African Women & Youth Speak up at the AU Pre-Summit on Free Trade Cross Border Pact

Press Release

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia February 12, 2023: African women and girls in all their diversities gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to interrogate the status of gender equality and inclusion in the envisaged African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The meeting comes at the dawn of the African Union Summit of heads of Government and State.

The side event, dubbed the 39th Gender Is My Agenda (GIMAC) Youth Summit spotlights women and youth in the proposed trade discussions. Taking into account that women and youth voices seldom reverberate within the continental free trade conversations, the GIMAC summit serves as a critical platform and a pathway for youth voices to be heard in the AU High Level Delegation forums.

“We need to operationalize AfCFTA and make it practical by removing systemic and structural barriers. We must start challenging trade regimes that make it impossible to navigate African boarders. said Memory Kachambwa, the Executive Director, of The African Women’s Development and Communications Network.

“Our focus as women in trade should not only be at macro level, we need to challenge systems, engage central banks, customs unions and key trade stakeholders,” added Kachambwa, “ ACFTA shouldn’t just be viewed in economic lenses because its cross cutting and has implications on the economic, social, political and environmental spheres,”

With the same tone, Her Excellency Madame Bineta Diop , the African Union Commission’s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security however called upon the African leaders to ensure peace within and between countries. She said the youth, particularly girls would want to take advantage free trade area pact would bring, but without peace and security, this won’t happen.

“The youth are the leaders of today and can transform Africa if engaged in the trade discussions. AfCFTA may not be beneficial to the African people without peace and stability for trade,” emphasized Madame Diop.

Additionally, the African Union Youth Envoy Chido Cleo Mpemba said, “the success of AFCFTA will depend on inclusion of the youth because they constitute over 60% of the continents populations” She reiterated that, “The youth are not passive recipients, but they are also agents of change and are critical actors in the AfCFTA discussions”.

In concert to her sentiments, Karen Ondwasi, Chairperson, GIMAC Young Women Network said, “Meaningfully engaging youths in the AfCFTA includes giving skills, resources and an opportunity to participate in trade beyond borders. The GIMAC space is important as it is in itself a solution to the high unemployment rates,”

Their views come at a time when African youth are facing numerous challenges; including but not limited to unemployment. Whereas the AfCFTA proposes a free access to commodities, goods, and services among all 55 African Union nations the extent to which this will impact the youth needs to be reviewed, perhaps through the feminist lenses of feminist like Fatimah Kelleher an independent women’s rights, social justice professional, activist and author of a report on AfCFTA that was published by FEMNET.

Click here to access the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) and Women a Pan- African feminist Analysis. For more information on the aforementioned and FEMNET’s engagement in the Gender Is My Agenda Summit in Addis, contact Imali Ngusale, via  Email:

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