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Changing the Way Millions of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa Do Banking and Bridging the Gender Divide in the Digital Economy

World leaders are to pledge to shape the technological revolution sweeping through Africa by acting to lift the threat of 400 million predominantly rural women being excluded from digital financial services. G7 finance ministers meeting in France aims to endorse a paper from the Gates Foundation saying there is a serious risk that digital technology and mobile banking will bypass millions of women in Africa, leaving them disempowered for a generation. The initiative, requiring $255m in initial funding and regulatory action across Africa, is designed to prevent “the inequalities of the past being insinuated into the future” as cultural and market barriers lead to women being excluded from mobile banking, e-commerce and smartphone technology. A mobile money revolution in sub-Saharan Africa is under way in which the number of people with an account doubled to 21% in 2017. Yet in sub-Saharan Africa women are 13% less likely to own a mobile phone and 41% less likely to use mobile internet than men.

The G7 Group are to pledge to shape the technological revolution sweeping through Africa by acting to help 400 million predominantly rural women from being excluded from digital financial services. G7 has been asked to endorse a paper from the Gates Foundation which point out that there is a serious risk that digital technology and mobile banking will bypass millions of women in Africa, leaving them disempowered for yet another generation. The proposal calls for an initial US$255m supported by regulatory action across Africa in order to prevent “the inequalities of the past being insinuated into the future”. It shows that cultural and market barriers lead to women being excluded from mobile banking, ecommerce and smartphone technology.

And on the subject of the G7, South Africa has been invited to join the club. The G7 are the backbone of the OECD (Organisation of Economic and Cultural Development) which is also followed by the G20. So South Africa is already guided by the OECD’s guidelines on cross-border trade, including its Guidelines on ecommerce, but SA’s new affiliation with G7 is likely to increase pressure on it to apply these Guidelines (which include a much more generous de minibus rule than SA presently applies – see the article above on the WTO negotiations).

In another international initiative, the WTO’s Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said at the Aid for Trade Global Review (3-4 July) that economic diversification and empowerment of women are key to achieve a fairer and more efficient trading environment. The global economy offers many opportunities for enterprises to grow but much remains to be done in areas such as fisheries subsidies to safeguard resources and to ensure that the benefits of trade can reach more people, panelists agreed. Women entrepreneurs play a vital part in the world economy but more must be done to dismantle barriers to their full participation in global trade. highlighted New data on women traders which is now available since the 2017 Buenos Aires Declaration on Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment will help deepen the discussion.

Meanwhile, President Macron has announced a $65 million French government initiative to support the African tech ecosystem with a partnership between the French government’s Digital Africa programme and Start-up Geneome.

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