Africa could add 12% to its GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality
“Advancing gender parity in Africa presents a simple yet significant solution towards the continent reaching the goals of Africa’s Agenda 2063, and to successfully transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals.” This statement was made by H.E. Hon. Mama Fatima Singhateh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of The Gambia in a presentation and debate on “Human Rights with a particular focus on the rights of the woman” on day two of the Second Ordinary Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) that is currently being hosted in Midrand, South Africa.
“I also quote James Chissano, former President of Mozambique who said: “Women and girls are Africa’s untapped resource; it is they, not diamonds, oil and minerals that will be the foundation for solid, sustainable progress.” These statements are supported by formal studies such as the McKinsey Global Institute Report that was published in 2015. According to this report, Africa could see its GDP add as much as 12% by 2025 by simply advancing women’s equality. The study also indicated that Africa could add as much as $300,000,000,000 (Three hundred Billion Dollars) to its GDP, if women played an equal role as their male counterparts in economic processes.
H.E Singhateh is however of the opinion that discussions on the rights of women too often only depict the deplorable situation of women’s rights and purposefully chose to let her presentation rather highlight the remarkable accomplishments of the continent in this arena.
2016 was declared as the African Year of Human Rights with a Particular Focus on Women by the African Union (AU), because this year marks a multitude of defining moments on the Continent’s journey. Amongst others, the Second Ordinary Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government adopted in 2003 the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. This historical protocol laid down a proper framework for the advancement of women’s rights in Africa. “As the African Union rightfully put it, 2016 is a chance for us to commemorate and celebrate the significant milestones in our continental human rights journey,” she said.
Some of the milestones she highlighted were the steady increase in the percentage of women in Parliaments across Africa over the last 20 years. It increased from 9.8% in 1995 to 14.5% in 2005 and 22.3% in 2015 putting Africa 3rd out of six regions in terms of percentage of women in Parliament. This steady rise by 12.4% increase points puts Africa second globally in terms of percentage increase points after the Americas with 13.7 percent. At 22.3% Africa is also above the Global average of women in parliament which stands at 22.1%.
She also commended several African countries for their accomplishments in this arena. Rwanda for example, has 64% of women in parliament and tops the world rankings for proportion of female legislators. Statistics published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) furthermore indicate that South Africa, Cape Verde and Lesotho have all surpassed the goal of over 30% representation in national Ministerial Cabinets. In fact, Cape Verde is second globally, with women making up 52.9% of its cabinet. Other African countries that are fast approaching the 30% benchmark are Mozambique, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Namibia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, United Republic of Tanzania, Liberia and Seychelles are in the 20-25% representation rate range.
“It is interesting to note that there is a clear move away from the previous practice of only appointing women to so called ‘soft-ministerial portfolios’ like Social Welfare, Basic Education, Health, and Tourism, as women are increasingly getting appoint appointed to key Ministries such as Justice, Finance and Defence,” she stated.
“All across Africa women are breaking old barriers and setting new records. Be it from the board rooms or at home as our mothers, sisters and wives. It is therefore very important that we recognise and celebrate these achievements so that they may serve as inspiration to all the women and young girls across the continent, that if others can do it then they also can; that they can become whatever they want to be. So they may believe that women can become economically empowered to afford to provide for their families, that young women everywhere can have access to adequate reproductive health facilities, and that the little girls everywhere might dare to dream of one day becoming, a head of state, a Minister, or a member of the Pan African Parliament.”
H.E. Singhateh urged that a celebration of such achievements should however in no way be seen as a declaration that the struggles are over and that it is in fact, far from it. She implored all AU member states to continue to proactively implement human right instruments that seek to promote and protect women and girls’ rights in all aspects of their lives.