25 SEPTEMBER 2020
KEY NOTE SPEECH BY Mme Bineta DIOP SPECIAL ENVOY ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SEUCRITY
Mme Kimberley Fogg
Founder & CEO, Global Sustainable Partnerships (GSP)
Chair, Women’s Program Engagement Council (WPEC
First of all, I would like to congratulate the Women’s Program Engagement Council (WPEC), for the commendable work towards developing, growing, and sustaining women leadership and the contribution towards women’s economic empowerment in Africa and the Diaspora. Thank you for bringing us together today and for creating this amazing platform that aims to provide Black women entrepreneurs with access to global networks and potential investors.
Very warm congratulations to the top 10 Titans Tank Finalists. I salute the immense work that has culminated in the selection of these leading Titans and thank you Kimberley for your incisive leadership.
It is indeed an exciting and promising time for the women’s economic empowerment agenda in Africa despite the COVID-19 pandemic. As in any crisis, there are challenges but also opportunities. At the last summit of AU Heads of State and Government, the Assembly declared the years 2020-2030 as a decade of women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment. By doing so, African leaders recommitted to scale up actions for progressive gender inclusion towards sustainable development at the national, regional, and continental levels. The new decade is building on innovative approaches that we are witnessing in many African Union Member States. As an example, Kenya has institutionalized the allocation of 30% of government procurement of goods, services, and civil works to enterprises owned by women as well as youth and persons with disabilities (inclusive of women).
The efforts by WPEC to encourage inclusion and increase investment in women-led businesses are essential to contribute towards achieving the new decade of women’s financial and economic inclusion.
Social enterprises are integral to achieving Africa’s development due to their ability to create jobs and solutions for communities. Social entrepreneurs do not only provide sustainable solutions for communities, these individuals invest resources in their companies and also reinvest for job creation etc., hence the need to consider them as fully fledged businesses. On the other hand they are increasingly recognized as key to advancing women’s economic empowerment as they proportionally create more jobs for women.
The MSME Sector is the Key to Africa’s Economic Growth. There are about 365 to 445 million Micro, Small and Medium sized enterprises worldwide and four out of five new jobs in emerging markets are created by MSMEs. In Africa, 65% of employment is from MSMEs. However MSMEs face similar challenges in sub-Saharan Africa, that include limited access to finance, high taxes and limited access to digital technology. Women led MSMEs are more disadvantaged and likely to meet these challenges than their male counterparts.
To ensure their growth there is need to build strong and sustainable strategies in regards to financial inclusion and capacity development. I do believe that key elements towards this end include the following:
Firstly the adoption of mentorship as a way of ensuring their growth .Mentors as role models are valuable because they counsel women entrepreneurs where they are and help them decide where they want to be in the future. Mentoring enables them to realize what is possible and attainable. There is also a need for co-mentorship between generations, whereby you are both the mentor and the mentee in order to realize the full potential of businesses. I will give an example of the women into the fabric business in West Africa also known as the Mama Benz(older generation) and the Nana Benz (younger generation),the Mama Benz have vast experience and a great market potential in that industry and they trained their daughters who went to business School and are more conversant with innovation and technology, these two generations through co-leadership can be able to build and establish Fabric industries in Africa through combining the vast experience from the Mama Benz and innovation from the Nana Benz, hence creating more growth and development within the African continent. This approach has also been documented by the credit Suisse Investment Bank.
Secondly, Coaching is also key in building women led businesses hence the need to build a network of entrepreneur coaches who graduated from the small scale to a larger scale and are able to elevate the women lead MSMEs. Through this approach the women lead MSMEs will be able to grow and operate at a larger scale therefore accelerating the growth of their economy’s and the African economy at large.
Thirdly, in order to ensure growth in women led business there is need for capacity development. In 2007, through FAS I partnered with the Center for Diversity in Global Management at the Instituto de Empresa (IE), a business management school based in Madrid for the implementation of the Pan African Centre programme centered on women’s economic empowerment which was named “Training and Mentoring of Women-Led Businesses in Liberia, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Mozambique and Senegal”. The programme targeted 24 women who had established small business enterprises with a strong potential for growth. Through this programme a number of women have been able to scale up their businesses. One of the women from this programme told me she would not be able to complete the whole course but she could use the partial knowledge gained from the course on business planning and how she can pitch her business plan to a bank and secure funds. Today this woman is one of the leading furniture supplier in her country.
Finally the need for innovative financing and investment models that adopt the gender lens cannot be overemphasized. According to the World Bank, more than 70% of the African Women are excluded by the financial institutions or are unable to receive financial services, such as a savings or current account, loans, credit and other institutional services, with adequate conditions to meet their needs. Financial exclusion poses a great challenge, especially, for women entrepreneurs, hence the need for a paradigm shift in development finance.
Innovative financing vehicles such as the African Women Leadership Fund (AWLF), an innovative impact investment fund with the vision of empowered women financial leaders as integral to a prosperous Africa, provide the necessary capital for women led initiatives. The AWLF aims to create a sustainable platform to accelerate the growth of women-owned and operated companies across Africa, as captains of industry in the startup space, and also create a framework for supporting microenterprise. Over the decade the fund targets investing up to one billion dollars in women lead-businesses in partnership with African Women Fund Managers. This initiative is championed by the Economic Commission for Africa under the leadership of the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Chairperson of the African Union.
Additionally, initiatives like the Empowering Women in Agriculture (EWA) aimed at building the capacity of women farmers and promoting fair access of women to agricultural inputs (land, financing, technology, etc.), will help in building back post COVID-19. EWA also envisages an increase in participation of local women in high value agricultural value chains and food supply chains.
In 2019, the AU Commission officially launched the African Women for Infrastructure Network (ANWIN). This initiative seeks to promote women’s participation in Infrastructure development by involving women in engineering related disciplines. ANWIN aims to guide Member States engagement in policy dialogue to promote women’s participation in the fourth industrial revolution as the best way for getting girls and women out of the informal sector.
Women entrepreneurs also need to take advantage of initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA agreement seeks the creation of a single African market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments. The instrument will indeed lead to removal of tariff restrictions and other barriers on intra-African trade. Agriculture and food production which represents over 55 percent of Africa’s labour force and is the biggest employer of women is under AfCFTA’s radar and it is expected that intra-Africa trade on agricultural produce will increase, hence the need for women to be proactive and innovative in leading key agricultural value chains in order for them to fully benefit. Women also need to venture, grow and dominate in the transport and logistics sectors and lead innovation in these sectors in order to be benefit more from the AfCFTA.
I would like to conclude by highlighting the importance of digital connectivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that innovation and digital connectivity is essential to societal resilience and business continuity in times of crisis. We, have also seen how indigenous resources have been used to develop diagnostic and protective tools and build solutions in fighting the virus, for example the COVID-19 PCR testing kit which provides results in 65 minutes that was developed in South Africa. It is therefore necessary to build on these solutions and tool in order to foster technological advancement in the continent in order to bridge the gap and catch up with the rest of the world.
In this context, for us stakeholders who address structural issues, investment in digitalization in order to facilitate access to qualitative information on market infrastructure, climate forecast services, inputs and gender- friendly technology will help build resilience and improve their productivity. On the other hand I would like to urge investors, innovators and all the finalists to leverage on the platform that WPEC has created and build sustainable and win-win partnerships.
I thank you all.