The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank has approved a new Gender Strategy for 2021-2025: “Investing in Africa’s women to accelerate inclusive growth.”
“This is a significant milestone for the Bank as it will guide our interventions in the next five years as we continue to increase our efforts to achieve outcomes and maximum impact on building gender equality on the ground for women to thrive,” said Vanessa Moungar, Bank Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society.
The strategy, approved on 11 December 2020, seeks to strengthen the Bank’s commitment as a leader on the continent, to reach gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment in Africa.
To bridge the existing gaps hindering women’s contribution to development, the Bank is addressing obstacles to inclusive economic and social transformation for women across Africa. The new Gender Strategy is anchored on three pillars.
Pillar 1: Empowering women through access to finance and markets:
This first pillar focuses on enhancing access to finance and technical assistance to women entrepreneurs in business model development, financial and business planning, to transform them into productive and competitive enterprises. The AFAWA flagship initiative, led by the African Development Bank, is key to achieving this pillar as it seeks to unlock $5 billion over five years to support women’s small and medium enterprises. The Bank will also dedicate efforts to creating opportunities for women in the non-financial sectors.
Pillar 2: Accelerating employability and job creation for women through skills enhancement:
This second pillar aims to increase access to relevant skills and jobs for women by considering the need to introduce more women to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields while leveraging technology to enhance access to skills and information.
Pillar 3: Increasing women’s access to social services through infrastructure:
Under the third pillar, the Bank will seek to influence gender-responsive quality infrastructure development to guarantee women have adequate access and positively benefit from infrastructure projects as stakeholders, workers and end-users.
Gender equality as a driving force to transform Africa
The African Development Bank has actively led on gender issues since the 1980s, developing and implementing strategies and tools to systematically integrate gender considerations into the Bank’s operations as well as targeted initiatives. The Bank’s 2021-2025 vision for gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment is to transform the continent’s key sectors into grounds of accessible opportunities where women, girls, men and boys, regardless of their background, enjoy equal access and control over productive resources and benefit from supportive infrastructure and services to thrive.
Commending all parties for their contribution to designing the new strategy, Moungar said, “the entire Bank ecosystem has been closely involved in its development through a highly consultative process involving Bank staff, members of the Board and capitals, as well as key external stakeholders, namely civil society organizations, regional and international organizations, and government representatives.”
Gender data and statistics show that women and girls are still lagging behind. Gender inequality in the labour market costs sub-Saharan Africa $95 million each year. The current COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the need for immediate attention to support vulnerable women and girls in fragile areas. A recent study jointly published by the African Development Bank, UN Women and Impact Her, based on a survey with over 1,300 women entrepreneurs across 30 African countries, revealed that 80% of women-owned small and medium enterprises had to temporarily or permanently shut down their businesses due to pandemic restrictions.
Through this new Gender Strategy, the Bank will capitalize on its longstanding experience, leadership and convening power as well as building on its comparative advantage to achieve maximum impact on the ground.