Promoting Prosperity Pathways for Women and Youth-led MSMEs within the AfCFTA

July 9, 2024

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers a transformative opportunity to boost economic growth and development across Africa. For Zimbabwe, leveraging this agreement to empower women and youth-led micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can significantly contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development. The UNDP Zimbabwe's project, "Promoting Prosperity Pathways for Women and Youth-led MSMEs within the AfCFTA," aims to optimize the benefits of the AfCFTA for these key demographics through strategic interventions and capacity building.

Purpose and Objectives

The primary goal of this project is to enhance the market readiness and product development capabilities of women and youth enterprises. By strengthening the capacities of government stakeholders, the private sector, and other relevant entities, the project aims to increase intra-Africa trade, thus supporting sustainable economic growth. This initiative aligns with the broader UNDP goals and Zimbabwe's National Development Strategy (NDS 1), which focuses on sustainable, inclusive, and equitable GDP growth.

Theory of Change

The project operates on a theory of change that posits: if women and youth-led MSMEs have access to information and skills on intra-regional trade, and if institutions are transparent and responsive, providing adequate services for MSMEs to access regional markets while addressing barriers and discriminatory practices, then these enterprises will leverage opportunities available, contributing to sustainable economic growth in Zimbabwe.
Strategic Alignment
This project is intricately aligned with several key frameworks:
•    AfCFTA Agreement and Agenda 2063: Emphasizing a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
•    UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA) Strategic Offer: Focusing on structural transformation and governance.
•    UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Particularly SDGs 1, 5, 8, 10, 16, and 17, targeting poverty eradication, gender equality, decent work, and reduced inequalities.

Expected Results

Outcome 1: Market Readiness for Intra-Africa Trade
The project aims to capacitate women and youth-led MSMEs, making them market-ready for intra-Africa trade. Key activities include:
•    Building capacity on export readiness.
•    Developing simplified guidelines for trading under the AfCFTA.
•    Promoting integration into local and regional value chains.
•    Enhancing digital capabilities and online payment systems.
•    Establishing Economic Trade Hubs to incubate MSMEs.
Outcome 2: Enabling Operating Environment
The second pillar focuses on conditioning the operating environment and institutional mechanisms to support MSME access to the AfCFTA. This involves:
•    Streamlining guidelines and business processes to combat corruption and discrimination.
•    Providing technical support for national development frameworks.
•    Supporting international re-engagement processes.
•    Promoting access to justice services for vulnerable groups in border communities.
Key Partners and Collaborations
The successful implementation of this project hinges on partnerships with various government ministries, civil society organizations, and private sector associations. Key partners include:
•    Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development (MWACSMED)
•    Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage
•    Zimbabwe Cross-Border Trader Association
•    Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
•    Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, among others.

Resource Mobilization

To support the various interventions, the project will leverage TRAC2 funds, complementing other initiatives such as the Tax4SDGs and partnerships with international donors like the Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation and the Republic of Ireland.
Risks and Mitigation Actions
The project recognizes potential risks such as economic shocks, exclusion of vulnerable groups, and regional conflicts. Mitigation measures include providing technical support for macroeconomic reforms, engaging communities through regular meetings, and offering travel and trade advisories for MSMEs.


The "Promoting Prosperity Pathways for Women and Youth-led MSMEs within the AfCFTA" project aims to create sustainable economic growth and development in Zimbabwe by focusing on capacity building, enhancing the operating environment, and fostering strong partnerships. This initiative not only supports women and youth enterprises but also contributes to the broader objectives of the AfCFTA and Zimbabwe’s national development goals.