Last month saw African Heads of State and Government descending on South Africa for the 25th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Summit in Sandton. As is the norm, the Summit offers African leaders an opportunity to compile a balance sheet of affairs on the continent, but more importantly it is also the time that they get to deliberate and plan on the future of the continent.
The Summit was held under the theme “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.According to the AU website, Agenda 2063 is “A global strategy to optimize use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans”. The goal is to ensure that Africa creates and capitalises on opportunities so as to achieve greater economic independence and prosperity by the time of Centenary OAU/AU celebrations in 2063.
I followed the proceedings of the Summit from home and when the current Chairman of the AU President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe took to the podium I was keen to hear what he had to say. President Mugabe started off his speech by reaffirming the theme of the summit and reminding the African people again on the important role that women play in society, even drawing examples from his own experiences growing up to the time that he attended Fort Hare University in South Africa.
There is no denying the importance of the role played by women not only in the African context of life and culture but globally. I strongly believe that the future of the African continent as we gear towards the achievement of the goals under Agenda 2063 is brighter than we think if we are able as a continent to empower our women through proper legislative instruments, availing of economic opportunities and education. Gone are the days when women were reduced to spectators of the economic and political game. One of the crucial points made by Agenda 2063 is that Africa must learn from its past so as to take appropriate action in the future. Although significant progress has been registered thus far in terms of educating women, not many portals of opportunities available have had the desired impact on the continent both economically and politically despite having a female President in Liberia and the current chairperson of the AU Commission.
Part of the resolutions from the previous Summit was to boost agricultural productivity to enhance Africa’s food supply as well as to help create jobs for the African population and the youths. A spokesperson for one the various NGOs that had representatives at the summit interviewed by SABC brought out some very interesting statistics that women are the backbone of the industry that is the backbone of the African economy which is agriculture; since agriculture employs close to 75 per cent of all the employed in Africa,of which 65 per cent of those employed in the agriculture sector as well as other related fields are women. However on the interview with SABC the spokesperson lamented lack of adequate support for women who wanted to venture into the agriculture business since they don’t have ownership of land resources as well as lack of access to the necessary financial assistance tools in the form of loans or partners to help them contribute towards the continent’s food security as well as the GDP of the continent.
Sitting at home whilst I was watching all this,I was reminded of one interview I saw of a US woman who was reiterating how important the role women play in society. She was speaking on how she was helping run an organisation that rescues girls who are victims of human trafficking in Eastern Europe and a US marine called had a telephone conversation from his post in Afghanistan telling her that the Afghan war was hard to win because the US Army had no access to Afghan women who were the curators and custodians of the Afghan culture and philosophy.
In the same way African women also have key roles to play in safeguarding what we have at the moment, but more importantly they are one of the determining factors on how good we are going to perform in our future to achieve economic independence and prosperity as stated by Agenda 2063.Therefore the future is also calling for leaders that will play pivotal roles in the acceleration of women empowerment through education, economic and political opportunities. The future is ours to make and now the time. Women need empowerment, else the core of African value and identity risks being Darwined out in the modern era. An adage of modern opines educate a woman educate a nation. Adding my own plagiarised intelligence to it I say “Empower the African Woman, Empower the Continent”.