Girl with a cut-out of Africa Miss Hibiscus/Getty Images

Empowering the Other Half of Africa’s Economy

By 2040, Africa is expected to have the world’s largest labor force, with some 1.1 billion people of working age. But unless and until the continent’s women gain the same access to opportunities at work and in the political process as men, the economic potential that many envision for Africa will not be realized.


JOHANNESBURG – Julius Nyerere, the founding president of Tanzania, once said that “unity” will not make Africa rich, but “it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated.” But, two decades later, Africa remains divided along a key fault line: gender. To realize Nyerere’s vision of a strong, dignified continent, Africa needs a new era of liberation, one that is fueled by the economic empowerment of the continent’s women.

Although projections by the consultancy McKinsey anticipate that by 2040, Africa will have the world’s largest labor force, with more than 1.1 billion people of working age, more than 60% of Africa’s current population still survive on less than $2 a day. It is obvious that while many Africans have benefited from political emancipation – the legacy of Nyerere’s generation – poverty remains a significant obstacle. Unleashing the employment potential of African women is the best way to overcome it.

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