African women entrepreneurs constitute about 30% of the number of women in Africa, with a total contribution to the economic growth of the continent this year estimated at $350 billion. However, African women entrepreneurs face significant challenges.
When the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement took effect on January 1 last year, many women entrepreneurs on the continent hoped it would boost the creation of the largest Free trade in the world with a market of 1.2 billion people, opportunities for success for their businesses and the fight against extreme poverty.
However, many women entrepreneurs in Africa told Deutsche Welle (DW) about not having access to opportunities to enhance their market share because projects are still small, with low production and little funding from governments and funding agencies.
African women entrepreneurs complain of the difficulty in obtaining travel visas and documents necessary for export. And from inside a poultry farm in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, the owner of the farm said that she had a shipment of 30,000 chickens that were on their way to markets in Gabon, but had not yet left the country.
Bessou Nakatoma, who heads an organization that promotes rural entrepreneurship in Niger, said that women entrepreneurs in the West African country also face similar difficulties exporting goods from remote areas to neighbouring countries.
Nakatoma added that “women entrepreneurs seek to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area through export, but they face many harassments.” Banks also refuse to “give loans to women, so they have to rely only on their families, their communities and their meager savings.”
The United Nations estimates that nearly 70 percent of trade across informal borders in Africa is conducted by women traffickers.
Struggles for female entrepreneurs
Added to this is the burden of conflicts that afflict many countries of the African continent, which leads to chaos and security disturbances.
In this regard, Catherine Samba-Panza, a lawyer and interim president of the Central African Republic between 2014-2016, said that insecurity due to armed conflicts poses a major challenge for women entrepreneurs in Africa.
She added that women make up 20% of entrepreneurship in the continent, but they face many difficulties, whether challenges based on gender or as a result of the crises ravaging the continent.
“It was the Corona pandemic, then the phenomenon of climate change and armed conflicts, and now the Russian war in Ukraine,” she said.
It is worth noting that Cameroon hosted female entrepreneurs from 35 African countries to attend the African Women Entrepreneurs Forum sponsored by the United Nations, with the participation of more than 200 women in the forum, which was held under the slogan “Female Entrepreneurs: Challenges and Opportunities”.
During the forum, the participants called for enhancing access to financing in order to provide a helping hand to companies run by women, as well as the need to facilitate procedures for obtaining export credits and loan guarantees.
The forum emphasized that if opportunities for women entrepreneurs are enhanced, they can help fight poverty and improve livelihoods in remote and rural areas of the African continent.
Women and the dilemma of land ownership
In turn, Cameroonian economic analyst Serge Gifu highlights the difficulties faced by African women entrepreneurs in the issue of land ownership.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Gifu said, “Women are the ones who provide us with food, as they work in agriculture, but despite that they do not own this land. We buy rice from Thailand and Vietnam, and we buy wheat from Ukraine. We need to change that, especially since we need rice.” achieving earth security.
He added that if women own a lot of land, we will see that many people “return from the cities to their former (rural) communities because their livelihoods have improved, and their income will be better than the situation in the cities.”
It is noteworthy that the contributions of female entrepreneurs to economic growth in Africa during the current year amounted to more than $350 billion, which is equivalent to about 13% of the continent’s GDP.
In light of this, women in the African continent aspire to obtain more opportunities to benefit from the African Free Trade Area in order to promote development in Africa.
Source : Deutsche Welle
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