‘Women in Russian–African Relations: Gender Balance in Politics, the Economy, and the Social Sector’ Held as Part of Russia–Africa Economic Forum’s Business Programme
The Russia–Africa Economic Forum covers global issues concerning economics, social life, science, education, and other areas of human activity. The role of women is growing in all these spheres each year. African countries are a prime example of how public policy can dramatically change gender equality issues in a short time. Russia also has extensive experience in this regard, and exchanging such experience is important for our countries. The business programme of the Russia–Africa Economic Forum included a session titled ‘Women in Russian–African Relations: Gender Balance in Politics, the Economy, and the Social Sector’. The session brought together female leaders who have demonstrated through their own example that gender equality produces exceptionally positive results in business, politics, and social affairs. The programme operator is the Innosocium Foundation – the social platform of the Roscongress Foundation.
The session was moderated by Agency for Strategic Initiatives Corporate Director Elena Myakotnikova. The panellists included such prominent African political figures as: Hala Helmy Elsaid Younes, Minister of Planning, Monitoring, and Administrative Reform of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Rwanda. The following representatives of big business and public organizations also shared their experience in terms of integrating women into modern society: Amany Asfour, President of the International Federation of Business & Professional Women; Tiguidanke Camara, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Tigui Mining Group (TMG); Slauzy Zodwa Mogami, Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairperson of Ladies in the Frontline; Veronika Peshkova, President of the Foundation for the Development of Public Diplomacy Women's Perspective; and a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); and Nataliya Zaiser, Chair of the Board of the Africa Business Initiative Union.
Hakuziyaremye noted that the African continent has changed over the past 5–10 years in terms of women’s rights and opportunities. “Since 2010, 62% of parliament members in Rwanda are women. We did not achieve this in one day and had to radically restructure both the legislative system and the views of our citizens in order to achieve this”, she said. “The law also protects the rights of women in business in our country. For example, women must make up 20% of the board at major companies. But laws alone are not enough. Investment in the educational system is needed to change women’s attitudes towards their capabilities. Russia and Africa are establishing economic cooperation. But it seems to me that our women have something to learn from each other. Communications needs to be built at all levels”.
Younes added that, in addition to education, financial investments are needed to build such infrastructure as kindergartens so that women have the opportunity to study and work once they already have a family and children. She also noted that women often take a much more responsible approach to both business and financial obligations than men. “If you look at loan statistics, defaults on women’s obligations make up less than 1% [of total defaults] in our country”.
All the speakers noted that women could play a decisive role in developing the manufacturing sector of the economy. Camara, in particular, shared her experience: “I created the TMG Foundation, which helps educate women in rural areas on how to become an entrepreneur, how to take care of the harvest, collect it, and then sell the results of your work. In Africa today, 70% of women are employed in the informal sector. Training programmes will help women make a major contribution to the national economy”.
However, is it enough to simply grant women the opportunity to work in all sectors in order to achieve the perfect balance? “ It will only be possible to talk about gender balance once a woman can not only hold positions in various sectors, but also have access to strategic decision-making”, Zaiser said. “Regardless, the percentage of women who make decisions at the state level around the world is still small overall. And this situation must change”. At any event, work to achieve real equality between men and women is above all a creative trend that aims to improve the quality of life of all of society. According to forecasts, having women fully involved in the economy would make it possible to increase global GDP by USD 28 trillion by 2025, an amount that is comparable with economies of the United States and China combined.
“Gender equality is essential for sustainable development. Over the past few decades, the gender gap in the labour market has closed somewhat. However, it is still harder for women to fulfil their potential in society and the economy. Increasing women’s participation in the economy, strengthening their roles in society, and involving them in management and decision making processes in all sectors will unquestionably boost economic growth. On top of that though, it will have a positive impact on supporting social stability and achieving sustainable development goals,” said Russian Sherpa in the G20 and Deputy Chief of the Presidential Experts’ Directorate Svetlana Lukash.
“Despite several years of efforts to achieve a gender balance, women’s salaries are still approximately 15% lower than that of men in the same positions even in European countries. In Africa and Asia, this figure is even more striking. The development of the women’s agenda is one of the top priorities of the Innosocium Foundation – the social platform of the Roscongress Foundation. The organisation of sessions as part of the Russia–Africa Economic Forum’s business programme represents the systematic continuation of work to eliminate gender inequality, promote women’s leadership, and strengthen cooperation with international women’s communities, which began in Tokyo at the Women 20 (W20) Summit in March this year. In addition, as part of the implementation of the agreement signed on the sidelines of the SPIEF 2019, the Innosocium Foundation and the Eurasian Women’s Forum Council (EWF) under the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation have successful experience in cooperating on a number of projects. The Building Trust Area at the SPIEF 2019 hosted a EWF visiting lounge, and EWF members regularly serve as experts and speakers at our sessions on women's leadership. We hope that the serious steps that are being taken in our country to change the prevailing stereotypes will bear fruit both for the economy and for society as a whole”, said Yelena Marinina, Deputy CEO of the Roscongress Foundation and Director of the Innosocium Foundation.
“The need to achieve a gender balance and get women more actively involved in all sectors of the economy is obvious. Today’s session as part of the Building Trust Area’s business programme at the Russia–Africa Economic Forum has brought together leading representatives of business and public organizations, shown Russia’s experience in the development of women’s leadership, and demonstrated the achievements that the African continent has made in terms of women’s opportunities. And, of course, this is not only a practical opportunity to exchange best practices, but also a great prospect for the further promotion of this theme at the global level”, Myakotnikova said.
The Russia–Africa Summit and Economic Forum are being held on 23–24 October at the Sirius Park of Science and Art in Sochi. The Roscongress Foundation is the event organizer, and the co-organizers of the Russia–Africa Economic Forum are Russian Export Center and Afreximbank.
The Building Trust Area programme was prepared by the Innosocium Foundation – the social platform of the Roscongress Foundation.