Africa may stack up pretty well compared with the world's regions on having companies with female board members, but the continent has a distance to go to make sure its strong economic growth includes its most talented women at the top, according to the first-ever study of female board membership in Africa, unveiled during the World Economic Forum Africa, by the African Development Bank, commissioner of the study.
"To break the glass ceiling in Africa, we urgently need to bring women on corporate boards, which we can do by fast-tracking them through middle and senior management in the private sector," said Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the Special Envoy on Gender of the African Development Bank (AfDB). "We need to think and act differently and invest markedly in women's leadership."
Major findings in the report, entitled Where are the Women ? Inclusive Boardrooms in Africa's top-listed companies, which measured 2013 data for 307 companies in 12 countries, include the following:
Africa has a commanding lead among emerging regions with 14. 4% of women represented on the boards of blue-chip companies (Asia-Pacific 9.8%, Latin America 5.6%, the Middle East 1%). That puts Africa third behind the developed regions of Europe (18%) and the US (16.9%).
The greatest sectoral champions for women on boards in Africa are the financial services, basic materials and construction, and automotive industries.
The African countries with the highest percentage of women on boards are Kenya (19.8%), South Africa (17.4%), Botswana (16.9%), Zambia (16.9%) and Ghana (17.7%)
The companies with the highest percentage of women on boards are East Africa Breweries of Kenya (45.5%), followed by two South African firms, Impala Platinum Holdings (38.5%) and Woolworths Holdings (30.8%).
To boost female participation in boardrooms across Africa, the report makes a list of recommendations for government, civil society, the private sector, and African stock exchanges that includes the following: baseline research on female board membership to track progress and setbacks, mandated public reporting by listed companies of board composition and board diversity as a listing requirement, and mandates for female board membership, starting with state-owned companies.
The African Development Bank is the first multilateral bank to appoint a Special Envoy on Gender in 2013, Geraldine J. Fraser-Moleketi. The board study figures into the Bank's five-year Gender Strategy, which focuses on economic empowerment, knowledge management and capacity building, and legal status and property rights.