Agriculture, backbone of the Economy – COMESA

• The sector provides livelihoods for about 80 per cent of the region’s Labour force.
• It accounts for a comparatively lower share of value added of 32 per cent of COMESA’s GDP.
• Agriculture is female-intensive

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council (CBC) said agriculture is the backbone of the economy in the COMESA region>

CBC Chief Executive Officer Sandra Uwera in a statement issued to Money FM news stated that the sector provides livelihoods for about 80 per cent of the region’s Labour force and accounts for approximately 65 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.

Ms. Uwera however noted that even though agriculture is the mainstay of employment and export proceeds, it accounts for a comparatively lower share of value added of 32 per cent of COMESA’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which reflects the high persistence of subsistence farming and the incidence of low-value staples in the crop mix.

She said Agriculture is female-intensive in Uganda, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Malawi, Eritrea, and Zimbabwe according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Report 2017 .

“Where-as men prevail in agricultural employment in Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Mauritius, Comoros, and Ethiopia,” Ms. Uwera highlighted.

The CBC Chief Executive officer further explained the aggregate figure also conceals the female-intensive nature of specific sub-sectors and activities “women tend to dominate employment in value chains for high-value products such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers.”


She said, “For instance, women account for about 75 per cent of employment in the flower industry in Kenya and Tanzania.”

Ms. Uwera noted that overall, nearly three-quarters of employed women in COMESA work in agriculture.

She pointed that socio-cultural gender norms and different types of constraints, including women’s limited mobility, reduced access to training, and a disproportionate burden of care work, are some of the key factors that are holding rural women back, hindering their ability to benefit from employment opportunities outside of agriculture on equal terms as men.

“Women farmers and rural entrepreneurs face a wide array of gender-specific obstacles that hinder their productivity and entrepreneurial potential,” she added.

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