Africa undoubtedly is on the path to growth and development with high rates of economic advancements. However, this growth seems to have had adverse effects on the general wellbeing of inhabitants of the continent. Unemployment is increasing by the day, urban poverty is on the ascendancy and wider gender gaps are emanating. This reveals that Africa’s growth has not been inclusive enough. There are still large groups of people whose contributions towards Africa’s economic growth have been limited synthetically either because of their gender, disability status, demography or policies/laws which do not favour them.
Women make up more than half the population of Africa yet their talent and skills as credible resources for growth and development have been overlooked for quite long. Nonetheless, the economic empowerment of women has been recognised as crucial to Africa’s sustainable development and is identified by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment as ‘…not only the “right thing” to do to honour the world’s commitments to human rights. It is also the “smart thing” to do for development, economic growth and business’. Klugman and Tyson (2016).
While there are evidences to show how beneficial women’s participation and contributions towards the economy of Africa could enhance growth, there are also real challenges to tackle. Therefore, as part of the campaign to mark the International Women’s Day 2018, ExLA Group Gender Programme identifies critical areas that need urgent attention for Africa to move to the next stage of development.
Currently, women form about 70% of the informal economy where according to the AfDB, work is unstable, poorly paid and invisible. There is an untapped resource in this sector which needs to be exploited. Since most of the work performed by women in the informal sector is as a result of the need to survive, they do not have formidable structures for continuity, expansion and profitability. Enhancing women’s contribution in this sector will constitute formulating and implementing laws and policies that allows women to operate freely in the public and private sectors of the economies of Africa. This includes legal instruments against sexual harassment, laws that give women power over and access to economic resources etc. In short, there is real and measurable growth in the formal economy where women are essentially underrepresented. Much effort needs to be employed to ensure that women are moved out of the informal economy into the formal economy where contributions are more meaningful and would be recognised.
On the other hand, it is even more critical to recognise that women are not a homogeneous group. Therefore, tackling the issues of women’s participation and contributions towards the economies of Africa must ensure that the marginalised including the disabled and rural dwellers have their say. This can be achieved by governments through sound economic policies and efficient social spending to establish economies that are more human friendly.
Ultimately, investing in women’s economic empowerment is not only essential for the development of individual women, it has wider benefits for families and the continent as a whole by breaking the cycle of poverty in families and improving the GDPs of nations in more inclusive and sustainable ways.
At ExLA Group, we believe that the economic empowerment of all women is the key to ending poverty in many forms in Africa. That is why we join hands with the world to #PressforChange on the International Women’s Day 2018.
Consequently, through the Young African Women Congress (YAWC) 2018 organised by ExLA Group for young women of Africa within the age limits of 18 – 40 years, we will discuss into details how governments, civil society organisations and other women groups and the media can help empower women economically for the continent’s sustainable development. Through keynote presentation, panel discussions and other various presentations taking off from Sunday 22nd to Thursday 26th July, 2018 in Accra, Ghana, practicable solutions to the challenges facing women in the sector will be proffered for appropriate authorities and agencies to implement. This will be under the theme, “Economic Empowerment of Women: A Prerequisite for Continental Development”.
We wish all women a happy women’s day.
Daniel Osei Tuffuor
Executive Director of ExLA Group & Spokesperson on Gender.