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Remarks by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group at the High-Level Event on “Renewing Commitment towards Enhancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa”, held by the African First Ladies, New York, September
Ladies and gentlemen,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, Good Morning!
I wish to thank Your Excellencies the African First Ladies for hosting this important event and for inviting me. It’s a great honor to be here.
Your mission as Africa’s First Ladies is so crucial. You are developing the value chain of girl-women economic empowerment.
And that value chain must work for the girl child until they also become adult women and then work for them as women.
But the value chain of girl-women economic empowerment is being disrupted by men, through early marriage, gender based violence, marginalization, and lack of economic empowerment.
Across Africa, 125 million girls and young women today were married before the age of 18. And 1 in 10 marry before they turn 15. They miss out on education and start off a cycle of dependence and disempowerment which affects them and their children.
They are seen not heard. They are subjugated, not empowered. They become trapped in a life time of constraints on their potential. And the vicious cycle goes on...
Education is the best antidote against child marriage. The longer a girl stays in school the higher her chances of greater economic achievement in life.
We must end all forms of child marriage. Here’s to the men: marry your age mates, leave our girls alone!
Let’s be clear: Women run Africa. If you want to know simply go to the farm. You’d notice that over 75% of the farmers are women. Go to any market, majority of the traders there will be women.
Yet women are marginalized when it comes to access to finance to grow their businesses. There exists in Africa a gender financing gap of $42 billion between men and women. It is harder for women to secure finance, even though the evidence suggests that they have over 95% repayment rates for credit.
The financial system in Africa has inbuilt biases against women.
That’s why the African Development Bank has launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women (AFAWA). AFAWA is establishing a $300 million risk sharing facility to de-risk lending to women by financial institutions in Africa. AFAWA will help to leverage $ 3 billion directly for women’s businesses on the continent. It is largest such effort for women in Africa’s history. AFAWA has just received $68 million from the We-Fi initiative of the US government and the World Bank.
I am delighted that at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France, President Macron helped to champion AFAWA and mobilized $251 million for the initiative.
AFAWA will provide technical assistance to women’s businesses to prepare bankable business plans, and also support financial institutions to make their systems friendly for women and their businesses.
AFAWA will in a systemic way transform the way financial institutions deal with women. In this regard the Bank will set up an AFAWA index which will rate and rank all financial institutions in Africa based on their rate of lending to women, interest rates charged and impacts on women.
The African Development Bank looks forward to working with all the African First Ladies as we roll out the AFAWA initiative across Africa to support women businesses.
No bird can fly with one wing. When women get the same access to finance as men, African economies will fly with two wings.
An economically empowered mother will empower her children and especially her girls. They will help them to achieve their full potential. They will support their girls to attend school, stay in school and achieve in school. They will make their girls winners. And that’s what Africa needs.
For when women win, Africa wins!
Thanks very much.