Against the backdrop of Women’s History Month in the United States, the International Trade (ITC) together with Howard University, the US Embassy in Accra, and the US State Department launched the Women’s Empowerment Lab on 15 March.
The online event offered participating businesswomen from Africa and the United States the tools they needed to expand their export opportunities across Africa and to the United States. In particular, the women gained skills on leveraging the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
As part of the empowerment lab, ITC delivered two workshop sessions on inclusive trade by benefiting from and exporting under the AfCFTA, combining online and offline learning for African exporters seeking to improve intra-African trade.
During the event’s opening ceremony, ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton highlighted the need for more enabling policies for women and using intra-African trade as a tool to bring about this change.
“By mainstreaming gender policies, the AfCFTA provides a gateway for women-led business to formalize their activities and tap into the continental market. When we place women at the heart of African trade, it builds a more integrated market; it creates continental value chains; it secures decent jobs for both women and youth,” said Coke-Hamilton.
An initiative of the US State Department “Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise” (POWER), the Women’s Empowerment Lab offers diplomatic resources to promote women in business while working with partners such as ITC and Howard University to establish professional networks and business environment for women’s economic empowerment.
Stephanie Sullivan, US Ambassador to Ghana said, “the US Government stands ready to assist both US and Ghanaian women-owned companies to take advantage of transatlantic and intra-African trade opportunities through initiatives such as Prosper Africa, the West Africa Trade and Investment Hub, AGOA, among others.”
Ghana reiterated its commitment to connecting its women-owned businesses to broader export opportunities. Hajia Alima Mahama, Ghanaian Ambassador to the United States highlighted the key role of these intra-African trade initiatives in providing enormous growth opportunities for women-owned businesses.
Ghana’s response to COVID-19
Following COVID-19, Ghana has sought to revitalize its economy by providing access to finance, digitalization, training, and tools to over 500 businesses, 69% of which are women-owned. To increase the export potential of Ghanian businesswomen, initiatives such as the Women’s Empowerment Lab are key to addressing challenges women are facing, through tailored training and mentorship.
Ghanian women play a major role in both the formal and informal sectors. They view the continental and international trade opportunities as avenues to formalize businesses and increase the foothold of women-owned business in the country’s economy.