Gender-smart investments key for women economic empowerment: report

  • World
  • Thursday, 08 Jun 2023

ADDIS ABABA, June 7 (Xinhua) -- A new UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) report on Wednesday underscored the need to boost gender-smart investments to spur women's economic empowerment in North Africa and beyond.

The report, which was jointly conducted by the UNECA and Oxford Economics Africa, investigates both the entrepreneurial and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) landscapes in North Africa with a specific focus on women's contributions.

The report, among other things, put forward recommendations for governments to foster a more favorable environment for women-led enterprises and, therefore, put national economies on a path of faster, more inclusive and resilient growth.

"The report underscores that female entrepreneurship and women-led SMEs tend to create more jobs for women. They are thus key for bringing North African women into the labor market and helping reduce the large gender gaps in employment in the region," a UNECA statement quoted Amal Elbeshbishi, an economist at the UNECA Office for North Africa, as saying.

The report underscored that by enhancing the economic opportunities for women, gender-smart investments support social, educational and health outcomes.

Current employment data in North Africa show that women account for a significantly lower share of the working-age population than the global average, according to the UNECA.

The UNECA data showed that only less than 20 percent of North Africa's employed working-age population is female against a global average of above 40 percent.

The UNECA said the negative phenomenon further worsened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the region's recent economic and related challenges. It also said the region can significantly benefit from increased female contribution in the economic sector.

"Since women often bring skills that are complementary to men's, well-targeted policies, strategies and investments supporting female-led SMEs could have a positive impact on overall productivity," said Zuzana Brixiova Schwidrowski, director of the UNECA Office for North Africa.

North African countries have made significant progress in adopting comprehensive legislations concerning SMEs, but many specific impediments faced by female entrepreneurs and female business owners in accessing information, markets, financial services, land and other assets still remain, according to the UNECA.

It said inequalities in ownership of resources such as land especially impede women's access to credit and limit the growth of their firms. Most North African countries are still lacking specific policies directed toward supporting female entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses.

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