SEATINI Participates in the first-ever AfCFTA Conference on Women and Youth in Trade
Women and Youth are the heart of trade on the African continent, hence, their importance to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) cannot be overstated. For the AfCFTA to be truly successful, businesses in particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in critical sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing (clothing and textiles) and services (especially tourism), informal trading, and professional services in which women and youth are predominantly engaged, must be supported to thrive. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) run by women account for close to 60 per cent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), creating about 450 million jobs.
In order to achieve this objective, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union cemented a commitment to include a Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade in the scope of the AfCFTA Agreement. Therefore, in support of the preparatory phase of developing the Protocol the Conference dubbed: “Women and Youth: The Engine of AfCFTA Trade in Africa”, was organised on 14th September 2022 in Tanzania.
SEATINI Uganda joined various stakeholders and organizations during this inaugural AfCFTA Women and Youth in Trade conference. The President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, in her capacity as the AfCFTA Champion for Women and Youth in Trade, and the Secretary- General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, H.E. Wamkele Mene, hosted the conference under the theme; Women and Youth the Engine in the AfCFTA Trade in Africa.
In his opening remarks, H.E Mene Wamkele, the Secretary General reinforced the objective of the event which is to ensure that young people SMEs led by women, are at the center of the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area AfCFTA.
The Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, Mr Wamkele Mane also reinforced the objective of the event which is to ensure that young people Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) led by women, are at the center of the benefits of the AfCFTA.
For the very first time since colonialism, he added “we have been able, under the leadership of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, to take the very first step to integrate our continent with young Africans, SMEs being at the centre of the benefits we want to see, H.E Mene Wamkele added”
H.E Mene Wamkele also noted that this was the first time a trade agreement had social development elements to it and that the protocol on women and youth is meant to make sure that these people benefit from the framework.
He stressed that the AfCFTA conference on women and youth in trade was the first opportunity to engage on these matters; there will be more opportunities for youth to engage and further inform the substance and language of protocol.
SEATINI together with Youth for Tax Justice Network and other youth leaders held a side meeting with Secretary General of the AfCFTA, H.E Wamkele Mene. The discussion focused on the Protocol on Youth and Women and promoting youth equitable outcomes in the AfCFTA through sustained domestic resource mobilization.
During this meeting, we shared our proposals on the need to make the AfCFTA work for Youth and Women in Trade. This side meeting was attended by SEATINI Uganda Trade and Investment Policy Analyst Brendah Akankunda together with Hon. Phiona Nyamutoro, the National Female Youth Member of Parliament of Uganda, the Team Leader at the Youth for Tax Justice Network, Allan Murangira Muhereza and Obal Daniel, the Senior Presidential Aide to the President of Uganda, Youth Affairs.
Some of the issues we raised and requested the AfCFTA protocol on Women and Youth in Trade addressed included;
Classification of Youth: That youth are not are homogenous group and therefore care should be taken while defining youth to avoid exclusion and abuse of the protocol.
Dispute Resolution Mechanism: The protocol should consider the unique circumstances of Youth SMEs while deciding disputes. It was noted that whereas youth may not get preferential treatment during dispute resolutions, procedures can be made to favour them.
Requirement for harmonization of tax incentives/expenditures: Application of the AfCFTA Stabilisation fund by itself may not tackle revenue leakages.
On the issue of Standards, the Secretary General noted that there has been tremendous progress on removing or rescinding of unfair standards. That since the coming into force of the AfCFTA, the secretariat has help resolve over 400 report cases of use of standards as Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs).
SEATINI Uganda is committed to working closely with relevant institutions and stakeholders to amplify voices of the Youth, Women and MSMEs towards ensuring that the perceived opportunities of the AfCFTA become a reality for various stakeholders.