In Africa, women leaders and entrepreneurs have already proved in so many different ways to be really unstoppable in terms of how much progress they are driving and the inspiration they are giving to us all throughout the world.

Speech: Breaking remaining barriers for women and girls in Africa

We see that there are five African countries with women as Heads of State and Government and cabinets are becoming more gender balanced in several African countries. Just last night, one of my colleagues, the UN Women Regional Director for West and Central Africa, was appointed as the Minister of Economy, Planning and International Cooperation in her own country of Senegal. We applaud all these advances and offer congratulations. However, we must say that progress for the majority of women is very slow and very uneven. These are the issues that we really need to look at.

Women in Africa are excluded from the economy. Although women make up 58 per cent of Africa’s self-employed population, they make on average 34 per cent less money than men do.In Africa, women are still under-represented in decision-making and we need to figure out the best way to make sure they are more represented. Women are discriminated against in all areas; they have insufficient access to finances or land ownership. Women entrepreneurs don’t even have access to government tenders; women-owned businesses in sub-Saharan Africa win only an estimated one per cent of public procurement contracts. They really need to have access to this and the supply chain where they can be part of the economy of the formal sector as well as their presence in the informal sector.

We must also recall the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effect of the crises, and the climate emergency. These exact their highest price on women and girls. We know they are exacting a very high price on the women and girls in Africa, with drought, poverty,  and violence against women which has skyrocketed through COVID but also in relation to poverty and the discriminatory laws that they continue to fight. Generally they feel that they are excluded from being part and parcel of their own societies.

Opportunities to redress this include ensuring that we have special measures so that women become part of the decision making; so we need to look at quotas for women not only in decision making in government but also in the private sector. So I appeal to the private sector who are here today, to ensure more quotas for more women to find lucrative resources in their businesses and in their society where they can flourish. Access to digital technologies is another key for women, in terms especially for their education,  also for their entrepreneurship, their information, their health, and the services that they need to be able to become more empowered and more participatory in their society.

I thank you.