Press Release | 03 Sep. 2020

Gender Should Be Central to Africa's Covid-19 Economic Recovery Initiatives


Ababa — Unless a gender perspective is embraced in COVID-19 recovery initiatives, the ongoing global health pandemic will amplify existing gender disparities leading to worse outcomes for women in terms of livelihoods and well-being.

This was said Thursday by Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in remarks made during a Gender is My Campaign, (GIMAC) online campaign on the gendered effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms. Ruzvidzo said COVID-19 recovery policy initiatives need to embrace a gender perspective to lessen deepening vulnerabilities of women, especially cross border traders.

"Women in African countries are in general concentrated in necessity-driven entrepreneurship in the services sector, market activities and cross-border trade in the informal economy. It is expected that the knock-on effects of border closures and market restrictions to deal with COVID-19 will be significant," she said.

The ECA Director added that women in the informal economy are more often found in the most vulnerable situations.

"Female predominance in informal cross-border trade is often attributed to women's time and mobility constraints, as well as to their limited access to productive resources and support systems, making such activities one of the few options available to them to earn a living," said Ms. Ruzvidzo.

She said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents new opportunities for women in Africa which can help in accelerating their economic empowerment in the aftermath of COVID -19 and related recovery efforts.

"Although there is no separate chapter on trade and gender in the AfCFTA Agreement, the AfCFTA recognizes the importance of promoting gender equality," said Ms. Ruzvidzo as she highlighted various articles in the accord like Article 3(e) that specifies that the AfCFTA aims to "promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, gender equality and structural transformation".

"Gender mainstreaming in AfCFTA national implementation strategies is a key strategy to advance the objective of gender equality under the AfCFTA Agreement," said Ms. Ruzvidzo.

This requires the analysis of the various roles that women play in the economy, both formal and informal; understanding the different sectors in which they are concentrated; identifying opportunity sectors and products with high export potential; and recognizing that women traders and women-led businesses in the informal and formal sectors are diverse, requiring targeted policies and programmes on the basis of sex-disaggregated data and statistics.