In some African countries it is election time. Nigeria has led the way in successfully holding current and state elections within a month — amid heated controversy over corruption, conflict and bigotry. According to local newsonly 1,553 of a total of 15,307 candidates running in the general election were women.
This was down from 2,968 female candidates in the 2019 election. In fact, only one woman, 44-year-old Chichi Ojei, was running for president among 17 men. But about 25 female candidates for governor contested on the platform of various political parties during the gubernatorial election amid more than 400 male candidates. While none of these women came close to the finish line safe from Senator Aisha Dahiru Ahmed Binani of Adamawa State, whom social media users have declared the winner in an election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared undecided.
Women are vastly under-represented at all levels of decision-making globally – worse in Africa. Aside from politics, they are vastly underrepresented in all sectors of life, even though they make up half of the world’s population. The shortage of women in political positions will cost Africa dearly economically and socially in the future if the gap is not reduced. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) projects that if more women participated in the economy as much as men, this would rise to $28 trillion, or 26%, in annual GDP by 2025. Africa has a high percentage of the world’s excluded women and a higher chance of boost its GDP by promoting gender inclusion.
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The continent needs more women at the table when decisions are made. Their presence in top political positions could facilitate policies that would accelerate gender equality, giving more women equal opportunities to compete in the economy. More so, “women’s equal participation and leadership in political and public life are essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030”, UN Women wrote. But at this rate, there is doubt that the continent will achieve gender equality by 2030.
Contributions of women leaders in African politics
In the historical years of Africa as a continent, 23 women have risen to the pinnacle of national politics as president and prime minister at various times, including Carmen Pereira’s three-day presidential reign in Guinea-Bissau in 1984. A number of these women were appointed ceremonial heads of state either by parliament or presidential selections, were either acting president in a caretaker government or were vice presidents who took office after the death of the president-elect.
Only one, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, was democratically elected president of an African country. She served 12 years after a re-election that led her to her second term. Currently, Africa has only two female presidents in Ethiopia and Tanzania, and five prime ministers in Namibia, Gabon, Togo, Uganda and Tunisia respectively.
While most of these former female presidents were in office, they enacted commendable economic reforms that transformed the socio-economic lives of their people. Africa has failed to realize that it needs more women in top government positions, especially as some countries fight one form of conflict over another. According to the United Nations Women, women demonstrate political leadership by working across party lines through women’s parliamentary elections — even in the most politically contentious environments.
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Sylvie Kinigi posed as a perfect example when she became Prime Minister and later President of Burundi at a time when the Tutsi and Hutus opposition groups were violently at each other’s throats following a coup that would later lead to civil war. She pushed for a constitutional reform that later installed new leaders of the two ethnic groups to contain the ethnic tensions already brewing in the country. That was because she understood that Burubdi was not mature for democracy upon independence, given the ethnic tensions.
Another good example is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, who in 2006, when she came to power, worked hard to cancel the country’s entire foreign debt of $4.9 billion. Liberian foreign debts were canceled by the end of her term. She further enacted laws to curb future debt by limiting annual borrowings to 3% of GDP and restricting the expenditure of all borrowed funds to one-off infrastructure projects.
In 2019, during the appointment Zainab Ahmed, Nigerian Finance Minister President Muhammadu Buhari said he is placing women in strategic positions in his government, such as the financial sector, to ensure effective management of the limited resources available and to foster a stronger sense of inclusiveness. promote. According to him, he preferred women to oversee the country’s economic and financial center because they can easily deploy their experience to match resources to the country’s needs. This confirms the need for more female technocrats with local and international experience to compete for top political positions to give them access to running the economy.
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President Samia Suluhu is another example of the positive effect a woman can have on an economy. When President Hassan took office in 2021, she planned to turn Tanzania into an industrial hub. In this way, it opened up the economy to investments in others in order to stimulate economic growth. Last year The Citizen reported that the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC) has recorded 132 investment projects worth $3.16 billion from July to November 2022. The agency had attributed the investment growth to the president’s pro-business approach and emphasis on economic diplomacy. The gender gap in African politics is spilling over to all other sectors of the economy, but Africa can widen if women take top political positions.