Women, Youth & SMEs: Key Drivers of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)


Women, Youth & SMEs: Key Drivers of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)


The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is an ambitious and historic agreement that has the potential to transform Africa’s economic landscape. It aims to create a single market for goods and services, facilitate the free movement of people and investments, and foster economic integration among African nations. While the AfCFTA offers immense opportunities for all segments of society, it is the women, youth, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who stand out as key drivers of this transformative initiative.

  1. Women: Women are the backbone of Africa’s economy, yet they face numerous challenges and barriers to full economic participation. The AfCFTA presents a unique opportunity to address these challenges and empower women entrepreneurs. Consider the following statistics:
  • Women make up more than half of Africa’s population, accounting for approximately 52%.
  • According to the African Development Bank, women-owned businesses represent about 30% of formal SMEs in Africa.
  • The International Trade Centre estimates that closing the gender gap in entrepreneurship could add $316 billion to Africa’s GDP by 2025.
  • Through increased access to markets, finance, and capacity-building programs, the AfCFTA can enable women entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses, create jobs, and contribute significantly to Africa’s economic growth.
  1. Youth: Africa is the youngest continent in the world, with an estimated 60% of its population under the age of 25. Harnessing the potential of the youth is crucial for the success of the AfCFTA. Here are some compelling statistics:
  • By 2030, Africa will have the world’s largest workforce, with an estimated 1.1 billion people of working age.
  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that youth-owned businesses represent around 20% of formal SMEs in Africa.
  • The African Union Commission estimates that the AfCFTA has the potential to create about 14 million jobs for young people in Africa by 2035.
  • Empowering youth with skills, education, training, and access to markets will not only drive economic growth but also foster innovation, creativity, and sustainable development across the continent.
  1. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): SMEs are the lifeblood of Africa’s economy, accounting for the majority of businesses and job creation. The AfCFTA provides SMEs with an unprecedented opportunity to expand their markets and enhance their competitiveness. Consider these statistics:
  • SMEs contribute approximately 33% of Africa’s GDP, according to the African Development Bank.
  • The International Trade Centre estimates that SMEs account for 80% of Africa’s employment.
  • The AfCFTA can reduce trade costs for SMEs by eliminating tariffs, simplifying customs procedures, and facilitating cross-border trade.
  • With increased access to regional markets, SMEs can attract investment, innovate, and create more jobs, ultimately driving inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.

In conclusion, women, youth, and SMEs are integral to the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area. By empowering these key segments of society, the AfCFTA can unlock Africa’s economic potential, create jobs, promote innovation, and reduce poverty. Governments, policymakers, and stakeholders must prioritize gender equality, youth empowerment, and SME support through targeted policies, capacity-building programs, and inclusive business environments. Together, we can harness the power of women, youth, and SMEs to drive Africa’s sustainable development and prosperity within the AfCFTA framework.


Authour: ASSETS Communications Team


AU Day Webinar

We are thrilled to extend this invitation to you for our upcoming AU Day Webinar on the theme “Mobilizing for Africa’s Prosperity through the AfCFTA.”

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