The Government of Liberia, with support from UNDP and UNWOMEN, will undertake a series of consultations with Liberian women entrepreneurs involved in cross-border trade to sensitize them about the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which became operational in January 2021.
The consultations will highlight the opportunities presented by the continental free trade area as well as provide a forum for women traders to identify and find solutions to the challenges they encounter when trading across borders.
“The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement presents an immense opportunity for Liberia’s growth and prosperity by making it easier for entrepreneurs and businesses to move seamlessly from one country to another to buy and sell their goods and services without unnecessary tariff and non-tariff barriers. However, to accomplish this goal, the operationalization of the agreement must be fair and inclusive by engaging and listening to women traders who account for about 70% of the trade that happens across African borders,” said Stephen Rodriques, UNDP’s Resident Representative in Liberia.
“Women traders typically face a number of hurdles including harassment and extortion at borders, as well as complex, lengthy trade procedures that could deter the faint-hearted.
These consultations will give women a voice to shape how the AfCFTA rules of trade are implemented to address their specific challenges enabling them to fully benefit from the Africa-wide trading opportunities,” said Marie Goreth Nizigama UNWOMEN’s Country Representative in Liberia.
The process begun on 5 November with the AfCFTA Secretariat and the UNDP Regional Service Center training officials from the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MGCSP) and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) on how to conduct the consultations.
The formal consultations with women traders to be held under the theme: “Giving voice to Liberian women entrepreneurs to make AfCFTA work for them”.
They will begin on 12 November 2021 with a virtual introductory webinar to be followed thereafter by in-person meetings across the 15 counties from 15-16 November 2021.
A national consultation will be held on 22 November 2021 to consolidate all the discussions. These outcomes will feed into an Africa-wide process to develop a protocol for women in cross-border trade, which will be discussed and possibly adopted at a continental meeting of women in trade on AfCFTA scheduled for February 2022.
Liberia is a signatory to the AfCFTA agreement. Once the Government deposits the instrument of ratification of the agreement with the AfCFTA Secretariat, which is hosted by the Africa Union, Liberian businesses can officially begin to trade in the continental free trade area.
In line with the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals, Liberia is committed to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, in order to attain sustainable peace and prosperity.
In line with their collective mandate to help countries achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and reduction of inequalities and exclusion, UNDP and UNWOMEN recognize gender equality and women’s empowerment in all facets of development, even trade, as central to the promotion of inclusive growth and sustainable development in Liberia.