Greater involvement of African women in commercial agriculture could offer a durable solution to the continent’s endemic challenges like poverty, hunger, malnutrition and inequality, experts said at a forum in Nairobi on Wednesday.
The experts and policymakers, who spoke at the inaugural African women in agribusiness conference underway in Nairobi, stated that governments should leverage on skills and innovations from the female gender to enhance the sustainability of commercial farming.
Sabdiyo Dido, an agribusiness specialist at the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA), said that Africa’s ability to achieve sustainable development hinges on greater participation of women in commercially oriented food production systems.
“We must increase the number of women in agribusiness by providing them with requisite skills, capital and technology,” Dido remarked.
“Gender sensitive policies are required to ensure there is a level playing ground for women keen to venture into trade in agricultural produce,” she added.
More than 100 participants from 21 African countries who included policymakers, entrepreneurs, financial experts and innovators attended the two days conference that discussed new strategies to promote women in agribusiness.
Dido said that the creation of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents immense opportunities for women farmers keen to explore new markets for their produce.
“The continental free trade combined with existing regional economic blocs could provide a lucrative market for agricultural commodities that are mainly produced by women,” said Dido.
She said that capacity building coupled with access to affordable credit and digital platforms is key to ensure that African women are key players in the agricultural value chains.
The World Bank’s projections indicate that agribusiness in Sub-Saharan Africa will be worth 1 trillion U.S. dollars by the year 2030 and will be central to the continent’s industrial transformation.
Beatrice Gakuba, executive director of African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN), said that policy reforms, awareness creation and financing are keys to ensure that women are at the heart of the transition to mechanized farming that promises shared prosperity in the world’s second largest continent.
“Our governments should embark on the enactment of inclusive policies to ensure that women are adequately represented in agribusiness,” said Gakuba.
“Access to finance, removal of non-trade barriers and development of basic infrastructure will ensure that women agripreneurs thrive in their countries and across the borders,” she added.
Gakuba said that the digital revolution that has gained a foothold in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa will benefit women involved in agribusiness through enhanced market linkages.
Eva Shitaatala, founder and director of Zadeva Investments, a Namibian company that deals with oysters and fish products, said that female-led start-ups have revolutionized agribusiness in the sub-Saharan African region.
“The future of women in agribusiness here in Africa is bright but there must be concerted efforts to ensure they have access to seed capital and markets to enable them to withstand the competition,” said Shitaatala.
She said that awareness creation combined with training is key to promote the participation of women in commercial farming.
Fatime Souckar Djibrine Terab, a Chadian female entrepreneur, said that agribusiness holds key to economic and social empowerment of African women grappling with high levels of poverty, illiteracy and marginalization.
“Our policymakers should explore innovative ways to address bottlenecks that have prevented women from participating in agribusiness,” said Terab.
She said that intra-African trade that has grown in recent times will stimulate the growth of female-led agri-based enterprises.