The African Women to Play an Important Part in Building the African Financial System

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Tunis / Nairobi 19 March 2010 – Global and African leaders are invited by the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka, and Mrs. Graça Machel, Founder of New Faces, New Voices (NFNV) to the first “African Women’s Economic Summit” to ensure the inclusion of women in the decisions that are shaping the global financial system. Today, Raila Odinga, the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Kenya opens the two days Summit at the Windsor Golf and Country Club in Nairobi, Kenya.

Some 100 African and global decision-makers in the financial and political sectors, policy-makers, regulators, commercial banks, and prominent women entrepreneurs will formulate actionable and measurable interventions to shape the financial system and enable women to become an integral part of its architecture.

For the President of the AfDB, “women have always played a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of Africa. As farmers, entrepreneurs, traders and innovators, they are key economic actors in the continent”. He acknowledges the benefits of improving women’s economic opportunities, saying “it is a way to enhance women’s contribution to the growth of our economies and the well-being of our communities”. He believes “investing in women differently is essential to revitalize our economies”. The Bank’s Private Sector Operations Unit (OPSM) and the Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Unit (OSUS) in particular, have made deliberate and sustained contributions in providing opportunities to women by supporting efforts of African governments towards gender mainstreaming and in promoting women entrepreneurship development.  

New Faces, New Voices (NFNV) is an association of African women leaders in business and finance across the continent that was established under the patronage of the African Women’s Foresight Network led by Graça Machel. According to Mrs Machel, “the Chinese proverb “Women hold up half the sky” recognises the role and value of women in society, yet there remains a significant gap between the proverb and reality”.

NFNV is committed to vigorously engaging relevant institutions to bring women in Africa to centre stage to contribute to the decisions that shape the African continent and a new global financial system. The Network advocates for the empowerment of women given their positive socio-economic impact in meeting the developmental challenges of Africa.

It is from this common understanding that Mr. Kaberuka and Mrs. Machel decided to convene and co-host the first African Women’s Economic Summit in 2010. The Summit is being held in Kenya in partnership with the Central Bank of Kenya. She says that “The Network is proud to have partnered with the African Development Bank to present the African Women’s Economic Summit”.

The other main sponsors of this important event are Old Mutual; ABSA Bank; Standard Bank Group; the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA); and the IFC (International Finance Corporation), a member of the World Bank Group.

Prominent speakers include Honourable Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Republic of Kenya, Ms Speciosa Kazibwe Wandira, former vice-president of Uganda, Dr Luisa Diogo, former Prime Minister of Mozambique, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, Ms Linah Mohohlo, Governor of the Central Bank of Botswana, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, a former Managing Director of the World Bank, Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Laureate and Founder of the Greenbelt Movement, Mr. Arnold Ekpe, Group CEO, Ecobank, Togo, and Dr. James Mwangi, Group CEO and Managing Director, Equity Bank, Kenya.

The initiative is driven by the growing realization that women represent a key emerging market in Africa and are significant contributors to economic growth. Yet their role as decision makers in the financial sector, and as users of financial services is overlooked. To successfully harness the economic and leadership potential of women, policy-makers, regulators, financial service providers and development finance institutions need to have a clear understanding of:

  • The challenges faced by women in accessing financial services and in assuming leadership roles within financial sector institutions;
  • Innovations in finance that will scale up significantly the access of women to financial services;
  • Solutions to fast-tracking women within financial sector institutions; and
  • The regulatory and policy responses to developing a more inclusive financial sector for women.
  • The economic potential and opportunities represented by this market segment.

Moving forward, the Summit intends to identify by tomorrow key actions that financial sector stakeholders need to take to invest differently in women towards building stronger financial sectors and competitive economies in Africa.