The East African Community (EAC) this week, held a two-day ‘Making Finance Work for Africa’ (MFW4A) round table meeting on ‘Women and Access to Finance in Africa’ in Arusha, Tanzania.
The meeting was aimed at exchanging best practices and information and the replication of innovative approaches, with the objective to draft gender sensitive financial sector policy recommendations for African policymakers.
In his remarks, EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors, Mr. Jean Claude Nsengiyumva noted that over the past three to four decades the issues of equity and mainstreaming gender in social and economic development have taken centre stage in the global development discourse.
“East Africa has not been left behind in embracing this cause. Since the signing in 1999 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, which enshrined elaborate provisions for women’s empowerment and mainstreaming of gender in the regional programmes, the region has realized steady incremental gains in the area of women’s emancipation,” he said.
He added that the commitment at the EAC level has cascaded to the national and grassroots community levels and has involved national authorities, civil society including community based organizations (CBOs) and the private sector in addressing old marginalization of women and the skewed allocation of resources and assignment of responsibilities, rights and roles, from the family unit to the society at large.
“Most important of all, the countries of the region have focused on the promotion of women’s access to development opportunities and resources, in particular, access to the savings and credit facilities of the more institutionalized financial systems”.
In her keynote address, Bank of Zambia Deputy Governor (Administration), Dr. Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula, noted that access to finance should mean an environment in which people have access to the formal financial system, through the use of different financial products at affordable prices.
“As we are all aware, the economic empowerment of women is a prerequisite for sustainable development and the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals,” said Dr. Mabula. “Women’s economic empowerment is fundamental to strengthening women’s rights and enabling women to have control over their lives and exert influence in society”.
The meeting, organized by EAC with the support of GIZ, has brought together more than thirty African stakeholders and development partners to and will be the first step to establish an Africa-wide working group to jointly draft a policy paper on Women and Access to Finance.
Women form a big proportion of the world population and command a sizeable role in the societies’ socio-economic activities and are therefore important economic and social change agents.
In Africa, women constitute more than half of the population and form the majority of the labour force, especially in agricultural activities and household welfare, which remain the backbone of these economies.
A large number of women also run micro, small and medium enterprises that constitute a significant share of economic activity in our economies. It cannot be doubted therefore, that women play a critical role in the process of economic development on the African continent.
The Partnership Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) supports the efforts of African countries to accelerate economic growth and reduce poverty by facilitating financial sector development. The Partnership’s work is driven by the recognition that sound and inclusive financial sectors are strategic drivers of private sector development, employment generation, and equitable growth in Africa. (Website: www.mfw4a.org)
The expected outcomes of this Round Table are in line with the main recommendations of the EAC conference on “The Role of Women in Socio-economic Development and Women in Business” (Kigali, Rwanda, August 2011).
It was noted that although the Partner States have adequate policies and legal frameworks, a review is necessary to better serve the needs of women. Access to finance was identified as a topic to have a closer look at.
East African Community (EAC)