AFRICAN Development Bank (AfDB) president and former Nigerian agriculture minister Dr Akinwumi Adesina has called on African leaders to invest in women and girls as a means to fast track economic growth.
Despite being home to about one fifth of the world’s population, African accounts for less than 5% of global trade because it is not productive enough. Since the 1960s when most African states gained independence, her countries have relied on exporting primary products to survive as they lack the skills set to add value to their raw materials.
Speaking at the recent global conference on gender in Rwanda, Dr Adesina explained that, a world that denies women the opportunities to excel is not a smart world. He added that women are the best investments any society can make, so called on African leaders to invest in women and girls as a means to fast track economic, social and a political opportunities.
Dr Adesina who also called for policy dialogue to tackle legal, regulatory and institutional environments that constrain opportunities for women, noted that ensuring gender equality projects would help fight against gender-based violence. He pointed out that deliberate action to end gender-based disparities and inequalities is the only strategy a smarter world must invest in.
Furthermore, he lamented the fact that women have been excluded from decision making including education, access to legal rights, access to land and property, access to finance and leadership positions in board rooms, as well as political processes. This Dr Adesina said has made the world to be short changed.
He added that, the world is poorer because it excluded women and treated them unfairly in terms of labour market participation and unequal wages. Women are also short-changed with unequal access or exclusion from markets or financial resources.
Dr Adesina said: “A smarter world must invest in women and girls, so let us be smart and wise as women are the best investments any society can make. When they earn, they spend 90% of their income on their households, including their husbands.
“Smart nations will invest in women. A study by McKinsey shows that equal and full participation of women can add an additional $28trn to global wealth by 2025, representing an increase of 26% in global annual gross domestic product (GDP).
“Women pay back their loans at an overwhelming rate of 90% so smart banks will lend to women. In Africa, 70% of women are excluded financially and the continent has a $42bn financing gap between men and women.”
According to Dr Adesina, women, who are the majority of farmers in Africa, face a financing gap of close to $16bn. He added that this is why the African Development Bank has launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (Afawa), to mobilise $3bn of new lending by banks and financial institutions for women across Africa, the largest such effort in history.
Dr Adesina said: “I thank President Macron for his amazing support for Afawa during the G7 summit and help to mobilise over $251m for the initiative. The African Development Bank believes in women as they are bankable, so as multilateral development banks, we owe it to the world to not only shine the light on the challenges facing women but we must also develop and launch transformative programmes to tackle them decisively.”