Closing the gender gap for economic development in Africa
The inclusion of women is an important ingredient in economic development
Women are the backbone of every striving economy in the world. They are very motivated, powered and determined in whatever they do. The former Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” And Beyoncé in her song “Who Runs The World (Girls)“, talks about women empowerment. Both quotes indicate that the inclusion of women and girls is an important ingredient if a country has to reach its full potential in economic development. And this is even much so for the African continent which counts more women entrepreneurs than men. However, when it comes to opportunities for women in development, they are one step behind. Why is that so and what can be done to close the gender gap in business?
When it comes to Africa, according to a publication by Africa Global Funds (AGF), in Sub-Saharan Africa, more women become entrepreneurs than men. In the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs published on 11 January 2021, Africa claimed the first three top spots with the most women business owners in the world. Uganda stood at 39.6%, leading, followed by Botswana at 38.5% and Ghana at 36.5%. These statistics indicate that women are the core and an essential contributing force in the growth of a country economy. With these high women-owned businesses numbers, Africa will increasingly become a booming business continent. However, this is, so far, not yet the case since Africa is still considered a poor continent. African women are much more underutilised and less supported when it comes to business opportunities than in other continents in the world.
In Africa, even though women own the majority of businesses, it is not a level playing field for men and women. First, is the misconception and stereotypes that certain jobs are for men only and others for women. For example, technical and engineering jobs, leadership role, ICT are mostly perceived as jobs for men. So culturally people find it strange for a woman to fall into a given category of jobs.
Very importantly is the issue of lack of market access or new and diversified markets for their goods and services. When the pandemic hit, most of the women who had only one market outlet almost ran out of business because there were no alternative markets for them.
Also, the ability to pay for certain services that can help women grow their businesses is very limited. It is difficult for females to access loans from financial institutions due to a lack of collateral security and loan guarantee because they cannot afford it.
Furthermore, there are few concrete policies put in place to favour women businesses. For example, with start-ups, the high taxes to be paid discourages the business and even future scale-up.
Thus, lack of equal opportunities for women-owned businesses is like running a plane on one engine whereas its full capacity lies on running it on two engines. So, what are our recommendations to have even and equal opportunities for both men, women, boys and girls so that together they can develop their economies in Africa?
- Girls, as well as boys, should be given equal opportunity to go to school and to study whatever they feel like to study without any cultural hindrances. We all need to reset our minds to have that entrepreneur’s mindset to succeed in the future whatever that success means.
- Seed capital funding should be open for women to help them take off their businesses from the ground with no stringent requirements that will eliminate them before they even apply for the funds.
- Digitalisation of their businesses is key like an online store (a one-stop-shop) where sellers can meet buyers as well as input suppliers and more. This will help to market women’s products worldwide, acquire input supplies and tell their stories. With the pandemic, going digital is the best way to get visibility of products/services globally.
- Encourage and provide technologies in agriculture that will help to produce more with less, increase production and productivity, ensure trust and added value, showing the benefits of the innovation to women, at an affordable price using local materials.
- Educate boys and men to be supportive and encourage women as entrepreneurs. Also, they should give them the chance to grow and exploits the opportunities out there.
- Finally, policy advocacy in favour of women. African countries, create enabling policies environment for Women-Run Businesses to thrive.
Closing the gender gap is at the forefront of every striving economy these days and there is a loss of missed opportunities by not engaging women and their contribution to the growth of the economy. EuroAfri Link (EAL) is out to address the inefficiencies in the agriculture value chains resulting from a lack of information, knowledge and technology. Specifically, it is out to bridge the market gap between African farmers and European consumers, with a keen eye on closing the gender gap in business, sourcing funding for agribusinesses and smallholders and helping to facilitate knowledge exchange and transfer by providing counselling and bridging of high calibre African students/professionals seeking to study at accredited agri and tech universities and institutions in Europe.
You too can take part in this journey!
By Patience Chindong – EAL, Evelyne Achieno – EVICO Service Limited and Jonathan S. Woods – Eukalypton