NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development agency, has promoted the role of women entrepreneurs in strengthening and developing the continent’s agriculture sector at the Conference for Women in Agribusiness.
Female entrepreneurs, policy makers and business leaders gathered on December 5-7, 2017 in South Africa to discuss ways in which women can be supported to build their involvement and influence on issues within value chains, finance access, market access and gender-sensitive policies.
The three-day programme included training sessions on meeting market standards, moving capital financing for trade across value chains and using ICTs to access markets.
Also included was a visit to Dube Agrizone, an integrated perishables supply chain that has Africa’s largest climate-controlled, glass-covered growing area.
Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, NEPAD’s CEO, said that it was essential for women to become empowered to influence public policy when they are in the majority, and to have equal access to the agricultural inter-regional trade, which is estimated at US$11.7 billion.
Mayaki noted there were many barriers to women’s entrepreneurship but chief among them was access to high value, institutional buyer, regional and international markets.
NEDPAD’s Director of Programmes, Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong, said that governments needed to ensure policy makers applied a gender-responsive approach to their public financial management.
She pointed to NEPAD’s ATVET for Women Projects as one way the agency was addressing the skills women needed through gender-sensitive and competency-based curriculums.
Carlos Boldogh, CEO of Agribusiness Development Agency, said that giving women equal access to land, seed, fertiliser, equipment, water, technology and training would go a long way to eliminating poverty and hunger.
Women faced gender-disparate challenges along the whole agricultural value chain, according to Bodil Gudrun Maal from Norway’s Agency for Development Cooperation.
With only 5% of investment in agriculture going to postproduction, she added that more funds needed to be provided for women working in post-harvest activities.
Dr Mayaki said: “We cannot develop the African continent if we fail to develop women.
“The empowerment of women is not a charity case, it is necessary, and it is important that women remember this.”