The economic empowerment program provides opportunities for positive change by providing a pathway for women and girls to access and take control of productive assets. It does this by providing a channel for women and girls to become financially included, build assets that enable them to build a sustainable livelihood.
In Africa, women are the unsung heroes—taking care of the family, a job mostly unrecognized by their society. Yet in monetary terms, women’s unpaid work accounts for between 10% and 39% of GDP, according to the UN Research Institute for Social Development.
Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. Economic empowerment of women in Africa holds untapped potential. Their increased contributions would help the continent to reach their development goals.
While women’s participation in the labour force (mostly in the informal sector) is high in many sub-Saharan Africa countries—86% in Rwanda, 77% in Ethiopia and 70% in Tanzania—only in eight countries (Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe) do more than 50% of women own bank accounts, according to the Global Financial Inclusion Database.
Empowering women is powerful. Today, we know it is the key to economic growth, political stability, and social transformation. World leaders, experts and scholars alike are giving their voice to this critical endeavour.
- Empowering African Women Through Small Businesses
Small businesses can go a long way in empowering not only women, but all members of the community through providing jobs and opportunities for franchises. The bee farming sector in Africa has been one of many prime examples on how small businesses can empower women.
In Ethiopia, bee farming is still largely traditional; however, modernizing the sector has had a positive influence in attracting women to the area. Women have also been encouraged to join the sector through assistance in accessing funding and land for their business ventures. Their main source of income has come from selling products, like honey, locally at markets, which accounts for approximately 90% of all sales.
In Kenya, the bee farming sector has attracted approximately 50% of women. This can be attributed to a high demand of bee products from the East African nation and affordable access into the sector- farmers don’t need large capital or land to enter into bee farming.
- Empowering Women Through Technology and Energy
Empowering women will seeks to stimulate the confidence in women by providing to them everything that in their capacity to help them see the skills that they contain and are dormant within them.The private sector is a key partner in efforts to empower women.
Organizations like the Africa Technology Business Network (ATBN) and Africare seek to promote access to resources, increase women’s income and increase women’s participation in Africa’s economy.
The ATBN founded #HerFutureAfrica, a project that provides digital and business skills targeted at empowering young African female innovators. The project also provides important networking support that exposes them to more empowered women locally and internationally.
In 2008, Africare implemented the Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs Project (IEEWEP) intending to increase women’s income and inclusion in Southern Chad’s local economy. Through this project, more than 1,000 women increased their annual income by around 70 percent.
The African Union Commission (AUC), U.N. Women Ethiopia and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) introduced the African Girls Can CODE Initiative (AGCCI) in 2018, a four-year program designed to teach young girls about digital literacy, coding and personal development as well as provide comprehensive information and communication technology (ICT) training.
The initiative, whose first camp was held in Ethiopia in August 2018, hopes to empower girls through increased access to education and to prepare them to enter the workforce. Scheduled to run from 2018-2022, the AGCCI expects to have an impact on the lives of more than 2,000 girls throughout its 18 Coding Camps.
- Education for Women and Girls
Women’s economic empowerment is anchored by education. A proper nurturing, polishing and sharpening of those skills is only made possible through better education and awareness.
There are promising signs for women’s empowerment in Africa. Non-governmental organizations, like the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), are helping promote girls’ access to education as well as support girls’ enrollment retention rates.
While traditional expectations for women and girls are still upheld in many places, African leaders are making advances toward increasing the inclusion of more girls in schools.
In 2014, CIFF supported the first Keeping Girls in School conference where African traditional and religious leaders convened to find solutions to support girls’ education.
Towards the Future
African countries need to adopt and implement regional and national plans, legislations, policies, strategies, budgets and justice mechanisms in order to strengthen women’s economic empowerment. Through regional and national interventions, women empowerment will increase income, build assets, wealth and business leadership.
Women economic empowerment programmes will facilitate women’s access to productive resources and business services by addressing policy and regulatory barriers and promote women’s active participation in and benefit from the extractive industry, agriculture, trade and building women’s and youth’s agribusiness and entrepreneurship skills across the value chain.
Empowering women to participate fully in the economic life across all sectors will be essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.