Harassment and discrimination women and girls in Nairobi and Kenya face trying to conduct cross-border business turns out to be a challenge for the majority of them under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA).
“Gender is my agenda”, a meeting that took place ahead of the African Union head of states summit in Addis Ababa addressed the progress of the African trade agreement.
A south Sudanese, Elizabeth Ajok said women experience more problems than men when crossing the border.
“They are facing a lot of challenges like violence at the border, they are being intimidated, and sometimes some of their items are being confiscated or their goods are taken because of clearance,” Ajok said. “And they will also overcharge you because you are a woman. You will be taxed. Sometimes they just look at us. They see that you are just a woman, so you don’t deserve to do business.”
Zaithwa Milzanzi shares a similar encounter she faced with a native of Malawi by crossing the border.
“You find yourself with required fees, the papers are in order, everything is in order and yet you find some officers at the border asking you for sexual things and you are thinking, ‘Why?'” Milzanzi said. “It hinders your progress and your ability to trade as a young woman. So, this needs to be addressed if young women are to be considered and fully protected under this regime.”
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement went into effect in May 2019 to lower tariffs between African countries and boost economies.
The World Bank is certain to boost Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035.
Head of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Memory Kachambwa has said the organization will promote women’s development in the continent.
“When we talk of AfCFTA, we are looking at [a] Pan-African instrument and within the vision of it is to ensure that even the trade that we do is dignified,” Kachambwa said. “We talk a lot about women cross-border traders, but are they doing it in a dignified way? Are we ensuring that they have the service, the harassment with the customs union? Are we having those conversations?”
Mercy Chukwuma, a Nigerian advocate and a supporter of women farmers said some cultural norms have prevented women from producing food and owning land.
“There is lack of training and retraining of rural women farmers to enabe them to stand up in the competitive market. We talk about land as a factor. You will agree with me that women have limited access to land. We do not have access and control over the land, which is a major factor of production,” she said. “If we, who occupy over 70% of the agricultural workforce, do not have access and control over the land, how then do we produce and produce well?”
The summit addresses the challenges of doing business in Ghana and ending unfriendly business practices along African borders.