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Women are Essential to Africa’s Recovery Plan

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By Mark Elliott, Division President of Mastercard, Southern Africa

I was having an engaging Zoom chat about financial inclusion last week with a senior female executive when we were interrupted by her charming toddler who had other priorities. After some on-screen introductions and my poor attempt to entertain her child, she shared a personal reflection. Despite her partner being in an adjacent room, the little one tended to knock on her door frequently.

As we are now seeing in the data, the pandemic’s effect has added to the pressures experienced by women. Often women have had to pick up more household chores and childcare duties, and many have had to face unemployment as their jobs are 1.8x more vulnerable as they tend to work in sectors that are hardest hit by the economic downturn such as retail, restaurants etc. According to the UN Women, the pandemic risked turning back the clock on gender equality by 25 years.

But, if we collectively activate the power of women’s contribution in Africa, and encourage them to reach their potential, companies log increased performance, societies become more productive, and economies thrive. In fact, Africa could add $316 billion or 10% to GDP by 2025 if each country makes advances in women’s equality to match the country in the region that has achieved the most progress towards parity (McKinsey 2019).

Amidst recovery, we now have a chance to hit the reset button in all industries – across the board, and across boards. It is time to ask ourselves if we have the balance that Africa needs – and prepare to do what it takes to get there. It will require collective action from corporates, governments, NGOs and communities to make it happen. There is much work to do. Gender inequality in work and society loom large, and interventions are critical.

Opportunities to Advance Gender Equality

Unleashing potential and unblocking much needed growth can be actioned across three priority areas: youth, women entrepreneurs and women in the workplace.

1) Youth – Africa is home to 19 of 20 of the world’s youngest populations which should present a tailwind of productivity opportunity. However, with youth (15 – 24 years old) unemployment as high as 2% in countries like South Africa there is an urgent need to align academic and technical skills with employment realities. Encouraging girls to participate in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects is key to develop critical 21st century skills girls need for their studies and career success. Bringing more female youth into technology fields and achieving gender parity will only make companies stronger and products more relevant to women as customers.

2) Women entrepreneurs – According to the 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Africa has the world’s top three countries when it comes to women entrepreneurs (as a percentage): Uganda (39.6%), Botswana (38.5%) and Ghana (36.5%). Despite some positive trends, the report also notes the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs around the world, with 87% saying they have been adversely affected. Overrepresentation in sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn, the pronounced digital gender gap in an increasingly virtual world, and the mounting pressures of childcare responsibilities are only a few factors that have left women particularly vulnerable.

Despite the obvious challenges, the report highlights a number of opportunities for women in the COVID-19 era, particularly in online shopping and digital commerce. As a non-exec board member of Junior Achievement South Africa – a non-profit organisation that is playing its part in preparing the youth for the 21st century through entrepreneurial training and financial literacy programmes – I have seen how versatile and resilient women entrepreneurs can be in the face of adversity. Shortly after the pandemic started, I had the chance to mentor a woman who pivoted her fashion business to produce face masks and set up an online store. Ensuring access to technology or digital solutions, affordable data and modern trade resources as well as business training will empower more women to succeed in business.

3) Women in the workplace – While Africa has above average board representation of women at 25% (McKinsey 2019) compared to the global average, it lags in executive committee positions and women coming into middle management positions. Gender equality in the workplace requires an adjustment by all of us if it is going to become a reality in the near term. At Mastercard, we have grown our female workforce across Africa by 370% over the last 5 years and across the Middle East and Africa, our team is 42% female. While there is still room for improvement, we have made meaningful interventions:

  • We closed the gender pay gap to ensure that women earn $1 for every $1 earned by men.
  • Recognising that women may take a professional step back if they have children, we introduced 16 weeks of paid parental leave for both men and women. Eighty percent of men from across the business take their paternity leave, helping us develop a sharing environment, redress the balance between maternity and paternity leave, while also ensuring that same-sex partners aren’t left behind.
  • We have a dedicated Mastercard Women’s Leadership Network – a global network with local chapters in South Africa and Kenya that are tasked with developing and advancing women into leadership roles supported with training and mentorship opportunities.
  • We have evolved the recruitment process, designing 50/50 gender slates for all roles. The best person will always get the job but the process has been redesigned for greater fairness and opportunity.

Companies must make gender equality a priority, commit to KPIs and measure there progress. Much acclaimed Jane Fraser shattered the glass ceiling a few weeks ago by becoming the first women to lead a major US bank as the new CEO of Citigroup – a ceiling that has already been shattered in Africa. This is a positive step, but we can agree there is much more to do beyond these first milestones.

As we position our businesses for recovery in a post Covid-19 world, we should be doing so with vision and goals for gender parity. We need to provide girls with access to education from an early age so that they can develop the skills needed to be the leaders of tomorrow. We need to provide better access to financial and digital tools, support women in starting and growing their businesses, and foster a workplace where all employees feel valued, respected and empowered to reach their greatest potential. By doing so, we can create a more equitable and prosperous future for us all.

 

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NGOs - SDGs

Epson Egypt puts sustainability goals into action following COP-27

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Epson has highlighted that the company is committed to becoming carbon negative and underground resource-free by 2050, as outlined in Epson’s Environmental Vision 2050.  Globally, Epson is investing more than €770 million in sustainable innovation and developing new technology to reduce environmental impact.

With the principle that innovation enriches lives and helps create a better world, Epson has partnered with five educational institutions in Egypt including Face for Children in Need, Nahdet el Mansouria, Educate Me Foundation, Man Ahyaha, and Alwan Wa Awtar, providing them with a range of 100 eco-friendly ink tank printers in total. This initiative enables teachers to create tailored lesson plans and worksheets, allows children to take home a range of learning printed material, and reduces energy consumption through Epson’s Heat-Free technology.  During COP-27, Epson finalised an additional donation of printers to Misr Elkheir Foundation to support further learning opportunities for students in need.

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The education donations are in line with Epson’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, specifically number four – quality education – which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Epson recently conducted research amongst decision-makers in Egypt which found that 50% of survey respondents anticipate their printing needs will increase in 2023 and 62% stating that printing will become more important in the new year. Specifically in the education sector, 94% of participants said that it is essential for teachers to have access to a printer, making Epson’s recent donations to schools in Egypt even more timely.

Demonstrating the growing importance of sustainability for organisations in Egypt, 63% of survey respondents said that sustainability is a key part of their investment in new technology. More than half of respondents want to invest in energy efficient technology, while 71% believe that controlling the energy consumption of technology will become a key issue in the next 12 months. 

Commenting on the survey findings following COP-27, Neil Colquhoun, Epson’s Vice President, CISMETA, said, “Epson’s participation at COP-27 underscored the progress that Egypt is making toward sustainability and its importance to the nation and region.  This trend was highlighted in Epson’s research, which shows a growing appetite for energy efficient, cost effective and easy-to-use technology solutions.  As part of our mission to improve lives in communities we serve, a number of educational institutions across Egypt and their students have enhanced access to learning materials through Epson’s donation of EcoTank catridge free printers – an initiative that will continue to expand.”

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Musonda Chikwanda: Driving the Girl Up-United Nations Foundation in Africa

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Musonda Chikwanda Regional Manager, Africa – Girl Up-United Nations Foundation

Girl Up is a girl-centered leadership development initiative, focusing on equity for girls and women in spaces where they are unheard or underrepresented. It believes when girls and women are in positions of influence, they work to create a more just and equitable world for everyone. Girl Up operates a global network of regional affiliates reaching 150,000 girls in 130 countries. The initiative delivers evidence-based leadership development training through its girl-led Clubs, programs, and events. 

As members of a global movement, girls are a force for social good connected to a Community of their peers who are advocating for policy change and advancing gender justice. Founded in 2010 and hosted by the United Nations Foundation, Girl Up welcomes girls and youth of all gender identities to start a Club and join its movement to advance gender justice worldwide. Together, they are expanding girls’ skills, rights, and opportunities to lead, and changing the face of leadership for generations to come. 

Musonda Chikwanda serves as Regional Manager for Africa with the United Nation Foundation under the Girl Up initiative. As Regional Manager for Africa, she coordinates and organizes adolescent girls’ programs in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM), advocacy and gender equality lead by adolescents’ girls to help bridge the gap in access to education and stimulate/engage girls to take up careers in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Musonda also mentors and provides training on leadership to youths from different African countries. 

Leadership Development 

Girl Up guides members along their journey from leader to changemaker with specialized programming in organizing, advocacy, fundraising, and communications. Its evidence-based Leadership Course includes interactive modules centered on a three-pronged leadership framework. That is, Leader of Self, Leader of Peers, and Leaders of Change. They’re motivating a generation of leaders to raise their voices in their schools and communities. Advocate to local and national decision-makers, and work together to advance gender equality for girls and women.

The Girl Up Team

An Authentic Platform 

Girl Up is committed to hearing and amplifying the voices of girls across our channels and platforms. Its online Community is both a place for members to share their perspectives and a place for them to connect to a wider global community of peers. Both in person and online, Girl Up fosters a positive community that bridges cultural divides to advance important dialogues on social issues happening around the world. 

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Issues in Focus

Girl Up is committed to advancing gender justice across issue areas that intersect with gender equality. All of which share a focus of giving girls and women equal rights, access, agency, and opportunities. 

  • Gender Equality.
  • Sports for a Purpose.
  • STEM for Social Good.
  • Girls’ Education.
  • Gender-Based Violence.
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice.

Girl Up works to build and maintain a constituency dedicated to improving the lives of all girls around the world. Girl Up envisions an empowered and powerful generation of young women leaders who promote and defend gender equality in their own communities and around the world.

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Crtve DEVELOPMENT launches WE!ARE to promote climate change awareness in Africa

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Crtve DEVELOPMENT CEO, Dr. Okito Wedi (Photo: Supplied).

In addition to making profits, it has become a necessity for businesses and organisations to embrace a consistent, policy-driven culture of giving back to the community where they do business. The reason is that a policy-driven socially responsible endeavour is a sustainable and socially responsible endeavour. Businesses that have this corporate mindset are the ones that eventually provide solutions that truly meet the needs of the community they serve, even when they are profit-driven.

As a platform that showcases African businesses, innovations, and entrepreneurs, Business Africa Online (BAO) is excited to witness yet another novel and beneficial platform where businesses, NGOs, funders, and organisations are standing side by side with talents and creatives in the arts and entertainment to ensure they find expression and use those expressions to deliver the needed solution to pressing issues that affect communities in Africa, and in this case, climate change. 

The Crtve Development (CD) WE!ARE climate justice campaign is an initiative that is long overdue because the solutions that have been proposed for climate change have mainly taken into account people living in places like Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, and we need local solutions to local climate change problems.

Dr. Okito Wedi, Founder and CEO of Crtve DEVELOPMENT, stated: “Through the WE!ARE campaign, we want to harness the power of art and creativity to change the narrative on climate change and development in Africa and bridge the gap between communities who will most be affected and policymakers who will determine our climate future.”

CD, together with other trusted partners, has rolled out the WE!ARE campaign to socialise the disproportionate effects of climate change on vulnerable communities on the African continent. Using creativity, the campaign will discover and amplify young people’s unique experiences and demands to surmount the challenges of climate change through climate justice.

Climate justice emphasizes the fact that Africa contributes the least to global warming, yet Africans are the most affected by climate change. As a result, those with the least capacity to cope and adapt to the impacts of climate change face the biggest threat. Climate justice aims to redress this inequality by fairly sharing the problem of climate change as well as the responsibility of dealing with it equitably, with all countries around the world. As a result, the launch of the WE!ARE campaign allows for a conversation about structure, system, and policy to take centre stage between African creatives and the corporate world about how they approach the challenge of climate change.

Collaboration between African creatives and the business community is no longer born from just mere excitement or the need to latch on to trends, but a deliberate and long-term agenda of every business and organization in Africa. This is a major win that BAO is excited about and we celebrate CD for leading the ingenious path that will benefit all because climate change affects everyone in the ecosystem.

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In the coming days, weeks, and months, BAO looks forward to more businesses, organizations, and funders partnering with CD on this project to amplify the great work that is being done. It is a fact that one of the most effective ways of driving sustainable change through creativity is for the corporate world to provide the frameworks, systems, policies, assets, and seed funding needed to sustain the process.

Another big win for the WE!ARE movement is that it will help to improve the proper valuation in corporate policies for the growing social and economic value of creativity and innovation in Africa. Creatives will truly be regarded as using their talents to campaign for real solutions to challenges in Africa, and not just for leisurely endeavours. 

From our vantage point, we wholeheartedly celebrate the immense work and achievements of Crtve Development (CD) and its strategic partners, including the Climate Emergency Collaboration Group, Danish Government, Ford Foundation and the World Resources Institute (WRI) on this worthy cause they have embarked on. We hope that as a result of this work, the subject of climate change will no longer be treated as secondary or alien, but as an issue that all hands must be on deck to address with the collaboration of the corporate world, NGOs, funders, and the creative communities in Africa.

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