NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 5 – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday called on African governments to economically empower women whom she says are the real driving forces towards economic growth.
Speaking during the opening of the 8th African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum, Mrs Clinton said denying women the same economic opportunities accorded to men had left a void in the continent and undermined progress and prosperity of Africa.
“Women are doing the work of a whole continent, washing clothes, gathering firewood, raising children; and if given the opportunity of economic empowerment they can transform communities and local economies,” she said.
Sighting the example of Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as successful women, she said if given an opportunity women could leave an impact on the continent’s economic growth.
Mrs Clinton also called on African countries to increase intra African trade to capitalise on the vast continental market.
Her sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga who called on African countries to iron out artificial trade barriers that had made it difficult to trade amongst themselves.
“Africa is a huge market but trade amongst us still remains negligible. Most African countries prefer to trade with other counties outside the continent which is a huge shame,” Mr Odinga said.
The Premier said it was ironical how it was easy for western companies to set up shop in Africa while it remains difficult for African countries to do the same.
He called for deliberate efforts to be taken by African leaders to increase trade in the continent.
Mr Odinga was also categorical in calling on the world’s leading nations to assist Africa deal with the effects of global warming. He said effects of climatic change greatly affected Africa yet they contribute the least in terms of carbon emissions.
“Africa lives between two disasters, drought and floods. But Africa is not the major contributor in as far as carbon emissions are concerned; the offenders are well known,” Mr Odinga said.
He called on world leaders to use the upcoming Copenhagen climate conference to develop an African agenda that will enable African countries negotiate on what they need done to combat the effects of climate change.