The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and TradeMark Africa (TMA), has launched a four-year fisheries program to empower women and youth across several countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, Nigeria and selected Island states).

The “Women and Youth Economic Empowerment in Fisheries” program will enable over 240,000 work opportunities and boost trade in fish and fish products by about $100 million by 2028.

Adopted in line with the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade, the program is designed to address structural challenges women and youth face when participating in the fisheries value chain. It will offer training, facilitate access to markets and finance, catalyze supply chain linkages, create digital solutions, simplify trade regimes, enhance compliance to standards and enable streamlined cross-border market access.

“The AfCFTA presents huge opportunities while fostering entrepreneurship and job creation in a market of 1.4 billion people. The AfCFTA’s Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade has been developed to foster inclusive economic development by eliminating barriers to trade for women and young people in Africa. We are glad the program aligns with our vision of bringing this marginalised group along on this journey to increase intra-Africa trade in “Creating One African Market” to ensure prosperity for all Africans. We encourage the potential beneficiaries to take advantage of this program,” Wamkele Mene, Secretary General, AfCFTA Secretariat, underscored.

The program, announced during the 14th Meeting of the Council of Ministers responsible for Trade in Zanzibar, is a culmination of the work between the AfCFTA Secretariat and the Mastercard Foundation. This work started with the development of the AfCFTA private sector strategy, where priority value chains were identified to boost intra-Africa trade and production. TMA will implement the program to benefit Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the selected countries.

“The start of this program is an important step forward in our support for inclusive trade, economic empowerment, and sustainable jobs creation for women and youth in Africa’s fisheries sector. Addressing the structural barriers which are unique to women and young people in the fish value chain is a critical necessity that aims to enhance the participation and competitiveness of program participants in the sector. With this collaborative effort, the sector will be better positioned as a pathway for economic growth, food security, and poverty alleviation in Africa,” TMA Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Allen Sophia Asiimwe, said.

Daniel Hailu, Executive Director of Pan-African Programs at the Mastercard Foundation, stated: “This program has the potential to catalyse 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.”