Business women have big role to play in post-COVID-19 Africa: UNECA

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Mama Keita, Director of UNECA

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNEAC) on Friday said that African women in business have a big role to play in a post-COVID-19 Africa.

The statement was made by Mama Keita, Director of the UNECA in East Africa, during a regional virtual dialogue that aimed to address the economic and social challenges met by women and girls as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on economic empowerment of women, according to an ECA statement issued on Friday.

The ECA director emphasized that “African business women could significantly reduce the continent’s high dependence on imports of essential food, medical and pharmaceutical items.”

Keita, after presenting the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19, also underscored how reduced economic activities stemming from lockdown, curfew as well as disruption in international trade affected the region.

She also appealed for innovative policies and initiatives that could make a difference for women.

“As we are building back our economies after COVID-19 and are seeking to turn vulnerabilities into opportunities, let us recall that intra-Africa trade is still very low at less than 20 percent and that women entrepreneurs have a big role to play in boosting this,” said Ms Keita.

Xia Huang, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, also acknowledged the disproportionate and negative impact of the pandemic on women and girls, especially in the economic sphere, and stressed the need to place women at the center of all response initiatives.

The role of women entrepreneurs was also highlighted by Clare Akamanzi, CEO of Rwanda Development Board. She further underlined that empowering women is a pathway for achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Today (in Rwanda), women entrepreneurs head more than 42 percent of enterprises. They contribute 78 percent in cross border trade, and cross border trade contributes 30 percent to GDP,” an ECA statement quoted Akamanzi as saying during the meeting.