Virtual Conference on Leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) to Boost Women’s Economic Empowerment

04 Mar 2021
04 Mar 2021

By Charlene Musiza

The African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) hosted a conference on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) and gender-inclusive growth on 23 February, 2021 (see the conference note and programme). The event was graced by Minister Maite-Nkoana Mashabane, Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and Mr. David Luke, Coordinator, African Trade Policy Centre at UNECA. The conference was composed of three panels that addressed key issues – trade policy, gender and AfCTA; gender, investment, competition policy and intellectual property (IP) rights; and gender-responsive trade facilitation. The panellist included industry experts, trade officials, academics and researchers from the continent.

The SARChI Research Chair: Intellectual Property, Innovation and Development Professor Caroline Ncube, was part of the panel on gender, investment, competition policy and intellectual property rights. She spoke of the anticipated AfCTA IP Protocol and the gender dimension. Professor Ncube highlighted research that has been done investigating the gender dimensions of IP. She noted the importance of having substantive and cooperation provisions in the IP Protocol and emphasised that it ought to provide guidance and principles, particularly around traditional knowledge protection. She noted that Africa could set the pace as many trade and IP agreements do not have in-depth substantive provisions on IP and gender. On cooperation, she noted the crucial issues around knowledge of IP and the limited access to administrative services. It was her suggestion that there ought to be more awareness, knowledge generation and information centres on acquiring IP rights, and if possible, a one-stop shop to serve women entrepreneurs. She also reiterated the importance of having empirical data on the challenges faced by women in acquiring IP rights and input from women on addressing the obstacles, to enable greater participation of women in the IP system.

It was indeed a timely conference, placing women at the fore just as the implementation of the AfCTA began on 1 January 2021. Once available, the Conference Outcome Report and video will be linked to here to share the insights gathered during the conference.

Other relevant posts on gender and IP from our team :