The African Development Bank has reiterated its commitment to “closing the financing gap” for women and warned of the impact of gender inequality on food systems in Africa.
Speaking in Rome during the pre-summit to the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, Dr. Beth Dunford, stressed that closing the gender gap in economic opportunities on the continent was critical for its future.
“Closing gaps in economic opportunities is not only essential for women’s empowerment but for African economies, particularly for GDP growth, poverty reduction, and structural transformation for sustainable development,” Dunford said.
Dunford participated in a panel session on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Food Systems. She was joined by Sabrina Dhowre Elba, International Fund for Agricultural Development Goodwill Ambassador and Dr. Kawinzi Muiu, Director of Gender, World Food Program.
Representatives of more than 100 countries attended the summit, held to discuss the latest evidence-based and scientific approaches to food systems.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the financing gap for African women in agricultural value chains is estimated at $15.6 billion. Women play a pivotal role in agriculture and agribusiness, and require more robust and responsive regulatory and policy frameworks for countries to benefit from their contributions.
Dunford reaffirmed the Bank’s commitment to women’s empowerment in every sector, through its policies, such as the new Gender Strategy 2021-2025, and the Feed Africa Strategy, which prioritizes gender equality and sustainable outcomes to support all investment and sector dialogue actions. The Bank will provide a road map for gender interventions in the next four years, focusing on the agriculture sector, where women have the highest entrepreneurial potential, the vice president said.
Providing access to finance for women-owned small and medium enterprises in Africa is an important component of the Bank’s strategy to establish a conducive business environment for women entrepreneurs to thrive.
The Bank, through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative, has committed up to $5 billion to finance women’s businesses on the continent by 2026. This is already proving successful. For example, in Ghana a $20 million AFAWA Financing Climate-Resilient Agricultural Practices project is expected to benefit 400 women-led micro, small and medium enterprises through a line of credit from Ecobank Ghana. This support comes with technical assistance, and training in climate-resilient agricultural practices.
By the end of 2021, the Bank is expected to have provided close to $500 million of which $150 million will benefit women in the agriculture sector. , and to work with public and private sector partners to develop alternative financial models to increase the ability of women farmers to access the financing and skills they need to grow sustainably.
Dunford said the Bank would support the UN Food Systems Summit to ensure gender equality in food systems. The Summit will take place in New York in September 2021 in conjunction with the UN General Assembly.