By Yusuf Odejobi
Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria has charged African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) policy experts and trade negotiators to successfully integrate identified gender concerns into AfCFTA provisions.
The President of WISTA Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke, stated this at the association’s 2021 Business Luncheon and magazine launch, with the theme, “AfCFTA: Investment Opportunities for Women in Trade,” noting that the move would ensure women entrepreneurs leverage on emerging trade opportunities and expanding market.
On the policy actions for inclusive AfCFTA implementation, she observed a need to close the gap in access to finance and empower women’s participation in e-commerce and digital trade solutions; empower women in the export sector, regional value chains, corporate supply chains and public procurement; AfCFTA sensitization and inclusion of women’s voices on AfCTA national implementation efforts.
According to her, advancing women’s involvement in trade and investment will triple the progress of the nation’s economy as well as open more opportunities across Africa and the world at large.
On the launch of the WISTA Nigeria magazine, she said the essence of the magazine was to encourage young females to join the maritime industry, increase the tally of women in the maritime sector, and equip women with the skills and knowledge to grow their maritime business and maritime participation.
She added that the magazine also gives a glimpse into the progress of WISTA Nigeria and what they hope to achieve in years to come.
Earlier in a goodwill message, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, Dr. Magdalene Ajani emphasized the need for coordinated capacity development for women to achieve a continuous improvement in career progression and productivity level in the maritime and transport logistics industry.
The Permanent Secretary who represented the Minister for Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, added that the focus should be on enhancing technical skills to enable effective participation in the domestic and regional value chains while taking advantage of the opportunities offered by global value chains.
She noted that the Ministry of Transportation has embarked on developing an all-encompassing National Maritime Transport Policy that seeks to actualize the implementation of a safe and secure inter-modal transport system in Nigeria and promotes equal participation of women in the maritime industry.
While commending WISTA for their commitment to tackling gender bias and mentoring a new generation of female employees in the maritime industry, she enjoined them also to complement government’s efforts towards fostering a robust and gender-balanced maritime industry by promoting women’s access to maritime education and training as well as encouraging talented young females to work in the maritime industry.
The Co-champion for Transportation Sector at National Action Committee on AfCTA, Barr. Funmi Folorunsho in her paper titled: “Instance opportunities in trade” noted that the informal sector accounts for more than 85 percent of economic activity in Africa and women account for nearly 90 percent of the labour force in the informal sector.
Funmi, who was the maiden WISTA Nigeria President, stressed that women are quite important because of the significant transformational impact they hold for defeating poverty. “Over 70 percent of cross-border traders, especially those engaged in informal trade, are women,” she added.
On the roles WISTA could play, she highlighted the following areas; creating a platform for members intending to enter the Africa Free Trade area; members must have access to information and training opportunities on trade networks and their voices must be heard in AfCFTA negotiations, policymaking and decision-making.
She urged maritime lawyers to key into AfCFTA and establish their presence as government, state bodies, as well as private companies will all be looking for legal representation and guidance about AfCFTA’s implementation, compliance and disputes arising under the agreement.
While speaking on her journey on International trade, the founder of Le Look Nigeria Limited, Chief Mrs. Chinwe Ezenwa urges entrepreneurs to train extensively on their chosen entrepreneurial path, identify their target market and competitors, know the rules and regulations of exporting countries and make sure their goods are of International standard.
The former Acting Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) added that for entrepreneurs to engage in international trade, they cannot run away from Customs, the Ministry of Trade and Investment and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC).
The event also featured the presentation of awards to Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, the Minister of Works and Housing, Hon. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, Chairman, Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, Co-founder and Executive vice-chairman, ENL Consortium Ltd, Princess Vicky Hastrup, Chairman VAC International Ltd, Chief Mrs. Vivian Amadife, Chief Executive Officer, Morbod Group, Chief (Mrs.) Margaret Orakwusi, Founder of Le Look Nigeria Limited, Chief (Mrs.) Chinwe Ezenwa and Former Chief Executive Officer of Starz Group, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun in recognition for their exemplary leadership, services and continuous support to WISTA Nigeria.