Member of Parliament Emma Theofelus said women face gender biases in legal and macroeconomic frameworks, including young professionals in the informal sector.
Theofelus shared this at a high-level panel at the opening ceremony of the YouthConnekt Africa Summit in Accra, Ghana, last week.
The panellists discussed the opportunities for young people, where The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is concerned, as well as the role of young women in delivering the vision for Africa beyond aid.
The free-trade area is the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 54 of the 55 African Union nations.
Accra, Ghana, serves as the Secretariat of AfCFTA, and it was commissioned and handed over to the AU by the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, on 17 August 2020 in Accra.
“Africa’s demographic dividend is very much dependent on the full inclusion of women across overlapping political, social and economic spheres,” stated Theofelus.
She said, this has far-reaching implications like limited opportunities to funding from commercial banks, trust from potential clients, fewer employees, as well as lower sales and annual turnover, furthermore constraining young women from starting, operating and scaling up enterprises.
The deputy minister of information, communication and technology (ICT) added narrowing the digital divide will ensure women fully participate in the 4th Industrial Revolution and have access to economic opportunities online.
“Women have, in the past, been deliberately excluded from all the first three industrial revolutions. The opportunities availed by technology today cannot be ignored; the continent needs to take deliberate actions to ensure no young person is unable to use technology today,” she stated.
Theofelus said, for Africa to develop, there needs to be gradual less reliance on the West, through foreign aid that has failed to deliver sustainable economic growth on the continent.
She is advocating for more intra-Africa trade to alleviate poverty amongst other things.