NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Friday called on African leaders to enhance the continent’s economic competitiveness by ensuring that women have access to financial services and occupy key leadership positions in the financial sector.
The Premier said that Africa must pursue inclusive financial sector policies, which are accessible and therefore enable the participation of a greater number of women -to ensure that they contribute to the decisions that are shaping the overhaul of the global financial system.
He said that 50 percent of Africa’s population comprised of women and emphasised that investing in them was the best way to emancipate the continent from poverty.
"No country can tackle poverty when the majority of its people especially women have limited access to financial services," he noted.
Mr Odinga spoke while officially opening the African Women Economic Summit in Nairobi. The summit with a theme "investing differently in women" brings to the fore the importance of the role of women in the economy, and particularly in the financial sector.
He said that a recent national survey carried out in Kenya in 2009 revealed that an astounding 66 percent of women have no access to formal financial services and 33 percent of them are completely excluded from accessing any financial services.
The PM said that from these findings, the Government of Kenya come up with mechanisms to ensure that women have an enabling environment to enhance their access to not only finance, but also gender equality,insurance,education,healthcare and housing to be fully empowered economically.
“Really, the benefits of promoting women’s economic empowerment spread beyond the individual woman to the household, community and the entire nation," he said.
The PM lauded the Vision 2030 as a framework through which the government has laid down its intentions to increase access to financial services by women, youth and other vulnerable groups.
"Of importance is that one of the key objectives of the Vision is to extend access to affordable financial services to all adult Kenyans by the year 2030," the PM observed, adding that the Women Enterprise Fund is a flagship project under the social pillar of the Vision.
He said that “through this fund, subsidised credit for business start up or expansion is offered to women, alongside business, market linkages and infrastructure to women run business."
Mr Odinga said that the Central Bank is currently in the process of engaging the financial service providers and other stakeholders in developing Agent Banking guidelines under the amended Banking Act to reduce the cost of financial services to financial institutions and individuals.
Others who addressed the meeting included Graca Machel, Founder "New Faces, New Voices Network" whose organisation together with the African development Bank (AfDB) and the Central Bank of Kenya co-sponsored the Summit.
Mrs Machel said that the summit is intended to provide African financial sector leaders and key decision makers a platform to engage with key stakeholders to ensure that women contribute in shaping the African financial system.
The African Development Bank president Dr Donald Kaberuka said that the AfDB was in the process coming up new and innovative approaches for promoting economic equality and women’s full participation in the shaping of Africa’s economic future.