Africa can show the world that women entrepreneurs are our future

I am always proud to say that I live in the most dynamic region in the world, thanks to our young and resourceful population. According to a 2019 World Bank study, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world: nearly 42% of the working population, excluding the agricultural sector, are self-employed or employers.

However, the private sector’s contribution to poverty reduction and shared prosperity is hampered because most entrepreneurs struggle to expand their businesses beyond small-scale subsistence activities.

And this is particularly true for women. Women have always played a major role in the economies of sub-Saharan Africa – the only region in the world where they represent the majority of self-employed workers. Collectively, there is more we can do to encourage these risk-takers and to avoid missing out on tremendous opportunities that talented women develop for themselves and us as a society.

Togolese women lead the way in showing how, in business, dedication leads to success. The Government of Togo has long been committed to gender equality because we know it makes the country stronger. We are one of the countries with the most women in government globally. Togo is also the country with the highest rate of women in management positions, according to the International Labour Organisation.

Our tradition of women entrepreneurs is not new: in the 1970s, the famous “Nana Benz” sold wax loincloth on a great scale. This trade is how they became the first female millionaires of Africa. Their ambitious and flashy success marked the beginning of the emancipation of African women. But we have also realised the importance of strongly promoting women’s entrepreneurship through a national strategy with an emphasis on financial inclusion.

How can this be done?

Firstly, financial education: a set of tools that allow everyone to understand how a business is structured and how to make the most of its own potential. Financial literacy underpins economic success, and it is at the core of our financial inclusion programmes.

Secondly, through targeted and concrete measures that help to formalise and grow businesses: micro-credit mechanisms, loans, and grants suited to the needs of women entrepreneurs, whether they are just starting or have experience: nearly ¾ of women business owners in Togo have borrowed money to start their activity, a higher rate than in Nigeria (60%) or South Africa (45%).

In Togo we’ve shown that supporting women entrepreneurs with a range of financially inclusive policies helps to unlock their potential, and benefits the economy at large: today, female-run microenterprises earn more profit than those run by men. And Togo is the only country in the West African Economic and Monetary Union where this is the case.

The women who’ve taken advantage of the financial inclusion policies we’ve implemented have become role models to all the young girls who seek to turn their ideas and creative energy into sustainable income by making the most of the fundamental principle of equal opportunity for all.

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