Empowering Women in African Trade Policy

International experts and government officials in the U.S. and Africa discussed African Trade Policy and women in leadership.


Air Date: May 26, 2022

Moderator: Kendra Gaither, Vice President, U.S.-Africa Business Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Latricia Boone, Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Allison Dembeck, Vice President of Education and Labor Advocacy, Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: H.E. Ambassador Hilda Suka Mafudze, African Union Ambassador to the United States, Camille Richardson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and Africa, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Dr. Laurie-Ann Agama, Deputy Assistant USTR for Economic Affairs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Amielle Pelenne Niriniavisoa Marceda, Charge de’Affaires, Embassy of the Republic of Madagascar, Heather Lanigan, Regional Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Akaego Okoye, Director, Business Development, U.S.-Africa, DLA Piper, Hera Abbasi, Government and Regulatory Affairs Executive, IBM, Emily Beline, Senior Counsel for International Regulatory Affairs, FedEx

As women continue to make strides in society, politics, and the business world, it’s important they’re included in international trade and economic policy discussions. At the Women’s Policy Breakfast: African Trade Policy, international experts and government officials in the U.S. and Africa discussed the role women leaders play in advancing trade policy, both in Africa and globally.

We Must Pursue Women’s Inclusion ‘At All Levels,’ Including Trade

H.E. Ambassador Hilda Suka Mafudze, African Union Ambassador to the United States, said the union’s mantra and the continent’s agenda is “women's inclusion at all levels,” specifically when it comes to trade.

“Every day, millions of African women carry out trade activities, and these trade engagements contribute immensely, not only to family and community welfare but to the GDP of each nation,” she said. “This segment of the population of our continent spans a wide array of sectors from manufacturing, farming, [and] cross-border trade and of course contributes to a huge labor force.”

According to The World Bank, women provide between 60 and 80% of labor input in Africa. To address this, “African heads of state governments in the African Union Commission Leadership are like never before committed to the goals of Agenda 2063,” Ambassador Mafudze continued.

“[Agenda 2063] aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress, and collective prosperity,” she said.

Leaders Should Empower Women Via Access to Data, Resources, and Other Inspiring Women

Data has shown that women were among the hardest hit and most disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In many cases, we're sort of that first responder inside the house who’s offering care and attempting to balance work and life, and having to make some hard calls and some hard decisions,” said Camille Richardson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and Africa, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Business is the best teacher for business,” she continued. “We at [the] government can facilitate, we can provide a platform, we can convene, but really the most valuable lessons come from those who are on the front line and who can inform based on experience.”

To encourage women and further trade and other investments, Richardson and her team created a “coffee chat” that included experienced women entrepreneurs speaking and sharing their stories.

“We thought that if we were to set up that type of a platform, we could empower women by giving them access to data, information, contacts, resources, and then, of course, offer a bit of inspiration,” she said.

Trade Representatives Must Include Women and Diverse Perspectives When Developing Trade Policies

To reverse the negative impact the events of the last two years have had on women, businesses and governments must work together.

“At USTR, we are exploring the benefits of trade for women as workers, as entrepreneurs, and as consumers,” said Dr. Laurie-Ann Agama, Deputy Assistant USTR for Economic Affairs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. “We recognize and we are actively seeking out and including the voices of women, diverse perspectives, as we develop and shape our trade policy and develop trade actions that can address the obstacles that are specific to women and other groups.”

Public Sectors Must Work With Private Sector Partners To Help Women in Africa

Akaego Okoye, Director, Business Development, U.S.-Africa, DLA Piper, noted that her law firm is working on increasing access to financial inclusion in three African countries in east Africa.

“One of our clients … analyze[s] the different laws that exist across those three countries, pulling out all the barriers and helping the nonprofit to create advocacy strategies for how to support women [and] to help increase financial inclusion for them,” she said. “This brought lawyers from across the U.S. and Europe, and even in those three countries. Those are the kinds of things that we do in Africa and across the world.”