African Women Want Increased Access to Finance and Financial Services

28 Jul 2014

imageL-R: Zambia’s Minister of Gender and Child Development, Inonge Wina, Mrs. Graça Machel, AfDB President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka and Zambia’s Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda

The Third African Women’s Economic Summit (AWES) ended in Lusaka on Saturday, with a unanimous commitment by more than 200 women delegates pledging to campaign vigorously to improve women's access to finance and financial services as a means of harnessing their potentials for the development of the continent. 

Statements resonating at the gathering also entreated policy makers, financial institutions and political leaders to scale up measures that will promote women empowerment and remove barriers inhibiting their development.

Addressing the gathering, Zambia’s Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda said African women continue to lag behind their male counterparts in economic activities due to a hostile operating environment that militates against females. “We, the policy makers, have not tailored policies to answer their specific needs while market players have exploited them in a way that they cannot grow beyond subsistence level,” he said. 

Minister Chikwanda said it was imperative for policy makers to empower African women by ensuring that there is more equal opportunities and sustainable access to cheaper sources of finance and resources.

“We can positively impact and improve the quality of lives in our villages, communities, and rest of society when we have access to the right knowledge and support,” said Graça Machel, an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights.

Mrs. Machel encouraged women to build networks at national, regional and continental levels in order to define the critical issues which have to change if women are to advance economically.

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Donald Kaberuka, underscored the pivotal role that women can play in Africa's future growth, reiterating the Bank’s commitment to efforts aimed at scaling up women’s participation in the economic development of the continent. 

Dr. Kaberuka urged the financial sector not to be driven by greed, suggesting that “If Africa is to rise economically such economic growth must be embraced by all Africans.”

Earlier, Zambia’s Minister of Gender and Child Development, Inonge Wina set the tone of the meeting in an opening address emphasizing that women’s economic empowerment was cardinal to the development of the continent. “We  need  new and fresh  thinking in the way the banking and finance sectors operate across Africa and  to create new models for engaging and  assisting women to become entrepreneurs, investors, leaders and decision makers,” Zambia’

The Third African Women's Economic Summit, organized under the theme "African Women Realising Africa's Economic Potential," took place from 24 – 26 July 2014 in Lusaka, Zambia. It brought together a high-level audience of African and global decision makers including key stakeholders in the financial sector throughout the continent, women entrepreneurs as well as gender activists and think-tanks, to look at how to put women at the centre-stage of the African finance and economic development agenda in order to realise Africa's potential.

The summit is a collaborative effort of the African Development Bank and New Faces, New Voices, a women empowerment network founded by Mozambique’s former first lady, Graca Machel, the Bank of Zambia, the Zambian Government and the private sector as main sponsor.

The conference bags  were  sourced from a group of  orphans and  widows  based in Zambia and  this  was  a great show of  empowering the local Zambian  women.

An all-national women conference supported by UNDP was held the same week to promote women's economic empowerment as an important strategy for achieving national prosperity and development.