Africa losing billions due to gender inequality, UN agency says

Wednesday September 7 2016

From left to right: Former Justice Minister Martha Karua, Foreign Affairs and International Trade CS Amina Mohamed and Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima during the opening of the African Women Leaders Symposium (AWLS) at the Safari Park Hotel on August 24, 2016. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

From left to right: Former Justice Minister Martha Karua, Foreign Affairs and International Trade CS Amina Mohamed and Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima during the opening of the African Women Leaders Symposium (AWLS) at the Safari Park Hotel on August 24, 2016. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ELIZABETH MERAB
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Sub-Saharan Africa loses around Sh9.5 trillion every year due to gender inequality, a new report by a UN agency has warned.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released during the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) held in Nairobi, the loss, is equivalent to six per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It further breaks down the staggering figure to show that although between 2010 and 2014 the region lost $95 billion, in 2014 alone the losses peaked at $105billion.

Some of the reasons cited in the Africa Human Development Report 2016 for this loss include deeply-rooted structural obstacles like unequal distribution of resources and political power, capped with social institutions that sustain inequality, which are holding back African women, and the continent.

As a result, the UNDP has warned that African countries will fail to meet their poverty reduction targets unless they tackle gender inequality that has proven to be costing billions of dollars.

“If gender gaps can be closed in labour markets, education, health, and other areas, then poverty and hunger eradication can be accelerated,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.

To mitigate the problem, experts said that addressing the unequal treatment of women in the workplace is one area where governments could make a difference.

“Countries’ development goals are not going to be achieved unless women are fully part of the story, it’s as simple as that,” said Ms Clark.

“The cost of not having women participate on the same level as men costs not only women and their family, it costs the whole country because they’re not able to make the contribution they could make.”

While in East Africa, only Rwanda (at position six) has been ranked as the country that has been able to achieve gender equality — as per the Global Gender Gap index, 2015 —Kenya is ranked at position 48.

Kenya is ranked in position 145 on the list of countries ranked low on the African Human Development Index.

One of the major blows dealt to the gender equality is the parliament’s inability to pass the two-third gender rule, despite the clause being included in the Constitution.

But there has been concerted effort by the civil society to push parliament to ensure that a third of elected seats are occupied by women with the latest effort through a Bill brought in parliament seeking to turn the constitutional requirement into law rejected by members of parliament.

“As our economies grow we must strive to ensure that the gains from our growth are felt by everybody, but not just that they are felt,” said President Uhuru Kenyatta during the release of the report a week ago.

The UN body’s report analysed the political, economic and social drivers that hamper African women’s advancement indicating that only between 7 and 30 per cent of all private firms have a female manager.

The report further indicates that African women hold 66 per cent of jobs in the non-agricultural informal sector and only make 70 cents for each dollar made by men.

It adds that even though 61 per cent of African women are working, they face economic exclusion as their jobs are undervalued and underpaid and are often in the informal sector.

The report proposes policies and actions such as addressing the contradiction between legal provisions and practice in gender laws, breaking down harmful social norms and transforming discriminatory institutional settings, and securing women’s economic, social and political participation to close the gender gap.

In Africa Mauritius was placed at position 63 among the High Human Development category.