A new report reveals persistent barriers in the digital finance sector that limit women's economic empowerment in Africa, while recommending policy responses to overcome them.
Commissioned by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the latest edition of the Biennial Report on African Women was released today.
The report looks at the digital finance ecosystem in Africa to examine all of its components and how they impact women's economic prospects.
Barriers The report identifies five key issues that affect the use of digital finance as a catalyst for the economic empowerment of women in Africa.
First, despite having more mobile money services than anywhere else in the world, women's access to digital, mobile and internet services in Africa is limited due to illiteracy, cost, skills gap and social norms.
Second, while impressive progress is being made in improving women's digital financial skills, Africa lags behind other regions.
For example, the proportion of women with digital financial skills in North Africa has doubled from 12.5% in 2014 to 25.7% in 2018, exceeding the global average of around 20%.
However, the same figure stands at just 12 percent for the entire continent.
Third, only 33 percent of women in Africa have a formal bank account compared to 43 percent of men.
This gap, along with limited access to economic assets, increases women's vulnerability and exclusion from profitable sectors and formal jobs.
Fourth, social norms, as well as biases inherent in financial practices, products and services, negatively affect women.
Finally, the lack of participation of women in decision-making processes, as well as in the financial and technological fields, means that digital finance policies and products are unlikely to include women's perspectives and meet their needs.
Additionally, in some African countries, women are nine times less likely to have formal identification than men, preventing them from freely and securely accessing, owning and using digital financial services.
Speaking about the report, Ms. Edlam Yemeru, Acting Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at ECA, said: “Africa is a world leader in a number of transactional technologies, such as mobile money, but there is still considerable room left.
to scale up digital finance and ensure that women can make the most of the resulting opportunities.
This requires addressing a number of barriers related to connectivity, digital literacy, cost, laws and culture.” He continued: "Our report takes a holistic approach in looking at the digital finance ecosystem and outlines policy options for governments to further develop the sector and accelerate financial inclusion while paving the way for women's economic empowerment, leaving no one behind."
Responses The report outlines 10 policy responses that governments should consider to ensure their national digital ecosystem supports, not challenges, women's economic empowerment.
Specific responses include prioritizing female representation in the sector, training people, especially women, in digital finance, reforming laws for greater acceptance of mobile money, and designing gender-sensitive policies that combine technology with social development.
The report proposes that sex-disaggregated data on internet use, mobile device ownership and financial literacy should be part of national household surveys to inform relevant policy design.
It further recommends incorporating digital finance frameworks into national development plans and working with credit bureaus to address the potential for inherent gender bias within credit reporting systems.
Finally, the report urges African countries to establish regional justice and regulatory frameworks for digital finance using the African Continental Free Trade Area as a platform to enable digital identities and enhance cross-border cooperation.
The African Women's Report is the ECA's biennial flagship publication.
The latest edition focuses on 'Digital Financial Ecosystems: Pathways to Women's Economic Empowerment in Africa'.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), is set to encourage policy research to promote economic growth in West Africa.
In a statement issued on the website of the UNECA on Friday, the commission inaugurated a seminar on Wednesday in Accra, It was the second edition of its Think-Tanks and Experts Seminar on Population Dynamics for Development in West Africa, which opened on Wednesday and would close on Saturday.
The seminar had as its theme; “Bridging the Research-Policy Gap to Accelerate the Demographic Dividend in West Africa”.
The meeting aimed to accelerate progress toward the demographic dividend by stimulating policy-oriented research and translation to strengthen evidence-based policy and planning processes in West Africa.
The objective of the meeting was to engage researchers and discuss their roles in addressing policy needs in the sub-region.
Another objective was to deepen the survey results and facilitate knowledge sharing and peer mentoring.
Furthermore, it was aimed at facilitating experience sharing, peer mentoring, and collaboration among researchers to promote evidence-based policy-making.
It also sought to enhance the link among the ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa (ECA-), knowledge producers, and policymakers in the sub-region.
Director of the ECA-, Ngone Diop said the major challenge was to make good use of the powerful and important results of research on population dynamics.
Diop said that the purpose was to inform and guide the choice of economic, social and governance policies, and also resources allocation.
“We need to do more, better, and faster, that is the key message coming out of our substantive survey of 164 researchers.
“The results of which helped us identify and understand the missing link between research and policy, research and action, and the fact that research results are only marginally taken into account in the formulation of policies and programmes.
“In this case, those aiming at accelerating the capture of the demographic dividend.
” The four-day seminar is being attended by think-tanks, universities, research institutes, individual researchers, and intergovernmental organisations at the forefront of research in the West African sub-region.
The call for African women with idea stage start-up ideas to participate in the ECA-BetaCube Initiative Launch Competition and Bootcamp Series concluded successfully in September 2022.
The Bootcamp involved a total of 74 female participants selected among 338 applicants, 12 finalists and 8 projects from the four selected countries, that is, Tunisia, Senegal, Tanzania and Ethiopia, all selected by a local jury.
The result of the competition showed that African women are more than ready to tackle the socio-economic problems of the continent with technological ideas that cover strategic areas such as the optimization of agricultural results and the improvement of health education.
The first stage of the Tech African Women (TAW) initiative focused on 3 days of tailored workshops introducing key skills to inspire entrepreneurs and prepare them for the pitching competition.
The Bootcamp mainly included training in market analysis, team building, lean startup methodology and presentation of projects with relevance to the UN Sustainable Development Goals as final project selection criteria along with potential market size, scope of innovation and scalability of the idea.
The best 1st and 2nd place startup ideas from each of the pitching competitions held on the third day of each city boot camp won a ticket to gain access to a 2-month non-equity incubation program and a Fully funded trip to Addis Ababa for the final ceremony.
The second stage of the program, which is the incubation phase, will focus on bringing startups to the level of investment readiness with a fully functioning MVP.
The founders will have the support of experts in Market Research, Product Management, Branding, Pitching and Finance.
At the end of the incubation program, the 8 new companies will be able to exhibit and present the projects to which they are dedicating their time and effort.
This event will be held at the ECA Conference Center in Addis Ababa, where national investors, partners and key players in the Ethiopian ecosystem will be mobilized for this demo day.
TAW, as one of the ECA initiatives prioritizing the focus on digital technologies in a holistic way encompassing the social and economic benefits of greater equality and ongoing efforts to reduce the digital skills gap, has made a big step forward for break down barriers to the empowerment of girls and young women.
to pursue STEAM in the year 2022.
The ECA is honored to congratulate all TAW participants for joining the competition and advancing their foundational skills with special gratitude to the best artists in each country.
The finalists Tunisia 1st place: Govinda: an application dedicated to cow farmers to optimize the quality of milk and meat by improving the nutrition and health status of cows.
2nd place: Apple of my Eye: A platform capable of bringing together all the data related to mothers and children and offering recommendations based on web analytics and machine learning.
Senegal 1st place: Noppal Tech: An application linked to an air purifier made entirely in Senegal 2nd place: Hydro Tech Services: An automatic system made up of several sensors that allow the tank to be filled remotely and check the physicochemical parameters through a digital platform Tanzania 1st place: UJANA: An e-commerce platform for sexual and reproductive health supplies where young people can buy products and receive information on SRH without fear of being judged, stigmatized and discriminated against.
2nd Place: PlateAI Company: PlateAI harnesses the power of AI to plan healthy food choices that align with the health goals of people at risk of dietary disease.
as well as deliver them to your customers at their doorstep in an affordable way.
Ethiopia 1st place: TenaSeb - ጤና ሠብ: An app that provides education on (Sexual and Reproductive Health through consultation for women.
2nd place: Makoyamoms: A platform that helps mothers easily get a caregiver available to them while offering newcomers For more information on TAW, you can visit: www.TechAfricanWomen.com
Experts at the WTO Public Forum discuss greening micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to reap the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area In a session organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Trade Center International (ITC) as part of the 2022 World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum on September 27, 2022, experts urged the private sector to seize the opportunities brought by the green transition in Africa.
The panel discussion titled "MSMEs: The Key to Achieving Sustainable Profits under the AfCFTA", moderated by Melaku Desta, Coordinator of ECA's Africa Center for Trade Policy, explored sustainable initiatives to embed green solutions in Africa's small businesses and attracted over 100 online and face-to-face participants.
Panelists also underscored the sustainable gains that can be reaped from green trade in conjunction with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and called on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to anticipate challenges as companies seek to integrate green solutions.
In her opening remarks, Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of ITC, highlighted ITC's Green2Compete initiative, which helps small businesses improve their competitiveness by integrating green production techniques for sustainable trade.
ITC is also working closely with the African Standards Organization (ARSO) to increase the transparency of private sustainability standards and has plans to scale up its work with market partners to achieve harmonization of these environmental standards, making them more accessible to small businesses.
In her remarks, Hermogène Nsengimana, Secretary General of ARSO, emphasized the need to prioritize the harmonization of standards to achieve sustainability.
Lately, the sustainability and resilience of value chains have become more important due to the disruptions induced by COVID-19 and the demand for more sustainable production and trade has increased.
This was stated by Robert Hamwey, Economic Affairs Officer of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
On strengthening the capacities of MSMEs to improve their competitiveness in national, regional and global markets, Annalisa Primi, Head of Economic Transformation and Development at the OECD Development Centre, underscored the need to reform policies that divide sectors informal and formal, in order to enable the poor to participate in markets and engage in higher value-added business activities.
Describing the importance of increased investment in Africa's green energy transition, Maximiliano Méndez-Parra, Principal Fellow at ODI, affirmed the role the AfCFTA can play in securing investment in green energy and technology.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is set to launch the third phase of the Africa Programme on Gender Statistics (APGS III) aimed at improving gender statistics at regional and national levels.
This is contained in a statement issued on the website of United Nations ECA on Tuesday.
The statement said the launch would be at the ongoing Joint Africa Gender Statistics Conference being held in Nairobi, Kenya.
The conference, which started on Sept. 26, would end on Sept. 30. The African Group on Gender Statistics in 2012 developed a regional programme on gender statistics to address the issues of generating timely and comparable accurate statistics on gender in Africa.
The programme, called the APGS, is a five-year regional programme aimed at improving the availability of accurate gender statistics at the national, regional and international levels.
It brings together initiatives aimed at the development of gender statistics that need to be undertaken by regional organisations, international agencies and other institutions at the regional level.
The first phase of the programme covered the period of 2012 to 2016 while the second phase was from 2017 to 2021. According to the statement, ECA is the secretariat for the APGS.
The APGS had, however, contributed significantly to the improvements in gender statistics at both the regional and national levels.
The programme made strides in improving the availability of accurate and standardised gender statistics by developing methodologies and approaches for the production of gender statistics in Africa.
However, much remains to be done in improving coordination and reinforcing partnerships to strengthen knowledge, skills, and communication related to the production, dissemination, and use of gender statistics.
Nonetheless, this would be one of the main focus areas of APGS III.
Speaking, Themba Munalula, Chief Statistician, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), said gender equality had been recognised as essential to the process of sustainable development.
”Gender equality has increasingly been recognised as being essential to the process of sustainable development and the formulation of effective national development policies and programmes,” Munalula said.
Also, Roza Mamuye Bora, Principal Statistician at the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) said African countries had benefits producing high-quality, timely and reliable gender data.
“Given the pivotal response of gender equality in socioeconomic and cultural development, ensuring that African countries produce high-quality, timely, and reliable gender data has far-reaching benefits,” said Bora. Furthermore, Dr Maxime Houinato, UN Women East and Southern Africa Regional Director, said the objective of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was to improve the lives of women and girls.
“Gender data and statistics are not just important for their own sake.
“The end goal is really to improve the lives of women and girls as envisioned by the SDGs and other regional and international plans.
“While nearly all countries in the region have endorsed the SDGs and incorporated them into national strategies and plans, lack of funding is often cited as the most critical impediment in the region,” said Houinato.
Also speaking, Fatouma Sissoko, Gender Statistician at the United Nations ECA, agreed that lack of funding had hindered the progress of national offices to generate gender data.
“This has hindered the progress of national statistical offices in designing the systems and operations needed to generate gender data for evidence-based policymaking and advocacy,” Sissoko said.
More than 150 public and civil society actors from 40 African countries convened in Nairobi, Kenya for the Joint Africa Gender Statistics Conference.
The conference has as its theme “Gender Statistics Imperatives for Africa.
” It is expected to examine gender statistics through the Agenda 2063 and the SDGs that support gender equality and women’s empowerment, and global guidance on violence against women data, among others.
Delegates would exchange knowledge on the latest innovations and best practices in gender statistics to inform action plans in African Union member states and the region.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), has inaugurated a network for Francophone African journalists to enhance the visibility of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
This is contained in a statement issued by the Communications Section of the ECA on Monday.
The statement said that a three-day workshop was held in Dakar, Senegal from Sept. 12 to 14 tagged: “AfCFTA Media Network”.
The network of journalists, supported by the European Union, comprises editors, journalists and bloggers from newspapers, online media, radio and television networks.
The overall objective of the network is to foster the development of a responsible and dynamic partnership with African Francophone media for the successful implementation of the AfCFTA.
Through this partnership, United Nations ECA seeks to actively involve these journalists in informing the population in the implementation process of AfCFTA.
The commission also seeks to raise awareness and sensitise citizens in their own countries through their reporting.
Ibrahim Moussa, a journalist from Niger and a member of the network, said the workshop was useful to him and other participants.
“In spite that I have been covering AfCFTA activities, it is through this training that I have discovered the real issues, and especially what is expected of us in AfCFTA implementation,’’ Moussa said.
Also speaking, Aichath Alédji, a journalist from Benin, said the idea of establishing an AfCFTA Media Network was very interesting as it provided a platform to share stories on AfCFTA.
“We are used to saying that a journalist’s first source is his or her colleague and today it is a chance to have such a rich and diverse AfCFTA ‘Address Book’.
” He said that the ECA experts’ presence in the platform was an opportunity to seize.
“This is because we then have continuous and reliable information that we can partake with our audience,” Alédji said.
The commission had already established a similar network for English-speaking media in March.
Francophone journalists urged UNECA to provide a link between the Francophone and the Anglophone network so they could jointly work on enhancing the visibility of AfCFTA.
The establishment of this network is part of the European Union-funded project: “Deepening Africa’s Trade Integration through Effective Implementation of the AfCFTA to Support Economic Integration’’.
The aim of the project is to advocate the ratification and implementation of AfCFTA by all African Union member states.
It also aims to support member states to develop and operationalise their national strategies and a national plan for effective implementation and monitoring of the AfCFTA.
It further aims to build the capacity of national and regional stakeholders to implement the competitiveness and structural reforms necessary for the AfCFTA to achieve its intended outcomes.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) launched a network for Francophone African journalists, called "AfCFTA Media Network", to improve the visibility of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), following a three-day workshop in Dakar, Senegal.
from 12 to 14 September.
The network of journalists, supported by the European Union, is made up of editors, journalists and bloggers from newspapers, online media, radio and television networks.
The overall goal of the network is to foster the development of a responsible and dynamic partnership with francophone African media for the successful implementation of the AfCFTA.
Through this partnership, UNECA seeks to actively engage these journalists to inform the population about the AfCFTA implementation process and raise awareness and sensitize citizens in their own countries through their reporting.
According to Ibrahim Moussa, a journalist from Niger who is a member of this newly established network, "I have to confess that this workshop was very useful for me and for all the participants."
"Although I have been covering AfCFTA activities, it is through this training that I discovered the real issues, and especially what is expected of us in the implementation of AfCFTA," added Ibrahim Moussa.
For Aichath Alédji, a journalist from Benin, "The idea of establishing an AfCFTA Media Network is very interesting in the sense that it provides us with a platform to share all our stories about AfCFTA.
We are used to saying that the first source of a journalist is his colleague and today is an opportunity to have such a rich and diverse AfCFTA "Address Book".
He went on to explain that the presence of ECA Experts on the platform is an opportunity to take advantage of "because then we have continuous and reliable information that we can share with our audience," said Mr. Alédji.
ECA had already established a similar network for English-speaking media in March.
Francophone journalists urged UNECA to provide a link between the Francophone and Anglophone networks so that they can work together to improve the visibility of AfCFTA The establishment of this network is part of the project financed by the European Union: "Deepening the integration n Africa through the effective implementation of the AfCFTA to support economic integration" with a total budget of 8 million euros.
The goal of the project is to: 1) advocate for the ratification and implementation of the AfCFTA by all AU member states; 2) support member states to develop and implement their national strategies and a national plan for the effective implementation and monitoring of the AfCFTA; and 3) building the capacity of national and regional stakeholders to implement the competitiveness and structural reforms necessary for the AfCFTA to achieve its intended results.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and partners have selected five companies for further evaluation to support the production of medicines and medical products.
This is contained in a statement issued by the Communications Section, Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative on Friday.
UNECA and its partners held a three-day Technical Review Panel (TRP) Evaluation Workshop for its AfCFTA-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative in Kigali, Rwanda from Sept. 13 to 15. The companies were selected for further evaluation under the Pharma Initiative Guidelines.
The workshop’s objective, however, was to review the Expression of Interest proposals submitted for the Local Pharmaceutical Production Pillar of the Initiative.
The initiative is to produce Sexual, Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child Healthcare (SRMNCH) products in Africa.
The TRP was also chaired by the World Health Organisation-Africa Region (WHO-AFRO).
The ECA Chief of Regional Integration Section, Mr Francis Ikome welcomed members of the TRP and highlighted the historic events which led to the formation of the Pharma Initiative.
Ikome took the meeting through a review of the global and regional frameworks based on the initiative’s three pillars.
The pillars are: Pooled-Procurement, localised production, and harmonised regulatory quality standards of medicines.
He emphasised that the ECA-led AfCFTA Pharma Initiative provided a validated and continentally anchored blueprint for scaling up SRMNCH products in Africa.
The initiative is also leveraging on the implementation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) and the AfCFTA.
In his opening remarks, Dr Emile Bienvenu, the Director-General of the Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority said the Rwandan government strongly advocated pooled procurement along with the pilot countries.
The director-general added that AMA Secretariat was the host.
Bienvenu was represented by Dr Nyirimigabo Fatouma.
He said, “we are looking forward to engaging with all stakeholders to ensure that continental pharmaceutical production complies with WHO standards.
” Mr Moses Chisale, Chair of the TRP and Technical Advisor, WHO-AFRO said the Pharma Initiative should be commended for the work it was doing, especially regarding policy dialogue engagements.
“The AfCFTA-anchored Pharma Initiative represented lucrative private sector investment and innovation opportunities that will change lives, reduce poverty and contribute to Africa’s inclusive and sustainable economic development,” Chisale said.
According to the statement, the TRP selected five out of the eleven companies for further evaluation under the Pharma Initiative Guidelines.
The selected companies would undergo further evaluation to ascertain the technical and financial support they need from the ECA and its collaborating partners.
This is to enable them to scale up production of quality assured SRMNCH products in Africa.
The members of the TRP are: United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, United Nations Children’s Fund and the African Union Commission.
Others are African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development, United Nations Population Fund, United States Pharmacopoeia, and the United Nations Programme on .
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and its partners conducted a 3-day Technical Review Panel (TRP) assessment workshop for its African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative in Kigali, Rwanda, September 13-15, 2022 The objective of the workshop was to review the Expression of Interest proposals submitted for the Local Pharmaceutical Production Pillar of the Initiative to produce Sexual, Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health products ( SRMNCH) in Africa.
The TRP, whose members are WHO-AFRO, UNIDO, UNICEF, AUC, AUDA-NEPAD, UNFPA, United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and UNAIDS, was chaired by WHO-AFRO.
The Head of the ECA Regional Integration Section, Mr. Francis Ikome, welcomed the members of the TRP and highlighted the historical events that led to the formation of the Pharmaceutical Initiative.
Mr. Ikome led the meeting through a review of global and regional frameworks based on the initiative's three pillars, namely joint procurement, localized production, and harmonized regulatory quality standards for medicines.
He emphasized that the ECA-led AfCFTA Pharmaceutical Initiative provides a continentally anchored and validated plan for scaling up Sexual Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (SRMNCH) products in Africa.
The Initiative also builds on the implementation of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In his opening remarks, Dr. Nyirimigabo Fatouma, representing the Director General of the Rwanda Food and Drug Authority, said that the Government of Rwanda strongly advocates joint procurement together with the pilot countries and as host to the Secretariat.
of the African Medicines Agency (AMA).
He explained that "we look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to ensure that continental pharmaceutical production meets WHO standards."
Mr. Moses Chisale, TRP Chair and Technical Advisor to the World Health Organization Africa Region (WHO-AFRO), said that the Pharmaceutical Initiative should be commended for the work it is doing, especially with regard to to policy dialogue commitments.
He added that "the AfCFTA-anchored Pharmaceutical Initiative represents lucrative private sector investment and innovation opportunities that will change lives, reduce poverty and contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic development in Africa."
After lengthy but productive deliberations, the TRP selected five of the eleven companies for further evaluation under the Pharmaceutical Initiative Guidelines.
The selected companies will undergo further assessment to determine the technical and financial support they require from the ECA and its collaborating partners to enable them to increase the production of quality-assured SRMNCH products in Africa.
The ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa has urged African media to put pressure on governments concerning policies on education, health, job creation, women and youth Empowerment.
Ms Ngone Diop, the Director, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said this at a virtual news briefing on youth and women empowerment on Thursday.
The director said that policy commitments at national and regional levels were not always matched by actions with many youths and women still jobless or in informal employment, with few prospects and no representation.
She said youths and women struggle to access public resources and quality social services.
She said that concrete actions were required to create decent jobs for the 16 million unemployed young Africans facing unemployment.
She, however, said the commission would keep on working with the media to put “pressure on your governments”.
“Education, health, job creation, not only in the informal sector, those pillars have to be taken into account in those policies.
You have your economic policy, and others as well.
“Planners are sitting around the table to figure out where they want to go, where their objectives are.
“We have to be always aware of the demographic dividend when all these policies are being designed.
But at the end of the day, the responsibility rests with the state.
“And this is why we need to do advocacy.
” Diop said that governments in Africa had inadequate funds to put right policies in place and pledged the support of the ECA.
“We have to have this policy uptake by governments to say well, we want to have the right policies but our budget does not show our priorities to take into account the structure of our population.
“It does not answer to short term needs, middle or long term needs of our youth because we need youth and women in empowerment with the right policies at hand.
“So, this is the kind of support we are trying to give to governments.
So we are trying to do a lot but this is not enough yet.
“And we need to have also together with what we are trying to do, the right policies and other interventions as well, which should be undertaken by our countries, by our governments.