Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa
Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014- or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth, according to the Africa Human Development Report 2016.
The report analyses the political, economic and social drivers that hamper African women’s advancement and proposes policies and concrete actions to close the gender gap. These include 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.
Deeply-rooted structural obstacles such as unequal distribution of resources, power and wealth, combined with social institutions and norms that sustain inequality are holding African women, and the rest of the continent, back. The report estimates that a 1 percent increase in gender inequality reduces a country’s human development index by 0.75 percent.
THERE is no shortage of economic growth in Africa. Six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies of the past decade are in sub-Saharan Africa. A clutch of countries have enjoyed growth in income per person of more than 5% a year since 2007. Zambia is one of them. Yet a frequent complaint heard in Lusaka, the capital, is that the country’s rising GDP has passed much of the population by. The populist appeal of Michael Sata, who became president in 2011, is in part explained by a sense that ordinary Zambians had missed out on the benefits of economic growth.
GDP is not a perfect measure of living standards. A new study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative takes a broader look at well-being in Africa. As well as income per person, BCG’s gauge of living standards includes jobs, governance, health, and inequality. Measured in this way, well-being in much of sub-Saharan Africa is lower than it ought to be, given rising average incomes per person. Levels of well-being in South Africa are out of whack with its GDP per head. Kenya and Ghana do a much better job of reaping the benefits of a growing economy.
Yet many of the countries whose well-being has improved most in the past five years are in Africa. This list is headed by Angola and includes Congo, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania. All have enjoyed rapid growth in GDP per person. But they have also done well at translating that strong growth into improved well-being: in technical terms, the correlation between GDP per person and well-being above one in these countries (see chart). Income growth per person has been above 5% a year in Ghana, Mozambique and Uganda, too. But increases in well-being have not been quite as rapid as in the best performers (abridged).