By Tokunbo Adedoja
To ensure women get the critical financial help they need, a new tool to track the level of lending to women across Africa is in the offing.
African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina disclosed this on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
According to him, The Women’s Financing Index, currently under development, will rate banks and financial institutions who apply for loans from the African Development Bank, against the amounts they have lent or are lending to women.
Speaking on the sidelines of panel discussions organised by the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) in New York with the theme, ‘Empowering Women in Conflict Zones in Africa’, Adesina said, “Institutions will be rated by their development impact: the rate and volume at which they lend to women.”
He added that top institutions will be rewarded with preferential financing terms from the African Development Bank.
“Despite being at the forefront of economic activity on the continent, women in Africa are disproportionately disadvantaged, particularly those in conflict-ridden areas, who are three times less likely to go to school, have less access to resources and justice, and are unable to obtain funding for businesses, farming and other commercial ventures,” a release by the bank said.
AfDB, through its AFAWA, initiative – Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa – aims to mobilise $3 billion to bridge the financing gap for women on the continent.
Speaking at the first panel moderated by former French Minister of State for Human Rights, Ambassador Rama Yade, the Chief Economist of Afreximbank, Dr Hippolyte Fofack, said its vision to promote intra-African trade was directly tied to the theme of providing women with credit.
“Access to finance is at the root of development initiatives…that is why Afreximbank was created,” Fofack said.
Fofack noted that Afreximbank’s top goals included supporting African women in agri-processsing to minimize post-harvesting losses, and acting as trade financing intermediaries.
“We are committed to providing loans but we also grow with our clients,” he said.
Panelist in a second panel moderated by AfDB Director for gender, women and civil society, Vanessa Moungar, panelists discussed the “nexus of peace, security, environment and development.”
First lady of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Denise Tshisekedi, while opening the session, spoke on the disadvantaged position Congolese women. According to her, 50-80 percent of women work in farming, while only 30 percent have access to the formal work sector.
“The biggest problem is conflict and displacement,” she said.
Other participants included US Deputy Assistant Secretary for State for East Africa and the Sudans, Bureau of African affairs, Ambassador Makila James; UN Women Regional Director, West and Central Africa, Oulimata Sarr, and executive director of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Andrew Wilson.
The panelists said that areas of conflict required greater flexibility to accommodate skill and education gaps.
“Economically empowered women become politically empowered women,” Wilson said, adding, “All businesses have problems with access to markets, but it’s harder for women.”
He further stated that “Women need to get better organised through groups – women’s business groups and to build coalitions across groups.”
James noted that it was essential that women are heard, adding, “There is a role for government; women have to be at the policy and decision-making table.”
Sarr, who referred to the Sahel as the epicentre of conflict and climate change, said that questions of policy and skills development and financing needed to be asked.
“How do we de-risk women and grant them access to markets? I believe economic empowerment will bring about peace”, she added.