2020 marks the beginning of the decade of action towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  While progress towards the SDGs is being made globally, the rate of progression is slow-paced and risks the potential of not meeting the intended goals by 2030. This year also marks the tenth year Graça Machel Trust has been working towards advocating for the rights of women and children.



Under Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;  it is recognized that through making concerted efforts to ensure that women and girls have equal access to education, health care, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making processes; societies will accelerate inclusive, sustainable economies.


“Calls for a decade of action present an opportunity to evaluate and assess the available resources at our disposal to expand equality, and ensure that in the coming decade, the socio-economic advancement of women and girls in Africa is a priority.  The African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) framework presents one such opportunity for the socio-economic advancement of women.”


In March 2018 African leaders signed a groundbreaking trade agreement, with African governments pledging to remove tariffs on 90 per cent of goods, gradually liberalize trade in services and address a multitude of other non-tariff barriers[1].  The scale of AfCFTA’s potential impact makes it vital to understand the main drivers of the agreement and the best methods to harness its opportunities and overcome the associated risks and challenges.


Economic modelling projections from The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) highlight that women will benefit from improvements to the challenges they face as informal cross-border traders.  Cross-border trading is significant, mainly because in Africa, 85 per cent of employment is within the informal economy sector and women make up 70 per cent of informal cross-border traders on the continent [2].


Through the AfCFTA’s reduction of tariffs, women cross-border traders will be able to affordably trade through formal channels with simplified customs clearing procedures and reduced import duties. The aggregate effect of AfCFTA, should it be effectively and efficiently implemented, will contribute to the achievement of SDG 5 through the prioritization of socio-economic inclusion of women.


“Equal to evaluating and assessing the available resources at our disposal through the expand equality initiative, we need to collectively begin to change and disrupt the systems that prevent the advancement of women and girls, the decade of action must proportionately be the decade of women’s equality.”



[1] Maphanga, ‘Promoting Women’s Participation in the AfCFTA’.

[2] Internationales Arbeitsamt, Women and Men in the Informal Economy.