WOMENOMICS: How Inclusivity Could Help Boost the Economy of Africa

By ‘Mantsebeng Maepe (Guest Post)

Photo by Banjo Emerson Mathew on Unsplash

If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.

Dr. James Emman Kwegyir Aggrey

Imagine an Africa without poverty, disease and unemployment.  An Africa that competes with global world powers and trades with the rest of the world? What would you say if I told you, that Africa could be a reality if Africa worked on including women in the labour force?

This is not a far-fetched rambling dream of a young, gender activist but a true statistic that has been validated by world professionals such as McKinsey and Company. In a study penned: The power of parity, McKinsey&Company ascertains that $12 trillion dollars could be added to the GDP in 2025 if Womenomics came into play.

Africa loses around $95 billion without the participation of women in the labour force (UN, 2018). This participation is not just in the political arena, but business as well. Her right honourable Minister of Trade, Investment and industry in Botswana, Bogolo Kenewendo said it best, that we cannot talk about policies geared at reducing poverty in Africa without talking of gender equity policies. 

Inclusivity of women and young people in the African agenda would go a long way in ensuring that Africa achieves its 2035 SDG agenda. Advancing Gender Equality is one of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 5.

The United Nations Sustainable development goals were adopted in 2000 in agreement with all world leaders. The leaders agreed upon a set of 17 goals, which they deem as the most pressing global issues all countries share in common.

While most would argue that we should be focusing on the most pressing issues such as poverty, food insecurity and ensuring access to healthcare for all instead of focusing on trivial issues such as gender equality, what would you say if I told you that the key to eradicating poverty and food insecurity is deeply rooted in achieving gender equity?

Womenomics is a concept penned by the Japan Prime minister Shinzo Abe, a progressive plan meant to include women in the labour force and empower them. He was not the only leader to see the importance of including women in the labour force, Burkina Faso President Thomas Sankara, one of Africa’s upright, visionary and fearless leader who was also a staunch feminist believed in the notion too.

He believed that improving the status of women, having them participate in the labour force was one of the ways to improve the economy of Burkina Faso.

In order to achieve this “theory called ‘Womenomics’,” it would be essential to “create an environment in which women find it comfortable to work and enhance opportunities for women to work and to be active” (Schad-Seifert, 2018).

Women account for half of the working age population but only generate 37% of the GDP. You may wonder what women are engaged in if only that percentage is accounted for by only women. The answer is unpaid work.

75% of global unpaid work is done by women such as child care, cooking and cleaning.  For the women who do participate in the labour force, they are engaged in low-paying jobs and also work part time in order to take care of home-based responsibilities. 

It is also interesting to note that the career choices women make in university are mostly the social sciences as opposed to STEM subjects or business related subjects. This therefore insufficiently represents them in leadership positions and higher productivity sectors such as business services.

Moving closer to home, in the Lesotho context, female entrepreneurship is highly encouraged in order to attain economic growth and foster development in the country.

Female Agri-preneurs, tech-preneurs, and political leaders are integral for breaking out of the poverty cycle. The various jobs that would be created from including women in the labour force would help fight poverty and food insecurity.

One example is a look at the Grameen Bank. All it took, was the belief one man had in helping women to become active agents in the change they needed. Muhammed Yunus couldn’t have known that the small loans he was providing to the poorest women in Bangladash would spearhead development and accelerate economic growth in the country.

The Grameen bank proved that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development. As we celebrate Women’s month in August, we should strive towards inclusivity of women in the economy. Financial liberation for all. Happy women’s month to all.

‘Mantsebeng Maepe

Economist, SDG Pioneer, YALI Civic Change Leader