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Standard Bank Insights 14 April 2021

Women empowerment is a major growth opportunity for Africa

By Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group

Africa’s economic recovery can be meaningfully accelerated if policymakers and the private sector step up their efforts to empower women – a group that accounts for more than half of the continent’s population. 

While the pursuit of gender equality is primarily a moral obligation, it also makes economic sense. By denying women their full rights and opportunities, we are simply holding back growth and human development. 

Interventions aimed at eliminating the economic barriers that women contend with – such as financial exclusion and unequal access to quality education – contribute positively towards poverty alleviation and social upliftment. 

This means it is critical that women are better represented in policy-making positions and in executive roles in the private sector. 

Although we have made decent progress in this regard over the past few decades, there is a risk that the COVID-19 pandemic will halt or even reverse some of these gains. 

Far too many girls have been forced to drop out of school amid the pandemic, and this could have severe long-term consequences. Further, women are likely to bear the brunt of the economic downturn as they are more exposed to informal employment than men, and they remain overly responsible for unpaid household work. 

And, at a time when access to funding is critical for the survival of many small businesses, history shows us that women entrepreneurs face significantly greater obstacles than men when it comes to accessing financial services. To remain on track, and to ensure a rapid yet sustainable economic recovery from the global crisis, it is essential that all stakeholders play their part.