The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) opened in Cape Town, South Africa, recently with stirring calls from speakers for women to move from having conversations about economic empowerment to radical action.
Keynote speaker, Dr Vera Songwe, United Nations Undersecretary General and Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said there cannot be talk about Africa’s growth without talking about the economic empowerment of Africa’s women in the same breath.
Economic activist and social entrepreneur, Wendy Luhabe was vocal in calling for women to look at how they can use the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to put pressure on countries to include the emancipation of women in reducing trade barriers across the continent and reducing trade tariffs. “As women we need to move beyond conversations to radical action. We demand to be involved in the discussion around AfCFTA. There is still a window of opportunity for us to be involved.”
Dr Songwe reiterated that giving women in Africa back their dignity, meant ensuring that every woman in Africa had an identity, as many women’s births were never registered and they had no official identity; that women had to have access to structures to access economic empowerment; that women needed to connect as a collective to raise each other up.
“There is a new economic Pan-Africanism on the continent, we have fought for our rights, we now need to move to the economic space. This is the promise: Africa needs skill. In many of our countries, we don’t have the skill required to grow. You need to claim the continent as your marketplace, the $1.2 billion market,” she told delegates. “We can do more, we can do better. We must ensure we can do that together. Can we take these women and make them global businesses?”
“These events help us to connect. We need to ask, did that help me raise another woman somewhere else? That is the power of African women. When we meet as leaders, when we meet in these groups, we need to remember that connecting is the basic human factor. We need to connect with success.
“There’s 500 million of us African women, we need to be collectively connected,” Dr Songwe