Support to women in the informal sector is key to rebuilding African economies post covid-19; AWAN Africa

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(Nairobi, 15th July 2020) Post COVID-19 recovery measures should put into consideration women led Micro, Small, Medium and Large Enterprises (MSMLEs) businesses and allow them equal chance of rising from the economic crisis caused by lockdowns and restriction of movement measures put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the Executive Director of the African Agribusiness Network (AWAN Afrika) Beatrice Gakuba told a United Nations summit on women in industry and innovation on Wednesday.

Ms. Gakuba said the relief measures should cut across all sectors of the economy including the informal sector where majority of women work, without formal licenses and hence no access to finances.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and financial impact will drive a section of the population to poverty, this section is women and especially those in rural areas and the informal sector,” she said.

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Speaking at the online United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Summit for women in industry and innovation, Ms. Gakuba said majority of women in rural Africa, work in agriculture, as well as Small and Medium Enterprises and the informal economy, sectors that are worst hit by the economic fall out of the coronavirus. She gave an example of the AWAN Afrika membership where in a survey conducted between May and June this year, 91% of respondents said they had lost income as a result of disruptions caused by lockdowns and restrictions of movement put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

She said any national and international initiative for rescue must include women MSMLEs in order to avoid the risk of increasing women poverty, which will have a direct impact on families.

“The agriculture sector in Africa is illiterate in many developmental sectors, this is where we should begin. Train women and youth in Financial literacy, how to access markets, how to trade with quality standards products, how to adapt digital technologies, where they can buy and sell their produce on line using E commerce, train them on government and multinational procurement processes, so that they can gain from their enterprises and also create employment so badly needed for our youth on the continent,” she added.

She told the meeting that the COVID-19 crisis also offers policymakers a chance to rebuild better, with more than half of the continent’s population in mind – “WOMEN”, failure to which the gains made in gender equality will be lost.

The three-day conference “Women in Industry and Innovation” will gather government representatives, private sector actors, experts, entrepreneurs, researchers and other relevant stakeholders, in an effort to promote the development of an inclusive and sustainable environment for the economic empowerment of women.

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