12 July 2012
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)

Female Entrepreneurs Gather in Lagos for African Women's Economic Summit

press release

The Second African Women's Economic Summit, currently under way in Lagos, is a "summit of action", said the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka, when he addressed the conference on its opening day, 12 July.

The summit, organized on the theme, "African Women: Financing the Future," is co-organized and co-hosted by the AfDB and the women's organisation, New Faces, New Voices. New Faces, New Voices was set up by Graça Machel, the first lady of Mozambique.

Mr Kaberuka said the summit was an event "where we pledge to take concrete initiatives to carry forward what has been called 'the female economy.'"

He cited data illustrating how African women remained at the bottom of the development ladder despite all their efforts. He urged the delegates to ask themselves whether "we are doing everything we can, and should, to leverage the efforts of women who are actively generating wealth and prosperity in our continent"

For her part, Mrs. Machel said both the African Women's Economic Summit was not just about women but about development.

"This continent of ours cannot achieve its full capacity and prosperity when half of its human capital is marginalized."

The summit is focusing on African women's contribution to their economies and how countries on the continent can create a more enabling environment for women as entrepreneurs and as leaders in the finance domain. It is building on the success of the first summit, held in Nairobi in March 2010.

Comprising a series of work sessions, buttressed by research, the gathering brings leaders at top echelons of government, regulators, academia, civil society organisations, big business and civil society. The organizers are targeting drivers of change from among these stakeholders, to contribute in aiding women's economic empowerment in tangible, measurable and effective ways.

Specifically, they are looking at areas such as access to investment resources, grooming business skills and competencies, leadership, and women's entrepreneurial development.

The choice of Lagos for an event focusing on wealth creation and the role of women is somehow appropriate.

New Faces, New Voices cites data indicating that Nigeria is poised to become the largest economy in Africa by 2025 in both size and spending power. It also notes that recent reforms in the financial sector have created more space and opportunities for women in economic sectors and women entrepreneurs, putting Nigeria at the forefront of empowering women.

The evidence includes the fact that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the finance minister. She was also the runner up for the World Bank presidency recently. Also women comprise 31 percent of the Nigerian government's cabinet, and that women are forecast to constitute 30 per cent of the boards of Nigerian banks, and 40 per cent of top management positions in two years.

Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria planning to establish a special fund to empower women in small and medium-sized enterprises. But there is a paradox - only 15 per cent of Nigerian women have their own bank accounts.

The summit continues until 14 July.

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