The African Union’s Strategy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) emphasises the need for the economic empowerment of women if Africa is to achieve its goals for inclusive and sustainable development as envisioned in Agenda 2063.
During the on Gender Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda from 25th to 27th November 2019 the idea for a dedicated period for Africa to work towards the financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women was proposed as a means to eliminate obstacles that prevent equality between men and women through the implementation of innovative solutions to provide financial access to women.
During the AU Summit held in February 2020, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government took up the mantle and declared the years 2020 to 2030 as the African Women’s Decade (AWD) on Financial and Economic Inclusion for African Women. In their declaration, African leaders recommitted to scale up actions for progressive gender inclusion towards sustainable development at the national, regional and continental levels. H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana is the AU Leader on Gender and Development.
The overall goal of the AWD is that every woman must be able to work, be paid and participate in the economy of her country. This will involve examining the regulatory, legislative, and policy context to determine the changes needed to foster women’s financial inclusion and assist financial institutions in adopting approaches tailored to women, as a separate market segment. In addition to access to financial products, technologies and services, achieving financial inclusion for women would require overcoming socio-cultural norms and gender barriers.
One of the main objectives of this new African Women Decade is the development of market access by enhancing new credit solutions for women, generating access to infrastructure in downstream processing and distribution, as well as training them in agro-industrial technology.
For these goals to be realised, African States have to put in place policies and targeted complementary measures and programs such as; entrepreneurship, business management and technology training; financial literacy, financial planning, investment and capacity building; Emphasis should be on women led SMEs by supporting them to overcome the constraints of accessing finance, as well as market information and networks. The AU advocates for the participation and involvement of civil societies and the women advocacy groups and organisations to drive these initiatives and ensure adoption at national levels.
African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) on Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment
The new declaration follows the conclusion of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) on Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment which was a critical period for advancing Gender Equality by accelerating the implementation of agreed global and regional commitments, particularly the AU Assembly Decisions on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE).
The African Women’s Decade 2010-2020 was implemented in two phases from 2010-2015 and from 2016-2020. The AWD 2010-2020 Mid-Term Status Update Report highlighted the experiences from twenty-two (22) countries, and the progress made by in establishing legislative, policy, administrative, and institutional mechanisms in the AWD implementation at the national level.
The Final Report of the African Women’s Decade for the period 2010-2020 on Grassroots Approach to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment” aimed to advance gender equality through the acceleration of the implementation of global and regional decisions and commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The report contains experiences from the AU Member States, and it highlights, among others, actions taken, areas where further action is needed to accelerate the implementation of the gender commitments and challenges encountered in advancing GEWE and proposes recommendations to advance GEWE.
“The Trust Fund will continue to provide solutions for women to access financing for their businesses and to be economically empowered”
Mobilising Resources to support women in accessing funding for business
The lack of access to financial services reduces women’s capacity to escape poverty, and it reduces their opportunities to participate in economic activities. Providing financing for women means greater participation, opportunities, and control over resources for women. When women generate their own income, experience shows that they invest in their families and communities, thereby reducing poverty.
In January 2010 the Fund for African Women (FAW) was launched by the African Union. The Fund mobilised resources for programs and projects dedicated to the African Women’s Decade’s themes. With the African Women’s Decade ended in 2020, the decision was made to convert the FAW into a Trust Fund. The Trust Fund will continue to provide women with solutions to access financing for their businesses and become economically empowered.
“The common objective of the three Funds, the Fund for African Women, African Women (FAW), Leadership Fund (AWLF) and Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), is to provide access to financing for women and will be reinforced by the new African Women Decade on Financial and Economic inclusion.”
In February 2020, the African Union in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and through the African Women Leadership Network (AWLN) platform, launched the African Women Leadership Fund (AWLF). The AWLF is an impact fund aimed at strengthening women’s economic empowerment through multi-layered prioritisation of women, including support for women fund managers as well as direct support for women entrepreneurs, to empower women to ascend to business and economic leadership positions.
Finally, following a request from the former AUC Chairperson, H.E. Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma, and based on a recommendation from the 25th Pre-summit of the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) meeting Pre-Summit, the African Development Bank (AfDB) established the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), to transform the banking and financial landscape in Africa and create incentives for lending to women in business.
The common objective of the three Funds is to provide access to financing for women and will be reinforced by the new African Women Decade on Financial and Economic inclusion.
“In addition to access to financial products, technologies and services, achieving financial inclusion for women would require overcoming socio-cultural norms and gender barriers.”
The East African
By AFRICAN UNION