Sikhulekelani Moyo, Business Reporter
WOMEN Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni has urged women to grab the opportunities presented by the free-trade platforms available across Africa to improve trade and investment.
With a view to foster intra-Africa trade and investment, the continent last year operationalised the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on January 1, 2021.
The Zimbabwean women in business can tap into opportunities presented by the AfCFTA on account that Zimbabwe is signatory to free-trade agreement, which offers preferential market access to qualifying products and services.
Apart from the AfCFTA, local businesses including women-owned enterprises can also tap into opportunities being availed by trading blocs like Sadc and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa).
Speaking in Bulawayo on Tuesday at the launch of Women in Production, an association of women entrepreneurs in different economic sectors, Dr Nyoni said the Government was encouraging cross border traders and others in the informal sector to formalise their operations.
She said registering or formalising their operations would allow them to tap into the different free-trade platforms across the continent and help them boost trade and investment.
“There is now an open Africa trade facility, free trade for Africa; we want Zimbabwean women to occupy that space with a bang.
“We want women to have wholesales and open markets everywhere in Zambia and other countries in Africa,” said Dr Nyoni.
She also urged Zimbabwe women entrepreneurs to log in to a platform called Comesa 50 million African Women Speak saying the digital platform encourages trade and investment by women on the continent.
On account that Zimbabwe is ranked number five in terms of usage of that platform, Dr Nyoni said Zimbabwean women should dominate that virtual podium.
To create awareness and conscientise activities by Women in Production, her ministry was organising an indaba slated for end of March this year.
At the upcoming event, members of the Women in Production would showcase their products to President Mnangagwa and Ambassadors of foreign nations in the country and their trade attachés to see what local women were doing.
Dr Nyoni said the objective of Women in Production was also to eliminate cross border trading and properly registering exporters with the country’s national trade and development promotion agency, ZimTrade.
“We want to be organised not just haphazard cross borders.
“We want trade fair in Zimbabwe and agricultural show to be occupied by products from Women in Production.
“Every three months women in production should showcase their products and my ministry will facilitate that to create market.”
Dr Nyoni said all informal traders across the country should be registered into associations to allow them proper allocation of working space from which they conduct their businesses.
To ensure women actively participate in national development, she said her ministry has availed a funding programme and women entrepreneurs need to team up and come up with different projects the Government will support.
In her welcoming remarks, Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Judith Ncube who was represented by the Bulawayo Secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Mr Paul Nyoni said the local authority is known for promoting women.
One of the success stories was that of home industry in Mzilikazi.
“Women in Bulawayo have organised themselves into clubs and associations, this help women to have clear identity,” she said.
Representatives from Women in Production attended the launch and expressed gratitude to Dr Nyoni for meeting them and creating a platform to discuss on issues affecting their operations.
“We are thankful to the ministry as it supports us in whatever step we take in trying to participate in national development.
“We are crying to you our Queen mother that you help us to access loans as we face some challenges as banks need collateral agreements which most of us as women we do not have,” said Miss Bekezela Maplanka a representative from Bulawayo Queens.