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The Economic Commission for Africa

Membership of the Economic Commission for Africa Membership of the Economic Commission for Africa

The membership of the Economic Commission for Africa includes: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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Introduction Introduction

The Economic Commission for Africa is one of five regional commissions of the Economic and Social Commission and represents countries in Africa. ECA supports the economic development of its member states by reinforcing economic relationships among its members and other countries of the world. It does so by promoting developmental cooperative activities and projects of regional and subregional scope, bringing a regional perspective to global problems and translating global concerns at the regional and subregional levels. ECA also has as one of its primary objectives the promotion of the region’s social development.

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Women’s economic empowerment: boosting women’s entrepreneurship in Africa Women’s economic empowerment: boosting women’s entrepreneurship in Africa

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) defines Women’s economic empowerment as “a process through which [women’s] capital (human, financial and physical) endowments increase along with their access to and benefit from economic opportunities, leading to improved agency and voice.” The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that 66 percent of African women are employed, but only 20 percent are in wage employment. The remaining 80 percent of women who hold a job are self-employed. Compared to the rest of the world, African women are underemployed (working less than 30 hours per week) at higher rates than the global average. While African States have been working to close the gap, many challenges remain. 

The ECA first sought to address women’s empowerment in 2009. At the Expert Session of the Eighth Africa Regional Conference on Women, members of the Commission called upon Member States to address economic concerns related to gender through policy and programmes. In turn, States and regional intergovernmental bodies were to enhance the process by reporting data and lessons to the Commission and all African States. Finally, the ECA and regional organizations continued to improve this process by enhancing the capacity of Member States to reduce poverty and sustainable development as it relates to women’s empowerment. States that undertook these efforts were largely successful in creating government policy and establishing goals to address how to improve women’s capacity in employment. However, policy alone did not meet all of the needs related to women’s employment. Both internal and external obstacles made it difficult for governments to meet the goals of their policies. 

Since 2009, the majority of Member States have recognized the need to address women’s economic empowerment as a cornerstone of economic development throughout the continent. Despite the obstacles that hampered progress, the Commission continued to push forward. The New Continent-Wide Initiative for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment was created by the Commission in 2014. This initiative reinvigorated efforts to empower more women through employment. By combining policy with partnerships in the public and private sector, the Commission sought to overcome the shortcomings of policy-only plans. In addition to partnerships, the initiative recognizes the need for data to assess efforts. Data should be shared across all partners, government agencies and intergovernmental organizations. Finally, the initiative recognized the importance of women’s entrepreneurship. Industries such as agriculture and mining were seen as areas that could be improved by bringing women out of undervalued and largely invisible positions. This move would not only strengthen these important industries, but also empower women by bringing them into leadership positions. These efforts would “recognize and scale up [women’s] contributions as key economic agents.” This focus on entrepreneurship was also seen as a way to build womens’ autonomy and address other issues such as women’s rights. 

In 2017, the Commission released the policy report titled Women’s Economic Empowerment: Boosting Women’s Entrepreneurship in Africa which outlined the work and successes since the Initiative of 2014. The successes the report outlined included the growth of womens’ entrepreneurship. Women had seen a growth in employment across many industries, and a growth in leadership positions. Additionally, the report pointed to the participation of many of the Member States governments in growing women’s entrepreneurship as encouraging. Yet, there was still much work to be done. The report also showed that growth was still overall slow for women. Underemployment continues to restrict mobility and autonomy of women. The report also indicates that insufficient access to financing, electricity and other resources is an obstacle to women’s entrepreneurship. 

To address these issues, the report made several recommendations to Member States. First, states will need to consider how to incentivise financial institutions to encourage women’s entrepreneurship, particularly for the lower classes who have the lowest access to credit. Second, womens’ access to legal advice needs to be strengthened as lack of legal advice can be a major hurdle for entrepreneurship. Finally, Member States must consider how their legal frameworks create obstacles for womens’ entrepreneurship. Many Member States have frameworks that create disparities for married women and unmarried women. Custom also plays a crucial role, and is a powerful force across Africa, especially in rural areas. By encouraging gender equality and women leaders in all parts of the judiciary would ease the obstacles that the legal system creates for women’s entrepreneurship. 

One difficulty the Commission will need to consider is meeting the needs of both rural and urban areas within Member States. While women in more rural areas are still striving to establish a voice for themselves and gain the infrastructure to make working possible, Member States with more urban populations may seek policies that will assist with the services and private sector support to allow women more freedom and security in their entrepreneurship. The Commission estimates that investment in Africa would need to get to 1.2 trillion USD per year to get to the goal in Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and the African Union Agenda 2063 for the inclusive growth of Africa. The ECA is optimistic that development can continue to empower women on a larger scale. 

Questions to consider

  • What can Member States do to improve women’s access to education, entrepreneurship and stable employment opportunities?
  • Using data, what practical measures can Member States take to promote women’s rights across socioeconomic and cultural barriers?
  • How can Member States incorporate gender equality goals in the development of human capital through investments in education, science, technology, and research?

Bibliography Bibliography

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United Nations Documents United Nations Documents

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Enhancing the climate resilience of Africa’s infrastructure Enhancing the climate resilience of Africa’s infrastructure

Despite the need for infrastructure development throughout Africa, only 4 percent of the continent’s GDP has been invested in infrastructure annually since 2016 according the African Development Bank (AfDB). Half of the people have access to paved roads, and sewers are only available to one in three people. Rural citizens have a much larger gap. On average, less than one half of citizens have access to basic utilities and in some countries the gap can be as great at 90 percent. The AfDB notes that “Bridging the infrastructure gap could increase GDP growth by an estimated two percentage points.”. In addition to the need for increased investment, African infastructure must now meet the challenges of a changing climate. The successful development of climate-resilient infrastructure throughout Africa will have far-reaching consequences for generations to come. Pan-African infrastructure consists of the physical and institutional means by which the continent conducts its most central operations, from transportation and communication to production of heat and electrical power. As such, the everyday lives and well-being of all Africans depend on a reliable infrastructure that will facilitate economic growth and security. With a wide range of climate conditions across the continent, from coastal cities and floodplains to arid drylands, designing cohesive plans that allow for efficient and effective responses to adverse weather and natural disasters is a complex task with high stakes. The African continent sees a wide range of climates, where landlocked and island nations see unique challenges when it comes to climate. Island and coastal countries have seen increased effects from major storms and rising sea levels. Landlocked nations have seen an increase in long lasting droughts, which have taxed water and hydropower systems. Developers must be able to retrofit existing infrastructure to allow for adaptation to future climate conditions, while also designing new structures and facilities that proactively anticipate the needs of a climate-resilient system. As the understanding of the scope of global climate change continues to grow, so does the substantial financial and humanitarian implications for future development in Africa.

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has prioritized the capacity of the research community to effectively gather and share information regarding climate change. The relatively unpredictable nature of climate change elevates the importance of sound data collection and multi-field collaboration to a critical level. Development strategies for infrastructure must consider how to adapt and respond to a future climate. In 2006, the Commission, in partnership with the African Union Commission and the AfDB, formed the ClimDev Africa Programme to address the specific impact that climate change will have on infrastructural development in Africa. 

In 2010, the Commission launched the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) to provide an open-data platform for multi-field information sharing, focusing specifically on the development of hydropower, irrigation systems and electric power in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2015, the Commission launched the Climate Research for Development in Africa initiative (CR4D) to close the information gap between climate science research and infrastructure development planning throughout Africa. In 2017, the Commission sought to integrate investors by developing the Africa Climate Resilient Investment Facility (AFRI-RES) in 2017. AFRI-RES was created with the mission to combine the work of African government and civil institutions with those of the private sector. By pooling resources, funds and expertise, infrastructure projects can meet their goals in a timely fashion with increased integrity against a changing climate. These efforts showed how collaboration plays a pivotal role in developing an infrastructure plan that will meet the needs of a changing climate across the continent. Collaboration and data sharing is necessary for businesses, governments and civil society organizations to meet the needs of a resilient infrastructure program. 

The efforts of these groups highlight the importance of enabling the collection of accurate, beneficial information regarding climate change, and providing researchers, engineers and investors with the tools to most effectively anticipate infrastructure needs under future climate conditions. Information about these tools, such as the Climate Safeguard System (CSS) and the AfDB, were exhibited at the first Africa Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Summit (ACRIS I) held in April of 2015. In line with the goals of retrofitting existing structures and building adaptable components in the future, the Summit highlighted a Ten Year Strategy (2013-2022) and a World Bank report titled ‘Enhancing the Climate Resilience of Africa’s Infrastructure: the Power and Water Sectors.’ Using the CSS to facilitate fund allocation, the Summit reviewed approaches to hydropower, irrigation and electricity while minimizing risks. The lessons gained from this summit aid other infrastructure plans across the continent. Some of these lessons include better coordination between governments and private organizations and assessing current materials and construction methods to meet climate challenges. Funding allocation continues to be a crucial point of discussion. Governments, civil organizations and private companies have been and continue to provide money and resources to meet the goals of these programs. 

As the ECA looks toward the future, events are focused on green economy and structural transformation. There have been successes such as how Member States have used dams to provide over 6,000 MW of energy annually while reducing emissions from other sources such as coal. However, there is much work to be done. In addition to quality, environmentally responsible development, Member States debated funding through public-private cooperation, preventing excessive emissions, and further sharing of technologies. Data continues to play an important role in implementation of development plans, and sharing data across partner organizations needs to be a major consideration. This is especially important for addressing regional problems such as long term droughts or seasonal flooding. Finally, external and internal conflicts such as corruption, civil strife and armed conflict act as roadblocks for infrastructure development. Member States will need to consider how to best address these issues when implementing development plans. 

Questions to consider:

  • In what ways will other issues such as corruption and armed conflict affect the implementation of infrastructure plans? How can Member States overcome these challenges? 
  • What strategies can be utilized to incorporate private sector funding into public sector projects?
  • How can data collection and interpretation about infrastructure needs in Africa at the local, national, regional and international levels help Member States meet their goals?

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Bibliography Bibliography

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United Nations Documents United Nations Documents

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