Women On Rise

Somachi Chris-Asoluka CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation

What should be at the core of bolstering female-led rural development in Africa?

To unlock the potential of Africa’s future through socio-economic empowerment, it is vital to empower grassroots and agricultural entrepreneurs across the continent. They possess a unique understanding of their cultural context, leading to a focus on bottom-up development in their communities, which can then be scaled up. One stark reality we must confront is that Africa cannot be competitive globally if half of its agricultural producers remain marginalised.
Agricultural production makes up the backbone of many African economies, and when 50% of these producers are disenfranchised, it hinders not only their potential, but also the continent’s growth.

In what ways can women be part of the solution to these developmental challenges?

Africa’s female entrepreneurs are often overlooked but offer significant potential. Compared to any other continent, Africa boasts one of the highest numbers of women entrepreneurs. However, these individuals often lack access to adequate training and support. Cultural norms sometimes force them to relinquish control of their businesses to their spouses, which is a structural injustice that we must work collectively to change. A possible solution lies in a bottom up approach that integrates women into economic activities at the community level. Empowering women benefits families, entire villages and communities. Female entrepreneurs are proven to create more jobs than their male counterparts, further contributing to local development and poverty reduction.

We cannot merely speak on behalf of these women – we must create platforms for them to voice their needs and challenges directly to government officials. Data is a powerful tool that can be used to demonstrate the benefits of empowering women in agriculture. It is crucial to establish platforms of transparency and honest dialogue between policymakers, entrepreneurs and communities. Looking forwards, it is time to shift the narrative and ensure that agricultural entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs at the grassroots level are at the forefront of discussions about Africa’s economic future. By empowering female agricultural entrepreneurs more specifically, we
can unlock the continent’s full potential.

By what means can access to financing for female entrepreneurs be improved?

One issue for women entrepreneurs in agriculture is access to capital and financing. Africa has shown remarkable innovation in digital payment solutions, yet women are disproportionately excluded from the lending process. They face higher rejection rates than their male counterparts, often due to difficulties with documentation and a lack of adequate training and mentorship. Women are often underrepresented in decision-making roles in many institutions, which perpetuates inherent institutional biases. Thus, more women are needed in decision-making positions in order to enable bottom-up, female-led development. If these issues are addressed in a structural manner, this can be
the decade of the African women entrepreneur.

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