“We cannot develop the African continent if we fail to develop women,” said Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, NEPAD Agency’s CEO, speaking at the Conference for Women in Agribusiness at the Durban ICC, South Africa.
The conference, taking place from 5 to 7 December, has brought together women entrepreneurs in various segments of the agricultural value chain, policy makers and business leaders, including those from financing institutions.
Dr Mayaki reminded the women that they needed to organise themselves and use intrinsic power to influence public policy, especially since they are in the majority. “The empowerment of women is not a charity case, it is necessary, and it is important that women remember this,” he said.
In Africa, the volume of trade in agricultural markets, especially in inter-regional trade is estimated at $11.7 billion. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that in the last five years, growth in intra-regional trade has outpaced growth in imports from outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Barriers to women’s entrepreneurship are many, but critical among them is access to market - domestic high value supermarkets, institutional buyer markets, regional and international markets.
The Conference for Women in Agribusiness continues to explore and concretise ways in which women entrepreneurs can be supported while also building their capacity on issues around value chains, access to finance, access to markets and policies that unlock women businesses. This year, training sessions for women entrepreneurs on meeting market standards, ICTs for market access and working capital financing for trade along value chains are included in the three-day programme.
Addressing delegates during the conference, the NEPAD Agency’s Director of Programmes, Mrs Estherine Lisinge-Fotabong remarked that the capacity of governments needs to be strengthened in order for policy makers to apply a gender-responsive approach throughout the public financial management cycle.
“The ATVET for Women Projects at the NEPAD Agency is one of the comprehensive approaches aimed at addressing the skills needs of women through Gender-sensitive, competency-based curricula along value chains in member states,” she reiterated.
“It must be seen as common sense that the elimination of hunger is impossible without terminating the gender gap between men and women in agriculture. Closing this gap speaks to allowing women equal access to land, agricultural training, improved seeds, fertilizers, equipment, water and technology,” said the CEO of Agribusiness Development Agency, Mr Carlos Boldogh.
Echoing his sentiments, Ms Bodil Gudrun Maal from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation underscored the challenges that women face along the whole agricultural value chain. She said, “Women need support along the agricultural value chain. [In addition] only 5 percent of investment in agriculture goes to postproduction. There is need for pressure to provide more funds for women in postharvest activities.”
The three-day conference promises to encourage robust discussions on empowering women entrepreneurs in agribusiness and the last day will see the delegates visiting Dube Agrizone- an integrated perishables supply chain which is host to the largest climate controlled glass-covered growing area in Africa.