In the past two decades there has been huge focus from local and international development institutions on women’s economic empowerment in Africa. International organisations such as Vital Voices, Women for Women International, AGOA and many more, have been successfully designing and implementing women’s empowerment programmes in collaboration with local women’s platforms in Africa. The main segment targeted by many such programmes have been women in informal and micro enterprises operating in sectors such as handcrafts, sewing, agro-processing and beauty… Services offered include: Business skills, coaching and mentorship, packaging and marketing skills and in some instances, women receive extra support with market identification for their products as well as access to micro-finance.
While the current interest from local and international development partners is placed on establishing successful income generating activities for women in informal and micro sectors, the impact of these programmes remain at a micro level whereby participating women contribute to reduce household poverty. A very important segment comprising of small and medium enterprises (SME’s) owned and managed by women continue to be under-serviced by most of these programmes. This segment holds an enormous potential to contribute significantly in job creation and in the continent’s economy growth as a whole. In recent years, the African region has experienced a vigorous surge of women involvement in the mainstream economy including primary infrastructure sectors such as construction, transportation, science, information and communication technology, energy, oil, gas and mining. As such the promotion of women involved in these formal sectors should remain an important priority for African leaders as well as global stakeholders.
While in general, women of Africa face numerous constraints for their empowerment, women operating in small and medium enterprises encounter major difficulties to build sustainable enterprises with the main constraint being the lack of access to affordable business or project finance. Consequently they are held back from growing their business ventures and becoming full participants in economic growth of their respective countries.
The Emergence of Women in the Mainstream Economy
There is an ever growing acknowledgement of the importance to engage women as stakeholders and integral role-players in the socio-economic development of Africa as they seek to be at the forefront of driving the economic growth in Africa. Women across the continent continue to actively mobilize like-minded leaders and businesswomen to find collective ways that encourages, promotes and communicates the need for extensive participation in the process of re-building Africa. Since 2008, Leading Women of Africa (LWA) has built a pan-African network of women entrepreneurs involved in the mainstream sectors of the economy. The LWA Network has acknowledged more than ever the importance to engage with all stakeholders at public and private sectors in order to promote win-win partnership and the integration of women in the mainstream economy in Africa. While robustly lobbying for these, women are however, confident that hard work on their part, proactive thinking accompanied by dedicated political will from decision makers, can make this process possible and speedy.
Integrating Women of Infrastructure Projects
Across Africa, women are mobilizing themselves to find ways to ensure their active and massive participation in the process of rebuilding Africa through designing and planning infrastructure projects in Africa. It is critically important that women’s interests, views and full participation in the designing and planning of infrastructure development be taken seriously not only by African governments but also by partners for development. The presence of multiple women’s construction, engineering, ICT companies proudly led by women themselves prove that women of Africa are capable of playing a positive role in the process of establishing a solid and sustainable win-win collaboration with other stakeholders. There are ever growing confirmations that integrating women into the mainstream economy will contribute in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa in years to come as part of post MDGs strategy.
Creating Win-Win Partnership with Women
There is an outcry to appeal to African Governments and African partners for development, to invite women as key stakeholders in the process of development of Africa. Women investors and entrepreneurs across Africa are ready to partner with development stakeholders on a win-win basis terms. With this in mind, women are appealing to Governments, corporate companies, African partners for Development, to ensure that women have access to economic resources and opportunities at the same rate as their male counter parts.
Partnering with Women of Africa is Smart Economics
Confident of Africa’s growth opportunities, women are strategically positioning themselves to take advantage of numerous trade and investment opportunities in Africa. LWA has been working tirelessly to ensure that women emerge as successful leaders in mainstream industries and sectors of the African economy. LWA is in the process of building a pool of investors, funders, financial and technical partners who might be looking to diversify their investment portfolios in Africa.
If your answer is “yes” to the following questions, then you need to engage with us:
- Is Africa part of your growth or expansion strategy?
- Are you looking to invest in projects with high return potential in Africa?
- Are you considering entering in partnership with credible businesswomen in Africa?
- Are you looking to access the African market and decision makers?
For more information, please contact Madelein Mkunu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Madelein Mkunu | Visionary Entrepreneur | Founder & President, Leading Women of America (LWA) | Director, LWA Corporate Investment (LWA-CI) | Gender & Business Development Consultant
Madelein is a Visionary Entrepreneur whose dream is to shape a new generation of African leaders through various programmes. Madelein has built an unparalleled reputation for her innovative thinking and her strategic approach to women and business development in Africa. Through her leadership, she is building global influence, catalyzing change and driving innovation.
She is Founder & President of Leading Women of Africa (LWA) and currently the Director of LWA-Corporate Investment, a firm that increases the number of women involved in investment, international trade and other services in Africa. She sits on the board of South African Small and Medium Enterprise Federation (SASMEF) and has experience in business development, strategic planning, policy, programme design, implementation, leadership training and women’s empowerment strategies. Madelein’s passion is seeing women contribute to rebuilding the continent through access in the mainstream economy. She was mentored by one of the founders of Africa, the First President of Zambia, Dr. David Kenneth Kaunda.
The views expressed by the author(s) of article(s) published in this newsletter are their personal views and should not be interpreted as the views of The Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT) or its individual members. See full disclaimer here.