Africa needs new impetus in its journey towards gender parity. Making progress on any single indicator of gender inequality is likely to require systematic action on a range of indicators by governments, companies, communities, and individual men and women.
A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report prepared with McKinsey & Company, Africa, The power of parity: Advancing women's equality in Africa finds that accelerating progress towards parity could boost African economies by the equivalent of 10 percent of their collective GDP by 2025.
The report was launched Tuesday at the 2019 Global Gender Summit co-hosted by the African Development Bank and Rwanda under the theme: "Unpacking constraints to gender equality."
"Gender equality is not a western agenda, it is not somebody else agenda; it's a global agenda for growth for inclusive growth for economic development, for society to thrive," said Vanessa Moungar, Bank Director for Women, Gender, and Civil Society.
The report examines the potential boost to African economic growth as a result of accelerating progress toward gender equality.
"With foresight and a commitment to act, African countries can reinvigorate progress towards parity, triggering a breakthrough in women's empowerment. But all stakeholders—governments, companies, and the social sector—need to work together to drive results," Lohini Moodley, a McKinsey Partner in Addis Ababa, said.
Mayowa Kuyoro, Associate Partner at McKinsey, said that it is of concern that at the current pace of change it will take more than 140 years to achieve gender parity. "It will not happen in my lifetime, and that makes me really sad," she added.
Fatmata Lovetta Sesay from UN Women said, "this report is a cornerstone in our evidence-based advocacy efforts."
The report highlights five areas to prioritise action:
Invest in human capital. Human capital plays a vital role in driving sustained economic growth and boosting productivity, and it is imperative that countries invest sufficient resources in girls' education and in women's skills as well as their digital, financial, and legal literacy so that they are equipped for the future world of work. At the same time, action to ensure that healthcare is affordable and accessible is vital to ensure that human capital is as effective as possible.
Create economic opportunities. Women need economic opportunities if countries are to realize the full potential of their human capital. Creating pathways for African women—the vast majority of whom work informally in low-paid jobs—into better-paid and more fulfilling jobs is a major priority. Action should focus on improving the quality of jobs in the informal sector or by enabling women to leave informal work and find improved working prospects in the formal sector. In our research we focus on interventions in the formal sector, highlighting four priorities: company leaders propelling change from the top with a clear strategy and targets; putting in place creating a positive, inclusive, and supportive environment; unlocking opportunities for women-owned businesses; and developing public and household infrastructure.
Leverage technology. Digital and internet technology is spreading throughout Africa and can be the lever that opens many doors to women, helping to overcome current challenges on a number of indicators of gender equality. Many applications of these technologies apply to both men and women, but the onus is on providers to ensure that they are designed with a gender lens so that women can take full advantage of them. Priorities include creating women-friendly products to drive digital inclusion; and spreading the use of digital to raise financial inclusion and empower female entrepreneurs.
Shape attitudes. Arguably any drive towards gender parity in Africa starts with efforts to change entrenched and widespread attitudes about women's role in society, an extremely difficult and complex challenge that will require all stakeholders to play a part that is sustained over the long term. Campaigns that are monitored and evaluated are key. Enlisting male champions is another priority.
Enforce laws, policies, and regulations. Africa needs to ensure that women's rights are enshrined in law and that, where laws already exist, they are rigorously enforced.