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African Women Pledge to Fight for Inclusive Growth
The Second African Women Economic summit wound up in Lagos on Saturday, with a unanimous commitment by hundreds of entrepreneurs and professional women to campaign vigorously for the economic empowerment of their genre as the surest means to banish poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth.
“It has been great these past three days. I will not miss the next meeting. I want to see a change in my lifetime, said Cecilia Akintomide, Vice President and Secretary-General of the African Development Bank (AfDB), which jointly organized the event with New Face New Voices, a women empowerment network founded by Mozambique’s first lady, Graca Machel.
“I don’t want my daughters to be in the same kind of summit in the coming years discussing the same issues,” said Ms. Akintomide, who represented the AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka at the three-day summit.
Women entrepreneurs including company CEOs, bankers, industrialists , gender activists, top government officials representing the continent’s five regions attended the summit, which urged policy makers, corporate organisations and political leaders to step up measures that will promote women empowerment and remove barriers that impede their development.
Earlier, Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala set the tone of the meeting In a keynote address emphasizing that women’s economic empowerment was no longer an option because investing in women who constitute half of the continent’s population was the only way to sustain the growth recorded across the continent at this times.
“Women are the third largest emerging markets in the globe. Women are the third largest sources of growth. One of the fastest ways to sustain current growth is to invest in women,” said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who was the runner the recent campaign to select the World Bank’s President.
She suggested that a specialized Bank be established to cater to the financial interest of women, who do not have access to investment finance a host of reasons.
Also addressing the gathering, New Faces New Voices executive director, Nomsa Daniels said in the next two years, the organisation would focus attention on developing a data base on women participation in entrepreneurship, financing and the economy.
She said the group, which currently has chapters in 16 countries, would also organise capacity building programmes, financial education and enlightenment courses for women.
New Faces New Voices Advisor and a former AfDB Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Nkosana Moyo, explained that finding ways of empowering women with quality health, education and finance is of utmost importance. “Women are actually a huge market segment and the most essential tool we need for the development of the continent. So, we need to develop financial products that can help to fully utilize their potentials”, he said.
Efforts at gender mainstreaming should also involve developing appropriate ways of using the position of mother to re-socializing young people in the society to accord women equal opportunities. “We should recreate a society in which women are regarded as equals and not playing second-fiddle to men”, he stressed.
The gathering explored new perspectives on how best to harness the potentials of women for the development of the continent.
In a video message, Mrs. Machel said the Lagos summit would unlock the value that is inherent in the female economy in order for women to take their rightful place as equal partners in tackling Africa’s development challenges.
“We see this as an opportunity to engage with decision makers in the financial sector—policy makers, regulators, commercial banks and prominent women entrepreneurs to find ways to accelerate the inclusion of women in Africa’s growth story. We are not only looking at increase in numbers of women but also of their inclusion in key decision-makings positions and higher responsibilities”, she stressed in her pre-recorded address to participants.
The AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, also sent a message reiterating the Bank’s commitment to continue to partner AWES in efforts to scale up women’s participation in the economic development of the continent.
Mr. Kaberuka explained that 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, adding, “I believe, strongly believe investing in women differently is essential to revitalize our economies.
The summit received over two dozen pledges of various kinds of support including providing education and training to AWES members, logistics to support new chapters, knowledge production and dissemination, funding as well as an offer to host the 2014 summit in Kampala by a Ugandan delete.
The first AWES took place in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2010.