Tackling Africa’s gender gap

5 June 2008

Top female and male leaders from across the continent launched an Africa Gender Parity Group at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The group of business, government, media, academic and civil society decision-makers are collaborating on ways for companies and countries to eradicate gender inequality and better engage women in the economy.

“Women account for a sizeable portion of Africa’s economies and could contribute considerably more if there were greater gender equality,” Saadia Zahidi, head of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity and Women Leaders Programme, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Africa Gender Parity Group believes both women and men need to work together to close the gender gap, and thus better leverage women’s talents to increase productivity and prosperity in all of society.”

Africa lags behind most parts of the world in closing its gender gap on education and health, but is well ahead of many emerging regions on closing the gap in political empowerment.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which ranks 128 countries according to the size of their gender gaps, the performance of sub-Saharan African countries varies greatly.

South Africa, ranked 20, is a leader in the region, boosted by its scores on the political empowerment of women. However, the region also contains some of the lowest-ranking countries in the world, including Zimbabwe (88) and Nigeria (107), hampered by particularly poor performances in the areas of education and health.

The Africa Gender Parity Group, at its first meeting in Cape Town on Wednesday, called for:


  • Greater government commitment and funding for primary, secondary and tertiary education, focusing in particular on increasing the retention rates for girls.



  • Better legislation to fight discrimination against women, including in the area of property rights, and effective implementation of this legislation.



  • A comprehensive overview of the policies and programmes that have been effective in narrowing gender gaps in the region’s best performing countries, and a transfer of these best practices to low performing countries.


Members of the group include:

  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Deputy President of South Africa
  • Linah K Mohohlo, governor of the Bank of Botswana
  • Jay Naidoo, chairman of the board, Development Bank of Southern Africa
  • Elisabeth Tankeu, trade and industry commissioner for the African Union
  • Reuel Khoza, chairman of Nedbank, South Africa
  • Amadou Mahtar Ba, president of AllAfrica Global Media, USA
  • Mandisi Mpahlwa, South African Minister of Trade and Industry
  • William Mzimba, CEO of Accenture, South Africa
  • Nku Nyembezi-Heita, CEO of ArcelorMittal South Africa
  • Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange
  • Gisele Yitamben, president, Association pour le Soutien et l’Appui a la Femme Entrepreneur, Cameroon
  • Nyasha P Zhou, CEO of PG Industries (Zimbabwe)

SAinfo reporter

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