African women’s economic summit opens in Lagos

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Lagos, Nigeria – The Second African Women Economic Summit officially opened in Lagos, Nigeria on Friday with a call on more decision makers to promote women empowerment and to remove the barriers that impede women’s economic progress throughout the African continent.

During her opening speech, Ms Cecilia Akintomide, Vice-President & Secretary General of the African Development bank (AfDB) confronted the summit participants by saying ‘We must focus on solving the problems faced by African women such as education, access to health, and capacity building, otherwise we will continue to lack behind”.

African women, who represent over half of the population, only hold 26% of small size businesses in Sub-Saharan African and only 15% on the global front. “We are not going to participate fully in growing the economy without access to financing. Unless we do the right thing, we may not be able to move forward as we want. Each one of us here has a responsibility to promote women empowerment,” she affirmed.

The position of African women today versus two decades ago, has improved distinctively in the areas of education, health, earning power and entrepreneurial activity. International studies have shown that for each year of primary and secondary schooling they receive, their incomes rise by 10-20 percent. In that respect, Ms Cecilia Akintomide stressed, “Education is one of the most cost effective means to accelerate economic growth”.

In her keynote address, Dr. Nogozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance Minister insisted “it is longer a debate on whether to invest in women but rather how to do so”. She captured the crowd’s attention as she described this current time as a very exciting phase for Africa. “The economy in the rest of the world is in a period of uncertainty, but Africa keeps growing. We must celebrate”.

Over the next decade, the economic power that women will control globally is set to exceed the combined GDP of China and India. According to Boston Consulting Group, women now control $12 trillion of the overall $18.4 trillion in global consumer spending. “Women are a huge asset and we cannot afford as a continent, as a population not to engage them as efficiently as possible,” said Dr. Nkosana Moyo, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS).

Speaking on behalf of Mrs. Graça Machel, the Founder of New Faces New Voice (NFNW), he continued by stating, “we’ve got lots of assets in the African continent, the people, the natural resources, the weather, the land, the agriculture. This is what we need to be looking at.” African women are responsible for 60 – 80% of food production in Africa yet they receive less then 1% of the total credit.

Mrs. Graça Machel, a renown advocate for women and children’s rights and the third wife of Former South African President Nelson Mandela was enable to attend the summit due to the sudden death of Sitshekhetshe Morris Mandela. In a pre-recoded video, she described the women at the summit as ones who share the same vision and are working together. Yet, she stressed, “women empowerment is not a women issue, it is a global issue”.

Read more : African Women Economic Summit 2012

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