The myth that women are ‘high risk’ in business must be dispelled, as there is a substantial need for the public and private sector to offer more financial services to women, in order to bridge the gender finance gap.
This was the notion obtained by African Leaders at the ongoing 2019 Global Gender Summit taking center stage in Kigali, Rwanda.
Hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in partnership with the Rwandan government, the Global Gender Summit demonstrates a high-level buy-in on the peculiarities of gender equality and empowering women to drive Africa’s economic development. It also seeks to activate greater policy representation and investment for women across the continent.
Speaking at the official opening of the summit, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda whose country currently has a 61% representation of women in the parliament said, “We got it from the beginning that there is a lot of work to do. We made investments to ensure that women are at the center of development. We are making sure that narrowing this gender gap is everyone’s responsibility.”
A large bulk of agricultural production in Africa comes from smallholder farmers, who are mostly rural women. Also, women comprise the largest percentage of the workforce in the agricultural sector across the continent, but reports indicate that these women are financially excluded.
It was against this backdrop that the leaders at the summit held that a greater path for multilateral development is to ensure that financial institutions show a greater level of investment in women and their businesses.
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in his opening presentation emphasized the need for the efforts of women in agribusinesses to be bolstered by enhancing financial equality and granting much-improved access to credit facilities to women.
In his words, “As we gather today, for the Global Gender Summit, we must focus on how to fast track economic, social and political opportunities for women, and girls. A smarter world must invest in women and girls. Let’s be smart and let’s be wise: women are the best investments any society can make. When they earn, they spend 90% of their income on their households, including their husbands.
“Women pay back their loans — an overwhelming 90%. Smart banks will lend to women. Yet, there exists globally close to $1.5 trillion financing gap for women-led small and medium-sized enterprises. In Africa, 70% of women are excluded financially. The continent has a $42 billion financing gap between men and women. And women, who are the majority of farmers in Africa, face a financing gap of close to $16 billion.”
Speaking in the same vein, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said the African Union was deliberate about gender parity. “What we are telling our heads of states is to take the bull by the horns…This discrimination is political, economic, and social; it is politically incorrect, unjustifiable social… not to take (gender) into account is a real waste.”
On her part, African Development Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Dr. Jennifer Blanke, said “We know that women are a good bet. We know they payback. We know they run excellent businesses – and yet they are not getting financed”
“We know that if we provide those guarantees, then the banks are going to be lending to a lot more women, and they are going to discover that women are an excellent bet – and are an excellent investment.” She added.