About AU’s new drive to improve the socio-economic status of 10 million African women and youth
Sponsored by African Union
Africa’s vision for its people is that of a continent where girls and boys reach their full potential and men and women contribute equally to the development of their societies.
Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 envisions an Africa whose development is people-driven, especially relying on the potential of its women and youth.
Promoting gender and youth mainstreaming on the continent is essential for an inclusive Africa where the voices and concerns of 75 percent of the population that constitutes of women and youth, are heard and welcomed at decision-making tables.
The inclusion of women and youth continues to be important to the African Union (AU), not just because it is part of its Constitutive Act, but also because it is a fundamental human right that is integral to the accelerated economic growth and social development of the continent as a whole.
However, for decades, African women and youth have been trapped in cycles of poverty due to several underlying factors, including unequal access to education, factors of production, restricted market access; underpaid or unpaid labour; harmful cultural practices; violence against women and girls; and limited legal protection from gender inequality practices entrenched in the society, amongst others.
To break the cycle of poverty and inequalities, AU continues to advocate for the development and implementation of policies and legal frameworks that create a wider array of opportunities for women and youth, and which will lead to their economic empowerment for inclusive and sustainable development of the continent.
These frameworks include, among others, the AU Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment; the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol); the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA); the African Youth Charter; and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The ladder of change for 10 million African women and youth
To move from policy to action and bring the vision to life for millions of women and young people, AU has since launched the Women and Youth Financial and Economic Inclusion 2030 Initiative (WYFEI 2030) to unlock $100 billion for at least 10 million women and youth by 2030, leveraging and building on existing initiatives and financial instruments, both in the public and private sector.
The initiative was launched in July 2022 in Ghana by the AU Champion on Gender and Development in Africa, H.E Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, alongside H.E Dr Monique Nsazabaganwa, the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC).
WYFEI 2030 Initiative aims to build a resilient continental ecosystem that fosters impactful actions to improve financial and economic inclusion of women and youth. It seeks to increase the incomes of women and youth by supporting entrepreneurship and advocating for parity in employment. It also seeks to promote financial sector reform to make innovative financial products and services available, accessible, and affordable to women and youth. The initiative is further designed to implement inclusive, women and youth-friendly macro-economic and growth-enhancing policies that enable micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises to survive and thrive.
WYFEI 2030 is part of the activities aligned to the AU Declaration of years 2020 to 2030 as the Decade of Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion. It equally supports the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by ensuring women and youth contribute to and benefit from the intra-African trade by accessing wider markets and participating competitively in regional value chains.
The development and negotiations for the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade are ongoing and are scheduled for completion this year. The Protocol is expected to address the specific constraints and barriers that women and youth face when trading.
For WYFEI 2030 Initiative to succeed, synergy among stakeholders is paramount. As a public, private women and youth initiative, WYFEI 2030 serves as a platform for mobilising, engaging, and leveraging the comparative advantages of key stakeholders, including:
- Member States as enablers and regulators of the national economy and financial sector.
- Central banks, development banks, state-owned banks, and credit institutions, as enablers and providers of financial products and services.
- Training institutions, including universities, and vocational centres, as providers of necessary skills for production, value addition, and business management.
- Mobile telecom companies as providers of technology platforms.
- Private sector representatives as key implementation partners.
- Women and youth as co-creators, co-owners, and primary beneficiaries of the initiative.
- Development partners as financiers and providers of technical assistance.
- The media and communications institutions as amplifiers of key messages.
- The African Union Commission and organs, as well as regional economic communities, as custodians, conveners, and coordinators of the initiative.
Connecting the dots and tallying success
The financial and economic inclusion of women and youth in Africa is both desirable and feasible to achieve. With the conditions for success already defined, it is all systems go for the initiative to expand.
Financial and technical contributions and pledges kicked off in 2022 and are expected to gradually increase.
The WYFEI 2030 Initiative has received pledges from the following organisations and institutions so far: AUDA-NEPAD, AfCFTA Secretariat, African Renaissance Trust Fund, UNCDF, Better than Cash Alliance, Generation Unlimited, African Business Council, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNDP, UN Women, and Mastercard Foundation.
All through to 2030, for the initiative to be deemed a success, the following boxes will be checked:
- $100 billion is unlocked to support at least 10 million women and youth.
- At least 10 million women and youth are trained in financial literacy, in agro-industrial technology, entrepreneurship, business management, among others key courses.
- At least 80 percent of women and youth are enrolled in an insurance scheme.
- At least 80 percent of women and youth use e-banking services.
- At least 50 percent of African Union Member States are implementing the initiative.
- At least three functional and high performing communities of action are in place.
- Development partners are making substantial financial and technical contributions to the initiative.
- At least 80 percent of national and continental banks have included WYFEI as part of their portfolios.
- The Trust Fund for African Women (TFAW) and African Youth Fund (AYF) are operationalised.
- At least 300 million women and youth reached through employment, entrepreneurship, education, engagement, and health and well-being. The African Union will have achieved quotas in youth and women employment.
The WYFEI 2030 is a transformational initiative whose outcomes aim to mitigate, if not eliminate, the major constraints hindering women and youth empowerment to allow them to fully participate in economic activities, social endeavours and in decision-making on matters that affect them.
WYFEI 2030 provides a mutual accountability framework for partners and key stakeholders to pool efforts towards success. It additionally endeavours to establish a strong accountability mechanism that supports enhanced data collection and knowledge management platforms. These will in turn facilitate monitoring and evaluation, measuring the gains and strides taken towards financial and economic inclusion of Africa’s women and youth.