Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Kenya-Tanzania Relationship in Perspective

Presidents Magufuli and Kenyatta at State House Nairobi during the former's recent visit to Kenya.
Photo: Courtesy

The visit by Tanzanian President Dr. Pombe Magufuli in Kenya three weeks ago has been interpreted as the initial step in restoring “good” relations between Nairobi and Dodoma.  In recent times, the relations between the two states have been frosty majorly due to ideological differences and lately due to economic differences.

Historically, the divide that separates Kenya and Tanzania is one of ideological fundamentalism. A few years after gaining their independence, the two states identified themselves with two distinct politico-economic and social philosophies; Kenya pursued capitalism while Tanzania religiously adopted socialism (Ujamaa).

Collectivization which characterized the Tanzanian economy had two salient features; state ownership of the basic industries/enterprises and the indifference to competition (Protectionism). The Ujamaa policy that was implemented in Tanzania by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was a sure road to serfdom of the largest East African state. Another path that led Tanzania to the economic doldrums was the policy championed by Mwalimu Nyerere to finance the liberation struggles in Africa.

Adoption of the Ujamaa policy implied that the country would have a closed economy due to the simplistic notion of protecting the infant industries from external competition. To a larger extent, the state was seen to be fashioning the agenda of isolationism. Recall that one of the ideals of socialism is to strongly advocate for nationalism.

After the collapse of the EAC in 1977, Tanzania closed her border with Kenya for seven years until 1984 out of the fear that Kenya could economically emasculate her.

During the final days of President Jakaya Kikwete’s term, Tanzania was seen to be dragging her feet and in due course delaying to ratify some of the policy and legal frameworks that would lead to a fully fledged Customs Union within the EAC. This lukewarm approach adopted by Tanzania led to the emergence of the “coalition of the willing” which comprised of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

The “coalition of the willing” states signed several deals that would see the development of major infrastructural projects in the East African region without Tanzania’s input. The projects would involve the construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) line linking Kenya with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi; construction of a pipeline from Lamu in Kenya to the oilfields in Uganda.

Magufuli’s Entrance
Magufuli’s administration has had its own fair share of isolationist and nationalistic policies that are touted to cushion the Tanzanian economy from external competition. There have been cases whereby the work permits of some Kenyans have been cancelled by Tanzanian officials. Not long ago a directive was issued by President Magufuli to limit the number of flights made by Kenya Airways in Tanzania a move which the Kenyan state retaliated by banning Tanzanian tour vans from accessing the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Furthermore, Magufuli’s administration has been avoiding to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) unlike the other EAC member states which have already appended their signatures. The EPA would guarantee duty-free and quota-free commodities that would be exported to the European Union from the EAC which is largely beneficial.

President Magufuli’s administration has also embarked on a mission to position Tanzania as the region’s economic hub a move which has generated a lot of uneasiness in Nairobi. This mission began with Rwanda and Uganda rescinding their earlier agreement with Kenya that would involve the inter-linking of the pipeline from Lamu to Uganda and the construction of the SGR from Kenya through Uganda to Rwanda. Both the pipeline and the SGR would have ensured that Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan and the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo majorly import their commodities through Kenya via the ports of Mombasa and Lamu.

As a result of the economic sucker punch, Rwanda and Uganda will construct their SGR phases through Tanzania to the port of Dar es Salaam and also the pipeline to the Ugandan oilfields will go through Tanzania to the port of Tanga. This particular move appeared to have isolated Kenya to some degree.

On a general scale, President Magufuli seems to be more focused on developing the country’s economy compared to his predecessor. His vision is to see Tanzania rival Kenya as the biggest economy in the East Africa region.

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Despite the suspicions that the Tanzanians have towards Kenyans which are hangovers of the dogmatic ideals of socialism, restoring economic relations between the two states will be mutually beneficial. Ideally, logically and realistically any action by either state to ignore the other would be a lose-lose situation for both.

Presidents Kenyatta and Magufuli commissioning the Nairobi Southern By-Pass
Photo: Courtesy

Kenya is Tanzania’s largest trading partner in Africa with the former importing commodities worth Kshs.33.7 billion in 2015 and most importantly Kenyan companies have invested in Tanzania. Data from the Tanzania Investment Center shows that there are 529 Kenyan companies that operate in Tanzania and they have collectively invested approximately US $1.7 billion. In addition, these Kenyan companies have employed at least 56,000 Tanzanians.

Going forward, both economies stand to gain from each other through various ways. Tanzania having more diverse mineral deposits compared to Kenya seeks to benefit from the latter’s relatively advanced human resources and relatively developed soft infrastructure. Kenya, on the other hand, will benefit by accessing the Tanzanian market for the various commodities that are produced in the country.

Zulekha Ibrahim a Tanzanian financial analyst based in Dar es Salaam states that the frosty relations between Tanzania and Kenya are unnecessary and that having good relations will benefit both of them. She further states that a closer economic cooperation between the two will help to expand their economies.

During his visit to Kenya, Presidents Magufuli and Kenyatta agreed to develop a highway linking Bagamoyo to Malindi and construct another one from Mwanza through Isebania to western Kenya. These major highways will facilitate the movement of people and commodities between the two countries.

Challenges to Better Relations
There are certain challenges that are both prominent and underlying that could still jeopardize the economic relations between Tanzania and Kenya as well as between Tanzania and the other EAC member states. One of the challenges concerns the work permits. Though the Tanzanian government has reduced the cost of obtaining the work permits their existence still works against the principles of the EAC especially regarding the free border movement. The work permits are mechanisms that can be used to check the number of people especially the ‘aggressive’ Kenyans from conducting business in Tanzania.

Kenya-Tanzania border at Namanga
Photo: Courtesy

Secondly, the refusal by Tanzania to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will in particular dent Kenya’s exports to the European Union. The EPA is supposed to be signed by all the EAC member states and Tanzania’s action will imply that Kenya will be categorized under the Generalized Scheme Preferences (GSP) by virtue of being a developing country and the other EAC members falling under the least developed countries category. As a result, Kenya’s exports will be subjected to levies ranging from 12 to 25%.

An underlying challenge whose ratification will elicit a lot of passions and emotions will be the institutionalization of the EAC Political Federation (The East African Federation) as enshrined under Article 5(2) of the Treaty of the Establishment of the East African Community. The process of establishing the East African Federation ought to have begun in 2016 but because certain issues relating to sovereignty need to be formalized no formal progress has been made. If Tanzania has not been committed in actualizing the EAC Customs Union then it will be even harder for her to sign the treaties ratifying the formation of the Political Federation. However, going by the recent events in the EU in relation to Brexit and the perceived dangers of free trade and free borders then the fate of the East African Political Federation hangs in the balance.

The thawing of the relations between Kenya and Tanzania will be beneficial to both countries and to a larger extent the EAC bearing in mind that the two economies collectively make up about 68% of the GDP of the East African region. Magufuli’s visit may perhaps be a signal of positive actions to come by as far as the relation between Tanzania and Kenya is concerned.

This article was first published on

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Africa’s Economic Take-Off Dependent on the Manufacturing Sector

A photo showing workers in a firm located in Kenya's Export Processing Zone.
Courtesy: Business Daily

To sum up, the African pattern of structural change is very different from the classic pattern that has produced high growth in Asia, and before that, the European industrializers. Labour is moving out of agriculture and rural areas. But formal manufacturing industries are not the main beneficiary. Urban migrants are being absorbed largely into services that are not particularly productive and into informal activities. The pace of industrialization is much too slow to spurn self-sustaining growth.”- Prof. Dani Rodrik.

Apart from a few tax havens, there is no country that has attained a high standard of living on the basis of services alone.”- Rick Rowden.

One of the challenges in understanding Africa’s growth and development quandary is the inherent inability to focus on the basics. Ignoring these basics when seeking to contextualize matters concerned with Africa’s development is what makes most of the arguments on the subject to be amorphous.

From the outset, a reflection on the excerpts at the beginning of this article is imperative as the text will solely focus on the message contained in them. There is no doubt that the manufacturing sector is fundamental in spearheading and securing the gains of structural transformation. But how has the manufacturing sector in Africa performed for the last five decades?

In the 1970s and early 80s, the manufacturing sector contributed around 16% to the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but at the moment, the sector contributes an average of 11% to the GDP. A fact to note, however, is that despite the decline in the sector’s contribution to the GDP the overall size of the sector has generally increased in monetary terms.

Africa’s manufacturing sector contributed over 3% of the total global manufacturing output in the 1970s which is twice the current rate that is 1.5% as documented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The contribution of other regions as a percentage of the world’s total manufacturing output is as follows: Asia-Pacific 21.7%, East Asia 17.2%, North America 22.4%, Europe 24.7%, Latin America 5.8% and others 6.7%.

Failure to Industrialize
On a general scale, Africa has failed to undergo rapid industrialization. This can be attributed to various factors, endogenous and exogenous. Endogenously, the policy frameworks that have been formulated by the various African states are inconsistent and incoherent on a large-scale. Exogenously, political instability, the policy actions by multi-lateral institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and the economic activities in the other continents/regions of the world have partly contributed to the slow pace of industrialization in Africa.

In the 1970s and 80s, Africa’s manufacturing sector was not so much different from that in some of the East Asian economies notably the Asian Tigers. The mid 80s, the late 80s through to the 90s was a critical juncture, though in negative terms, where the fortunes of Africa’s manufacturing sector began dwindling.

During this period, most of the African states witnessed an increase in the level of political instability. Furthermore, African countries were largely affected by the economic crises and shocks in the world. The Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) were also introduced at this time courtesy of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a conditionality for the African economies to receive foreign aid which has been a big failure.

Foreign aid has largely contributed to the continent’s inability to take-off economically. A larger proportion of the foreign aid has traditionally been funneled to fund social sectors such as education, healthcare and others which are important segments of the economy. However, if the Bretton Woods institutions and the other entities that advance foreign aid were channeling more resources towards the development of the manufacturing sector then the face of Africa would be different.

A fact to note is that foreign aid has been a political mechanism used for manipulating African governments. It has been one of the effective machinations choreographed to propagate the neo-colonial tendencies. With the realization that the independence of African countries would starve their economies of raw materials and resources for their industries, it was vitally important that a scheme be hatched to siphon resources from Africa and enhance the dependency syndrome.

This is a case of politico-economic tomfoolery; if the aid had been largely used to develop infrastructure and industries from the 1960s, geopolitically the West would have been weakened because more economic independence for the African states would have meant more negotiations and bargains on the international frontier. The political chaos that was the order of the day in the 80s and 90s were mainly the agenda of some of the Western states with the ultimate aim of tapping the resources en masse.

Workers inside a textile firm in Ethiopia.
Courtesy: The Economist

Domestically and inwardly, though, the African economies should also take the blame especially on the formulation and implementation of policies that focus on the manufacturing sector and industrialization. Apart from the ‘aidnomics’ agenda, there have been systemic weaknesses in view of the import-substitution and export-promotion policies.

Export-promotion policies in particular haven’t fully enhanced value-addition on the various commodities that are exported from the continent. Import-substitution policies ought to focus on smart protectionism and the Africans should not be fooled that the developed economies and the newly industrializing economies do not have protectionist policies. It’s the weakness of the import-substitution and export-promotion policies that the service sector is the leading sector in Africa. Even though the service sector is growing rapidly, it is developing slowly as most of its activities are largely informal.

Missing the Boat & Bridging the Gap
At the end of the 20th century, most of the African countries had registered significant progress politically and economically. The challenge at that time and at the moment is the act of playing catch-up with the industrialized and industrializing economies especially in Asia.

The development of the manufacturing sector and industrialization in general outrightly depend on readily available and relatively cheap labour. The rapidly industrializing Asian economies have managed to leverage on the abundant labour from the relatively larger population. As a result, the economies of agglomeration have effectively been established hence most of the firms that were previously located in the West shifted their location to these Asian economies.

It is expected that perhaps Africa would be the next destination for most of these firms as the Asian economies enter a new phase of economic development. But this may not happen any time soon if the prevailing conditions are to go by. Despite having a large population, the continent is yet to start benefiting from the demographic dividend. This is chiefly due to the level of soft and hard infrastructure that makes production costs to be very high. The energy costs, the transport costs, bureaucratic costs and the political costs remain major hindrances towards rapid industrialization of Africa.

All is not lost, however. Several African countries have embarked on industrialization programmes and policies that will enable them to engender sustainable economic development in the long-term. Countries such as Ivory Coast, Kenya, Zambia, Morocco, Ethiopia and a few others have set up or are in the process of setting up Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and industrial parks.

Most importantly, the Chinese investment in various infrastructural projects in Africa is pivotal in laying a strong foundation upon which rapid industrialization can take-off. To bridge the economic gap, a larger proportion of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) should be allocated to the manufacturing sector. Ethiopia is leading the way as 70% of the country’s FDI goes towards funding activities in the manufacturing sector.

A phot showing a petrochemical firm in South Africa.
Image: Courtesy

Of economic importance is that African states can still finance the manufacturing sector by formulating efficient industrialization policies. These policies, however, should not be enacted in isolation. Other policies, legislations and treaties focusing on the illicit financial flows, corruption, public sector efficiency, the vibrancy of the private sector and an effective skills-based education system are crucial in creating synergy with the industrialization policies.

The Developmental State & Kicking Away the Ladder
To set up a strong foundation for the manufacturing sector, the government’s hand is vitally important. Despite the inefficiencies associated with the government’s involvement in the economy, it cannot be ignored whatsoever that it should be the major driver of industrialization especially in Africa and other developing states of the world. The private enterprises and investors cannot invest massively in the manufacturing sector at the initial stages bearing in mind the ‘heavy investment’ required in the sector.

Policies such as liberalization of the economy advocated by the various multi-lateral institutions and Western states haven’t unleashed the potential of the manufacturing sector in Africa. This is where the doctrine of kicking away the ladder comes in. Ha-Joon Chang, a development economist, states that kicking away the ladder is a phenomenon of rich countries forcing policies on poor countries that they themselves did not implement during their time of take-off.

The role of the developmental state biased towards the development of the manufacturing sector in Africa is indispensable. When the Asian Tigers took-off economically, the respective governments took upon themselves to heavily invest in the manufacturing sector. Ethiopia has adopted a similar mechanism and approach. A more convenient mechanism which the African countries should utilize is the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) through which the private sector can be involved in establishing a strong manufacturing sector.

To create a sustainable economic trajectory that will benefit the Africans, the African states must invest seriously and heavily in the manufacturing sector. The service sector doesn’t create the desired linkages that are necessary for economic development.

This post was first published on 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Analytical Misstep? A Reality Check for Pollsters & Analysts

Image: Courtesy

On reviewing and reflecting on the recent social, political and economic events around the world and in my motherland Kenya, I can conclude with a high sense of surety and high degree of certainty that majority of the pollsters and analysts are getting their facts wrong. But when someone is getting his/her facts wrong on a certain issue, is it even worthy to classify such information as facts? Seems illogical.

Pollsters and analysts alike have been feeding the public with “statistical data”, analytics and analysis that have largely failed to mirror the eventual state of affairs. In the just concluded USA presidential elections, it is on record that the pollsters and analysts were calling for an out-and-out victory by Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College and most of the swing states. The finality; Donald Trump carried the day. In June this year, majority of the British citizens voted in favour of Brexit against the expectations of the pollsters and the analysts who had projected that the anti-Brexit camp would carry the day.

Back to the 2008/09 financial crisis and/or global recession, majority of the economists were unable to predict the economic meltdown. Even in Kenya, majority of the pollsters and the analysts usually make incorrect and ambiguous predictions about various phenomena. Revisiting the political situation in Britain in 2015 occasioned by the general elections at that time, the pollsters and analysts projected that there would be a “hung” Parliament with the Labour Party and the Conservative Party securing no outright majority.

Inherent & Systemic Weaknesses
There is no myth, magic or miracle that can be patched up and fabricated to try and offer explanations, clearly or amorphously, regarding the final results of these events in comparison with the incorrect projections. There are certain fundamental issues that are not being taken into account, and if they are considered then perhaps not with a lot of keenness.

To start with, the data collection habits of the pollsters and the analysts are poor. What do you expect to get when you carry out some shoddy work? In any case, Garbage In-Garbage Out. That is the starting point of all these skewed analyses that we are seeing. Since data analysis is a process, the quality of the input eventually determines the quality of the output. Due to poor data collection, the concerned entities/individuals end up formulating voter models/analytical models that are incongruent and inconsistent.

Another related and underlying weakness that is prevalent among the pollsters and the analysts is the failure to heed the principle of randomization. There is disregard for the random probability sampling technique and fashioning of the non-probability sampling approach. The random probability sampling is superior to the non-probability sampling method.

Random probability sampling involves the random selection of elements and in this case, every voter has an equal chance of being included in the sample. Hence, with the use of this system, the sample will be representative. On the other hand, non-probability sampling is based on personal judgement with the elements (Voters) in the sample determined selectively and not randomly. This results in a sample that is unrepresentative.

It is from the emanating unrepresentative sample (s) that cases such as the failure to interview the right mix of voters, getting opinions from potential voters who are easily contactable and under-representation of certain areas frequently occur. These events have subsequently led to the impossibility of figuring out the hidden/secret voters who were perhaps instrumental in actualizing a Trump presidency, Brexit and the Conservative Party garnering the majority in the British Parliament.

Furthermore, another structural weakness that manifests itself is the weighting bias. Most of the pollsters and analysts usually err at this point when they are seeking to make predictions of the various issues. They have the tendency of skewing the responses to match their projections especially if their funders are the elites who have the motive and objective of influencing public opinion. This weighting bias tends to occur when there are low response rates from certain cohorts of the likely voters.

Pertinent Questions
There are germane questions which ought to be put forth to try and figure out what the future has in store for the pollsters and the analysts.

a)      Is this the Armageddon for the use of science in predicting phenomena in social sciences particularly in politics? Not really. The pollsters and the analysts need to be more thorough in data collection and should exercise objectivity by employing the use of random sampling techniques though a bit expensive and time-consuming.

b)      What role do journalists have in the forecasting business? Journalists are after making headlines and therefore, they end up propagating horse-race journalism at the expense of giving incisive analysis on different issues. The greatest challenge lies herein; most media houses and journalists have the desire to carry out surveys about an issue in question but they hardly use the random sampling approach and they conduct their polls within two days or so. They end up with results that are biased and skewed to match their predictions. Most importantly, the media houses are owned by elites who are directly or indirectly involved in politics hence the need to uphold the doctrine of political correctness.

c)  Why are pollsters undergoing the irrelevance evolution? It’s pretty simple and open. They are corrupted by the political class to sway public opinion in their favour. This is certainly where the pendulum of subjectivity and irrelevance begins to swing.

d)     What is the missing link? The pollsters and analysts make a lot of assumptions when analyzing issues. They tend to assume that the voters are rational just like the way economists assume that consumers are rational. It is on the basis of hinging on rationality in voting behaviour and patterns that we end up with forecasts that are not correct. The principle of rationality is a detachment from reality and it is too academic.

After making consistently incorrect forecasts, the pollsters and analysts affected should go to the basics and rectify the situation. They should scale down on bottlenecks such as the use of non-probability sampling methodology and being corrupted by the political class. Solving the former is easier, but the latter is quite difficult because of the intentions, manipulations and machinations of politicians to influence public opinion. The worst of it all lies within the doorsteps of the media houses which have the pressure to be politically correct. Otherwise, we can keep on thanking the misleading pollsters, analysts and media houses.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Enhancing Women’s Capacity Key to Development

Photo: Courtesy

The Agenda 2063 formulated in 2013 and the Agenda for 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) drafted in 2015 are basic development blueprints that systematically outline the goals to be achieved mostly by the developing nations. The Agenda 2063 highlights the political, social and economic goals to be achieved holistically by the African states while the Agenda 2030 on SDGs fronts for systemic global progress.

As part of the African and global agenda for development, these two blueprints explicitly have goals that seek to bridge the gender gap that exists in the economic, political and social spheres of life, most fundamentally, on building the capacity of the female gender.

Aspiration 6 of the Agenda 2063 envisages an Africa whose development is people-driven by relying on the potential of the African people, especially its women and youth and caring for the children. More specifically, goals 50 and 52 under Aspiration 6 wholesomely capture the expected status of the African women. Goal 50 states that: the African woman will be fully empowered in all spheres, with equal social, political and economic rights to own and inherit property, sign contracts, register and manage businesses. Rural women will have access to productive assets: land, credit, inputs and financial services.

Goal 52 states that: Africa of 2063 will have full gender parity, with women occupying at least 50% of elected public offices at all levels and half of managerial positions in the public and private sectors. The economic and political glass ceiling that restricted women’s progress will have been shattered.
The global development agenda commonly termed as the Sustainable Development Goals calls for the continued emancipation of women and the advancement of gender equality. Goal 5 of the SDGs advocates for the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.

In Africa and the whole world, the female population is slightly over 50%. On a general scale, the number of the women classified under the working age cohort is slightly higher than that of the men. The existential challenge, however, is that despite the population of women being higher, majority continue to work in the informal sector and offering services in the unpaid economy.

According to UN Women, 74% of the women in Sub-Saharan Africa are in the non-agricultural informal employment. The unpaid economy which consists of unpaid work like child-rearing and other household duties is majorly driven by the women and unfortunately such activities are never reflected in the calculation of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) known as Women at Work 2016, a total of 586 million women in the world were own-account or contributing family workers in 2015.

The same report documents that 34.9% of the women in Sub-Saharan Africa contributed as family workers while 42.5% as own-account workers.

The Socio-Economic Front
Various research studies that have been conducted clearly indicate that the economic empowerment of women and the participation of the female labour force in the economy positively contribute towards economic growth and development.

The most pertinent issue in enhancing the economic inclusion of the women in the economy regards their access to income/income generating activities and the percolation/distribution of the income that has been earned.

Increased participation of the female labour force in the economy generates other positive effects key among them access to education, decrease in child mortality rates, among others. Of course access to more income for the women implies that their children largely benefit from it.

Photo: Courtesy

A report known as Women Empowered: Inspiring Change in the Emerging World written by Madeleine Albright and Phil Borges documents that women re-invest 90% of their income in their families and communities in comparison with the men who only re-invest 30-40% of their income. As earlier stated, the economic empowerment of women guarantees better healthcare for the children. A research conducted by the World Bank in 2011 reveals that if the mother has easy access to income, the survival probability of a child increases by approximately 20% in Brazil and in Kenya; a child would be about 17% taller due to the fact that mothers invest more of their income in health and nutrition.

E. Gakidou et al (2010) conducted a study using data from 219 countries beginning from 1970 to 2009 and they established that for every one additional year of education for women of the reproductive age, child mortality decreased by 9.5%. In addition, the World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development released by the World Bank in 2012 documents that increasing the share of the household income controlled by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers alters spending in ways that benefit the children.

Comparatively, there are notable differences between sources of employment of women in the developed countries and the developing as well as the least developed countries. Research conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows that the major source of employment for women in the high-income countries is the health and education sector which employs 30.6% of all the women in these economies.

Research findings by the ILO reveal that indeed the main source of employment for women in low-income and low-middle-income countries is agriculture with Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa having over 60% of all working women in the agricultural sector. The socio-economic tragedy is that most of the activities in the agricultural sector are informal and labour-intensive which lead to poor remuneration or no payment at all. A similar pattern manifests itself in the field of entrepreneurship. The 2011 Africa Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum notes that the rate of women’s entrepreneurship in Africa is higher than any other region in the world but the business units established are largely informal. This limits the amount of income to the women who depend on such businesses.

Because of the prevalence of the female labour in the informal economic activities, the rates and levels of social protection remain relatively lower. This implies that access to schemes and programmes that cater for health and the general social welfare is limited. Statistics from the ILO show that 40% of women in wage employment in the world do not contribute towards social protection programmes. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 63.2% of women in wage employment don’t contribute to social protection while in Southern Asia the figure stands at 74.2%.

As a result of the existing gap in the contributions towards social protection, then the well-being/welfare of the dependents especially the children is jeopardized, with looming uncertainties of accessing better healthcare, education, and housing among others.

Representation & Leadership
In most of the countries in Africa and the world in general, progress has been made with regards to the number of women in leadership positions in the political sphere and in organizations although several countries have not paid keen attention on this issue.

Across the board, the perception is that having a significant number of women in leadership positions promotes economic inclusivity. This may be very effective especially in the political arena whereby having a significant number of women in legislatures may lead to the formulation of laws that counter some of the retrogressive traditional/cultural customs that propagate male chauvinism and limit women’s access to economic opportunities.

Some African countries have made progress on women representation while others have at least done something about it. In Rwanda’s Lower House, women make up 63.8% of the total number of Parliamentarians. In Senegal, there is the Parity Law which requires political parties to ensure that at least 50% of their candidates for any elective post are women. Senegal’s legislature is made up of 42.7% women. Ethiopia’s legislature women’s composition is at 38.8%. Research conducted jointly by the World Bank Development Research Group and Columbia University reveals that having more women in the legislatures equals less corruption.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma the outgoing chair of the AUC.
Photo: Courtesy

The Women Matter research report published by McKinsey & Company in 2014 documents that the institutionalization of economic equality for women is good for business, detailing that companies which increase leadership opportunities for women largely benefit through an increase in organizational effectiveness.

Existential & Underlying Challenges
There are several hillocks that continue to work against the reduction of the gender gap in various dimensions. These bottlenecks are common in Southern Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa and they stem from the prevailing cultural and/or traditional customs. In some of the countries in these regions, various pieces of legislations have been enacted but unfortunately, their formulation is skewed towards the traditional customs.

Such legislations and the traditional customs have largely hindered the women from accessing economic opportunities which on a large-scale inhibit the progress of the respective economies. This limits women from establishing businesses, registering property, engaging in contractual enforcement and participating in the labour market.

In the recently released Doing Business report compiled by the World Bank, 23 economies in the world impose more procedures for women than men to start a business, 16 economies limit women’s ability to own, use and transfer property. In 17 economies, civil counts do not value a woman’s testimony the same way as a man’s.

Photo: Courtesy

Furthermore, the report documents that in 17 economies a married woman must seek for permission from his husband before leaving the house. In 3 economies, according to the report, there is a different process for men and women in obtaining official identification which is a necessary requirement in starting a business. In 4 economies, the publication reveals that a woman requires her husband’s explicit permission to establish a business, for instance, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the law requires a married woman to seek for the authorization of her husband to incorporate a business.

Women, Business and the Law, a publication of the World Bank, denotes that married women have more restrictions when it comes to property ownership. This is a reflection of the existing customary laws which are patriarchal in nature and peg property ownership on the men.

Policy & Legal Prescriptions
In overcoming these challenges that deny women access to economic opportunities, the formulation and implementation of relevant policies and pieces of legislations is inevitable. The implementation phase is the most crucial one because it largely depends on the political will. Laws that freely allow women to own property especially land, establish businesses, representation in leadership positions, access to education among others are necessary especially in the developing and least developed countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Evidence suggests that changing the laws increases access to economic opportunities. Hallward and Hassan (2012) note that after a reform to the family law in Ethiopia that fronted for more equitable property rights over marital property between spouses, there was an increase in the female labour force participation and in more productive sectors. Deininger et al (2010) reveal that after changes were made to the Hindu Succession Act improving inheritance rights for women in India, there was an increase in the education for girls. Ali et al (2014) document that the changes to Rwanda’s land tenure regularization system largely benefited the women. Perhaps this is because of the relatively higher number of women in Rwanda’s legislature.

The empowerment of women economically, socially and politically in general, benefits the whole economy/society as detailed above. Therefore, as the developing and least developed countries seek to grow and develop, it is fundamental that the concerned authorities establish mechanisms to empower women on all the three facets; economic, social and political.

This article was first published on