The Major Exchange and Networking Meeting of Women Entrepreneurs and the Sensitisation Workshop on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was held on 21 March 2023, at the Djeuga Hotel under the theme Technical obstacles and tools developed for a better access of women-led enterprises to the market and to the opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). It was part of the implementation of the SheTrades Outlook Cameroon Project, which aims at fostering economic growth and job creation in the countries through the participation of women entrepreneurs in international trade.

The objective of said meeting was to strengthen the consultation frameworks between the various stakeholders, and to raise awareness among women entrepreneurs on the challenges and opportunities of the AfCFTA for better access to the continental market and its trade and investment opportunities. Specifically, it aims at strengthening the consultation frameworks between women entrepreneurs to optimise the exchange of good practices and experience; empowering them on the challenges and opportunities of the AfCFTA to ensure their optimal participation in trade in the AfCFTA; sensitising partners on the issues and challenges of the SheTrades project for the development and economic empowerment of women; encouraging support for women entrepreneurs’ initiatives by local and international technical and financial partners; and encouraging the supervision and involvement of stakeholders in the proper conduct of the project.

The meeting was marked by a sensitisation workshop for women entrepreneurs on the challenges and opportunities of the AfCFTA, conducted by experts from MINPMEESA, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the National Shippers’ Council of Cameroon (CNCC), the Agency for Standards and Quality (ANOR) and the Ministry of Trade, with regards to the missions assigned to. these institutions in the effective implementation of the AfCFTA. In addition to the 200 women entrepreneurs, other stakeholders actively took part in this meeting, including sectoral administrations, government agencies, international organisations, development partners, business support groups and organisations, women leaders, Regional and Local Authorities, employers’ groups, SMEs professional associations, and civil society.

In opening this meeting, H.E. Achille BASSILEKIN III, Minister of SMEs, who was accompanied by strategic partners, indicated that this is an initiative that offers real prospects for access to the continental market, as it helps to revitalise the possibilities for women to sell their products. Finally, he invited women to seize these opportunities and to make the most out of them.

The two days of face-to-face and online sittings favoured interactive and participatory methods based on communications and presentations, exchanges, testimonies, experience sharing, women’s networking, and a mini-exhibition of “Made in Cameroon” products.

Mrs. Claire Onana TAKOUCHOP, representing the National Shippers’ Council of Cameroon, stressed that her institution intends to support the SheTrades project by organising capacity building workshops for the acquisition of market shares for women.

Mrs. Justine BILOA, a woman entrepreneur working in the agro-food industry, reassured the audience that at the end of this rich meeting, women will be stronger and able to face the international market.

The “SheTrades” initiative is a unique platform that creates an ecosystem of integrated solutions that economically empower women through greater integration in trade and investment. It is implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The project focuses on developing women’s skills and access to resources and opportunities to take advantage of new business opportunities. Thanks to this tool, Cameroon now has a “SheTrades Outlook Cameroon” profile to assess Cameroon’s efforts to support women in the economy and trade.