Include more women in building economic resilience 

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022 22:13 | By

The devastating impact of the Covid pandemic on global supply chains and business in general has pushed both private and public sectors back to the drawing board to fix the broken links. While issues around shortage of manufacturing components, systems, lack of skills, affordability of labour and transport costs as well as access to finance and security could be among key topics to prop up in closed-door meetings, sadly gender inclusivity will most unlikely feature.

The inclusion of women in building resilience to future shocks, only features widely in research papers — as a game changing strategy — but implementation is yet to be realised.

A 2015 McKinley report, for instance, shows increasing women’s labour market participation and narrowing the gender pay gap may boost global GDP by more than $12 trillion a year by 2025, with women’s contribution to the global economy increasing by 26 per cent compared to the status quo.

Conversely, over the last five years, most organisations have only gone as far as making commitments to implement gender inclusivity as part of growth agenda. Still organisations report difficulties in finding suitable women-led and owned suppliers, with lack of data proving to be an increasingly prominent challenge.

Therefore, progress in boosting women’s engagement in the global economy has been at an all-time low before and during the pandemic, with women’s percentage of business ownership in the global economy staying at roughly 35 per cent.

Male dominance in the supply and logistics industry, for example, could, however, be the biggest unseen challenge. Corporates are making unconscious biases and maintaining barriers that continue to keep women from reaching higher positions of influence.

Well, it might be argued more women are not taking up STEM subjects and, therefore, lack the technical know-how to secure top jobs.  The bigger question is the opportunity cost of empowering women against returns when they finally get into the system? 

How organisations implement diversity could be missing a very crucial element-harnessing the untapped power of women through a multi-faceted approach at all stages of career cycle—simply put, investing on aspects that offers higher returns for businesses.

With the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), we have an even bigger opportunity we can tap into and start making things right for women and regional economy.

When international borders were closed to contain spread of the deadly virus, Africa’s supply chain suffered because of current structural challenges and over-reliance on foreign trade that exposed our weak manufacturing capacity.

With AfCFTA, we can start strengthening manufacturing capacity and bolster logistics leveraging on a vibrant and growing tech ecosystem to strengthen supply chains.

This will give us a buffer on a regional front and shield us from disruptions as we begin to entrench diversification of supply chains to ensure women-owned and led businesses get equitable inclusion in large supply chains as we set the pace on how SMEs can also be supported to succeed.

The biggest challenges for most women in all this have been access to capital—a lack of investment that has made it difficult to get businesses off the ground—and scale in a sustainable way.

It is from the understanding that organisations and management of large supply chains plays a significant role in unlocking Africa’s economic value for women that WeDeliver was formed. The initiative is a network and technology platform that provides access to information and enhances real time collaboration between corproates, SMEs and financiers. WeDeliver is geared towards driving equitable inclusion for women-owned and led businesses. 

Such initiatives are progressive and forward-looking in bringing the female business owners in the supply chain picture. We believe such platforms will accelerate progress and continue to ensure the participation of women across all economic activities and opportunities and play an integral role in helping organisation build a resilient recovery post-pandemic.

When we have more women and pro-women organisations aligning with the aspirations of such initiative, then Kenya and Africa will be ready to tap and reap big in world’s largest single market.

— The writers are co-founders of WeDeliver 

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