Uganda Women can lead in the realisation of intra-Africa trade

January 31, 2024

The Women Leaders’ Dialogue connected women leaders with young women entrepreneurs. Left to right: UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Sheila Ngatia, Hon. Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development Betty Amongi, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Elsie Attafuah, Texfad Manager Ms. Jane Tumuhairwe.

Kampala, Uganda – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) hosted a Women Leaders’ Dialogue to explore how women and women-led enterprises can best utilize opportunities within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and how women’s leadership can help to address development challenges in sectors of strategic interest to Uganda. The dialogue forum also created opportunities to showcase Made in Uganda products and for women leaders in business to connect with young and upcoming women entrepreneurs.

The Women Leader’s Dialogue was attended by UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Susan Ngongi Namondo, Hon. Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development Betty Amongi, H.E. South Africa High Commissioner to Uganda Lulu Xingwana, UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Elsie Attafuah, and a host of senior officials from Government of Uganda and the private sector. 

The UNDP Regional Director, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, challenged Ugandan women in business stating that ultimately, it will take the women of Uganda to make the AfCFTA a reality. “We should pivot our efforts to actions that ensure that women are utilizing the opportunity presented in the One African Market. Our examples today confirm that there is action on the ground, that things can work, but also that we need much more action – concerted action – to ensure that women can transcend in their success to the next level.”

UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa Strategy Advisor Dr. Joy Kategekwa led a discussion on the AfCFTA, encouraging reflections on the role of women in trade and strategies to elevate women’s participation and integration within the One African Market.

“We have a unique opportunity in the AfCFTA,” explained Dr. Joy Kategekwa. “Through the AfCFTA we can draw people into the economy and do so in a manner where the resources that this county has work for Ugandans, and through that, that Uganda contributes to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Intra-African trade offers a unique opportunity to generate employment, unlock market opportunities, capital and financing necessary to expand economic growth opportunities, drive technological advancements, and accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 of the African Union. 

The UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Elsie Ettafuah, highlighted the significance of AfCFTA in accelerating the growth of intra-African trade and the use of trade as an engine of growth and sustainable development in Africa. Noting that UNDP has empowered women and youth-led enterprises in Uganda through skilling, grants and access to regional. “By opening markets in key sectors, the AfCFTA is creating opportunities to harness trade-led growth through increased product diversification and competitiveness,” she added.

Through the AfCFTA, a free trade area has been established among 55 African Union Member States. According to the World Bank, the AfCFTA can boost intra-African trade by 52.3 percent by 2025, increase Africa's income by up to US$ 450 billion by 2035, and lift 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty.

For more information:
Ashley Prigent, UNDP Uganda,


About UNDP’s support to Uganda aligned to the realisation of AfCFTA:

In Uganda, UNDP supports women and youth-led SMEs through skilling, grants, and access to local, regional, and international markets. UNDP promoted cross-border trade for women, particularly targeting women and youth led SMEs to participate in AfCFTA. Some of the initiatives include: 

  • Collaboration with Uganda Airlines for promotion of African trade and export opportunities. In October 2023, Uganda Airlines launched new routes to Mumbai and Lagos aimed to ease connectivity, promote tourism, and enhance Uganda’s export offer within the context of the AfCFTA. 
  • Lagos Trade mission by 40 Women in Business. UNDP supported 40 Women in Business to travel to Lagos and explore business to business linkages as well as secure deals with companies in Lagos and the larger West African market.
  • Trade and Business Forums. UNDP supported convening of two Trade and Business Forums with India and Nigeria ahead of the inaugural flights as a platform to present and discuss the opportunities that these new destinations offer. 
  • Women and Youth entrepreneurship, technology adoption, and digital skills upgrade. UNDP enhanced these capacities through provision of Youth for Business grants and establishment of the self-paced e-learning portal that enabled access information on Trade opportunities. Some of the women-led initiatives that have benefited include Endiro, a coffee value addition company, has been able to expand into Nigeria; Akello Banker and Kuunda, fintech companies, have expanded into Burundi and Nigeria.
  • Economic empowerment of over 3,146 survivors of Gender Based Violence to enable them strengthen their own abilities to create livelihoods and ultimately wealth. This was done in Amudat, Kitgum, Tororo, Kasese and Kampala. Programmes offered included skilling, provision of start-up kits, small grants, equipping women artisanal miners with stone crushers to boost value addition, productivity, and profitability.