entrepreneurship Skills and Technology, Abuja Trade Centre, Policy Advocacy Centre and the Dispute Resolution Centre. She enjoined all women to come on board ACCI as we need women to talk to us and give us feedback that will help us support them. That ACCI carries out business Match-Making and as a policy encourages 50% women participation. We are also working with the women to tune down the price in the market.

The Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, commended the President ACCI and his Executive Committee for the support it has given to the MTC-PS, the Arahah Farmers Market and Women in general. That he is indeed a great Champion for women. She promised to come back to decorate him as a true HeforShe under the global project to recognize male champions of women’s advancement. She appreciated all partners and women present at the market. Indeed she said women need encouragement, finance and soft loans to boost their businesses.

Giving the vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary ably Represented by the Director Women Affairs, Mrs Funke Oladipo, commended all partners and women present at the market. She reassured everyone of the Ministry’s support of the Market Initiative.

The event ended with a tour of the Market stall by the Honourable Minister and her entourage accompanied by the President ACCI, guests and organizing team. On a charitable note and to the delight of all, the HM bought all the produce of the lady farmer whose basket of tomatoes had been almost totally destroyed when it fell of the Keke transport used to bring her goods to the market.