African Development Bank reiterates commitment to support women’s empowerment in the Sahel

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The African Development Bank has reiterated its commitment to support women’s empowerment and creation of employment opportunities for the women and youth in the Sahel.

Speaking during a high-level side event convened by the Government of Burkina Faso and the United Nations Fund for Population at the UN Headquarters in New York, Alberic Kacou, AfDB Vice-President for Corporate Services and Human Resources, elaborated the Bank’s programs aimed at supporting empowerment of women and youth under the AfDB’s High 5 development priorities.

The meeting was attended by several Heads of State and Government, including Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Idriss Déby, President of Chad, who is also the Chair of the African Union; Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi; Erna Solberg, Prime Minster of Norway; Patrice Talon, President of Benin; Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice-President of The Gambia; former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete; and several Ministers and Heads of Delegations.

Kacou reminded the audience that the current global economic headwinds were not only a wakeup call for African countries to diversify their economies, but also to address the structural challenges that have limited the impact of economic growth on poverty reduction and welfare improvement. He explained that the Bank recently launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), a program that will invest US $300 million and leverage an additional US $3 billion to support African countries to create an enabling environment for women in business.

The Vice-President noted that Africa will have by far the largest population of youth in the world – over 800 million by 2050. In order for this demographic bulge to be turned into a demographic dividend, African countries must invest in providing quality education to youth, to equip them with the right skills and tools to would prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow – particularly skilled trades that are focused on high technology and engineering.

It is for this reason, the Vice-President explained, that the African Development Bank has launched the “Jobs for Youth in Africa” Initiative, a flagship program that will address youth unemployment in Africa. The program will stimulate the creation of 25 million jobs within the next ten years, he explained. A total of US $3 billion will be mobilized to support young entrepreneurs in Africa, with a special focus on business incubation. It will also facilitate the establishment of skills enhancement zones to foster better links between skills and industrial development.

The side event was chaired by the President of the Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who underscored the need for development partners to work together to support African countries in closing the gender gap, investing in programs to support education and empowerment of women in Africa. President Kaboré reaffirmed Africa’s commitment to the three tenets of the demographic dividend: education, empowerment and employment. He explained that both the African Union Vision 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals enshrined the demographic dividend as a key pillar in national development policy and planning.

Earlier, Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Peter Mutharika of Malawi both explained that positive political leadership are essential in ensuring that Africa translates the demographic dividend into an economic opportunity for the continent. The high-level side event was held on the first day of the high-level segment of the 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York.