Africa’s intra-regional trade is only 16% of its total exports, compared to around 60% and 70% for Asia and Europe. Africa had the lowest level of intra-regional trade.
Africa is in a unique position in that; it has the chance to trade with an untapped market itself. There is need for African countries to unlock trade amongst themselves for the benefit of continent’s economies and in this respect, women have great role to play.
All the African Union Member States, except Eretria, have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA). So far, 28 African countries have ratified this agreement. AfCFTA will be the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
The Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC) and the UN Women Ethiopia Office, the co-organizers, organized a continental event “Boosting Intra-African Trade: African Women Taking the Lead”, December 3-5, 2019 at the AUC. 

This particular Continental Event, spearheaded by CAWEE is expected to be one of the key highlights in starting the operationalization of the AfCFTA agreement in Africa; as this agreement is likely to promote industrialization and Continental competitiveness through creation of Regional market value chain for goods and services.  

The President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E Sahelwork Zewdie was the guest of honor, where she delivered her opening remarks during the official opening. Present as well at the official launch were H. E. Mussa Faki the AUC Chairperson, AUC Commissioners, Ministers, Ambassadors, women exhibitors and invited guests. 
 A total of 60 women exhibitors took part in exhibiting their products and services, December 3-4, 2019, at the AUC, where 48 of them were Ethiopian exhibitors and the rest 12 were from four other African countries.  Delegations of women entrepreneurs from the four African countries were, from Morocco (7 cooperatives), Rwanda (3 companies), South Africa (1 company) and Uganda (1 company).   

Parallel to the products and services exhibition was Business to Business (B2B) meetings, where the five exhibiting countries spent time discussing among each other, in being buyer and seller, the true picture and great start in facilitating intra-African trade: women taking the lead.    
During the Continental Event, three panel discussions were organized, focusing on timely thematic issue areas of concern to women in business:

  •  Panel 1: AfCFTA and Opportunities for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

  •  Panel 2: Facilitating Finance to African Women in Boosting Intra-African Trade.

  •  Panel 3: Cooperatives for Women’s Economic Empowerment: The Moroccan & Ethiopian  

  Experience for the Benefit of the South-South Cooperation.

During the closing session of the Continental Event, December 4, 2019, there was signing ceremony of an export deal between a Danish specialty coffee buyer and four women coffee farmers (Bezuayehu Shone Coffee Plantation, Dehab Coffee, Mim Agrichem and Primrose Plc.), where all are CAWEE members. Representing the sellers, Mrs. Dehab Mesfin form Dehab Coffee signed the sales agreement between the buyer, Mr. Daniel Owner of Impact Roasters form Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Continental Event came to an end with a Gala Dinner, hosted by OCP at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where there was award ceremony. Organized by CAWEE, the award event focused on SMEs, where eight women entrepreneurs, all of them CAWEE members that were involved in different sectors, were awarded during the Gala Dinner.
The last day of the Continental Event, December 5, 2019, was devoted to Ethiopian women company visits, for those potential buyers that showed interest in making concrete business deals.