Entretien avec Margaret Chenda Mashinkila sur "Mondialisation, institutions et développement économique en Afrique"

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Entretien avec Margaret Chenda Mashinkila sur "Mondialisation, institutions et développement économique en Afrique"

Question – Has the impact of globalization evenly affected men and women in Africa?

Answer – In order to effectively tackle this question, it is important that we first try to provide a conceptual understanding of "What is Globalization"

Globalization has become the catch-all term used to refer to those various phenomena and processes that are brought about by changes towards world economic integration.  This generally includes capital expansion, trade expansion or trade liberalization, cultural integration, financial liberalization, increased information and technology flows, increased labour mobility, changing consumption patterns and so on. Central to all these is increased trade. 

There is a general agreement among many scholars and opinion leaders that globalization affects men and women differently due to gender inequalities in access to and control of economic and social resources and decision-making. Their impact is also mediated by the different roles that men and women have within societies, in particular, the gendered division of labour.

There is growing evidence that globalization often reinforces gender inequality. In most developing countries, female workers continue to be discriminated against in terms of recruitment and labour rights, and stay locked in at relatively low levels of pay and skills, becoming increasingly discriminated against. Available evidence also shows that although the labour force participation rates are likely to increase with globalization for both women and men, the wage gap between them remains strong. Women will be the first to suffer from budget cuts and restrictions as they are in the majority of those doing low-skilled jobs. Although women are pioneers in the new models of labour, as temporary and part - time employees or as home based workers, they are often under-represented in managing and decision making positions.

In agriculture, women often have less access to land because of inheritance laws and practices. When they own farmland, their plots are generally smaller than those owned by men and they also generally have less access to information and technology, inputs such as fertilizer, farming equipment and other inputs. They have less access to training and agricultural extension programmes. In addition, women also have limited access to financial services which effectively inhibits them from purchasing needed capital or inputs in order to expand production facilities. It is estimated that women receive less than 10% of all credit granted to small farmers and less than 1% of total credit going to the agricultural sector.

Question – Can we talk about gender equality within the African context given that known cultural practices do not always favor women?

Answer  – Women constitute more than 50 per cent of Africa’s population, and perform the bulk of agricultural and informal sector labour. Although women are critical to the survival of their families, communities and nations in Africa, they are at a great disadvantage in participating effectively in development ventures because of some of the contradictory practices that come from traditional, cultural and religious attitudes and constraints. Other critical areas of concern are: women’s poverty, food insecurity and lack of economic empowerment, inadequate access to education, training, science and technology, women’s cultural subjugation, family and socialization, the deplorable condition of women’s health and reproductive rights, women’s relationship and links to the environment and natural resources management, conflicts and the absence of women in the peace process, the mainstreaming of gender-disaggregated data and the adverse effects of media on women’s rights.

In the context of international and regional commitments, many African countries have made efforts not only to mainstream gender in their policies and plans, but have also reflected this change in the allocation of resources in national budgets that take into account the differentiated needs of women and men. Relatedly, several African countries are increasingly taking measures to ensure that their Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and National Development Plans address women’s poverty. Gender Budgeting Initiatives have been taken in a number of countries, including Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania, thus confirming their commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment through gender responsive distribution of national resources with varying degrees of success.

But despite all these efforts, the Beijing +10 evaluation processes in Africa showed that national and regional gender policies and programmes remain grossly under-funded. It noted that, despite the funding from bilateral and multilateral development partners, governments did not make adequate resources available for the implementation of programmes for gender equality and women's empowerment on the continent. The Beijing +10 review noted that economic activities from which the majority of women obtain their livelihoods, such as subsistence agriculture and the informal sector, have not received the financing that is necessary to make them viable and lead to the empowerment of women. The review underlined especially that in most rural areas where the majority of African women live, adequate educational and health facilities are still lacking, as well as the essential infrastructure for rural development.

Question  – How is gender equality relevant to Africa's economic development?

Answer  – Women are the cornerstone of African economic development. According to recent estimates, they provide approximately 70 per cent of agricultural labour and produce about 90 per cent of all food. Women’s economic activity rate, which measures the percentage of people who furnish the supply of labour for the production of economic goods, ranks highest compared to other regions of the world (including OECD countries) with a value of 61.9. However, women are predominantly employed in the informal sector or they occupy low-skill jobs. This can be illustrated by considering the percentage of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector, which scores lowest among all regions of the world with a value of only 8.5 per cent.

The weak status of women in Africa’s formal economy has many reasons. Insufficient access to key resources such as education and health are two important contributing factors, women’s primary education is still at a strikingly low rate of 67 per cent despite international endeavours such as the second Millennium Development Goals to achieve universal primary education by the year 2015 (men 72.6%). Unsurprisingly, illiteracy remains a major challenge with only 51 per cent of all women above the age of 15 being able to read and write (compared to 67.1 percent of all men). Improvements in maternal mortality also fall far short of international objectives. The African value of 866 deaths per 100,000 live births – partly due to dismal medical services which only guarantee 50.9 per cent of all births being attended by skilled health personnel – is alarming and far worse than in any other region of the world.

Question – What has the AfDB been doing to promote gender equality as an essential element of Africa's economic development?

Answer – The Bank draws on the commitments made on the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all the key development sectors and, in particular, in economic empowerment in the context of globalization, including the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), the Monterrey Consensus (2002) and the Paris Declaration (2005). These global frameworks recognize the importance of gender-sensitive development and the importance of gender equality results as an important indicator of aid effectiveness. The Beijing Platform for Action in particular, required the regional development banks including the Bank Group, to increase resources allocated to eliminating absolute poverty and to revise policies, procedures and staffing in order to ensure that investments and programs to benefit  both women and men equally.

The Bank addresses the issue of "gender equality, and women’s empowerment" in the context of its Vision Statement, Strategic Plan and Gender Policy. This has been strengthened by the adoption of several policy papers such as the Poverty Reduction Policy (2004 and Policy on Microfinance (2006) and in particularly, the recently updated Private Sector Development Strategy (2008) which builds on the Bank’s vision for private sector development is founded on a conceptual framework that links entrepreneurship, investment, and economic growth with the Bank’s ultimate goal of poverty alleviation.

Furthermore, the ADF 11 Deputies’ report makes strong reference to gender equality and the empowerment of women and calls to unlock the skills, energy and capacity of Africa’s enormous human potential. Specifically, the ADF-XI Deputies Report highlighted a number of focal areas that require increased attention for the  Bank to achieve development results particularly for gender issues across all operational priorities by strengthening, among others, the understanding of the link between gender equality and development results, identifying measures to attain gender equality in areas such as poverty reduction, infrastructure, governance, and agriculture and defining appropriate approaches to gender mainstreaming within broader development dimensions pertinent to gender equality, such as women’s limited access to credit, land, labour, technology and financial services; and ii) to delineate clear gender strategies.

At Programme Level – The AfDB Country Strategy Papers (CSPs) require concrete strategies for gender equality and women empowerment as identified in each country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), gender policy and national plans that recognize that men and women share the burden of poverty differently and that gender-based inequities in access to productive assets and information undermine the contribution of women to economic growth and development. Relatedly, Multi Sector Country Gender Profiles (MCGPs) developed for several countries contain background information on the gender situation prevailing in specific countries and how to promote the identification of gender responsive strategic and programmatic interventions that are likely to have high payoffs for economic growth in a respective RMC.

At Project Level – The Bank has long recognized that women constitute the powerhouse of the future and has taken measures to address gender gaps through the articulation of a strategy to promote gender equitable participation in and benefit from planned activities. For example, the Bank’s interventions in the agricultural sectors have increased women’s income and employment through the production, processing, transportation and marketing of primary products, enhanced women’s incomes from vegetable gardening, promoted productive activities in gardening and fish processing, enhanced access to modern production techniques and practices and markets to sell farm produce.

In many of our infrastructure projects, the Bank has sought to improve access to markets and reduction in commodity prices through a decrease in traveling time, travel costs and enhance level of incomes. Transport projects also increased employment opportunities for women during and after road construction and women are beneficiaries of enhanced family income from increased agricultural production.  Telecommunication projects are reported to have enhanced the access to information in addition to increasing direct employment opportunities in rural areas during the project period.

In recognition of the indispensable role of education in the creation of future powerhouses, our education projects have had consistent positive impacts in the enrolment and educational attainment of girls at all levels, As a result, there has been a rise in women’s participation at primary and secondary education, increased access to technical and professional education.

New Initiatives – The Bank recognizes that fostering women entrepreneurship development is crucial for the achievement of Africa’s broader development objectives, including poverty reduction as well as economic and social development.  It is within this framework that the Bank is promoting women entrepreneurship mainstreaming in Africa through its African Women in Business (AWIB) Initiative through the implementation of integrated programs and projects in a number of pilot countries such as Cameroon and Kenya in partnership with key international and multilateral organizations that are already in the field.

Challenges – The African Economic Conference, hosted by the Bank in Tunis from 12 to 13 November 2008, is, indeed, very timely in that it provides an opportunity to reflect and strategize  how to focus our investments with a view to improving women’s effective access to productive resource, if Africa is to meet MDG #3 on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment by contributing to the redefinition of the approaches that will re-energize efforts to empower women economically, thus paving the way for their effective involvement  in the process of globalization and in turn to effectively contribute towards generating economic growth and reducing poverty on the continent. 


Nom: Margaret Chenda Mashinkila