The first African Women EconomicSummit in Nairobi was a real success. On the afternoon of the final day, the high level audience of 160 African and global decision-makers in the financial and political sectors, policy-makers, regulators, commercial banks, and prominent women entrepreneurs agreed on goals that will bring women centre stage in the financial sector. They pledged to drive change to include more women in finance.
As Africa's financial system is rethought in response to a global call for financial sector reform and rising protectionism, the potential of women as leaders in finance and business, and as a growing and profitable market for financial services must be drawn on. Moreover, building more inclusive financial systems that reach women will lead to more businesses and increased income levels for women and Africans, in general. The time is now to finance women-owned businesses. The time is now to ensure women have access to affordable and appropriate financial services. The time is now to groom women as leaders in the financial sector. Africa will be successful if this is achieved.
The African Women's Economic Summit, held in Nairobi on the 19th and the 20th of March 2010, jointly co-hosted by the African Development Bank (the AfDB) and by New Faces and New Voices. They agreed on to two bold goals:
Massively increase the access of women to a variety of financial services
Fast track women's leadership in the financial sector
Donald Kaberuka, AfDB president, said that together with the other participants, "we have established a road map for women's economic empowerment and promoting financial inclusiveness, and committing to play our part."
To achieve the goals of the Summit, he made the following strong commitments:
Hold a Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Forum as a side event at the upcoming Bank's General Annual Meetings in May 2010 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; with the goal of raising greater awareness and deepening commitments among policy makers;
Continue to provide technical and financial support to the African Women's Economic Summit;
Ensure that the operationalization of the proposed Africa Guarantee Fund for the youth with a total commitment of USD 300 million is accelerated;
Strengthen the mainstreaming of gender equality in Bank's programming;
Submit the conclusions of this summit to the next meetings of the Committee of Ten (C10) and the heads of multilateral development banks.
Increase the number of professional women joining the Bank and in managerial positions.
The pledges and promises that came from the attendees marked the end of the successful Summit and drew emotional closing remarks from Donald Kaberuka. He addressed the women directly : "the presence of many of you who have succeeded in this male-dominated field is a testimony of the hard work you put in to overcome these challenges."
Graça Machel thanked the African Development Bank for its support to the New Faces New Voices network and to the Summit. She was "overwhelmed by the response received from the gathering and the potential this network has shown in mobilizing such a global movement." She struck an emotional note when she asked the audience to remember that they were a privileged group and were speaking on behalf of millions of poor, disenfranchised women all over Africa.