Economic Empowerment of Women and Stronger Growth in North Africa Rely on Gender-Smart Investing

By: GWL Team | Thursday, 8 June 2023

On June 7, the ECA Office for North Africa and Oxford Economics Africa held a combined online session on "Gender-Smart Investing for Inclusive Growth in North Africa." ECA and Oxford Economics Africa took use of the opportunity to update policymakers, academics, the business community, and development partners in North Africa on the early findings of a collaborative research on this topic.

The study looks at the entrepreneurial and small-to-medium-sized business (SMEs) environments in North Africa with an emphasis on the contributions of women. In order to set national economies on a path of quicker, more inclusive, and resilient growth, it makes suggestions for governments on how to promote an environment that is more favourable for women-led businesses.

The paper emphasises how more employment for women are often created through female entrepreneurship and women-led SMEs. Therefore, they are essential for integrating North African women into the labour force and assisting in bridging the region's significant gender disparities in employment, according to Amal Elbeshbishi, an economist at the ECA Office for North Africa.

"Gender-smart investment enhances social, educational, and health outcomes by increasing the economic possibilities for women. According to Cobus de Hart, Director of Consulting at Oxford Economics Africa, this in turn promotes sustainable development, the creation of jobs, and resilience during economic downturns.

In North Africa, women make up much less of the working-age population than the global average (less than 20% of the employed working-age population in North Africa is female, compared to a global average of just over 40%). Following the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent economic and other difficulties in the region, this trend has become much worse.

Increased female economic participation in North Africa would be highly advantageous. Recent studies have found a significant correlation between SMEs and entrepreneurship and quicker economic growth and employment creation. According to Zuzana Brixiova Schwidrowski, Director of the ECA Office for North Africa, "Women frequently bring skills that are complementary to men's, so well-targeted policies, strategies, and investments supporting female-led SMEs could also have a positive impact on overall productivity."

Countries in North Africa have made considerable strides towards enacting thorough laws pertaining to SMEs. However, there are still several unique barriers that female company owners and entrepreneurs must overcome in order to access information, markets, financial services, property, and other assets. Women's access to financing is hampered by differences in the ownership of resources like land, which also restricts the expansion of their businesses. Additionally, the majority of North African nations still do not have any legislation that specifically assist female entrepreneurship and women-owned firms.