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AfDB Gender Envoy calls for improved banking services for women as well as access to finance


The 3rd African Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit, held at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, Zambia, from July 24-26, 2014, has officially closed with participants calling on African Governments to make more land available to women.

Co-organized by New Faces, New Voices and the African Development Bank, this biennial event brings together key stakeholders in the financial sector throughout the continent, as well as influential global leaders, to look at how to put women at the centre of the African finance and economic development agenda to realise Africa’s potential. The theme of this year’s meeting was  “African Women, Realising Africa’s Economic Potential”.

Speaking during a session on land and property rights for women, Graça Machel, founder of New Faces, New Voices, said land is a key natural resource in unlocking the entreprenurship among women. "We need to demand the right for women to own land so that they can contribute effectively to the development process of their countries’ economies,” she said.

Machel said it is unfortunate that there is a tendancy to underestimate the role that women play in the economic development of their countries, adding that without the active participation of women, African nations cannot fully develop economically. "Women have the potential to change their own economic status, as well as that of the communities and countries in which they live. Yet, more often than not, women’s economic contributions go unrecognised, their work undervalued and their promise unnourished,” Machel said.

"Unequal opportunities between women and men continue to hamper women’s ability to lift themselves from poverty and gain more options to improve their lives," Machel continued. "Women are better poised to improve their lives when they own land and other assets. Yet just one percent of the world’s women own land. Although laws to protect women’s property rights exist in most countries, many women still cannot realise their rights."

Earlier, Rose Mwebaza, Special Advisor to the African Union Chairperson on Women's Economic Empowerment and Political Participation, called on African Governments to increase their budgetary allocation to programmes that will help women to own land. African Governments should come up with an effective strategy that will help support women economically as well as ensure that they own land, Mwebaza said. "Women must acquire land so that they can create wealth and help their families to come out of abject poverty."

Contributing on the same topic, Professor of Law at Jomo Kenyatta University, Jane Kamangu said giving land to women will inspire them to fully participate in the running of their countries’ economies.

Meanwhile, some participants have urged the African Central Banks to come up with a policy that will compel commercial banks to lower the lending rate for women. They said Central Banks should advocate for increased financial inclusion and financial literacy among African women.

As both participant and moderator, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the African Development Bank’s Special Envoy on Gender, urged African Central Banks to start advocating for improved banking services for women and to break the barriers that inhibit their access to finance.

Bank of Zambia Deputy Governor Tukiya Kankasa Mabula said Central Banks should provide policy direction on the economic enhancement of women as a key natural strategy.

For her part, Zambia's Permanent Secretary of Gender and Child Development, Daisy Ng’ambi, said her Government was proud to host the meeting. "The importance of this year’s meeting is that it coincides with our own national Jubilee celebrations and allows us, as a nation, to showcase the significant progress that has been made in terms of promoting gender equality and empowering women economically,” she said. “This has been achieved through a variety of means, primarily supported by policy changes. Our commitment and focus on this topic is made clear by measures that are outlined in the country’s 6th National Development Plan.”

The African Women's Economic Empowerment Summit is an initiative that brings together the International Labour Organization and African leaders who can influence change to accelerate the economic advancement of African women and their greater inclusion in the financial and business sectors.

The objectives of the summit are four-fold: to have economic policies that are informed by credible data on women in finance and the economy; to massively increase women’s access to appropriate and affordable finance and financial services; to build robust and diverse financial systems that are inclusive of women; and to improve the sustainability of women-owned businesses in different sectors and to help them grow from micro to small, small to medium, and medium to large.

Participants at the summit included delegates from regulatory bodies, financial services providers, development agencies, academic institutions, think tanks, business and professional organisations, advocacy groups, as well as prominent businessmen and -women and Government leaders.

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