European Development Days 2018


CTA in collaboration with the ACP Secretariat and TradeComII held a lab debate on Investing in ACP Women’s Graduation from the Informal Economy – Supporting Women Entrepreneurs to Effectively Push Back the Frontiers of Poverty, Informal Economy, Unemployment, Inclusiveness through EPAs’’, on June 6 during the European Development Days 2018 in Brussels.

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Sustained trade expansion and economic growth in the ACP countries provides the needed hope that the sought success in pushing back the frontiers of poverty, informal economy, youth unemployment and trade inclusiveness is within reach. IMF’s latest statistics confirms that the majority of the fastest-growing economies in the world through 2020 will be in Africa. Intra-ACP trade is growing. Caribbean and Pacific countries are strengthening their frontier status in the sector of trade in services.

That positive performance notwithstanding, the numbers of women still operating within the informal economies is staggering. The ACP Group, hosting the majority of LDCs and women entrepreneurs in the informal sector, is the battleground on which the 2030 Agenda will be won or lost.

Key points:

• For women, the formal economy opens doors to new financing possibilities.

• The public sector can scale-up access to finance, technology and knowledge.

• Partnerships are needed at all levels to help lift women out of poverty.

• Capacity building is helping rural women move their businesses up the value chain.

The International Monetary Fund’s latest statistics confirm that the majority of the fastest-growing economies in the world through 2020 will be in Africa. Trade within the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries is also growing. Yet, at the same time, the number of women still operating within informal economies is staggering.

So what can be done to help women out of the precarious informal economy?

While the ingenuity and dynamism of the informal sector is a real strength, becoming part of the formal economy allows the government to protect and respond to the needs of its citizens better, for example, via social security schemes and to provide better services such as childcare and education. For entrepreneurs and women, in particular, the formal economy opens doors to new financing possibilities.

Partnership is needed at all levels to help lift women out of the poverty trap. Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union and ACP nations and regions aim at promoting ACP-EU trade – and ultimately contribute, through trade and investment, to sustainable development and poverty reduction. The EU is the main destination for agricultural and transformed goods from ACP partners.

Many types partnership are needed and there are many successful examples to learn from. Building capacity – from basic education to financial literacy through to meeting established and emerging standards on, for example, traceability – requires much more dialogue and facilitators are needed to provide technical assistance.

Partnerships help local producers scale up and access new markets. Likewise, incubators for new agribusiness ideas are being developed in conjunction with private-sector actors to ensure that the ideas that emerge can be funded once they are market-ready.

Government is also a critical partner in securing the access to finance and technology that women entrepreneurs want. Those with a real commitment to consultation will increase the likelihood of delivering the right infrastructure and ancillary support services that are needed to help businesses thrive, especially those that are women-led.

Mobility remains a problematic issue for women working in agriculture in ACP counties and regions. Participants heard from some great decentralisation initiatives that are helping women who want to improve their situation and grow their businesses. Through partnership, mobile training facilities have been developed. This allows women to train and get the necessary approvals, such as licensing, bank, tax and standards, from the various licensing agencies without having to travel to the capital city.

Empowerment results from giving women access to training, new financing possibilities and to better services. Other capacity building initiatives to help inspire women to try and move their business up the value chain included a CEO roundtable where women leaders share their lessons learned with young aspiring rural women entrepreneurs.

Mainstreaming gender can only work if it seeks to tackle the social and cultural norms that underlie gender discrimination, such as denying a woman’s right to own land or child marriage.


Axel de La Maisonneuve: Deputy Head of Unit, European Commission – DG for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)

Viwanou Gnassounou: Assistant Secretary General at ACP Secretariat, Sustainable Economic Development and Trade Department

Emma Kawawa: Founder & Chairperson, Tanzania Women CEOs Roundtable

Leonard Mizzi: Director, Directorate C, European Commission – DG for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)

Lucy Muchoki: CEO, Kenya Agri-business and Agro Industry Alliance

Gillian Stewart: Program Manager, Women in Business Development Incorporated

More information

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Source:  European Commission

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