Center urges Ethiopian businesses to use Africa free trade

The founder and head of the Center for Accelerated Women’s Economic Empowerment (CAWEE) urges Ethiopian businesses to get prepared to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA).

Speaking to New Business Ethiopia, the Founder and Executive Director of CAWEE, Nigest Haile, said AfCFTA is a big opportunity for Ethiopian businesses to boost the trade of the country with other African countries. Indicating that Africa’s trade with itself currency represents less than 20 percent, she noted that the AfCFTA that lifts trade tariff, is a great opportunity for the growth of Ethiopian businesses and the economy in general.

“For us the AfCFTA brings many opportunities as it allows us to freely move across the border without visa restrictions and trade with other African countries,” she said. As compared to the complex trade system Ethiopian businesses have been dealing with when trading with the United States or Europe, the provisions of AfCFTA enables Ethiopian businesses to easily engage in export and import trading with other African countries, according to Mrs. Nigest.

“Even though duty free regimes such as AGOA of the United States are important, the trading system with developed countries are complex,” she said, stressing the simplicity in trade facilitation the AfCFTA is bringing to African businesses, especially women owned small and medium businesses.

Women-led AfCFTA implementation
With the support from the U.S. State Department, women owned businesses in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana have launched a pilot inactive that allows them to trade with each other. As part this initiative Some Ethiopian women owned businesses are working to open leather products shop in Rwanda, while women in the remaining three countries are also exploring similar opportunities, according to Mrs. Nigest.

CAWEE, which has turned itself into a membership based women owned businesses support firm in 2014, has members such as, Tomoca Coffee, SoleRebels, and Garden of Coffee, among others.

But to help Ethiopian women within the trade or Aspire to be engaged in businesses, the Government of Ethiopia needs to introduce a one stop shop service where the women can get packaged services in one place from turning their ideas into practice, support in accessing quickly working places and finance, according to Mrs. Nigest.

What CAWEE does
Initially established as a non-profit organization by Mrs. Nigest, who served at the Ministry of Trade of Ethiopia for 23 years, CAWEE begins it operation in 2004 with the aim of supporting women engaged in the informal businesses.

After ten years of operation, CAWEE turned itself into a membership business firm with focus of helping women owned business utilize their full potentials. Current women engaged in of agribusinesses such as, coffee, honey, dairy products, enriched and other foods and spices are getting support from CAWEE, according to Mrs. Nigest.

In addition, women engaged in textiles, garment, weaving, home and fashion accessories, leather products including leather garment producers, gemstones and jewelries, as well as women in service sectors including those in tourism related activities have also been getting business support from CAWEE.

While the members pay service fees to CAWEE, the Center also develops projects soliciting funds donors to help its members boost their businesses and enable them to be competitive in international market.