The important positive benefits derived from trade reforms particularly from trade liberalisationhave been well known both from theoretical and empirical ground. This could explain why many countries, like those of Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS), are still engaging themselves toward open trade reforms. However, many factors including those affecting gender or deepening gender gap may hinder expectedtrade reform benefits to occur in least developed countries in particular. Moreover, while ECOWAS’s countries are striving for liberalized trade reforms both at country, regional and continental level, recent studies show that results in terms of trade benefits are mixed or even harmful for some countries.
Therefore, this paper aims at analysing factors that could prevent ECOWAS’s countries to harness trade reforms benefits in a particular context of various ongoing trade policy including African continental free trade area (AfCFTA). To do so, this paper employs an analytical approach to describe trade flows and actors engaged in trade in ECOWAS region as well as obstacles to trade with focus on gender bias and/or inequalities.
As a result, although ECOWAS zone is performing well in terms of liberalised trade reforms, the influence and importance of gender inequalities contribute to limit the ability of those countries to harness trade reforms benefits. In terms of economic implications, this study pledges for promoting gender equality and setting up trade policies that are sensitive to women.
Keywords: Trade reforms, Gender inequalities, Economic performance, ECOWAS