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Gender-smart investing key for women economic empowerment and stronger growth in North Africa

Gender-smart investing key for women economic empowerment and stronger growth in North Africa

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The ECA Office for North Africa and Oxford Economics Africa a joint online workshop on ‘Gender-smart investing for inclusive growth in North Africa’ last week. The event was an opportunity for ECA and Oxford Economics Africa to present the preliminary findings of a joint report on this topic to North African policymakers, academics, private sector and development partners.

The report investigates both the entrepreneurial and the small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) landscapes in North Africa with a specific focus on women’s contributions. It presents recommendations for governments to foster a more favourable 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 labour market and helping reduce the large gender gaps in employment in the region,” said Amal Elbeshbishi, Economist at the ECA Office for North Africa.

“By enhancing the economic opportunities for women, gender-smart investing also supports social, educational and health outcomes. This in turn buoys sustainable development, job creation and resilience during times of economic crisis,” said Cobus de Hart, Director of Consulting at Oxford Economics Africa.

Current employment figures in North Africa show that women account for a significantly lower share of the working age population than the global average (less than 20% of North Africa’s employed working age population is female against a global average just above 40%). This trend has worsened further in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the region’s recent economic and other challenges.

North Africa can significantly benefit from increased female contribution to its economy. According to recent research, SMEs and entrepreneurship are positively linked to faster economic growth and job creation. “Since women often bring skills that are complementary to men’s, well-targeted policies, strategies and investments supporting female-led SMEs could also have a positive impact on overall productivity,” said Zuzana Brixiova Schwidrowski, Director at the ECA Office for North Africa.

North African countries have made significant progress in adopting comprehensive legislations concerning SMEs. However, many specific impediments faced by female entrepreneurs and female business owners in accessing information, markets, financial services, land, and other assets remain. Inequalities in ownership of resources such as land especially impede women’s access to credit and limit the growth of their firms. Moreover, most North African countries are still lacking specific policies directed towards supporting female entrepreneurship and women-owned businesses.

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