Gender equality and women’s empowerment in the African Continental Free Trade Area: What lessons can be learnt from the SADC?

The Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA Agreement), which has been signed by 54 out of the 55 African countries, seeks to create a single continental market for goods and services and facilitate the free movement of people on the continent thereby enhancing the competitiveness of intra-African trade and boosting intra-African trade. This will generate employment and improve the welfare of mostly young men and women on the continent. However, whilst the AfCFTA Agreement, under Article 3(e), emphasizes that one of the general objectives of the AfCFTA is to promote gender equality, experiences in other African regional economic communities have proven that gender and gender equality have not been adequately mainstreamed in implementing free trade areas, which has resulted in gender inequalities in international trade and commerce. As a result of this, the majority of women have been left marginalized in trade and faced with serious challenges in accessing opportunities created by regional trade agreements.

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