Consultations held inform the proposed Protocol on Women in Trade of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Photo: UNDP

13 July 2021, JUBA—National consultations and an online survey have been launched by stakeholders in South Sudan to provide a platform for women in trade and business to voice their needs and interests with regards to participation in regional and continental trade, to inform the proposed Protocol on Women in Trade of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The online survey was launched by the UN Women Regional Offices of West and Central Africa, East and Southern Africa and the Arab States, in partnership with UNDP and the AfCFTA Secretariat.

“South Sudanese women entrepreneurs face similar challenges to women in other locations, and our goal is to fully integrate the Women in Trade Protocol into the AfCFTA agreement. Consultations are an important element in making the development of the Women in Trade Protocol participatory, inclusive, and responsive to the needs and priorities of the women of South Sudan,” said Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Hon. Ayaa Benjamin Warille, during opening remarks at the launch of the national consultations at Dembesh Hotel in Juba on Tuesday.

“We know that if a woman is doing business, she will be doing it for the benefit of her family, the benefit of her community and the benefit of society,” said Hon. Agak Achuil Lual, Undersecretary of Trade for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, adding encouragement: “Although there will be challenges and people may discourage you, work with your sisters and colleagues in the 10 states, and share your ideas [on trade].  Organize…and you will hear that the women of South Sudan have done it again. Just as you did it politically by fighting for 35 percent political participation, you worked for it and you got it—the same thing can happen with business.”

This week’s launch brought together women traders, entrepreneurs, and associations, with the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the African Union, UN Women, and UNDP. Collecting the views of women in trade on the ground, at the country level, will be used to ensure negotiations for the Women in Trade Protocol are solutions–driven, and reflective of the voice of women. The preparatory phase in South Sudan includes conducting national consultations supported by UNDP and an online survey to be led by UN Women.

“The online survey commissioned by UN Women, UNDP and the AfCFTA Secretariat is ongoing. I encourage all women engaged in business in South Sudan to go online to fill the survey and share their specific barriers – so that we may gather information to inform the upcoming protocol in order to improve the effectiveness of the AfCFTA for women,” said UN Women Country Representative Peterson Magoola.

Women account for approximately 70 percent of informal cross-border trade in Africa. The AfCFTA aims to make it more affordable for women traders to operate by addressing barriers and challenges they face, such as confiscation of goods, gender-based violence, and lack of protective measures.

“All my raw material is imported with high taxes at the border. Penetrating the market becomes difficult as my products are forced to compete with foreign brands sold at a cheaper price. This workshop is very important to me because if these trade issues are solved, businesses like mine would flourish,” said Fiona Loki, Founder of Cici Natural Skin Care and Nur Candle Production.

“This meeting is very important to us as an organization because we rely on teaching materials and machines from East Africa to conduct out trainings and suffer from double taxation. These machines acquired are to support a family in South Sudan and yet we are being taxed so highly,” said Florence Ikorube Kili, a trained teacher who runs a women’s empowerment programme called Training to Transform.

“The women are important partners in the economic development of this country. Already we see women using innovative ways of expanding the market. By accelerating the ratification and domestication of the AFCFTA, we will be able afford more of this vast opportunity for the women of South Sudan. UNDP is committed to raising women’s economic empowerment across our programme in South Sudan and creating space for women to influence the Women in Trade Protocol of the AfCFTA,” said UNDP Resident Representative Samuel G. Doe.

Signed in March 2018 during the 10th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) entered into force on 30 May 2019 for the 24 countries that had deposited their instruments of ratification with the AU Commission. South Sudan was one of the 44 AU member states who signed the agreement at the time of its launch. However, ratification is pending with the National Assembly.

“The success of women in the African Continental Free Trade Area also means success for the Sustainable Development Goals and the AU Agenda 2063. This workshop will produce the ideas needed to help the Ministry of Gender and Ministry of Trade to advise the government on sharpening its participation in the Protocol and the AfCFTA at large,” said African Union Ambassador to South Sudan Joram Mukama Biswaro, in a statement to the participants.

Consultations for the Women in Trade Protocol have taken place or are scheduled in Aweil, Kapoeta, Renk, and Yambio. The online survey is available on UN Women’s website at the following link:

https://data.unwomen.org/form/afcfta_survey

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For more information contact:

Kymberly Bays, UNDP Communications: kymberly.bays@undp.org

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