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AfCFTA, Mastercard Foundation, and TradeMark Africa launch empowerment program for women and youth in fisheries

Zanzibar, Tanzania, 25 June 2024 – The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation and TradeMark Africa, has unveiled a transformative four-year fisheries program aimed at empowering women and youth across seven African countries. This initiative, announced during the 14th Meeting of the Council of Ministers responsible for Trade in Zanzibar, is set to create over 240,000 job opportunities and boost trade in fish and fish products by approximately $100 million by 2028.

The “Women and Youth Economic Empowerment in Fisheries” program is designed to tackle the structural challenges that hinder the participation of women and youth in the fisheries value chain. It will provide comprehensive training, facilitate market and finance access, enhance supply chain linkages, develop digital solutions, simplify trade regimes, ensure compliance with standards, and streamline cross-border market access.

This initiative is a product of the collaborative efforts between the AfCFTA Secretariat and the Mastercard Foundation, originating from the development of the AfCFTA private sector strategy. The strategy identified priority value chains to enhance intra-African trade and production. TradeMark Africa will implement the program, benefiting Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, Nigeria, and selected Island states.

The fisheries sector is crucial to food security and economic well-being in Africa, employing at least 12 million people, with women predominantly involved in processing, marketing, and post-harvest activities. While the AfCFTA offers significant market opportunities, women and youth need adequate support to fully benefit from these prospects.

H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the AfCFTA, emphasized the importance of the program: “The AfCFTA presents huge opportunities, fostering entrepreneurship and job creation in a market of 1.4 billion people. Our Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade aims to eliminate barriers to trade for women and young people in Africa. We are delighted that this program aligns with our vision of inclusive economic development, bringing marginalized groups along on the journey to increase intra-African trade and ensure prosperity for all Africans. We encourage potential beneficiaries to seize this opportunity.”

Ms. Allen Sophia Asiimwe, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of TradeMark Africa, highlighted the program’s significance: “Launching this program is a crucial step in supporting inclusive trade, economic empowerment, and sustainable job creation for women and youth in Africa’s fisheries sector. Addressing the unique structural barriers faced by women and young people in the fish value chain is essential for enhancing their participation and competitiveness. This collaborative effort will position the sector as a pathway for economic growth, food security, and poverty alleviation in Africa.”

Mr. Daniel Hailu, Executive Director of Pan-African Programs at the Mastercard Foundation, added: “This program has the potential to catalyze dignified and fulfilling work opportunities for young men and women, foster intra-African trade, and contribute to economic growth and poverty alleviation. Together, we are laying the foundation for a more equitable and sustainable future for all.”

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