Four development institutions including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) and the Makerere University, Kampala (MUK), on Wednesday October 27, 2010 in Tunis, jointly launched the Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative (GEPMI-Africa).
In his opening remark UNDP African Regional Bureau Director, Tegegnework Gettu said that "closing gender gaps in Africa's economic development is a matter of equity and efficiency". For his part, AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, said that the Bank had since recognized the need to mainstream gender in its operations, emphasizing that GEPMI-Africa is a ground-breaking initiative that will enhance cooperation between AfDB and the UNDP in the area of gender. In his intervention, the AfDB Chief Economist, Mthuli Ncube, said that the key gender issues today are knowing the number of female enrolment in schools, the spread of female enrolments into science and technology-based courses as well as the job and managerial distribution in favour of women. He noted that some studies have revealed that companies with greater number of women managers present better financial returns.
For his part, Mr Pedersen Mogens, AfDB Executive Director for Denmark, Finland, India, Norway, and Sweden observed that gender-differences affect economic outcome and pointed out that for economic growth to be sustained it has to be cared for equitably.
Speaking on behalf of UNECA and IDEP, Mr. Emmanuel Nnadozie expressed the delight of ECA and its capacity-building arm, IDEP to be partners in the initiative. Among the reasons he outlined for the importance of GEPMI-Africa were: "the centrality of gender in African development, the need to deepen previous efforts at integrating a gender approach into economic policy development planning and the importance of ensuring that policy-makers are themselves better equipped to handle gender issues in the development process."
All the participants expressed appreciation to Ms. Winnie Byanyima Director of the UNDP Gender Team for her leadership and vision helping to conceive the initiative in collaboration with some leading international and regional agencies and economists. Giving an overview of the Africa Gender and Economic Policy Management Initiative, Ms. Winnie Byanyima noted that the global GEPMI is a comprehensive capacity development and advisory services initiative whose overarching objective is to contribute to the achievement of millennium development goals (MDGs) by making public economic management systems more responsive to the needs or both men and women. She underscored the importance of gender division of labour and emphasized the need to take full consideration of unpaid work by married women and how to factor it in the GDP evaluation. She said "it is time to do away with occupational segregation in Africa's development process".
Recent evaluations show that while there has been progress toward meeting the MDGs since 2000, progress has been uneven and slow. UNDP's recent international assessment on "What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals?" suggests that while the developing world as a whole remains on track to achieve the poverty reduction target by 2015, an estimated 1.4 billion people were still living in extreme poverty . Moreover, it is estimated that the financial crisis will leave some additional 64 million people in extreme poverty by the end of 2010 relative to a no-crisis scenario. As it has been well established, women constitute the majority of the world population and the majority of the poor.
It has been established that what holds many countries back from achieving the MDGs is persistent and pervasive gender inequality. Given gender inequality in access to and over social, economic and political resources control, women and girls are more affected by poverty than men and boys. They also find it difficult to escape from poverty.
It has also been established that, where development progress is lagging it is because the needs and status of women and girls are given low priority.
GEMPI-Africa which is launched in the context of the 5th African Economic Conference (AEC) in Tunis between 27 and 29 October provides a unique opportunity of engaging key decision makers on the importance of incorporating gender perspectives into economic policy management. Thus drawing from this important gathering of Africa's economic policy makers, economic researchers, development partners and CSOs, it is a re-launch of Africa's economic recovery and long-term growth agenda towards poverty eradication through fulfillment of MDGs. Above all, it brings with it, more effective and more efficient value addition to the strategic and synergic partnership between the AfDB and UNDP by expanding and sustaining their commitments and actions towards women's empowerment and gender equality in Africa's development.