KAMPALA –Women entrepreneurs in Uganda have an open opportunity to expand their businesses through tapping into the wider continental market, regional experts have opined.
But such an employment opportunity can only be realised if the different players take advantage of the various protocols signed under the African Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). It’s also important that individual traders under their umbrella organisations are armed with the various laws in place, according to Mr Seth Gor – a professor of Economics – University of Nairobi and one of the brains behind the formation of the continental trade bloc.
Prof Gor made the revelations at Speke Hotel – Kampala on Monday at the beginning of a two-day training workshop for selected women entrepreneurs, under the organisation of the East African Women in Business Platform – EAWiBP. Prof Gor has trained women in the region on trade, macro, industrial and welfare economics.
“The best way to carry out effective trade is through networking because that’s the opportunity to learn from each other and tap into the bigger market,” lectured Prof Gor to a group of women, many of whom confessed ignorance of the AfCFTA agreement, which was signed in 2018.
AfCFTA negotiations have taken place in three phases – the first covering the ratification of the agreement, which was accompanied by protocols on trade in services and goods and settlement of disputes, which provided the basis for the commencement of free trade, though many details remain unresolved.
Uganda accounts for the lion share of 83.2 per cent in exports within the East African bloc while DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda take 7.2 per cent, 3.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.
Prof. Gor lectured to women how lack of access to information on trade regulations, violence and harassment as well as lack of access to finance were separately downplaying women businesses within the East African Community’s cross-border trade – an impediment, which note, Mr Alfred Ngau – the Advisor East African Business Council echoed at the same training.
“You need to belong to one of the powerful organisations like Chamber of Commerce because your (individual) voices won’t be heard,” advised Ngau.
Mr Lamech Wesonga – an AfCFTA Policy Advisor at the East African Community Secretariat based in Arusha called on women to focus on a single market for their businesses to thrive.
Ms. Janice Kimaro – the Executive Director, EAWiBP highlighted the benefits of a single continental market bloc.
The decision to work towards the creation of a continental market for goods and services was taken by the African Union in 2012. Negotiations for the AfCFTA began in 2015 and the agreement was signed by 44 of the African Union’s 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018.