Institutional weaknesses stunt economic growth, says Utomi
In his keynote address on ‘Ensuring Value for Women in the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)’ at the African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship forum (AWIEF) in Cape Town, South Africa, the don stressed the need for improvement on the continent’s entrepreneurship base.
He said, “We always ignore the fact that the earliest business people of this continent were significantly women, but the structure of evolving African economies has not allowed us to give the women that place.
“The women have remained small-scale players because the system has not enabled them.”
Utomi urged women to be more active and put pressure on the men.
“The political processes on the continent are not decent; they are often a gang-up of criminals; the criminalisation of finding people to represent people, hence women are far less inclined to play with criminals,” he added.
According to him, every business in Nigeria has become more about managing state and regulatory capital.
At the event, stakeholders canvassed support for economic empowerment of women, as well as the many ideas created by women, which do not always receive the needed support to succeed.
They took turns at the AWIEF event to seek support for women entrepreneurs who were always on the back seats, urging the momen to build confidence to play at higher levels and compete with the men.
Cape Town Executive Mayor, Dan Plato, acknowledged that the forum would help to increase the visibility and inclusion of women in businesses, particularly in Africa.
“Women must have the same rights as men to be able to compete on the same level in business. We need to change our perception of entrepreneurship, as it takes bravery to put a business idea out into the world, and this should earn our respect.
“Support your neighbour or local artisan, tradesman and business person to succeed,” he added.
Earlier, the founder of AWIEF, Irene Ochem, lamented the challenges faced by women to include cultural traditions and taboos, education, finance and investment, access to networks, socio-cultural and structural inequalities among others.
She said, “The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is a monumental milestone on this developmental road that we must exploit to the full. The African Development Bank’s ‘African Economic Outlook’ expanded four-fold.
“AfCFTA is expected to boost this trade by as much as 53 per cent by mid-2020s, which would unleash almost unlimited opportunities, new economies of scale, and income and employment generation through the greater market and economic integration.”
The United Nations Undersecretary-General and Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, noted that over 543,000 Africans were without identities, with over 200,000 being women.
“Identity comes with dignity. If we can bring the 45 per cent of women without identity on the continent into the economy, then we will begin to talk about how to empower them. This forum would help women to connect and join forces to scale up their businesses on the continent; hence dignity, connectivity and protecting women business ideas are very important,” she added.
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