South Africa: President Calls for Women to Get Greater Access to Financial Tools

24 September 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa has thrown his weight behind the empowering of women in Africa by giving them enabling tools to build themselves a financially secure and independent future.

President Ramaphosa was speaking during a high-level virtual panel, G7 Partnership for African Women's Financial Inclusion on Wednesday.

The panel also featured philanthropist Melinda Gates, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands and French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire's representative Nicolas de Rivière.

"We must enable women to take advantage of the technological advances to start their own businesses, to trade and to seek employment," President Ramaphosa said.

President Ramaphosa recognises the COVID-19 pandemic's "dramatic" impact on the economy and strongly believes that its effect will be hardest felt by the women.

He noted that many of these women, who are the bedrock of society, work and operate in the informal sector.

President Ramaphosa is therefore advocating for women to have greater access to affordable financial services, working capital, credit lines, insurance, and digital tools such as mobile banking platforms.

"Governments must invest in the financial education of women and girls in support of greater financial and economic inclusion."

He announced that South Africa has set aside the US$500 000 (R 8 508 700) towards the African Women Impact Fund which seeks to empower financial leaders.

Also, the President, who is also the current chair of the African Union (AU), has pronounced that 40% of all public procurement in South Africa should be reserved for women-owned businesses.

President Ramaphosa has since called on AU member states to develop similar policy guidelines.

"We believe that a digitally enabled economy with a strong emphasises on gender equality has the potential to be transformative, fair, sustainable and competitive," he added.

Meanwhile, he said the continent continues to develop its information and communications technology infrastructure.

"Unless women are brought into the mainstream of the economy, they will forever continue to bear the brunt of exclusive, marginalisation and be vulnerable to abuse and exploitations," he stressed.

"The nation that empowers its women is a strong nation, but also a sustainable nation," President Ramaphosa added.

Women hardest-hit by pandemics

The co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said the pandemic has led to the greatest global economic crisis since the Great Depression and it is "squarely landing on the shoulder of women".

"Early estimates suggest that women are nearly twice as likely to lose their job as men and low-income women in low-income countries are at the greatest risk," Gates said.

"These are the garment workers, the food sellers, who have closed their shops because very few people are gathering in outdoor markets."

Since the outbreak, 37 million people are estimated to have fallen back to extreme poverty, she revealed.

"I worry that those 37 million will stay there even after the pandemic is over especially women."

However, Gates told the panel that she was hopeful and that the worst-case scenario could be averted if leaders prioritise women in their response.

One way of doing this, she said, is to deliver emergency cash transfers to citizens and directly to women.

"The cash has to get into women's pocket and it too often it doesn't. It ends in the pockets of their husband or other male family members or nowhere at all."

Gates is urging governments to redesign the financial systems that focus on digitalised payments to deliver the money directly into accounts owned and controlled by women.

Presently, Gates said the world is witnessing the fastest, furthest reaching transfers of cash payments from governments to the people in history.

"Will women benefit equally, none of us knows that yet but I hope that if we do our jobs right, they will and it set a precedence for all the years to come," she told delegates.

As part of this agenda, the G7 Partnership for Women's Digital Financial Inclusion in Africa has committed to supporting African governments, central banks, and financial institutions in their efforts to build more inclusive, sustainable, and responsible digital financial systems, ensuring that 400 million African adults are financially included of which 60% are women.

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