Free Trade for Whom? A feminist analysis on the implementation of the AfCFTA on women informal cross border traders in Kenya

Author(s): E Imungu Kalevera
Final project
Year of publication:
Supervisors: Kirstín Flygenring
gender equality, feminist economics, trade liberalization, informal cross border trade


Proponents of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) have hailed it as a visionary free trade agreement that will lift Africans out of poverty into prosperity, but feminist economists across the continent would argue otherwise. Free trade is not a costless exercise and while the agreement scarcely touches on gender equality, it is deeply lacking in any mention of the steps signatory nations will take to achieve gender equality through trade liberalization.
    This seemingly visionary agreement further fails to consider women’s contribution to trade in its totality and ignores the need to grow intra African trade through supporting women informal cross border traders who account for 70% of all informal cross border trade activity on the continent.
    The needs, interests and potential of these traders have been left out of mainstream trade and development agenda. As the continent begins to roll out this agreement, existing gender disparities between men and women in trade will affect its potential success. Centering our conversation to Kenyan border towns but drawing from other regional and international narratives, this paper will discuss the needs and interests of women cross border traders from a feminist perspective with respect to their intersecting realities, challenges and identities. It will also draw on existing feminist critique of the policy to draw out areas of interest. The paper will further suggest how this new agreement can serve these interests and deliver on the promise of vibrant and free intra-regional trade and gender equality. In conclusion, it will offer broad and specific recommendations to various stakeholders with the intent to strengthen delivery of the AfCFTA for a gender just trade regime.