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.
LEAP Africa and DOW Partner to Activate Youth Action for Sustainable Development Across Africa
LEAP Africa, one of Africa’s leading non-profit organization focused on youth leadership development and Dow, a global leader in materials science, are pleased to announce the fourth edition of its Pan-African ‘Youth Day of Service (YDoS)’ campaign, a youth-led social impact campaign with the theme – Youthful and Useful.
Scheduled to be held till August 31, 2023, Youth Day of Service is a month-long campaign that seeks to foster the spirit of service to community and volunteerism among the youth population in Africa with focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This campaign which is in commemoration of the International Youth Day seeks to rally young people, corporate organisations, Governments, the Private and Social sectors across Africa to advocate and renew the spirit of active youth citizenship and collective responsibility.
Speaking at the Pan-African Press Conference and Stakeholders Engagement, Kehinde Ayeni, Executive Director LEAP Africa said: “One of our strategic pillars at LEAP Africa is to raise talents for the actualization of the SDGs. This campaign is a demonstration that LEAP Africa remains committed to youth-led actions for Sustainable Development across Africa. We believe in the power, voices, numbers and agency of young people and that an urgent commitment to creatively engaging with youth, creating platforms such as this and retooling youth with the skills and support to shape SDGs implementation across the continent, is the greatest need. We cannot do this alone, therefore we are fostering partnerships to bring the achievement of the goals closer.”
In her remarks, Mumbi Keega, Public Affairs Lead-Africa, Dow, said, “Dow is committed to fostering positive change and building resilient and sustainable communities in Africa. We believe that this can only be achieved by working together with the African youth, who are vital to promoting social welfare. Through our partnership with LEAP Africa, we are supporting the Youth Day of Service (YDoS) initiative, which empowers young people to use their skills and talents to make a difference in their communities. We are proud to be a part of YDoS and to support the next generation of African leaders who are working to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.”
Chege Ngugi, Africa Regional Director of ChildFund International in his remarks called for increased investment by governments and other stakeholders in youth development programs. “While many laudable initiatives, such as national youth funds exist, there is still a dire need to do more to ensure all youth, given the huge number, are adequately resourced to achieve their best potential, no matter where they are from. We must move beyond giving the youth a seat at the table to investing in them to use that seat for good. The youth must be enabled to act as equal partners of positive social change.”
Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa one of the implementing partners for the Youth Day of Service, represented by Caren Wakoli the Founder and Executive Director lauded LEAP Africa for investing in this initiative for the second year in Kenya. Caren noted that ELF-Africa had lined up week-long community activities across nine counties, addressing five different SDGs. She further re-affirmed ELF-Africa’s commitment to championing transformational youth action in Kenya and Africa for a sustainable future. Caren concluded by calling on young people and grassroot organisations across Kenya to join the different Youth Day of Service activities in counties near them, especially the nine counties where ELF-Africa will be working, these are Migori, Bungoma, Narok, Kericho, Uasin Gishu, Murang’a, Makueni, and Kilifi.
This year, LEAP Africa will be leveraging the support of strategic partners like ChildFund International, Emerging Leaders Foundation, BellaNaija, Forgotten Bottom Millions, Legit, Zikoko Citizen, W4 Immerse, Dotts Media, African Climate Reality Project, Strategic Youth Network for Development Ghana, Youth Development Organisation Zambia and Global Shapers Community, among others, in delivering the Youth Day of Service.
Miss Career Africa: Empowering Young Female Entrepreneurs in Africa
Miss Career Africa Women (Image: Supplied)
Recognizing the need to empower aspiring young female entrepreneurs in Africa, the Miss Career Africa Organization (MCA) was established. The MCA program aims to uplift young women professionals, entrepreneurs, and students by offering university scholarships, career guidance, entrepreneurship incubation, leadership training, and networking opportunities.
The Miss Career Africa competition is a transformative experience for aspiring young women entrepreneurs from across the continent. With a vision to create a movement of 450,000 young women entrepreneurs and professionals across Africa, MCA aims to empower these trailblazers to become influential leaders in their respective countries.
Each year, 20 exceptional candidates aged between 18 and 24 years are selected from hundreds of applicants based on their projects or businesses and specific criteria. These talented young women then compete for the title of “Miss Career Africa.” The journey to the crown begins with a pre-selection and online voting process. The finalists undergo a rigorous 5-day boot camp, where a team of experts helps them refine their ideas into viable and scalable business models.
The Grand Finale features a distinguished panel of judges from different countries and disciplines who will crown winners in various categories, including Miss STEM, Miss Arts and Talent, Miss Hospitality, Miss Agriculture, Miss Conservation, and Miss Speaker, as well as regional winners representing the Southern, Northern, Central, Eastern, and Western regions. Prizes for the winners include seed capital, a six-month incubation training period, and continuous guidance and follow-up support to help them turn their dreams into reality.
Meet the Visionaries
Hail from Rwanda, Sandrine Munezero is a true innovator. As an entrepreneur, innovator, and business modeling coach, she has dedicated her life to helping the next generation create their own opportunities by harnessing their talents and gifts. Sandrine’s unwavering passion drives the growth of Miss Career Africa across the continent. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management from St. Joseph’s College in India and a Bachelor’s degree from Bishop Heber College in Trichy, India.
Passionate about empowering girls and young women, Portia Addae Annin is a force to be reckoned with. Her exceptional motivation and commitment to excellence have led her to serve in various prestigious positions. With a Master’s Degree in Economics from Bangalore University in India and a background in Economics and Business Management from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, Portia brings a wealth of expertise to the organization.
OSNON Academy Announces Scholarship Opportunity for the 2023/2024 Academic Year
OSNON Academy is delighted to announce its exclusive scholarship opportunity for the upcoming 2023/2024 academic year, dedicated to students from low-income families, and marginalized communities. This prestigious scholarship aims to provide the selected exceptional students with a world-class education that has the power to shape their future.
Under the “Innovation and Excellence” banner, OSNON Academy is passionately committed to nurturing young minds and unlocking their full potential. As the premier free boarding school in Anambra state, OSNON Academy is devoted to transforming talented young individuals into the leaders of tomorrow.
This scholarship opportunity is specifically tailored for parents, guardians, and school students who aspire to receive an outstanding education that paves their path to success. By applying for this scholarship, students will have the remarkable chance to benefit from OSNON Academy’s innovative and well-rounded learning experiences.
“We firmly believe in providing students from low-income families, marginalized communities, and vulnerable backgrounds with a transformative education that not only equips them with academic knowledge but also instills core values and unlocks their potential,” said Onyinye Anyaegbu, Chief Executive Officer, Chude and Ego Foundation. “Our ultimate goal is to create thought-provoking and valuable members of society who will positively contribute to their communities.”
Interested parents and guardians are encouraged to pick up the application forms for their ward(s) today at one of our designated locations to seize this incredible opportunity. These forms will be the crucial first step towards a life-changing educational journey. The dedicated team at OSNON Academy is readily available to assist with any questions and provide comprehensive guidance throughout the application process, ensuring a smooth and supportive experience.
Take advantage of the chance to join OSNON Academy and join a community fostering excellence, innovation, and personal growth for a successful future!
For Scholarship enquiries, please contact:
OSNON Academy Team: +2348063876581 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org